Chapter 13

Harry Potter found no comfort in sleep that night. Flashes of horrific scenes plagued his dreams and after everyone there was always the same thing: a pair of red eyes staring into him as though it could see into his very soul. And then there would be a flash of white light and Harry would be shocked awake. This happened five times before Harry finally gave up after waking up in a cold sweat at 6 AM. Not only did he feel like he hadn't slept at all, he felt as though he had been running all night.

Harry dragged himself out of bed and went to look at his reflection in the mirror. The shock of seeing himself is what finally snapped Harry back to his senses. His hair was disheveled far more than usual, his skin was pale and seemed to have sunk into his face somewhat, and the black circles under his eyes were so dark it almost looked like spilled ink.

What is going on with me? Harry asked himself, utterly confused as to what was happening. Last night he used the same occlumency techniques that he had been using for the past few months every night. Why am I having visions now? Harry absently rubbed the scar on his forehead as it was itching ever so slightly. I must have done something wrong last night, I must have messed up the occlumency somehow, Harry reasoned to himself.

Harry shook his head and rummaged about the room getting himself dressed for his morning run. As he pulled on his shoes, Harry resolved to work harder on occlumency to make sure that something like this doesn't happen again.

Harry quickly left the castle and didn't even bother to stretch before starting to jog. He didn't even bother with circling the castle grounds instead opting to go right for the Forbidden Forest. It was still early enough that the sun had yet to come up so Harry found himself running in very dark woods. But the darkness didn't bother Harry at all, quite to the contrary, he found solace in the cold stillness of morning just before dawn.

The run dragged on with far more difficulty than Harry was used to. Twice, Harry was forced to stop and walk for a moment to catch his breath and try and ease the burning pain in his sides. Finally Harry finished his morning run and dragged himself back to the castle for breakfast.

Harry walked in right on the middle of breakfast so the Great Hall was nearly full. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Cho sitting at the Ravenclaw table, her head bowed low and looking like she too had a rough night. Harry quickly pushed thoughts of Cho out of his mind as he sat down at the Gryffindor table next to Ron and Hermione.

Harry didn't meet their eyes and simply piled food onto his plate and began to eat at a very slow pace. Harry knew what Hermione was going to ask before she even opened her mouth, "Harry, are you feeling alright?"

Harry looked up and considered just lying like he had last year, but in the end he just responded truthfully as lying could only make the situation worse. "I had a pretty terrible night last night. Didn't get much sleep," Harry said.

Hermione leaned in close and asked in a hushed tone, "Are you having visions again, Harry?"

"Not visions, the way I was last year," Harry answered. "It's more like flashes and images. It's like I'm almost getting visions but they're all jumbled up and disjointed. I can't make any sense of what they are. Hopefully this will be an isolated occurrence, I mean it hasn't happened all summer, why would it happen now?"

Ron just shrugged his shoulders while Hermione looked as though her brain was furiously trying to work out what was going on. Although Harry had barely eaten anything he didn't feel hungry at all so he got up and said, "I'll see you guys later."

"Hang on, Harry," Ron said. "The DA is meeting tonight. Hermione and I kept it going while you were . . . well you know."

Harry thought for a few moment and said, "Sorry, Ron, but I just don't have the time to teach it like I did last year."

Ron looked surprised before laughing and saying, "No, no, Harry. We weren't asking you to come back and teach. We just wanted to know if you wanted to sit in on the meeting and see how everyone has progressed. Hermione and I teach the class, now. Although Professor White does help us a lot."

"Professor White?" Harry asked, confused.

"The new Defense teacher," Ron said.

"Oh right, right," Harry said remembering. Harry had heard from some people that Professor White was a pretty good teacher, roughly on par with Remus as far as most people were concerned. Obviously Harry would never think that anyone would ever be as good as Remus, but the endorsement had made Harry curious as to what her classes would have been like.

"I don't know," Harry said, still reluctant about getting involved in something like that again. "What time would it be at?" Harry asked hoping that he would be able to use his studies as an excuse to get out of going.

"The meeting starts at 8 and goes until 10. It's past curfew, but we have special permission from Dumbledore because it's only for fifth years and higher. And I know you don't have anything going on at that time so you have no excuse," Ron said with a victorious smirk on his face.

Harry smiled and said, "Alright, I'll be there."

Ron grins and slaps him on the shoulder, "Alright, I'll see you there, mate."

"See you there," Harry responded.


The rest of the day progressed fairly normally. Harry lifted weights, studied (with particular emphasis on occlumency), and did his best to avoid the groups of girls that would follow him around, constantly asking him to that damnable Halloween Ball. Harry really could not have been any more annoyed by Dumbledore's idea of welcoming Harry back to Hogwarts. Personally, Harry wanted to slip some Viagra into Dumbledore's pumpkin juice for some good-natured revenge. But then Harry remembered that doing that would just be disgusting . . . funny, but disgusting.

Finally 8 o'clock rolled around and Harry made his way to the room of requirement. Opening it, he couldn't help but be surprised at the sight that met him. It looked as though every student from the fifth year and up were all in the DA now, even a fair number of Slytherins were present.

Obviously Malfoy was no where to be found, but then again Malfoy would never actually do anything like this as he would quickly be shown for the weak fraud that he was. No, Malfoy would continue to terrorize younger and less-confident students, making sure that he always had the advantage in numbers. Harry couldn't help but feel a surge of hate as he thought about Malfoy and what he would do to the son of the death eater who tortured him. So far Malfoy had avoided Harry like the plague, Harry simply reasoned that Malfoy must have some basic level of survival instinct kicking in.

Harry greeted Ron and Hermione and many of the other original members of the DA. To his great surprise Marietta Edgecomb was there, although she seemed to be trying to avoid Harry. Harry asked Ron why Marietta was still there.

Ron had replied that he had originally wanted to ban her for life from the DA, but Hermione and the other "founding" members decided that forgiveness would be the best course of action. What really shocked Harry was that Ron said that forgiving Marietta was one of the best things they could have done as it strengthened the bond that the houses were all forming here.

Harry couldn't disagree as he saw all the houses working together to practice their defensive magic. Harry even saw a fifth year Slytherin paired up with a fifth year Hufflepuff, giving the other tips on how to duel properly.

Cho was also there, but Harry steadfastly avoided all eye contact with her and refused to look in her direction.

Harry immediately found that being a mere observer, instead of the leader, was actually quite enjoyable. Occasionally he would see one of the newer members making some kind of obvious mistake so he would go over and quickly correct them before resuming his role as an observer. He had to admit that he was very impressed with the progress that the entire DA seemed to have made. Harry had little doubt that if the time ever called for it, many of these students, in a group of three or four could easily take down a death eater.

Unfortunately, Harry began to immediately notice that there were some very fundamental things happening that he didn't much like at all. For instance, all the curses and hexes being learned and practiced were all rather harmless in nature. Harry knew from experience that when fighting death eaters, one must make sure that there is no possibility of the death eater returning to the fight. Killing them is obviously the easiest and most simple way of doing this, but even bone-breaking curses and other harsh curses could do the job.

What Harry was seeing was the perfect example of why the death eaters had such a tremendous advantage. The forces of the light were reluctant to use lethal or even brutal force in battle.

But as Harry walked around the periphery of the DA, he did notice that even though the curses were benign in nature, the technique and stances he was seeing were all very good. In the DA he saw some definite potential for a handful of superb duelers. As Harry continued to observe he noticed that the new Defense Professor was present and currently helping several of the younger students on how to properly stand and move throughout a duel.

