Chapter One: Roommate
Harry sighed contentedly, leaning back against Hermione, who was leaning back against Ron. His eyes were closed as he enjoyed the feeling of slender fingers combing gently through his long, untamed hair. Behind him, Ron shifted slightly, getting more comfortable as he rested against the bark of an old weeping willow by the lake of Hogwarts.
Tilting his face upwards, Harry enjoyed the warmth of the sunlight that poured through the strands of leaves surrounding them and keeping them hidden from the sight of casual passersby. He was glad for the chance to relax, as seventh year final exams had just ended, and they had only to attend the Leaving Feast that would be held for all graduating students.
As Hermione's fingers continued combing through his hair, Harry thought back on the past couple of years. After the fiasco in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry headquarters that had resulted in Sirius Black's death, Harry had withdrawn into himself, pushing everybody away in a bid to keep them from dying to protect him from himself, as his godfather had done.
He managed rather well during the summer at the Dursleys, as he simply had to return his friends' letters unopened. He did, of course, write to an Order member every three days—usually Kingsley Shacklebolt or Nymphadora Tonks—but that was the only contact he kept with the wizarding world, and he didn't have to worry about responses to his letters.
Of course, returning back to Hogwarts had changed all that. To be honest, Harry had been tempted to not return to the school for his sixth year, until he realized that unless he graduated, he wouldn't be declared a fully qualified wizard and would never have his chance to avenge his parents and Sirius, and to atone for his own stupidity, by destroying Voldemort once and for all.
Harry found himself returning to Hogwarts with a newfound determination to learn everything he could. He kept up a cool front in front of his friends, using his desperate need to study as an excuse to avoid them. Of course, they would have none of it, and practically force-fed him their near-constant presence. Hermione began studying with him, not that she really needed an excuse, anyway; and Ron was the one who would come and drag him away from his books to get some food or just to relax before he exhausted himself into unconsciousness. Eventually, he had given up trying to push them away, and they had mended their friendship, which was now stronger than ever before.
Around that time, Death Eater activity picked up, and Harry had been guarded around the clock, forbidden from leaving Hogwarts' grounds, and from going to Hogsmeade. His Invisibility Cloak and the Marauders Map had been confiscated, and Harry chafed at the restrictions placed upon him. People were dying, and he was helpless to stop it.
In a bid to keep him too occupied to go about getting into trouble, Dumbledore had set up a rigorous training schedule within Hogwarts' walls. The Room of Requirement got a great deal of use during the next two years, but they needn't have worried. Harry was through risking the life of his friends by way of his own foolishness. He studied hard, and trained even harder, quickly toning his body to the point where he could run—or fight—for hours without taking a break, learning to take refreshing fifteen minute naps throughout the day so that he was well-rested should a battle ever come his way.
And then, suddenly, inexplicably, the Death Eater activity ceased. The Dark Lord had retreated and gone into hiding, and neither the Ministry nor the Order could locate him. Even Harry's visions, both real and planted, had stopped. This respite had been used to teach Harry Occlumency and Legilimency, courtesy of Professor Snape.
Harry snorted to himself, remembering the long hours of training under Snape's brutal, sarcastic, vicious tutelage. Above him, Hermione murmured a quiet, "Hmm?" and Harry grinned lazily.
"I was just remembering tutoring with Snape, that's all." He felt Hermione nod, and Ron snorted in response, eliciting a small smile from Harry. The training had been rough, bordering on sadistic, but Harry had been so determined to best the git at his own game that he had swiftly improved, to the point where he could at least hold his own. He still couldn't completely throw the Potions Master out of his mind, but at least he could shield his thoughts…mostly. At any rate, it was a marked improvement over the disaster of his fifth year, even if he hadn't made nearly as much progress as Snape had wanted.
"Well, Harry, mate, at least you don't have to see him again after tonight," Ron stated optimistically, but Harry just smirked.
"You forget, Ron, Voldemort's still out there." To their credit, neither of his friends flinched upon hearing him speak the Dark Lord's name. "After I graduate, I'll be joining the Order to continue the fight against him and the Death Eaters. I'll be at Hogwarts for a great deal of that time. I doubt there's a way to avoid the man," he scowled.
