Warnings: Unbetaed!

Chapter Three

Friday 7 July 1995 – 6.02 pm

"Welcome to 12 Grimmauld Place!" Sirius cried dramatically.

The House of Black was under the Fidelius Charm and a number of other protective wards. Dumbledore was the Secret Keeper and had written the address on a piece of paper for the Finnigans and Harry. Remus now set the paper on fire as a safety precaution and the group entered the house.

"Now, you need to be incredibly quiet," Sirius whispered.

"Why?" Harry asked curiously.

"My dear old mum had her portrait permanently stuck to the wall and if you wake her up she screams blue bloody murder," said Sirius, pulling a face. "We're working on a way to get rid of her but the only solution so far is removing the wall and having it replaced."

"Why don't you do that, then?" Seamus asked. "A house elf could do it easy."

They had reached the kitchen now and both Harry and Catherine were wrinkling their noses at the state of it.

"This house needs a bloody good scrub," Catherine announced.

"Starting with the kitchen," Harry agreed. "Otherwise we'll not get to eat."

"Harry, you have two house elves," Seamus reminded him. "Call them and this place will be fixed up in no time."

"You have house elves?" Sirius asked in surprise.

Harry nodded. "Winky and Dobby," he said. "Winky was the Crouchs' elf and Dobby was the Malfoys'."

"But why?" asked Remus.

"They would have died if they remained free elves," said Harry with a shrug.

"Ok," said Catherine, interrupting. "Call them here. We'll eat out tonight but tomorrow I'm hoping the majority of the house will officially be clean."

"Pizza!" Seamus crowed.

Harry looked nervous. "I don't have nice clothes," he admitted. "You'll be ashamed of me."

"Nonsense!" said Sirius heartily. ""We could never be ashamed of you!"

"We will, however, be taking you shopping as soon as possible," Catherine added, critically eyeing Harry's baggy jeans, the ends up which were turned up several times and were held up by a length of tatty string, and his baggy t-shirt, which fell off one slender shoulder and reached his knees.

"I get to have new clothes?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Of course, Harry," said Remus gently. "You can't go around in those rags forever."

Harry blushed hotly and looked at his feet.

"Well then," said Catherine briskly. "Call Dobby and Winky to make a start on the house and we'll all go and get pizza."

"Ok," said Harry. "Dobby! Winky!"

Two cracks and the two house elves were stood before Harry with eager looks on their faces. Harry had instructed them to wear uniforms and described what he would like. Dobby was wearing a pair of black shorts with a white shirt. He still wore his mismatched socks, unfortunately, but Harry couldn't bring himself to care about that. Winky was dressed in a neat black dress. She looked happier than she had ever looked.

"How can Winky and Dobby be helping Master Harry Potter?" Dobby said eagerly.

Winky was looking around the kitchen in distaste.

"Um, the house needs cleaning," said Harry awkwardly. "Thoroughly. Starting with the kitchen and bedrooms."

"Winky will take the kitchen," said Winky determinedly. "It's a disgrace to see."

"Dobby will do the bedrooms then," said Dobby, bouncing on the spot.

"That's all for now," said Harry, feeling a little embarrassed to be issuing orders to his house elves in front of people.

The two house elves set to with abandon. Sirius herded Remus and Harry out of the house, exclaiming loudly about getting to taste Muggle pizza again with the Finnigans following a lot more sedately.


Thursday 13 July 1995 – 2.19 am

Harry and Seamus jerked awake when they heard people pounding up and down the stairs in a hurry. Seamus checked the time and groaned, flopping his head back onto the pillow again.

"What the hell is going on?" Seamus groaned.

Harry sat up and listened carefully. "I don't know," he said. "But I think it's probably something to do with Voldemort."

"Great," Seamus complained.

"Harry? Seamus? Are you awake?"

"Yeah," Seamus called. "And we're decent, Mam, you can come in."

Catherine came into the room and rolled her eyes when she saw the two boys sharing a bed. "The Weasleys, Longbottoms and Grangers have been attacked," she said.

Harry whimpered in distress. "Is anybody hurt?" he asked fearfully.

"No," said Catherine gently. "Their wards were compromised and members of the Order were able to get there in plenty of time. They are, however, going to be moving in here immediately."

"Do you need our help?" Harry asked.

"Yes," said Catherine. "Could you have Dobby and Winky bring over the Grangers' things for them. Being Muggles I'm sure having their own material items will make this easier on them."

"Of course," said Harry. "Dobby! Winky!"

Two cracks and the two house elves were there. "Yes, Master Harry Potter, sir?" said Dobby.

"I need you to go to the Granger residence," said Harry hesitantly. "They're moving in here immediately and will need help with their things."

"Of course, Master Harry Potter, sir," said Dobby.

They disappeared and Harry and Seamus both climbed out of bed. "Do you need our help with anything else?"

"Making up beds," said Catherine immediately. "Could you make up two beds in the room next to you for Ron and Neville."

"Of course," said Harry, grabbing hold of Seamus' hand. "Are the sheets and blankets in there already?"

"Yes," said Catherine. "I was planning on making them up tomorrow anyway. Just in case."

Harry dragged Seamus into the next room and quickly instructed him in what to do. Seamus looked amused when Harry told him where to hold onto the sheets and when to pull them tight.

"Harry? Seamus?"

