All righty, there's gotta be some explanation here. Why? Because this story is… Well, it's different, and I feel I need to explain why I wrote it.
Originally, I wrote it just for me, as kind of an exploration into the many strange parallels between Harry Potter and The Legend of Zelda. If you've never heard of The Legend of Zelda, don't worry, this story doesn't assume any previous knowledge. After all, Harry and co. have never heard of them, either. I'll just tell you that it is a series of hugely popular and fabulously brilliant Nintendo games; anything else you need to know you can learn by reading this story, which draws mainly on the one called Ocarina of Time, but a bit on the others, too. There are also a few references to the LoZ fanfics I've already written, but obviously I don't expect you to have read those first in order to read this. If you have, though…great! You're ahead of the pack.
Anyway, back on topic.
The other reason I wrote this was to help myself come to terms with the horrifically tragic death at the end of OotP. I never realized how much I loved Sirius until book 5, and then he died. So, in writing this, I am grieving vicariously through Harry. He needs to come to terms with it as well, after all. And there are some other things that I felt need to be addressed.
Simply put, this story is more about characters than plot. Of course, it has a plot, but really, I wanted to take a moment to look at how and why the people in the world of Harry Potter, and The Legend of Zelda, move through their lives the way they do. So I put them together, let them go, then wrote it down.
This book takes place in Harry's sixth year, and I wrote it pre-HBP. Normally, I hate it when people try to write the next book in the series, because that right belongs to JK Rowling and JK Rowling alone. But normally I also hate crossovers, so what can you do? I decided that I am okay with writing this because I know that it is ridiculously impossible, but I still feel it was a worthwhile exercise for me to write, and maybe you'll learn something by reading it. At the very least, I hope it gets you thinking. Consider this a starting point for…whatever you want it to be.
PS. The song is "Somebody Else's Song" by Lifehouse; Harry's theme song in my mind. Link's theme song in my mind, which is (ironically) in my story called "Someone Else's Story," is Garth Brooks' "The Change."
…I remind myself of somebody else.
Feeling like I'm chasing
Like I'm facing myself alone
I've got somebody else's thoughts in my head
I want some of my own…
I want some of my own…
Harry Potter and the Hero of Time
Chapter One—Going Back
How's everything going with you? I'm pretty much the same as always over here. The Dursleys have been kind of rough, especially after everything that happened, but they're staying in check okay. You know how it is.
I'm going back to Hogwarts tomorrow, so I won't be writing you so often to tell you that I'm okay. I'll still keep in touch, though, and I'll let you know everything that happens to me. Here's hoping I don't have much to tell other than that Gryffindor's winning every Quidditch game we play!
I'll write soon.
"C'mere, Hedwig," Harry called, laying down his quill. "I've got another letter for you."
The snowy owl hooted and fluttered from her perch down to his desk. As he fastened the parchment to her leg, he commented, "You've been getting a lot of exercise this summer, huh?"
She hooted again; Harry supposed that signalled agreement.
"All right," he said, holding out his arm for her to hop onto, "you know the drill."
Hedwig nipped his ear affectionately when he carried her to the window, then soared off into the night like a bright shadow. He watched her shrink to a white pinprick. Like a star.
He had been writing to Remus all summer, following the instructions the Order of the Phoenix members had given him at the end of the last term—"If we don't hear from you for three days in a row, we'll send someone along…" When he had composed his first letter, however, he had paused after the word "Dear." Dear who? "Dear Order of the Phoenix?" "Dear everybody?" He wanted to address it to a person rather than to a group so that he didn't feel any more like he was in the care of the government than he already did.
Eventually, he had decided to write to Remus Lupin, but even then, he hadn't known what to call the man. When they had first met, he had been Professor Lupin, but those days were long gone. In his head, Harry had always thought of him as simply Lupin, but that seemed impersonal; after all, it was people like Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle that he called by their surnames. But calling him Remus just sounded so strange, and Moony, even more so. In the end, he had uneasily headed the letter, "Dear Lupin." The response he had received had opened with:
I think we've progressed enough past the days of my being your teacher that you can call me by my first name.
