A/N: Wow. Long time no see, huh? Well, here it is, finally: chapter seven! In my defense, this chapter is three times as long as some of my other chapters, and it took me forever to write, so there's that. And I've had finals. And and and... But here it is, anyway. Enjoy!

Harry awoke the next morning feeling well rested and very relaxed. As he lay in his bed and looked up at the ceiling of the Hospital Wing, it took him a while to remember the happenings of the previous evening. As the memories slowly made their way back to his mind, however, Harry found that the good mood he had woken up in disappeared faster than water flows out of cupped hands, and in a matter of minutes he felt as if someone had hit him repeatedly over the head with particularly heavy object.

He let out a groan as he sat up and pushed the blankets covering him aside. He took a moment to glance around the Hospital Wing and found that it looked exactly as it had all the other times he had been there. He was, naturally, the only one in there, as the year had only just started. He wondered briefly if this was some sort of record, ending up in the Hospital Wing the day he returned to school.

Sighing, he swung his feet over the side of the bed and made to get up, but just as he did so, Madame Pomfrey came bustling in, and, seeing that he was awake, came straight over to his bed and shooed him back into it.

"You are not getting out of that bed until I have examined you, young man," she said briskly, pushing Harry rather forcefully back against his pillows.

"I'm – fine…" Harry stammered, gritting his teeth as she put her hands on either side of his head, turning it this way and that as she checked that everything was in order.

There seemed to be no end to how many angles she could inspect his head from. As Harry sat there, helpless, growing more and more frustrated, trying to think about anything else, his mind fell on Marietta. What exactly had he seen last night? Was he simply going mad or was there something else to it? The sight of her eyes as Voldemort's red slits had certainly been unnerving, if nothing else. But what could it mean? Voldemort couldn't be possessing her, that was out of the question; Dumbledore would know. Could she be working for him perhaps? Harry frowned to himself. That wouldn't explain why her eyes would change like that though; Harry knew quite plainly that Lucius Malfoy worked for Voldemort, yet he had never seen anything of the sort happen to his appearance.

"Everything seems to be ok, Mr. Potter," Madame Pomfrey said softly and Harry started, having forgotten, for a moment, that she was there.

Slightly annoyed, he nodded, getting out of bed while he mumbled,

"I could have told you that."

"Sorry, what?" said the medi-witch, turning towards him with a slight smile.

"Nothing," Harry said quickly, drawing the curtains around his bed so that he could change in private.

Five minutes later he was changed and ready to head down to breakfast. As he started down the stairs and headed for the Great Hall, he noticed that the other students he passed were looking at him with apprehensive expressions; some of them put their heads together and started whispering loudly as he walked by. This was, naturally, not new to Harry, but he still found it incredibly annoying. He hadn't asked to have Voldemort connected to his head; it wasn't his fault.

By the time he reached the entrance to the Great Hall, Harry was in a very bad mood. As he walked over to the Gryffindor table, trying his very best not to start shouting at random people, he looked up at the teachers' table and noticed, for the first time, that there was a new professor sitting there. Thinking it over, he found it slightly odd that he hadn't noticed this yesterday, but he shrugged it off as being due to the fact that he had had so many other things to think about at the time. Now, looking at the stranger, he noticed that whoever-it-was was very young. He was of average height, with very fair skin and blonde hair, he was wearing robes of a clear, light blue, and he sat staring into space, frowning slightly, looking as if he was lost in thought. Harry noticed that several of the girls in the hall were eyeing him with fond expressions.

Rolling his eyes and hoping that this man would prove to be more than just a face, Harry sat down at the Gryffindor table, choosing a seat by himself, as Ron and Hermione were nowhere in sight.

Wondering where on earth they could be, Harry took a piece of toast from a stack near his plate and buttered it, all the while going over logical explanations in his head. Maybe they had overslept? No, Hermione wouldn't oversleep. And even if she had, the chances of both she and Ron oversleeping were quite slim. Maybe they had been given extra prefect duties or something of the like..? Yes, that should be it.

"Hi Harry!"

Harry turned around very quickly, having been slightly startled by the sudden greeting, and found the youngest member of the Weasley family standing right behind him.

"Oh, hi Ginny," he said, smiling as she sat down next to him.

"Feeling better today?" she asked brightly, grabbing a platter of eggs and spooning some onto her plate.

Harry didn't answer immediately. It wasn't going to take much to feel better than he had yesterday, he thought bitterly, putting the toast he had been holding down on his plate. Ginny looked at him with a worried expression.

"Your head still hurting?" she said softly.

Harry shook his head slowly.

"Head's fine," he said shortly. "I'm just-"

He paused, not knowing quite how to express himself. Ginny kept looking at him with a concerned expression, ignoring the food she had just loaded onto her plate.

"I'm just tired of… -everything," he said finally, deciding to go for the short version.

Ginny frowned, not seeming entirely satisfied.

At that moment, however, Professor McGonagall came around with schedules, and they both became busy with examining their weeks. Harry found, to his utter shock, that NEWT-level potions was his first subject of the week.

"But-" he stuttered, as McGonagall came back around. "How? I only received an 'O' on half of my potions OWL…"

She merely gave him a small smile, and he turned back to Ginny with an utterly bewildered expression. Hadn't Snape said, quite clearly, that if they didn't receive an 'O' on their OWL-exam, they wouldn't be accepted into sixth-year potions? That statement had basically crushed his hopes of ever becoming an auror. And now –was there hope again? Pushing that thought aside, he thought of Snape. Snape hated him. -No, loathed with a passion was probably a more appropriate expression. Why would he make an exception for him, Harry, the person he detested so?

"I don't get it," he said, echoing his own thoughts. "Why did Snape accept me into his class?"

"Well, he couldn't very well accept me and not you," said a voice from behind him, and he and Ginny turned around to see Draco standing right behind them, grinning.

"What?" Harry said, not quite understanding the significance of this statement.

Of course Snape could accept Draco and not accept him. Favouritism was one of the things he was best at. That and making people feel miserable about themselves. Harry had also had the impression all along, loathe as he would have been to admit it earlier, that Draco was, generally, better at potions than him. Harry felt sure Draco could have pulled off an 'O' on his exam, which would have granted him a place in Snape's class.

"I never did show you my OWL-results this summer, Harry," Draco said and Harry raised his eyebrows, realising the truth in this. "My potions OWL was the same as yours, only the other way around. My practical examination received an 'O', whereas my written one only got an 'E'. Sodding Polyjuice Potion. I know perfectly well what it is, but I couldn't for the life of me describe its effects in detail."

