Harry had just finished his third training session with Professor Snape and they had been able to determine that he had indeed translated the spell properly. They used a strong disinfecting spell that he had found in the book on some of the cauldrons that were available and it worked wonders. With a week left until Voldemort's visit to the castle, they almost had the wand movements to the spell and were getting ready to move onto actually doing the spell.
Now, he was on his way back to his dorm, map in hand to make sure he wouldn't be surprised by anyone. Remus had given it back to him the day before as promised before dinner and with the charm applied. All he had to do was program it to whomever he wanted the map to recognize.
"To activate the alarm, all you have to do is say, 'Alarm to' and say the name of the person you want to make sure you can keep tabs on. If the person you specify gets too close, you should have about a minute warning before the person gets to you, you will hear an alarm. For example," Remus said, taking out his wand. "Alarm to Harry Potter."
As soon as Remus had finished the command, the map emitted a beeping sound that reminded Harry of Aunt Petunia's microwave. And it was just slightly lower in volume. Not too obnoxious, but loud enough that Harry would certainly be able to hear it if it was in the same room.
"To turn it off just tap the map with your wand," Remus said, modeling it to Harry. As soon as his wand touched the parchment, the beeping stopped.
"Cool," Harry breathed, excitement rushing through him as he realized that he wouldn't have to worry about Dumbledore anymore. "I love magic!"
After Remus' explanation, Harry found an empty classroom and engaged the charm to set off when Dumbledore got too close. Thankfully, the map had been quiet throughout his and Snape's session. He hoped it stayed that way until after the battle.
As he got closer to his dorm, he wished he could take a few minutes and work on another spell out of the book. It wouldn't take very long…but he quickly remembered the promise he made Snape. If he didn't keep it, Snape would stop helping him. Sighing, Harry said the password and climbed back into the common room.
Thankful that no one was present, Harry made his way toward the stairs to get ready for bed.
Spinning around, his eyes found Hermione. And she had that look in her eye when she wanted to find out something and was willing to search the entire library looking for it. He was in trouble.
"Hermione," Harry said, keeping the surprise out of his voice and hoping that he could make a quick escape, thankful that he had already planned for this.
"This is the third night you've been out late. What's going on?"
Sighing realistically, Harry said, "Nothing. I just needed some time to myself is all. With everything that goes on during the day I don't have time to just be alone without company or the book. I need some time to myself to not go crazy, Hermione. And this time works for me."
Hermione didn't seem to want to believe him, but after his "confession" he saw the determination in her eyes falter. Yes! "All right. You could have just said something, you know," she said with a small smile.
He returned it. "I didn't want to bother anyone."
Hermione understood. She gave him a quick hug and bid him goodnight as they took their separate ways to their rooms. Harry only allowed himself a deep sigh of relief once he was in his four poster bed with the curtains drawn. He was definitely ready for bed….
If sleep would ever come.
Harry looked over at the alarm clock and saw that it was 2am. Great… he thought bitterly. Another night of very little sleep. The previous two nights he had not slept as soundly as he would like. Either he would wake up every few hours, or it would take him forever to go to sleep, running through all the thoughts in his head. And when he did go to sleep, it wasn't a restful night like he had been enjoying before all the chaos.
Deciding to try a change in venue, Harry quietly got out of bed and went down to the common room. Sitting in front of the fireplace in his favorite armchair, Harry tried to stem the thoughts that were running through his head:
What would happen when Voldemort got to Hogwarts? How would he get away from Dumbledore and the others to fight? Would everyone be okay? Would he win? Would he loose?
Harry felt the common room start to close in on him. Spotting the window he quickly made his way over to it and threw it open, taking a deep breath of the fresh air. Sitting on the bench in front of the window, Harry couldn't help but look out on the grounds and wonder how different it would be in a week.
