NEWTs and Graduation
"Potter catches the Snitch! Gryffindor wins 280-140! They win the House Cup!"
Harry grinned as he landed and was practically overrun with people, all wanting to hug or clap him on the back. Somehow, miraculously enough, he managed to reach the platform along with his team where Dumbledore stood to hand over the Cup, his eyes twinkling. Gryffindor had won for the seventh year in a row.
All the Gryffindors then proceeded back to their Common Room where they partied hard. Harry preferred to stay relatively sober, contrary to most his Housemates, and he couldn't help but think about Sirius. His thoughts went back to that romantic evening during Christmas and he smiled. Sirius had really opened up to him, something which he didn't do quickly, and not with everyone. It made Harry feel special and made their relationship more grounded. He couldn't wait to see his boyfriend again. He took a sip of butterbeer as he watched some fifth years making out in a corner. A same corner Harry remembered seeing Sirius make out with someone.
He didn't know how to feel about Sirius' dating history. He knew his boyfriend was already quite experienced between the sheets, and it made him insecure about himself. But Sirius claiming that Harry was different and he wanted to do things differently this time pacified Harry's occasional worries. However, sometimes they would come up, but that was to be expected.
Not that the Slytherins would ever cease to taunt him with it. One had even dared to call Harry sluttish for going out with Sirius, and that he would drop Harry as soon as he got what he wanted. He didn't pay them much mind, though he couldn't denny the comments sometimes got to him. Jugson hadn't ceased his propaganda concerning Harry either, but, taking James' advice, he didn't give him the chance to get near him. He made sure to be with someone, and the times when he was alone it would be in a busy corridor where the Slytherin couldn't threaten him either. It was working on his nerves to be constantly surrounded by others, but after what happened to James and Sirius, it was a necessary precaution to prevent Jugson from getting a stronger hold over him. He absolutely refused to comply to the Slytherin's demands and get himself tangled in with Voldemort. He'd rather never find out his father's identity then to expose himself to that.
However, the little trifle between James and Sirius, and the Death Eaters… Harry couldn't help but conclude that it was because of him, because he had refused Jugson's offer. Not that he thought Jugson was a serious threat, mind you, but the the slimy git did have the connections so others could become the threat. What if he'd been truthful about his threat, and Voldemort really had come after James and Lily, because Harry refused him? The thought brought a lump to his throat and did nothing to decrease his already existing worry. He didn't want to know how much time he'd spent brooding on this, hands clenched, lips pressed together, his mind whirling at the thought of what he could do to protect his family. A few thoughts had entered his mind, and one of them was incredibly tempting… If things were like he thought they were, this could be very interesting. He prepared himself for this particular spell thoroughly, Merlin's beard if anything went wrong. But the execution of his plan would have to wait.
It was near the end of May when the seventh years weren't to be found during the weekend, Harry included. He was arranging the paperwork and his interview at St. Mungo's for qualification. It was the moment of truth, when he stepped out of the Floo Network at St. Mungo's Reception Hall. He dusted off his robes and ran a hand through his relatively tame hair. He wanted to make a good impression, after all. He skipped up to the required floor, begrudgingly recognizing the way to the room where James and Sirius had lain just two months ago. Thank Merlin they made a full recovery, and after two days they left the hospital again. But they learned their lesson and their arrogance to think they could duel Voldemort and his Death Eaters had diminished and the two were much more realistic about their position. Personally, Harry was relieved at this turn of events.
He knocked on the door that read 'Head Healer Bronwick, Floor of Spell Damage', took a deep breath, and entered once the voice inside called him to. There were two men inside, one, who was probably Healer Bronwick, looked to be in his fifties if his graying hair was anything to go by. He looked like someone who had seen a lot, but he smiled kindly upon Harry's entrance. Next to him, quill and parchment in the ready, was a much younger man, perhaps in his mid twenties. He had brown hair and blue eyes, no features which stood out, except for the kindness and enthusiasm he radiated. He grinned and his white teeth almost seemed to glow. Harry couldn't help but smile back.
"Good afternoon," Harry smiled politely as he held out his hand.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Potter," Bronwick replied and grabbed his hand, "It's nice to finally meet you, how are you doing?"
"Very well thank you, and yourself?"
"I'm fine, thank you. I would like to introduce you to one of the Healers on this floor, this is Michael Kensington."
"Hi," he smiled handsomely, a broad smile and shiny white teeth.
"Hi," Harry replied and shook his hand.
"Please, take a seat Mr. Potter," Bronwick indicated toward the vacant chair opposite him. Harry sat himself.
Harry's heartbeat sped up. He hadn't been very nervous before, but it was coming now. Bronwick asked a few small talk questions, before cutting to the chase.
"As I understand, you are currently taking Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, Herbology, Charms, Arithmancy and Astronomy. Six NEWTs is quite ambitious, why did you choose for so many?"