Ah, so that's why all the stances are so good, Harry thought to himself. Harry watched Professor White for sometime as she instructed. Harry couldn't help but be impressed with her apparent dueling skills. She was definitely on par with almost any auror or death eater that Harry knew of. She seemed to move with a confidence and grace that only years of training could ever have produced. As Harry truly looked at her he couldn't help but notice that she was extremely beautiful. Harry thought that she couldn't be any older than Tonks, and possibly even a year younger. She was fairly short, standing slightly shorter than Harry, himself, and she possessed an extremely athletic figure, but not to the point where she lost any of her feminine curves.

She had brown hair that was cut so that it hung just slightly above the shoulders, and dark eyes that seemed to radiate softness. All in all, Harry was extremely attracted to her. And technically she wasn't even his professor . . .

Harry was interrupted from his thoughts by Ron calling for everyone's attention. Apparently a new segment of the DA was about to begin. It seemed that a few randomly selected people, but still at the same skill level, would duel each other while the rest of the DA watches and critiques the duel.

It seemed that the parchment that Hermione had originally charmed last year had undergone some modifications as well as an expansion to include all the new members. It was that parchment that would select the DA members to duel.

Harry watched, amused by the entire proceeding, as the first two duels were fought. Those duels were both between beginner members and as such were both rather rudimentary and slow paced. But the next duel was between Susan Bones and Dean Thomas. Harry watched on as two of the original DA squared off.

The duel didn't last very long, but that was only because it was very fast paced and surprisingly viscous. Harry was very impressed with the progress that the two had made, they were throwing powerful curses and using complicated shield charms. It was only when Dean accidentally tripped on his robe after dodging a curse that Susan managed to gain the upper hand and quickly disarmed him.

Harry applauded, along with the rest of the DA for a well fought duel. Harry was looking forward to who would duel next and looked to Hermione to produce the next pair. What she said rather surprised Harry.

"I know this is a bit unorthodox, but if the rest of you don't mind, Ron and I would like to take the next duel. It has been quite some time since either one of us has fought in a duel, and we were hoping for a bit of practice. If no one has any objections . . ." Hermione trailed off.

No one seemed to mind that the two leaders of the DA were volunteering to fight what would certainly be a spectacular duel. Just before Hermione and Ron stepped onto the stage, Hermione briefly made eye contact with Harry, and he was able to use legilimency to pick up on the notion that the true motivation for her and Ron volunteering for the fight was to show him what they had learned since the summer.

Not that Harry minded in the slightest. To be completely truthful, he was very curious as to how much progress they had actually made. Hermione and Ron both bowed formally to each other and then the duel began. To say Harry was amazed would be an understatement. The progress everyone else seemed to have made absolutely paled in comparison to what he was looking at right now. Harry watched at they both rapidly cast curses at each other. Harry noticed that neither of them really bothered much with shield charms or things of that nature, instead opting to dance around the dueling ring dodging the curses that they were both being assaulted with. Harry knew right away that there was no chance that any other member of the DA could ever hope to stand against either of those two. Their dueling expertise had improved to the point where they could only train against each other or someone at a superior level, and at the moment Harry doubted that many wizards short of being aurors would be able to handle his two best friends at the moment.

The duel stretched longer than any other previous duel, lasting well beyond five minutes. Finally sometime in the seventh minute of the duel, Ron managed to cast a freezing charm on the floor where Hermione was currently running. An incredibly thin layer of ice formed on the floor, but it was enough for Hermione to slip and lose her balance. Ron took immediate advantage of Hermione's moment of vulnerability and quickly disarmed her.

There was silence for only a moment before the entire room erupted into cheers and applause. Harry joined in, clapping enthusiastically for his best friends. That had truly been a superb display of dueling skill. Already Harry was considering training with the two of them as they both seemed more than capable of taking their dueling to the next level.

Harry moved through the crowd of students to get to Ron and Hermione so that he could congratulate them. "That was fantastic, you two!" Harry praised them as he finally pushed his way through to them and climbed up on the dueling stage with them.

"Thanks, mate," Ron panted still very winded from the duel. "I got lucky at the end there, usually Hermione beats me, that charm worked much better than I really thought it would."

Harry had to hide his surprise at what Ron said. As far as Harry could tell, Ron had never before shied away from praise much less actually try and pass it off as nothing more than luck.

"What did you think, Harry?" Hermione asked.

"Of the duel?" Harry asked.

"Well, yes the duel, but more of the entire DA meeting, what did you think of it?"

"I think you've all made incredible progress. I'll admit to being surprised at the improvement that many of the members have made. There are some things I saw that I would do differently, but it's mostly nothing."

"No, Harry, tell us what you would do differently. I mean, we're all trying to learn to be as good as we can possibly be, you don't need to coddle us and try and protect our feelings. If you saw something wrong, tell us," Hermione said.

"I didn't see anything wrong," Harry said, reluctant to voice his true feelings.

"Dammit, Harry, just tell us what you honestly thought of everything, and what you would do differently. It's not like you're trying to hurt our feelings here, so just spit it out," Ron said rather forcefully.

"Alright," Harry said, "For one thing, the curses and hexes you're all using are all well and good for school yard scuffles, but in a duel with death eaters you're going to want something a bit more potent than the jelly-legs jinx. I would recommend some irreversible, semi-lethal curses. Something like the bone-breaking hex, and bludgeoning curse, basically things that can't be solved with a simple 'finite incantatem'."

"But, Harry, we're not trying to kill anyone," Hermione said.

"Why not?" Harry asked simply. "Why are you so protective of the lives of death eaters? Why should you extend the courtesy of non-lethal curses to those who would kill you in a heartbeat? And besides, Hermione, if you really didn't want to kill someone, for some reason, you could always aim the curse to break their legs or their wand-hand. Just something to incapacitate them for the duration of the fight."

"I guess we could stand to use a little more force in our curses," Ron said conceding the point.

Harry had little doubt that Ron wouldn't object to using curses to seriously injure or kill death eaters, but Hermione would almost certainly never use spells of that nature. Harry had no doubt that Hermione would simply rely on her intelligence to get her out of most situations and continue to use minor curses in duels. Something that would inevitably lead to a situation where her intelligence would fail her and she would be in serious trouble. Just like in the department of mysteries, Harry thought.

"The other things I notice is that you always practice one-on-one. You need to start practicing with groups, things like one-on-two, two-on-two, and three-on-five. The death eaters almost always outnumber us, so you need to learn how to fight against the odds and work as a team. Also don't bother to sort out duels based on skill levels. I can guarantee that most of the people here will be out-matched in a duel with death eaters, so it's important to learn how to survive in a completely lopsided fight.

"Another thing is that you should start handicapping yourselves, something like using your off-hand in a duel, because you never know when a curse will hit you and all of a sudden your wand hand is useless. And don't bother with dueling rings, in the real world you're going to be running all over the place so don't bother with practicing in a situation that is extremely unlikely to arise." Harry stopped to tried to remember if there was anything else.

"Jeez, Harry is that all?" Ron joked.

Harry laughed and said, "Well you did ask."

"I think I see what you're saying, Harry. We should try and more or less try to recreate an actual battle with death eaters. You're absolutely right, why should we bother to practice with any scenarios that aren't ever going to happen?" Hermione said.

By this time, nearly the entire DA had gathered around to listen to what Harry was saying. One of the students called out, "Are you going to start teaching us again, Harry?"

Harry looked out to the students crowded around him and said loudly, "I'm very impressed with the progress everyone has made in my absence, however I regret that I'm simply unable to resume instructing the DA full-time." At this nearly everyone groaned and let out sighs of disappointment. "But," Harry continued, "if it's alright with you all, I would love to stop by from time to time and check up on you all." This seemed to lighten the moods of everyone and Harry was about to step down off the dueling platform when someone else shouted out, "Are you going to duel anyone, Harry?"

Harry laughed and said, "I don't think anyone here would really want to duel me."

"What about me?"

Harry spun around to see Professor White climb up on the stage and say, "How about it, Potter? Up for a friendly duel?"

