Harry eyed the surrounding boys and girls carefully, trying to find someone he knew. There were some he recognized from Hogwarts but had never talked to. Harry was also sure most of these kids went to private schools or were home schooled. He had counted at least forty people before they continued to intermix with each other so much he just gave up, though he was pretty sure fifty or so kids were there. They all ranged from a year below him to at least two years older. This would definitely be exciting.

In the very middle of the stadium they were in was a dueling rink that was four feet high. The walls were a plain white while the ground was made with a bouncy rug that felt perfect for relaxation.

As the kids continued to chatter, a door burst open with a bang, causing an echo in the small stadium. A white haired man with an extremely wrinkled face walked in. His dark eyes were fierce with the many signs of seeing too much in his life. He was wearing tight black pants that were just a bit creepy on a man his age with black dragon hide boots and shirt, along with a wand holster that was clearly visible on his right arm.

"All of you gather into a long line!" he barked, causing the majority to jump. He gave them all a measuring look once they got into place. "I am your teacher, Hansel Harsen. You may refer to me as Sir, Professor or Mr. Harsen. Usually I just teach brats like yourself how fight in a traditional dueling competition, however, with the war, things will become much more extreme. For the first two days, we shall be learning spells before actually going into the ring. We do not move onto a new spell until absolutely everyone has learned said spell, understand?"

Whispers broke out, some looking at each other suspiciously, daring the others to even hold them back.

"However," Harsen said softly, breaking the whispers, "if any of you truly lags behind, you will be kicked out. This is a higher level. If you wish for something easier, you may leave."

No one left.

Harsen smirked. "Good. Now, the first thing I need to discuss is rules. If any of you have problems, take it out in the ring, but not while outside of it. Formal Forfeit Challenges are allowed."

The purebloods muttered amongst themselves, looking incredibly pleased. Harry knew he would have to look that up immediately.

"Illegal curses are, obliviously, illegal. Anything that will cause ever lasting damage on purpose or near death will get you a one way ticket to the Aurors office. My spells will be borderline dark, some may even be considered actually dark." He glared at some of the horrified looks. "This is the real world!" he barked. "Light and Dark do not exist, but are mere titles. It is up to you to discern what they mean."

Harry found himself, along with a few others, nodding along.

"I expect you all to wear appropriate clothing," he continued. "Battle robes are considered formal and traditional. You may where them if you like, though I warn you it is much easier to wear simples clothing, much like myself. However, I also warn you that if you wish to enter a competition, formal robes are required. If you are muggleborn, like I see some right now, jeans and shirts are fine. I suggest, however, you all get a wand holster. I will be selling them at the end of class for ten sickles. They are simple leather with a simple anti-summoning spell."

Harsen allowed them to think over on what he just told them.

"Very well. Now, if no one is missing, we should have fifty students. I accept no more and no less. Get into groups of five and be sure to be far apart from each other. I assure you this room expands when needed and has some of the best protection wards. I shall be teaching you all one of my personal favorite spells. It will be hard, and I doubt many of you will get it until at least an hour passes, but this is to prove to you all how hard my classes will truly be."

Everybody looked at him in excitement. Harry griped his wand at his side eagerly. He could feel his rock offering a supportive weight in his pocket.

Harsen raised his wand and made a half circle motion with his wand as he shouted, "Unda Verbero!"

A thin water whip escaped from the end of his wand, awing the onlookers and reminding Harry of how Dumbledore had fought. He was pretty sure the Headmaster loved this spell as well. With several professional slashes through the air, Harsen ended it. He had shown off just enough to prove how amazing the spell was but not enough to be arrogant.

"Well, what are you waiting for!" he barked, once again causing the majority to jump. "Get into groups!"

Harry looked around carefully; waiting for any group to form that had an opening. Everybody just kept looking at each other suspiciously. It seemed that most wanted only a group that wouldn't slow them down.

"Found a group yet?" a voice purred behind Harry.

Harry turned and was eye to eye with a boy with raven black hair that was long enough to reach the bottom of his neck and light blue eyes that had a hint of purple in them. He had perfect white teeth and had an aristocrat look. He was wearing formal robes that didn't have any sleeves. His wand holster was easily visible that was made with green scales that didn't look like dragon scales.