Harry couldn't help but smile.

"Yeah, I know you could, Potter," Draco said, sounding slightly irritated. "My point is that Sev- uh- Snape –he's a friend of my family's, I'm used to calling him…" Draco looked slightly uncomfortable for a moment, before regaining his composure. "Anyway, he couldn't not accept me, because, well, you understand…" –Harry nodded, rolling his eyes- "so he, sort of, changed his rules around a bit, so that, if you had received an 'O', meaning an 'O' on a part of your exam, as opposed to an 'O' altogether, you would be admitted. He's done this before, when he wanted to be able to take in certain students," Draco added.

Harry looked down at his schedule again.

"Unfortunately for Snape," he said coldly, "that means he gets me too."

He smiled again, as he saw the irony in the whole thing.

"It's actually quite amusing…"

Draco smiled and nodded in approval.

"So, what do you have the rest of the week?" he asked conversationally.

Harry squinted slightly as he looked back down at his schedule and started reading all of his subjects out loud, for Draco to hear.

"Monday: double Potions, Charms, lunch, double Transfiguration and Care of Magical Creatures-"

"We still have to take that?" said Draco loudly, interrupting Harry and glancing quickly down at his own schedule.

"Apparently," said Harry shortly, giving Draco a pronounced frown. "You have a problem with that?"

Draco hurriedly shook his head.

"No…no- no problem here…"

Harry saw Ginny roll her eyes next to him. Draco came closer to Harry and held out his hand for Harry's schedule. Harry handed it over, still frowning, and picked up his toast, taking a bite before turning back to Draco.

"It seems-" Draco started slowly, "that we still have Potions and Care of Magical Creatures together, and now we are also in the same Defence Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration classes."

Draco glanced over at Harry, looking like he was trying to read the other teenager's expression. Harry merely nodded, unsure of how to feel about this. He and Draco had become –Harry wasn't quite sure what he should call it –was it friendship they had come to share? They had, at any rate, gotten to know each other better, but Harry wasn't sure that sharing four classes with Draco was something he was genuinely happy about. For all Harry knew, it could prove to be a great thing, but it could also prove to be a disaster.

"I can imagine you aren't thrilled at the prospect of seeing me that often-" Draco started, looking grim, but Harry cut him off.

"It's not that," he said quickly. "I'm just afraid that we're going to end up jumping down each others' throats, spending that much time together. I don't need to be enemies with you again, on top of everything else."

Draco raised his eyebrows.

"Well, we got through the summer, didn't we?" he pointed out.

Harry nodded.

"True," he said quietly. "But then it was only the two of us. Here it's different. Our opinions are very different, and our ways of reacting to things are different, and our way of-" Harry hesitated for a moment. "–Our way of treating people is very different."

Draco frowned deeply, not looking at all pleased with this statement.

"I can be civilised, if that's what you mean, Potter," he said coldly. "I thought I had proven that to you."

Harry felt bad now, looking the other boy in the eye and seeing his angry expression. What Draco said was true; he had behaved remarkably well since the night Harry had been kidnapped, and he had asked Harry to give him a chance to prove that he could change.

"I'm sorry," Harry heard himself say. "You're right. I reckon it'll be fine. My main fear was really that our differences would become too much for the both of us."

Draco's look became milder, but he still didn't look entirely happy. Harry was about to say something more to appease him, but Ron and Hermione chose that moment to appear, so he decided to leave it to another time.

"Harry!" Hermione said shrilly as she caught sight of him. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine, fine," Harry said dully, standing up and wishing people would stop asking him that.

Ron came up to him and gave him a pat on the back. Then, noticing Draco, he said, in a very loud voice,

"What is he doing here?"

Harry sighed and gave Ron a pointed look.

"He was looking at my schedule," Harry said calmly, and Draco, realising that he still had Harry's schedule in his hand, shoved it back towards him rather more forcefully than he had needed to.

"Thank you, Draco," Harry said sweetly.

Draco muttered something under his breath and quickly shoved his own schedule into his pocket.

"So," Ron said airily. "Do we have any subjects with their lot this year?"

Harry gave him a deep frown and put his schedule down on the table.

"Please cut that out Ron," he said angrily. "And yes, we do. That is to say, I do, I'm not sure if you do. What subjects are you taking this year?"

Upon being asked this question, Ron hesitated and Harry noticed that Draco had raised his eyebrows and was now viewing Ron with apparent interest. Ron looked quickly up at the enchanted ceiling before answering.

"I, uh… -my OWL scores weren't high enough for Potions or Transfiguration, so I, um, won't be in those, I suppose."

Ron was looking extremely uncomfortable. Hermione looked as if she wanted to say something about how it was Ron's fault because he hadn't studied enough, but before she could even open her mouth, Harry had sent her a look and shaken his head, telling her quite plainly that this was not the time for a lecture.

"I'm taking Defence Against the Dark Arts though –got great marks in that," he added, his face lighting up ever-so-slightly.

Harry smiled, glad that Ron had done well in that particular subject. The DA really had paid off, or so it would seem.

"You're not going to be in Potions though, are you Harry?" Ron said after a short pause, looking worried.

Harry was uncertain as to how he should go about answering this question without making Ron upset or angry, but he was saved the trouble of finding something to say as Draco gave Ron the answer for him.

"He is, actually."

Ron, who seemed to have forgotten Draco was there for a moment, turned around abruptly and gave Draco a surprised and slightly offensive look.

"What?" he said simply, freezing for a moment, before turning back to Harry.

Harry sighed, knowing that this wasn't going to be pleasant.

"Yeah, I –er- was admitted into Snape's Advanced Potions class."

Ron looked as if he didn't believe what he was hearing. He looked frantically from Harry to Hermione to Ginny, seemingly waiting for someone to yell "Had you on!" but, naturally, no such call pierced the silence.

"How did you-" he started after a long pause, but Draco, who apparently had decided that he was the one who should explain this to Ron, cut him off.

"Harry got an 'O' on his practical exam, and an 'E' on his written one," he said slowly, then proceeded to tell Ron exactly what he had told Harry and Ginny minutes before.

As Draco told him how it had worked out, Ron's expression went from surprised to incredulous to angry to furious, and when Draco had finished his rendition, Ron looked ready to kill someone.

"Bloody git," he spat, looking to Harry for support. "Bloody favouritism."

He mumbled furiously to himself for a few moments, while Harry tried to look neutral, but then Ron's face lit up and a slightly dazed grin found its way to his features.

"Idiot!" he exclaimed, giving Harry an eager look. "He hates you! Bloody brilliant!"