"I don't think so, Professor," Harry said smiling.

"Oh come on, Harry!" someone shouted.

"Yeah, show us what you can do, Harry!" another person shouted.

Soon the entire DA was cheering for Harry to duel Professor White. Harry was about to politely decline when out of the corner of his eye he caught Cho, standing in the crowd. She wasn't cheering like the rest of the DA and instead was giving Harry a rather strange look that Harry couldn't quite place.

Harry wasn't sure what it was about the look that she was giving him but he found himself turning to face the Defense Professor and say, "Alright, you're on."

The entire room erupted into cheers and very quickly quieted down as the two duelers prepared themselves. "Any rules, Mr. Potter?" Professor White asked.

"You can do whatever you want, and use whatever curse you like, I'll do the same, except I won't use any unforgivable curses or any other lethal curses," Harry responded.

"What about illegal curses?" she asked.

"I don't see any aurors," Harry responded smiling.

Professor White simply narrowed her eyes and nodded.

"Hermione, if you would?" Harry asked her to start the duel.

"What about your wand?" Hermione asked.

"I won't be needing it."

"If you say so," Hermione said. A moment later she signaled for the duel to begin.

Professor White immediately cast a disarming hex at Harry. Harry merely quirked an eyebrow, he was rather impressed by her speed. Harry didn't even bother to move as the curse hit him dead on . . . and nothing happened.

"Professor," Harry mocked, "why would you try to disarm someone who isn't carrying a wand?"

Harry had learned in his studies that for any kind of disarming hex to be effective, the person had to holding onto some kind of a wand or weapon, otherwise the spell has no effect. Something else Harry had discovered is that the spell can be fooled if the person being hexed simply tosses their wand into the air as the hex hits. At the moment the person is carrying no weapon and so can't be disarmed and the hex is dispelled. A moment later the wizard simply has to catch their wand and can begin dueling again. Of course, while being very interesting, this tactic was rather useless in a duel as tossing one's wand into the air is a rather bad idea as the opponent could summon it at that time or cast any number of other curses that their opponent is now defenseless against.

"How do you plan on dueling without a wand, Potter?" The defense professor asked only just realizing that he was indeed wandless.

"Like this," Harry said, raising a hand and wandlessly casting a minor curse. Professor White's eyes went wide as she dove to avoid the curse.

After that, Professor White didn't hold back as she furiously tried to stun or incapacitate Harry. Harry, on the other hand, decided that this would be as good a time as any to practice dodging curses without using magic. And so Harry was dancing and twisting all around the dueling circle, letting his battle sense take over (as it did at the Mall). Harry could sense perfectly in his mind exactly where the next curses would be and how exactly he had to move to avoid them. Part of his battle sense wanted to lash out with his own magic and retaliate against his attacker. But he kept forcing himself to only dodge curses, not to respond with magic, not yet anyway.

After something like eight minutes, Professor White stopped casting curses and yelled in frustration, "Are you just going to dance all day?"

Harry simply smirked and yelled back, "Are you just going to miss me all day?"

"How is this duel supposed to ever end if you won't duel back? Are we just going to keep fighting like this until one of falls asleep?"

"You could always surrender," Harry suggested unable to keep the grin from forming on his face.

"I don't think so," Professor White said. She then swished her wand and cried out, "Accio shoe!"

Harry had just enough time to be surprised before his left foot was violently ripped out from under him and he was unceremoniously dumped on his back right before his shoe dragged him across the entire dueling ring. He finally came to a stop right at Professor White's feet with her wand pointed right at his face.

Harry merely said the first thing that came to his mind, "Oww, my ass."

Looking down at him with a triumphant smirk on her face Professor White asked, "Do you surrender?"

Harry smirked back at her and said, "I'm very impressed, Professor. But I'm afraid it will take a bit more than a summoning charm to beat me."

With that Harry, moving faster than anyone though possible, whipped out his hand and summoned a very small ball of flame that he shot straight at the Professor's face. The fire was very small and not very hot at all, it wasn't Harry's intention to injure the Professor in anyway. The fireball had the desired effect as it hit her square in the face, slightly singeing her eyebrows, and causing her to recoil from the sudden attack. Harry used the moment of distraction to gracefully jump back to his feet and resume his dueling stance.

Harry could tell that Professor White was furious that he would use a potentially dangerous form of magic like that. She redoubled her efforts to curse Harry, now using more advanced and more powerful curses and hexes. To everyone's amazement, Harry no longer dodged every curse instead blacking many of them with his bare hands. Sometimes Harry would seemingly catch a curse and throw it back at the Professor finally making her have to dodge something.

The duel was rapidly picking up in both speed and ferocity. After a few minutes Harry stopped merely redirecting some of her curses and began to wandlessly cast his own. Soon the entire momentum of the duel had shifted as Harry now began casting more curses and the Professor was forced to go on the defensive.

Harry now had to control himself as he didn't want to injure the Professor, nor did he want to true extent of his powers to be known. After a few moments Harry finally decided to end the duel and was about to disarm the Professor, when in a move of surprising speed, the Professor whirled around and cast a spell that Harry hadn't heard of before, making several slashing movements with her wand.

The curse flew far quicker than Harry was expecting, and because he was in the middle of casting a curse himself, he wasn't fully prepared to block this curse. Harry knew as he threw himself in a desperate attempt to dodge the curse, that he wasn't going to make it. And sure enough, the curse grazed his side. Harry immediately felt the foreign magic in his body as it carried out its grim purpose. Harry felt a warmth begin to spread from the area the curse hit him just before he hit the ground. Using his reflexes that he gained through martial arts, he turned his tumbling form into a graceful flip and in an instant was back on his feet.

Harry was about to return a curse to the Professor but what he saw made him stop dead in his tracks. Professor White had completely frozen, her eyes wide as she stared at Harry. The blood had drained from her face and it seemed as though she had a horrified expression on her face. Looking around everyone watching had similar expressions. Harry finally looked down to where the curse had hit him and merely widened his eyes in surprise. The curse had opened up several very deep gashes in Harry's side. Blood was pouring out so quickly, it had already soaked his robes and was dripping down onto the floor.

Harry looked back to Professor White and said, "You know, Professor, stopping in the middle of a duel is not a very wise strategy."

Professor White seemed to snap out of it and said, "We need to get you to the hospital wing."

Harry merely dismissed her with a wave of his hand and concentrated on the wounds on his side. The gashes glowed golden for a moment as they closed up and left no trace of a wound except for the blood soaked clothes that Harry was still wearing.

Harry then turned to address the entire DA, "Do you all see what just happened?"

The entire room was silent.

Harry answered his own question, "Professor White just lost the duel because she was unable to finish what she started. When you cast a curse and you know, the effects are going to be unpleasant, you must not hesitate! The moment you feel and pity or remorse for the person you're fighting, you've lost the duel. Obviously, in here, we're all friends and we're not trying to kill each other. But accidents will happen. Don't allow yourself to be distracted from your goal just because something unexpected happens. A duel isn't over until it's over."

Harry turned back to Professor White and without any of his previous humor said in a harsh voice, "Are you just going to there, or are you going to finish what you started?"

Harry's tone snapped Professor White back into reality and she said, "Are you going to be alr-"

But before she could even finish, Harry had already cast a very powerful curse at her, which she just barely dodged.

From there on the duel was no longer fun or friendly, Harry was stone-faced as he faced off against the Professor. It didn't take very long for Harry to use his fire-calling again to create a wall of fire where Professor White was about to run. She skidded to a halt and before she could move, Harry hit her with a very powerful disarming spell that blew her completely off the dueling stage and sent her wand flying into Harry's waiting hand.

At that moment, just as the duel had ended, Harry leapt off the stage to go and make sure the Professor was alright.

