It was extremely early the following morning when Remus pulled Sirius out of bed. What started as a friendly wake up call quickly turned to a 'hex war' forcing Harry to run for cover which ended up being anywhere besides Marauder Quarters. Luckily Harry had already changed into his uniform so all he had to do was grab his schoolbag that was already filled with what he would need for the day's classes before hurrying to the Great Hall.
Surprisingly there were a few students already eating breakfast at the Ravenclaw table although they all looked a little on the tired side. At the Head Table, Professors McGonagall, Snape and Flitwick were seated also looking slightly drained. Harry had to wonder how the talks had gone last night but judging from the state the three Heads of Houses were in they didn't go smoothly. He had figured that the talk with the Gryffindors would have been difficult since a part of the lecture included speaking up when someone you know is being mistreated. It was bound to be taken personally since no one in the Gryffindor House had said a word of how Umbridge had acted towards Harry.
Sitting down at the Gryffindor table, Harry started to mindlessly pile food on his plate. He was nervous about his first Occlumency lesson tonight as well as his first Defense class with Sirius. The Animagus was a good teacher but certainly had his own way of doing things. The 'hands on' approach that Sirius preferred was the complete opposite of Umbridge. Sirius had been disgusted with the book Umbridge had assigned and bluntly stated that he would most likely have to start from scratch for all years to repair the damage. How can one person cause so much damage in such little time?
Harry was pulled out of his thoughts as Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny sat down around him. They all looked half-asleep still which made Harry wonder what had indeed happened last night. The talk shouldn't have been that bad. "Er—rough night?" Harry asked curiously.
Ron looked at Harry and sighed. "There had been a lot of questions," he admitted. "By the time we got to the Tower everyone had heard about the blood quill but not many knew what it was. You were right, Harry. There isn't exactly a way to learn about illegal artifacts unless you personally research them. McGonagall told us about the different types of abuse and that was something I definitely could have lived without learning. I mean…who could be that sick to do something like that to a kid?"
"You'd be surprised," Harry muttered causing everyone around him to stare in shock. "Not to me!" he exclaimed causing everyone to relax. "I meant that it does happen, at least in the muggle world. That's why people tell their kids never to wander off and don't talk to strangers. Not all predators are animals, Ron…er—maybe they are they just don't all look like animals."
"I guess Moody wasn't kidding when he lectured about constant vigilance," Ginny said causing quite a few people to nod in agreement. "So...Harry, what can we expect from Professor Black?"
Everyone's faces turned from downcast to eager as Harry smiled. "It certainly won't be anything like Umbridge," Harry said honestly. "He'll probably try to find out how much everyone knows this week before actually teaching anything. Since he knows about the D.A.—"
Harry was surprised at the collective outburst then remembered that he had forgotten to mention it last night with everything else that had been going on. "I told Sirius and Remus about the D.A. before the hearing," he said with a shrug. "Sirius wasn't a teacher then so I didn't think it would be a big deal if he knew. Remus approved of the group and Sirius was a little upset that we were defying the Ministry without him knowing about it."
Fred and George grinned. "Spoken like a true Marauder," George said proudly. "I still can't believe we are actually learning from a Marauder—and Sirius Black no less!"
Harry looked at George with a raised eyebrow. That had been something he hadn't expected to hear. He knew Fred and George idolized the Marauders but Harry really didn't like the way George was speaking. How many others were thinking of Sirius as the Azkaban escapee turned celebrity instead of the actual Sirius Black? "May I remind you that you've already been taught by Remus who is also a former Marauder?" Harry asked. "And don't you dare let him hear you speaking about him like that. He's nervous enough as it is."
Fred and George nodded and returned to their attention to their plates. Harry knew many overlooked Remus' past at Hogwarts because he was so sensible so he didn't take any offense to the comment George made. He was just extremely defensive of his guardians and the skewed opinions the wizarding world had of them, especially with everything that had happened recently.