"Well, I'm interested in many branches of magic and academically I was capable of doing it. Professor McGonagall gave me the go and she wasn't disappointed, in the past two years I've maintained my grade average along with some other activities such as Quidditch and Head Boy duties," Harry explained, playing on what McGonagall thought of as his role model student position.
Bronwick chuckled, "A wide range of interests, it sounds like. Why do you choose for Healership?"
"I like working with people and helping them, and being a Healer offers me a challenge as well as opportunities for further growth. It's ever-evolving, and I'm told it fits who I am."
"Why does it fit your personality?" Kensington asked while scratching his cheek with the quill.
"Well, I'm interested in people, both in a caring way and in a none-judging one. I get along with almost anyone, despite House differences. Although, since the war has escalated, certain friendships have gone down the drain," Harry said sadly, "I also want to contribute to this was, but I don't want to strive for a Ministry career. There's also so much to learn about Healership, it's a very wide branch which comes into contact with almost all other branches of magic, which interests me a lot."
"Very well, you certainly seem motivated. What of your grades?"
Harry blushed, "I received O's in all the OWLs that I took on as NEWTs. I've maintained that grade, though I might end up getting an E for Arithmancy."
"Minerva wasn't exaggerating when she talked about her model student, then. However, she forgot to mention your politeness," Bronwick smiled politely, and Harry gave an embarrassed grin. He looked at Kensington who had a small smile playing on his lips while looking at Harry, who smiled back shyly. Healer Bronwick asked some more questions before he was finished.
"If you would step outside for a moment, I'd like to have a word with my assistant."
Harry did as he was told and as soon as he closed the door, he let out a huge breath. He'd done it. And he'd made a good impression too! And had McGonagall talked about him to Mr. Bronwick? He hadn't expected that. At least the take-in interview seemed to be a success… Harry waited outside for about five minutes before he was called back in.
"Well, Mr. Potter, it will come as no surprise that the interview went very well. We would be very pleased if you came to join us in August. However, there is still the requirement that you must attain at least Exceeds Expectations for all NEWTs, and after that you will get the official confirmation of entry."
"Thank you, sir," Harry beamed.
"Upon entry you will be a trainee Healer, and be assigned a mentor who will guide and assess you through your training."
Harry nodded, taking it all in.
Bronwick grinned, "Well then, that is all. We eagerly await your NEWT results, though I have no doubt I will be seeing you again in three months."
"Thanks again sir, it was really nice meeting you," Harry stood and shook Bronwick's hand, and well as Kensington's.
"You too, and have a good day."
"And good luck studying," Kensington grinned.
Harry grinned back and bid his goodbyes.
In the following weeks Harry's studies took a prominent place in his daily life. Classes weren't classes anymore, but instead exam preparation. Harry divided his time between theoretical studying and practical, which he did in the Room of Requirement. He made good of his promise to train himself to fight better, and the Room provided him with moving targets to train spells and the physical aspect of dueling. Sometimes the dummy's would fight back, and Harry even went as far as to practice such advanced spells that they weren't taught at Hogwarts. Ever since he started practicing the spell for his particular get-revenge-on-Voldemort plan, he even started versing himself in borderline Dark curses. He had mixed feelings about them, not knowing if he should just steer clear, or if they would be much more useful during a duel when battling the Dark Arts.
Knowing what the Dark Arts were about, and having a weapon up your sleeve to combat them better than with Light Magic, didn't that make it alright to at least be capable of them?
… James and Sirius would have a fit if they knew what Harry was up to.
But in love and war, everything is fair. Wasn't that what people said?
Either way, his goal was to prepare himself as best he could for his post-Hogwarts war life. And by Merlin he'd do his best to achieve it.
A week later the weather was beautiful, and everyone was outside basking in the sunlight. Except for Harry. It was the perfect moment to go through with his plan now that there were a minimum amount of students in the castle. Inconspicuously he made his way to the seventh floor and took a left. He'd spent so much time here the last few months, but now he came for an entirely different purpose. Or perhaps this had been his purpose all along? He looked around only to find the corridor deserted. Then he closed his eyes and walked back and forth in front of the blank wall three times.
"I need the place where all things are hidden… I need the place where all things are hidden…"
He opened his eyes and the corners of his mouth curled at the sight of the door. He went in and swiftly closed the door behind them. Then he let out a groan.
He'd quite forgotten what a complete mess this room was.
How was he ever going to find the Diadem again?
He spent a good twenty minutes walking around aimlessly, having little clue where he was heading. He sighed in happiness when he saw a cupboard he recognized, and the table a little further away and headed in that direction. And yes! There it was. The closet, the familiar wig lying on the ground next to it, and the battered tiara lay forgotten on the table, with some other stuff covering it. Harry took a moment to admire the scene. There was nothing which pointed in that the diadem was important, that it was put away with more care than it showed here. He was sure Tom Riddle had done all he could to make the diadem look unimportant, discreet, and in such a way that it wouldn't catch someone's eye. But not to such lengths that it was obvious someone was trying to hide it. It was admirable handiwork, but Harry didn't waste anymore time.