He very carefully didn't mention that Snape was also a part of the Order, just in case unfriendly ears were listening nearby. He didn't like the Potions Master by any means, but he respected the man for the risks he took daily as a spy for Dumbledore, and he would never again be irresponsible enough to get Snape killed because he was stupid enough to let something slip.
"Poor Harry. You sure you don't want to take Auror training with me?" Ron teased lightly, already knowing the answer. Harry had no desire to work for the Ministry after all the trouble it had caused him. Ron wanted to be an Auror, though, so Harry encouraged him and was supportive. It just wasn't for Harry, who would have quickly grown impatient with all the bureaucratic hoops he'd have to leap through to accomplish anything. Besides, he knew Ron, and having the taller boy as an ally within the Ministry would likely prove very useful some day—providing, of course, that Harry lived long enough.
While Harry would be working closely with the Order and continuing to train under select tutors, Ron would go through Auror training, after which he would work for the Ministry, but still be a part of the Order, although he would have no direct missions from them. Hermione, on the other hand, would be continuing to a University to take a six-month intensive course to earn a degree in her chosen field of Spell-making and casting, and would then return to Hogwarts to take up a teaching position and become part of the Order's research and development team.
Hermione sighed heavily, resulting in Harry's head lifting up and settling back down with her breath. "It's going to be so long until we can all get together again," she moaned. Harry and Ron both chuckled at her dramatics—all three of them had their Apparition licenses, and they could always Floo to each other if necessary.
But, Harry thought ruefully, his friend did have a point. Their schedules were going to be busy soon, and there was no telling when they'd all have some leisure time together. Still, they had vowed to keep in touch, and would most certainly keep their promises. Harry needed to know they were there while he trained and fought; to know that they were safe and hadn't abandoned him like others had over time.
As if sensing his sudden mood swing, Ron stood up abruptly, dumping both Hermione and Harry to the ground with a yelp. Harry rolled off of his friend, while she glared up at Ron. "What was that for, you prat?" she scowled.
The red-headed wizard just grinned unrepentantly and replied innocently, "What, 'Mione? The Graduating Feast is in two hours. Don't you have to go get ready?" Harry put a fist in his mouth to muffle his chuckle, but got slapped alongside the head anyhow, even as Hermione scolded Ron. The youngest Weasley boy had been referring to their friend's tendency to spend an hour or more preparing for special events, such as dances and feasts.
"Hey, Hermione," Harry murmured softly, wrapping his arms around her waist and giving her a tight hug, "at least you don't have to decide what to wear." The implied meaning behind that didn't escape his intelligent friend. With that final comment, Harry pulled away and bolted for the castle, a yelling witch hot on his heels.
Laughing, Harry darted up the stairs, glancing back to see Hermione's surprised expression right before he crashed into something and sprawled backwards on his arse. Blinking up in surprise, Harry realized that he had lost his glasses, as the dark figure standing above him was blurry—and a lot less intimidating than usual.
"Mr. Potter," the words were delivered in a deep, silky baritone that made Harry cringe inwardly, although he didn't show it. "How do you ever expect to defeat the Dark Lord if you can't even watch where you're going? You'll likely trip in battle and impale yourself upon that foolishly bejeweled sword you're so fond of, and save the enemy the trouble. Ten points from Gryffindor," he muttered under his breath, even as he stalked away. Harry shuddered; Snape still frightened him a bit, and probably always would. There was just something so unapproachable about him that made Harry's hackles raise every time they were both in the same room.
As he found his glasses and stood, it suddenly occurred to Harry what had just happened. Blinking owlishly at the Potions Master's retreating back, Harry scowled. "You can't take points…sir," he added, knowing that even though he hadn't raised his voice, the man would still hear him. Benefits of being a spy, he supposed.
Sure enough, Severus Snape paused in the hallway. Without turning around, he added, "Make that twenty for your cheek, Potter," before striding away. Harry's eyes widened slightly as he turned to the hourglasses that showed House Points. Sure enough, twenty gems had been moved from the bottom of the hourglass back to the top, indicating the loss of House Points.