"Not quite yet," Harry said. "Though, if you decide to stay with me I'll have part of a group."

The boy gave a tiny smirk, looking Harry up and down carefully. Cygnus Belby, son of Damocles Belby." He held out his hand.

Harry reached out, both giving firm grips. "Harry Potter," he gave back. "Son of James Potter."

Cygnus gave a small smile that proved he already knew who Harry was. "Perhaps we should find our groups? Harsen seems to be a bit impatient."

Harry nodded in agreement as they started looking around. They ended up being in a group with two other boys and one girl. The girl definitely looked like she could take care of herself, especially when she gave the boy with light blond hair a good stinging hex for openly leering. The other boy had bright red hair, almost like the Weasley's, but had a very unemotional look. As long as no one got in his way, he wouldn't bother them.

As the many groups formed a wide circle, a large, thick stone materialized in the middle of them. That would be their target.

As Harry got his wand out, he thought that this room acted a lot like the Room of Requirements. "Unda Verbero!" Harry made the same motion as the teacher. To his disappointment a tiny dribble of water escaped.

The blond boy achieved nothing while both the red head boy and girl got a little amount of water, though less than Harry. Cygnus actually achieved a three inch whip that seemed physical before it fell to the floor in less than five seconds. They all looked annoyed at their pathetic achievement.

"Perhaps we should practice on the wand movement and incantation before we actually perform the spell," the girl offered. She looked slightly haughty but otherwise didn't look like she cared much for the others. She did give Harry a sneer for wearing muggle clothing. "And I am Victoria Parkinson," she said.

Harry gave her a look, taking in her blond hair and icy brown eyes. "You wouldn't happen to be related to Pansy Parkinson, would you?" he asked.

"My little sister," she said carelessly. "She goes to Hogwarts while I am home schooled. I care not for silly house rivalries that will disrupt my studying."

There was a small silence.

"I'm Alfred Ternal the Third," the blond boy said, breaking the silence.

"Son of Alfred Ternal the second, major transport in wand cores, also the son of a squib," Victoria said with a sneer.

Alfred looked embarrassed. "We are not here to make enemies," Harry interrupted harshly, giving Victoria a stern look. "You claim you don't want house rivalries interrupting your studying, and yet here you are causing problems that may very well cause those problems. As Harsen said, have your fights in the ring."

Victoria had an ugly look. "Well said," she said simply, irritably. She said nothing more but instead turned to the red haired boy.

"Gent," he said simply, making Harry wonder how and why purebloods make such strange names for their children.

"Last name?" Cygnus asked.

"Doesn't matter," Gent said blankly. "Now, shall we get started on this? I don't believe any one of us felt comfortable when we cast the spell. That's why we all failed."

"Hold on," Victoria said snidely. She turned to Cygnus. "And you are?" she drawled.

"Cygnus Belby," he stated. "I believe your father knows mine."

Victoria looked contemplative. "Only for shipping potion ingredients," she sneered. "Not for healing half-breeds."

Cygnus just looked smug, as if he knew a secret that she wouldn't get even if she begged.

"Shall we?" Harry interrupted.

"No, I still don't know your name," Victoria said.

Harry sighed. "Harry Potter, at your service. Now, shall we begin?"

With a different look this time, easily interpreted as suspicious, she nodded. As one, they all did the wrist movement.

"I believe I know our problem," Gent said, surprising them all with his serious look. "None of us are turning our wrist half way with a jerk. We are too soft. This is a whip, a weapon to cause pain. We need to feel the need to send out our whip against our opponent."

Again they were surprised. There was a lot more than they first thought about Gent.

Harry took up his wrist and used it in more of a slashing motion, being sure to add the half circle. "Unda Verbero!" he snapped, wanting to see that rock be whipped.

To his surprise, a four foot whip was released from his wand. Upon impact with the thick stone, it immediately dissolved into normal water, falling on the ground. The rug remained dry, however.

Heartened by their partner's better achievement, they got started. Cygnus waited until the others had gone before starting. Saying the spell almost harshly, a whip just as long as Harry's shot out and made a small cut into the rock that was no more than one centimeter thick. The water collapsed onto the ground.