He took the tiara and placed it on a clear spot on the floor and withdrew his wand from his robes. Touched by the irony of the situation, and the familiarity, he swallowed the lump in his throat. He'd been so caught up in living the good life, and despite growing up with the expanding war, he'd given it less attention than he thought he would have. But, he'd taken his stand now. He was going to continue life as the Harry Potter he was now, and there might be certain things that were destined to happen, but he'd do whatever it took to ensure his family's safety. They were more important than anything, and if that meant keeping certain things a secret – like the fact that he was going to destroy a Horcrux, and hopefully more in the future – than so be it. Wow, that almost sounded like he was going to live some sort of double life. Which, in a way, he mused was probably true, considering everything.
He pointed his wand at the diadem, and mumbled a few carefully chosen words. Fire came out of his wand, shooting straight towards the Horcrux. It engulfed it, there was a screaming sound, the diadem was rattling – and suddenly, it was quiet. Harry said the counter spell to the dangerous curse, which was uttered at just the right intonation and volume, and the fire ceased down. The diadem was burnt for the most part, and on one side even crumbling. Part of the wordings could still be read, but the whole was damaged beyond recognition. Harry felt a pang of anger towards Voldemort for allowing such a historic item to be tainted like this, to run the risk of being destroyed. Harry carefully picked it up and placed it back on the table. With a last glance backward, he straightened up and walked out of the room, without getting lost this time.
Time to return to the present.
NEWTs were around the corner and, along with the other seventh years Harry did the last-minute cramming. The typical scenario's of books being propped up against milk jugs during breakfast, or people buying all kinds of sweets to make them less nervous, could be seen all over school. Harry, however, was too level-headed to fall for these ruses. And too well-prepared, if he did say so himself.
There were two weeks for the exams. During the first week were his toughest subjects: Potions, Arithmancy and Astronomy. The second week were DADA, Herbology and Charms. Generally he did better on the practical than the theoretical, with the exception of Herbology. He would've done badly in Astronomy too, hadn't it been for Sirius' tutoring who, thanks to his family, knew more about Astronomy than any seventh year student taking the course. Arithmancy went alright, but the rest went very well and Harry was confident he had earned himself a place as Trainee Healer.
The last week was spent finishing up his Head Boy duties, collecting his stuff (which miraculously had spread all over the Head Dorms), packing, and saying goodbye. He spent his time with Noah and the other Gryffindors mostly. He sometimes caught himself staring at his former best friend, wondering what was going to happen to him at the hands of Voldemort. If Regulus did the same as he'd done in Harry's previous life and turn his back on Voldemort, how would he come out? He wouldn't be the same Regulus who had been Harry's best friend for six years. Would Harry meet him in battle? Would he ever even see him again, if Reg did leave Voldemort?
The next day Dumbledore invited Harry up to his office.
"Ah, Mr. Potter, I've been expecting you."
"Sorry for being late sir, the password took some time," Harry grinned sheepishly and Dumbledore's eyes twinkled.
"How are you enjoying your last days at Hogwarts, my boy?"
"Actually it feels odd, and I'm going to miss it, but I'm ready to get out into the real world."
"Yes, Professor McGonagall informed me that you wish to become a Healer. An exceptionally admirable job, and one people never fail to undervalue, I'm afraid," Dumbledore said thoughtfully, "Now, you must be wondering why I summoned you?"
"Yes, I am, sir," Harry replied truthfully.
"Very well," Dumbledore leaned forward and lowered his voice, causing Harry to lean forward as well to hear him, "What I am about to tell you is of utmost secrecy, and you must give me your word you will not speak of it to anyone in this school. It is extremely important that you don't, Harry."
"I promise I won't speak of it to anyone," Harry promised.
Dumbledore smiled softly, "Good. Now, I usually don't approach people as young as yourself, however, you have proven yourself again and again that you are ready for something like this."
"Something like what, sir?" Harry tried to stop himself from grinning, he had a pretty good idea what this was about.
"Ah, I was not mistaken. Your intelligent mind has already worked out what this is about. I assume the Order of the Phoenix sounds familiar to you?"
"Definitely," Harry grinned openly this time.
Dumbledore chuckled, "Yes, I vividly remember James coming up to me, the most peculiar guilty expression on his face, asking my permission to inform you of the Order. James cares for you greatly, it is good to see how your relationship has developed to this."
"He could be a bit less protective, though," Harry muttered.
"They say there is a fine line between love and hate. I suppose, his protectiveness is a way of showing how much he cares. And he cares a great deal for you, Harry,"
"Thanks," he muttered embarrassedly. Now he was getting counseling on his sibling relationship from Dumbledore. He quickly changed the subject, "What of the Order?"
"Yes, the Order. I must confess I have been keeping an eye on you, and the qualities you poses are those I look for in people who will be an asset for the Order."
"Are you asking me to join?" Harry asked slowly.