Ron turned and looked directly at Harry with a serious look on his face. "You're okay, right?" he asked. "Mum and Dad told us not to say anything so if you don't want to talk about it you don't have to. I guess I just want to make sure you're—er—well—"
"—okay?" Harry offered causing Ron to smile slightly. "I'm fine and I mean it. Sirius and Remus helped me work through it all. I also think confronting her at the hearing helped too. I'm sorry I hid it all but I honestly thought I was doing thought I was doing the right thing and I didn't think there was anything anyone could do. For all I knew Umbridge had the Ministry behind her. Fudge claims that he didn't know about the quill but he knew she was singling me out in an attempt to force the 'Ministry Perspective' on me."
"You still should have told us, Harry," Hermione offered gently. "We would have found a way to help you even if it was just emotional support."
Ron glanced at Harry's right hand before looking at Harry in confusion. It didn't take a mastermind to know what he was looking for. "Er—so, what happened to the scar?" he asked curiously. "Bill told us he saw it and it looked painful."
Harry glanced at the unmarked skin on the back of the right hand. "Fawkes healed it for me one morning," he said with a shrug. "I'm glad. I didn't need a constant reminder of it all." He looked at those around him to see a mixture of sympathy and amazement. "Honestly, I'm fine. Umbridge can't come anywhere near me and we don't have to sit through her poor excuse of classes."
"That's good but it doesn't excuse what happened, Harry," Fred said seriously. "You're a part of our family which means it's our job to look out for our younger siblings." He glanced at George who nodded before continuing. "We know it's different now that your guardians here and everything but we're here if you need us."
"Because you know there are some things you just can't talk to an adult about," George added with a grin.
"Good morning, Professor!" Hermione said causing everyone to quickly look up and see Sirius walking towards Harry.
"Good morning, Hermione," Sirius said with a smile as he stopped behind Harry and gave the teen's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "I will admit that it probably will take a while before I'm used to being called a Professor. And Harry, I will need your assistance later for a little payback against Moony since you decided to abandon me this morning when he started hexing me."
Harry smirked at the memory. "I seem to remember you returned as many hexes as you received," he said casually. "You're just upset because Remus fought as dirty as you usually do."
"Me?" Sirius said in mock offense causing several people nearby to snicker at the banter between the two. "Fight dirty? Never! I fight to win. There's a difference, Harry. Fighting dirty is going for the cheap shots when you don't have to. Fighting to win is using any means necessary to defeat your opponent."
Harry let out a snort. Sometimes it was best to just accept 'Sirius logic' no matter how illogical it sounded. "Yep, that was about as clear as mud," he said sarcastically. "If you want revenge against Remus then fine but you're on your own. I value my life and getting in the middle of a prank war is not my idea of a cup of tea."
"Prank war!" Fred asked eagerly. "Where can we sign up?"
Sirius smiled mischievously at the twins. "We'll talk later," he said with a wink and gave Harry's shoulder another squeeze before releasing. "Have fun today, all of you, and I'm looking forward to seeing your lot in class today, kiddo." Everyone bid an excited farewell as Sirius made his way to the Head Table.
Soon enough the time for classes to begin drew near and everyone departed the Great Hall for their first class of the day. After an unbelievably boring History of Magic, Harry had to endure Double Potions with Professor Snape who was surprisingly quiet. He didn't make nearly as many comments about incompetent dunderheads as he normally did. Thankfully there had been no cauldrons that exploded which would have guaranteed a colorful outburst from Snape.
Divination dragged on considerably with Harry and Ron trying desperately not to laugh at Professor Trelawney predicting Umbridge's demise although everyone had to admit that they had never seen the Divination teacher so happy before. It was probably the first class in a long while that Trelawney hadn't predicted Harry's painful death so all in all it was a good class, at least it should have been but it just felt wrong.
Finally the time for Defense Against the Dark Arts had arrived. Entering the classroom, Harry had to smile at the sight of Sirius sitting on the teacher's desk as he flipped through 'Defensive Magical Theory' by Wilbert Slinkhard. Ron pulled Harry to seats in the front of the classroom, eager for class to begin. Sirius glanced up at Harry and winked before returning his attention to the book. Soon enough the classroom had filled and class had begun.