It turned out that, apart from a few bruises, she was alright. Harry then looked at Ron and Hermione and without a word being said, they knew that it was time for the meeting to end. Ron and Hermione dismissed everyone from the DA and went over to Harry and Professor White.

"Harry, that was . . . amazing," Hermione said breathlessly.

"Bloody brilliant, Harry," Ron said in a rather quiet voice, "Bit scary, but brilliant."

Harry smiled weakly at them before turning back to the Professor and asking, "Are you sure you don't want to go to the hospital wing?"

Professor White just laughed and said, "Harry, you bruised my body and my ego, already tonight. The last thing I need to do is go to the hospital wing where I can brag about being beaten by a sixteen year old to Madam Pomfrey."

"So no hard feelings?" Harry asked, hopefully.

"Of course, not. To be completely honest, I didn't expect to beat you, or even come close. But I certainly didn't expect you to toy with me the way you did."

"Well that wasn't really my intention," Harry said. "I was just trying to show everyone that dodging curses is just as effective as blocking, and sometimes it even works better. I guess I was just trying to teach everyone else more than I was really looking for a serious duel."

"What about at the end," Hermione asked.

"Well after that curse hit me I was a bit upset with myself for not dodging it, but I was much more upset with you," Harry said, pointing to Professor White.

"I'm very sorry about that, Mr. Potter. I was just upset, and I didn't think the curse would actually hit you . . ." Professor White just trailed off looking down at the ground, her cheeks burning in shame.

"What?" Harry asked confused. "You're sorry that you cast that curse? That wasn't what I was talking about. I thought that curse was a brilliant move on your part, perfectly timed and aimed. Why would I be upset that you cast that on me?"

"Well," Professor White began to stutter.

Harry interrupted her saying, "What I was disappointed in was that you didn't press your advantage. What kind of example are you trying to set by stopping in the middle of a duel? You had a perfect opportunity to bring down a superior opponent and you just stood there."

Professor White clearly didn't know what to say so Harry continued, "If those students are ever in a fight with a Death Eater and they do something that causes him to scream in agony or something like that. They need to be prepared to fight through whatever emotions they are feeling and finish off their opponent!"

"Harry what are you saying?" Hermione asked.

"I'm saying that if you cursed a Death Eater and he started screaming and begging for his life, what would you do?" Harry asked, his voice very hard.

"Well, I . . . I would," Hermione stuttered, "I would . . . make . . . certain-"

Harry cut her off saying, "I sincerely hope, Hermione, that at the very least you would stun him immediately and take his wand, because we both know that dropping your guard to a Death Eater is about the most suicidal thing you could possibly do. I hope, Hermione, that you would be smart enough, not to listen to a Death Eater plead for his life while he holds his wand behind his back waiting for you to turn your back on him."

Hermione didn't say anything but Harry could tell that she was taking what he said to her very seriously.

Professor White chose that time to speak up, "Okay you lot, I think it's time that you get back to your common room. Oh! Well, not you, Harry. The headmaster told us that you were exempt from curfew."

"It's okay, Professor, I should be getting to bed as it is anyway," Harry said, having no intention of actually going to bed.

With that Ron and Hermione made to leave the room, but as soon as they realized that Harry wasn't going to come with them, Ron called back to Harry, "Hey, mate, you coming?"

Harry answered, "I'll be along in a few, I just want to have a quick word with Professor White."

Ron nodded and he and Hermione left the room, leaving Harry alone with Professor White.

"What was that curse you used on me," Harry asked without preamble. "I don't think I've ever seen it before."

"It's called the Lacerus Curse, the incantation is Si Chi Si, and the wand movement is like this," the Professor said, making the slashing motions with her wand.

"Very interesting curse. I'll have to do some research with it. Is this a foreign curse?"

"Yes, the Japanese invented it about 300 years ago."

"So it wouldn't surprise me all that much if not many Death Eaters knew about it. A few modifications, a bit more power," Harry muttered mostly to himself.

Harry liked the idea of a powerful curse that Death Eaters had never heard of. It could be a very effective tool indeed if the Death Eaters didn't know how to block it or counter-curse it. Harry resolved to go and check the library for more information regarding that spell so that he could set about testing it and attempt to improve on it.

"Thank you, Professor," Harry said, turning to walk out the door.

"You really don't have to call me that, you know. It's not like I'm really your professor anyway. You can just call me Becky."

Harry quirked an eyebrow at the very unwizardish name and simply asked, "Muggle born?"

"Yeah," Becky said, smiling.

"Only if you call me Harry."

"I think I can do that."

Harry bowed his head slightly and said, "Goodnight then, Becky."

"Goodnight, Harry," Becky said back.

And with that, Harry left the room of requirement and returned to his own room where he studied for a few more hours and finally fell into a restless sleep.


The days before Halloween passed away in a rather uneventful manner. Harry's dreams would become increasingly worse and he was sleeping worse than ever. His patience with the many girls asking him the Halloween Ball, many of whom actually resorted to asking multiple times, was wearing ever thinner. If it wasn't for his daily runs and workouts, Harry thought he surely would have gone mad by now. But as long as he continued to have something to vent his frustrations into, he remained decently civil to everyone.

Of course Ron and Hermione soon noticed that there was something wrong with Harry, but didn't press him too much about it.

When Halloween finally came about, Harry resolved to stay clear of the Halloween Ball as he still had absolutely no intention of going. The day passed fairly normally and finally the day turned to evening. Harry merely waited in his room until the Halloween Ball has been underway for an hour before taking his cloak and leaving the castle.

The one thing Harry didn't have to worry about was being stopped by any members of the staff as there were all undoubtedly having a blast at the Ball. Harry couldn't care any less at the moment. He had been planning this for some time now.

Harry left the castle and made his way to Hogsmeade. When he arrived at the Wizarding town, Harry makes straight for the Three Broomsticks. Harry ignores the other patrons as he makes straight for the bar and sits on a stool waiting for Rosmerta to get to him.

As soon as Rosmerta sees him, she gasped and nearly dropped the glass she was carrying. Before she could say anything, Harry quickly said in a low voice, "Shhh! I'd rather my presence not be noticed at the moment."

Rosmerta nods before asking, "Why are you here? I thought tonight was the Halloween Ball, I sent an entire barrel of my finest mead to the castle just this morning."

"I'm not going to the Ball. You know I'd much rather spend time in the company of a lovely lady such as yourself," Harry said in a flirtatious voice.

Rosmerta blushed only slightly before quickly saying back, "And what would you do with such a lady?"

"I'd ask her for a drink," Harry said smiling and laying some gold down on the bar.

Rosmerta smiled and asked, "What are you drinking then, butterbeer?"

"Something a tinge stronger, I think. A glass of Ogden's if you will," Harry said.

"I didn't think you'd sneak out of the castle for a simple butterbeer," Rosmerta said as she retrieved the bottle.

"How would you like it?" she asked.

No doubt she was expecting Harry to tell her to mix it with something else because when Harry responded with, "I'll have it neat," she nearly dropped the bottle.

"You seem to have problems hanging onto things tonight, Rosmerta. Maybe you should get that checked out," Harry said, cheekily.

"Are you certain that you want this neat, Harry?" Rosmerta asked.

"It's the only way I really like to drink it," Harry said right back.

Rosmerta merely raised her eyebrows and poured the whiskey into Harry's glass. Harry didn't waste any time as he lifted the drink, toasted Rosmerta, and drank it straight down.

Harry now immensely enjoyed the sensation of the fiery liquid burning down his throat. He motioned for Rosmerta to refill the glass, which she promptly did, staring wide-eyed at Harry.

Harry drank his second glass a bit more slowly to prolong the feeling of the whiskey. "This is really fantastic stuff," he said to Rosmerta after he finished the glass.