Cygnus looked at his work in disgust.

"Just focus," Harry said, not giving Cygnus a look as he performed the spell once more. "You have obviously never done this spell before. Just focus and it'll get better. Don't rush and get angry."

Cygnus gave him an indignant look before chuckling. "A Gryffindor telling a Slytherin to not rush?" He chuckled again.

"You're in Slytherin?" Harry asked, smiling softly but otherwise looking determined. He could see the humor in that as well.

"Seventh year this year," Cygnus said, performing the spell, a dark look forming as he got the same reaction.

Harry, on the other hand, managed to get a four centimeter deep cut into the rock. Based on the thickness of statues in the Department of Mysteries and how Dumbledore and Voldemort easily destroyed them, he wasn't sure if he was doing all that well. He did have to think about Dumbledore and Voldemort being incredibly old with much more experience.

"Unda Verbero!" Victoria snapped, drawing the attention of the others. She looked just like Pansy when she got angry. Exactly like a pug. He water whip still fell apart as she took a swing.

They spent an hour working on the spell, each getting better and better. It seemed that all of them had managed it, even if some had incredibly weak whips that fell apart after a small tap against the rock.

"Give it a few more goes," Harsen told them all as he surveyed them carefully. He had used the hour to walk around, watching the different groups with the look of a shark. Harry felt the teacher staring at him. He could feel Harsen's disappointment as his whip easily broke after one snap, despite leave an inch thick dent in the rock. He felt disappointed in himself, especially since he knew so many expected so much. Feeling anger surge through him, Harry gathered his magic.

"Unda Verbero!" Harry almost snarled, putting so much into his spell.

What happened next shocked the others. An extremely flexible whip escaped from Harry's wand and withered like a snake. With a harsh slashing motion, Harry slammed his whip into the stone, cutting halfway through. Harry panted horribly, feeling both drained and different. His whip still remained so he banished it quickly and slumped to the ground.

"Too much magic there, sonny," Harsen growled, sound eerily like Moody. "All of you sit for a good twenty minutes. Regain your strength; we'll begin on something easier." With that he walked away.

Harry breathed through his nose as he covered his mouth, feeling just a little sick. He brought out the water bottle he had brought and took a big gulp. He really had used too much magic, but for some reason it felt a bit different.

"Something wrong, Potter?" Cygnus asked, not exactly looking unruffled either.

"Like Harsen said, too much magic," Harry responded. He had no intention of telling these strangers his magic felt off after he just got angry.

They rested in silence for the next twenty minutes. It was nowhere near enough to regain back their magic, leaving them still tired. Harry gave a rather perverse smile as he stood up, prepared for the next spell. He liked this kind of lesson. The kind that demanded you better get your ass ready and learn, even if you are magically drained.

"This one will be a bit easier," Haresn said, standing with his arms folded. "This is a simple charm that helps ward off dangerous animals. It will not help against animals with creature intelligence, such griffons and Runespoor's. It will also not work on beasts that are considered level five and some higher level four's. It all depends on the power you put into this charm and how much of a beast your foe may be. The Dark Lord has been known to use dangerous beasts in his army.

"This spell will give off a slight power and sense of threat toward weaker beasts that could or could not pose a threat. An example could be a Bundimun, pesky little creatures, or Crups. They can certainly take out a good chunk of skin. What you do is take an item that can easily be carried. Coins, pendants, you name it. They don't last long. Hour, perhaps two if you're good with the spell. All they're useful for is if you just happen to be walking in the woods and there might be some creature you would rather have frightened away than to deal with yourself.

"The spell is pronounced Aegre." He pulled out a flat, circular disk with a small hole on it. He said the spell again and tapped it. The disk glowed a soft blue before returning to normal. "As easy as that. I usually use this spell on the collar of my cats to make sure they don't get eaten by foxes."

Harry wondered if he should do the same for Hedwig. Before he put much thought into it, the rock disappeared. In its place were five rocks and five disks.

"Use the rocks to transfigure an animal to make sure it works," Harsen told them. "There are five, so incase one of you messes up and destroys your rock, another can continue."