The pressure on his chest felt that much heavier when he realized how much more there was to do before Voldemort arrived. Harry felt as if the same questions and concerns were being placed on a continuous loop, never ending and never allowing him a moment's peace. The only time he didn't feel the constant pressure was when he was doing something productive. And the only activities he felt were productive were his nightly sessions with Snape and when he was translating the book.
His frustration came, mostly, from the wasteful hours in the Room of Requirement where they learned only defense – no offense. Knowing he would be battling not only Voldemort, but Death Eaters as well, made Harry desperate for something to fight with. Maybe once they knew the "Magic Sucking Spell" Snape would be willing to teach him some.
Leaning against the wall, Harry's eyes began to drift close, knowing he would be able to talk to Snape later that day.
Pulling himself out of bed, Harry made his way sluggishly to the bathroom. He had woken against the window when the sun poked its head over the horizon. Knowing he would be questioned if he remained, he had managed to make it back to his bed before collapsing into it. A few hours later and he was now, somewhat, awake for the day. I can't keep doing this, he thought, frustrated.
"You all right, Harry?" Ron asked as they decended the stairs into the common room.
"You look like hell, mate."
"I'm fine," Harry told him again, an edge to his voice and a warning to leave him alone.
Ron seemed to get the message and let Harry go on ahead of him. Hoping to get in a better mood, Harry made a beeline for the Owlry. He hadn't been by to see Hedwig for a while and he was starting to miss her.
Opening the door, he spotted her almost immediately. "Hedwig!" She soared down from her high perch and landed on his shoulder, nipping his ear affectionately. He spent quite some time with her, telling her all about what was happening, and she seemed to be listening intently, before realizing he was going to be late for their first session of the day if he didn't leave now.
"This is stupid! I don't want to go! Now I'm tired and hungry," Harry said, his frustration evident in his voice. Hedwig took off, obviously startled by his outburst. "I'm sorry, girl, it's not your fault." Hedwig made a circle above him before perching herself on the window sill in front of him, giving him a look that he swore said, "It's okay."
"I've got to go, I'll come see you later." Giving her one last stroke, Harry turned around and made his way to the first class of the day.
He had hoped that going to see Hedwig would have made him feel better, and it did…until he got to the door to the Room of Requirement. His frustration starting to bubble once again.
The session started the same as the ones before it – they practiced the spells they already knew before moving onto a new spell. Harry grasped the spell quickly, the only one to learn it almost as quickly was Hermione. Now, Harry was roaming through his friends and trying not to say anything, knowing he would be sharp if he did. Apparently, someone finally noticed.
Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see a concerned Remus. "Harry, are you all right? You seem distracted."
"Distracted isn't the term I would use," he whispered tersely, turning away. Remus took his hand from Harry's shoulder. "Just leave me alone."
Unlike Ron earlier that morning, Remus didn't let the subject drip. "Harry, what's wrong?"
Harry clamped his jaw tight and tried to take a deep breath. But the frustrations from the past week that he had been trying to keep inside were starting to bubble to the point of threatening to boil over.
Remus physically turned Harry around and found a fuming ten. "Drop it, Remus," he said a little more loudly than he expected.
"Why are you so upset?" he asked, confusion lacing his words.
He felt a sense of déjà vu occur at his adopted godfather's words. The last time someone asked him that he had reamed out the Headmaster and Professor Snape. That was not something he wanted to do again.
"Just drop it, Remus," Harry said, trying to turn around again. However, the man would not allow him to go.
"Harry, what is going on? You have been irritable and quick to snap at people the past few days. If distracted isn't the term you would use, what would you call what you are right now?"
Harry had never heard Remus be so blunt and harsh with his words as he had that moment. He was saddened that Remus was so upset, but Harry was so exasperated that he couldn't even allow that to stem the flow of his words. "Frustrated. Upset. Angry. Whatever synonym you would like to use for any of those words, I'm sure they would suffice."
"Why? I don't understand why you would be this upset. We're doing what you asked us to do, Harry."