Harry groaned as Hermione and Ron caught up to him, having waited until after the Potions Master left. "I can't believe he can still take points!" he growled under his breath, annoyed. He couldn't really hate the man anymore, not after the shared intimacy of being inside each other's heads, but that didn't mean that he liked the snarky, unjust bastard.
"Don't worry about it, Harry," Hermione comforted, offering him a brief hug. "We're still in the lead, so it doesn't matter." That was true; between Harry's determination, Hermione's natural talents for remembering obscure bits of knowledge, and Ron's silent resignation, Gryffindor had not lost an intolerable amount of points. In fact, for the past two years, the House of the lion had held the record for most points of any House in a given year, which infuriated Snape and his Slytherins to no end, and generated delighted praise from their fellow Gryffindors.
Harry nodded in acknowledgment and visibly relaxed, but he was still fuming. Snape was a rude, sadistic, vitriolic git, and Harry had to work with him all summer as part of his training. Snape would be the one training him to become an animagus, since the process required potions and the man was rather dubious concerning Harry's skills with such dangerous ingredients. Harry didn't imagine either of them would enjoy the process overly much, especially if Snape continued to be such an arse to him.
In a comfortable silence, the three friends made their way up to Gryffindor Tower. Walking in, they greeted Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan, who were lounging by the fire. Apparently, Hermione's dorm mates were already upstairs preparing for tonight's celebration, and Neville was aiding Professor Sprout in making flower arrangements to be placed around the Great Hall during dinner and the dance.
Hermione quickly made her excuses and disappeared up the stairs to prepare. Harry and Ron just shared a knowing smirk before settling down with their friends and starting up a game of wizarding chess. After a quick game, in which both Harry and Seamus lost to their respective opponents, they headed upstairs to prepare for the celebrations as well. Family would be arriving an hour before the banquet actually started, so they had to be dressed before then.
Hermione was so excited, as this would be the first time her parents had ever seen Hogwarts. Ron, on the other hand, wasn't so enthusiastic, as his family had come here several times for various Weasley graduations, starting with Bill, and they'd come here again when Ginny graduated next year.
Sighing softly, Harry realized that he didn't have any family coming to share this special night with him. Hermione's parents didn't know him beyond what their daughter had told them about him, and he'd feel uncomfortable intruding on his friend's turn in the limelight. The same went for Ron. The Weasleys regarded him as part of their family, but he had no desire to take any attention from Ron tonight; his friend deserved all the praise he would receive.
"Come on, mate!" Ron's loud voice snapped Harry out of his daze, and the teenaged wizard barely avoided going for his wand. Ron looked on in amusement. "A bit jumpy there, Harry? Don't worry about it. You know Mum'll be glad to have you with us." Harry blinked; did Ron know what he had just been thinking? Was it that obvious?
Ron continued, "I mean, I know you don't have a place yet, and I just figured I'd remind you that Mum says it's all right if you want to come live with us until you've found a place of your own and all."
Harry sighed silently in relief, smiling fondly at his friend; Ron was still as clueless as ever. "I know, Ron, but I need to do this for myself. Besides, Albus has said that he's got a place for me to live, if I'm okay it. I'll have a roommate, but it'll be a member of the 'old crowd', so there's no need to worry."
Ron nodded; he recognized the code for the Order; Harry would have one of Dumbledore's most trusted with him. He grinned. "I still can't believe he lets you call him by his given name, Harry. I mean, you're only seventeen! He's what? A hundred and fifty?"
Harry's eyes lit up mischievously. "One hundred and sixty-seven, actually," he corrected. At Ron's gobsmacked expression, Harry rolled his eyes. "What? I've visited the man more in the past two years than I did my first five, what with all the extra lessons and stuff."
Ron recovered his composure and smiled back at him. "I'm just glad that you two have worked things out now," he admitted. Harry had to agree; he was glad that they had come to an understanding, as well. Albus wouldn't hide things from him that directly concerned him, and in return, Harry wouldn't argue when the older wizard wanted him to do something that he didn't want to. So far, that had included lessons with Snape, being under house arrest on Hogwarts' grounds during the school year, returning to the Dursleys last summer, and now living where Albus told him to live until Voldemort was dead or Albus decided that he was no longer safe. And with Voldemort's disappearance, Harry found himself on the downside of the bargain more often than not, as there was nothing happening that he needed to know about.