Harry and the others looked at each other.

"I believe only one animal is in need," Cygnus said coolly. "Iratus Canis," he said simply. The rock transfigured into a snarling dog. It barked loudly with a mad look in its eyes. "Talea." The dogs' feet were glued to the dog, leaving it snapping at air. "Shall we begin one at a time?"

"That's fine," Harry responded. "As you made the dog, you're welcome to go first."

Cygnus smirked. "Of course I am."

Harry narrowed his eyes, but said nothing as Cygnus tried the charm. It took him one time before it worked. The dog stopped snarling and snapping, instead lowering its ears and whining. It was trying to flee. Because of its glued feet, it didn't go anywhere.

"Finite Incantatum," Cygnus said, canceling his disk. Immediately the dog began to snarl and snap again.

There was a small silence before Harry walked forward. "I'll go next," he said.

"Sure you can go? You were quite drained and still seem so," Victoria said, examining her nails.

Harry gave her an intense look, pleased to see that she looked away instantly. "Aegre," he said softly, focusing intently.

The dog once again began whining and yelping. It actually started biting its legs to escape. Canceling the charm, Harry gave Victoria a smug look. Returning the look with a sneer as she started on the spell. Over the hour they all played with the spell, seeing who could keep theirs working the longest.

As Harsen got the attention of his students, he was looking pleased. "I am very impressed," he told them. "You all continued to work, despite feeling drained. Remember that feeling, for in battle, you will be drained. Do you all understand?"

Not many of them did, but those who had fought in dueling competitions did, and so they nodded along with Harry.

"Good." He gave a stern nod. "And now, we shall be going over theory and battle tactics. In battle, running in blindly will get you killed. So put away your wands and get ready for some physical exercise."

There was a lot of groaning, and not just from the purebloods.

Later that day, after many running exercises and a few potions given out, they were finally allowed to collapse in a heap. Even Cygnus, who liked to look rather uptight, was lying on the ground with Harry. Others were leaning against the wall, all very sweaty and were eagerly sipping water.

"It is not well known, but good physical condition helps regulate magic," Harsen said. "That does not mean you become stronger magically or gain more magic, but it is easier. Think about why wizards keep to old fashion tradition. Parchment is almost pure tree. It is an object from this world that reacts well with magic, unlike thin, muggle paper. It is all a matter of how magic works well with something."

Well, that explained a few things. It also made Harry wonder if this was why he rarely saw a fat witch or wizard. He had only seen a few, and they worked in poor little shops.

"No actual practice on dueling stances, but a good start on your physical training. Again, you don't like it, you may leave." No one left, though a few looked like they were thinking about it. "Break for lunch. Be back in exactly an hour and a half. No excuses." Harsen walked out of the stadium.

Harry ran a hand over his forehead and through his sweaty hair. Wiping the sweat on his pants, Harry stood, unable to believe he still had a few more hours left.

"I'm off for lunch," Harry told Cygnus. "You?"

"Same." Cygnus looked just as sweaty. With an irritant wave, he muttered, "Sudo Absentis." His sweat disappeared. Cygnus still looked ruffled, even as he attempted to fix his look with an irritated look that completely looked like Draco Malfoy.

"Mind teaching me that?" Harry asked.

"You heard the spell," Cygnus said. "Wave your wand around your body for it to work."

Harry did so, happy that it worked after he tried it a second time. "Owe you for that one."

"I know," Cygnus said with a smirk. "You forget, I'm a Slytherin."

"Right." Harry led them out of the stadium and out into a hall in the Ministry that was slowly being filled with the exiting students. "I'm headed over to the Leaky Cauldron. See you when we start again."

Cygnus nodded, though he still walked beside Harry. They were headed for the same exit, after all.

"My, my. Mr. Potter," a voice crooned.

Harry felt his shoulders tense as he turned, face cold. Madam Umbridge stood amongst the Ministry workers. Harry noticed she had an angry twitch above her eyebrow that didn't seem to stop.

"Undersecretary," he said, voice as cold as ice.

Her smile wavered for a moment at the obvious shot at her position. It was true that wasn't the best name her position.