Harry whipped around. "Neville!" he yelped, flinging himself at the boy. "It's good to see you!"

Neville laughed and patted Harry on the back. "Good to see you, too," he agreed. "Seamus."

"Nev," said Seamus with his usual cheeky grin.

"Hey," said Ron awkwardly. "How are you?"

"Not too bad," said Harry warily.

Seamus stepped in. "Your beds are all made up. Dobby and Winky will bring up your trunks when they get back."

"Ok," Neville said.

"Best get back to bed," said Harry finally. "We can catch up tomorrow."

"Yeah," said Neville. "See you in the morning."

Harry and Seamus went back to their room and slipped back into bed. Harry curled around Seamus and rested his head on his chest.

"I hope they're all ok," Harry murmured.

Seamus kissed the top of Harry's head. "I'm sure they are, Har," he murmured back. "Go to sleep."


Thursday 13 July 1995 – 9.18 am

Harry and Seamus were awake early despite their interrupted sleep the night before. Harry had woken them up with yet another nightmare about the graveyard. He was now curled up on Seamus' lap with his face pressed into Seamus' neck while Catherine raced about cooking breakfast.

"Did you want me to help, Mrs Finnigan?" Harry asked in a muffled voice.

"No, muirnín," said Catherine. "I'm all right."

"Ok."

Seamus smiled affectionately as Harry burrowed deeper into his arms. He looked up at the doorway when he heard footsteps and smiled wider at Ginny and Hermione.

"Is he ok?" Hermione asked anxiously.

"Nightmares," said Seamus with a shrug. "He doesn't always sleep the night through."

Ginny eyed the blond carefully. "I take it you don't either, then," she said.

Seamus shrugged. "He needs me," he said simply.

The kitchen got noisier as more and more people woke up and made their way downstairs. Sirius and Remus ruffled Harry's hair as they walked past and the twins jovially slapped Seamus on the back. Mr and Mrs Granger sat with Mick Finnigan for a sense of normality in a house full of witches and wizards. Mrs Weasley came down and immediately started helping Catherine with the food. Neville's Gran, Augusta Longbottom, came in and engaged Mr Weasley in a conversation about the Ministry. Harry could hear everything from his position and wasn't feeling inclined to move. He was comfortable.

"What happened last night?" Seamus asked Ginny and Hermione.

"Bill felt our wards being attacked," said Ginny morosely. "He got us all out of bed and he, Mum, Dad and the twins all packed our trunks as quickly as possible. Dad also contacted Dumbledore who Flooed over and gave him parchment and a Portkey for this place."

"We don't have wards," Hermione said. "But Bill Apparated over to us as soon as he could and put some up. He told us to start packing because The Burrow had been attacked and we would likely be next."

"Our wards were attacked as well," said Neville with a shrug. "Tippy, our house elf, packed our things while Gran Floo-called Dumbledore. He gave us the address to this place and a Portkey."

"I'm sorry," Harry said, his voice still muffled.

"Not your fault," said Seamus fiercely. "Don't apologise for something you didn't do."

Harry rolled his eyes against Seamus' neck. "Not arguing about this again," he said.

"That's because you know I'm right," said Seamus smugly. "Owww!"

Harry had bitten him on the neck. "Shut up," Harry muttered.

Ginny and Hermione giggled. "He's getting back to normal," said Hermione, relief in her voice.

"Great," Seamus grumbled but they could all see the relief in his eyes.

Catherine and Mrs Weasley dished up breakfast and everyone tucked in eagerly. Even Harry shifted his position slightly so that he could eat in comfort.

"If you're all done then you can go and unpack," said Mrs Weasley.

"Harry, Seamus, if you could continue sorting through the library please," Catherine added.

"Harry, dear," said Mrs Weasley tentatively. She held out her arms and Harry edged into them. "It's nice to see you," she whispered.

Harry smiled and relaxed. "Nice to see you too, Mrs Weasley," he admitted.

"Go on," Mrs Weasley finally said, pulling back from Harry and smiling at him affectionately. "Upstairs with you."

Harry grinned, grabbed Seamus' hand and pulled him out of the kitchen and up to the library.


Monday 31 July 1995 – 12.01 am

"What are you doing still awake?" Seamus asked groggily.

"I always stay awake to see in my birthday," said Harry with a shrug.

Seamus blinked rapidly to rid himself of lingering sleep. "Why?" he asked.

"Cos of Hedwig," said Harry. "She always came back at midnight on my birthday to deliver my presents."

Seamus smiled. "Well, I get to deliver your present in person for once," he said smugly, reaching underneath his pillow to retrieve a package. "Here."

Harry took the parcel and eagerly tore into the wrapping to reveal a large, dusty tome entitled Ancient Offensive and Defensive Spells Volume One. He took in the title with wide eyes.

"Oh wow," Harry breathed, running his fingers lightly over the title. "Shay, these books are incredibly rare. How did you know that I wanted to read them?"

Seamus gave a wry smile. "Same way you knew that I was interested in water-related spell-work," he said.

"But it must have been so expensive," said Harry, looking up at Seamus.

Seamus shrugged. "After all the expensive presents you bought for me?" he said. "It was only a fraction of that amount."

Harry sighed happily. He desperately wanted to open the book and start studying it but it was late and he was exhausted from lack of sleep the last few nights.

"Thanks, Shay," Harry said softly, placing the book aside.

