Learning from Lily, part 1, chapter 1-9

1. Finding Lily's Words

Surprises come from defying expectations, and that was what Dudley just did. Did he ever!

Granted, the day had been full of surprises, this was just the first positive one and the one that defied his expectations the most. Dudley just thanked him and promised to turn his life around, to think for himself for once. And then he gave him something that would change his life. A slap on the shoulder and a heartfelt, "I'm so sorry cousin. I hope we can be friends one day." Nope, that did not change Harry's life, it was what his cousin gave him after.

The afternoon started with sulking, as was Harry's wont after seeing Cedric die. None of his friends had written or responded to his letters with more than a short message to "keep his head down," and "we'll see you soon." His anger had long since fallen flat with no convenient outlet.

Then Dudley and two Dementors had happened, and he had been expelled until a hearing could be held. He would strangle that Madam Mafalda Hopkirk one day! Oh yes, and the cat-lady was a squib that had watched him for years. So nice of her to come clean about it, after a decade and change.

Damned creepy that! To think he has had a stalker living across the road all that time!

Harry stared down at the booklet Dudley had given him, the Diary of his late mom. Lily Evans, it said. He opened the accompanying letter and read the lines.

This is the Diary of Lily Evans, and should only ever be read by Harry James Potter, my son. Should someone else attempt to read it, it will fall apart. Recent happenings have made it quite unlikely that I get to hand it to him myself, so please help me out here and give it to him after I have died. That is my dying wish, thank you.

Sitting there with a burning mix of emotions, Harry finally decided that he was grateful, instead of hateful. Dudley could have easily destroyed it after all when he had found it. He tried to unclasp the latch and it pricked him painfully, making his finger bleed. The Diary glowed and opened for him, so Harry put his bleeding finger out of his mind and started on the first page.

Hi Harry, my dear Son. If you are reading this, I am probably dead, and for that I can only be sorry. You have now been given (or found) one of three copies I had left for you. I left one with whomever turned out to be your guardian (delivered by elf), one in your trust vault and one in the Potter vault. You should have gotten this before you got to Hogwarts, via your guardian or via your trust vault. If this did not happen and you only found a copy in the Potter vault, I shudder to think what must have happened to you, as you have been betrayed. WE would have been betrayed. Only your magical guardian could have taken it from the trust vault and only a Potter could have taken it out of the Potter vault. I just hope you read this and learn from it, otherwise my life's work will have been wasted.

In this Diary, I will tell you a lot about me, and who and what made me into what I am today. None but you should read this before you have read it all. Even then, you should not show this to another willy-nilly. Can you promise me you will read it first? I promise there is a good reason for this secrecy! Do not even tell whomever you are living with, or those you trust with your life.

Promise me that you will read this thing whole before showing it to anyone! Promise me!

I hope you promised me Harry, I really do have a good reason. In my Last Will, you are supposed to live with your father first, your Godfather Sirius Black (your dad's choice) and your Godmother Alice Longbottom (my choice) second, and Amelia Bones (my choice) or Minerva McGonagall (your dad's choice) third. Never should you have ended up with Petunia Dursley nee Evans; my magic hating sister. I sincerely hope that my wishes were honoured in my absence, but if not, know that the Will was witnessed by Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.

Now… Harry could no longer read on; such was the anger he felt after reading that last paragraph. Oh yes, he promised nobody would know! Who would he trust anyway?! Those four were the last four adult persons he trusted. Well, that ship had sailed! Never again!

Voices sounded downstairs and he recognised Remus Lupin, his supposed 'Uncle' who did not even respect his parent's Will. Realising his time was up, he quickly stuffed the diary into his trunk and stuffed it shut. He had been packed and ready to go for a week now, mostly out of the hope to finally be leaving. Good thing he did, because that was when his door opened to admit a head of hideously pink hair.

"Wotcher Harry! I'm Tonks, we're here to bring you to Headquarters."

Harry nodded dubiously, slowly raising an eyebrow. "Sure, total stranger! I will follow you to the ends of the earth. Lead on, Macduff." Feeling more than a bit contrary, he tacked on, "By the way, why the hell should I trust you and what the fuck is Headquarters? Headquarters of what?"

She looked shaken. "You don't know? Nobody told you?" Shaking her head, she pointed at the door. "I'll let your old professor explain, just hurry up, we're on a schedule."

Here was another who just assumed that Harry knew what was going on in his life. Well, fake it 'till you make it. Even Vernon knew that, lying rhinoceros that he was. Harry grabbed his trunk and dragged it downstairs. Nobody helped him, and Harry just stared at Moony once he had caught his eye. As if asking, "Well?"

Mad eye Moody, the real one he presumed, snorted. "You'll be informed once we get there, kid. Should have been informed already, but that's Albus for you, probably didn't even cross his mind!"

That earned him a snort in return from Harry. "How're we getting to where we're going then?"

"Flying. We hear you're a rather good flier." Moody said.

Harry shook his head, marvelling at their stupidity. "We're going to fly through the muggle world, for miles and miles? How is that not stupid? Aren't there loads better ways to travel?"

The adults looked at each other and shrugged. Moody answered. "Albus told us to do that, because it can't be tracked after the fact, but if you ask me, we'd be better off apparating all over the place. Much quicker and no chance of ambush."

Harry nodded. "Alright Moody, you're apparating with me, let them fly and break the statute. I haven't eaten in two full days and I'll be damned if I'm spending two hours on a broomstick on a moonlit night." It was not a lie, and hardly the worst he had been through at the Dursleys, but it did seem to touch a nerve with his guests.

"Haven't eaten in two days?" Tonks demanded. "Why the hell do you live here then kid?"

Harry snorted. "Hasn't Dumbledore told you, the wards will keep me safe. Except from my relatives, or Dementors apparently. Hell, I haven't seen this as a home since I turned eight!"

Mad eye did his name proud by circling that eye in circles before declaring it enough. "The kid is right. I will take him, with a few detours of course. You fly halfway to the Burrow and apparate the rest of the way. They have not a snowball's chance at tracking us that way. Give me that trunk, kid."

Harry gave him the trunk and got it back shrunk. He looked at Moody and shrugged to signal he was ready. Moody grunted, grabbed his arm and without a moment's pause, sucked Harry's body through a wormhole.

SHIIIT, that sucked ass!

Then he did it again, and again, and again.

"Gods. That was awful!" Harry moaned piteously on the floor. The only reason he had not tossed his breakfast, is because that was long since digested. He looked around but failed to see anything that interested him. There was this fog in his mind, which was strange. "Now, where are we? I can't seem to focus on anything!"

"Sorry." Moody grunted. "Read this and repeat it in your mind."

Harry took the piece of paper he offered and read the message. The location of the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is at number twelve, Grimmauld Place.

Thinking about what he just read, the world suddenly got sharper somehow, lifting the mind fog. Suddenly, he recognised he was in a hallway, probably that number 12 place. "This is Headquarters then, what is this Order of the Phoenix?"

"A group that fights You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters, headed by your headmaster. That's all you should know." He pointed at the stairs. "Your friends are upstairs, there's an Order meeting in a bit, so you can probably see your godfather after."

"Godfather, huh? Still alive then, good to know!" Harry muttered darkly, before pushing open the door where he would find out some answers. His 'friends' could wait.

Immediately, he was confronted by Molly Weasley, who tried to break his ribs under the guise of a hug, she almost succeeded too; he just knew he would be feeling bruised for a week. "You can't be here dear, Ron is upstairs, you should go see him." She obviously did not want him to pass. Well, screw her! Treating him like a four-year-old.

Ducking under her arm, he passed her. "And where is Sirius? I need to talk to him."

A hated voice interrupted his progress. "Ah, Potter, too arrogant to listen to your elders as usual. You can see him later." Snape, what the hell was he doing here?

In his anger with the bat from hell, he did not even notice how Molly was pushing him out the door. The pressure in his mind mounted as he held Snape's gaze with burning anger. It seemed he was a prisoner once again, just a different sort of prison, which figured. The last thing he saw was that hateful sneer.

Molly closed the door right in his face, muttering how kids should not be in Order meetings. Gods, how incredibly condescending. Like Harry could be considered a kid in any stretch of the word. He also noticed how Moody and his other minders, who had just passed him by the way, had already forgotten that he had not eaten for two days. "Guess I'll go hungry again," he muttered with anger.

Lacking any other options, he ascended the stairs, already hearing Ron and Hermione arguing. "He'll probably be mad as hell! I'd be if my friends weren't writing to me." Ron said. Hermione answered. "He'll just have to understand, Dumbledore said it wasn't safe." "Yeah, you're right. He will probably be a brooding mess when he arrives. Now how about a kiss before he gets here, now we still can."

Shaking all over in anger, Harry passed the door and decided to explore the creepy-as-fuck Headquarters. Typical Hermione, picking authority over friends. He wondered when they were planning on telling him about their relationship and suppressed a snort. Ron and Hermione, if ever there was a relationship that would not last, it was this one. He had let them figure it out the hard way, see if he cared!

The house was incredibly filthy, and it was more than clear where they had stopped cleaning. Harry pressed on and left the relatively clean parts behind him. The last door at the end of the hall he opened. It was most definitely a bedroom, once upon a time at least. Still better than his room at the Dursleys by virtue of having a bed that was not cracked. The room had to be at least three times as big as well. In short, it would do simply fine!

Tapping his shrunken trunk, he returned it to full size and opened it. Grabbing the ugliest sweater he had in his trunk, he started dusting and making the room his. Looking at the result, he was not enthused, and the sweater was a total loss. He would have to stay in the room for a few more weeks probably, at least until he had to go to Hogwarts. Opening the ancient drapes let in the sunlight, showing him what he had to work with. All in all, this was a perfectly good bedroom. You just had to imagine the layers of filth away. Ah, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

Too drained from this long day to do anything else, he laid back and promptly fell asleep.

2. Behind Enemy Lines

Shouts and screams woke him from his slumber at what could not have been more than two hours later. "WHERE THE HELL IS HE? YOU BROUGHT HIM HERE, DIDN'T YOU! HOW ON EARTH DID YOU LOSE HIM?" That was Sirius, here after all.

"I LEFT HIM HERE IN THE HALLWAY, WHERE COULD HE HAVE GONE?" Molly shouted back. "WHY WAS THE DOOR UNLOCKED ANYWAY? YOU SHOULD HAVE LOCKED IT SO HE COULDN'T LEAVE!" Well, that was even worse! No food, check. Cannot leave, check. This was truly turning out to be a real prison, not so different from the Dursleys at all. They even had shouting matches, though not with him but with each other.

As amusing as this was, sleep was once again out of the question. The hour or so he had just managed would barely last him for the rest of the day. Harry opened his door and calmly walked to where the twins were standing in the hallway. "Hi there, gents. Mind telling me what the fuss is all about? I was trying to get some shut-eye."

They turned in unison, mouths open in silent shock. Like it was a production, they turned back around and back again before finally smiling. "Hi there, Harry. It seems they've lost you and can't find you, which doesn't say good things about them if you ask us." "Maybe you should speak to them on their level, so they can stop searching?"

Not a bad idea all told, and they even managed to lift his spirits a bit. The twins were always good for a laugh.

With a nod, Harry walked on to the landing above the stairs. "WHAT IN THE FLYING FUCK IS GOING ON HERE? IF YOU CAN'T KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PETS, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE A PET. WE'LL TALK ABOUT IT SOME MORE WHEN YOU'VE SHOWN SOME RESPONSIBILITY! KIDS THESE DAYS." That said, he ignored their shocked expressions and walked straight back to his room, past the twins who saluted him.

"Nice!" They chuckled, high fiving him as he passed.

Naturally, he had not gotten far when they got over their shock and stampeded up the stairs. "Harry! Where've you been?" Sirius said, followed on the heels by Molly, Ron, and Hermione.

"In a room, sleeping. What else is there to do when I cannot move about the house? Certainly not eating, not speak to you, Sirius. I couldn't even greet you when I came in."

Molly broke in at that moment. "You can't, the house isn't safe, we haven't cleaned there yet!"

"If the house isn't safe, why am I here then?" He asked rhetorically. "Besides, the room I'm in is plenty clean, I dusted some myself and let me tell you, it's better than I'm used to."

Sirius nodded wearily. "If you found a room you like, you're welcome to it. I certainly will not object. Just let me check for magical pests before you move in. What room is it?" Harry pointed at the door. "Ah, Regulus' old room. That is fine then, it is the only room Kreacher keeps clean. Or what passes for clean to Kreacher that is. I'll check it later."

"Thanks Sirius." Harry nodded back, before mount Molly could erupt. "Question, who is Regulus?"

"My late brother. This is the Black Townhouse, my childhood home. The darkest and most warded home in Britain. You can see it's a small miracle I turned out the way I did." Sirius answered wryly.

Harry smirked at that truth. The home was clearly not fit for children, except maybe Snape.

"What about Dark artifacts?! There could be cursed items in that room!" Molly let loose.

Harry ignored her and looked at Sirius. "Is there something to eat around here? Haven't eaten for two days."

Sirius had an odd glint in his eye, and a flash of anger before it was gone. "Yeah, follow me to the kitchen. We'll get you something right quick."

"What do you mean you haven't eaten in two days?!" Molly demanded shrilly.

Harry turned around and looked at her with anger. "Would you stop screaming already! It means what it means. My jailors did not feed me much. What the hell did you expect after they threatened Vernon at the station. That I'd suddenly be treated with love and care?" He snorted darkly. "It only made it worse."

"But you sent notes every three days saying you were fine." Hermione broke in with a frown.

"With my uncle standing over my shoulder, watching and dictating my every response. Poor Hedwig only got out of her cage when he unlocked it! Telling him that you had come check on me if I did not say I was fine every three days; how stupid can you people get? You basically told him how to get away with it!"

"But we-" "But nothing!" Harry interrupted Molly. "Now shut up and let me eat. I am starving! After that I am going straight to bed, it has been a long day. Besides, none of you talked to me over the summer, I think I'll follow your example for the rest of it."

That really put them in their place, and he was finally free to follow Sirius to the kitchen. Sirius did speak with him, but it was all small talk. Harry did not mind as he was too busy eating, besides, he had given up on the adults, asking them for details on the war would not get him a straight answer anyway. Kids should not be in order meetings indeed. It was amazing how stupid these people were capable of being.

His godfather and friends confirmed his suspicions that the ban on communication had come by orders of the headmaster, and he also learned that Sirius was as much a prisoner as Harry was. To be perfectly honest Harry had already suspected that, though he could not put into words just why that was. It was not like he trusted him already. Agreeing to live with the man over the Dursleys did not mean anything more than him wanting to escape his jail, with some hope for the future. That hope was dashed with the Will and its witnesses.

"Right. Thanks for the food and the talk. Can you check my room now? I'd like to sleep."

"Sure, it'll only take a few minutes." Sirius agreed.

Stomach full for the first time all summer, Harry slept like a log. It had been an exceptionally long day.