"Right-o," Sirius said as he jumped off the desk and closed the book. "Good afternoon! As you all have already heard, I'm your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Sirius Black. Now, we have quite a bit to cover if all of you are going to be ready for your OWLs and if this rubbish is what you've been learning then I certainly have my work cut out for me." Sirius walked over to the rubbish bin and dropped the book in it. "According to the OWL guidelines you will be given two exams: one theoretical and one practical. Mondays we will be working on the theory behind the spells and Thursdays we will be working on the spells by means of dueling dummies and dueling with each other."
Excited whispers broke out throughout the classroom before Sirius silenced them with a patient look. "As for today, I'm afraid class won't be very exciting," Sirius continued as he stood in front of his desk. "Everyone, please take out some parchment, ink and a quill. For the next twenty minutes, I need all of you to describe your experience in the area of defense and I need you to be completely honest." Sirius glanced at Ron and Hermione who looked slightly sheepish. "I need to know what you know so I can prepare you all properly. It is pointless to teach you advanced spells if you haven't grasped the basics."
Everyone did as they were told. Harry was about to follow suit when Sirius moved to Harry's side. "You don't have to do this, Pronglet," Sirius whispered in Harry's ear. "Instead, I need you to write down who's in your group and what you've covered, all right?"
Harry nodded and started making his lists. He already knew what Sirius was planning. Since the D.A. didn't include everyone, there were going to be a wide variety of levels. Once the time was up everyone handed in their parchment and Sirius quickly looked through them before sorting them into two piles. He then took the larger pile and fingered through them before returning his complete attention to the students.
"Well, let's get started…"
That evening at dinner those who had sat through a Defense class with Sirius couldn't say enough about the new teacher. For the first time students seemed excited about receiving schoolwork which just seemed wrong but after Umbridge and her lessons students were happy to actually learn something. The fifth years had an essay due on Thursday on a hex, spell, or charm used in dueling meant to help them with the practical lesson on Thursday, something that every fifth year Gryffindor was still talking excitedly about.
Harry ate quickly while he took all of the chatter around him. He had a little under an hour before his first Occlumency lesson and to say he was nervous would be an understatement. He had read almost half of the first book but still didn't have a clear idea of how to actually organize his thoughts and create the fortress to protect his mind from Voldemort. Realistically Harry needed more time but Professor Snape wasn't one to grant favors, especially since the Potions Master was already taking time out of his schedule to help someone he wasn't too fond of.
At half past five Harry had finished eating and bid farewell to Ron and Hermione before leaving for Sirius' office. As far as they knew he was spending some time with his guardians, something that Ron and Hermione hadn't been too thrilled to hear. Harry didn't miss the disappointed looks on Ron and Hermione's faces. They were still hoping to hear what had happened at the hearing just like everyone else.
Having Sirius and Remus at Hogwarts was going to take some adjusting. Harry's first instinct was to run to Sirius and Remus when he needed to talk about something, not Ron and Hermione. With everything that had happened Harry just felt more comfortable turning to his guardians than his friends. He knew it had a lot to do with the fact that Sirius and Remus knew everything now unlike Ron and Hermione. Harry knew he had to find a way to tell them about his outbursts but the same couldn't be said for his Occlumency lessons. Professor Snape had been clear that it had to remain a secret.
Reaching the Sirius' office, Harry let out a breath then knocked on the door only to jump back when the door opened a moment later to reveal Sirius' smiling face. Harry tried to smile back but knew it wasn't sincere. Sirius must have noticed Harry's nervousness because with one motion he had Harry in his office with an arm around the teen's shoulders. The decorum of the room had certainly changed. There was absolutely nothing with a cat on it in the room. Instead, there were shelves of books where there had been plates and over the fireplace was the painting Harry had given Sirius and Remus for Christmas. It certainly looked a lot better than before.
Harry sat down in front of Sirius' desk, dropping his schoolbag on the floor in the process. "So how was the first day, Professor?" he asked curiously.
Sirius scowled before ruffling Harry's hair. "Please don't call me that any more than you have to," he pleaded. "Just hearing 'Professor Black' is enough to make me cringe. Moony's having a lot of fun with this. I'm still trying to think of an adequate prank to pay him back for this morning."