Seamus carded his fingers through Harry's hair as they both lay back down. "Anytime, Har," he said. "Anytime."


Tuesday 1 August 1995 – 1.09 am

"It should have been you," Seamus muttered.

"What?" asked Harry sleepily, nuzzling at Seamus' neck and yawning.

"Prefect," Seamus clarified. "It should have been you and Hermione, not Ron and Hermione. Everyone knows that."

Harry shrugged. "Don't really care," he said. "I'm more interested in surviving each school year and learning as much as possible for when I next face Voldemort."

"That shouldn't be your main priority," Seamus said heatedly. "Getting Prefect should be. You're one of the better students in our year, definitely the second best in Gryffindor. You should have got Prefect."

Harry shrugged. "Got in too much trouble over the years, haven't I?" he said. "Snape definitely gives me at least one detention every class and McGonagall gives me detention often enough as well."

"But that shouldn't matter," said Seamus petulantly.

Harry grinned. "I rather think it should," he disagreed, "since Prefects are there to prevent students doing the things that I do on a daily basis."

Seamus sighed. "I suppose you're right," he agreed. "But it isn't fair. Out of all us guys, you deserve the privilege the most."

Harry frowned, looking puzzled. "I wouldn't call it a privilege," he said. "It's more of a responsibility. One that I'm not particularly interested in. I'm already responsible for keeping people safe. I don't want to have to be responsible for them behaving themselves as well."

"You shouldn't have to be responsible for keeping them safe either," said Seamus, his anger flaring again. "Bloody Ministry, thinking you're lying. Why on earth would you lie about Voldemort returning to a corporeal form? Why would you stir up a mass panic in that way?"

Harry shrugged. "See, if everyone thought like us the world would be a better place," Harry said teasingly. "But unfortunately the rest of the magical world isn't as logical as us."

"And since we're not nearly as logical as Hermione," Seamus added, "we're left to conclude that the rest of the magical world do not possess a single ounce of logic."

Harry giggled. "Perhaps I should write a letter to the Minister telling him that," he said.

Seamus grinned. "It would be printed in the Daily Prophet faster than you can say Hippogriff," he said. "The public would start accusing you of arrogance."

Harry shrugged. "Probably already do," he said bitterly. "They seem to accuse me of everything else."

Seamus sighed, his grin falling from his face. "Ignore them, Har," he said gently. "They're not worth thinking about." He bent his head and kissed Harry's temple. "Go to sleep, Har. You look exhausted."

Harry huffed. "Bloody charming," he complained. "I thought you were supposed to compliment me not remark on how bloody awful I look."

Seamus chuckled. "You never look awful, Har," he said affectionately. "You always look gorgeous. But you are exhausted. You've woken up from nightmares for the last four nights. You need sleep."

Harry sighed and closed his eyes. "Not gorgeous," he argued. "But I do need sleep."

"Then sleep, you infuriating boy," said Seamus.

"Ok," Harry hummed. "Night, Shay. Love you."


Friday 1 September 1995 – 11.12 am

Harry, Seamus, Ginny and Neville watched as Ron and Hermione left their trunks with them and strode off in the direction of the Prefect's carriage.

"Come on," said Ginny, pointing her wand at her trunk to Levitate it. "Let's get a carriage."

"Ok," Harry chirped, not at all put out that Ron and Hermione expected them to look after their things for them.

He Levitated Ron's trunk, balanced Hedwig and Pig's carriage on it and started dragging his trunk towards the back of the train where he was less likely to be bugged by adoring fans.

Seamus Levitated his own trunk, balanced Crookshanks on it, and started dragging Hermione's trunk behind Harry. Ginny and Neville followed.

"Here," said Harry, peering into a carriage. "There's only one person in here."

"Who?" asked Ginny. She peered over Harry's shoulder and relaxed. "Oh, that's Loony Lovegood. She's harmless."

Harry frowned. "Her name's Loony?" he repeated.

"Well, Luna, but she's so weird that everyone calls her Loony," said Ginny shamelessly.

Harry gave Ginny a dirty look before opening the carriage door. "Hi," he said cheerfully. "Do you mind if we join you? Everywhere else is full."

The girl beside the window looked up. She had straggly, waist-length, dirty blonde hair, very pale eyebrows and protuberant eyes that gave her a permanently surprised look.

The girl nodded, a vague wariness in her eyes as they glanced over Ginny. Harry's frown deepened.

"I'm Harry," Harry said, dropping his trunk and Levitating them one by one up onto the luggage rack. "I don't think I know you."

"You don't," Seamus confirmed. He looked over at Luna with a grin. "Seamus Finnigan."

Luna watched them all curiously. She didn't seem at all surprised to see Seamus sit by the window and pull Harry onto his lap. Neville and Ginny sat beside them, leaving Luna sat on the other side of the carriage on her own.

"Our friends, Ron and Hermione, will be joining us," Harry said. "They're in the Prefect's carriage at the moment."

Luna nodded. She still hadn't spoken and Harry was starting to feel a little unnerved. He fidgeted on Seamus' lap.

"Had a good summer, Luna?" Ginny asked.

"Yes," said Luna dreamily, without taking her eyes off Harry. "Yes, it was quite enjoyable, you know."