-.-.-

Waking up after a nice long sleep, Harry saw it was still dark out, so he took the Diary and started reading.

Now, even if my Will has been carried out as it should have, I still urge you to keep this to yourself until you understand fully what made me write this Diary. That said, the cover said this is my Diary, but it is not. In here, I did summarize a few of my diaries over my Hogwarts years, but this is more a dissertation on what I found to be wrong in the Wizarding World. As far as Wizarding Britain is concerned, I am a Mud blood. But at least I am one that does not try to change anything. As it is, they are right to say that, but that is only because I know I cannot make any difference. Everything in this world is stacked against newcomers, and any rights you think you have, are a polite fiction at best. I will, of course, explain why I think that on these pages. If you are already attending Hogwarts, you will know that History is not considered all that important. But it is, it so is. In fact, it is so important that they do not teach it. Hell, that only makes sense if you do understand history.

The next page contains an index and page numbers, so you can look up what you want later. But I urge you to read this chronologically, that way, you will understand the need for things before I explain them. There is a skill I urge you to start learning post haste, because it will protect your secrets. Occlumency is the skill that keeps people from plucking secrets out of your mind. Albus Dumbledore in particular, does not hesitate to invade your mind. Never look him in the eye if you do not want to give away your secrets! I learned this too late, with him and my friend Severus. If there is two, there is plenty. That is a mistake I hope you will not make. Mind reading is very illegal but extremely hard to prove, so do not rely on the law, learn to defend yourself instead.

Occlumency is that skill. Given my warnings, I hope you understand why that would be a must-learn skill. It might be better to learn Occlumency before reading the index, which is why I just password protected this entire book. The password is at the end of the Occlumency pages, but please only say it AFTER you start learning. If there is no danger of people learning your secrets use the password now. If there is, please do not. Your life may depend on it, like it did mine.

Harry turned the page and saw it was blank, as expected, but the next page was not. Occlumency, or how to protect your mind. It was titled.

I do not care that people say how not everyone can learn 'this' or 'that.' If you put your heart and soul in something, you bet you can learn it. Except Bloodline magic skills, like Metamorphic magic or Parseltongue, which I was lucky enough to possess. "Mom could talk to snakes?" Thank god I learned it was considered 'bad,' or 'dark' before I told anyone! Such stupid superstitions these wizards and witches have, I consider myself lucky to have an outsiders' view as a witch born to muggles.

Back to the matter at hand, you need to learn how to protect your mind. All the books say you need to "clear your mind" and "imagine a barrier" to keep intruders out. But that's all very distracting don't you think? You can hardly go around imagining a barrier or clearing your mind all day, that would make conversations awkward and not to mention ridiculously hard. Thank god I managed to get my hands on some books from abroad!

Apparently, they are a bit saner outside of Britain. Here is what you want to do. Sit down in whatever position you think you can meditate. That means total relaxation and letting your mind drift by the way. I found lying down to be the perfect position, but you might think otherwise. Do what feels right.

If you have already found your magic, follow it to whatever you perceive as the source and just familiarise yourself with it until you can always feel your magic all over your body. Not easy, but it is worth it in the end. When you have managed that, every Legilimency probe (mind reading probe) feels like someone is poking you in the brain with a hot poker. Just push your magic to shield and push it out (keeps someone out), obliterate it (give them massive headaches), or retaliate in the same manner but ten times more violently if you want to end them (scrambles someone's brain until they never recover). Yes, that is what possible and what they can do to you too. As an aside, it is also completely legal to defend yourself like that! You only need to say under Veritaserum that you were attacked first.

If you have not found your magic yet, you should immediately try so. Why, you ask? Because it might just be the most important thing a magic user can ever learn. The benefits are endless, but I will list the most obvious up front for you. If this does not motivate you, what would?

Every spell you cast gets easier and more powerful.

You can actively manipulate your magic to heal faster, hit harder, run faster, etc.

You get to be aware of exactly what you are doing when performing magic.

Wordless and even Wandless magic gets to be within easy (relative) reach.

Animagic is possible for everyone that puts in the effort. This is step one.

You can feel other magic around you and that is influencing you, which renders yourself much harder to hurt/harm/influence.

I hope this makes you want to learn this and question why the hell Hogwarts does not teach you this. Well, that is a discussion for later (politics), for now, we will get to the explanation of how to do this. A child of mine should be able to do this no problem if he applies himself!

Take the position to meditate on whatever you are feeling when fully relaxed. Now take up your wand and say Lumos. Did you feel that? No? Then say Nox and try again. Do this until you can feel exactly what your magic does before and after entering the wand.

By the way. If for some reason you think the Trace keeps you from trying this, do it in a heavily warded location or in a dwelling with adult wizards or witches and the Ministry of Magic will never know! More on that later.

Time to cast silently. This time do the same, but you only whisper Lumos. Push your magic to do what it did before. When that has done, only think Lumos until you get it. You will need to be able to feel exactly how your magic is shaped by the wand and the word before you can try the next step.

No try it without a wand. Just say Lumos until it works. Then whisper and then think.

I know this was explained with supreme simplicity, but that is all there is to wandless magic. All it takes is effort. Put the effort in and you can do it.

When you have succeeded in this and you can feel your magic always, Legilimency is not even that much of a threat. Surprise attacks can still get you, but like I wrote before, retaliation in defence is not only legal, but encouraged.

This skill will stand you in good stead your entire life, and how good you become with it is how good of a wizard or witch you become. I believe every magical should know this and most so-called magical creatures do too, just not the Muggleborns and most Half-Bloods. For some inane reason, every pureblood family in Britain considers this a family magic secret. Stupidly, most do not even try to learn it even if they do know it. Do use this to your advantage!

Why didn't I tell anyone? Because I had to swear an oath to keep this knowledge in the Potter family. At wand point. Yes, it is that bad. And yes, that was your dad. "For my own safety," he said. My safety my arse! But if I am right, you have never had to swear such an oath, and I hope you never will. In a perfect world, you should never make a magical vow/oath.

I might consider it stupid to keep such information only in the families, but you should not shout it from the rooftops either. I know, that makes me a hypocrite, but it is for your personal safety and here is why. The Pure Blood society of Magical Britain is sure to take umbrage if you tried. I would hate to see you assassinated by an inbred fool that cannot compete with an informed Muggle Born and gets jealous enough to plot revenge. If you do it and I do hope you one day will, I want you to be extremely careful with this knowledge.

The password to unlock the index is "Mind over Matter." If you do use it, start with the chapter on magical control, that is someone controlling you. We do not want that to happen.

"Well, damn!" Harry sighed in frustration. Whatever he had expected, this was not it. A conspiracy based around being a capable witch or wizard, keeping vital knowledge away from the masses. "Magical control," he shuddered in revulsion. "I better not wait too long before reading that."

First things first. "Guess I'll learn wandless magic then." He said to himself before laughing out loud, the first time in weeks he had had a genuine laugh. "Thanks mum, I needed that."

"Most warded house in Britain, huh?" Harry recalled Sirius' words. That, and the fact that there were over a dozen adult wizards around at various times meant he could use magic without being doubly expelled. He snorted with that bit of gallows humour, "they can hardly snap my wand twice."

"Lumos," he incanted. "Hey, I did feel that a bit, maybe... Nox."

Hours later, when the light streamed through the window, he decided to go get some breakfast before someone came calling.

When he met an angry Molly Weasley downstairs, he knew that this summer was going to suck, especially today.

He was right. "You were being exceedingly difficult yesterday young man! I can forgive you for that if you promise to be good from now on. Now let me get you some breakfast and then later you can help your friends clean some rooms. I think we have a Doxy infestation in the drawing room."

Gods! The woman talked to him like he was a difficult toddler, instead of someone who just came out of a gulag. Escaping forced labour on food rations was not something a toddler typically had to deal with. She took his silence as assent and served him some breakfast. Harry just managed to keep in his angry retort.

Just as he finished his meal, Hermione entered the room and promptly sat next to him. "Hi Harry, have you done any homework yet? I've-" was more than enough for Harry. He stood abruptly, "thank you for breakfast, Mrs. Weasley. It seems I will be doing homework today. Have fun cleaning rooms, Hermione."

Neither of the women recovered fast enough to berate him before he had already closed the door.

"Pssst." "Harry, come here for a spell." Fred and George whispered loudly, holding open their door. Harry entered warily. "What can I do for you gentlemen?"

Both brothers put a hand on his shoulder. "Just wanted to talk with our business partner, partner." "And tell you what we've been doing this year. We've managed some good inventions already." Fred wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

After a snort, he waved them on magnanimously. "Proceed then, gentlemen."

"We've come up with a plan that makes you a silent partner, as we suspected you'd like. Of course, you can become more involved if you want, but that is a decision for later. You get twenty percent of the business and that will stay that way until you want to change it, earning money all the while."

"We suspect it will take about three years to earn back your share in earnings and after that it's pure profit on your end. Now let us tell you about the things we've invented."

"Peruvian Darkness Powder, for quick escapes."

"Extendable Ears, for covert listening."

"Decoy Detonators, self-explanatory."

"Exploding Whizz Poppers, -"

Harry listened, his eyes growing bigger all the time. "Gentlemen, I do believe I've made a fine investment. Silent partner sounds about right, we will keep it between the three of us. But if you two are ever in need of some inspiration, I am sure I can help you. There is so incredibly much you could learn from muggle culture, especially from the James Bond series in muggle literature, it is not even funny! I will be sure to make you a list, or we could just ask Dean Thomas, he is a big fan. For instance, there is a pen, a muggle writing implement, that opens doors like an Alohomora charm. And then there's the-"

By the time Harry left the twins' room, all three felt a lot better about their collaboration. Harry was even smiling a bit.

"George?"

"Yes Fred, my handsome twin."

"They've fucked up with him badly, haven't they?"

"They sure have. I don't think those friendships are going to survive this year, if even that."

"Let's make sure we never make that mistake, shall we?"

"Definitely."

"Good."

"Yeah, he is!" Both agreed.

3. Mind over Matter

"Mind over Matter." Harry breathed over the Diary. He had managed the Lumos charm wandlessly for the first time yesterday, after a mere two full days. His mum had been right, with enough perseverance, everyone could learn. It took a while to centre himself, but he could now light his finger without a wand nearby. Sure, Lumos was the easiest of all spells, but it was a good start! That done, he was indeed starting to feel magic clearly, and felt he was ready to continue. Until he felt secure, he resolved himself not to look people in the eye to protect himself.

The index revealed itself on his word. Surprised by the sheer scope of the work, Harry took it in. "Wow," he breathed reverently, "I know what I'm doing the rest of the year."

The Diary, if it could still be called that, had no less than two thousand pages. Considering how wandless magic and a defence against Legilimency was covered in no more than two pages of his mum's elegant script, he could only imagine the things he would learn in the remaining multitude of pages.

What this Diary really is, is a family Grimoire, our family Grimoire. But instead of just teaching spell after spell, this Evans Grimoire teaches you magic and how to live your life. My vision of life at least. You should probably read the Potter Grimoire someday too, but that can only be done after you come of age. I do not know what is in it as I have never been permitted to read it, even after my joining the family. But I have been told it holds countless Potter family spells, wards and even some rituals. Now, you should know something that will hit you hard. I did not join the Potter family willingly and yet that is exactly what I did. Confused? You should be!

Magicals can be just as despicable as any other human, just with so much more potential. As such, they have delved into a lot of magics that require an absolute lack of morals. Magical Control, or rather, Magical Control of another human being, has been a favourite for magical Pure Bloods since the advent of those magics. In my case, it was mostly mind-altering potions. Specifically, Loyalty Potions and Love Potions. Combine that with unbreakable contracts that are written for you and without your knowledge, and this means your life is written for you, instead of by you.

I was a victim, abused by the people I trusted, by the system I trusted, and by this whole rotten cesspool of a culture.

Here, let me tell you how my personality was overwritten totally, without any regard for my person whatsoever. Just so you know, it was completely by chance that I found out and even then, it was already far too late for me. I was no longer myself and I could not even see it anymore. I still cannot, to be honest. They are that good. Lily Evans was no more, Lily Potter remained.

Fifth year, I hated James Potter with a passion. My magical guardian, who I did not even know was my magical guardian, Albus Dumbledore, or the Great Manipulator, signed my life away in lieu of my parents. It is called In Loco Parentis, because as muggles my parents had no rights in Magical Britain. Dumbledore gets to act for all Muggle Born in that capacity. Mind you, it should be your Head of House according to the Charter but is not for some reason. Not that that would have been any better, I am just saying.

He had signed me up for a marriage contract with the Potter Patriarch, or Head of House, as the bride to the aforementioned James Potter, whom I hated with a passion. I was neither consulted nor informed.

Dumbledore doped me with a full barrage of potions, as was legal per the contract, to remake me into the perfectly loyal future doting wife of one James Potter. LEGALLY.

I did not notice a thing and neither did my friends, because it was so gradual you see. They have dosing practically perfected to an artform. When I got home after ten months, my parents were afraid of me, for me. Because they did not recognise their daughter, or sister in Petunia's case. I was more than ever enamoured with James Potter, the Wizarding World and Pureblood Life. My family was so far removed from my priorities thanks to the potions, that my relations to my parents and sister took an immediate downfall. That much change happened over a single year. Then came the next year.

Whereas before, Potter chased me around in the most pathetic courtship attempts known to man - read, bullying - now it was me that chased him. The bastard made me work for it too. Only at the end of sixth year did he finally deign to accept me as his girlfriend. In a whirlwind romance that still makes me croon in delight when I remember it - even though it is tainted by foul betrayal and cruel hindsight - I accepted his proposal for marriage in the middle of seventh year. We married right out of school and I was already pregnant with you, my one untainted love. Harry James Potter. James wanted Hadrian because it was a Pureblood name, but I managed to persuade him.

Upon my pregnancy, I became interested in Healing because I wanted to be perfectly healthy for my unborn child, to give it the best chance of survival. James allowed it. Yes, the husband is in complete control, the wife does not make her own decisions.

During that study, I found incredible amounts of potions in my body, mind altering charms and more. Of course, I immediately started to treat myself to become myself once more, a right everyone should have. Life is a cruel mistress however, as I was forced to conclude when I eventually succeeded. For a given value of success.

Free of all foreign influences via flushing potions, the most powerful anti-charms, counter spells, dispelling rituals and more. I had to finally conclude that it was as much a success as a failure. I was free of the magic yes, but it had already done its job. After years of repeated exposure, I was still irrevocably changed, never to return to who I was. Worse yet, I could not even think of that as a bad thing. Since I had years of memories thinking of James as my one true love, he essentially was, since you are the sum of your memories.

I COULDN'T EVEN THINK OF IT AS A BAD THING! The only reason I could write this disapproving rant, is that I imagined this happening to someone else, instead of myself.