"That's great to hear, Harry!" Ron clapped him on the back. "So, who're you going to be living with for the summer?" Suddenly, he paled. "Please tell me it's not Snape. It's not, is it?" he asked, eyes wide in horror at the thought of his best friend at the greasy git's mercy.
Harry chuckled. "No, Ron, it's not Snape. Albus told me that Snape would be staying here. After all, he's under house arrest, too," he grinned, amused despite himself. Severus had been exposed as a spy in the summer before Harry's seventh year. Nobody knew how it had happened except for Snape and Albus—and possibly a select few Order members—and they weren't telling. As such, the Potions Master was as bound to Hogwarts as Harry himself had been for the past two years. Pity that it only made him more irritable and less tolerable than before.
"Well then, who is it?" Ron asked impatiently as they trooped down the stairs into the common room. Hermione was already waiting and raised an eyebrow curiously.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. He wouldn't tell me who this mysterious person is that I'm supposed to live with. He probably thought I'd refuse if he did tell me." Harry made light of it, but the very same question had been bothering him for a while. Who would he be living with? Why didn't Albus want to tell him until the person arrived?
"I wouldn't worry too much about it, Harry," Hermione offered as they left the common room and headed for the Great Hall. "I don't think Professor Dumbledore would put you with somebody you hate, or who hates you." Harry nodded in agreement, but couldn't seem to shake the dread that hung around him, although he disguised it well—another useful trick learned from Snape.
Upon entering the Great Hall, the Trio was bombarded with Weasleys. It appeared that they were all there. Harry waited patiently for the warm hug from Molly and the handshakes from the other males, as well as the light teasing from the two twins and the sympathetic smirk from Ginny. He noticed that Hermione had made her way through the Weasleys to another couple that must be her parents, judging from the resemblance. Apparently, the two families had already met.
Harry quickly passed through the introductions before slipping away and finding a quiet corner to sit in until the feast began, which would be followed immediately by a dance led by the Head Girl and Head Boy—Hermione and a Ravenclaw boy that Harry couldn't remember the name of…Matthew or Mathias, something like that.
Sitting in his quiet little corner, Harry watched the various families celebrating with the students, meeting with their children's friends' parents. He sighed wistfully, longing clear in his gaze as he stared out at all the happy families.
"He'd be proud of you, Harry. You've come so far in such a short time, and handled all the burdens that have been placed on your young shoulders." Harry looked up to see Albus Dumbledore standing beside him, watching the milling crowd serenely.
Harry smiled sadly. "You really think so?" he asked, hating himself for the note of hope that had crept into his voice.
Albus nodded, offering him a lemon drop, which Harry accepted gratefully. "I know he would have, Harry. And, wherever they are, Sirius, Lily, and James are all proudly watching the man you have become. Your roommate will be here soon. I rather think you two will get along just fine," he murmured. With that, Albus meandered out into the crowd of people, leaving Harry to his thoughts.
Harry contemplated who his new roommate would be while he waited. He hoped that it wasn't Tonks; as much fun as the metamorphmagus could be, he doubted he's survive her clumsiness for however long it took for Voldemort to be defeated once and for all. Shacklebolt wouldn't be too bad, he supposed. The man seemed friendly enough.
About fifteen minutes later, Harry's contemplation was interrupted as he sensed somebody approaching him from the side. The person's magical signature seemed familiar—a bit wild and untamed, but at the same time calm, like a still pool of water. A bit of an oxymoron in itself, Harry thought mildly, trying to place it. The person wasn't in his view yet, so he couldn't find out that way.
"Harry?" The voice sounded very familiar, and Harry's eyes widened as he whirled around and stared directly into the concerned amber eyes of Remus Lupin.
Author's Note: A lot happened in this chapter, but it will start to slow down a little bit soon…I think…I hope. We'll see what happens. As of right now, I have no idea how long this story's going to be, so please hang in there. Thanks!