Harry grinned. "What House are you in?" he asked. "I know you're not a Gryffindor," he added, eyeing her necklace of Butterbeer corks and her wand's resting place of behind her left ear.

"Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure," said Luna in a sing-song voice.

Harry blinked. "Ravenclaw?" he said hesitantly.

Luna nodded and returned to her magazine, thus ending the conversation. Harry leant back against Seamus, who tightened his arms around him, pleased to see Harry finally starting to act more like himself.

Ron and Hermione didn't turn up until the lunch trolley had been and gone. Harry had taken it upon himself to purchase enough food for all of them, including Ron and his enormous appetite.

"How was the meeting?" Harry asked curiously, passing Hermione a Pumpkin Pasty.

"Well, there are two fifth-year Prefects from each house," said Hermione, looking thoroughly disgruntled as she took her seat. "Boy and girl from each."

"We figured as much," said Ginny, nodding.

"And guess who's a Slytherin Prefect?" said Ron.

"Not Malfoy?" said Seamus with a groan.

"One and the same," said Ron bitterly.

"And that complete cow Pansy Parkinson," said Hermione viciously. "How she got to be a Prefect when she's thicker than a concussed troll..."

"Who are the other Prefects?" asked Harry hastily.

"Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbott from Hufflepuff," said Ron.

Harry thought about it before nodding slowly. "Hannah's a good student and she's always helped the younger years adjust. Not sure about Ernie, though."

"Finch-Fletchley's a better student than Macmillan," said Hermione knowledgably. "But Ernie has a better knowledge of the rules and does the occasional tutoring session for the younger years. Something that Finch-Fletchley doesn't bother with."

"What about Ravenclaw?" asked Seamus.

"Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil," said Ron, reaching for a Hot Cauldron cake.

"Padma is the second highest scoring student in our year," Hermione informed them. "She also participates in a number of academic clubs and tutors younger students if they ask her."

"I don't know anything about Goldstein," Harry complained.

Hermione shrugged. "He's the lowest scoring male Ravenclaw student in our year but he was chosen because the other Ravenclaws are bullies. Especially Michael Corner."

The door was flung open then to reveal Draco Malfoy standing between Crabbe and Goyle and smirking at Harry. Harry rolled his eyes. "What do you want?" he asked wearily.

"Manners, Potter, or I'll have to give you a detention," drawled Malfoy, whose sleek blond hair and pointed chin were just like his father's. "You see, I, unlike you, have been made a Prefect, which means that I, unlike you, have the power to hand out punishments."

"Yeah," said Seamus, "but you, unlike Harry, are a git, so get out and leave us alone."

Everyone laughed and Malfoy sneered distastefully.

"Tell me, how does it feel being second-best to Weasley, Potter?" he asked.

Harry shrugged. "Pretty good actually," he said. "I don't like being centre of attention as it is."

Seamus pulled his wand and levelled it at Malfoy. "Get out before I make you," he said calmly.

"Dear dear, Finnigan, you are protective of Potter," sneered Malfoy. "Tell me, how much does it cost to get into his pants?"

Hermione and Ginny gasped in horror at what he was implying. "Detention!" Hermione cried. "With Filch tomorrow night. You don't say things like that, Malfoy!"

"Oh, are we abusing our position, Granger?" Malfoy said in delight. "In that case, detention tomorrow night with Professor Snape, Finnigan, for disrespecting a Prefect"

Seamus snarled and would have lunged at Malfoy had Harry not wrapped himself around Seamus and held on tight. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle all laughed and left the carriage. Seamus and Ron glared hatefully at the floor.

"Bloody git," Ron muttered.

They all nodded their agreement and Hermione didn't even admonish Ron for his bad language.

Soon they had arrived at Hogsmeade Station and were leaving the train. Harry winced when he caught sight of several students glaring at him and whispering amongst one another. They reached the coaches to take them up to the castle and Harry pulled up short.

"What are they?" he whispered fearfully, gesturing at the giant black, winged horses tethered to pull the coaches along.

"What are what, Harry?" Hermione asked, as Harry whimpered and leant against Seamus for comfort and support.

"The black horses pulling the coaches," Harry clarified.

"They are Thestrals," Luna said dreamily. "Only people who have seen death can see them."

Seamus hissed in his breath and clutched Harry to him tightly. "Har," he began but Harry shushed him by pressing a finger to his lips.

"I'm fine," he assured the blond.

Seamus remained unconvinced as they all climbed into a coach to head up to the castle.


Friday 1 September 1995 – 8.19 pm

The plates cleared themselves from the table and Harry immediately tipped himself sideways so that he was leaning against Seamus again. The taller boy chuckled and slipped his arm around Harry and pressed a kiss to his head.

"Sleepy now, Shay," Harry murmured, suppressing a yawn.

"I'm not surprised," Seamus countered. "You barely slept last night."

Dumbledore had risen to his feet now so the Gryffindors both looked up at him to attempt to pay attention to what he had to say.

"Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices," said Dumbledore. "First-years ought to know that the Forest in the grounds is out-of-bounds to students – and a few of our older students ought to know by now, too."

Harry giggled quietly and exchanged smirks with Ron and Hermione.

"Mr Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the four-hundred-and-sixty-second time, to remind you all that magic is not permitted in corridors between classes, nor are a number of other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr Filch's office door.

"We have had two changes in staffing this year. We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."