That I fear, is precisely how and why these practices are still accepted, or at least tolerated. Sure, look at the law and you will find it is illegal as all hell, but nothing can or is done about it. Looking at a few years of cases, I have found that less than two percent lead to punishment beyond a fine or two. Why? Because it is Pure Bloods and ANCIENT and MOST WISE families doing it, and because the victims are only Muggle Born or Half Blood. Besides, the new perfect wives would not want to do that to their loving husbands, would they? Nope, they are simply fine as they are. Deliriously happy in some cases like mine. James treated me right, I must admit, but he never gave me the chance to choose.

I cannot prove it, but I am sure Albus Dumbledore is working as a breeder of magical humans, mixing, and matching the bloodlines however he sees fit. Acknowledged and perhaps even actively aided by some of the Ancient Houses. Most people want power, he just wants to play the sickest game on the face of the earth. But no one suffers right? WRONG. My family will not even acknowledge me anymore nor do I even crave their acceptance or even love. They have written me off as a casualty and that is exactly what I am, even if I can only logically deduce it and not feel it. Those used suffer in subtle ways.

This could happen to you, and I suspect it will. As an orphan and last of his line (probably), you will be a prime candidate for Dumbledore's grand game. That is, unless you go into Hogwarts with open eyes and armed with the knowledge on how to beat it. My one great hope for you, my child, is to live life however you want it. I pray to god that my efforts succeed, for your sake as well as mine.

In the next part, I will explain to you every spell, potion, and ritual to diagnose yourself and later cure yourself. Sadly, this will take up about a quarter of the book and you need knowledge of Runes to fix yourself fully. So be prepared to take that in your third year as an elective, you will need to study hard if you want to fix yourself instead of turning into the perfect drone.

"FUUUUCK!" Harry smothered his screams into his pillow. It had not taken long to find the first evidence, he might not know Runes, but he was a dab hand at Charms. The next few days he spent every free hour on self-diagnosis.

Harry had never studied this hard in his life and he had already diagnosed himself with a bevy of potions and charms, well over half of which he was able to dispel or flush out of his system with the help of the spells in the book and the help of his new best friend, Dobby.

He would be damned for sure if he had not had the help of Dobby. Thank the gods the elf was more than willing! He had come when he heard Harry call for "Help, anyone?" It was a cry of helpless frustration more than anything, but the results spoke for themselves. Dobby's arrival was a true act of providence.

Dobby told him that as his bonded elf, he could enter Harry's Gringotts vault on his behalf and help him with dozens of small errands and questions. The bonding was done a minute later. Harry did not know who was happier with the situation, him, or the hyperactive elf.

The day after employing Dobby, he had drunk the most potent flushing potion available on the market. That day was up there as one of the most horrible days in his life, but Dobby was there to help him with everything. That meant Everything. He had shat and pissed himself in magically silenced agony, but Dobby had cleaned him up every step of the way. Potions pouring out of his every pore. If not for Dobby, he would have surely woken the entire house. As it was, it had taken Dobby teleporting him all over the house to avoid those searching for him.

His, "I didn't want to see you," was wholly inadequate the next morning at breakfast, but nobody dared contradict him or push for more. It was pure luck that Moody had not been present, with his creepy stalker eyeball.

Dobby had been supplying him with a constant supply ever since and had helped him immeasurably by spying on those spying on him. Intelligence could win him this war, and Harry had finally realised it was a war. One with his 'own side.'

Snape brewed for Dumbledore. Dumbledore gave the potions to Molly, who incorporated them into his food. Dobby had figured that out quickly, but Harry still ate it to keep up the charade, taking a flushing potion every week. With how diluted the food and drink was potioned, it would take months to begin to see changes and years to make them permanent. An artform indeed. Sweating out the potions weekly was not nearly as bad as what he'd gone through before.

They had started early on with him it seemed.

His every emotion and thought of loyalty was suspect now, and he realised that he could trust none of those he thought he knew. He cried for a full day after that revelation, but it started a fire in him that would last a long while.

Nobody was going to take away his free will! His mum wanted him to live his own life and had given him the means, he was going to make that wish come true come hell or high water.

-.-.-

"Sirius, can I talk to you in private? Good. So, you have been to your vault, but not to my trust vault? Why, you ask? Just because. No, I will talk to you about it when I am ready, not a second before that. Do you happen to have any books on Runes? Great, I will take the lot! I am sending a letter to McGonagall after dinner. I'm not going to go through another day of Divinations if I can help it."

"It sure sucks I can't train my magic over the summer, given that Voldemort will be after my ass." Harry said to Sirius, who kept his silence. 'Alright, then don't give me the excuse.' Harry thought bitterly, knowing damn well Sirius knew he could do magic here without repercussion. It almost broke him to realise he could not even trust his Godfather to help him. Even after reading about the Will and its witnesses, he had still held out some hope for the man, but it was in vain.

He had one last hope, that ritual. Asking for a place to hold a ritual would not go over well he imagined, so it would just have to wait for Hogwarts. If his godfather would not even tell him that the wards blocked the Trace, there was no way he would condone a ritual.

Harry was not the most personable person at Grimmauld, not even to his Godfather. His responses were single worded most of the time and single syllabled whenever possible. One could even say that only Snape's attitude was worse. This was particularly ironic because Snape was the only one who seemed to appreciate his new attitude if Harry was right in reading between the lines. Dobby had reported him smirking whenever the topic came up in the meetings of the Order.

McGonagall stopped by to reply to Harry's letter in person. She smiled at Harry when he gave his reasons - "Divination sucks arse" - and promised him that she would accept him studying Runes on his own if he promised to take the end of year tests for third- and fourth-year Runes somewhere during the school year. If he did his best this year, he could even try for the OWL at the end of it. She apologised that it was impossible for him to attend the lessons due to scheduling problems, but Harry cared not a jot. He would be going at a much faster pace anyway. His life depended on it quite literally.

Keeping up the charade with his Head of House was nothing new, he had never had all that much respect for the woman. She did not perform in two of her three functions at Hogwarts. House meeting? What was that? Keeping teachers in line? Snape, anyone?

The teachers, my Head of House, my supposed Magical Guardian. All the above and more besides. None of them told me any of these things I really needed to know. I suppose it makes some sort of sense if you substitute students with lambs for the slaughter. No sense in alarming the little beasts! It would just give them stress and delay the inevitable, right? So that is why, with a heavy heart, I must ask you to trust not even the adults. What about a single adult muggle born you ask? Well, think about it. If even Dumbledore did not consider them good enough to breed with, there is bound to be something wrong with them. Shit, that sounds bad, but it is what it is. Though I suppose some couples even Dumbledore approved of without all the need for potioning them. Hard to guess which ones though, and you would have to persuade them of the truth first. I guess all I can ask is that you reserve judgement and think about it hard before trusting willy-nilly.

If this is to be considered a conspiracy, which it most certainly is, then one of its goals must be keeping people stupid and uneducated. Most of the stuff I really needed to learn, in hindsight, was carefully edited from the Hogwarts library. The major bookstores are in on it too, via ministry interference probably. Get some books from other countries and you will see what I mean. If you must learn a new language for it, do not hesitate to do so. It is easier than you think, though you will need to go abroad to find the good stuff. Translation charms will also do in a pinch. ICW approved study books are better but still not excellent. What you really need is the course books from two centuries in the past. Back then, they had not filtered out all the good stuff, but those are hard to come by. Still worth it to try if you ask me, I never got the chance, but I hope you will. Do your best and I will be proud no matter what you do.

4. Trials and Tribulations

The day of the trial was finally here. If he was being honest, Harry was livid that it was even necessary for him to defend himself. The hearing had been postponed and postponed again, but they had eventually settled on a location and a time. The location had been especially telling, since they required the largest courtroom for his 'hearing'.

To prepare himself, he had taken half a day out of his schedule and skipped ahead to read about the Justice System of Magical Britain, or what passed for it. His mother had torn into it with a passion, explaining in exacting detail why it could never be called that. Damn! Harry was disappointed in himself that he was even surprised. What he had learned was more than enough to throw this case on its ear in one short minute. Checking a book on law from the Black library had confirmed it.

And it was a doozy. Still, with how the system worked. Even the law was not enough to see him acquitted.

"Que sera, sera. Hermione, wouldn't you say?" Harry needled Hermione, who was even more concerned about his upcoming trial than he himself was. She had been stressing herself out like nobody's business. Like Dumbledore would allow him to be expelled, the mere idea was ludicrous! Couldn't be potioned in prison now, could he? Harry did not know the exact plans the old man held for him, but he knew that much.

She gasped in outrage when Mister Weasley finally said he was ready to depart.

The trip was mostly silent, certainly from Harry's end. Arthur was in Harry's mind a prime candidate for being a victim of potioning. He had lost all initiative and free will and accepted just about anything that left Molly's mouth. If that was not an indication and proof of what Harry never wanted to become, he did not know what was. Still, he could not blame the man for being a victim. It was unusual though, since by all rights, he should be the dominant one in the relationship. Then again, Molly subservient? Hah!

"62442, it spells Magic on the fellytone. Ingenious isn't it?" Arthur babbled.

Harry could not help but nod and reply. "Yes, that is a fun fact."

He had to suppress a sardonic chuckle when he heard that the actual Minister of Magic casually broke the law by changing the time three hours forward to rig the outcome. Did not take all that much to turn Harry into a cynic; given his childhood that was not a surprise. Arthur, bless his soul, nervously hustled them to where they needed to be and wished him luck, saying he could not enter for some reason there was no time to explain.

His presence was either very surprising or everyone was spellbound to see The-Boy-Who-Lived in the flesh, neither spoke well for them.

"Well, well, I see you decided to grace us with your presence after all. We were thinking you wouldn't show." The minister spoke into the silent hall. "Let the record show the start of the trial of Harry James Potter."

It was so silent; everyone heard his reply clear as day. "Well Minister, seeing how my HEARING was SCHEDULED THREE HOURS FROM NOW, that isn't a surprise. What is surprising however, is this farce of a trial, which by its very nature, INVALIDATES itself. Since I rather doubt you realise this, shall I explain YOUR MISTAKE to everyone here, Fudged?"

In the miraculous silence he had been gifted, he could clearly see Fudge getting more and more red until he finally blew his top. "NOW SEE HERE YOU MISCREANT!"

That was the starting shot of an epic shouting match involving more than half of the chamber. The other half was watching with intrigue or calculating gazes. Two even smiled at Harry. If he had known more than one of these people, he would have tried to remember who reacted in what way but given his upbringing that was a total wash. He saw some memorable people react with raw hatred though, the woman in pink that was seated right next to the minister for instance. Forgetting her would be a blessing! Which told him he would never forget her face.

With the utmost calm, Harry stood there and let it wash over him, just letting it happen. Silence would come, it practically had to. After a minute, he amended his thoughts, eventually.

A massive noise maker charm by one of the more important looking members finally got silence. "Let the boy explain himself."

Harry grinned, "YOU declared ME an ADULT by calling a full TRIAL. As an adult, I cannot very well be on trial for breaking the UNDERAGE restrictions on magic, now can I?"

Cue some more shouting. This time it took two full minutes and two noise maker charms before order was restored. "But you weren't an adult then." Summarised the same member.

"Doesn't really matter, but for the sake of argument, I was, by virtue of having to compete as an adult in the Triwizard Tournament. As was verified by Government officials Ludo Bagman, Bartemius Crouch, and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and my then Magical Guardian, Albus of the too many names Dumbledore. As such I was immediately emancipated." Harry held up his hand to forestall even more shouting. "Even if that was not the case, according to the law, breaking the restrictions of underage magic use, can only ever result in a hearing, NEVER a trial. By invalidating your own laws, you have made it impossible to convict me of this supposed crime. As you can only go from hearing to a trial, never from a trial to a hearing. QED."

Pandemonium did not come close to describing the circus that was happening at that time. Harry particularly liked the constipated faces of Fudge and his pink clad lackey, Toad Face.

When it all died down, Harry was thanked for his time and that same member - he really should learn who that was and thank him - apologised for the ministry's incompetence and for wasting his time. Harry left the chamber just as Dumbledore walked into the resulting pandemonium. Neither noticed the other, thankfully.

Ducking into an empty office, he called. "Dobby. Take me to my room please."

Three hours later someone finally remembered to check his room, where he was playing cards with the twins under a silencing charm. They had been looking for him in a panic for over half of that time and were not happy with him, oh no.

Well, neither was Harry. If his mother's writings had not already made up his mind, the Minister for Magic's blatant breaking of the law and subsequent trial would have.

The day after that, the dosage went up. By now, Harry religiously scanned himself before and after bed thinking, 'they can change my thoughts, but habits are much harder.'

Harry, Magical Britain's justice system is just like the rest of the whole; those who shout the loudest, win. Whether the shouting is done with power, support or bribes does not matter. What you need to understand is that power is primary, blood is secondary, law is tertiary, and logic is quaternary. Logic is separate from law for obvious reasons, if you want examples you should read the chapter on why magical law is stupid. Of course, the way the Wizengamot works, physical shouting works sometimes too, if only because you will not be heard otherwise. I do hope you will never enter the courtrooms before you will take your place on the Wizengamot, but if you do, remember these lessons.

Since the Wizengamot claims to be governed by reason and law, even though reason and logic hardly enter the equation, you can easily stimmy the process by studying the laws and by applying reason. Remember to shout out loud though because nothing works if you do not get heard. That is exactly why the pure bloods keep the power, they get heard.

-.-.-

"Either I am going shopping with you, or I am going shopping right this second. I am not handing over my vault key to anyone, neither is it necessary. You might call it dangerous, but I call it sensible. Why on earth would Voldemort break his enforced 'hide and go seek' campaign? For little old me even? I for one, highly doubt it. I am just a lucky Hogwarts student, aren't I? An average one even, if you look at my grades. This war does not revolve around me. If I believed that, Snape would be right to think me arrogant, and I'd be damned to prove that git right!"

Harry looked at Molly, demanding an answer that clearly was not coming, so he stepped it up. "Does it? There's hundreds of ways magic could disguise me, glamours for instance. But does anyone think of that? Of course not, but I'll prove why it isn't necessary Right Now."

He walked to the floo and tossed in some powder. "Diagon Alley." Prompting a scramble to follow him, but they never did find him. Even if all he did was cover his face with a cowl. "Pathetic." Harry scowled as he passed Molly who was loudly calling for "Harry" on his way to Gringotts. The only thing she was accomplishing was telling everyone that Harry Potter could be found in Diagon Alley, she might as well take out an ad in the Daily Prophet next time.

"Harry Potter, here to see whoever is in charge of his accounts." The goblin complied without question. "Follow me, I'll take you to Rotgut."

That started the single most reluctant conversational exchange Harry had had in years.

"What do you mean you've been sending me statements since I was eleven? I've never seen or read one!"

"Dumbledore isn't even my magical guardian, if anyone, it would be Sirius Black per my parents Will. Nor do I even need a guardian as I've been emancipated for almost a year now."

"He did what?!"

"They did what?!"

"A marriage contract?! Ginevra Weasley!"