Harry raised his eyebrows as Ron started laughing loudly. Draco looked as if he would like nothing better than to take a swing at the overjoyed redhead, but kept himself calm, though he couldn't resist giving Harry a revolted look when Ron leaned on Hermione for support as he doubled over with laughter.

Harry ignored him and looked at Hermione, who shrugged and helped Ron sit down by the table.

"Don't kill yourself," he heard Draco mumble, and he turned back around to face the boy, making an effort to give him a strict look, but he couldn't help but smile.

Ron appeared to have lost it completely. Maybe the shock combined with the realisation that Snape had basically given himself a hard kick in the behind had been too much for him. But it still wasn't like Ron to crack up in this manner. It didn't seem like he was going to come out of it any time soon either.

Harry simply stared at him for a few moments; Ron was now laughing so hard that he had to gasp for breath; he was attracting a lot of attention and he didn't even seem to notice.

Struck with a sudden realisation, he turned to face Draco, who failed to hide a slightly sheepish expression.

"Cheering Charm," Harry said simply, giving Draco a very disapproving look. "Very clever."

"Cheering Charm with a twist," Draco corrected him, giving him a coy smile. "It looked like he could need it."

Draco smiled, and Harry felt his temper rise. The sheer nerve of him!

"Whatever you did, twisted or not, just take it off him," he snapped angrily.

And Draco, looking highly displeased, did as he was told. As if someone had turned a switch, Ron stopped laughing and immediately looked angrier than Harry had ever seen him. He snapped at a pair of third-years who were watching apprehensively before turning to Draco, who was now looking thoroughly bored.

Ron looked as if he wasn't able to find the right words to express his outrage. After a few moments of furious staring, he simply listed his entire vocabulary of expletives, one of which, Harry was certain, Uncle Vernon would have been very proud.

Draco looked mildly surprised for a moment; he had probably thought that Ron would use his wand before resorting to taking him out verbally. Harry noticed that the blond boy was gripping his own wand firmly inside of his robes.

"Colourful language you have, Weasley," he said, now sounding amused.

At this, Ron did pull out his wand, and pointed it firmly at Draco, looking like he wanted nothing more than to hex the other boy into oblivion. Draco pulled out his own wand, and Harry had just taken two brisk steps and put himself between them when an icy voice sounded behind him.

"Duelling? I do believe that is an activity that is strictly prohibited between lessons, Mr. Weasley. Ten points from Gryffindor."

Harry spun around quickly, and, quite true to his suspicions, there stood the greasy-haired, hooked-nosed Potions master, looking from him to Ron, wearing a contemptuous grin. Harry felt a surge of anger well up inside him. This was due not only to the fact that taking points only from Gryffindor had been blatantly unfair, but also to the animosity between Snape and Harry, which had stretched its limits last year.

"Professor Snape," Harry said coldly, looking Snape resolutely in the eye. "Ron was not the only one attempting to hex someone here. If I may, I would like to draw your attention to a certain boy within your own house, who happened to start the whole thing."

Harry glared furiously at Draco, and Draco, rolling his eyes, turned to the Potions master and said in a dull, toneless voice,

"I suppose I started this, Professor."

Snape raised his eyebrows, clearly surprised, and Harry saw Ron's jaw drop a little to his right. Draco looked quite unperturbed by this reaction.

"I decided that Weasley here needed to lighten up a little bit," he proceeded to explain. "So I cast a type of Cheering Charm on him…"

Snape frowned and gave Draco a look Harry couldn't quite read.

"A type of Cheering Charm, Mr. Malfoy?" he said calmly, showing no sign of the contempt he usually displayed upon catching anyone, who wasn't in his house, breaking the rules.

Draco hesitated for a moment and gave Harry a quick look before turning back to the Potions master, wearing a would-be innocent expression.

"I altered it a bit," he said slowly. "Gave it a twist, so to speak."

Snape looked like he didn't know quite how to respond to this. His lip curled unpleasantly as he undoubtedly thought of how to deal with this situation. Harry could imagine what was going through his head. Draco was in his own house. Should he punish him; should he treat him like he would treat any other student in Draco's situation? Draco had, after all, confessed his guilt, so there was no way around that.

"Meddling with magic," he said finally. "That is serious business, Mr. Malfoy. You are an exceptional wizard, but I would still be careful if I were you."

He paused, and Harry saw that Draco looked very pleased with the compliment the Potions master had paid him. Looking to his right, Harry saw that Ron, on the other hand, looked ready to burst. Hermione was holding a hand firmly on his shoulder, and every now and then she would whisper something in his ear; it seemed as if she was trying to keep him relatively calm, though Ron's ears had gone as red as Harry had ever seen them.

"You did admit to starting this…-mess," Snape continued silkily, keeping his gaze fixed on Draco. "So I will have five points from Slytherin for that. I expect better behaviour from you from now on."

And with that, he swept past them and disappeared, leaving Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Draco to sort the rest out for themselves.

"FIVE POINTS?" Ron yelled indignantly when the Potions master was out of sight. "Five bloody points?"

He turned to Draco, pointing a finger in his direction. His cheeks were pink with rage.

"You bloody started this!" he yelled at Draco, who was keeping his face neutral, though Harry could tell he was trying his best not to laugh. "And you get less points taken from you –how is that fair?"

Harry, however, was thrilled. Never, in his memory, had Snape taken any points whatsoever from his own house. Seeing him caught in a situation where he was forced to do just that made him feel a sense of accomplishment he hadn't felt in a while.

"What are you grinning for?"

Harry turned quickly to face his best friend, who was giving him an incredulous look. Harry wasn't even aware that he had been grinning, but now he forced his face into a neutral expression, somewhat similar to Draco's.

"Snape took points from Slytherin," he said simply, then couldn't help but grin again. "When has that ever happened before? It's quite fantastic, actually. I don't care how many points he took –he took points. From Slytherin. Snape."

"That just means he's going to be in a spectacularly bad mood today," Draco broke in, causing all of them to turn in his direction. "You two had better watch your necks."

He looked pointedly at Harry and Hermione, who turned to look at each other. Harry stopped grinning as he realised the truth in what Draco was saying. Surely Snape wouldn't let them get away with this. The first Potions class was going to be a nightmare, Harry just knew it. Then again, Harry thought to himself, he had actually read a lot of books over the summer; some of them had been about advanced potions making, as he had held on to the faint glimmer of hope that he might have done well enough on his OWLs to be accepted into Snape's class. So maybe this time he would be able to answer the questions that Snape was bound to throw at him. On the other hand, Harry wouldn't put it past Snape to have an extremely hard and intricate mess of a question that he had saved just for Harry.