People clapped politely but not exactly enthusiastically. Harry exchanged a worried look with Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Neville. They hadn't failed to notice that Dumbledore had not mentioned how long Professor Grubbly-Plank would be teaching for.

Dumbledore continued, "Tryouts for the house Quidditch teams will take place on the – "

Dumbledore stopped talking abruptly and looked down at Umbridge. Nobody was entirely sure why he'd stopped talking to look at her until she cleared her throat, "Hem, hem," and people realised that she was actually standing and not sitting and wanted to make a speech.

Harry shared a surprised look with Seamus when Dumbledore sat down and stared attentively at Umbridge as though all he wanted in the entire world was to listen to what she had to say to his students. Harry noticed that both McGonagall and Snape looked far from impressed and he murmured this quietly to have it spread quickly around the table so that the Gryffindor would know in advance that Umbridge was definitely trouble.

"Thank you, Headmaster," Professor Umbridge simpered, "for those kind words of welcome."

Harry shuddered. Umbridge's voice was high-pitched, breathy and little-girlish and everything that Harry despised. There's a reason I'm gay, he thought with faint amusement. Umbridge cleared her throat again.

"Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say!" She smiled, revealing very pointed teeth. "And to see such happy little faces looking up at me!"

"Does she think we're all five-years-old?" Seamus remarked with a look of disgust.

"I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I'm sure we'll be very good friends!"

Harry almost choked on his laughter, turning his head into Seamus' shoulder to muffle any escaped noises. He noticed Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown appraising the woman's fluffy pink cardigan with sniggers of amusement.

"The Ministry of Magic has always considered the education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them forever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching."

Harry leant towards Hermione and they started whispering fiercely together, observing the other professors exchanging dark looks.

"Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress' sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation..."

Seamus had elapsed into chatting about Quidditch with Ron and Ginny but Harry, Neville and Hermione were still frowning up at the head table and paying avid attention to what Umbridge was saying. They occasionally whispered something to one another.

"...because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognised as errors of judgement. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited."

Umbridge sat back down. After a momentary pause, Dumbledore started clapping and the rest of the staff reluctantly followed his lead. Not many students applauded the end of her speech, not having listened to more than a few words of it. Before the students could start applauding properly Dumbledore had risen to his feet again and was finishing the rest of his start-of-term speech.

"What was she saying?" Seamus immediately asked, not really that interested in what Dumbledore had to say.

"Why would Harry know?" Ron asked, looking bemused.

"Because, me, Nev and 'Mione were listening to what she had to say," said Harry.

"Yes, and it was very illuminating," Hermione added.

"But why on earth were you listening to the hag?" Ron asked, perplexed. "She was waffling on about nothing."

"Yes, but she said some very important things in between the waffle," said Hermione.

"Like what?" asked Seamus.

"Like: "Progress for progress' sake must be discouraged"," said Hermione. "And "Pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited"."

"Yes," said Ron impatiently. "But what does that mean?"

"It means that the Ministry are nosing about," said Neville simply.

"It means that the Ministry has Hogwarts and Dumbledore under surveillance and they are looking for something to enable them to get rid of him for good," Harry added. "And possibly me as well."

"I'll wager that in our first Defence Against the Dark Arts class, Professor Umbridge will make an example of Harry in front of everyone," said Hermione. "To show us what being "Dumbledore's man" will result in."

"She can't do that!" Seamus practically howled. "She has no right..."

"On the contrary," said Hermione wearily. "She has the backing of the Minister for Magic himself. She has every right to do as she sees fit."


Monday 4 September 1995 – 6.27 am

Harry's eyes flew open and he expelled a long breath. Swallowing, he reached for his wand and cast a Tempus Charm. He'd slept last night. Not had his nightmare about the graveyard. He had, however, dreamt of a long corridor, filled with blank wooden doors. His goal, apparently, had been to reach the end of the corridor where a similar blank wooden door waited for him. He desperately wanted whatever it was that was behind that door. Problem was, Harry had no idea what was behind the door and why he wanted whatever it was.

Harry sighed and rolled out of bed, careful not to disturb Seamus who had flung himself onto his front during the night with his arm slung across Harry. He was breathing deeply and heavily but, thankfully, not snoring like Ron and Neville.

Harry grabbed a pair of boxers and his uniform and a towel and headed into the shower room to start getting ready for the day. The other guys in the dorm preferred to take their showers before going to bed so that they could have a little longer in bed before getting up. Harry, however, liked to take twice daily showers. He considered showering a luxury as it was something the Dursleys had never let him do before he started at Hogwarts. Even on his first ride on the Hogwarts Express he had felt slightly embarrassed as he hadn't been allowed a shower that morning or the night before. He had felt grimy and had eagerly dived into the showers before bed that first night.

Having showered and dressed in school trousers, shirt, tie and blazer, Harry tossed his used towel in the laundry basket and started combing his hair, while balancing his wand, which was blowing hot air out at him, at an angle so that it was hitting his hair in a manner much like a Muggle hairdryer did. He had found, after much anxious trial and error, that by combing his hair in this manner whilst "blow drying" it, his hair became much more controllable.

Going back into the dorm Harry smiled at Neville who was also awake and getting ready for the day. Harry reached into Seamus' trunk and laid out the taller boy's uniform for him before pulling his school robes on open over his uniform and bringing out his book Ancient Offensive and Defensive Spells Volume One and going down to the common room to read whilst he waited for his friends to wake up and get ready.