"Get that damned Will! And get that contract, and that fake Will I supposedly wrote as well! Should serve to tell me who has been betraying me at least."
"..."

"Either I withdraw all funds from this bank today, what's left of it, or your service will improve right this second, what'll it be?"

"Why the hell would you get paid to fix your own mistakes? Are you daft!"

"Right. Can I fire you as my account manager or what? I'd be better off with someone intelligent enough to remember his own name."

"Oh hello, bank manager Ragnok. Yes, I am withdrawing my gold from this bank immediately, you can thank Rotgut for that. He was supposed to be guarding my gold, not give it away!"

"I suppose that would help. Getting that gold out of their hands would be worth that vastly reduced fee."

"Yes, that would do it. No mercy, huh?"

"Thank you. You've single-handedly restored some of the faith I had in Gringotts today."

"No, I won't tell anyone of this, you have my word on that. Whether or not I keep my banking business at Gringotts will depend on our future dealings."

"Again, thank you."

"If I may ask, does Gringotts facilitate discreetly buying land?"

"Yes, that would be perfect. I've never needed a backup plan more."

Harry shook when he finally exited the bank. His nerves had been killing him in there! Even if through some convoluted, barely legal scam, Dumbledore got most of that gold, there was a lot that could be retrieved via those same goblins that gave it away in the first place.

Dumbledore could not touch the main Potter vault, but he could mess with the investments and with the trust vault. The investments paid off in a non-Potter vault and the trust vault was emptied yearly, on the day before it refilled from the main vault. This had netted Dumbledore a good two hundred thousand galleons over the years, of which he would get back at most half, but probably only forty percent. This was partly because of the goblin fees, a whole boat load of them!

Knowing what to expect and what he could do about it was half the battle, because of that he had managed to get a deal for half the fees. He looked up to the sky and prayed aloud. "Thank you, mum, for your words of wisdom. I'll never doubt you again."

Marriage contracts are the bane of everything sane, but they are also a sad fact of magical life. Other than those types of contracts however, there is so much more. Some even work without signing stuff, actions can be enough to trigger a contract. Scary stuff let me tell you!

Do not ever sign a magical contract before knowing exactly what it says! If possible, do not ever sign a magical contract, period. The magical world adores contracts, it is insane. Goblins take this a step further, and they will sometimes even ask you to sign a contract that only asks you to do something, without giving something in return. It is laughable when you think about it, but many have fallen for their tricks. Those people forget one thing, they have a choice.

Do not forget Harry, they want you to bank with them, you do not have to. This gives you the upper hand in negotiations. Always consider what the opposition thinks and capitalise on that! This does not just concern goblins, but everyone. Do not take things lying down when you do not have to, do not make my mistake. Saying 'no' is perhaps the most courageous thing you can do in a difficult situation. People will try to trap you and say that you do not have a choice. That will always be a lie, you just need to learn to spot the options.

5. Lessons Offered and Lessons Learned

'Occlumency lessons with Snape of all people? Tell me more!' Harry thought angrily whilst keeping his expression placid and calm. "Of course, sir, whatever you think is needed. I will await his summons during the school year."

If someone needed evidence that Dumbledore was going senile, the fact that he could not pick up sarcasm as thick as that was more than enough. Harry had read up on what passed as Occlumency in Britain and read that it needed a bond of unconditional trust between student and teacher, as the teacher would surely learn the most intimate of secrets from the student's mind.

Trusting Snape…. Ugh!

Harry had the sneaking suspicion that the potions master had not even been consulted when Dumbledore so generously offered his services. What is more, he sincerely doubted Snape was willing to teach Harry anything, never mind an art like Occlumency. No, this required a different approach. What was certain however, was that Harry would never allow anyone inside his head.

That said, it was a particularly good thing that Dumbledore was refusing to look Harry in the eye this summer or say more than a few scattered words to him. Because Harry would not hesitate to shred the man if he tried a mental invasion. He felt he was already getting there as it were, since he was always aware of his magic now. Directing it was still hard, but he was getting there.

The same lack of restraint would be applied to Snape, which made it only a matter of time really. Harry was prepared to defend himself vigorously!

Trust is difficult, and it is even worse so in the Magical World. Break a trust in the muggle world and you might lose something important, a job, a relationship, or heaps of money. Break a trust in the magic world and you might lose your magic or your life. At its core, it just means the stakes are higher.

As such, secrets are much more important when magic is involved. Regrettably, this translates in every aspect of the culture, which makes living a regular hazard. There is one example that explains this nicely. Did you know that blackmail is functionally legal in magical Britain?

You can imagine I am sure, the impact that can have on politics. Try as one might, you just cannot avoid politics. With the law as it is, you cannot avoid breaking that either. See where I am going with this? Honestly, the only way I see the system improving is breaking down the whole thing and rebuilding on the ashes! But I see I have meandered a bit, let me get back to the point I have been meaning to make.

Obscurity is one way to avoid it all, but hard to pull off once you have been noticed. All but impossible once you are shackled by something like a bond or a contract. I once even entertained the thought of faking my own death, but even that was doomed to fail. My contract and personality rewrite would not allow anything like it. As an abstract, I could argue in favour and against, but for myself? I chuckled and forgot about it. My mind just refused to go there. Took me a while to get this on paper because of it.

-.-.-

Finally!

It was time to go to school, and if Harry had something to say about it, it would be for the last time. A witch or wizard needed three OWLs to be considered educated enough so that the government would not break your wand when quitting school, even as an adult. The scorn and stigma attached was not appealing, but that meant nothing in Harry's plan. This was his last year at Hogwarts OR ELSE.

Damn was he glad to be done with all that antagonistic contact! Saying it like that made him think of what would happen at Hogwarts this year, as fate surely had some antagonistic contact in store for him like it did every year.

All those 'well-meaning' people in the Order of the Phoenix who only wanted the best for him, feeding him potions all the way. The dosage of potions had increased when they figured out how they had fucked up. Harry had changed his routine to eat in his rooms. Tossing what he got from the kitchen and Molly Weasley and eating only what Dobby provided for him. Flushing potions were expensive and uncomfortable, you know.

He pointedly ignored all chatter directed to him and otherwise until he was finally aboard the train, in a compartment alone. For the first time in days, he allowed himself to relax and fell asleep, face covered in the cowl of his cloak.

He woke to find a blond-haired Luna Lovegood watching him. "Hello Harry Potter. How was your summer? Find any strange creatures?"

Amused, he shook his head. He knew Luna from last year and had always found their talks entertaining. Her theatrics demanded some sort of reciprocation. "I've learned about betrayals most foul. And like the fool, I had to continue with the charade. Today I hope to leave that behind me, but I fear tomorrow I'll be crying." Wow, he amazed himself with that creative crap!

Luna looked sympathetic and amused. "It's never fun, leaving behind your illusions. Friends come and go, and hardship never dies."

She understood, like she always did. Harry nodded seriously. "Will we find True Friendship, if we search long and hard?"

She shook her long hair out of her face. "Friendship is an illusion, a piece of scrap with a thin layer of chrome. Shiny and useless." Her eyes found his and held them. "Companionship, however, can stand the tests of time."

Harry did not know how to continue this strange conversation, he could hardly ask her to be his companion, could he? Didn't that mean something more than friends? Was he even ready for that or did he look at her like that? Staying silent did not seem right to him, but there it was.

Luna did not seem bothered by the lasting silence. "Shouldn't you be prefect this year?"

Glad to be back on somewhat safe grounds, Harry shook his head. "Ah no. Ron and Hermione have gotten that honour. To be honest, I am rather glad to not have to deal with all that. My time is going to be limited as it is. Trying to find students snogging after hours doesn't appeal to me at all!"

He smiled a little sardonically. "In fact, I doubt I'll even be playing quidditch this year. My priorities have become much clearer this summer."

Luna quirked her mouth up. "Gryffindor House won't like that I would assume. But then again, you're hardly only a lion."

Surprised, Harry looked up. "No, I'm not, but I had hoped to keep that a secret. Could I perhaps bribe you with my companionship?" Ah, there it was again. He had said it without a thought, the context implying friendship rather than lovers.

Her answering smile was blinding.

Harry shook his head in amusement. He would figure it out along the way, like he usually did.

Should you find yourself a lady, I am sure you can guess how I would like you to treat her. Treat her like you want to be treated yourself. Of course, it is best to find someone you can relate to in some way, because I do not think a relationship will work otherwise. Without magical assistance, I mean. I just snorted when I imagined myself reading this in your place. Is it sad to want a better relationship for you than was decided for me? I do not think so, but whatever you do, do not change her or yourself to make it work. It would break my heart.

I just read it again, and I noticed something I missed. Should you be gay, be gay. Just to put that out there, your mum will love you whatever you feel. Writing this is strange, but strangely cathartic as well. Remember, live your life the way you want it, this is just my advice. That goes for everything I have written in here. It is your life, so you should live it.

Sitting down at the Gryffindor table was a choice between the frying pan and the fire. Better to bite the bullet. Harry went over to the Gryffindor team and got himself seated next to the chaser trio, as one of them surely was the captain. "Hi girls, good to see you again, how was your summer?"

Angelina looked Harry over, blinked, sniffed, looked him over again and finally demanded. "What's the bad news?" Some girls really could smell guilt it seemed.

So too apparently, could she tell it would be bad news. That was new. Sighing deeply, he held up his hands. "I had hoped to ease you into this, but I'm quitting the team. I no longer have the time to devote to quidditch."

"What!" "Why?" "Who?" The trio demanded in stereo, all of them glancing at each other and smiling. "That covers it all." Alicia smiled smugly.

"I can't even count my near-death experiences in Hogwarts on two hands anymore, and after what happened after the third task and this summer, my priorities have changed. I really need to study better, particularly the wand-based classes, because my life will depend on it. Compared to my life, what is quidditch?"

They all gaped at him, Katie being the first to recover. "He's really back then?"

Harry nodded slowly and solemnly. "Doesn't even matter, though he is the biggest threat I admit. I just do not feel safe anymore. If giving up quidditch can help me feel safe again, I will do it, sorry." He grabbed two of their hands, "I will help you pick out a new seeker of course, but after that, you're on your own. Who is captain by the way?"

Dumbledore invited the first years in, halting the conversation, but Katie squeezed his hand back in answer and whispered. "I am, because McGonagall didn't want three new captains in three years."

That was logical thinking, so Harry nodded appreciatively. "I'm sure you'll do fine."

The new crop of first years did not manage to capture his attention, so he looked at the staff table to find the newest threat, or more commonly known as the DADA teacher. The pink toad was awfully familiar, seeing as he had last seen her at his trial. She was one of the most hateful ones, which did not bode well! At least it seemed the threat was visible this time, that made it easier to avoid the worst of the inevitable punishment coming his way.

Her interruption and subsequent speech made it more than plain who her master was. That was even worse since Fudge was unlikely to hold him in any positive light after his attempted miscarriage of justice.

Harry was going to have to be INCREDIBLY careful this year.

"Oi, midgets, over here!" Ron shouted. Proving himself to be non-prefect material on the first day. Harry could not help but snort when he saw Hermione facepalm.

Prefect and Head Girl, I was both. In hindsight, I realise how stupid accepting both was. Even when I did those duties, I could tell I was the exception in that I took the job intending to do it. The idea is great, sure. The implementation, however, leaves much to be desired! You are basically asked to give up a lot of time, ratting students out to teachers. The one good thing I did was help the younger years get oriented, but I was almost alone in that.

In my experience, most prefects take the job for the perks, meaning the ability to take points from rival houses, access to a nice bath, and to be out after hours. The younger kids, at first scared to ask questions, quickly lose that fear and replace it with resignation. They stop asking questions or going for help because they do not receive that answer or help anyway.

It is a sad situation that can be laid fully at the feet of the House point system. Having graduated, I notice that the stereotypes, the antagonism, the groupings, all of it stays. I do not know if it explains the messed-up government, but it sure cannot be of any help.

-.-.-

The first DADA class was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Luckily, Harry managed to cool his heels before he exploded. This proved to be a good thing indeed.

Ron and Hermione had taken over his schtick when he had stubbornly kept his silence. Umbridge, though visibly disappointed to not have gotten her real target, gleefully gave them their first detention of the year and a shared hundred-point detraction. Nice going prefects!

"Harry, why didn't you say anything!" Hermione demanded outside the classroom.

Harry in turn looked at her like he was doubting her sanity. He spoke slowly but clearly, anticipating the crowd's blatant eavesdropping. "Should I have provoked the ministry stooge who is clearly only here to punish me for the imagined slight of going against the ministry propaganda that 'all is well'? I do not think so Hermione. Do so at your own peril. I really thought you were smarter than that."

Not even the Slytherin's that heard him had a comeback to that. In fact, his response was so out of character and well thought out, that everyone just stopped still for a few seconds. Except for Harry himself of course.

Just as he cleared the corner, he heard Malfoy start his usual taunts and had to suppress a chuckle. 'If I'd known it was that easy to shut them up, I'd have started a long time ago.'

The rest of the day went about the same as always, if he discounted his previous friends. Harry was just starting to count his chickens hatched when he entered the common room and stopped cold. He had underestimated the pair and overestimated his Housemates apparently.

Harry had foolishly thought that they had learned over the summer that there was no more 'golden trio'. They had given up at Grimmauld place after a while, but it turns out they had just been gathering their strength. That and more was clear when he saw how they had set up what looked like the entire Gryffindor House against him, again, and they were demanding a reckoning.

There was an instant cacophony reminding him strongly of Courtroom 10, not a good comparison. As before, he just waited it out with his hand held up, letting it all wash over him as he struggled to keep his cool. This was a kangaroo court, plain and simple. He knew how to deal with those.

When they finally shut up, he spoke coolly. "So, let me summarize. You all think I somehow let you down because I am quitting Quidditch to focus on my studies and because I let Umbridge put those two in detention. Anything I missed?"

Turns out he did not, as there was a lot of nodding and even more silence.

"So, your wishes on the subject trump my wishes just because you doubt you'll win the game otherwise. And I must speak out to Umbridge so that someone else does not get detention. Instead, I should get the detention. Again, did I get that right?"

Fewer nodded, but that was it. Logic, and being heard had swayed the majority.

Harry shook his head. "I don't agree, obviously. What'll you do now?" He was honestly curious.

As suspected, there was no clear consensus or even proof of any forethought whatsoever. Ron's stubbornness won out. "But you can't! Didn't you say You-Know-Who was back?"

That demanded a little payback, and Harry knew just how to get it. Throwing up his hands in a frustrated gesture, he retorted. "I can't? Why ever not? Besides, you should be congratulating me for keeping my cool. Who lost a hundred points today, it was not me, was it?"

Naturally, that redirected most, if not all the irritation and aimed it back at the instigators. Served them right, but he just had to say his piece one last time. "And why does it matter if he's back or not. It is not like people will believe me before he finally shows his face. I am done preaching to the choir! Really, I am done. Live life the way you want to, it is none of my damned business. Just grant me the same courtesy."