Rosmerta for her part just looked shocked at Harry as she said, "You are only the third person that I've ever seen drink firewhiskey straight and not nearly choke to death."

Harry just shrugged and asked, "How much for the entire bottle, I'd hate to keep you from your other patrons."

Rosmerta hesitated at first but then said two galleons. Harry gave her four and began filling his own glass and drinking by himself.

Harry had downed half the bottle when the doorbell tinkled signaling the arrival of a new patron. Harry didn't even bother to look until someone sat down next to him. Wondering who would be so rude as to sit right next to him when there were plenty of barstools open elsewhere, Harry turned to the newcomer.

"Padma?" Harry asked, completely shocked.

"Fancy, meeting you here," Padma responded.

"Shouldn't you be at the ball?" Harry asked, the alcohol beginning to have an effect on his speech.

Padma grinned and answered, "I was at the ball, but then I left."

"You left? Why would you do that?" Harry asked, taking another drink of firewhiskey.

"Well, I was waiting for someone but he never showed up. Then as I was on my way to the bathroom, I noticed that someone was leaving the castle. It wasn't hard to figure out who that person was, or where they were going."

Rosmerta came over at that time and took Padma's order. "So, you were at that ball, but then when someone didn't show up you left and just coincidentally saw that person leaving the castle," Harry said.

"Yup," Padma answered, grinning.

Harry took another drink and then asked her, "Can I assume that the person you were waiting for is now talking to you?"

Padma leaned in close and said in low, soft voice, "Yes, I think that's a safe assumption."

Harry didn't know if it was the alcohol in him, or just his longing for the soft warmth of a girl, but Harry leaned in, closed the distance between the two, and softly kissed her lips. Padma responded immediately pulling Harry closer, nearly knocking him off his barstool, and returning the kiss. Harry's hand found it's way to the back of Padma's neck where he softly twirled her long dark hair in his fingers and lightly stroked the skin. A soft moan of approval escaped Padma as Harry did this.

After a few moments of snogging, they finally pulled away from the other. Harry was grinning and still playing with the back of Padma's neck, while it seemed Padma was incapable of doing anything more than shivering in delight and softly saying, "Wow."

They resumed their snogging soon thereafter and after about ten minutes of that, Padma finally managed to say, "What do you say we get out of here?"

Harry smiled and nodded his head in agreement. But before he could get up he remembered his bottle of firewhiskey was still half full. Without really thinking much, Harry grabbed the bottle and began gulping the firewhiskey as quickly as he could. Harry found the experience of chugging firewhiskey to be far less pleasant than drinking it slowly, but he sure didn't want to leave behind a drink that he paid for.

Harry coughed a bit as he finished the bottle, something that didn't go unnoticed by Padma who hadn't seen him chugging the firewhiskey. "Harry are you, oh Merlin! Did you just drink that entire bottle of firewhiskey?"

Harry responded, "Nah, it wa slonely half full," in a heavily slurred voice.

Padma laughed nervously and they both walked out back into the cool Halloween night. At least Padma was able to walk, Harry was stumbling nearly every step he took.

For Harry the feeling was nothing like anything he had ever felt before. He could literally feel himself become more and more drunk with every step he took. The walk back to Hogwarts took about twenty minutes, but Harry barely felt any of it as his vision began to swim and go out of focus.

Harry didn't even realize that they weren't heading to the Ravenclaw common room until they were just outside the hospital wing. "I thought we were goin' to yer room," Harry said, barely able to even process what was happening around him. By this time he had his arm around Padma and was leaning on her for support.

Padma merely said, "I think we should just stop in here for a few moments, first."

"M'kay," Harry mumbled.

As the two entered the hospital wing they could hear Madam Pomfrey scolding someone. "You should know by now not to drink any strange potions, even if it does promise to make you a better dancer. Well that takes care of you, you can return to the ball if you like," Madam Pomfrey said. At that point Madam Pomfrey came into view leading a fourth year Hufflepuff out. She was still dressed in her formal dress robes, which clearly meant that the ball was still going on in the Great Hall.

"What's this?" Madam Pomfrey asked as Harry and Padma came into view.

"I think, he might have drank too much firewhiskey," Padma said now straining to hold up Harry who was quickly beginning to put almost all of his weight on her.

Madam Pomfrey quickly shooed the Hufflepuff out and began to examine Harry. "Do you know how mush he's had?" she asked Padma.

"I think he drank the entire bottle," Padma responded.

Madam Pomfrey actually dropped her wand and stared at Padma for a second before retrieving her wand and moving Harry over to a bed.

However, as soon as Harry let go of Padma he collapsed onto the floor. He could hear unintelligible voices all around him, but as darkness crept into his vision he didn't even have time to wonder why he was staring up at the ceiling.


Harry awoke the next morning with a terrible taste in his mouth. Harry tried to wonder what it was as he looked around. Surprised to find himself in the hospital wing, Harry wondered what the hell happened last night to make him end up in here.

Not feeling like waiting around for someone, Harry swung his legs out of bed and began looking around for Madam Pomfrey. He found her quickly in her office. "Excuse me, Madam Pomfrey?" Harry asked.

Immediately, Madam Pomfrey shot out of her chair and rushed over to Harry saying, "Harry, you shouldn't be out of bed."

Harry allowed her to lead him back to his bed, as she did so he asked, "Why did I wake up in here?"

Madam Pomfrey ignored Harry's question and told him just get some more rest. Harry refused to get back into the hospital bed and repeated, "Why am I here?"

Madam Pomfrey looked upset that Harry wasn't cooperating with her but decided to respond, "You were here, last night because you had apparently decided to drink an entire bottle of firewhiskey and you got alcohol poisoning from it."

Harry was confused for a moment as he tried to remember everything that happened last night, he remembered going to the Three Broomsticks and ordering the firewhiskey. But he remembered drinking it rather slowly. Then someone came in . . . who was it . . . oh, Padma, that's right. We talked, well flirted, really. We snogged for a bit. And then . . . what the hell happened next? Harry couldn't remember anything solid past that point.

"If you're wondering, according to Miss Patil, right before you left the Three Broomsticks, you guzzled whatever was left in your bottle of firewhiskey," Madam Pomfrey said, almost like she was reading Harry's mind.

Harry was surprised that Madam Pomphry could tell exactly where his memory became hazy, but even more surprised that as soon as she said that, the memory of him deciding that the bottle shouldn't be wasted came screaming back to him. Harry winced at the memory of him chugging nearly half the bottle. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Harry decided to play along with Madam Pomfrey and got back in his hospital bed. But as soon as Madam Pomfrey told him to get some more rest and she returned to her office, Harry simply crept silently out of the Hospital Wing. Harry did feel like a bit of a jerk, just running off on Madam Pomfrey like that. But she, like nearly everyone else, had this compulsion to coddle him and be overbearing. At the moment, Harry had no desire to sit around and wait for someone else to tell him that he was alright, he could do that for himself.

As Harry was walking to the kitchens to grab a quick bite to eat, he was suddenly struck with the realization that he slept fantastically last night. Harry thought about it and realized that last night was about the best night's sleep since he had since . . . well . . . Natalie. Then Harry remembered that the other night that he had slept decently well had been the night of the party in Gryffindor tower. The only other night that he had gotten completely drunk.

Could alcohol be the solution to my sleeping problems? Harry suddenly thought. But that couldn't be it. When Harry had been with Natalie there had been times when he had slept fantastically and he hadn't had a drop of alcohol. The only other thing that he had been doing with Natalie that he wasn't able to do at Hogwarts was actually sleep with Natalie.

Could that be it? Harry suddenly thought, repulsed by the thought. Is the key to fully closing my mind to Voldemort actually sex and alcohol?

Well Harry could reasonably conclude at this time that alcohol seemed to work fine for keeping Voldemort out of his dreams. Would sex work the same way?