Sighing, he looked at Hermione again, and tried to look less nervous than he felt.

"So, you're in Potions too then?" he said, not at all surprised. "I'm glad. No surprises though!"

Hermione grinned weakly and nodded. It seemed as if she was trying her best not to say anything. Harry had a sneaky suspicion that she was very surprised indeed. He was surprised to find that this bothered him very little though. She had probably thought that he wouldn't make it, and he had proven her wrong; this thought gave him enough satisfaction to drown out the fact that she had had so little faith in him. Besides, he thought reluctantly, she did have a reason for her lack of faith; he and Ron hadn't exactly studied as much as they should have for their OWLs.

Harry was brought out of his musings by a shriek from Hermione.

"Oh no!" she said, looking terrified. "Class starts in five minutes! We have to run!"

Confused, Harry looked around him, and with a start he realised that they were the only ones left in the Great Hall. None of them had noticed the other students leaving; they had been too immersed in their discussion.

As one, they turned on their heels and stormed out of the Hall. Once out, Harry, Hermione, and Draco started towards the dungeons, while Ginny and Ron started heading up the stairs. Harry found himself wondering briefly what Ron was doing, before he realised that Ron wasn't going to be with him in Potions this year. Suddenly getting a dreadful feeling of loss, he stopped walking and turned back to Ron, who was already halfway up the stairs.

"Ron!" he called, and Ron stopped and turned around. "What have you got first period?"

Ron hesitated for a moment, and Harry could see his ears turn bright red again.

"I've got History of Magic," he said sadly, turning around again, and climbing the rest of the stairs quickly, disappearing from sight.

Harry felt slightly empty. He had never had a class without Ron. He remembered briefly the time when they had been at loggerheads over the Triwizard Tournament in their fourth year; it hadn't been fun. He suddenly dreaded the prospect of having to face Snape without him.

He didn't have time to dwell on this, however, for he, Hermione, and Draco were now sprinting at top speed to get to their lesson on time.

With twenty seconds left, they caught sight of the door to Snape's classroom, and, just as the bell rang, they sprinted through it, out of breath, but relieved; Snape wasn't there yet.

There was an available desk at the very front of the room, and they hurried over to it, sitting down just as the door flew open, and a very grumpy-looking Potions master swept inside. Harry and Hermione exchanged nervous looks before focusing their attention on Snape, who had come to a halt in the middle of the room, looking somewhat like a vampire bat ready to strike.

"Welcome to Advanced Potions," he said in icy tones, looking around at the students, as if daring them to let their attention waver. "Most of the people in this room" –he cast Harry a malevolent look—"are here because they have a great understanding of the methods and theories behind this subject, and because they are capable of brewing fairly complex potions with few or no errors. I fully expect all of you" –another vicious glare was sent in Harry's direction—"to work to the best of your abilities. And some of you" –Snape kept his eyes on Harry—"simply need to improve your abilities. With that said, I shall delay no further in beginning your lesson."

Snape moved quickly over to his desk and waved his wand in its direction, whereupon a large, brown book came soaring out from behind it and into his hand.

"Because of certain… -delays," Snape said, in his usual sneer. "Your booklists did not include your Potions books this year. Therefore, you shall be using the school's supply."

He held the book up so that everyone would be able to see it clearly. Squinting slightly, Harry could just make out the title:

The Advanced Guide to the Art of Potion Brewing by Albert P. Sizzle.

"This is, naturally, only a temporary solution," Snape continued. "Next lesson, I will have order forms ready for you, and you can order your own copy. Until then, I expect you to handle these books with extreme caution; when you hand them in, they are to look just as when you received them. Any student who hands in a book that is damaged in any way, shall have to answer to me and suffer the consequences."

Harry looked at Draco just as Snape started calling out names and handing out books to the people present.

"You were right," he said quietly. "He really is in a bad mood, isn't he..?"

"Going on about handling the books with care…" Hermione added, looking at Snape with dislike. "I mean, if something should happen to them, all it takes is a simple Repairing Charm, now isn't it? Honestly…"


Hermione jumped as her name was called, but she collected herself quickly and raised her hand, whereupon a book came flying in her direction. She caught the book in both hands and turned it over carefully, then opened it up to the table of contents page and started to read. Draco looked as if he found this slightly humorous, but didn't say anything.

A moment later, his name was called and, upon raising his hand, he received a copy of the same book. Catching it, he simply put it down on the desk and stared at it with a very bored expression. Harry could see that he had more in common with Draco than he had thought.

To his left, Hermione had already started reading chapter one, and Harry glanced over at her book for a minute, trying to see if he could recognise anything from his readings over the summer. The chapter title read:

Potion Components: Why and How?

He skimmed the first page quickly, and it seemed that chapter one spoke about the theory behind the different components in potion making; it was simply an explanation of the way potions were made; why some ingredients simply didn't mix with others, why some substances had to be added at a specific time, why potions exploded if one didn't cut certain components into pieces that were completely equal, etc.

And Harry thought, with a sudden wave of joy, that he actually did remember reading about potions theory over the summer. Maybe he would, for once, be able to show Snape that he wasn't a complete dunce.


Just as Hermione had done minutes before, Harry jumped a little when he heard his name, but, unlike Hermione, he hadn't even managed to straighten up before the book came sailing straight towards his head, a lot faster than necessary. Luckily, probably due to his Seeker reflexes, Harry managed to catch the book before it smashed his nose, but it was a close call; he had caught the book when it was only half an inch from his face.

Blinking slightly, Harry put the book down on the desk and sent Snape a furious glare.

"I am so sorry, Mr. Potter," Snape said coldly, "but I thought you were paying attention. I should have realised that, seeing as this is an educational class, you would be completely lost after five minutes."

Several people towards the back of the room snickered, and Harry felt his insides squirm with anger.

"However," Snape continued, sarcasm dripping from every syllable, "I do expect you to at least try to make an effort in this class, hard as that may be for you."

Harry gritted his teeth furiously and clenched his fists beneath his desk. Snape was baiting him, he knew that, and he was determined not to let his temper take control of him, but, looking into Snape's eyes, and seeing the pleasure tormenting Harry gave him, Harry would like nothing better than to strike the man with the most powerful curse he could think of.

"Have you even opened a book this summer, Potter?" came Snape's voice, followed by more snickering.

Harry took a deep breath, and, determined to sound as polite as he possibly could, answered,

"Yes, Professor."