Scanning the lot, Harry could not spot the chasers, or Neville or the twins for that matter; that was good. He did not know what he would have done if those had gotten in on the act, it was bad enough that they had let it happen in the first place.

Choose your own way in life and you will see who your real friends are. I had the luck to do the same before my life was stolen out from under me. Real friends make life worth it when the going gets tough. Just be sure they are the real deal first. Live life the way you want to Harry, real friends will be happy for you when you do, the rest are but dust in the wind. Yes, I am a Kansas fan and proud of it!

6. Partnering Up

"Hi Neville. How's our resident Herbology master doing today?" Harry greeted him at breakfast.

"Oh, hi Harry. I want you to know I did not agree with Ron yesterday, I did not even hear about it until after it happened. I really had not seen that one coming. Did you have a falling out over the summer?" Neville told him what he already knew, he had not been in the common room with the rest of the inquisition.

Harry tilted his head, like he was thinking about it. "I guess you could call it that. In any case, I really believe my friendships with Hermione and Ron have sunk forever. I can't trust them anymore."

They filled their plates in silence. "Hey Nev. Mind if I partner with you in a few classes?"

Neville grinned. "No take backsies, you hear."

That self-deprecation reminded Harry; no wonder Neville had troubles in the wand classes. "Say Nev, would I be right in assuming that's not your wand?"

"It's my dad's." Neville agreed reluctantly. "My gran says it's the best way to honour him."

Harry shook his head and held up his wand. "No Nev, it isn't! Wands do not work the same for everyone. I believe your Dad's wand is a particularly bad match for you, which would explain why you are having so much trouble. Try mine for a sec, see how it feels."

He mentally wished for his wand to work and handed it over to a hesitant Neville. "What should I cast?" He wanted to know.

"Ah, rather a hard question. How about a Lumos?"

"Alright." He agreed. "Lumos!"

And then they were blind. "Nox! Nox! Nox!"

"So?" Harry chuckled; it was a rather good surprise. "How about it Nev?"

Awestruck, he managed to respond. "I'll send a letter to my Grandmother, after the spots leave my eyes that is. Thanks Harry, this will really make a difference, I can tell!"

Harry laughed out loud. "I can tell as well, Neville. Has no teacher ever pointed this out?"

"No." Neville paused and frowned. "But that's not such a surprise. It's supposed to be very rude to talk about wands."

"Stupid is as stupid does." Harry agreed, but this was a magic school. Surely someone should have caught this. Stupidity on this level should be criminal. Harry blamed McGonagall and Neville's gran.

"Can I borrow your wand for a sec?" I asked, simple right? I was incredibly surprised when I got an angry hiss in response. I was not supposed to ask what their wands were made of, never mind borrow one, can you imagine? "Why?" I wanted to know. Could not get an answer out of anybody though, they looked at me funny for an entire month. People called me names for not knowing and refused to say why. Really! Eventually, I found the answer in a book that touched on wand lore peripherally. There are no books centered on wand lore in the library at all, I looked, I asked, and I got smacked down. Another faux pas discovered.

It is because a thousand years ago, people made their own wands and knowing what it consisted of was supposed to give you an edge in battle. It is like they're stuck in the middle ages, I really can't argue for anything else at this point. I think that if someone were to kill all the wand makers in Europe, the magical world would soon run out and die, since nobody knows their secrets. A bit of an oversight if you ask me!

The first thing I have had that creep Ollivander tell me was, "the wand chooses the wizard." I am not a wizard, but I caught his drift. If the only known wand crafter says that to every single customer. Why then, do so many magicals walk around with wands that are two or more generations old? Because they are stupid! That is why. But I cannot ask why because that is rude. Well, f*** you too!

That was my first introduction into the absurdity that is Tradition in the Wizarding World. The parchment and quills combination were the first, but I only noticed that later for some reason. Probably because I thought it quaint. Was I a snob? In hindsight, I have to say NO. That was just my common sense sending a message. The message here is, always look for better ways. If tradition was better, then it would not lose to innovation in the first place. As everything in the Wizarding World however, you better take care not to say that to the wrong person. The wrong person will make it their project to ruin your life, especially as a muggle born.

-.-.-

It was time to prepare for the ritual, and Dobby had already found him the perfect room. The Come and Go room, also known as the Room of Requirement.

Harry had done his usual and found a growing assortment of potions and compulsion and other charms on his person, so he needed a private space for detoxing and demagicking. But that ritual would make that much easier when it was done.

According to his mum's Grimoire, it was possible to make a portable runic ring that was reusable instead of painting the runes every time you wanted a ritual done. That said, Harry was planning to make a runic ring out of a metal disk. The ring was to be shrunk in his trunk when he was not using it. This did increase the lead time by a big margin, but it was also a lasting solution, and more efficient in the long run. Good effort all around.

Except, Harry did not really know his Ancient Runes that well yet.

"You walk in front of door three times thinking of what you be wanting." Dobby announced happily, raping the English language in the process. Doing as instructed, Harry was more than pleasantly surprised to find what seemed to be the perfect ritual room! Stone, with plenty of space.

Now he only needed to study the Required Runes, practice them until he really could not go wrong anymore, and then make his runic circle.

What he needed for that was quite simple. Books and material to practice with, a place to study in peace and above all, a comfortable chair. Carving runes was hard work, especially in harder materials. Being comfortable was therefore a definite must. Between blinks, a door appeared in the wall.

Half elated and half wary, Harry opened the door to find the perfect study, complete with books and a comfy chair.

Oh yes, this room was bloody perfect!

"Dobby? This is beyond perfect. Everything you ever need. Ask and it is yours." Harry said seriously, making his elf ecstatic.

He meant it, even though he knew Dobby had few desires and most of those were already being fulfilled. "I mean it Dobs. Now please fetch me the flushing potion."

-.-.-

Harry woke in a flood of sweat, flush from his last nightmare. Sleep was out of the question for sure, so he got out his map again; a habit he had taken to doing religiously this year. "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good." The map opened and lines spread before his eyes.

Nothing sprang to his attention, but there were a few isolated people on the map. One sure thing was seeing Luna Lovegood walk around in her lonesome. Looking for her specifically, he found her in seconds. The Astronomy tower this time.

Instead of thinking, he just blanked his mind and waited for a reply from his subconscious. There it was, he felt an urge to visit the girl. He had met her before, and frankly, she had always been interesting and true, if a little discombobulating.

He slipped on his robe and left the tower, keeping an eye on his map in the meantime. Nothing or nobody threatened his secrecy on his way to Luna, so he made it there without meeting anyone. Of course, it might have had something to do with the late hour, since it was a quarter past three when he finally laid eyes on the girl.

"Hi Luna. How's life treating you?" He asked her with fake happiness.

Luna turned around without surprise, with a mostly blank face. "As it ever does, I suppose. Thought that's not exactly a recommendation."

I winced at her reply, she usually was not that brutally honest. "Ah. Well, would you like to talk? I mean, I'm here now."

Seeing the corner of her mouth curl a little was pure luck, but he knew she was amused at his words. "I suppose. What do you know of Crumple Horned Snorkacks? I'm in the market for one you see?"

I had no quick answer, which had to be visible because she laughed. "I'm sorry. Sure, I'd like to talk with the famous Harry Potter."

Expelling the last of his breath nervously, Harry grinned. "Me too, I've never met the guy. I'd very much like to talk to the incomparable Luna Lovegood too, if she consents." Harry did not know where the words came from, but he was happy nonetheless at their results, which is why he continued listening to its advice.

They continued talking until the sun rose, both better off for their shared words and company.

"Found any strange creatures lately?" Harry surprised Luna by sitting next to her at lunch. The students seated next to her did not mind, looking at the pair of them curiously.

Luna nodded happily. "I found a toad that only lives in dry air. That is probably why she is so uncomfortable all the time, she's denying her true nature and her skin is starting to crack."

Harry almost choked on his pumpkin juice when he realised who she meant with that; the girl next to him was not so restrained. When she was done laughing, Harry winked, "I've read that oddly coloured toads are poisonous, so you'd better watch out for yourself, because this one seems the most poisonous of all."

This time it was Luna's turn to keep from laughing out loud, but she failed, and she was not the only one. They had attracted some attention. "I already don't like toads, but I'll be sure to keep that in mind. And you Harry, any strange sightings so far?"

Thinking about it, yes, he did. But how to describe it? Particularly with their listeners. He took his time and Luna - plus a few nosy neighbours - waited patiently. "I've found the most marvellous creature. It is helpful, can be whatever you want or need, and while it is a great listener, it will never tell your secrets unless someone else finds them. Kind of the opposite of a boggart now that I think about it."

Luna clapped her hands happily and looked at him with wide eyes. "Will you share it with me?"

After keeping them up for months, Harry's walls melted a bit. "Yes," he agreed with a smile, "but I am afraid it will get scared if we bring a group, so it'll have to be just the two of us. Is that okay?"

Luna nodded gratefully and was interrupted from a few seats over. "What in the hell are you two nutters talking about? Are you going to be Loony too now, Harry?"

Harry shook his head faux-sadly. "It's way too early to speculate on that." He quipped. His traitorous mind had immediately sprung to the obvious result of sharing of a name. "But never say never, because companionship is forever."

"You'd be willing to think about it?" Luna asked with wonder clear in her voice, she had clearly followed his train of thought. Harry nodded seriously. "I could do much worse than be Loony with you Luna, you should know that."

Cho laughed cruelly and loudly, heard by half the hall. The rumours were no doubt flying fast already, but Harry did not mind all that much, seeing how this was his last year at Hogwarts. Besides, there were certain advantages, such as the delicate hand he now held in his own. "Would you like to take a walk, Luna?" Being considered crazy also made his value seem less. Now, that was a welcome side-effect.

Their departure was watched by hundreds of eyes, but none saw the truth, even if they came close. Harry gaily skipped down the hallways with Luna, until they reached the seventh floor. He had checked if he was being followed by looking at his trusty map, they were alone. Every potential stalker was apparently content with the inevitable gossip.

"Walk three times in front of the wall, thinking of what you want to see." Harry told Luna, who immediately complied.

Inside, they found a pond in the forest, with an artificial sun beaming down on them. "Wooow! Didn't even think to try something like this, where is it?"

Luna, still holding his hand, smiled widely. "It's my home, Harry. Have you ever skinny-dipped?"

Harry turned red faster than Ron ever had, making Luna laugh. "Don't worry, we first need to do a lot of talking. About companionship, and about being Loony."

He gulped. "You're right of course. I just hope I do not mess this up. I've too few friends as it is."

"Yes." Luna acknowledged. "Then let us promise we will not get mad at each other and if we really cannot come to an accord, then we'll drop it and forget it. No hard feelings. What do you think?"

Harry took her other hand and nodded, placated by her calm words. "I think I'd like that."

"Good," she smiled.

I realise I cannot really comment or give advice on healthy relationships, but I have always thought I knew what made a great one. Communication of course and holding to established boundaries. Really, that is all there is to it. Works for any kind of relationship too.

-.-.-

"Ron," Harry warned, "why don't you just shut up and go bother someone else. I'm trying to eat here, and you're not exactly letting me."

"You can't say that Harry, we're your friends!" Hermione butted in.

Harry shook his head. "No. You WERE my friends. Get that through those thick skulls of yours." Of course, his words did nothing to deter them, so Harry tuned them out and defiantly buttered his toast, looking her in the eye as he did so, daring her to object. (THAT IS HOW YOU USE DEFIANTLY INSTEAD OF DEFINITELY, FANFICTION WRITERS. Sorry, it is a pet peeve of mine.) His closest seated House mates, while clearly annoyed, kept their quiet. None of them blamed him, Harry knew, but that would not hold forever.

A week had passed since the school year had started, and a lot had happened. Chiefest among the annoyances were Umbridge and his old friends. They just would not give up, even after that disaster in the common room. Harry had already taken to waking up early to avoid them at breakfast and was now contemplating coming late to dinner for the same. Lunchtime was unavoidable, like classes, but at least in class they were supposed to keep quiet. Not so at lunch.

Perhaps he would go visit McGonagall. 'Nah, wouldn't help.' It was time for drastic measures. "Alright. I guess I am done eating. Bye." Harry interrupted their rant, stood, and walked away.

Mercifully, they let him leave.

His next class was DADA, and that was on the second floor, meaning the Room of Requirement was not a good option due to the distance. Walking into the nearest empty classroom, he called Dobby for a meal.

"Dobby will be glad to serve the Great Harry Potter Sir!"

"Can you make that for two, Dobby?" Luna asked from the door. Dobby nodded and popped away.

Harry turned around and smiled at her, waving a wand to summon her a chair and conjure a cushion. "Hi Luna, glad you could join."

Luna took the offered seat with a smile. "I saw what happened. What will you do?"

Walking around the desk, Harry took his own chair and sat down opposite her. "I was planning on eating my lunches and perhaps sometimes dinners somewhere that's not the great hall. There is no avoiding them, and the teachers do not see fit to help me. It would perhaps also help me avoid some potions." There were no portraits in this abandoned classroom, so Harry felt safe in admitting such a thing to his companion.

Luna managed to look properly scandalised without being overly surprised.

Their talk had been enlightening for both parties, and they had parted relieved.

None of the two knew or could readily describe what they were feeling for the other, but they certainly wanted to get closer to the other. As such, they were taking things as slow as could be. Harry had started her on some secrets to test her and show her some trust. She hinted that she knew Occlumency, but Harry wanted to be sure.

Luna looked the classroom over and beat him to the punch. "Harry, could you test me for foreign magics?"

Well, that was surprising. He had only told her that he knew of a plot to potion him. "Sure Luna, how about after dinner in the room?"

She nodded, and Dobby popped in with the food. "Thank you, Dobby." Harry nodded too, satisfied. "Thanks, Dobs, you're the best."

"Harry, I need to tell you a secret as well tonight." She told him between bites. "I take it you know how to protect your mind from overgrown bats and the bleached elderly?"

Almost choking on his food, Harry managed a laugh. "Yes, since this summer. I did not even know it was an option before that. I learned a great deal over the summer. Whitebeard really is pirate scum."

Luna quirked a smile of her own. "Yes, but you can't really evade him all your life, it's his sea you're sailing."

Harry nodded and tilted his head. "I'm planning to follow a few OWL's into the sky, he can't catch me there, can he? Like the bird, I yearn to fly free."

She blinks twice, processing the cryptographic statement. "You're… Of course, you are. Would you wait? For me, I mean?"

He nodded. "If you want to, of course I will. That's the nature of companionship isn't it?"

She grabbed him in a hug and held it for a long time. "Classes are about to start. I'll see you tonight."

"Yeah, you're right. I have to hurry if I don't want detention with the toad."

"Run along then."

He did. Harry just barely made class and was seated behind Ron as a result.

"Alright class let us see who did the reading. Potter! What did Slinkhard tell us in the second chapter of the book?" Umbridge set her trap gleefully, she was hardly the epitome of cunning there.