"No you're not!" Harry yelled, taking a step back, and oblivious to the fact that everyone in the room was now staring at him with concern. "All you're doing is teaching us defense spells. You're not doing anything about offensive spells! How are these spells going to help me defeat, or protect me from, Voldemort or his Death Eaters when I haven't learned a single attacking spell from you in a week?!
"This is driving me mad, Remus! I can't stand it. Learning only defensive spells when I could be doing something much more productive with my time. If it were my class, then I would be running this a little differently. For one, I would be having everyone learn offensive AND defensive spells. Doing one without the other makes no sense. There's no balance in it. Doing defense, and only defense, and knowing that we will be doing nothing but defense for the next week is driving me insane! I can't do this anymore!"
His tirade was far from over, but Harry realized what he had just said. I shouldn't have to do this anymore, he thought, angrily. Wait…I don't have to. Harry smiled. "I don't have to."
"What?" Remus was obviously still stunned by the surprise of Harry's blow up.
He laughed lightly. "I don't have to do this anymore. I'm done." He started walking to the door, his shoulders feeling slightly lighter, knowing he would have all day to translate that book and learn some other spells while he was at it.
"No you're not."
Harry was surprised at Remus' tone and how matter-of-factly he said it. "What?" he asked, turning around.
"You're not done here, Harry. You need this training just as much as your friends do."
"Uh, I would agree with you on that, but I think I'm okay to be done for now and do something else on my own. I. Am. Done here."
Turning around once more, Harry couldn't help but feel as if he was arguing with his father. At least it felt like what he would imagine arguing with his father would be like.
"No. You're. Not."
"Yes! I! Am," he threw over his shoulder. Harry continued walking with determination to the door. However, the next words out of his godfather's mouth made him stop cold.
"If you leave, you will not join us."
Harry spun around, panicked. "You wouldn't."
"Oh yes I would," Remus said, stepping toward the volatile teen. "I'll talk to Dumbledore and you will not be allowed to stand next to your friends when Voldemort arrives. You would not be as prepared as your friends and I won't allow any harm to come to you."
Harry stared at him for a moment. Then he laughed. Not only did he laugh, he laughed hysterically. "Oh wow, that's rich. I wouldn't be 'as prepared as my friends'?" he turned to the group. "Um, which one of you has fought Voldemort face to face?" he asked, rhetorically, his own hand raised. He waited a moment, looking around for he hands he knew would never rise with his own. "I think that means I'm more prepared than any of them. So I think I should get a free pass on this."
"You think you're done, just because you've faced Voldemort a few times? You're sadly mistaken, my boy."
"No. I don't think I'm done, but I think that I'm done with this wasteful use of my time. Am I learning something? Yes. Am I learning something that I could use to defeat Voldemort with? No. Is this a complete waste of my time?" he paused, rational thought kicking in. "No. If Voldemort wasn't arriving in just one week, I would be happy to continue with these sessions. But seeing as how he will be here in one week, and I have a massive book to translate, I can see a lot better use of my time than to sit here after I've mastered a spell in five minutes and wait a half hour for the rest of my friends to master it. No offense, of course," he said, quickly, turning to his friends in apology. "But I'm done. And you will not keep me from my place outside the school next week. If you think you can, try and stop me."
Harry made the last few steps to the door and made a quick, and dramatic, exit, slamming the door as he left. If it were possible, Harry was sure steam would have been spouting from his ears. He was furious. How dare Remus try to keep him from fighting? How dare he ruin all the plans and effort he and Snape were doing? He wasn't so far gone to not realize that Remus just wanted him safe. But what he didn't know was that he was trying to make Remus safe, by killing Voldemort once and for all.