"I take it we are taking Ministry classes, hmm? I wasn't aware we offered such privileges to those with a record, especially one as important as spell casting."

"That's quite old," Harry said, looking at her. "You were there, or has it simply escaped your thoughts? The trial proved I was telling the truth."

"Rewording lies," Umbridge said simply. "I'll be seeing the Minster about this. It does not do to have a juvenile in such upbringing areas." She turned to Cygnus. "And you are?"

"Cygnus Belby," Cygnus said in amusement.

Madam Umbridge gave him a pitying look. "Dear child, a pureblood such as yourself should be warned, it wouldn't be good to be seen with certain people."

"Such as Potter?" Cygnus asked. "I was at school last year. I know your thoughts on this matter."

Umbridge gave him a simpering smile that was rather ugly.

"Oh, and, Madam Umbridge?" Cygnus said as he and Harry began to walk away. "It's best that you should be warned, purebloods don't like to be told what to do, especially by someone of contaminated blood."

Umbridge looked ready to whip out her Blood Quill and stab him with it.

As they walked away, Harry eyed Cygnus coolly. "For all her preaching about purebloods being better, she's not?"

"Both her parents were squibs and the first born of two high standing purebloods." Cygnus smiled coldly. "Not exactly sure what that makes her." He eyed Harry and gave him a smirk. "Be seeing you, Potter."

It was in that moment Harry understood what was happening. Voldemort had allowed himself to be known, and now people were having trouble figuring out where they stood in this war. Cygnus was looking at Harry as a backup plan, but first he needed to get close to Harry in a way that won't be suspicious.

Harry chuckled. He could respect that. After all, Slytherin's always look after themselves.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"You look like shit," Dudley commented as Harry fell onto a kitchen chair, sandwich clattering on his plate.

Harry gave Dudley a dark look. "And you've always looked like shit," Harry replied.

Dudley looked enraged, his fist already raised. All it took was for Harry to place his wand on the table and give Dudley a cold glance. He lowered it immediately and looked away.

"Whatever," he muttered. "You haven't see dad going through my room, have you?"

"Missing some pot?" Harry asked.

Dudley colored before looking a bit scared. "Mom took…?"

"I don't know," Harry shrugged. "Why, is it your pot?"

"How do you even know I smoke pot?" Dudley demanded loudly.

"Smooth, Dudley," Harry commented. "Just scream it out. Even if your parents aren't home, people can hear through our pathetic walls."

Dudley looked nervous as he gazed suspiciously at the walls.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Not to mention all the damn spies and gossipers."

"We have spies?" Dudley said, giving Harry a strange look that obviously meant he was crazy.

"All of the wives," Harry said, starting on his sandwich.

"Oh." Dudley nodded in agreement, thinking about his gossiping mother. He looked at Harry suspiciously. "How do you know its pot?" he asked again.

"Dudley, unlike you, I'm not an idiot. You walk in every night with that smell."

"Smell?"

"Pot leaves a smell," Harry said, gazing at Dudley that clearly said he was the crazy one.

"I know that," Dudley said angrily. "But I come home late enough for my folks to be asleep."

"Your mum is up," Harry said, wondering why he was having this conversation.

"Oh… She doesn't say anything."

"She likes to believe you're perfect on the outside of her mind," Harry said, finishing up his food and slouching.

Dudley smirked. "Jealous?"

"Hardly."

"…will she say anything?"

"I don't even know if she knows. Your mum is pretty oblivious."

"But you just said…"

"It's up to you how you interpret what I say."

Dudley stared. "Have you stolen my pot?"

"Never smoked it before."

"Pussy."

"Right." Harry gave his cousin a look. "And I seriously doubt you handle yourself well with alcohol. I see you falling all over the place when your parents aren't home. How much does it take, one beer?"

"More than you could handle!" Dudley snapped. "And I bet you could never handle pot that well, either.

Harry gave a truly pitying look. "Pot only makes you lightheaded and boosts emotions, such as happiness, dumass."

Dudley reddened. "Prove it."

Harry really must've hit a tick if Dudley was daring him to a drink off or pot off or whatever the hell Dudley wanted. Oh well, free booze.