Harry had to swallow his laughter. He stood and answered levelly. "Yes, Madam Umbridge, he tells us about why using magic is bad in situations where it isn't needed. For example, when you are feeling threatened. It's the job of the Aurors to protect the citizens, so you should call them and wait for the professionals to sort it out." That said - with a straight face even! - he did not dare sit back down, patiently waiting for permission.

Umbridge looked at him with the most insincere smile ever, uncertain whether to feel happy that Harry got it right, or to feel bad because she could not punish him.

The second chapter was indeed summarised by those two sentences, which was sad. Imagine reading five pages of the exact same thing, written in slightly different ways. Yes, it was that bad!

"Ahem... Right, you can sit down, Mister Potter. Well, why aren't you all writing that down?"

Ron made a sound of disgust as he sat back down, which only increased his pride in countering the foul bitch. It was only a matter of time before Ron managed to get himself another detention.

Of course, we still had a little more than an hour in which we could read the next chapter, all six pages of it. This class sucked! Half of which was solely due to the course book, which is why he had charmed another to look like it. He really enjoyed his real DADA book, as opposed to his fellow students if the groans were any indication. Suckers, the lot of 'em.

His mom really expounded on the virtues of going unnoticed and Harry had decided to put it into practice this year. It was already paying off so nicely too. Illusion spells for the win!

When I realised what world I had gotten myself into, I made myself into the perfect conforming muggle born. Even a die-hard pure blood was going to be hard pressed to call me a mud blood when I agreed with everything that they said. "Pure Bloods have more magic and ability, it's a fact!" They would say, to which I would respond, "yes, well, all we can do is our best." Hard to argue with a doormat, even if she scores better than you in every class. Of course, it helped that I did not advertise my intelligence, nor my scores. I had made a deal with Flitwick you see; he had let me waste the first half of every class so as not to be the first to manage the charm. So long as I continued to get it right every time, he let me wait after someone else did it first. After a few such deals, my prowess as a witch became that thing everyone knew of, but nobody really talked about. That was exactly the way I wanted it. Nobody wants to be reminded of their failures, especially when their entire youth, they get told that they must be better. Or else!

This protected me in Hogwarts, right up until James told me he wanted me to do better of course. I was his prized possession, to be paraded around. I had to be worthy to become his girlfriend. Luckily, his wording let me off the hook after Hogwarts, when I could be quietly genius again, the perfect housewife. He never did catch on about my research after school. Which was a good thing, as blood and ritual magic are supposed to be illegal and Dark. If my reformation was all nice and legal, what use were those classifications? I studied everything I could get my hands on! The more illegal, the better.

7. Plans for the Future

"So, what are exactly your plans, if I may ask?" Luna asked from next to him on the couch in the Room of Requirement, which was currently configured as a study slash common room slash library.

Harry decided that he might as well share, he did not think he would like how this year was going if he could not even confide in a single person. Luna was shaping up to be a good friend and he was starting to trust her with his decisions and plans. Why not tell her another few secrets?

He looked her in the eye and nodded. "I've figured out I am to be nothing but breeding stock to one party, someone to be killed to another, and an entertainer slash hero slash scapegoat to the majority." Shaking his head ruefully, he continued. "That's not a life I'd care to lead if I get a say in it." Smiling wryly, he paused. "Now, before, I really didn't have a say at all in my life. That changed somewhere around the start of the summer, when I figured out that I was being charged as an adult by the Wizengamot."

Harry chuckled as he thought back on that day. "Even though the law says that as an adult, I can do as I please. I know I cannot leave before I get at least my OWL's. There would be riots otherwise, and they would break my wand before I could even appeal. Even though as an adult they should have cancelled the Trace on me, I am sure they did not. I am sure they conveniently forgot to do such a thing! I cannot rely on that, so I cannot do magic until my 17th birthday, at least when I am not under heavy wards. After that, well, that is something I am still planning but I know already that I will not be continuing my education here at Hogwarts. Self-study is what I suspect I'll be doing instead."

"If I were to stay here, there's no way that Dumbledore wouldn't turn to more drastic measures to ensure my compliance with his bogus marriage contract. As it is, I am worried that he will figure out I am flushing out his potions and dispelling his charms regularly before I am ready to flee. Legally, he would be in the right if he were to come right up to me at breakfast and demand I drink a love potion keyed to Ginny Weasley. That is something I will never do of my own free will, so I'd be forced to flee and be on the run." He scoffed. "Next year though, there's no way in hell that he won't figure it out. Especially since I am slated to start dating her right about then. Yeah, they really have got it all planned out."

Luna looked at him with wide eyes, now really seeing the scope of his problem. She had her own. "Voldemort is back, and because my father owns the Quibbler, I'll be a prime target. If I get my OWL's and reach adulthood, I would like to flee to wherever you plan to be, especially when war breaks out. Even if it is only as a friend, but that depends on how we progress. Can I count on that, Harry?"

"Yeah, you can." He promised her. "Isn't there a better way for you though? You are a pure blood, you could just leave school, and nothing would happen. Or apply for emancipation."

Luna grimaced. "I'd rather not, my father isn't that wealthy, so we wouldn't be able to get a tutor. Also, if someone even suspects me to have contact with you, don't you think they would check? The ministry is corrupt, so I cannot be safe unless I take the same precautions as you. Also, if possible, I would like to get my OWL's at Hogwarts. But you are right. If my father were to be attacked before I got my OWL's, I'd immediately become a ward of the ministry." Luna smiled crookedly. "That's not a good place to be, which is exactly how I'm going to get my father to sign my emancipation papers. I'll ask him right when this year ends."

Harry reached out and hugged her sideways, offering his support. "Right. Well, I am already planning to do a lot of self-study this year, you are of course welcome to join me. This room can get you all the books that are in the library, so you will never have to go there either. Since I am not planning to get my NEWT's at Hogwarts and I only need a few OWL's, I'll be glad to help you get your OWL's."

As answer, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "Maybe I can get a few OWL's early if I study hard enough?"

"That's not a bad idea." It really was not, and he would be glad to help.

-.-.-

"Me and Ron are too busy with our prefect duties, but we'll help with the research of course." Hermione droned on. Busy, right… Harry had spotted Ron and Hermione on the map in a broom cupboard more than once, during their patrols even. Ron was pushing Hermione to put more effort into maintaining their relationship - read, visit cupboards - than making up with Harry.

How Ron remained a prefect was one of the greater mysteries of life. Truly. "Hermione hold up. I do not have the time either, I am studying for my OWL's this year, being a teacher for a bunch of students does not fit in my plans. So, it's best to forget about it."

"But you're the best at Defence! Who else is going to teach us, Umbridge?" Hermione defended her demands.

She wanted Harry to secretly teach a group of students Defence against the dark arts for them to score better on their OWL's, and to defend themselves in case of attack. Her priorities were noticeably clear that way, just like first year. That was everything she had decided, there had yet to be any thinking about the place, time, and content of the class he was supposed to teach. "That way, Harry could really make it his own." Well tough, Harry was not going to give up that much of his time and become the lightning rod in case of discovery. He had had been doing enough of that over the years.

"Have you talked this over with Flitwick, McGonagall or someone else? Have you got something of a lesson plan? How many people are you intending to let join and where would we hold these classes?" Harry countered, already knowing it was not going to stop her.

He had of course, started out by saying 'No', but she clearly was not going to accept it before he made her see he had thought about it. His only fear was that she had somehow anticipated these questions and had answers he could not easily refute. Thankfully, his fears were mostly groundless.

"No, I was thinking we'd be an underground group, no sense in asking for permission that way. Not yet, but I will be glad to help you make a lesson plan. Well, for starters, most of the Gryffindor's want to join, but I would expect Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff to be interested as well. I don't know where but there needs to be lots of space, do you know a place we could use?"

Well, he did obviously, the Room of Requirement would be perfect for this purpose. But Harry would be damned if he gave up the best and last place that offered him some privacy.

"No, Hermione, I neither have the time nor the inclination to teach a hundred students. The school is responsible for your education, not me." Harry told her firmly. "Should you start up something yourself, I would be willing to think about joining as a member. I do hope you will try to go the legitimate way though, because Umbridge will not be a happy camper once she finds out, which she will. There's simply no way to keep this a secret with a group as big as that."

"But what about-"

"No means no, Hermione! Think about it yourself."

The funny thing is, Harry would have really thought about it for a small group, but Hermione had not even taken his views into account before inviting the entirety of Gryffindor and planning for more. That more than killed of any enthusiasm he could have generated dead.

She had even brought up a good point; they would need to study Defence despite the teacher. Self-study could get you far, but as a practical study went, working in groups was best. As far as Harry was concerned though, he did not have a lot of people he would be willing to work with. The smaller the group the better. He would be willing to work with Neville and Luna and… that was it really. Yeah right, better to let that go.

It took another week before he heard anything else on the subject. Hermione had invited him and other interested parties to the Hog's head on a Hogsmeade weekend. She had rushed away to invite someone else before he could get in a single question. That was a clear hint of what was coming.

The moment he had entered the dingy bar in the company of Luna, he already knew it was a mistake to come. Almost everyone already there looked at him in expectation, except for Hermione. This made it more than clear what had happened, he had just been volunteered, drafted even. Hell no!

He looked sideways to his companion and spoke softly but clearly. "Luna, I'm guessing you still want to join, and I just want to say that I wish you luck, but I don't think I'll be joining. Go make some more friends if you can, you deserve some."

Luna grabbed his hand and squeezed it for a second. "I understand Harry, thank you." Then she dragged him inside in the direction of the group of students, knowing Harry had to face this.

Putting on his game face, he stood next to George and smiled. "So, tell me about this group of yours, Hermione. I'm very curious to know what you've come up with."

That response did not jibe with what the students there had been told and that was clear. Before anyone could react to it, Hermione spoke. "We need a teacher Harry, and you're clearly the best at Defence!"

"As you've said before." Harry concluded sadly. "Which means you already know my answer. I do not have the time, nor the inclination. Good luck on your exams this year, you all."

Ron beat Hermione to the punch before Harry even had the time to turn around. "But you defeated a hundred Dementors with one spell, you defeated a Basilisk, you defeated You-Know-Who! Who else would teach us?! Besides, you quit Quidditch, that means you should have plenty of time!" The last was said in anger, of course Ron was still mad about that!

Harry was trembling in anger, and still trying to find a response that was not ripping Ron's head off when someone else made it even worse. "Everyone can say they did all that, but where's the proof? What happened with Cedric last year, Potter? We deserve to know!" Zacharias Smith demanded, some not so soft mutters around him agreed.

"I see." Harry's voice held nothing but steel. "Anyone else that thinks you deserve to be told everything I've been through? Anybody else wants to know how Cedric was killed right in front of me. Anyone else that thinks I owe them my free time and effort?"

Like the morons they were, half of the students dared raise their hands, as if they were in class and he was their teacher. That did it!

"Ask Ron and Hermione, they seem to be telling all my stories for me anyway." He snarled. "I'm leaving. Don't ask me for anything to do with this club again!" Nobody stopped him, which was all for the good as far as Harry was concerned. He did not know if he could have kept it violence free otherwise.

He did not even remember the walk to the castle so wrapped up in his anger was he. Ron and Hermione had really burned their last bridges with this ambush. They still had not told him about their developing relationship and did not care one whit about Harry's own desires. Hermione's attitude hurt him the most. Oh, he did not care that she spent most of her free time exploring cupboards with Ron like he saw on the map. That was not why he was mad. Even if Ron was potioning her, her handling of what remained of her friendship with him was all her. She could not blame any potion for that. It was possible she had charms on her that facilitated that attitude, but Harry doubted it. She had been like that right from the start. Either way, it was no longer any skin off his back no matter how much it hurt him. Ditching Ron as a friend had been a foregone conclusion since the summer.

Arriving at the Room of Requirement, Harry worked off his anger in a frenzy of spell practice. He collapsed from exhaustion and just lay there, thinking. Luna entered the room an hour after him. "Hi Harry, are you feeling better now?"

Turning his head a fraction, he sighed. "I can't do it Luna. They have gone too far, and their group is going to get discovered. I refuse to commit myself to future pain when I can see it coming so clearly."

Luna kept silent for a minute. "It's funny you know; they're calling it Dumbledore's Army. Hermione and Ron are going to lead it."

There was little humour in her voice, but her eyes told the truth. Harry finally burst into laughter when he considered what he suspected would happen. "If Umbridge hears that name, she'll see it as validation of everything the Ministry fears regarding the Headmaster. They'll be in so much trouble!"

Even more funny was the idea of Hermione teaching defence, it was possibly her worst class. For all the theory she could spout on the subject and the spells she could do, she had not really mastered one, let alone enough to teach it. That had always been a weak point of hers, something that her students were soon going to learn.

Harry sat upright. "Promise you'll get out when it becomes dangerous?"

The way Luna looked at him informed Harry he had insulted her. "I know you're more loyal than that, but if you warn them to no effect, you could leave the group with a clear conscience."

She nodded, "I can live with that if it comes to it, I suppose. What will you do?"

Harry smirked. "They wanted me for a reason Luna, I've a knack for Defence and everything associated with it. When they interest me, no spell is too hard to learn. Let us just say I'm going to prepare my own way." Then a new thought entered his head. "But I supposed my plans for the future make focusing on Defence a bit of a waste. Since I am leaving, I mean. I have some other plans, like building a home for myself. I suppose I will study everything that interests me, but if you need some help with Defence, I'd be glad to help you."

Luna nodded, happy with that. "Now, it is the weekend so we should do something to relax, after you shower, I mean. You stink!"

He made a show of lifting his arm to sniff it, and grinned. "I suppose I must. What will we do, a picnic?"

Her smile told him he was right to suggest it. "And then you can tell me all about your future home." Harry laughed; he would be glad to do that. Luna had successfully brought him out of his funk.

8. Failure Waiting to Happen

The next day proved him right nicely, not that he really cared. Umbridge got herself a new decree, banning all unapproved groups; groups meaning three or more persons. Well, it was no stretch to assume she had heard about Dumbledore's Army.

Instead of doing the smart thing and aborting the whole thing, Harry heard they were looking for a new location where Umbridge could not spot them. Half the school was talking in hushed voices, which meant there was no secret. Quidditch soon got approved when the teams went to their Heads of House, but it was a sure bet that nobody would ask Umbridge if it was okay to raise an army.

Luna quickly came up with an idea, but it was shot down by Ron and Hermione. She had suggested pooling their knowledge and practicing the resulting syllabus in switching pairs, to maximize the sharing of skills and knowledge. In other words, do the smart thing and follow the letter of the rules, if not the spirit.

Now, they were all set. The Weasley twins had found a big room in the lower dungeons, where nobody supposedly ever came. It would only take one person to follow a member discreetly to blow this thing out of the water, but they did not care. Hermione had written a contract that would punish the member if they betrayed the group. The actual punishment was unknown.