So that had become the custom. It had been an adjustment, but by now it felt normal, and he had grown much closer to Remus over the past two months through their correspondence. He now found himself glad that Remus no longer taught at Hogwarts, as they both would have found this formal relationship awkward. However, there was a significant part of him that wished Remus could have a steady job, just like there was a part of him that wished he could leave the Dursleys forever…
Harry sighed and returned to his desk. Life wasn't fair to him. Well, he was going back to Hogwarts tomorrow, he thought, and that was a ray of sunshine. Yet even school wasn't as much of an escape as it had once been, as it insisted on teaching him lessons the hard way, both in and out of the classroom. Life wasn't fair to witches and wizards any more than it was to Muggles.
One thing was finally fair, though, and this was the fact that the Dursleys didn't fight so hard against the idea of bringing Harry to King's Cross Station to catch his train. This was due, Harry knew, to the fact that the Order of the Phoenix was constantly breathing down their necks threateningly, and the only emotion the Dursleys felt towards wizards that was more strong than their hate was their fear.
Therefore Harry arrived, so visibly exhausted that he felt as if each train which pulled into the station was running him over, in time to slip through the barrier to platform 9 ¾ and meet up with his friends.
"I'm fine from here on," he told Uncle Vernon wearily, once his luggage was loaded onto a trolley and they stood near the first platform. He knew none of the Dursleys would object to leaving him; Aunt Petunia and Dudley had actually agreed to wait in the car rather than risk meeting up with any of Harry's peers. "You can go."
"Good," grunted Uncle Vernon, eyeing him beadily. He started to walk away, then turned back briefly enough to call, "I expect none of your little friends think I'm going to accompany you to catch your train, do they?" He was trying to sound irritable, but Harry knew it was fear of magical revenge that motivated him not to neglect his duties.
"No," Harry replied. "Actually, you can't come any further, and they might get mad at you if you tried."
This was enough for Uncle Vernon. He made a rough noise of agreement before hurrying away. Normally, the sight of Uncle Vernon scurrying away from a potential wizard encounter would have had Harry struggling not to burst at the seams with laughter, but he was so tired today that he simply managed a weak smile to himself.
"Let's go, Hedwig," he said, turning towards the (apparently) solid barrier between platforms 9 and 10. She, like him, was completely unperturbed by heading straight for it unflinchingly, and completely unsurprised when they emerged on the other side to find themselves in an open train station.
Now he had to find Ron and Hermione. It wouldn't be difficult, since they, as prefects, would be directing many of the younger students and troublemakers.
Sure enough, it took only moments before he heard the distinctive, bossy shouting that could only be one person.
"Hey! Hey! I already told you to leave him alone!"
Harry grinned. Life was looking better now, just because he had heard one of his friends' voices in place of one of the Dursleys'.
"Hermione!" he called, weaving his way through the crowd towards a bushy-haired almost sixteen-year-old girl who was at the moment pulling two brothers apart. She looked up when she heard her name, and her scowl broke into a smile.
"Harry! Just one second…" Turning back to the siblings, she warned sternly, "Stay out of trouble, or your head of house will find out as soon as we get there!"
One of the boys nodded sullenly, while the other only glared at his brother. After watching them forcefully a moment longer, she turned back to Harry and smiled again. "It's so good to see you! How was your—?"
Her voice died in mid-question when she realized what the answer would be. Harry shrugged, looking out over the crowd to avoid seeing the sympathy in her eyes, and answered as casually as he could, "All right. I kept in touch with Remus, and I've got the Dursleys terrified… Ron!"
He had spotted the only Weasley boy left at Hogwarts in the swirling mob of people. It wasn't hard, given Ron's distinct flaming hair and the fact that his height put him over most of the others' heads. He looked around him at the sound of his friend's voice, and Harry waved to catch his attention. Spotting him, Ron beamed.