The castle was seeming all too small at the moment. Knowing that Sirius and Remus were both in the room with his friends, he knew they would not bother him for a while. They had just started the training less than an hour ago. They wouldn't end the session to look for him, knowing that Voldemort was arriving in only seven days. However, he couldn't think of anywhere he could go without someone coming to bother him. Anywhere he went inside the castle Dumbledore would find him, and Snape knew about his place by the lake, and he didn't even want the company of the Potion's Master right now.
I wish I could leave Hogwarts, just for a few moments, to try to get my head back on straight. But he knew he couldn't. It wouldn't be safe, and downright stupid for him to step outside the grounds of Hogwarts. If only there was a safe place that no one would be able to find him for a while – a safe room, even.
Harry stopped cold. There was a safe room! Changing his direction, Harry ran toward the only place he could think of that he could get there: Sirius' quarters. "Mischief managed." The portrait opened and Harry quickly entered. Looking around, Harry found exactly what he was looking for. Making up his mind, he summoned a quill and parchment and jotted down a quick note.
Sirius, I need some time to clear my head. Then I remembered where I could go that was safe and where I could take the time I needed. I don't know if I ever said thanks, but, thanks.
Leaving it in plain sight, Harry quickly walked over to the fireplace, took a pinch of the floo powder, and stepped into the hearth. "Number twelve, Grimmuald Place." Spinning around, Harry couldn't help but thinking about how much trouble he was going to be in. For all his telling Remus to try to stop him being there when Voldemort arrived, he would probably take himself out of the equation by his actions right now. But, honestly, he couldn't find it in him to care at that point.
Harry started to come back to consciousness. Man, that was a great nap! He wasn't sure how long he had been out, but he felt more rested than he had in days. He felt great! Knowing that he was going to be undisturbed and that he was away from his stress for just a little while, Harry as able to pass out moments after he laid down.
Of course, it had taken him a good half hour to try to remember, and guess at, the secret code to get the door open, forget about actually locking it. He watched Sirius unlock the door, but never saw him actually lock it. But, that didn't matter, he wasn't trying to hide forever. He knew someone would find him eventually. So, he curled up on the couch, too tired to get anything else, and went to sleep. It had been wonderful.
Until he realized why he had awaken in the first place.
Sirius! Harry's eyes flew open and he spotted his Godfather looking down at him with a smirk and a questioning look. "Welcome back. I didn't think you'd ever wake up."
Harry sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Huh?" he asked unintelligently.
Sirius chuckled. "I've been trying to raise you for a good minute. I was just about to give up and dump some water on you."
Suddenly glad that he had woken when he had, Harry smiled. "Well, I'm glad you didn't have to resort to that." Sirius smiled as well, but then turned serious. "So, how much trouble am I in?"
"I don't know. Right now, none."
"Really?" Harry asked, stunned. "I figured I'd be dead and buried before Voldemort even got to the castle for leaving the grounds, even if it was to Grimmuald Place."
"Well, so far, I'm the only one who knows that you're gone."
Instead of feeling happy that he wasn't in too much trouble, Harry felt his stomach bottom out. No one noticed he was gone. "Really?"
"Yeah, everyone went down to lunch, thinking you'd be there. But when I didn't see you, I knew you were hiding somewhere, taking some time to yourself. But I couldn't find you, so I went back to my quarters and found your note. I knew exactly where you had gone, so I came to get you before anyone else noticed you were gone so you didn't get into any, or too much, trouble."
Harry felt a pitty party coming on. He knew his friends cared for him, but why didn't anyone realize he was gone? But someone did notice, a voice inside his head said quietly. Sirius. "Thanks, Sirius."
Sirius smiled. "Well, why don't we head back to Hogwarts before Dumbledore finds out and you get into trouble?" Then he turned to walk out of the room.
"But you're not going to yell at me for yelling at Remus?"
Sirius sighed and turned around to face his godson. "Well, you shouldn't have yelled at Remus like you did, Harry. He was only trying to help. But I think I understand your frustration."