"Merlin no, I would never ask you. Asking would often make one feel compelled to accept. Therefore I, however, ask you to contemplate it. I desire no immediate answer. This is something you must think of thoroughly Harry, there is immense danger involved in joining. You would be on the frontlines in this war, both in active and passive assignments. Voldemort knows of the Order, though he doesn't know exactly who is in it. It will only be a matter of time, however, before his information becomes better, and more threatening to us. You have to realize what you're are prepared to do."
Harry nodded acceptingly.
"If you choose not to join, a small memory modification will be all to ensure you don't remember this meeting. However, with your skills and traits, you would fit in just fine, I see no problem. But the choice is, of course, up to you," Dumbledore smiled.
"Thank you. I'm pretty sure what the outcome will be, but I'll give it some more thought anyway," Harry smiled, "However, there is also something else you should know, sir," he started nervously. He wasn't sure if he was doing the right thing by telling Dumbledore this.
"Yes, Harry?" Dumbledore asked kindly.
"Well, I'm not sure if James told you, but, ah… I've been having some trouble with Jugson from Slytherin."
"More trouble than usual, you mean?" Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, "James, however, has not mentioned anything to me, though I have heard things from others."
Dumbledore peered at him over the rim of his glasses, and Harry felt proud of his brother. Like he had asked, James had not told anyone, not even Albus Dumbledore.
"He's been acting different this year. Usually we avoid each other, but he's been searching me out. I think it's on Voldemort's orders."
"And why is that, my boy?"
"He kept offering me help when I was researching my parentage," Harry answered, blushing slightly, "but his goal was to get me indebted to him. He kept referring to some source. Later he started threatening me and my family, if I didn't take his 'offer'."
Dumbledore stroked his beard thoughtfully. "When was this?"
"Last semester. I told James over Christmas and he told me to stay away from Jugson."
"Has anything changed?"
"I followed his advice and I kept my distance. It worked pretty well, but judging from his glares and how he still tries to talk to me, I think his plan is still on."
"So Voldemort has finally taken an interest in you," Dumbledore said softly, and Harry wasn't sure if the words were meant for him, or if Dumbledore was thinking out loud.
Dumbledore looked surprised, as if he'd only just noticed Harry.
"Yes, my boy, what with your reputation, I am surprised it has taken him this long to try and recruit you."
"Oh," was all Harry could answer. He opened his mouth to ask another question, but closed it again. Everything in Dumbledre's demeanor was telling him that their conversation was over.
"Very well. Please take your time in making the decision, and I shall hear of you when it is made," Dumbledore winked and Harry smiled. He said his goodbyes and left the Headmaster's office.
Harry's head was spinning while he walked back to the Heads dorms. He always left Dumbledore's office with more questions than answers. Dumbledore hadn't seemed that surprised when Harry expressed Voldemort's interest in him. Personally it creeped him out; he wasn't the Boy-Who-Lived anymore, why would he, of all the capable wizards in Britain, catch the Dark Lord's eye when he was barely eighteen? James had rattled off a number of reasons of course, but could that be all? He may be overthinking things, but it was good to be suspicious. Constant vigilance! And as for the Order, Harry already knew he would join. He'd been preparing himself with training the last months, for Merlin's sake! He wanted to make a difference in this war, and to play his part. He thought back to both James' and Dumbledore's words.
It seemed, whatever side he chose in this war, would be a lucky one indeed.
The last day Harry spent by himself, walking around Hogwarts and its grounds, bringing up memories. Memories from the time of the Marauders, his meetings with Severus, with Regulus, and other things. His life would never be the same again. The constant factor that had been Hogwarts would disappear, and now his adult life began. He had never had to deal with these feelings before; when he had decided to leave Hogwarts after Dumbledore's death he'd barely given it any thought, and after the war he had returned for his seventh year, only to start Hogwarts all over again here. He had never moved towards the moment where he would have to say goodbye to his beloved castle. Harry's musing made him feel half depressed and, checking his watch, he was relieved it was time for the End of the Year Banquet. That should get his thoughts off of his goodbyes.
Harry walked through the hallway. He realized he was by himself and silently cursed himself for it. Good thing it would be, if on his last day at Hogwarts Jugson could finally have a go at him. The hallway was dark, with only a few torches lit, especially this remote one. He heard footsteps coming from the opposite direction and tensed. He silently put in hand in his robe pocket and clenched his wand. The approaching person came closer and Harry started when the torchlight caught his face.
Regulus. Now that he hadn't expected, and on his last day no less.
The Slytherin was in deep thought and only noticed Harry at the last moment. He looked as startled as Harry felt, and with a quick glance around he also noticed they were the only ones in the corridor. They were facing each other, both having come to a halt. It was awkward, there was no denying it. Neither knew what to say or if they should say anything. It felt like minutes, but it was only a few seconds before Regulus made a hasty escape.