It meant that Luna could not tell Harry what they were doing anymore, since she had signed. This did not stop Harry and Luna from practicing together though. Neville joined on occasion as well, outside of the Room of Requirement. He was happy for the extra practice now that he had a new wand. More than once had he thanked Harry for that advice, it had really given him some much-needed confidence.

Harry had found a lot of old exams in the Room and had written a list of spells that were common on the exams, with a few useful spells added. They would practice those together when the DA was not in session since it was only about once every week for an hour or two.

Sixth year tests and texts suggested that silent casting was the next big thing, so Harry practised that religiously when Luna was at the DA. It had to be said that the Room of Requirement was a great teacher, everything that they needed more information on, it provided in the form of personal notes, books or other.

The funny thing was, that Umbridge had stopped harassing Harry so much, preferring to focus on Hermione and Ron since they still responded to it. Harry never responded, using the most non-confrontational words to diffuse all stressful situations. Even Draco mostly left him alone nowadays because of this new deliciously ironic tactic. He was defending himself with words, diffusing dangerous situations in the way the current course book espoused. Wilbert Slinkhard, eat your heart out!

Both his old friends were often seen nursing a bloody hand. Hermione even seemed to be less enamoured with McGonagall. Harry could only imagine what happened, but he was quite sure the adults once again would not help. Shocking development, that!

During classes, he mostly sat and talked with Neville. When it was not about class work, it was about Herbology and Runes. Their talks got progressively interesting for them both, even if it had nothing to do with the actual classes, just with practical applications of Runes in growing plants. History class was no longer a snooze fest, even if Hermione did not approve their actions.

He talked to Neville about planting crops. What it takes, how it works, what the difference is with muggle growing. What can help, like house elves, fertilizer, watering, sunlight, switching crops, wards against insects (Runes again). Both had gotten ideas from the other, and Neville was seriously interested in some of his suggested Rune clusters, simple as they were from lack of knowledge. Mainly light and bug wards.

-.-.-

Severus Snape was not a happy man! It was not because he had the most horrid mixed class of Lions and Snakes in the entire school, though that was bad enough, it was because he had gotten an order to teach the spawn of his dead rival Occlumency. Occlumency!

Dumbledore had not dictated the how of it, so Severus was going to use the most horrid method available, but still. The old man had lost the plot a few years ago Severus knew, so he should not be all that surprised. He blamed the brat instead.

"Potter! What the hell is this? Certainly not the potion I've tasked you to brew." He pointed his wand at the boy's perfectly adequate potion. "Evanesco! That is a zero for the day! Stay after class Potter!"

He ignored the amused Slytherins and grumbling Gryffindors with practised ease and sat down to grade the rest of the class.

When only the brat remained, he locked the door and warded it for privacy.

"I've been tasked to teach you Occlumency by the Headmaster. Therefore, you will join me two times a week for Remedial Potions, where I'll teach you Occlumency instead."

The brat looked at him with calculating eyes and held his gaze for a few long seconds before he finally shook his head. "Professor, since the Headmaster mentioned it over the summer, I bought a book and read some about it. We both know this'll never work since it requires some form of trust." The boy looked at him flatly, as if daring him to disagree. Surprised by the boy's calm demeanour, Severus kept his tongue and waited.

Potter took his cue and continued. "That said, how about we never talk about this again and I study it on my own? I have already started anyway and we both have better things to do. Besides, I suspect he did not even ask you until recently, is that true?"

Of course, it was! Severus was not happy with this task that was forced upon him either, so he simply nodded.

Potter inclined his head gratefully. "neither mentions it to the Headmaster and if he asks, just say I'm hopeless. Too stupid to learn. Shouldn't be too hard to do." The last was said with the tiniest of smirks.

Looking at the boy with new eyes, Snape sneered. "Alright Potter, you have a deal. Now leave."

James was an idiot and a bastard of the highest order, but he and his friends had one thing right. Severus Snape was just as much an arsehole as I had never cared to admit. The days after I broke that friendship, I finally saw what the others saw, and that was that Snape was an aspiring Death Eater. The boy I finally outgrew, stopped acting as if he were not a rotten egg and was often found bullying the younger kids, promising that those of rotten blood would get what was coming to them. Of course, that proved to be the beginning of the end, since without Severus keeping an eye on me, I was much easier to potion. From the fire to the frying pan indeed! Neither Snape nor James respected me or even saw me as a human being, never mind an equal. A thing to be used or spoils to be had is more like it.

-.-.-

Albus Dumbledore looked over his domain, one student took his interest. Harry Potter, the boy he had personally saddled with the moniker 'The-Boy-Who-Lived.' He had used a few unscrupulous contacts to fence a few photos to the press and the hack writer he had given the idea to write about the boy. Of course, the writer saw it as his own idea. Too bad young Gilderoy had fallen on his own sword a few years ago, he had been such a promising student.

Nobody ever realised that Dumbledore had to be involved, since he was the only one who knew about the boy's whereabouts. It was incredible how thick the people could be when it involved him, but that was why he had cultivated his person from the start.

When Harry looked at him, he looked away instantly. He knew Tom had no snowball's chance in hell to read his thoughts via the medium of Harry Potter, but it was essential for him to limit Harry's access to people he could trust. All the better when he offered his services next year.

Tom's influence would surely increase now that he had a body to operate out of, which should serve to make Harry angrier this year, beyond what was to be expected. Harry was not even on friendly terms with his friends anymore, only occasionally talking to Miss Lovegood at lunch and Neville Longbottom in Gryffindor tower.

Severus had told him how terrible Potter was as a student of the art of Occlumency, but that was also expected. Having a piece of a foreign and malicious soul in your forehead could not be conducive to learning the subtle mind arts. Albus suspected that Severus would take the hardest approach to Occlumency, which could only be considered teaching in the loosest sense. Continuous attacks only worked on about three percent of the subjects after all.

What he really expected was that Harry's mind was being shredded on a weekly basis, paving the road for Tom to influence Harry's mind to force confrontation. How that would turn out, if one of the two died, the prophecy would be fulfilled. That was all Albus cared about since it either gave him his long-awaited successor or opened the way for him to defeat Tom instead.

Either of the outcomes would be fine to him, so long as he did not have to choose which one should die first. His conscience would not be able to take that, which is why he kept pitting the two against each other year after year.

-.-.-

Looking at the Head table on one of the days he did attend dinner, Harry spotted Dumbledore looking at him, but as he looked back, he immediately turned his gaze away.

The man had been avoiding him this year, which Harry did not mind at all! Otherwise, he would have to go up there and listen to the man preach friendship, rainbows, and love. Thanks, but no thanks.

Standing up, he left the hall and made a beeline to the Room, there were a lot of interesting applications for Runes which kept his motivation to study the course work up. In fact, he was already going far beyond the coursework. Learning the alphabets was easy, learning the words and syntax was not. His interest in the subject was the only thing that made it bearable, interesting even. Think learning French, but then being able to make magic with it. That does sound a lot more interesting, doesn't it?

He was still missing an alphabet, the Greek one, otherwise he could pass his OWL's right there and then. Two tries on old exams had shown him that.

Sitting in the Room of Requirement reading books on magical home construction, he learned that the more logical a structure is built (not like the Burrow), the less magic is needed to keep it together. Well, DUH! A whole chapter was used to explain that phenomenon.

More importantly, everything works on magic from the Earth, via ward stones, it did not have to be rare stone either. All that was needed were rune sequences and big, unblemished stones. The older the better. Harry had at one time seen a television program that reported how Scotland had some INCREDIBLY old stones. That seemed like it would be a fun chore, looking for old rocks to take. Still, it had to be done.

Since the magic used by wards was finite, he needed to plan accordingly. Using a better structure means more magic left over for the important stuff. More contact with the earth means more magic available. Well, when you put it like that, why not build underground? Problem solved, right? Well yeah, but that has its own problems, like groundwater, pressure, and air flow. Those needed solutions too, so Harry needed to do some more studying. Good thing Ancient Runes was so interesting.

Luna entered the Room, looking disappointed more than anything. "Hi Harry. It seems that Hermione's teaching style does not fit everyone. Some people in Dumbledore's Army aren't happy with her and Ron."

'No shit!' Harry snorted. "Let me guess. Hermione is offended when people don't immediately understand her textbook perfect lectures and then gets short with them?"

She grinned and inclined her head. "Yes. But I am sure she is right, I mean, it's not like most of the students read books before coming to practice."

"Exactly." Harry grinned. "Which just says she doesn't understand how her peers think. Not all that shocking, if I think about it."

"Ask Dobby if he can get Yorkshire pudding for dinner." Luna demanded out of the blue, making Harry chuckle as he got the hint.

They ate dinner comfortably, talking about Neville and her search for friends. "He's doing great! Better than me, certainly. Neville is no longer seen as the squib of Gryffindor, he's in fact seen as one of the better teachers of the DA. Me though, it seems that people aren't able to see past Loony Lovegood, even though I've mostly dropped my mythical creatures talk in that group."

Harry was uncomfortable, not knowing how to respond to that. "Are you still bullied? I'd be happy to explain the facts of life to some people."

Luna shook her head. "They're tolerating me now, mainly because Cho and Marietta are part of the DA. They cannot be nice to me in the DA and hate me outside of it, you know. People would notice that."

"Still no actual acceptance then." Harry concluded sadly. "I had really hoped for better for you. I mean, I'm happy to be your friend, but you deserve more than just me."

Luna grabbed him, slowly moving closer to finally land a soft kiss on his lips. "I'm happy to be your friend too. But I'd like to be more too if you'll allow it."

Instead of a verbal answer, Harry finally got over his shock and kissed her back. She was more than happy to reciprocate.

If the girl you like accepts you, she will probably make it clear without words. Be sure to recognise that when it happens and either tell her or show her you accept her or not. Sounds complicated I am sure - I have seen some guys, you are all clueless - but it is not. If she kisses you, KISS HER BACK! And smile tenderly afterwards goddamn it! Do not gloat!

-.-.-

Umbridge was using her High Inquisitor status to ram an extra few dozen decreets down the students' throats. The movements of the student body were getting to be severely restricted, almost as if they were diseased and she was trying to prevent a pandemic. For instance, students were not allowed to sit closer than three inches from each other and were not allowed to congregate into groups. It was unbelievable and unenforceable, everyone knew it but when you saw pink, you saved yourself.

She was very eager to dispense punishments after all, rumours had even reached Harry's ears about drawing lines with a quill that draws blood. If it really was a blood quill used, Umbridge was committing a crime every time she made someone write with it since it was only to be used in legal contracts. The only reason Harry knew that was because his Account Manager at Gringotts had stressed the fact, which meant most muggleborns would be clueless.

Harry took two crying Gryffindor first years aside and had them give up their memories of the detentions, saying he would try to get Umbridge to justice. The kids were happy to help.

Now he had finally found his quarry, and in relative privacy to boot! He found her in a hallway with only portraits that likely reported to Dumbledore. Harry was not opposed to him learning of what he had to say.

"Susan Bones, hi. Do you have a way to contact your aunt that doesn't involve owls?" Harry knew the mail was searched because Hedwig had been attacked when delivering a letter to the bookshop in Diagon Alley.

Susan turned around and spotted him in surprise. "Hi, Harry. Yes, I do. What can I do for you then, why do you need to speak to my aunt?"

He held up his hand to show the two vials with memories. "She's using a blood quill on students in detention to have them write lines with. That is illegal. I have here two sets of memories from those same detentions that I would like to give to your aunt to see justice done. But I know Umbridge is screening our mail, so it has to get there in a way that doesn't involve owls."

With an unsurprised nod, she called for "Pretty." A house elf immediately appeared.

"Hi Pretty, would you please take these two vials to my aunt when she's alone? They're evidence of a crime."

The elf popped away again, and Susan looked at him sadly. "Don't think this solves anything, Harry. My aunt has been trying to take that woman down for ages, but Fudge protects her with the backing of Malfoy amongst others. She would lose her position before getting Umbridge in front of the Wizengamot on trial. With things being what they are, well, she'd rather keep doing her best in whatever way she can rather than give some Fudge appointed nincompoop opportunity to destroy the department in a few short months."

Harry thought he was a cynic, but this even he had not seen coming. "You're serious." She nodded sadly and Harry shook his head. "There's nothing worth saving in Britain then. Thanks for the help anyway, Susan, I will let the kids know they would best keep their heads down then. There is no justice to be found in Britain, apparently."

"I'm sorry Harry. I really am." Susan tried.

Harry was already walking away.

He had first gone to McGonagall, who had gone to Dumbledore, who did nothing. "Just keep your head down," indeed! So now he had the uncomfortable task to break the news to the kids he had promised to get justice. 'I might as well tell them the full scope of what's wrong with this world. Get them a letter to show to their parents, to leave the country if possible.' Harry snorted darkly. "That'll be fun to write, but at least I'd be paying it forward that way."

Justice was a concept that did not apply. Since that was the case, it was best that people knew it. He had let that letter be his last good deed before leaving this shithole.

With Luna's help, he got started.

Hi all. My name is Harry Potter, perhaps you have heard of me. If not, let me introduce myself. I am an orphan, celebrated for the fact that I lived where countless died, including my parents. Instead of executing my parent's last will and testament, I was unceremoniously dumped in front of the house of my relatives. It was a freezing November night, so they gave me a blanket and a letter explaining who I was.

There I was abused and grew up unloved, only to be dragged into the Wizarding world where apparently, I was famous for killing a dark lord. Patently untrue, I assure you, which is why Britain is in deep shit. That same Dark Lord Voldemort, or more commonly known as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named - yes, they are that scared of him - has been resurrected this past June.

The magical government denies that to this day because that would be admitting they were wrong. The problem with that is, that Voldemort now has the time to prepare for his next bid at dictatorship, to grow his forces as it were.

The Ministry of Magic is already a den of iniquity, a cesspool of corruption and a conglomeration of the incompetent. Where muggleborns and half-blood's have almost no rights compared to the purebloods currently in power. It is a vicious circle indeed.

As an example, look at the Minister Cornelius Fudge, who is even now taking bribes from a known Death-Eater (Soldier of Voldemort) to support his ideals. His undersecretary Delores Umbridge, on his behalf has taken up the post of Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, even though she has no practical knowledge or the skills necessary to teach anything. What she is doing is spreading propaganda and punishing discontents, the students.

She makes them write in their own blood, via a very illegal enchanted quill, for detentions. This causes scars that will never go away. Guess who the people are she targets the most. Yes, you have guessed it, muggleborns and half-bloods. People without a way to fight back.

I have made aware the faculty, including the deputy Headmistress and the Headmaster himself, and the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I gave them statements, photos of the bleeding wounds and vials of memories, proving that crime is being perpetrated in the school. Nothing is being done about it.

They cannot, because then they would be fired or lose political capital or - even worse reasons. This systematic rot starts at the top, which is why those at the bottom are powerless. You might know the expression that shit rolls downhill, it is true.