The sound of the door opening quickly startled both Harry and Sirius causing them both to grab their wands as they turned to the door. They relaxed a moment later when Remus came running in with a piece of parchment in his hand and a smile on his face. "Dumbledore just got word on Umbridge!" Remus said happily. "St. Mungo's deemed her mentally competent. She was just sentenced to two years in Azkaban for casting an Unforgivable and two more years for her treatment towards you, Harry, here. Madam Bones has also started an investigation to determine Fudge's role in everything. We won!"
Harry stared at Remus in confusion as he put his wand back in his holster. "So they just proved Umbridge was sane so they could take her to a place that would make her insane," he concluded then shook his head when Sirius and Remus nodded. "That's messed up. Azkaban can have her for all I care but that just doesn't make any sense to me."
Sirius chuckled as he pulled Harry into an embrace. "Maybe not but it's what she deserves," he said truthfully. "Well, legally that's what she deserves. I just wish we could have had five minutes—"
"—Sirius," Remus warned. "Don't give Harry any ideas."
There was an overabundance of green flames that quickly ended the conversation followed by Professor Snape stepping out of the fireplace. He took one look at the scene before him and sneered but remained silent as he enfolded his arms across his chest. The silent message clearly stated that Professor Snape had the floor now, family bonding later.
"Good evening, Severus," Remus said with a nod then looked at Harry and Sirius. "I'll catch up with you two later. Don't cause problems, Sirius."
"Why does everyone assume I'm going to cause problems?" Sirius asked in exasperation. Silence. Remus and Harry just looked at Sirius while Professor Snape's glare narrowed. "Fine!" Sirius said as he walked to his desk and sat down, looking like a child sulking.
Remus shook his head and bid farewell before leaving the room. Taking in a nervous breath, Harry turned to Professor Snape who was still glaring at Sirius. This may be a problem. Both Sirius and Professor Snape had their grudges against each other. Harry just wished they wouldn't look like they were about to hex each other to death. It was extremely intimidating.
"One word, Black, and you'll be forced to leave," Professor Snape warned. "Let's not forget I'm here to help save your precious godson's fragile mind."
Sirius inhaled sharply as he glared back at Professor Snape. "Just give me a reason, Snape," he spat. "I have no problem taking my revenge against Umbridge out on you."
Harry's shoulders slumped as he reached into his schoolbag and pulled out his Occlumency book out. This certainly wasn't the start he had been hoping for. "Sir," Harry said addressing Professor Snape. "I understand the organizing of thoughts helps increase the defenses but so far I don't understand how something so simple could create a barrier against a mental attack. I spent months keeping my emotions controlled yet Voldemort still was in my head."
Professor Snape turned his attention to Harry. "First rule, Potter," he spat. "You will not say the Dark Lord's name." Harry just blinked at Snape unable to think of anything to say. That was something he hadn't been expecting from the spy for the Order. "You are correct. Actually creating the 'barrier' as you call it around your mind isn't as simple as that book depicts it. You must shut down feelings and memories so those who have mastered Legilimency, such as the Dark Lord, can not detect lying or even intrude into one's mind. You do know what Legilimency is, correct?"
Harry nodded as he set his book down. He had read that Legilimency is what is used to penetrate the mind locate memories and feelings or even plant false impressions such as what Voldemort had been doing to him. He had also ready that eye contact was essential for Legilimency but the link with Harry's scar made Harry a special case. Just like everything else.
Professor Snape pulled up a chair. "Sit down, Potter," he instructed and waited for Harry to comply. "Now, you need to clear your mind of all thought and emotion." Harry started to close his eyes. "Keep your eyes open, Potter. Concentrate on clearing your mind."
Harry stared at Professor Snape as he let his mind blank out. He pushed his worries and fears aside, they could not help him now. For a moment it felt like nothing was changing as Harry stared into Snape's black eyes thinking of absolutely nothing. His calming techniques entered his mind. Concentrate on the simple things: breathing and your heart beat. Harry felt his body relax as he continued to stare forward. He didn't notice Professor Snape pulling out his wand. Breathe in, breathe out.
"Legilimens!" Professor Snape said softly.