For a moment Harry wanted to stop him – there was so much he wanted to say to his old friend – but Reg was already out of reach, and moving away fast. It was entirely on purpose, his quick get away, and Harry stared after him. He hadn't looked healthy, with bags under his eyes and his hair more lanky than the usual full of life. His back was tense as he walked away, and his head bent downwards. Harry knew his friend well enough to know that, the confrontation hadn't left Regulus unaffected either. Was he regretting joining Voldemort? Had he done a mission yet? Did he miss Harry like Harry missed him?
All these thoughts went through his head, and unconsciously Harry's feet brought him to the Great Hall. He purposely ignored the Slytherin table, and could only hope and pray that Reg would turn away from Voldemort, before it was too late for him.
The last ride on the Hogwarts Express was an uneventful one, which Harry spent with his fellow Gryffindors. They happily chatted away at all their plans for their post-Hogwarts life. However, with the war, not even half their ideas were executable, especially not if the war would become even graver. Upon arrival Harry spotted James and Lily already waiting patiently. Sirius hadn't been able to come, there was an Auror assignment which needed his undivided attention until it was done and finished. Both of them were disappointed, but in war time things like these happened.
James greeted him and drew him into a tight hug and Lily proceeded to do the same. They apparated away (no need to hang around longer than necessary) and Harry smiled at the familiar sight of Godric's Hallow. The three of them decided that Harry would continue living with James and Lily until he was ready to get his own place. But he didn't want to impose on their married life either, and as he would get a small allowance during Healer training and he still had the Potter's inheritance to support himself. If needed there would be a way.
Harry spent the rest of the afternoon with James and Lily, and was forbidden from eating dinner, because later in the evening Sirius would be taking care of that. So, as soon as Sirius finished his late Auror hours, he whisked him away for a late-night dinner. The Marauder himself could barely cook, but he had good taste in restaurants. He took Harry to a small but romantic Muggle place not too far away from Godric's Hallow. By bike, of course. They had a good evening talking and laughing, having not seen one another for three months. It was almost twelve when Sirius flew Harry back and landed in the back yard of Godric's Hallow and they got off the bike for a proper goodbye. It had been too long since he'd kissed Sirius, and he knew he could never get enough of it. The passion was evident in the Marauder, but there was also the need to be gentle and caring, all rolled into one kiss which always left Harry wanting more.
The days passed and Harry remained waiting for his NEWT results, meanwhile using his time to read up on Healership. Lily had been sweet enough to bring some books back from Diagon, after doing a little errand for the Order. It was on one such a day, when Harry was delving himself into Healing Spells and their effect on the internal organs, when his brother decided to bother him.
"Just what exactly have you done to my best friend?" James came barging into his room.
Harry slowed turned the page of the book, not looking up.
"I doubt you want to know what I do to Sirius when you're not there."
James looked positively affronted, "I did not need that mental image!"
"I wasn't giving you one," Harry teased, "that's all you."
"Fine," he pouted and marked the page in his book before putting it away, "What's bothering you?"
"It's not bothering me, more like amazes me every time he does it. Sirius has been so different he's been lately."
"What kind of different?" Harry asked curiously.
"It's just, he's so happy. Not the foolish all-over-the-place happy he usually is, but more like a deep contentment," James said thoughtfully, "And instead of his usual swagger in everything he does, he's much more calm, and showing the side of him I know. He's not about making a certain impression anymore."
"Ok," Harry said, not really knowing what else to say. He'd gotten to know Sirius more intimately, and he supposed it was good of the Marauder to be more himself in public instead of focusing on how cool others thought he was.
"And then the men and women!"
"Oh?" Harry asked, albeit a bit more testily. His heart skipped up to his throat.
"He practically ignores them!"
His heart went back to its normal place, "Oh?"
"Usually when he's dating his eye is always open to others, but now he just brushes them off. He doesn't even look at them twice, no matter how attractive they are or how much they try to flirt. He's purely content being with you," James said thoughtfully.
"Why are you telling me this?"
James looked at him while drumming his fingers on the armrest of his chair.
"Because I never thought I'd see this happen. I was sure this was going to end up a mess for both of you, with me in the middle."
"Thanks," Harry said dryly.
"No offense, or anything," he shrugged, "It's how it usually goes with Sirius. But, I admit, I was wrong. He really is serious about you."
"You were only looking out for me, it's not surprising considering Sirius' track record," Harry replied, for some reason wanting to make his brother feel better. James smiled softly at him.
"I remember when I caught you two kissing during Christmas."
Harry rolled his eyes, "You were so out of line."
"Hey!" he protested indignantly, "First you're telling me I'm right in looking out for you, now I'm out of line? When I saw you two I thought you were just another conquest, that Sirius was only interested in you because he hadn't had you yet. I wanted to protect you from that," he said embarrassedly.
Harry took pity on his brother and went to sit on the armrest of his chair.
"That's nice, James. But I'm almost eighteen, you don't need to protect me like you used to anymore. I can take care of myself."
"I know," he said stubbornly, "But you're still, and always will be, my little brother to me."