Before leaving the dorm, Harry cast a charm on the door so that it would make a loud beeping noise at 7.30 much like a Muggle alarm clock would so that Seamus, Ron and Dean would all be awake and ready to have breakfast before the school day started.

"Morning, 'Mione," Harry greeted cheerfully as finally entered the common room.

Hermione smiled at Harry and scooted over in her armchair so that Harry could wiggle in beside her and share. She put down her own book, one that she had read many times before, in favour of sharing Harry's book.

"Morning," she said back. "You look more alert today. Did you actually sleep the night through?"

Harry nodded. "No graveyard nightmares," he said. "Though I did dream about a long corridor with a door at the end behind which was something that I desperately wanted."

Hermione raised a single eyebrow in question but Harry shrugged. "No idea where the corridor came from as I didn't recognise it and no idea what was behind the door that I so desperately wanted."

"Well, maybe tonight you'll finally get behind the door and you'll know," said Hermione.

"It's probably only Seamus in the nude," Neville added with a laugh.

Harry huffed and threw a cushion at his friend. "No mocking," he pouted.

Hermione cocked her head on one side as a shrill beeping could be heard from the staircase leading the boys' dormitories.

"That sounds like an alarm clock," she commented.

"A what?" asked Neville, looking puzzled.

Harry shrugged. "It's an Alarm Charm," he said.

"It doesn't sound like one," Hermione argued.

"I modified it a little," Harry admitted. "Sirius taught me how to modify spells to suit whatever purpose I needed. Seamus and Ron are both incredibly difficult to wake in the morning so I modified the Alarm Charm to sound like a Muggle alarm clock. Those things are incredibly difficult to sleep through."

Neville sniggered. "I bet Ron, Seamus and Dean are all cursing you six ways to hell right about now," he said.

Harry grinned. "Probably," he agreed.

"Harry, can you teach me how to modify spells?" Hermione asked, shutting Harry's book after marking his page.

"Of course," said Harry quickly.

He started outlining the basis of modifying spells but was interrupted when he was bodily pulled backwards out of the armchair and thrown over someone's shoulder. He squeaked in surprise before beating his fists on Seamus' back.

"Let me down!" he demanded. "What did I ever do to you?"

"Wake me up at a ridiculously early hour with a ridiculously annoying spell," Seamus grumbled, dropping Harry onto a couch and throwing himself next to him.

Harry giggled and snuggled up to Seamus. "Well, I had to do something," he said innocently. "You are very hard to wake up in the morning."

Seamus rolled his eyes. "I know, I know," he grouched. "Just wish I could sleep longer, is all."

"Go to bed earlier, then," Harry said cheekily.

Seamus narrowed his eyes but let it slide. He leant his head back against the couch and closed his eyes again.

"Breakfast," Hermione announced, once Ron had stumbled into the common room, barely awake enough to navigate his way around. "We need to eat quickly so that we have time to come back to the Tower and collect our books before going to class."

Harry stood and tugged on Seamus' hand. "Come on, Shay," he insisted. "Or the kippers will be all gone before you get there."

That got Seamus moving. Kippers were his favourite breakfast food. "I hope we don't have Defence today," the Irish boy grumbled, throwing an arm over Harry's shoulder as they walked as a group down to the Great Hall. "I don't think I'll be able to stand her annoying voice for too long."

Harry chewed on his lips. "I don't like her," he announced. "There's something about her that I really don't like."

"It's probably because she interrupted Dumbledore at the Welcoming Feast to make a pointless speech," said Ron.

"It wasn't pointless, Ronald," Hermione huffed. "I already said she was stating exactly why she was at Hogwarts and that it had nothing to do with teaching us Defence."

Harry nodded furiously in agreement. "Our classes are probably going to be reading from the text book only," he said. "She won't want us practicing spells in case we use them against the Ministry."

They entered the Great Hall and sat down at the Gryffindor table near Ginny and her friends. Seamus filled a plate full of fatty fried foods and proceeded to dig in while Harry helped himself to a bowl of porridge and some fruit.

"Harry!"

Harry swallowed his mouthful and turned to smile at Angelina Johnson who had just marched up to him. "Hey, Angie," he said. "How are you?"

"Good," said Angelina briskly. "Of course I don't believe any of that nonsense about you in the paper and nobody else on the team will be allowed to believe it either."

Harry blinked. "Did you make captain, Angie?" he asked excitedly.

Angelina cracked a smile. "Yes," she admitted. "We're having try-outs on Friday at 5. I expect you to be there."

"I will," Harry promised, nodding his head eagerly.

Angelina smiled again and left to rejoin Alicia Spinnet and the Weasley twins and Lee Jordan.

"We need a new Keeper don't we?" said Seamus, pushing Harry's food towards the smaller boy to get him eating again.

"Yep," Harry agreed, reluctantly starting to eat again. "Personally, I think we should have a reserve Seeker as well. With my luck, I'll be in the hospital wing for at least one of the matches."

Seamus hissed. "Don't say that," he demanded. "I hate it when you're in the hospital wing."

Harry pressed against Seamus' side and rested his head on the taller boy's shoulder to calm him down.

"I never plan to be there, Shay," Harry said earnestly, as McGonagall moved down the table handing out timetables. "It just sort of happens."