Ron looked as if he were wading through water as he made his way towards Harry and Hermione. After nearly tripping over a particularly scrawny new student, who scrambled away in terror, he ran his fingers through his hair in stress and commented, "Is it just me, or do the first-years get smaller every time?"
"It's you," Hermione told him, in a tone that meant that she didn't feel his observation was entirely appropriate to be made in front of the people it concerned.
Not that any of the new pupils noticed, of course. Three of them were currently mobbing a fourth for some reason, and it was impossible to say whether their intent was malicious or not. With a sigh, Hermione started towards them.
"Well, they do get more bratty, at least," Ron muttered as he headed after her, but he had the courtesy to lower his voice this time. Whether this was to keep the first-years from hearing him or just Hermione, Harry couldn't say.
"Harry! Oh, Harry!"
Another familiar voice, this time belonging to Ron's mother. Preparing his well-rehearsed happy expression, Harry turned around to face her.
"Hi, Mrs Weasley," he said. He particularly hoped that she wouldn't dote too much over him, because if she started treating him like a child, he would be tempted to act like one. However, he knew better than to expect her to resist the urges of her maternal instincts, and the cautiously caring smile on her face indicated that his expectations were going to be met.
"How are you doing, Harry, dear?" she asked. "I mean, really. How are you?"
"I'm doing well," he lied, impressed with himself for how well he was managing to fake it. "I'm glad to be going back to school." That much was at least basically true.
"I'm glad to hear that," Mrs Weasley told him genuinely, still smiling. "If you need anything during the year, anything at all, you know you can write to us, dear."
"Yes, Mrs Weasley, of course I do. But I've got Dumbledore, so I'm sure I'll be fine." He even managed to laugh, and she seemed to find this adequate reassurance that he was as okay as he claimed.
"Harry!" came Ron's voice. "Hey, Harry, can you help out over here?"
"Oh, you should go," Mrs Weasley said. "I've got to find Ginny. Have a good trip, dear. And have a good year, too."
"I will," Harry promised, making his way towards Ron and Hermione. "Goodbye, Mrs Weasley."
When he arrived at his friends' side, Ron muttered, "You're welcome."
"Huh?" asked Harry, bewildered.
"For getting you away from Mum," he explained.
"What? Why? She wasn't doing anything."
"Not yet," Ron warned darkly. "You have no idea. All summer, all she's been able to talk about is you. Wondering how you're coping, worrying that something's happened to you… Lupin told her about all your letters, but it didn't help. I haven't seen her so tied in a knot since you were in the Triwizard Tournament."
Harry took this in and digested it carefully. "Hm," he said simply. Retrospectively, maybe it was better that Ron had gotten him away before Mrs Weasley had gone completely into her mother mannerisms.
Twenty minutes later, everyone's belongings were loaded up on the train, and they were pulling out of the station. Ron and Hermione had reported to the prefects' compartment, but they would be back soon. In the interim, Harry was waiting for them, alone but not very lonely. He was leaning the side of his head against the window, watching the countryside zooming past, but this made him feel slightly nauseous, so he lifted his face and looked away, gazing around the empty train car with a sigh.
Normally at this time every year, Harry could feel his summer concerns falling back behind him along with the station as they sped north. This year, however, was different. It had been the same since he had left Hogwarts in June, though, so he wasn't entirely surprised. Disappointed, perhaps, but not surprised. His problems followed him everywhere now…
Shortly, Ron and Hermione returned.
"Sorry again that we had to leave you, Harry," Hermione said by way of greeting. "We hurried back."
"Hey, don't worry about it," Harry told her, waving the apology away with one hand as the two of them found their seats.
"So," Hermione began, "I have to tell you both what happened to me this summer."
"Good thing or bad thing?" Ron interrupted.