A white fog quickly blocked Harry's vision as he felt something pulling him into one direction but not a definite one. Harry fought to concentrate only on his breathing until the fog quickly dispersed and he found himself being thrown in his room at Privet Drive. "You ungrateful freak!" shouted Uncle Vernon as Harry landed on the floor and looked up at his Uncle in fear. "How dare you give your freaky friends our number! I'm going to teach you respect, you pathetic little brat if it's the last thing I do!"
No…No…NO! He didn't want anyone to know about that! It was bad enough that everyone knew something had happened. They didn't need to know the details. Harry forced himself to turn his head and look away, instantly breaking the connection. His breathing was slightly labored as he grabbed hold of the chair to stop himself from falling off it. He felt a hand on his back as another tilted his head so he met Professor Snape's eyes again.
"That was fairly impressive for a first try, Potter," Professor Snape said coolly. "You managed to elude the spell for nearly five minutes but you failed none the less. The Dark Lord will not hesitate to grab for your most painful memories to weaken you." Professor Snape took a step back and eyed Harry suspiciously. "Potter, did anyone ever talk to you concerning the colorful language your uncle used against you?"
Harry looked away again and noticed that Sirius was kneeling beside him with a concerned look on his face. Remus had been rather insistent on assuring Harry that Vernon Dursley had been wrong to call Harry a 'freak' and a 'burden'. Harry knew his uncle had been wrong to take his anger out on him. He knew that his relatives were wrong to treat him like dirt. What else was there to talk about?
Professor Snape let out a frustrated sigh as he rubbed his eyes. "Well I can't say I'm surprised," he muttered. "You Gryffindors do tend to miss the obvious. Potter, did you ever wonder how Umbridge knew what to say that would bring back the doubts instilled upon you from living with your relatives? She obviously talked to him. Her verbal abuse was only a continuation of your uncle's. It certainly explains why you never said anything to anyone."
Sirius let out a sigh as he stood up and gave Harry's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "We can talk about it later," he said softly then glared at Snape. "You had to go for the most traumatizing memory you could find!"
Professor Snape glanced at Sirius before returning his gaze to Harry. "Again, Potter," he said coolly. "Black, back off." Sirius glared at Snape before walking back to his desk and sitting down. "Once again, Potter."
Harry desperately tried to push the memory of his uncle out of his mind and forced himself to concentrate on his breathing and only his breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. It was the past and the past couldn't hurt him anymore. Breathe in, breathe out. Vernon Dursley was in jail. Breathe in, breathe out. Harry felt his body relax as he stared straight ahead but not actually seeing anything. He was accustomed to retreating into his mind this year. It had been the only way to survive the detentions with Umbridge without acting out.
"Legilimens!" Professor Snape said again.
Once again a white fog settled in as Harry started to feel himself being tugged into multiple directions at the same time. He tried to break free of the invisible hands but they wouldn't release him. He tried to break free but the invisible hands tightened their grip and continued to pull him. Harry started to panic, crying out in frustration as he tried to break free. The fog started to disperse as voices filled his head.
"Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!"
"Stand aside, you silly girl…stand aside, now…"
Green light flashed before him and then the scene changed. Harry found himself standing in front of Quirrell and blocked off from escape by towering flames…he was in the Chamber as a teenage Tom Riddle revealed he was actually Voldemort…he tied to the headstone at the graveyard as Voldemort approached…he was dueling Voldemort as the third outburst hit him, causing unbelievable pain…
STOP! STOP IT!
Suddenly Harry found himself back in Sirius' office with his wand in hand and Professor Snape on his knees, wincing in pain in front of him. Harry instantly paled as he dropped his wand and fell out of his chair before quickly backing away until he hit the wall. What had he done? He didn't even remember arming himself. Harry stared with wide eyes as Sirius crouched down in front of him, blocking Professor Snape from the teen's line of sight.
"Harry, calm down," Sirius said gently. "It's okay. You were just defending yourself. Snape knows that. You did nothing wrong." He moved his head so his eyes met Harry's. "No harm done, all right kiddo? You wanted him out so you forced him out."
"However using a powerful Stinging Hex wasn't the most desirable method to go about it," Professor Snape growled as he stood up. "You fought harder this time, Potter, however you let me see too much before you pushed me out. You must keep fighting every step of the way. Again."