Seamus rolled his eyes and studied his timetable. It looked terrible. History of Magic first, followed by double Potions, followed by Divination and lastly double Defence Against the Dark Arts. Seamus and Ron both groaned and banged their heads on the table.

"Come on," said Hermione briskly, once Harry finally finished his breakfast. "Let's go get our books."

"Are you going to take notes in History, 'Mione?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Of course," said Hermione indignantly. "And no, I'm not going to let you copy them so you can muck about with Seamus during class."

Harry pouted. "I'll teach you the Patronus Charm," he offered.

Hermione looked torn for a moment before shaking her head. "No," she refused. "You'll never learn if I let you copy from me all the time."

Harry continued to pout before sighing. "Oh all right," he agreed reluctantly. "I'll take notes of my own."

Hermione grinned and linked arms with him. "Now, tell me the theory behind the Patronus Charm."

Harry grinned and the two of them walked off together to get their books from the Tower, the rest of the Gryffindors trailing behind them.


Monday 4 September 1995 – 3.00 pm

Harry was starting to flag in energy by the time it came for their Defence class. He was walking along silently, Seamus' arm around his waist and his head resting on Seamus' shoulder. His eyes were drooping slightly and he kept rubbing at them tiredly.

"I thought you said you slept all right last night," said Hermione worriedly.

"He did," said Seamus, stroking Harry's hip through his robes.

"I had that dream about the corridor, remember," said Harry tiredly.

Hermione frowned. "I'll do some research into problems occurring from sleep deprivation," she said firmly.

They entered the classroom. Umbridge was already seated behind her desk, still wearing her hideous pink cardigan. Seamus caught a faint look of disgust on her face when she saw Harry and Seamus with their arms around one another. To spite her, Seamus dropped a kiss on the top of Harry's head, before going to sit with Dean so that Harry could sit with Neville, leaving Ron and Hermione to sit together.

"Well, good afternoon!" Umbridge said, when finally the whole class had sat down.

A few people mumbled 'good afternoon' in reply.

"Tut tut," said Professor Umbridge. "That won't do, now, will it? I should like you, please, to reply "Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge". One more time, please. Good afternoon, class!"

"Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge," they chanted back at her.

"There, now," said Professor Umbridge sweetly. "That wasn't too difficult, was it? Wands away and quills out, please."

Many of the class exchanged gloomy looks; the order 'wands away' had never yet been followed by a lesson they had found interesting.

While the class stowed their wands in their bags and pulled out sheets of parchment, quills and ink pots, Umbridge removed an incredibly short wand from her handbag and tapped the board behind her with it. The words Defence Against the Dark Arts A Return to Basic Principlesappeared on the board.

Harry snuck a glance at Seamus who already looked bored out of his mind. Seamus caught him looking and winked back at him. Harry blushed and looked down at his desk.

"Well now, your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn't it?" stated Professor Umbridge, turning to face the class with her hands clasped neatly in front of her. "The constant changing of teachers, many of whom do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, has unfortunately resulted in your being far below the standard we would expect to see in your OWL year.

"You will be pleased to know, however, that these problems are now to be rectified. We will be following a carefully structured, theory-centred, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic this year. Copy down the following please."

She tapped the board with her wand again and more writing replaced the first:

Course Aims

Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.

Learning to recognise situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.

Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.

Harry shared a face of disgust with Neville before bending his head and copy down the aims. When everyone had finished and were looking at Umbridge in distaste once again she asked, "Has everybody got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?"

Some people answered yes but most just nodded or grunted their answer.

"I think we'll try that again," said Professor Umbridge. "When I ask you a question, I should like you to reply, "Yes, Professor Umbridge", or "No, Professor Umbridge". So: has everyone got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?"

"Yes, Professor Umbridge," rang through the room.

"Good," said Professor Umbridge. "I should like you to turn to page five and read "Chapter One, Basics for Beginners". There will be no need to talk."

Neville raised his hand. "Are we allowed to take notes, Professor?" Neville asked politely.

Umbridge looked faintly pleased with the question. "You may, dear," she acquiesced.

Harry and Neville quickly opened their books and started scribbling notes to one another, talking about anything but the course material. Ten minutes later and he felt Ron prod him from behind. Harry nudged Neville and they discreetly looked back at Ron and Hermione before dropping all pretences and staring at Hermione. The usually eager girl had not even opened her book but had apparently spent the last ten minutes staring at Umbridge with her hand raised determinedly in the air.

When more than half the class were staring at Hermione rather than at their books, Professor Umbridge seemed to decide that she could ignore the situation no longer.

"Did you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?" she asked Hermione, as though she had only just noticed her.

"Not about the chapter, no," said Hermione.

"Well, we're reading just now," said Professor Umbridge, showing her small pointed teeth. "If you have other queries we can deal with them at the end of class."

"I've got a query about your course aims," said Hermione.

Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrows.

"And your name is?"

"Hermione Granger," said Hermione.

"Well, Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read them through carefully," said Professor Umbridge in a voice of determined sweetness.

"Well, I don't," said Hermione bluntly. "There's nothing written up there about using defensive spells."

Harry sucked in his breath, his eyes widening at Hermione. He hadn't expected Hermione to mention that. He had noticed it himself but had decided that Umbridge was perfectly capable of cruelty and that he shouldn't, therefore, get involved. Several members of the class turned back to the board to re-read the course aims.