"Well… weird thing, I guess," she concluded thoughtfully.
Exchanging a look with Ron, Harry said slowly, "Okay, shoot."
Hermione sighed. "You know I've been keeping in touch with Viktor."
Harry nodded, and Ron grunted.
"And you know how he asked me back in fourth year to visit him that summer? Only I didn't, because we ended up doing all that Order of the Phoenix stuff instead, at Grimmauld Place."
"Right," Harry said, nodding. Ron didn't move, other than to fold his arms across his chest.
"Okay. He wrote to me over the summer and asked me to come to stay again, and I was going to go, but then my parents wouldn't let me. They think the age difference is too much for me to make a trip like that to see him…"
"How old is he?" Ron asked.
"He's twenty now."
"Well, they're right, then," he concluded bluntly.
Hermione gave an annoyed scoff. "You sound like you're talking to Ginny," she informed him scathingly. "I'm not your little sister, Ron."
"Maybe not, but I still don't think you should—"
"Anyway," Hermione interrupted firmly, "that's not all. I wrote and told him that I couldn't come, and first of all it took him much longer to answer than it normally would. When I finally got an answer, he said it was okay, he understood that 'things come up,' and if my parents disapproved, then maybe this was for the best."
Here she finished, and though she sounded thoroughly annoyed, neither Harry nor Ron knew exactly what had her upset.
"Er… So?" asked Harry, knowing even as he spoke that he was going to get a very short-tempered answer.
"So?" she echoed incredulously. "So it's obviously an excuse, isn't it? All that stuff about it being for the best and all that! Doesn't it just sound like the type of thing that he would say so that I don't feel so bad when he breaks up with me?"
"Breaks up with you?" Harry repeated. "Are you going out with him, then?"
Hermione hesitated. "That's what makes it odd," she said. "We've never really said whether we're…you know…a couple or not. So how could he be breaking up with me?"
"Let's get one thing clear," Ron stated. "Did he break up with you? Did he say, 'I'm breaking up with you?'"
"And you're not even sure if he's your boyfriend to begin with?"
"So what's the problem, then?"
"I didn't say it was a problem. I said it was weird."
There was a pause, during which the two boys stared at the girl blankly.
"Never mind," she finally sighed in irritation.
Drizzle had been just beginning when Harry had left the Dursleys house that morning. By now, rain was teeming down outside the Hogwarts Express, and Harry was leaning drowsily against his seat; he hadn't slept the night before. Knowing that he would be returning to the wizarding world the next day had cause him such a mixture of excitement and anxiety that he had tossed and turned for hours instead. There was also a part of him that feared sleep, because sleep brought dreams, and dreams brought… He never knew what dreams would bring.
"Hey, Harry? Harry?"
It was Hermione's voice. Harry slowly opened his eyes to look at her. She and Ron were sitting in the floor, playing a game of Exploding Snap, but she was frowning up at Harry with her brows knit in concern.
"Yeah, what?" Harry asked.
"Are you feeling okay? You look as white as a ghost."
Harry rubbed his eyes. His scar prickled, but this was nothing unusual.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just haven't been sleeping well…" he told her, and as if to illustrate this, a huge yawn forced itself out of his body, leaving him even more tired than before.
"We've got a few more hours 'til we get to Hogwarts," Ron said, without looking up from his cards. "Try to catch a nap on the train here."
"That's what I was doing," Harry said, leaning back again in his seat and closing his eyes.
He wasn't sure if he was asleep or not from that point on. Part of him was aware that he was sitting on the train, but part of him wasn't; part of him was experiencing ridiculous dreams about unimportant things, but part of him knew they were only dreams. Either way, he felt as though he was slipping sideways into consciousness when Ron shook him awake.
"We're here, Harry. Get up. Oh, and you'd better change."
Harry sat up heavily, realizing that he was still in his Muggle clothes. Ron had changed into his robes, and Hermione was nowhere to be seen.