"Give him a moment, Snape!" Sirius spat as he helped Harry to his feet then turned to the Potions Master appearing to be ready to duel if he had to. "I'd like to see anyone function with you poking around in their head!"
"How is anyone supposed to learn anything when they are treated like a helpless infant," Snape shot back. "Enjoy playing the 'mother hen', Black? I must say the role suits you rather well."
"Enough!" Harry shouted as he pulled free of Sirius' hold and moved so he was standing between the two grown wizards. He knew that unless he did something now Sirius and Professor Snape would start cursing each other. "Let's just get this over with before you two kill each other."
Snape's scowled and pointed his wand at Harry. "Fine," he spat. "Get ready. One…two…three…Legilimens!"
Harry had barely time to even begin pushing away his emotions before the spell hit. Once again Harry's vision clouded as he felt himself being pulled into different directions by invisible hands. He instantly started to fight to break free of the strong hold on his body and tried to create a wall to block the hands that kept pulling at him, pestering him for something that he was determined not to give. He couldn't afford to.
Darkness began to creep in from the corners of his vision as distant voices echoed in his ears. He couldn't make out what was being said and he didn't want to. Wanting to know would only allow Professor Snape access to his memories. Harry fought to keep the fog. He fought to break free. His breathing started to quicken as sweat started to roll down the sides of his face. He could feel himself weakening as the darkness increased, swirling around him…consuming him.
Harry was five-years-old, huddled in his cupboard under the stairs trying desperately to hide from Dudley and his gang…he was nearly thirteen outside Number 4, Privet Drive, meeting Midnight for the first time…he was fourteen and hiding in the Owlery after being announced the fourth champion…he was fifteen and bandaging his hand in one of the bathrooms after a detention with Umbridge…
No! Stop it! Stop it!
The memories quickly faded into darkness as Harry realized that his eyes were closed and he was shivering uncontrollably as Sirius held him tightly. Opening his eyes, Harry noticed that Professor Snape was putting his wand away. Ignoring the exhaustion that was settling in, Harry pulled himself free and moved to stand up again, ready to face Professor Snape again. Sirius quickly helped Harry stand before ushering him to the nearest chair.
"I believe that is all you can manage tonight, Potter," Professor Snape said in his usual drawl. "You are still allowing me to see too much once I access your memories. For your first lesson, it wasn't as dismal as it could have been. You show some promise but you must continue to work at it. You must practice ridding your mind of emotion every night before sleep, understand Potter? Every night."
"Yes sir," Harry said tiredly.
"We will meet again on Wednesday to continue," Professor Snape said firmly.
"I can't, sir," Harry said nervously. "I have Council meetings on Wednesday nights. With the staff coming to the next D.A. meeting we need—"
"—yes, I heard about your little group," Professor Snape said impatiently. "Thursday then, same time. I expect to see some progress, Potter."
Harry nodded and watched as Professor Snape approached the fireplace, grabbed a handful of powder out of the nearby vase and threw it at the fire before he stepped in and vanished. Daring a glance at Sirius, Harry knew his godfather wanted to say something but the problem was Harry was just too exhausted to deal with the past at the moment. He had more pressing matters than understanding that being called a 'freak' by his relatives was verbal abuse. Keeping Voldemort out of his head, classes, schoolwork, Quidditch, and the D.A. were more important at the moment.
After assuring Sirius that he would talk about matters of the past when he wasn't so backlogged, Harry hurried back to the Gryffindor Tower to start his schoolwork. It was still early so unfortunately the Common Room was full of people. Harry managed to dodge questions, insisting that he had assignments to finish. Ron and Hermione jumped in to help and in no time Harry was caught up with what he needed to be before calling it a night.
Retreating up to his dorm, Harry focused on clearing his mind as he changed into his pajamas and crawled into bed. He could already feel sleep taking him when an overwhelming rush of what could only be described as joy filled him. Harry quickly fought against the feeling, trying desperately to push it away and eventually did but the joy was soon replaced by his own dread. It was never a good sign when Voldemort was feeling that happy.