Harry could have hit himself. "Of course, you do," he said softly. "You would know better than anyone. You couldn't do anything last year. Dumbledore wouldn't let you. He just kept you stuck in this house and didn't let you help in any way. If anything I know your frustrations, now."
Sirius nodded. "Yeah. So I know what you mean when you say you're going mad just doing defense. I know you want to learn what you can to attack and defeat Voldemort, and just doing defense, when you know you can fight him, is making you constantly think about what can go wrong. Right?"
"Yeah," Harry said, nodding in agreement, happy to have another person who realized what he was going through. "I can't stand being in there learning those spells when I would rather be translating that book and learning other things that could be more helpful in case something were to go wrong."
"I know, Harry. I wish there was some way you could join us, and be safe, but Dumbledore has said no, so-"
"So what? Who died and made Dumbledore God?"
"I'm sorry, Sirius. You know how I feel about Dumbledore, but he is just a man, after all, and can, and has made mistakes. He might be wrong about this."
Sirius obviously didn't want to continue the discussion the way that it was heading, so he turned around and started back toward the stairs. "I think we should get you back to Hogwarts."
Harry sighed. Knowing that the conversation was over, Harry followed his Godfather out and back to the drawing room.
"Now, to get back to Hogwarts, all you have to do is say 'Hogwarts' and the place you want to go. So we would be saying, 'Hogwarts, Defense Quarters Common Room' and it will take you back to my place."
Harry did as he was told and found himself back in Sirius' quarters. When Sirius came through the grate behind him, Harry asked him a question that had been on his mind since Sirius found him. "You won't tell anyone about this…will you?" Harry asked hesitantly. "Because if Dumbledore were to find out, he might not let me be with you guys when Voldemort arrives."
Sirius didn't answer right away. He seemed to be pondering his answer before he said anything. Turning around to face his godson, Sirius said, "How about this: I'll tell the Headmaster in eight days, how about that?"
Harry smiled, thankful to have such an awesome godfather. "Thanks, Sirius." He gave his godfather a hug.
"Well, it should be time for the next class, so we'd better get going," Sirius said, moving toward the door.
"Wait," he said, quickly. "Sirius, I'm not going back."
Surprisingly, Sirius seemed shocked. Hadn't his godfather been listening to what he had been saying? "What do you mean you're not going back? Harry, you need to learn these spells!"
"But it's making me crazy, Sirius. I can't keep doing it."
"Then how will you learn the spells? You need to learn them, if not for the sake of being better protected."
Harry sighed. He saw Sirius' point, he would like to learn the spells, but he couldn't stand to be in that room again. That's when a light bulb clicked on in his head. "But what if I could still learn them and not go to the sessions?"
Sirius seemed confused. "What do you mean?"
"I could still learn the spells. You could teach them to me."
Sirius didn't say anything at first, his confused look saying it all. However, the confusion turned to thoughtfulness, which then turned to happiness. "Yeah, I guess that would be all right. You will still be getting the spells but you won't have to be so stressed out."
"Yes," Harry said in relief, happy that something was working right for once.
"How about we meet at 8 in the Room of Requirement?" Sirius asked.
Uh oh. 8 o'clock. That was too close to his meeting with Snape at 9. He'd never make it on time. Now how to put it to his godfather so it didn't look suspicious.
"Hmm, how about right after dinner?" Harry asked after a burst of inspiration. "That way, when we're done, we can do the spells then have the rest of the night for whatever."
Sirius thought about it, and said, "Okay, that sounds good to me. Want to start tonight?"
Harry smiled, excited to be able to spend some quality time with his godfather and also learn the spells. "Yeah! Sounds great. Thanks, Sirius."
"No problem, kiddo. Well, I'd better go before I'm late and they wonder where I am. I'll see you after dinner." After the goodbyes, Sirius took out his wand and turned into Winchester. Harry could still see Sirius in the face of Winchester, but knew no one who didn't know him well would see it.
They exited the room and went their separate ways.