"Do you even have enough?" Harry asked calmly, giving Dudley an indifferent look.

This only made Dudley angrier. "Course I do. Come on, freak."

Harry followed Dudley into his room where he got on his stomach, fat butt in the air. He brought out a box from under his bed and opened it. It had two packs of beer, a few bags of white powder, one large bag of some green stuff that looked like mold and a few lone cigarettes.

Dudley handed a beer to Harry, giving him a challenging look. Sneering, Harry took a gulp, finding he barely tolerated the taste. Truthfully, butterbeer had small traces of alcohol that actually gave the consumer a start off in getting used to it. It was actually a sneaker way to get purebloods used to alcohol, especially since in the future they were to drink heavy wine when in meetings.

"Is that cocaine?" Harry asked, pointing at the white powder as he took another drink.

"Why, you want some? Never thought you'd be the type, 'specially since you're such a wuss."

"Watch what you say, Dudders," Harry said dangerously, allowing his wand to be visible.

Dudley gulped. "Well, it's true. So, you want any?"

"No, I don't do that."

Dudley looked like he wanted to insult Harry again before the tiny piece of brain he had sent warning sparks. "Whatever. I guess it's cool, I don't do it, either."

"So you're a seller," Harry stated, leaning against Dudley's bed, wondering, once again, why he was here. He glanced at the beer in his hand. Oh yea.

"Yea, I sell. How else do you think I have money all the time?"

"Steal from your folks or beg," Harry stated bluntly.

"Well, yea, that too."

Harry snorted as he watched Dudley take out a glass pipe. It was shaped like a mushroom. Even the top with the hole was painted red like a mushroom. He put the green mold in it.

"Marijuana," Dudley said, which Harry actually needed to hear.

He hadn't exactly seen drugs, except in pictures in primary school when they had been shown pictures of what to stay away from. Dudley took a lighter and lit up the green drug as he sucked on the end. Harry could hear bubbling coming from the pipe. Dudley took the pipe from his mouth and blew some smoke.

Harry shook his head. "Might want some air freshener and to open that window."

"Oh, right." Dudley heaved a sigh as he got up.

Harry took that time to grab the five lone cigarettes. He put four in his pocket and brought the other to his mouth, but not before opening another can of beer.

"Hand me that light," Harry ordered.

"Try this one," Dudley said smugly.

Eyebrow raised, Harry turned the lighter on away from his face. The end erupted like a torch and even sounded like one. Harry chuckled at the interesting lighter and tossed it back to Dudley.

"Not with this one, it'll destroy my smoke. Give me the other."

"Not going to try this?" Dudley asked, holding out the pipe.

"Nope." Harry breathed in deeply and blew the smoke at Dudley's face. "Not interested. Cheers, Dudley." He took another sip of his beer, grabbed another one, and left, leaving Dudley all alone with a look of confusion.

Harry went back to his room and sat on his bed. Sighing, Harry tugged off his shoes and smoked and drank in peace, completely exhausted. They had gone over several ways and how to move properly after he returned to class. His mind was dead from all that memorization, and she as hell wasn't going to destroy it on drugs. He was already going to kill himself with smoking, not that it mattered.

"Doubt I'll even live through the year," Harry muttered, thinking about Voldemort's challenge.

Done with his smoke, Harry closed his eyes and went to sleep, not even bothering to get out of his clothes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Albus Dumbledore," a stern voice reprimanded. "Just what on earth have you done… again?"

Dumbledore chuckled as he sat down on one of Madam Pomphrey's medical beds. "Oh, just a little reunion," he told her, eye twinkling brightly.

"You mean another horcrux destroyed," Pomphrey corrected easily. She was under oath and could not tell anyone, but Dumbledore rather liked her sarcastic reprimands about destroying such dangerous objects. "Magical depletion again, Albus. You're staying overnight."

Dumbledore chuckled heartily. "My dear, you know I have important issues that must be taken care of."

"You can seal that ridiculous Room of Requirements tomorrow," Pomphrey said dismissively.

"Oh, yes, thank you very much for reminding me to do that." Dumbledore gave her an innocent look as she narrowed her eyes.

