Chapter Seven: Occlumency

After dinner, Severus and Harry returned to the library. Harry found that he rather liked the room--it was quiet, cozy, and rather comfortable. Severus and Harry sat down and began to play a game of Wizarding Chess. Harry always lost, but Severus was teaching him something, and he got a little better after each game. After twenty minutes, Severus moved his rook and said, "Checkmate."

Harry looked down at the board, back up at Severus, and smiled. Sitting back in his seat he said, "Well, that is the longest I've lasted, so far."

Severus almost smiled back at his student. "True," he said, "Still, you'll never get good enough to win against me," he smirked at Harry.

Harry laughed. "Probably," he said.

The pair sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Severus looked at Harry and said, "About the Occlumency..."

"Yes?" prompted Harry.

"We could start tonight, if you wish," replied Severus.

Harry glanced at the clock, it was only seven in the evening. Then, looking back at Severus he replied, "All right. I'll just grab my wand, shall I?"

Severus looked sharply at his student. "Why don't you have it with you?"

Harry looked sheepish. "Well," he said, "I didn't think that I'd have cause to use it here."

Severus glared slightly. "Always carry your wand with you," he said, "Hurry up."

Harry nodded sheepishly and hurried to his room to retrieve his wand. Returning to Severus, he said, "Ready!"

Severus smirked and replied, "We shall see."

Harry simply rolled his eyes and followed Severus to a clear room to practice.

Severus looked at Harry as the two faced each other. Harry looked rather apprehensive, he noticed, probably he was remembering their last sessions together. Severus sighed inwardly at the memories; hopefully they would get on better this time.

"Harry," he began, "it's quite clear that my... method... didn't exactly work last time. I'm going to go slower this time. I'm going to take you through this step by step. Hopefully, by the time the new term begins, I'll be able to attack you at any time and you'll be able to defend yourself no matter what. Got it?" Severus explained all of this in a neutral tone of voice so as not to make Harry any more nervous than he already was.

Harry seemed to calm slightly as Severus spoke. He nodded to show Severus that he understood. "Thank you, sir," he said softly.

Severus simply nodded at him. Then he said, "To begin with, I'd like you to take a deep breath and start clearing your mind. Just calm down and breathe slowly. If it helps, close your eyes, but I don't want you to get dependent on that."

Harry nodded and decided to try to keep his eyes open. He took a few deep breaths and started to clear some of the clutter from his mind. Ever so slowly, his mind cleared.

Severus was pleased that Harry had chosen to keep his eyes open. It also showed that the boy did trust him a little, enough to take his advice, anyway. He watched Harry and noticed when Harry was relaxed enough to move onto the next step. He spoke softly so as not to disturb the young Gryffindor's concentration, "Now, it is very difficult to keep an empty mind, so I would like you to think of something and picture it in your mind. Concentrate on that picture. Do you have something?"

Harry thought quickly, something he knew very well... a Snitch! He pictured the Snitch and when he heard Severus ask if he had something, he nodded.

Severus gave a half smile, he was very pleased with Harry. "Excellent," he said, "Now, I am going to begin an attack. Concentrate on your item. When you feel the memories begin to flow, try to direct all of you to your item. Hopefully, you'll be able to direct my attack so that all I will be able to see is your item."

Harry nodded again, quickly, to show that he understood. He didn't want to break his concentration by speaking. Then he saw Severus raise his wand and say, "Legilimens!"

Instantly, Harry was surrounded by various memories--none of them pleasant. This time though, instead of succumbing to the emotions brought up, Harry fought back. At first he tried to concentrate of kicking Severus out of his mind, but he quickly gave that up when he saw that it would have relatively the same effect it did last time. So instead he remembered his earlier advice to picture the Snitch.

Harry easily drew the curves of the walnut-sized flying ball in his mind. Soon enough his entire focus was on the Snitch and he could feel Severus' withdrawal. He looked up to see Severus looking at him with a semi-approving look--no matter what, some things never changed, Severus would never be one to hand out praise easily.

"Better," Severus told Harry, "You must improve your response time, however. Again. Legilimens!"

Severus attacked with no warning, and again Harry had to face his personal demons. This time he managed to forego attempting to throw Severus out. He began to concentrate on the Snitch, and this time, Severus withdrew after only a few moments.

He nodded at Harry. "A fair attempt," he glanced at the clock, "We shall stop here tonight. Remember, clearing your mind before sleep is still vital. And I do say that it should help with your nightmares, as well."

Harry nodded in return. "Thanks, Professor," he said sincerely, "IÕll remember."

"Good."

At that, Harry gave his professor a small smile and decided to go up to his bed. The eveningÕs activities had left him strangely tired.

~*~*

A/N: Apologies for the shortness of the chapter, but it went where I wanted it to, so... ^_^ Updates should be more regular for this story over the next three weeks. At least, I hope so. Of Phoenixes is still in progress, IÕm working on the next chapter. It's just not coming along as well as I want it to. The next chapter for this story should be up soon, I already have in mind the main scene. Should definitely be longer than this chapter, though!

Also, thanks a lot for all the reviews. IÕve been surprised by the amount of review notices IÕve received lately despite the long weeks between the last couple of updates. Keep them coming, I find them very encouraging!