"I've gotta go help Hermione with…y'know, prefect stuff," Ron muttered. Harry knew he didn't enjoy his duties, but it was still funny the way he tried to make them sound like torture in a continued effort to make Harry feel better for not having them.
"Okay. Thanks for waking me up," said Harry, reaching for his luggage to pull out his robes. Ron looked at him for a moment, apparently making sure he wasn't going to drop off to sleep again, then exited the compartment. Harry locked the door after him.
As he changed his clothes, Harry thought ahead to the year he knew was coming. Would it be a good one? Not likely; horrible things never failed to happen to him at school. But there would be good parts, of course. He was the Quidditch captain this year, as the most experienced and skilled player on the team. There were also his classes, which no longer included Potions and Divination; to his delight, he had earned a remarkably good grade in Potions, but it wasn't quite good enough to allow him entrance into the NEWT Potions class. There was also the fact that he got to be with his friends again. Perhaps the biggest change from the previous year, however, was a bittersweet one: everyone had now accepted that he hadn't been lying about Voldemort's return and everything else he had been claiming for years, including the facts that families such as Draco Malfoy's were all Death Eaters, and that Sirius Black was innocent…
A dull, stabbing pain suddenly swooped down upon his stomach and made him feel sick. He was finally free to admit that he and Sirius had been in contact, but Sirius wasn't there anymore for him to be in contact with. Every few minutes over the summer, the reality of it had struck him painfully, and he had become so consumed with grief that even Dudley had asked him what was the matter. Harry always replied, "You wouldn't understand." Usually Dudley left it at that.
But the last time this had happened, Dudley had pressed for more information. "One of your freak problems?" he had sneered. "Did you have a fight with one of your freak friends? Last year you were always crying in your sleep over Cedric—'Dad, help, he killed Cedric!'"
"Shut up, Dudley," Harry had growled, feeling his rage rise within him. But Dudley loved to tease Harry, and simply refused to learn that it wasn't a safe hobby.
"You haven't been crying about Cedric this year, though. Don't you like him anymore? It's someone new now… Who's Sirius?"
Harry's hand that was gripping his school tie, hundreds of miles away from Dudley on the Hogwarts Express, began to shake as he remembered the scene…
He had never been as angry with his cousin as he had been that minute. He had been unable to find words to express his fury. Dudley had laughed at the expression on Harry's face; it had been blank with blind hatred.
"Too bad Sirius left you, huh? 'No, Sirius, come back! Sirius! No!' I guess he didn't care about you, huh? But you still care about him, don't you? 'He's coming back, he has to, he has to! He's not…' He's not what? You never say."
At that point, Harry had flown at Dudley in an explosion of misdirected rage. He had sworn and screamed and sent his fists and feet flying, so viciously that Dudley had been unable to fight back; after all, being well fed and cared for at Hogwarts and training intensely for Quidditch meant that Harry wasn't nearly as small as he had been in the days when Dudley had used him for a punching bag. In fact, he now stood taller than his cousin.
Harry's intense grief and long-contained anger had also manifested themselves in several accidental spells all at that moment: the lamp and light fixture in the living room had both exploded, as had the television. Several china ornaments on the mantle had shattered as well, adding their shards to the glass that littered the carpet. Dudley had been howling, but Harry had not stopped beating every inch of him that he could.
It was at this point that the Dursleys had come home. Harry remembered clearly that Uncle Vernon, puffing like a rhino, had wrestled him off of Dudley and thrown him into an armchair.
"He started it," Harry had said quickly, almost automatically, but Uncle Vernon had immediately launched into a screaming lecture which Harry couldn't remember most of, having blocked it out easily until the moment when he had decided to scream back.
"…if you ever dare hurt my son again—"
"If he ever speaks to me about Sirius again—"
"Don't you interrupt me, boy, unless you want me to—"
"I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU DO TO ME!"