"Don't give me any of that, Albus. You know as well as I that room can be used for more than an innocent prank, such building an army," she said dryly.

"Or for holding a horcrux," Dumbledore offered, giving her a tiny smile as she handed him some potions.

"I shudder to think what else might be in this school. Horcrux's, basilisks…"

Dumbledore planted a reassuring hand on her shoulder and offered a smile, twinkling eyes and all. The moment was broken as Professor McGonagall entered the room, looking a bit ruffled as she limped into the infirmary with a broom over her shoulder.

She saw the Headmaster's bloody form and sighed. "I don't even want to know."

Madam Pomphrey sighed. "Don't tell me you've been flying in your condition."

McGonagall gave her a stern look. "Yes, Poppy, with my limp I decided to go out flying, with Potter's broom, no less," she said dryly, ignoring Dumbledore's chuckle.

"I take it you have destroyed the spells holding Mr. Potter's broom," he said, nodding toward the Firebolt.

"And what a pain they were." McGonagall sat down beside the Headmaster. "Some of her spells were near dark."

"Protection charms?"

"Not those, but a rather nasty hex that leaves some infected cuts on whoever tries to take the broom forcefully." The Transfiguration teacher gave an ugly look at the walking stick, reminded of the dreadful woman. She got up. "Best send this to Potter and tell him of the ban lift, not that that woman had say in such a thing."

Dumbledore chuckled as she left, amused to see her so obsessed with getting her best seeker back. What a shame the Weasley twins wouldn't be coming back. He always enjoyed getting a kick out of those two.

Then again, Dumbledore reflected as he stared out at the darkening sky, they all needed something to smile about now.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Neville Longbottom watched in confusion as a white owl he barely recognized fly toward him. He rarely ever got letters from people, let alone classmates. Giving the owl some water, he opened the letter eagerly, hoping it wasn't some sort of demand his grandma had sent to him via owl just because she didn't want to walk up the stairs.

Hey Neville,

Well, better late than never, though I really should have sent this ages ago. It was just too hard to write at first. I'm very sorry, Neville. I am so sorry I got you into such a dangerous position, not to mention getting your father's wand snapped. We were all completely thoughtless, I more than anyone when we went into that department. I know I can't do that anymore, Neville, and things must change. Change has already begun, though I fear for the worst.

I do hope that your nose and everything else is feeling better and I need you to know something. I would have never been able to go through that department without you. Without a doubt in my mind I would be dead. It's good to know I have such a good friend at my back. Don't be afraid to owl, I'll always have your back as well.

Harry

Neville beamed at the letter. Harry truly considered him a good friend. No, a great friend. A friend that he wasn't afraid to go into battle with. It truly warmed Neville's heart that he had gotten such a good friend.

He began to write…

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley called.

"I'm busy!" Ginny called back.

"There's a letter for you, and I believe it's from Harry."

Ginny immediately dropped her magazine and rushed out of her room and into the kitchen where Hedwig the owl was currently sitting next to and almost dead Errol. She eagerly took the note from her mother and ripped it open, being sure to slink away from the prying eyes of her mother.

Ginny,

First off is the big apology for almost getting you killed. However, as I know that you will most likely cut off a few important limbs if you were to know I'm blaming myself over the death of Sirius and rushing you all off to the Department of Mysteries, I'll stop. Truly though, Ginny. I could have never gotten out of there without you, just as we couldn't have gotten out without the help of the others.

You were amazing against those Death Eater's, Ginny, and incredibly brave. The next battle, I'm afraid, won't be as easy. I know you'll try and be ready, just as we all will, but don't forget your friends have your back.

Harry

P.S. Please watch out for Ron for me. I'm pretty sure his brain scars are much worse than what he told Hermione and I. Thanks.

Ginny nodded thoughtfully. Harry had just basically told her that he could have never done what he could without her, while at the same time saying she couldn't have done what she could without the help of her friends. It was, at the same time, insulting her for being weak enough to rely on others and to keep her ego and a normal level and remind her that her friends loved her and would always remain beside her. It was quite an odd way of saying it, though very Slytherin.