Snape raised his eyebrows and a sarcastic smile found its way to his features.

"Perhaps then, you could tell me…" he said, pausing for a moment, no doubt to think of a particularly difficult question he could give Harry. "What is a Tilithius Concoction, when do you, when brewing it, add the drop of dragon blood, and what is the significance of this specific timing?"

Next to Harry, Hermione started mumbling to herself, counting on her fingers and closing her eyes in concentration. Harry thought for a second. Tilithius Concoction –he had read about that potion. If he wasn't entirely mistaken, it was named for the wizard who created it, and it was a powerful healing potion.

"No answer, Mr. Potter?" Snape said silkily, bringing Harry out of his thoughts.

Hoping he wasn't completely off-track, Harry sat up straight and looked Snape right in the eye.

"I do, actually," he said firmly, causing Snape's sneer to vanish, replaced by a look of incredulity.

"Very well, Mr. Potter," he said, hitching his sarcastic smile back in place, clearly convinced that Harry wasn't going to have the answer he was looking for. "Why don't you give it to us then?"

Harry took another deep breath, and, trying to remember everything he had read said,

"The Tilithius Concoction was named for Marek Tilithius, a Healer who lived during the seventeenth century. It is a powerful healing potion that is not used for physical injuries, but for severe mental injuries, injuries caused by magic."

Harry paused for a moment, and, to his immense satisfaction, he could see from the look on Snape's face that he had hit spot-on. If only he could remember the rest of it now… What was it he had read over the summer?

Dragon blood, usually poisonous, is a very special component in this potion. Added at precisely the right time, it can actually work as a remedy for the mind that has been severely damaged by magic…

Now, what was it added between? Harry fleetingly remembered something about a special type of snake; its eggs were apparently used in many potions… If only he could remember what it was called. Couldn't the eggs set houses on fire—?

Suddenly remembering, Harry looked back at Snape and, thoroughly pleased with himself, continued answering the Potions master's question.

"Dragon blood, when put into the potion after adding eggs of an Ashwinder and before adding Glumbumble fluid, can work as a remedy for minds that have been seriously damaged by magic, which is what this concoction is for."

Snape looked like he would like nothing better than to strangle Harry. Harry was thankful that he had used all the extra time he had had that summer to read; thwarting Snape's effort to make him look like a complete fool felt indescribable.

The Potion's master collected himself with what seemed to be a great effort.

"Very good, Potter," he said, so softly it was almost impossible to hear him.

No points were awarded, naturally, but, as Harry turned to look at Hermione, he still felt very pleased with himself. This feeling only intensified when he saw the expression on her face.

"Wow, Harry," she said softly, eyeing him with disbelief. "You really did read some books over the summer…"

Harry rolled his eyes and turned to face the front of the room.

"You mustn't have so much faith in me, Hermione," he said sarcastically, not looking at her. "You wouldn't want me to get big-headed, now would you?"

He glanced quickly over at Hermione again, and she gave him a sad look, but he smiled, and, clearly understanding that Harry had just been kidding and wasn't the least bit angry with her, she lightened up again and shook her head, grinning. Draco looked like he didn't quite know whether he wanted to look happy with Harry's display of knowledge, or look glum, in support of Snape. Seemingly unable to make up his mind, he simply settled for giving Harry a faint smile and then focusing his attention on the Potions master.

The rest of the lesson passed without any exciting events. Snape used the entire class to talk about the basics behind the different ingredients in common potions, and, when one and a half hours was up, he told them to read chapter one for the following lesson, and be prepared to answer questions from the reading.

The moment the bell rang, Harry and Hermione got up and hurried out of the dungeons; Draco stayed after, saying that he had to have a word with Snape. Curious as to what it was Draco couldn't wait to talk to Snape about, Harry hurried up to Charms, followed by Hermione, who was still immersed in her Potions book.

When they entered Professor Flitwick's classroom, they quickly found a seat in the back and settled down, Hermione putting her book (with her nose still glued to it) onto the desk. Ron arrived a few minutes later, and, upon seeing them, hurried over to where they were sitting and slumped down in a chair next to Harry.

Harry grinned. This was how it was supposed to be. It had been strange to have Potions without Ron, and he would have to stand Transfiguration without him after lunch. He wasn't really looking forward to McGonagall without the support and comments of his best friend either, though Snape was definitely worse.

"Hey, mate," Ron said, sounding thoroughly miserable. "You are lucky you don't have to have History of Magic anymore. That was the longest period of my entire life…"

Harry gave Ron a sympathetic look.

"More goblin rebellions?"

Ron's look darkened.

"I almost wish for a bit of goblin history," he said sadly. "No, we're doing troll wars now. It's funny, you would think it couldn't get any worse than goblins, right? But I have just listened to a one-and-a-half hour-long speech about trolls hitting people with clubs. The most interesting part was when, allegedly, one of the trolls missed its target and hit its buddy instead, starting a kind of strange civil troll war some hundreds of years ago…"

Ron's voice trailed off and he stared blankly into space for a few moments before shaking his head rather violently and turning back to Harry with a slightly dazed expression.

"So, how was Snape?" he asked, making a face as he said the name.

"Not bad," Harry answered truthfully, causing Ron to raise his eyebrows and give Harry an incredulous expression. "Well, it wasn't as bad as usual, is what I mean to say."

Ron's eyebrows disappeared into his hair, and Harry proceeded to tell him about how he had answered Snape's question.

"Blimey, Harry," Ron said, as Harry finished his rendition. "And here I thought you were as clueless as I am…"

Harry frowned and shook his head slowly.

"I just read a bit over the summer, that's all."

"Must have been more than just a bit," Ron mumbled, looking like he didn't quite believe it.

Harry didn't contradict him.

Charms seemed like it was over before it had even started. Flitwick set them to work on Protean Charms, which required an extreme amount of concentration, at least from most people in the class. At the end of the lesson, the only person who had managed to cast a successful Protean Charm was Hermione, seeing as she had done it to the coins Harry had used to inform the DA-members of the times for meetings last year. As he, Ron, and Hermione filed out of the classroom, he made a mental note to himself to practice the charm at the first available moment he had.

As they headed to lunch, Harry's mind once again travelled back to the events of the previous night. Harry had yet again felt Voldemort's anger through his scar, and had, once again, known why Voldemort was angry and what he was doing. Voldemort had killed someone; it had caused Harry to feel a pain that had been much worse than the pain that just came from a show of particularly strong emotion from the Dark Lord. But Dumbledore had said that Voldemort had been dealing with his own, so that should mean no one from their side had been hurt, shouldn't it? Harry really hoped so.