Harry tried to recall everything he had read about occlumency. According to what he had read, the key to completely closing off one's mind was to empty and relax the conscious aspect of the mind. Harry was pretty certain that his expertise in occlumency would be enough to keep any person out of his mind. But then, Voldemort wasn't just any person. They were linked through his scar. Harry knew that Voldemort possessed a much greater ability to access his thoughts through that link. For Harry to shut out Voldemort entirely, he would have to be able to clear and relax his thoughts much more than he can consciously do. It seemed at the moment that the only ways to completely empty his mind of all conscious thought, was to either get shit-faced drunk, or get laid every night.

And Harry didn't much like the idea of getting drunk every night just to get a decent night's sleep. At the same time, there was absolutely no person within ten miles of this castle that Harry particularly wanted to go to bed with.

Harry just shook his head and proceeded to the kitchen, mentally cursing fate once more for the absolute joke of a life that he had.


The next few days pass as normally as they could be for Harry. Nothing out of the ordinary happened and he was able to continue with his training. Every night he had taken to drinking enough to make him feel light headed, but he wasn't drinking more than a quarter bottle of firewhiskey in a night. The thought of being dependent on alcohol was something that Harry found to be extremely scary as he had no desire to become some type of alcoholic. Harry had requested dreamless sleep potions from Madam Pomfrey. But it seemed that leaving the hospital wing right under her nose had not been the best thing to do before requesting a favor. It also appeared that dreamless sleep potions were extremely addictive and were only to be used in the most necessary of circumstances.

As far as possibly finding a girl with which he could . . . test his theory. He might as well have not been bothering at all. It seemed like nearly every girl in Hogwarts was completely obsessed with the "Boy-Who-Lived", but wanted nothing to do with a person called Harry Potter. Hermione and Ginny were the only girls that Harry felt completely comfortable with. But Hermione was already spoken for, and she was also one of Harry's best friends, so Harry would be reluctant, in any situation, to ever jeopardize that. As for Ginny, at times Harry had seriously considered asking her out, but every time he even came close, he would just get the feeling that it just wouldn't work out. Ginny was a cool girl and great friend, but there just couldn't ever be anything more between them.

Harry was just returning from the kitchens, as he had missed dinner because he had lost track of the time when he was studying. He was just walking by the Prefect's bathroom on the way back to his room, when the entrance to the bathroom swung open and revealed a freshly bathed Padma Patil with her hair still wet and her skin still smelling of the perfumes from the bath.

For a moment they both hesitated upon seeing each other, but then Harry snapped out of it and said, "Hey, Padma. I never did get to thank you for dragging my arse back to castle on Halloween. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciated it."

Padma seemed to blush and said, "It wasn't a problem, Harry. I mean couldn't very well just leave you passed out on the front grounds, could I?"

Harry smiled and said, "Well, thank you, just the same. Maybe sometime we could try and pick up where we left off that night."

Harry was turning to leave when Padma asked, "Are you busy tonight?"

Harry turned back to her and said, "I wasn't really, why do you ask?"

Padma shrugged, looked to the ground, and said quietly, "Well, if you weren't busy, maybe we could do something tonight."

Harry blinked at that. He didn't think Padma would be nearly so up front with this kind of a thing. But then he hadn't thought that she was the type that would sneak out and follow him to Hogsmeade, either.

Grinning, Harry said, "My room, is just down the hall, I really don't have all that much to do, but we could just hang out and talk for a bit."

Padma smiled and said, "I'd like that."

And so Harry led Padma to his room behind the golden suit of armor and poured her a drink of firewhiskey mixed with muggle coke (a combination that he had been using for Ron and Hermione). Harry had no intention of getting her drunk, but he found that it was just generally easier to just talk and hang out when you were drinking a bit.

Harry and Padma talked about all kinds of things, mostly Harry listened to her talk about her classes and what she liked about each particular class. Harry didn't say much about what he was learning but he did make a few comments about the different charms that she had learned that year in NEWT charms.

The night quickly grew old, and soon Harry realized that the time had gotten away from him yet again that day. Harry decided that it was time for the night to draw to a close and said, "I hate to say this, but I should be getting to bed sometime soon. I wish I could stay up all night and keep talking with you like this, but unfortunately it's time for me to get some sleep." In reality Harry just wanted her to leave to he wouldn't have to drink his nightly amount of firewhisky in front of her. Thus far, nobody knew of his dependence on drinking, not even Ron and Hermione. It was something that he was deeply embarrassed about and would never willingly tell anyone about.

Harry expected Padma to stand up and say she needed to get some sleep as well and then they say their "goodnights" and that would be that. Padma surprised him yet again that night when she said, "I'd really rather . . . not leave . . . just yet."

That confused Harry to the point where all he could ask was, "What, are you planning on staying here, or something?"

Padma didn't respond right away, instead she looked at Harry, their eyes meeting for a few moments before she stood up. Closing the distance between them, Padma moved towards Harry, and without ever breaking eye contact slowly kissed him. Harry's eyes closed as their lips connected.

The kiss was brief, and as they pulled away, Harry opened his eyes and softly said, "I thought that night in Hogsmeade was just a product of drinking a bit too much."

Padma merely responded in an equally soft voice, "I wasn't drinking when I followed you to Hogsmeade, I only ever had a small bit of the drink that I ordered. This is something that I've been wanting to do ever since that night in Gryffindor Tower."

"Why?" Harry asked, knowing that her answer would be the deciding factor in exactly what was going to happen tonight.

"Because," Padma said slowly, "That night, I saw the way you looked at everyone around you. I saw the look in your eyes. It was so sad. You tried to hide it from everyone. But I saw it. I saw it, and I couldn't help but . . . want to help. I didn't know what I could do, but I knew that night, that I would do anything for you." Padma paused before continuing, "I would do anything, because you would do the same for any of us."

In her eyes, Harry could see nothing but shining truth. She truly cared for him. In an instant Harry knew what he was going to say. "Stay with me tonight," Harry whispered.

Padma simply kissed him in response.

Kissing soon gave way to snogging. Clothes were slowly removed. Harry's gentle caresses would cause shivers in Padma. Padma's soft kisses around Harry neck would cause Harry to sigh in absolute content.

They soon found the bed where the two lay, entwined, in an escape from the cruel reality that they lived in.


That night confirmed Harry's suspicion regarding sexual activity and occlumency. Sleeping with Padma had yielded the absolute best sleep he had since returning to Hogwarts. Most unfortunately, unlike when Harry was living with Natalie, Padma was unable to share his bed every night. And so since that one night, Harry had been forced to resume his nightly drinking. Harry wasn't about to go and tell her about his dreams and the effect she had on him, either. As far as Harry could tell from what Padma had said, she would only be able to stay with him on the weekends, because during the week she had too much work and early classes to attend. She couldn't be up all night . . . doing . . . Harry.

Harry was completely honest with Padma, in that he said to her that he really didn't think they would ever work out as a couple. Thankfully Padma agreed and said that their arrangement was merely a temporary situation until something else came along. The idea of having a "fuck buddy" wasn't something that Harry was particularly thrilled about, but it was something that now that he had, he simply couldn't give up.

Of course, like everything else that happens in secret in the castle, word had quickly spread that Padma had spent the night with Harry, and they both had found themselves being interrogated by nearly everyone in the castle. For Harry, it was not so bad as he had no qualms at all with telling anyone to "fuck right off". Unfortunately, Padma seemed to be having a much more difficult time with it. It seemed that nearly every girl was "like totally jealous" of her, and they would hound her for details or to see it was really true.

Three days passed like that, with Harry telling any person that approached him asking him about Padma to, "Sod off," or something of a similar nature. Harry was eating lunch in the Great Hall, not something he usually did, but that day he felt like spending some time with Ron and Hermione.