Harry had been on his feet, in Uncle Vernon's face, shouting.
"What's the worst you can do to me! Starve me for a week, a month, lock me in my room, beat me within an inch of my life!" He had thrust his arms out, palms up as if offering penance. "Here, here's my wrists—Slit them if you want! I've dealt with worse!"
Then he had stormed away towards the stairs, the silence in the living room palpable. He had turned back, though, to say one more thing, perfectly calmly.
"But… If Dudley—if any of you—ever mention the name Sirius Black to my face again, I will kill you with my bare hands."
Harry found himself sitting on the train bench again, rubbing his face with his hands, still trembling slightly at the memory of the sound of his own voice, the memory he was trying to rub away.
Another voice came into his mind, unbidden…
"Did you love him, little baby Potter?"
He hated her more than the Dursleys. He hated her—As much as? More than?—Voldemort.
The train was grinding to a halt, and this brought Harry back to the present firmly. He began awkwardly to unload his own luggage as well as that of Ron and Hermione, who were still occupied with their prefect chores, somewhere. As he pulled down Hedwig's cage and beckoned his owl to fly into it, he heard a voice behind him.
"Harry! Need some help?"
"Hi, Ginny," Harry said without turning around; he knew her voice. "That'd be great. Could you grab Pig's cage?"
"Anything I can help with?"
Now Harry turned, to confirm his suspicion, and found that he was right. It was Dean Thomas who had spoken, and Seamus Finnigan and Neville Longbottom were next to him. Harry noticed that the same weariness of suffering that marked his own face was written across Neville's.
Meeting Dean's gaze, Harry said, "That'd be great. Maybe you could help with Ron's trunk?"
Between the five of them, they managed to unload all the bags of their two compartments. They dumped their burdens into a carriage drawn by a Thestral, which Harry and Neville carefully avoided looking at, though Harry did hear a voice in his head again…
"I would have died before I betrayed them…" "You'll see me very soon, Harry, I promise you…" "Look after yourself…"
He didn't want to forget a single word Sirius had ever said to him, but it hurt so much to remember.
To distract himself, Harry looked around for Ron and Hermione as Neville climbed into the carriage after Seamus and Dean. Ginny was still standing outside it, and, Harry noticed, she was staring directly at the Thestral, for all the world as though she could see it.
"Er… Ginny?" he asked uncertainly.
"There's a Thestral here, isn't there?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah, there is," Harry said uncomfortably. "You can't see it…can you?"
After a moment, she snapped her gaze off of the invisible horse and said to Harry, "It's unfair of them to have these things here. They must remind you all the time of—stuff you don't want to think about."
Harry didn't know what to say to this comment, so he made an indistinct noise in his throat and was about to wonder aloud where Ron and Hermione were when they appeared at his side.
"Glad that's over," grumbled Ron, climbing into the carriage. Ginny, Harry and Hermione followed.
"Good that it's stopped raining, isn't it?" commented Hermione; Harry hadn't even noticed. "Oh, and the new password's screech owl."
They didn't talk much on the ride up to the castle. Harry remained quiet out of fearful anticipation, Ron was too busy sulking at the sight of Ginny seated next to Dean, and Hermione was reading a book she had been carrying when she arrived. The other four made small talk to catch up, but not much else. Harry stared up at the approaching castle and, despite his general feeling of dissatisfaction with life, he felt a bubble of contentment and peace swell within him. Hogwarts was his home, and since there wasn't much outside it that he liked, he had to admit he was pleased to have arrived.
He was even more pleased when he settled himself with Ron and Hermione at the Gryffindor house table, which always looked as though it had been waiting for them, and gazed up at the staff table. Hagrid and McGonagall were absent, since they were dealing with the first-years, but Dumbledore was there. He was sitting in the centre of the high table in his large, golden chair, chatting with Professor Flitwick on his right.
"Hey— New teacher!" said Ron, pointing. Harry and Hermione both followed his finger.