Still lost in thought, Harry, along with Ron and Hermione, entered the Great Hall five minutes later and sat down at the Gryffindor table. Ron eagerly pulled a plate of ham towards himself and started shovelling some onto his plate, but Harry found that he wasn't all that hungry. He glanced over at the teachers' table and found that Dumbledore was looking at him with a contemplative expression. He looked as if he were trying to make up his mind about something, but, upon noticing that Harry was looking back, he simply gave Harry a smile and turned around to talk to the new professor, who seemed thoroughly delighted to be engaged in conversation.

Harry turned back to his table just in time to see Ron stuff half the contents of his plate into his mouth at once, and Hermione giving him a disgusted look. Smiling slightly to himself, he shook his head, then turned towards the Slytherin table, trying to see if Draco was there.

It took a while for Harry to spot him, as he was no longer the centre of attention and surrounded by a large group of people, but he finally spotted the blond boy, who was sitting at the very end of the table, looking miserable.

Harry tried to catch his attention, but Draco seemed to be completely lost in thought. After realising it was useless, Harry fixed his gaze, instead, on a small group of Slytherins who were sitting huddled together, every now and then throwing reproachful glances at Draco. They seemed to be plotting something; every now and then, one of the group would point at Draco, wave his hand around, and then the other members would nod in approval.

After this had gone on for five minutes or so, a girl with long, black, hair drew out her wand and pointed it directly at Draco's head. Harry frowned. They were going to curse Draco right in front of the headmaster? Surely they wouldn't be stupid enough to attempt that…

But they were. Harry wanted to shout out to Draco, to warn him, but it all happened too fast.

The girl holding the wand muttered something and a red jet of light zoomed out of her wand. Without even looking up, Draco raised his own wand, gave it a complicated little wave, and deflected the spell, all the while looking very bored. Harry's mouth fell open, and, just at that moment, Draco looked up, and, upon seeing Harry's expression, his face broke into a very self-satisfied grin. Harry ignored this and quickly beckoned Draco over, all the while very impressed with what he had just seen.

"That was amazing," he said softly, when Draco had gotten through the crowd of jeering Slytherins and had made it over to the Gryffindor table.

Draco shrugged, but couldn't help looking pleased with himself.

"It's not all that difficult," he said, giving Harry a slight smile. "If you master the technique, there's really nothing to it. I can show you, sometime, if you like."

Harry nodded eagerly. The ability to successfully deflect curses like that could really come in handy. Harry could, of course, deflect curses to a certain degree, but he knew he did not have the skill that Draco had just displayed. Harry guessed that Draco had probably been brought up having to learn those kinds of things. Draco was, Harry knew, quite good with actually casting curses as well. Harry remembered, in his second year, when Snape had paired him and Draco during Lockheart's duelling course. Draco had, at the age of twelve, managed to cast Serpensortia, which Harry knew to be an extremely complex curse. Harry hadn't thought to be impressed at the time, but now he realised that Draco must have been trained since he was very young. In a way, Harry envied him; it would have been nice to have got a head start such as that.

Harry, who had stood up when Draco had come over, now sat back down at the table, and motioned for Draco to join him. Draco looked reluctant for a moment, then he closed his eyes, opened them again, and sat down next to Harry without a word, though not without attracting quite a few stares. Parvati, who was sitting opposite Harry, was actually eyeing Draco quite fondly, but the others' looks were not that friendly. Neville, who was sitting a little further down the table, looked like he didn't quite believe what he was seeing, and Dean and Seamus, who were sitting opposite Neville, were staring at Draco with nothing short of loathing. Ron had stopped eating when Draco sat down, and was also giving him a very sour expression. Harry caught his eye and frowned pointedly, and, at this,

Ron merely went back to his food, though it was with unnecessary force he speared his ham and shoved it into his mouth. Draco seemed to be trying to ignore all of this, but Harry could see that his eyebrows were furrowed, and, every once in a while, he would close his eyes, then open them again slowly, as if hoping everyone would disappear if he couldn't see them anymore.

When Draco seemed to decide that this method wasn't working all that well, he turned to Harry and said, quite unexpectedly, his voice barely a whisper,

"I noticed a book you were reading this summer…"

Harry frowned slightly, checked to make sure no one was listening in on their conversation, then replied,

"Which one?"

Though he knew perfectly well which book Draco was talking about. Draco rolled his eyes gave Harry a 'don't-play-stupid-with-me'-look.

"What about it?" Harry said quietly.

"Well," said Draco slowly, "I noticed that it was, largely, about the Dark Arts…"

Harry nodded.

"All about the Dark Arts, actually," he replied, and when Draco gave him a surprised look, he added, "I was just curious."

"Just curious?" Draco asked, sounding highly suspicious.

"Yes," Harry said tiredly, though he wasn't entirely sure that his response had been entirely truthful.

The truth was he wasn't entirely sure why he was reading that book in the first place. Was he just curious, or was there something else to it? Ever since he had seen Bellatrix Lestrange murder his godfather, a part of him had had an urge to get back at her, to hurt her, to make her sorry, while another part of him kept saying that he had to keep his calm, he mustn't become the kind of person who took pleasure in hurting other people. He shouldn't need to get revenge in that way. No, he shouldn't have a need for revenge at all; it wasn't a good thing to want, he knew it. Though he couldn't help thinking that, had he had her at wand-point right now…

Draco looked like he wanted to keep questioning Harry, but, just as he opened his mouth to speak, Harry noticed that his eyes went from focusing on him, to travelling to a spot above his head.

Harry turned around quickly and found the headmaster standing there, looking fondly at them.

"Hello, Professor," Harry said, smiling slightly.

"It is so nice to see the two of you getting along," was Dumbledore's reply, and Harry and Draco looked at each other briefly, slightly amused.

"Harry," Dumbledore said, as Harry turned back towards the Headmaster. "I would like you to come with me after lunch. I have a number of things to tell you, and I am afraid this will involve your having to miss the rest of your classes for today."

Harry frowned.

"But-" he started, but Dumbledore cut him off with a wave of his hand.

"I have spoken with both Professor McGonagall, and Professor Hagrid, and they do not mind at all. Professor McGonagall will give your homework to Miss Granger –I am sure she will not forget to give it to you…"

The headmaster's eyes twinkled, and Harry nodded quietly.

"Whenever you are finished," Dumbledore said. "Come up to my office. The password is on this slip of paper."