They were having a discussion on the general usefulness of the charms that Flitwick taught them, when suddenly Harry's scar burned like he hadn't felt in ages. Harry tried to put up his occlumency shields, but he was too late. His vision swam as he was pulled into the mind of Voldemort.

The view was fuzzy and murky, but Harry could distinctly see an old mansion. Around him, Death Eaters waited for his command. "And now, my faithful chosen," Harry's voice rasped, "We shall strike at the critical point of the enemy. Attack! Leave no survivors, and wipe this pathetic house from the ground on which it stands!" Harry's vision suddenly came sharply into focus. Number 12 Grimmauld Place was under attack.

Harry dropped out the vision so suddenly that he actually fell back off his chair in the Great Hall. Not caring about the pain in his scar, Harry scrambled to his feet and ran up the staff table where Dumbledore immediately stood, recognizing the urgency in Harry's eyes.

"He's found Grimmauld Place," Harry said, bluntly. "He's attacking it, right now."

Dumbledore nodded and with a quick nod of his head, the members of the Order from the staff all swiftly gathered around. Dumbledore repeated what Harry just said and held out a portkey.

They all touched it, including Harry. "Headmaster," Snape said, motioning towards Harry.

"He's coming with us," Dumbledore said without hesitation. "Activate," Dumbledore said, triggering the portkey.

Harry had just enough time to hear Ron yell out, "What's going on?" before the familiar jerk to the navel pulled them all away.

The portkey took them straight to the kitchen at Grimmauld Place. No sooner had their feet hit the ground, than Harry immediately ran off to the all too familiar sounds of battle, ignoring the cries of his Professors.

Harry burst through the living room doors and immediately had to duck a curse that flew at his head. There were about fifteen Death Eaters, using bits of furniture on one side of the room for cover against the seven Order members hiding behind the furniture on the opposite side. The Hogwarts Professors would bring that number up to ten (Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape).

Harry didn't bother to take cover, he just relaxed and allowed his battle sense to take over. Harry saw one Death Eater hiding behind an armchair. Without any hesitation at all, Harry cast a powerful banishing charm on the chair itself, sending it and the unlucky Death Eater right through the wall. Harry doubted that Death Eater would rejoin the fight anytime soon.

With Harry and the Hogwarts Professors reinforcing the defending Order members, the tide of the battle quickly began to turn. Harry and Dumbledore made short work of any Death Eater they came across. Harry didn't want to use his fire-calling in the house for fear that it would set the house on fire. But Harry had no other qualms about cursing the hell out of the Death Eaters. Harry found that the most effective method of fighting the Death Eaters was actually to send their own curses right back at that as it had the added benefit of shielding the Order. But something was troubling Harry. Voldemort was supposed to be here, also. Shouldn't he be right with his Death Eaters in the thickest part of the battle?

It was at that exact moment when the entire wall on their side was blasted apart by some extremely powerful curse. The blast was so powerful and sudden that for a moment both sides hesitated in resuming the battle. It was in that moment of deafening silence, as the dust and debris finally cleared, that Lord Voldemort, along with three or four of his most trusted Death Eaters, were finally revealed.

The Order members were stunned by the blast and sudden appearance of the Dark Lord, and the Death Eaters were simply too terrified of their master to resume the battle without his explicit consent. Voldemort walked to the center of the living room, still flanked by his most faithful Death Eaters, and turned to face the Order of the Phoenix.

"And so we come to it, at last," Voldemort began. "The end of your pitiful resistance, and the dawning of a new age. Throw down your wands and surrender, The Dark Lord will be merciful to the misguided."

"I think, Tom, the only misguided person present in this room is yourself," Dumbledore said, stepping out from the ranks of the Order Members. "And I also think that everyone present is familiar with your particular brand of mercy, and I think I speak for everyone here when I say that we must politely decline your offer."

"You have made your choice, then. I'm surprised you didn't even bother to bring the Potter boy with you. It would have made life so much easier to simply finish him here along with the rest of you," Voldemort sneered.

"Be careful what you wish for," Harry said, throwing caution to the wind and stepping out to stand next to Dumbledore.

"Foolish boy!" Voldemort snarled. "You should have run, when I didn't notice your presence. Now you can die along with the rest of these fools. Especially you, Severus," Voldemort said suddenly, whipping out his hand and pointing to the Potions Master. "For a while, you truly had me convinced that you were once again willing to serve the Dark Lord. But instead I find you here, standing with them. I will personally ensure that you suffer a most painful death. At last the time has come for –"

Whatever Voldemort was going to say next was cut off by Harry yelling, "SHUT UP!", and blasting the Dark Lord across the room.

In an instant, both sides were once again hurling curses across the room. Harry was barely aware of that as he and the Dark Lord faced off once more. Harry was far stronger than he had been that day in Diagon Alley, he would not be nearly so easy to take down.

Voldemort fired off curses faster than Harry would have though possible, and for some reason, just like the day in Diagon Alley, Harry couldn't manipulate the magic. It was like trying to pick up an amazingly slick bar of soap. Voldemort's magic just seemed to rebel against any type of control that Harry attempted to assert over it. Harry was forced to dodge and dance to avoid the curses, fortunately for Harry, his physical training had fully prepared him for this.

Soon much of the rest of the battle came grinding to a halt as both sides became mesmerized by the duel between the Dark Lord and the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry was flicking off curses with both hands while dancing and even flipping to avoid curses. What Voldemort was unable to dodge he blocked with some kind of a dark magical protection spell. Every curse that missed would hit some other object in the room and either blast it to pieces or set it aflame. In less than a minute, Harry and Voldemort did more damage to the house than either side had managed thus far.

Harry could feel the rage in him beginning to burn hotter the more he dueled his parents' murderer. With a cry of rage, Harry clenched his fists and finally called forth the hottest fire he could possibly manage. Harry threw all caution into the wind as he pumped every ounce of magic and rage into the inferno. Flames exploded from the floor where the Dark Lord stood. The fire was blistering, and everyone in the room, save for Harry, had to shield their faces from the intensity.

It was only for a few seconds, but to Harry it felt much longer. Finally Harry unclenched his fist and regained control of his rage, banishing the fire. As the fire cleared away, Harry was so stunned, he couldn't even bring himself to drop his jaw. There stood the Dark Lord, completely untouched by the fire. His robes had been partially burned and were still smoking, but Voldemort himself, had been completely unscathed by the fire Harry had summoned.

Harry had only enough time to stutter, "How?" before Voldemort whipped out his wand and blasted Harry clear across the room and into the remains of the wall that Voldemort had blown apart.

In an instant Voldemort was standing over Harry with a triumphant look on his face. Voldemort raised his wand and said, "Next time, try a fire that will actually be able to touch me. Actually, you won't have a next time. AVADA-"

Before Voldemort could finish the curse, Dumbledore stepped in and cursed Voldemort, causing the Dark Lord to grunt in pain as he grabbed his chest. Harry recognized that curse as one designed to paralyze the lungs of the victim.

But the dark rituals and sacrifices that Voldemort had made over the years, the same ones that had warped and twisted his features past anything human, saved him here as his body fought off the curse.

Now the Order and the Death Eaters watched as Voldemort dueled the great Albus Dumbledore. Harry tried to get up to help the headmaster but had to suppress a cry of pain as his chest gave off a sharp shooting pain. Someone Harry didn't immediately recognize from the Order, knelt by Harry's side to try and help him. Harry felt around his chest and found that he had several broken ribs, but nothing worse than that. Concentrating on what remained of his magical strength, Harry focussed on his chest and soon felt the warmth of his magic healing his injuries.