The witch he indicated looked quite young. Her hair was light brown and pulled into a short ponytail, there were freckles across her face, and she looked to be rather athletically built and tall, though it was hard to say from their vantage point. She was leaning her chin in the heel of her hand casually with her elbow on the table, listening to what Professor Sinistra was telling her. She was seated at the far left of the table, in the place Hagrid usually occupied.
"Defence Against the Dark Arts," Hermione said. "Well, obviously. I wonder what she's like."
At that moment, Hagrid arrived and noticed the witch in his seat. They watched as he bent to inform her that she was to sit further along, gesturing to a vacant seat near Dumbledore, and she laughed when she realized her mistake. She got up obligingly, apparently apologizing for the confusion. Both she and Hagrid were speaking without the typical formalities usually extended by and to new teachers, rather as though they already knew each other. Hagrid gave her a friendly pat on the back as she left his seat, which nearly sent her dropping right back into it. She stopped herself by leaning against the table for support.
"I think she's friends with Hagrid," said Harry.
Ron and Hermione, both of whom had been looking around elsewhere, turned their heads back to the staff table again. Just as they did, the teacher found her seat and looked out over the crowd. She met their gaze and gave them a friendly smile and wave, which knocked over the (empty) goblet before her.
"Do we know her?" asked Ron under his breath as they waved back uncertainly.
"I don't think so… Do we?"
Their conversation fell silent when the doors to the Great Hall opened wide. McGonagall entered, followed by the usual trail of nervous-looking first-years and carrying the Sorting Hat, which she placed on a stool at the head of the hall. Every student in the hall hushed, focused on the Hat, which began to sing.
It told them, as usual, about the four houses. It also told them, as it had done the year before, about the importance of unity among those houses. Ron surprised no one by urging it to hurry because of his hunger.
When the Hat finished, by warning them that the qualities of all of the houses were valuable in the face of adversity, the Sorting began.
Harry found he wasn't very interested; the whole process had gotten rather old by now, especially when compared with other events in his life. He listened for the new Gryffindors, however, and picked out four new boys and three new girls. He also noticed dimly that this year seemed to have many kids of the right mesomorphic body type for Quidditch, but nothing more detailed than that. In fact, his mind was firmly elsewhere, or rather, nowhere, until he heard Dumbledore's voice.
"…to welcome you tonight!" he was saying. "There are many things that I need to say to you all this evening, but I am sure that I could never be riveting enough to take your attention away from your stomachs, so I will restrain myself until we have completed our traditional feast!"
At his words, the tables magically filled with the delicious handiwork of the one hundred house-elves in the Hogwarts kitchens.
"Good old Dumbledore," Ron said happily, loading up his plate.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, though he liked the Headmaster for reasons other than the food he provided. There was just something about knowing that Albus Dumbledore was in the room that made Harry feel safe, even when everything else was going wrong. Similarly, the Hogwarts food at the first feast of the year always tasted like the best food he had ever eaten, because along with it came the peace and satisfaction of being home again. Or maybe it was just because it always came after a summer of near starvation in Privet Drive.
Either way, Harry soon found himself full to bursting with good food, and ready to listen to whatever speech Dumbledore was about to give them as he rose to his feet again.
"Welcome," he said again, his voice carrying out across the hall. "Tonight, I will begin not with the basics, the things you all know, which I nevertheless believe important enough to repeat, but instead with the more significant matters which I have not yet had a chance to properly address before you all."
He cleared his throat, and Harry closed his eyes in sudden dread. He knew what was coming next, and he also knew he was not alone at Hogwarts in his ability to list off several important people Voldemort had taken from him. Why did this have to haunt him everywhere he went?
"You are all aware," Dumbledore began seriously, "that in June of last year, Lord Voldemort returned to power. I must point out the seriousness of the threat he poses to us all. Many of us have experienced firsthand the suffering he can cause, though all of you are too young to have lived through his reign over fifteen years ago. We have witnessed this suffering in the form of the families and loved ones he has killed and destroyed.