The Headmaster handed Harry a little note, and Harry took it, quickly putting it in the right pocket of his robes. Seeming satisfied, Dumbledore gave Harry a smile and walked quickly out of the Hall.

Harry turned back to the table and sighed. He was having mixed feelings about this upcoming conversation with the Headmaster. On the one hand, it could mean that he would be given more information that would help him figure things out, and on the other hand, it could mean that he would learn of other tasks he had to perform, of more people who were relying on him to do something he didn't know how to do. It was all very frustrating.

Draco appeared to have read Harry's expression, for he quietly said,

"Looking forward to it..?"

Harry shrugged and didn't answer. He decided it would be best to get the whole thing over with, and, seeing as he wasn't hungry anyway, there wasn't really any use in his sitting at the table doing nothing.

"I'm going to see Dumbledore," he announced to Ron and Hermione, who had been staring at him ever since the Headmaster had come over to talk to him. "Apparently I'm going to miss Transfiguration and Care of Magical Creatures, so I suppose I'll see you at dinner."

Ron looked slightly jealous at the mention of missing classes, and Hermione looked mildly disapproving, but neither of them said anything as Harry got up and walked out of the Hall, followed by Draco.

"Might as well go to Transfiguration early," the other boy said, when Harry gave him a questioning look. "Don't much fancy being cursed or stared at. I'm almost starting to realise what it must be like to be you –I'm glad I'm not."

Draco made a face, and Harry couldn't help but smile faintly.

"I'm glad you've finally noticed that my life isn't a fairytale," he said, his smile fading quickly. "Maybe you could tell Snape."

Draco said nothing to this, and they walked on in silence. When they reached the hall that lead to the entrance to Dumbledore's office, Draco waved goodbye and turned right, and Harry continued towards the large, stone gargoyle, stopped in front of it, and got the little slip of paper with the password on it out of his pocket. It read:

Chocolate Frog

Laughing a little to himself, Harry gave the password to the gargoyle, which came to life and stepped aside, allowing Harry to pass through the entrance that had formed itself in the wall. He stepped carefully onto the revolving staircase, and heard the walls move back together behind him.

When the highly polished oak door came into view, Harry stepped off the moving stairs and raised his hand, giving the door a few, sharp knocks. The door swung open immediately to reveal a well-lit room and Dumbledore, gazing at Harry with a warm, though concerned expression.

"Come in, Harry, come in," he said, letting Harry in and closing the door behind him. "Please sit down."

Harry followed the Headmaster over to his desk and sat down in a chair in front of it, a chair he had sat in plenty of times before, and Dumbledore sat down in the chair behind the table, all the while surveying Harry closely through his half-moon spectacles.

"There are a number of reasons for my asking you to come up here today," the Headmaster started quietly. "The first reason is, of course, the incident with your scar yesterday."

Dumbledore paused, and Harry, not sure if he was supposed to speak or not, merely nodded, though his stomach flipped unpleasantly and it suddenly felt like someone had stuffed his head with cotton; Dumbledore's voice was strangely muffled. Please let everyone be ok, please let everyone be ok, he found himself thinking, and Dumbledore, seemingly reading his thoughts, added,

"Everyone we know is quite fine, Harry. As I said yesterday, it appears that Voldemort was dealing with his own when your scar hurt last night.

Harry let out a long sigh of relief. He really didn't think he could take any more deaths on their side right now. Dumbledore smiled kindly for moment, then his smile was replaced by the same concerned frown he had worn a minute ago.

"We really need to stop this connection between you and Voldemort though, Harry," he continued, looking grim. "I am afraid this means you shall have to continue your Occlumency lessons."

Harry nodded in agreement. He realised now that the only way to keep himself, and those around him, from harm, was to stop himself from having these visions and insights into Voldemort's mood. He knew now he couldn't trust them. Voldemort had been quiet over the summer, probably due to his defeat at the Ministry, but Harry knew it would only be a matter of time now before Voldemort, yet again, started using the connection between him and Harry against Harry.

"So you will be teaching me then?" Harry said, assuming as much, but, to his shock, Dumbledore slowly shook his head.

"I am afraid I cannot do that," he replied sadly. "I would like to, but, as we do not know what Voldemort is planning at the moment, and as we do not know how he has learned to use the connection between you, I think it unwise for me to be the one to teach you Occlumency. If he, somehow, manages to watch us through you without your noticing as you watched him last year, it can only mean destruction for the Order, if I find myself at the receiving end of his glare. I am, of course, fully capable of hiding my thoughts from him under normal conditions, but if he were to use you while we were practising, he could catch us both off our guards. That would not be a good thing at all."

Harry looked down, trying to take it all in, and, of course, Dumbledore was right. He couldn't risk exposing the Order's plans to Voldemort in that way. This could only mean one thing…

"Professor Snape will continue teaching you."

Harry groaned loudly and put his head in his hands.

"He hates me," he muttered, "especially after what happened last year… I assume he told you about that?"

Harry looked up to see the Headmaster nodding silently.

"He was not very happy about it," Dumbledore said, shaking his head apologetically, "but he has agreed, and he will teach you everything you need to know, as long as you are willing to learn, and practice."

Harry didn't know what to say. He would rather shove an entire pack of vomit-flavoured Bertie Bott's beans down his throat than be alone in a room with Snape ever again, but he needed to learn Occlumency.

"Fine," Harry heard himself say.

"I need to hear that you are practising this time, Harry," Dumbledore said, still looking concerned. "It is imperative that you learn to defend your mind from outside penetration, and it is not an easy thing to do. You will need to work hard."

Harry nodded gloomily.

"However," Dumbledore said, "I will be teaching you as well, that is, if you will accept my teachings."

Harry frowned, uncertain as to what Dumbledore was talking about.

"What do you mean?" he asked, sitting forward in his chair.

"I am speaking of the wandless magic you performed over the summer," Dumbledore replied, his expression less concerned now. "If you will let me, I will teach you more magic of this kind, that is, if you prove capable of doing it, which I do not doubt that you will."

Harry's mood lightened considerably upon hearing this. Dumbledore would be teaching him after all; this year wasn't going to be like last year. Though Harry would still have to endure lessons with Snape, he would at least be able to look forward to lessons with the Headmaster as well.

"I would like very much for you to teach me," Harry said contentedly. "I would like to do as much as I can to prepare myself for what is to come. I have read many books over the summer, but books can only get you so far."

Dumbledore nodded in agreement, and gave Harry another warm smile, a hint of a twinkle back in his eye.