"Well, do you want to know what surprises this little brother?"
James' lips twitched, "And what might that be?"
"Why you're so protective in every part of my life, except with the war. You never tried to talk Dumbledore out of asking me to join the Order, did you?"
"No, I didn't."
"I don't know," he sighed, "Of course I don't want even a scratch to come to you, but you have a right to fight in this war if you want. After everything you've been through because of those bastards, and you're a very capable wizard, it's only right for you to be out there fighting. Though I absolutely forbid you to get hurt!"
"I swear I will do whatever is in my power, not to get hurt," Harry rolled his eyes.
"Good," James said simply.
It wasn't long before Harry's NEWT results arrived. Only now could he understand James and his dramatics when he'd had to open them. His brother had, for once in his life, been nervous. The NEWT results would mean the start of the end if his dream, and only now that Harry had to open his envelope himself, could he appreciate his brother's nerves.
"Would you like me to open it for you?" James said airily, and amused smile on his face. Harry shook his head. He slowly sat down at the table and re-read the back of the envelope.
"You know, the address isn't going to make you much wiser," James said with a patronizing tone to his voice.
"Shut up!" Harry snapped, before turning the envelope around and slowly tearing the wax seal off. Gently, as if the letter was made of the finest glass, he extracted and unfolded it.
Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test Results
Harry James Potter has achieved:
Defense Against the Dark Arts O
Harry blinked, and read over it again, running his finger down the grades. Five "Outstandings"? He suddenly had an image of what Hermione's reaction would be if she were here. He would've thought he'd gotten her list instead. Only one E, which still wasn't a bad grade, for Arithmancy. But that had been expected.
"Harry?" Lily asked softly, "Are you alright?"
Harry let out a shaky 'yeah', before handing her the list. Her eyes widened.
James leaned over her shoulder and he had a similar reaction before he broke out into a grin. He stood up and wrapped his arms around Harry.
"I knew it, I knew you'd do great! Congratulations, Harry."
"Thanks, James," Harry grinned and Lily gave him a bone-crushing hug. The downside was that James had to leave to go to work, and Lily had to meet someone from the Order to discuss something. In the evening the Potters went out for dinner with Sirius, Remus and Peter. Harry delighted in the company, it had been so long since he had spent time with them. However, he kept a suspicious eye on the quiet Peter, who seemed moody more than anything else. When would it be, that Peter switched sides?
It was two weeks later when, once again, Harry found himself in front of the mirror criticizing his appearance. Lily had dragged him to Diagon Alley to pick out a new set of dress robes for his graduation. Despite being tortured at Madam Malkin's for almost two hours, the trip turned out very enjoyable. It had been a long time since Harry and Lily spent time with just the two of them. She had great taste as well, he learned. They had settled on simple yet elegant black robes made of a rich material with crimson embroidery around the neck-line, the cuffs and the hem of the robes to show off his House. Al in all he was baffled as he managed to look elegant, noble and graceful all rolled into one.
Harry turned and smiled when he saw Sirius leaning against the doorframe.
"Sirius!" Harry exclaimed in welcome surprise. In his enthusiasm he rushed over and threw his arms around his boyfriend's neck, who gave a low-toned laugh and wrapped his arms around Harry's waist. He kissed Harry's cheek and Harry let go, beaming at him.
"What do you think?" He turned around, showing off his new robes.
"I'm not beautiful," Harry pouted, which didn't help making him less so, "I'm not a girl. Can't you pick a different word?"
"Oh I can pick a lot of different words," Sirius grinned impishly, "But I for one don't think beauty is only reserved for girls," He leaned down, his eyes trailing from Harry's eyes to his lips and Harry leaned forward, closing his eyes. Sirius tenderly pressed his lips against Harry's and Harry reciprocated, his heart speeding up and he closed the distance between them. By the time they had to come up for air they were pressed closely to each other and their breathing labored.
Sirius smiled softly and he trailed a finger down Harry's cheek and followed his jaw-line.
"I'm thinking of many new words, now," Sirius breathed.
"Oh? What are they?"
"Mmm… Alluring, tempting, sexy, to name a few."
A blush crept up Harry's cheeks. Sirius grinned in his own sexy way that Harry found irresistible.
"Yet seductively innocent as well."
Harry gently slapped him on the arm before moving away and spreading his arms.
"Seriously though, do I look nice enough for graduation?"
Sirius took his time looking him up and down, and Harry rolled his eyes.
"What?" the Marauder asked innocently.
"Whatever, I'll just ask James."
It wasn't Sirius who called him, but it was James' voice which rang through the house.
"Speak of the devil," Sirius smirked.
"Are you ready yet!?"
"Wow, having a déjà vu moment here," Sirius said.
Harry sighed. Some things never changed.
The graduation ceremony took place in the Great Hall. Lines of chairs stood facing the plateau where the teacher's table usually stood. There was a table with flowers and papers where the students would sign their Document of Achievement, and space to the right where, if Harry remembered correctly, students would shake the hands of their Head of House and the Headmaster. He took a seat in one of the front rows in between Noah and a Huffelpuff boy.