Rereading the letter, Ginny got a thoughtful look before a smile that would make an imp proud appeared on her face as she began her letter.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Luna, my beautiful strawberry," Xenophilius Lovegood said softly as he opened the bedroom door of his daughter.

"Hello, daddy," Luna greeted warmly, misty silver eyes looking up from a bracelet she was making. "Are we having strawberries tonight as we run with the fairies?"

"The fairies have moved on early, dear," Mr. Lovegood said dejectedly before brightening. "Oh, but we are having strawberries!"

Luna nodded softly. "Yes," she sighed, sounding like a tragic poet. "The fairies would have moved on by now. Will we have whip cream with our strawberries?"

"Of course, of course," Mr. Lovegood said cheerfully. "And we have that fresh jar of strawberry jam you made. What could taste better than strawberry on strawberry?"

"I don't know, daddy, though I do adore peaches."

"Peach jam? Yuck! The taste would be awful!"

"I suppose it would," Luna agreed firmly, face completely cheerfully and mysterious at the same time. "Was there something you needed, daddy?"

Mr. Lovegood looked thoughtful for a moment. "You know, I don't quite remember why I came up. I remember we were discussing strawberries."

"I do love strawberries."

"Me too, my little rumple. Now, what was it…?"

"Perhaps it has something to do with the letter in your hand?"

"Letter?"

"In your hand," Luna supplied once more, smiling softly.

"Ah! That's it, thornless rose!" Mr. Lovegood said, adding, once again, another nickname of endearment for his daughter. "From a young Mr. Potter. And here's his owl. She's the one staring at your two headed, twenty eyed fish."

"Bonkers?" Luna asked, walking over to her fishbowl that held a simple goldfish with two heads and twenty tiny eyes. Hedwig seemed to be a bit startled by the sight. "Don't worry, Hedwig," Luna said, lifting the owl into the air. "Bonkers is very friendly, though sadly shy. I'm afraid he won't make a good conversationalist."

"What a shame indeed," Mr. Lovegood said, completely agreeing with his daughter. He handed her the letter. "Well, button, I'd best be off. I'll be jamming the strawberries!"

"Ooh, that sounds delicious," Luna said dreamily, petting Hedwig on the beak. "Would you care for some, Hedwig? Strawberries are so very delicious." Hedwig hooted a negative. "Well, I'm sure Harry would like some. Now let's see what he's written, though I do hope it isn't from another man who claims he's Harry Potter. That would be quite rude."

Hedwig said absolutely nothing, though if a normal person had been in the room, they would have sworn they'd seen an owl role its eyes.

Luna,

Now nargles or whatever is near me to try and lie or whatever in this letter is not here. (I hope that makes sense, though I'm sure you get it.). I do hope your summer has been good. Mine has been tiring, though in a good way. Listen, before I start rambling, the first thing I need to do is apologize. I dragged you into a very dangerous situation, one that could have gotten you killed. I would have never forgiven myself if that happened to you. I can be a very dangerous person to hang around with, Luna, but you stuck around. I am forever grateful to have such a friend as you. You are definitely one of a kind, Luna. Don't ever change.

Owl whenever you need to or simply wish to talk. You've watched my back, and now it's your turn for me to watch yours.

Luna paused. Watch her back for what? She was certain she had no baby Nooglet's on her back. Best make sure with dad.

Take care, Luna. Thank you for everything.

Harry

"Harry is so kind," Luna said to Hedwig, silvery eyes just as wide as Hedwig's yellow ones. "I suppose the polite thing to do is send him a letter, but do you think he might think I'm really not Luna? I didn't think this was from Harry but it sounds just like Harry. You will take this to the real Harry Potter, won't you?"

Hedwig glared at Luna for wasting her time before hooting softly and bobbing her head.

"Oh, wonderful!" Luna spun around in a circle, startling Hedwig. Setting the poor owl on her bright green beanbag chair with a bright yellow peace sign on it, Luna got started, preferring to sit on the ground.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

So yes, a new chapter. I know some of you might be wondering why this mindless drug scene was in it, but remember, this Harry doesn't do things without a purpose anymore. It'll be revealed in the future. Other than that, enjoy and REVIEW!

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