Your children are being tortured and nothing is done about it! And this is without the Dark Lord that is even now gathering power. When He shows his face, things take a turn for the worse. History (his first rise) tells us he is going to target - you have guessed it - muggles, muggleborns and half-bloods.

Let me tell you, it is about to get much worse. Think Hitler and his concentration camps, except these guys are more into torture and rape since that's how Voldemort rewards his followers.

I can already hear you asking, "but won't someone stop them?" The answer to that question is a simple no. I have seen it happen a few times already. There are two things that will stop the magicals from helping themselves. One, about half of the government is pro Voldemort and thus anti - muggle(born). In other words, happy to do nothing. Two, magicals have this habit of putting all their hopes on a Hero. When the Hero fails, everyone gives up.

The last time, the Hero was Dumbledore and he failed. It was only through a fluke of magic that Voldemort's killing curse rebounded from my forehead and temporarily destroyed his body. If that had not happened, the last war would have been lost in mere weeks.

The current Hero is me, or at least they would like that. I am quite sure they will pin all their hopes on a teenager (me) and hope for the best. But as I am writing this, I already know that I am going to flee this country at the very first opportunity, because Magical Britain is not worth saving in my limited opinion.

That said, I hope you will do the pertinent thing and get out while the going's good. Take your kid and leave Britain, enrol them somewhere else if need be. Do not keep living where you live now, because those records will be readily available for the Death Eaters when they will go looking. Those at the ministry will fold at the slightest pressure and hand those files right over.

They will find you, torture you and finally kill you. If you need some sort of proof, read a book about the last war. Better yet, ask your kids.

You cannot unenroll from Hogwarts without having your wand broken and your memories taken so long as you do not have at least three OWLs. Though you can enrol somewhere else and then inform Hogwarts you have switched schools. The specifics you will need to find out yourself. Neither the government nor the school would easily relinquish their hold on you, I imagine. Which is why I never asked and intend to flee the moment I have my OWLs.

This is me signing out, I consider this warning my final good deed for the oppressed of this miserable country. Consider yourselves warned.

Harry Potter.

"I'd say that's a good first draft." Luna let her opinion be known, "but we'd better tweak it some, you tend to come off as a stubborn teenager."

Harry's eyebrow twitched, "aren't I though?"

"No Harry, you're the reluctant hero." Luna laughed at his scrunched-up face. "See, very reluctant!"

Harry, the muggles have a saying, happy wife, happy home. I am not saying you should always concede to the woman in the relationship, because it applies both ways, but you should always try to make peace. Pick your battles and make concessions when it is about the small things. It is about fitting together and sanding the rough edges in order not to hurt the other. Know yourself and know each other, and you will do fine my son.

9. Leaving Bad Situations

They finished the letter and made plans to distribute them. Dobby was glad to help make a registry of which students should be informed. They would get their letters just before boarding the train.

Since Harry was somewhat out of the line of fire, had fewer friends bothering him and had an impressive motivation to get on with it, he had started to put himself fully into research and study.

He fully gave up on History and mostly on Astronomy and Care of Magical Creatures. The time freed by that decision helped him catch up and even surpass the Runes class. Babbling was extremely impressed with him when he asked to do his fourth-year tests early, doubly so when he passed easily. He and Luna both got permission to try for their Runes OWL's at the end of the year. By now, he felt ready to prepare for the cleansing ritual, which was the original goal.

The time he spent with Luna was good for both their grades and their relationship. They had great fun planning the layout of the house he would build.

"What will you do this holiday, Harry?" Luna asked him again, already knowing where he would be spending it, right there at Hogwarts.

"I'll be working on the ritual circle and brewing." He also knew what she would be doing. "Are you sure your father will agree to an emancipation?" She had upped her timetable in that regard.

Luna shrugged. "Definitely. Though it will likely be conditional, like after I get my OWL's."

"Hmm, that shouldn't be all that bad then, one more year." Harry mused. "Quick question, since you see more of the Weasley's than I do nowadays, do you know where they've gone?" Luna was after all their neighbour.

"They've left Hogwarts?" Luna asked, to which Harry nodded. "No, I don't know, when did they leave?"

"Last night, McGonagall came by the dorm and woke Ron. When I woke up, all the Weasley's were gone. I think something has happened."

"Well, it's not like something can be done about it anymore, whatever it is." Luna shrugged half-heartedly. "I guess we'll find out later. Since I will be home tomorrow, I'll try to visit them sometime."

"Yeah, you're right." Harry decided. "Best to put it out of our head for now." Not that he really cared about those backstabbers. He did not even know why he had asked.

-.-.-

Turns out Arthur Weasley had died from a poisonous snake inside the ministry when he was guarding something. Luna found that out when she heard Hermione talking about it, completely overlooking or uncaring of Luna's presence.

Harry did not know if this leak was planned or not, but it did not change a thing. Dumbledore had lost one of his flunkies for something that was not worth it, of that much he was sure. In Hogwarts nothing really changed, except that the Weasley's got more intense, whether that be in pranking, practising spells, or perpetuating the Gryffindor-Slytherin rivalry.

Purely by accident, Harry noticed on his map that the Inquisitorial squad had finally caught up with the DA, hanging around their training room with groups of Slytherins. He of course warned Luna, who quickly passed the warning on. The DA leadership i.e., Ron and Hermione did not listen, so Luna kept her promise to Harry and stopped attending.

The next few meetings, Harry and Luna sat together, occasionally watching the action on the map. It was rather amazing that it took another full month before the DA was finally caught out. The fall out was unsurprisingly big.

All the students on the list got detention that would last until the end of the year, even though some had stopped attending and therefore were not apprehended by Umbridge and her squad. Dumbledore was confronted by Umbridge and Fudge and took the blame for 'his army' before escaping the school with Fawkes.

Luna appealed the detentions with Flitwick, but he could not overturn the detentions. What he could and did do, was to get her detentions and have her serve those with him. That meant Luna was free to spend her detentions in free study, which did not bother her much. Sure, she would be more comfortable studying with Harry, but as far as punishments went, she got off light. That is why she made sure to thank Flitwick every detention.

The Ritual Circle was done, and all the ingredients were ready, but Harry decided to wait for after the exams. If there were complications that forced him to leave the school, it would be better for him if he had already sat for his OWL's.

When planning this book, I noticed that planning for defeat is just as worthwhile as planning for victory. The multiple copies of this book were needed, because I am sure some have been destroyed to keep you from them. For that same reason, I put in a self-destruct to keep this information out of the hands of the enemy. It would not do to have them destroy all my hard work and your future in the process. Laying low, flying below the radar, keeping out of sight. All those are necessary when planning for victory and defeat. Learn from the mistakes and keep growing Harry, it is a good attitude to take in everything.

-.-.-

Months flew by and Harry learned amazing stuff, he made a start on writing a compendium on everything that is necessary to design and build one's own home. Basically, he was writing his own Big Book of Home Design.

He got some extra practice with Occlumency because Voldemort keeps trying to send him stuff. Cloaking his head in his magic did the trick admirably, though it was a bit tiring.

Then the exams finally arrive, and Harry does well in the courses he had studied for.

In his History exam, Harry must cloak his entire head in magic with more force than ever, but he manages to get through it without his head splitting open or messing up his exam. Awfully glad that his exams are finally over, he plans to do the ritual tonight. With Dumbledore gone, there really is no reason to wait any longer.

Luna wishes him success and goes to her detention with Flitwick, who has managed to get his Claws' detentions with him. The detentions are study sessions of course, so Luna is quite glad for it.

-.-.-

Wishing Luna luck with her detention, Harry sets out to do the cleansing ritual.

In the Room's stone ritual configuration, Harry loses his clothes, gets out his runic circle and charges it with his magic. In front of him is a bowl of magical sludge that, after heating it, will turn into a smoke he has to inhale. A short chant of purification needs to be repeated between deep breaths until the ritual works.

Inhaling the smoke between chants, Harry sees the ring begin to light up, more than it should, and he becomes a bit worried. When the smoke all around him starts glowing, a blast of power erupts from him that pulses violently and destroys the bowl, half the ritual ring and more besides. Harry does not notice, as the pulse explodes his scar and renders him unconscious. This is a good thing, since it lets him evade the blinding pain of his mind and core being unshackled all at once. The only impulses remaining are his own, and long buried memories begin floating towards the surface.

The magical pulse disperses in an ever-expanding circle, encountering everything connected to him and destroying it. All at once, a Diadem splits down the middle with a pained screech and several silver contraptions explode in splinters and smoke. Seconds later, the pulse reaches London and its surrounding area. There, a Locket violently explodes, killing the House elf that sleeps nearby. Underground, a Cup breaks as if struck by lightning, sending alerts through the wards of Gringotts. In the Hangleton area, a Snake burns alive and a Ring melts into a puddle, a half sunken stone embeds itself in the hardening gold.

In Little Whinging, Surrey, the last traces of Lily Potter's magically drained blood evaporate into the night sky, leaving behind crumbling wards and lifting a load off her sister's skeletal shoulders. A small smile tugs at Petunia Dursley's face for what she thinks is no reason.

Most importantly though, a flawed facsimile of a man stumbles in the middle of a spell fight as a metaphysical pain wracks his soul. He does not know it yet, but his body starts aging as the blood's magic spins out of alignment.

His aged opponent notices but refuses to press his advantage, never believing he can win.

-.-.-

Dobby the House elf felt his bonded master always, so when the bond got wider, cleaner, and weaker, the elf immediately took up a vigil beside his master and cleaned him up. Frankly, Dobby was amazed at the changes he was seeing and feeling, he could not wait to see his master's reaction and that of his girlfriend. Thinking about Luna, Dobby thought he had better cover his master up.

Luna came in after enjoying her breakfast. A gasp escaped her as she saw Dobby hover over someone that could only be Harry, covered by a thin blanket. "Dobby! What happened?" The blanket however, while covering everything, still showed Harry's naked silhouette, and he was clearly having a nice dream!

"Dobby not knowing, but master's magic feels so much better now. Master is dreaming, Dobby thinks." The elf answered with a smile.

Her giggles were expected really, aside from the obvious, something else was standing out. Harry's hair was changing colours every second. It settled on a warm pink for a few seconds before it flowed into a putrid yellow. "You might be right, Dobby. He seems to be enjoying himself."

She grabbed his shoulders and shook him awake. "Wass 'up?" He mumbled. "You need to wake up Harry, your ritual worked, and you've got some new gifts we need to talk about."

Harry shook his head and blinked furiously. Luna spotted his glasses and handed them over. "Ah, no, thank you. It seems I don't need those anymore." He breathed incredulously, before attempting to sit up. It was only then that he realised his predicament, and he blushed bright red.

"That's a good thing. Any other things that feel different?" She inquired innocently.

Covering himself up belatedly with his arms, he shook his head. "No, but I do feel a lot better than usual, if a bit hungry."

Luna tactfully kept quiet about his excitement and conjured a hand mirror. "We'll get you breakfast in a minute, but first, take a look."

"Oh, shit! Err… I have no idea what this means." He said lamely. What should he think about having disco hair? "Do you know?"

With a smile, she nodded. "It means you're a Metamorpmagus Harry, it means you're a shapeshifter. With enough practice, you could literally look like anyone in the world!"

"Anyone, huh?" Harry thought it through. "Even girls?!"

"Yes! The book I read said you don't have just one gender; you could be who and what you want!" Luna's eyes took on a mischievous glint. "Why, Harry, haven't you ever thought about what it would be like? To be a girl, I mean."

His blush quickly crept back up his cheeks. Of course, he had! Just a second ago in fact. He just never expected to live those fantasies. "Yes." He admitted slowly. Then he thought about the consequences and blanched. "What if someone sees?!" Trying to become a girl could be done FAR in the future.

Luna shook her head. "You'll just have to learn to control it, and quickly too." She smiled. "Of course, there's also this nifty charm that prevents all forms of shapeshifting that's usually used to prevent animagi from shifting into their other forms. If that works on you, it should help in the short run."

Forgetting his lack of apparel, Harry hugged her and grabbed her close. "Thank you, Luna, I don't know what I'd do without you!"

"Ahem, Harry." Luna protested cheekily, "Only my boyfriend can hug me naked according to my father. So, you'd better ask quickly, don't you think? Otherwise, I'd have to curse you."

With a squeak, Harry let go and blushed from his head to his neck. Luna's soft smile let him know he was not in trouble yet, but then… He spoke before thinking it through. "Luna, may I have the honour of being your boyfriend?" Frozen, he waited for her answer.

Her smile turned blinding. "Yes, you may, Harry." she nodded. "Now you kiss me, silly."

Oh hell, sometimes being a reckless Gryffindor had its perks. Harry leant over and softly pressed his lips against hers. They were incredibly soft and warm. That thought went through his head on a loop. With little to no idea of what to do, he knew he did not want this to stop, so he moved. Carefully, he opened his mouth and pressed his tongue to her lips. She opened her mouth to give him access and that gave him a whole other experience!

When Harry's mind caught back up again, she moved back, and he discovered he had moved his whole body against hers. 'How had that happened?' Thankfully, he had not exposed himself further. Their eyes locked; Harry saw her as he had never seen her before. She was so damned beautiful! How lucky was he to get to kiss her!

"That was amazing!" He breathed. "Thank you, Luna, I'm very glad to be your boyfriend."

Luna's eyes twinkled pleasantly. "I am glad too, Harry." She pointed at his clothes. "Put those back on and I'll teach you the spell. You're going to have to learn fast."

"Aye, aye!" Harry saluted smartly and raced for his clothes. This was turning out to be a beautiful day! Then he frowned, his clothes did not fit. "I've grown!"

Luna's tinkling laughter was like a balm to his soul. "We'll get Dobby to shop for you, but first we need breakfast. Dobby!"

"Dobby is getting a big breakfast!"

They ate their fill and talked for a good hour.

"Give me a quick summary, Harry." Luna giggled as she interrupted his excited babbling.

Harry grinned and held up five fingers. "Alright. I don't need glasses anymore, so I transfigured them into normal glass to keep the illusion that nothing changed." One finger gone. "I grew longer and thinner, so I need to eat more to get my weight back into a healthy range." Two fingers gone. "My magic is stronger, like you wouldn't believe stronger I mean!" Two fingers left. "My scar is gone, but I've figured out how to get it back with a little effort. It goes away again if I forget about it, but with your spell, that's no issue." One last finger left. "I'm clean from external magics! Which means the circle worked, even though it's completely destroyed!"

She smiled at him, almost painfully wide. "I'm so happy for you, Harry! My boyfriend deserves feeling at home in his body."

When people are genuinely happy when you are happy, that means you have found a home. Oh, I know what you must be thinking, but homes can be found in people just as much as places. I, for instance, have found a home in James. It is what it is, and what it is feels great! If you can find the same without the brainwashing treatment, all the better. James can change my priorities on a whim, but he is genuinely happy to see me happy, even if only to put his mind at peace with the circumstances from which our relationship was borne.