He looked around curiously, and saw that everyone in his year was present. They'd all passed, then. To his dismay he saw Regulus sitting right beside Jugson, who seemed to feel his gaze and looked up at him, dislike written all over his face. Harry returned the look before looking behind him at the audience. Never one to like being the centre of attention, he gulped at the amount of people present. He'd brought James, Sirius, Remus, Peter (unfortunately) and Lily, but it seemed some of his yearmates had brought twice the amount, or more. It seemed Hogwarts graduations were considered a happening in the Wizarding World. He caught his brother's eye who grinned and waved at him, and Harry waved back. It caught Sirius' attention, who winked and held up his thumbs. Lily and Remus were in a conversation and didn't notice the exchange, and Peter was trying to follow along but from his expression, Harry could tell he wasn't very successful.
Dumbledore stepped up to the front with the ever-present twinkle in his eye, and gained everyone's attention.
"Ladies, Gentleman, and, students, though this is the last occasion on which I may refer to you as that…"
Dumbledore proceeded with a general speech about the students and his pride at how they had developed. He also awarded special pins to students who had held certain positions, and to Harry's horror, he was called up three times – once for being a prefect, once for Quidditch Captain, and for Head Boy. He didn't need to look twice to know who was making the most racket during the modest applauses, that's what you got when you counted the Marauders as family. Or more specifically, if James Potter was your brother and Sirius Black your boyfriend. By the end of it, Harry was sure his face was bright red and when he turned in his seat to glare in them, they only gave cheeky looks in reply.
Finally the time for giving out the documents came. Names were called out in alphabetical order, and parents mingled to the front to get a good picture of their children signing and shaking hands. Harry watched as Regulus went up front, and a wave of sadness hit him. This felt so wrong, they should have been friends and shared this happy moment. He vaguely wondered what Reg would have said about his and Sirius' relationship. More people were called forward, most of whom, Harry realized, he would probably not be seeing anymore with the current war climate.
When his name was called he walked up with a calm, graceful yet confident aura. However, he internally cringed when Dumbledore announced that Harry had ended top of the year, which was replaced by relief when he saw it was Lily coming with the camera, and not his brother. He barely noticed the intensified interest in the crowd when his name was called; he was too overwhelmed by happiness, delight, nervousness, and sadness at the thought that he was putting Hogwarts behind him. Harry pushed away the emotional rollercoaster when he seated himself for the signing. He looked over the parchment before signing it, Lily flashing away. He got up and walked over to Dumbledore and McGonagall, who were waiting on the other side of the plateau.
"Well done, Mr. Potter, you have earned every bit of this," McGonagall gave a small smile while Harry smiled broadly.
"I agree. Harry, you have done a tremendous job and this is nothing less than you deserve," Dumbledore smiled kindly as his eyes twinkled, and Harry couldn't stop grinning as he shook the man's hand.
"Thank you, Professors. It's been an honor having been taught by you. But, I'm sure we'll be meeting again over the summer."
McGonagall raised her eyebrows and Dumbledore beamed, realizing what Harry was referring to.
"In that case, we shall see you in two weeks. However, I think you must go on, I am not sure how long James can refrain from coming up here to congratulate you."
Harry looked to his side and indeed, it looked as if it was taking every ounce of willpower for his brother not to come and crush him. That, and Remus' hand on his arm. Harry turned back.
"See you in two weeks then," he inclined his head to both his Professors and walked down the plateau, where he was almost immediately ambushed by James and Sirius.
"Congratulations Harry," James hugged him, "you were great, every single time you had to go up there," Harry withdrew and he didn't know whether to be pleased, or exasperated at his brother. It wasn't like he liked being the centre of attention, unlike someone else he knew.
A strong arm wrapped around his waist and a voice breathed into his ear, "You looked wonderful up there,"
Harry looked up shyly at Sirius, who bent down to give him a quick kiss.
"Now, let's see that Document of Achievement, shall we?" James said uncomfortably at their show of affection. He unrolled the parchment Harry had been holding, and Harry was meanwhile congratulated by Remus.
"Good job Harry, there aren't many who could achieve top scored in so many NEWTs, and having Head Boy and Quidditch Captain duties to content with. You can be very proud."
"Thanks, Remus," Harry said softly and hugged the werewolf.
Peter and Lily also congratulated him, and then he was dragged away for pictures of their year and House. He received several compliments on his achievements, and also on how he looked. The lines of chairs were replaced by small, round tables and the people mingled around to congratulate and talk to each other. Harry saw Sirius grabbing some pumpkin juice and he slowly walked over and surprised his boyfriend when he hugged him from behind. But something was not right.
"Sirius? What's wrong?"
"Nothing, why would anything be wrong?" Sirius turned around and returned the hug, but his arms fell back to his sides quickly.