Getting back to his feet Harry was forced to watch the duel along with everyone else. Immediately Harry could see the nearly opposite nature of the techniques that Dumbledore and Voldemort used. Voldemort was all about strength. Harry could feel the dark magic pouring out of every curse that he sent the Headmaster's way. Dumbledore on the other hand was all about finesse. Using precise wand movements with perfect timing, the Headmasters spells were every bit as potent as the Dark Lord's, but not nearly so consuming on magic. Dumbledore's curses felt like tightly bound and perfectly woven threads of light, not leaking magic, like Voldemort's.

Unfortunately, it seemed that the Headmaster was fighting a losing battle. Harry could tell that Dumbledore was weakening, both physically and magically. It was simply his age, Dumbledore was just too old to defeat or even hold off Voldemort. In his prime, Dumbledore, would likely have been able to defeat Voldemort on any battlefield, now Voldemort didn't even need to conserve his power as he battled away at the aging Headmaster.

Finally, Dumbledore's concentration slipped, and a curse hit him in his shin just above his ankle. With a sickening, CRACK, the Headmaster's shin was violently broken and he fell to the ground.

Voldemort didn't even bother to hesitate as he raised his wand to cast the killing curse. Harry knew he would never be able to move fast enough to be able to save the headmaster. Not in this body.

Without a thought, or a care, as to who might see him, Harry became the midnight phoenix and flew straight at the Dark Lord's face. Voldemort moved with an inhuman speed to prevent his eyes from being clawed out, but Harry still managed to rake his talons across the side of his face, leaving a pair of very deep gashes from which blood that was nearly black in color began pouring,

Harry resumed his human form and before Voldemort could even look surprised he nailed the Dark Lord in the chest with a powerful bone-shattering curse. Voldemort cried out in agony as his chest was shattered, and then immediately restored by the twisted dark magic in his body. It was testament to whatever it was the Voldemort had done to himself, that the curse didn't kill him.

Harry didn't stop and wait for Voldemort to return any curses of his own, instead he mustered all the strength he had and launched curse after curse. Voldemort was left with no other option except to block them all. Harry's curses were so powerful, they were actually knocking the Dark Lord back with every curse that he blocked.

Harry was close, he could feel it. Voldemort was weakening, every curse he blocked drained him more and more. Finally Harry forced Voldemort to drop to his knees. Harry then spun around and landed a kicked straight to the side of Voldemort's head causing him to fall sprawled on the floor. Voldemort knew he was defeated. He was too weak to even raise his wand.

Harry raised his hand and looked Voldemort directly in the eye. The monster that had killed his parents, Cedric, and countless others, now lay at his feet, completely helpless.

"Harry," Voldemort wheezed and coughing up blood, "You won't kill me. You're not a murderer. You don't have it in you."

Harry hesitated.

Voldemort laughed coughing up more blood, "You're too weak."

Rage once again consumed Harry.

Voldemort was right. He was too weak.

Too weak to save his parents.

Too weak to save Cedric.

Too weak to save Sirius.

But he wasn't too weak to kill that monster!

"Avada Kedavra!" Harry screamed as the green light burst from his hand and hit Voldemort right in the chest.

For a moment there was absolute silence in the room.

Then Harry lowered his hand and turned to face the rest of the room.

"Master!" A Death Eater called out.

"Harry, look out!" Moody called out trying to warn Harry.

Harry felt something move behind him, and spun around.

Harry barely had enough time to be shocked before Voldemort, still on the ground, raised his wand, made a sharp jabbing motion in Harry's direction which hurled him across the room.

Harry was only just able to hear Voldemort wheeze out, "Retreat," he reached into his robes and suddenly disappeared. Before the Order could react, all the Death Eaters reached into their robes and soon disappeared after their master.

Port-keys! Harry realized. One of the Death Eaters threw something to the ground before he activated his port-key. Harry was just about to go and examine whatever it was when it suddenly exploded and set fire to the house.

Suppressing the rage growing in him, that Voldemort had somehow managed to escape, Harry focussed on what needed to be done. The house was quickly burning down, as it was very old and had already taken a lot of damage from the battle. Harry rushed over to Dumbledore who was already being helped by some people.

Dumbledore said in a quiet voice, "It would seem that Number Twelve Grimmauld Place is no longer suitable to be our Headquarters. I think it would be best if we all made haste to Hogwarts."

Harry almost wanted to laugh at the infuriatingly calm voice that Dumbledore would use even as a house burned down around him.

Harry helped everyone get to the fireplace and floo to Hogwarts. Finally Harry was the last one. Or so he thought.

"Come on Harry."

Remus Lupin was still there.

Harry turned to his werewolf friend, tears starting to cloud his vision, "This was Sirius's house, Remus."

Lupin said softly, "I know, Harry. I know."

"He hated this place so much, and yet, it was the only place where he and I actually had any time together. I always thought that I would have this house, just to remember him by."

Harry closed his eyes and felt a single tear roll down his face. "Why the fuck didn't he die?" he asked himself out loud. "Am I too weak?"

A few moments passed in silence as the house continued to burn around them.

"Come on, Harry," Remus said gently after a few moments. "It's time to go."

Harry wiped his eyes and simply said, "Yeah." Harry moved to the fireplace and said, "You first."

Remus looked like he wanted to insist that Harry go first, but instead he just held Harry's shoulder for a moment and then flooed to Hogwarts.

Harry took one last look at the house. Fire was consuming everything, crawling up the sides of the wall, and covering the ceiling. I'll make it up to you Sirius, I promise, Harry said to himself before he turned away and flooed to Hogwarts.

A few minutes later the house collapsed on itself. The many charms protecting it from being seen by muggles finally burned away and the house was made visible to everyone near it. The fire fighters arrived shortly thereafter and fought to put the fire out, but it was a useless cause. The house had been burned away to nothing but rubble.

A/N: I'm sorry for the delay in updating. The job that I have right now, requires that I work something between 45 and 60 hours in a week. I also really wanted to do a good job on this chapter as it finally puts to rest any claim that Harry is way too powerful. As you can see, Harry and Voldemort are about equal in power, each with their own strengths, and Dumbledore is powerful but just getting old. As for relationships, I have a very detailed plan that will have Harry ending up with . . . someone. I will say right now that it won't be Padma, Hermione, or Ginny. So at least some of you can release that breath you were holding. The biggest thing I want for the relationships is for them to be believable and I don't think that any relationship could be believable without some really tough times. You can try and ask me who I'm going to pair him up with in the end . . . but I don't think I'm going to crack on this one. Some parts of this chapter kind of seem lopsided or rushed but unfortunately after I write it, I find difficulty in improving on it. There were a bunch of questions that people have been asking me, I'm going to try and answer them all. I've been asked if I play any Warcraft at all; I do enjoy Warcraft III, but I really don't do anything more than dabble with it. My roommate is really into Warcraft and other RTS games, so it was him that got me into it. Before anyone asks, I suck at it and I don't have a account for Warcraft. I'm much more into RPG's, games like Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Diablo II (which I do play on and a few other games. I've also been asked about why Harry can't "flame travel" in his Phoenix form. What I think is that Phoenix's don't necessarily have the ability to teleport, but they can fly so fast that they can seemingly just appear in a burst of flames. I guess I'm trying to base my kind of a phoenix around what Draco664 wrote about in Betrayal of the Best Kind and it's sequel. Those are very old stories, but I think they're still some of the best that I've ever read. Okay I think that does it for questions, if I missed any, drop a review or an e-mail. If you leave me your e-mail I will definitely get back to you.

I don't know when I'll update next . . . Hopefully before September . . . I guess I really need to know that this it worth my time . . . cause I don't have a lot of it to spare.

Cheers – Midnight

P.S. Did anyone else feel kind of . . . let down by the sixth Harry Potter book? I mean HBP just left me feeling . . . not good. And I really hated the Harry/Ginny pairing (don't even get me started, the way he was fucking pining the entire book for her . . . take a deep breath, remember to breathe)