"I am glad for you conviction Harry," he said warmly. "You have grown up a great deal over the summer. Many of the other members of the Order seem to think it not wise, but I think…"

Dumbledore paused, and Harry frowned. The Headmaster looked at him for a long moment and finally nodded to himself.

"Yes," he said firmly, and Harry, now thoroughly puzzled, gave him a questioning look.

"I think, though you are young," Dumbledore continued, "that, given what you have to do and all you have already had to face, you are more than ready to become a member of the Order of the Phoenix, if you so wish."

Harry gaped at him. He could not believe what he was hearing. This would mean that he would get all the information the other Order members were getting; he would know what was going on. This was a chance, unlike any other, for him to really prepare himself.

"Yes," Harry said instantly. "Yes, I want to become a member. I want to know what is going on. I want to be a part of the war I am meant to end. I want it more than anything."

Dumbledore's smile faded slightly, and Harry immediately got the feeling that his being a member might not give him all those benefits after all.

"I am afraid your becoming a member will not mean that you will get to know everything at once," the Headmaster said, confirming Harry's suspicions. "First you will need to learn to protect your mind. Then and then only can you be given all the information you want. We cannot risk revealing our plans to Voldemort. You must learn Occlumency; it all comes back to this, Harry."

Harry sighed wearily, but he understood what Dumbledore was saying, and the Headmaster was right, as usual. Harry could not be given information that might give the Order away if Voldemort was able to dig into his mind again; it just wasn't worth the risk.

"I understand," Harry said quietly.

"Very well then," Dumbledore said, smiling again. "I will make it known to the rest of the Order that you are to become a member. You will start Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape tomorrow; he requested that you be in his office no later than six o'clock. Training with me will start on Wednesday. You can come to my office any time between dinner and eight fifty-two" –Harry smiled to himself—"and that, I think, will be all for now."

Dumbledore smiled at him and got up from his chair. Harry was about to follow suit, but then he remembered, with a jolt of dread, what he had seen at the welcome feast last night. Marietta's eyes –Dumbledore should know…

"Professor," Harry said urgently. "There is something I forgot to tell you. It happened yesterday, right before my scar started hurting…"

Dumbledore sat down again as Harry told him exactly what he had seen the day before, and as Harry relived the happenings of the welcome feast, Dumbledore's expression became grave and worried once again. When Harry had finished, the Headmaster stood up and walked over to Fawkes, who was sitting on his perch, eyeing them intently.

"I will need you to give this message to Remus Lupin," he said, conjuring a slip of paper in mid-air and handing it to the phoenix.

As the bird disappeared in a burst of flames, Dumbledore turned back towards Harry with a very serious expression.

"I am very glad you told me this, Harry," he said calmly. "It might be a clue to a new scheme we think Voldemort might be working on. I will visit Miss Edgecomb immediately, and I would like you to go back to your dormitory and stay there for the evening."

Harry got up from his chair and walked quickly to the door, pulling it open just as the Headmaster laid a hand on his shoulder. Harry turned back around and faced him, realising just then, that the sun had set; his visit to Dumbledore's office hadn't seemed that long…

"I know that your trust in me has been bumped and bruised," the Headmaster said, sounding sorrowful, "but I hope that this might be a new start for that trust. I will not leave you out in the dark again, Harry. I am very impressed with the way you are handling this; your continuous spirit is much like your father's, and as soon as you master the skill of keeping your mind safe, I assure you I will keep nothing you wish to know from you any longer."

With that, Dumbledore let go of Harry's shoulder and he escorted Harry out of the door, stepping onto the revolving staircase next to him.

When they reached the bottom, the wall immediately opened to let them through, and as Harry headed for Gryffindor tower, Dumbledore bade him goodbye and headed, Harry assumed, for the Ravenclaw quarters.

When Harry entered the Gryffindor common room five minutes later, he was completely shocked to be met by a storm of applause and cheers. He hadn't even stepped through the portrait hole before someone came over and wringed his hand, congratulating him.

"What is this?" Harry said, confused, but just then, Professor McGonagall came over to him, beaming.

"Mr. Potter," she said, rather loudly. "It has been decided, assuming that you agree to do it, that you should be made captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team!"

Harry's mouth fell open. In a second it was as though a hole had been made in his brain and all his worries and fears just flew out of it.

"Wow," was all he managed to say, grinning so widely he was sure he must look completely ridiculous. "I mean, yes. Yes… wow."

The whole common room broke into cheers and applause once more, and Harry was immediately shoved into a chair and brought both food and drink. Seeing as he hadn't had any lunch or dinner, he was now very hungry, so he was very thankful for the pumpkin pasties he was brought, which he ate at once.

The portrait hole opened once more, and Hermione and Ron, followed by Ginny, Neville, and Seamus entered. As they looked around, Harry could tell that they were just as puzzled as he had been upon entering the common room and finding a party.

Harry stood up quickly and made his way over to them, still grinning.

"What's going on?" Ron asked, eyeing the food hungrily.

"I've been made quidditch captain," Harry said excitedly, still feeling very pleased.

Hermione didn't look like she took it all in at first, but then she shrieked and threw herself in his arms.

"Oh, congratulations, Harry!" she exclaimed, stepping back and giving him a big smile. "No one deserves it more than you! Oh, this is wonderful!"

Ron came up and patted his back, also grinning.

"Good on you, mate! That cup's going to be ours again, eh?"

Seamus gave him the thumbs up and Neville simply gave him an enthusiastic grin.

"Great, Harry," he said. "You're the best, really, you are."

Ginny was the last to approach him. She smiled widely, but seemed uncertain as to what she should do, and quite as nervous as she used to be around him.

"Congratulations," she said timidly, and walked up to him as though wanting to give him a hug, but backed up again a moment later, looking very shy.

Harry, who was now in a very good mood, gave her a warm smile and walked up to her instead, giving her a big hug.

"Thanks, Ginny," he said quietly, and as he stepped back, he could see that she was blushing furiously.

As she hurried towards the girls' dormitories, Harry watched her go and he suddenly felt very happy. He knew things couldn't stay like this; he knew he would have to face Occlumency with Snape the next day; he knew he was facing one of the hardest years of his life, but right now he felt, for once, like a normal teenager.

This was surely how life was supposed to be.

A/N: Well, there it is, folks. I hope you liked it! I don't think the next chapters will be this long, but one never knows... Anyway, thanks a bunch to everyone who reviewed, and please, please continue doing so! It is very important to me..! If you ask questions in your reviews, I will post answers in my profile page. I will also just post general thanks and such. So if you review, check that out! Ok, thanks again, guys, and keep those reviews coming:)