"I emphasize to you all the importance of inter-house unity. We must fortify ourselves against the forces outside these walls, which are trying to bring them down. In explaining the value of trust and faithfulness, I must also call your attention to recent developments in a story that first made headlines three years ago…the escape of Sirius Black."
Murmurs of fear spread across the hall. They had heard the story Harry had told at the end of his third year, that Sirius was innocent, but they hadn't believed him. As usual. Now it must have been dawning on them that Voldemort's resurrection meant Sirius' cleared name. They were realizing it three months too late.
"Sirius Black is not now and never has been in the past a murderer. The twelve Muggles for whose murder he was imprisoned in fact died at the hands of Peter Pettigrew, long believed to be the thirteenth victim of the massacre, now known to be the criminal behind it. Sirius has fought as devoutly as any man, more devoutly than most, against Voldemort since the age of nineteen, not fearing to speak his name, doing much to stop the Death Eaters' progress towards gaining power. Azkaban itself could not stop his battle. This has always been the truth. However…"
Harry glanced at Snape, who had hated Sirius since their childhood. Snape's face was stony, his gaze focused on his plate, and Harry felt a stab of annoyance towards him.
"However," Dumbledore repeated, "Sirius will no longer be fighting with us against the forces of dark wizardry. Shortly before his name was cleared by the Ministry, mere hours before, in fact… Sirius Black was murdered by one of Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters."
Dumbledore's voice was trembling, albeit so slightly that most probably didn't notice, and it was this more than anything else that made Harry feel nauseous with grief again. He stared at his empty plate. There was perfect silence in the Great Hall.
"In short, Voldemort claimed the life of yet another great man less than three months ago, and though no one in this hall is to blame, we can all learn something from the experience of having known, loved, hated and lost that man. Had there been unity among those of us who choose to fight Voldemort, perhaps the life of Sirius Black could have been spared… I beg all of you to remember that, if you do not fight against evil, you help it progress… Do not let Sirius' life and death have been in vain…"
Harry wished desperately that he were not in the audience listening to this speech.
"I will leave that topic on that solemn note," Dumbledore said quietly, regaining control of his voice. "I turn now to matters of bureaucracy."
He paused before going on. In a voice of cheerfulness that Harry knew was forced, he said, "I am in no doubt that you will all be pleased to learn that Professor Umbridge is no longer with us as High Inquisitor of Hogwarts. The educational decrees passed under her authority, that is, decrees number twenty-four onward, are no longer in effect in this school, and nor is number twenty-three. Replacing Professor Umbridge in her post as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, may I introduce Professor Tonks."
"Tonks?" gasped Harry and Ron in unison, as Hermione said, "Oh!"
"Tonks? As in…Tonks? What's-her-face?" Ron mumbled.
Harry let out a snort of laughter. The name "what's-her-face" was certainly appropriate for a Metamorphmagus. "Must be," he said.
"What's wrong with her? She looked happy a minute ago."
"Well, that was before Dumbledore mentioned…you know," Hermione explained delicately. "I mean, he was her uncle or something, wasn't he?"
"Her mother's cousin," Harry said, still observing Tonks, who was looking down at her plate unhappily. They couldn't make out her expression clearly, but Harry was quite certain he could guess what it looked like.
Dumbledore was now reviewing school rules about staying out of the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade, not using of magic out of class, and many other things that Harry, Ron and Hermione were likely to do anyway. Tonks soon was looking acceptably pleasant again, and by the time they were dismissed, she and Harry both had managed to start smiling and acting normally. Harry didn't even try to avoid the swarm of Gryffindors heading up to the common room, led by Ron and Hermione, which included more than one gaping first-year. That feeling of being act peace with the world, which he only got from arriving at Hogwarts after a long summer spent in the company of the Dursleys, was coming over him at long last.