"You're tense and uptight, you weren't like that before."
Sirius sighed and smiled, "Really Harry, everything is fine. This is your day, don't worry about me."
Harry frowned, "How can this be my day if you aren't enjoying yourself?"
Sirius looked at something behind Harry's shoulder. Confusedly Harry followed his gaze. There was nothing there, only people and their graduated child. He saw a Huffelpuff, a few Ravenclaws, and Regulus – Regulus! Regulus was standing with what Harry recognized as his parents, having seen them a few times on Platform 9¾. He turned back sympathetically.
"Oh, Sirius," Harry rubbed his arm, "It must be difficult to see them again."
"It is," he admitted, "That cow that I have to call mother just looked at me and, I dunno… There was so much disgust on her face. I thought I'd seen it all when I lived there, but. Or maybe it's just that I haven't seen that expression for so long, that it got to me," Sirius shrugged. "But hey, don't let me spoil your mood," he smiled and placed his hand on Harry's neck, drawing him closer. The kiss didn't last long, Sirius knew Harry didn't like being overly affectionate in public. But it was overly enjoyable, nonetheless. Sirius filled a few goblets with pumpkin juice and levitated them over to where he and the Marauders were sitting.
Harry glanced back at the Black family, where Regulus was now talking to some of his uncles and aunts. However, one of them was staring at him. The man that Harry knew was Sirius' father, stared at him with a haughty look. He didn't break eye contact, not even when it was obvious Harry caught him staring. Harry quickly made his way over to his friends, but out of curiosity he looked back. Mr. Black was still staring at him with an intrigued expression, though this time when Harry looked at him, he looked away and turned his attention to his second son.
It was at the end of the afternoon that Harry, Lily and the Marauders left Hogwarts. Everyone stayed over at Godric's Hallow for dinner and a variety of discussion topics came by, including how good it was to be back at their beloved school, the Slytherins, the war, and when Harry was coming over to Sirius' place. He realized he'd never actually been to his boyfriend's apartment, and curiosity got the better of him. The other Marauders teased Sirius about only being focused on Harry – apparently, some of Harry's yearmates had been vying for his attention (something Harry was greatly displeased about), but Sirius had brushed them off politely, not going along with their flirting or their interest. Sirius looked embarrassed as his devotion to Harry was so plainly discussed, and Harry cooed at him and kissed him. That shut his brother up. However, all the Marauders were extremely pleased at the attention they'd gotten. Obviously, no-one had forgotten them.
Later that night, Harry put on his pajama pants and crawled into bed. He smiled at how wonderful the day had been, celebrating his last time at Hogwarts with all his friends and family. It was most definitely a very special day. Harry sighed contently and a smile formed on his lips.
A young man screamed in pain on the floor. An older man towered over him. He wore black robes and the hood was up, so nothing could be seen of his face, except pale skin and glowing red eyes. After a minute, he released the curse.
"Was the mission too difficult for you? I dread to think what other results you will bring me, if this is how you start out," the Dark Lord hissed.
"My-my Lord! I'm sorry! The boy, he could be a Slytherin at- AHH"
The Dark Lord had the curse on him once more. When would his incompetent followers learn, he did not tolerate excuses!
"This was just one simple order, Jugson," he said softly, but that didn't diminish the dangerousness in his tone, "now you have left us with your mess!"
"Forgive me, My Lord…"
"Get out of my sight!"
Jugson scrambled up from the floor, the boy was getting off lucky and he knew it. Not that this would be the end of it, Voldemort would ensure he learned his lesson. It had been just one simple mission! Get him the youngest Potter! But because of his own petty rivalry Jugson had ruined his chances. Now Dumbledore had surely already capitalized on the boy's power.
Oh yes, Potter had power. More than just his magic, Potter was like a magnet: people wanted to be like him, near him, even with him. He knew for a fact there were even Death Eaters in his own ranks, who wouldn't mind getting into the boy's pants. Yes, for more reasons than one, the Potter boy would be a major asset for either side of the war. And because of the stupid boy he had entrusted the task of converting Potter, his chances were ruined! Jugson would live to regret this!
Meanwhile, he would find another way to take care of Harry Potter…
Yep, I'm still alive! Haven't died in case you were wondering; I know that's what I wonder when certain stories aren't continued for no apparent reason. I've just gotten really busy, and together with a lack of inspiration, that's caused this tremendous delay. I'm currently doing an internship on the other side of the world, so there was SO much stuff to organize beforehand, and now this new rhythm is much more draining. So, because I'm a nice person, I'll be open and confess that I don't know when I'll post the next chapter due to previous mentioned reason. But along with that, I'll also confess that I'm a loyal person, and won't nor can't just leave this story hanging. There's about 16 more chapters, so once I get back in tune with my inspiration, things should get rolling again.
Anywho, I'm touched by the continuous amount of support, reviews and interest this story has gotten. You guys stayed loyal even when I was slipping, so take a big hug and compliment from me!