"Using defensive spells?" Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. "Why, I can't imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren't expecting to be attacked during class?"

"We're not going to use magic?" Ron exclaimed loudly.

"Students raise their hands when they wish to speak in my class, Mr –?"

"Weasley," said Ron, thrusting his hand into the air.

Professor Umbridge, smiling still more widely, turned her back on him. Harry and Hermione immediately raised their hands too. Professor Umbridge's pouchy eyes lingered on Harry for a moment before she addressed Hermione.

"Yes, Miss Granger? You wanted to ask something else?"

"Yes," said Hermione. "Surely the whole point of Defence Against the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?"

"Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Granger?" asked Professor Umbridge in her falsely sweet voice.

"No, but – "

"Well then, I'm afraid you are not qualified to decide what the "whole point" of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new programme of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way – "

"What use is that?" said Harry loudly. "If we're going to be attacked, it won't be in a – "

"Hand, Mr Potter!" sang Professor Umbridge.

Harry thrust his fist in the air. Again, Professor Umbridge promptly turned away from him, but now several other people had their hands up, too.

"And your name is?" Professor Umbridge said to Dean.

"Dean Thomas."

"Well, Mr Thomas?"

"Well, it's like Harry said, isn't it?" said Dean. "If we're going to be attacked, it won't be risk-free."

"I repeat," said Professor Umbridge, smiling in a very irritating fashion at Dean, "do you expect to be attacked during my classes?"

"No, but – "

Professor Umbridge talked over him. "I do not wish to criticise the way things have been run in this school," she said, an unconvincing smile stretching her wide mouth, "but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed – not to mention," she gave a nasty little laugh, "extremely dangerous half-breeds."

Harry flinched at this and felt Seamus shoot him a concerned look.

"If you mean Professor Lupin," piped up Dean angrily, "he was the best we ever – "

"Hand, Mr Thomas! As I was saying – you have been introduced to spells that have been complex, inappropriate to your age group and potentially lethal. You have been frightened into believing that you are likely to meet Dark attacks every other day – "

"No we haven't," Hermione said, "we just – "

"Your hand is not up, Miss Granger!"

Hermione put up her hand. Professor Umbridge turned away from her.

"It is my understanding that my predecessor not only performed illegal curses in front of you, he actually performed them on you."

"Well, he turned out to be a maniac, didn't he?" said Dean hotly. "Mind you, we still learned loads."

"Your hand is not up, Mr Thomas!" trilled Professor Umbridge. "Now, it is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through your examination, which, after all, is what school is all about. And your name is?" she added, staring at Parvati, whose hand had just shot up.

"Parvati Patil, and isn't there a practical bit in our Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL? Aren't we supposed to show that we can actually do the counter-curses and things?"

"As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions," said Professor Umbridge dismissively.

"Without ever practicing them beforehand?" said Parvati incredulously. "Are you telling us that the first time we'll get to do the spells will be during our exam?"

"I repeat, as long as you have studied the theory hard enough – "

"And what good's theory going to be in the real world?" said Harry loudly, his fist in the air again.

Professor Umbridge looked up.

"This is school, Mr Potter, not the real world," she said softly.

"So we're not supposed to be prepared for what's waiting for us out there?"

"There is nothing waiting out there, Mr Potter."

"Oh, yeah?" said Harry.

"Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?" enquired Professor Umbridge in a horrible honeyed voice.

"Hmm, let's think..." said Harry in a mock thoughtful voice. "Maybe...Lord Voldemort?"

Ron gasped; Lavender Brown uttered a little scream; Neville slipped sideways off his stool. Professor Umbridge, however, did not flinch. She was staring at Harry with a grimly satisfied expression on her face.

"Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr Potter."

The classroom was silent and still. Everyone was staring at either Umbridge or Harry.

"Now, let me make a few things quite plain."

Professor Umbridge stood up and leaned towards them, her stubby-fingered hands splayed on her desk.

"You have been told that a certain Dark wizard has returned from the dead – "

"He wasn't dead," said Harry angrily, "but yeah, he's returned!"

"Mr-Potter-you-have-already-lost-your-house-ten-points-do-not-make-matters-worse-for-yourself," said Professor Umbridge in one breath without looking at him. "As I was saying, you have been informed that a certain Dark wizard is at large once again. This is a lie."

"It is NOT a lie!" said Harry. "I saw him, I fought him!"

"Detention, Mr Potter!" said Professor Umbridge triumphantly. "Tomorrow evening. Five o'clock. My office. I repeat, this is a lie. The Ministry of Magic guarantees that you are not in danger from any Dark wizard. If you are still worried, by all means come and see me outside class hours. If someone is alarming you with fibs about reborn Dark wizards, I would like to hear about it. I am here to help. I am your friend. And now, you will kindly continue your reading. Page five, "Basics for Beginners"."

Professor Umbridge sat down behind her desk. Harry, however, stood up. Everyone was staring at him; Lavender Brown looked half-scared, half-fascinated.

"Harry, no!" Hermione whispered in a warning voice, tugging at his sleeve, but Harry jerked his arm out of her reach.

"So, according to you, Cedric Diggory dropped dead of his own accord, did he? Harry asked, his voice shaking.

Seamus moaned and dropped his head into his hands. He wanted to stand with Harry, hold him in his arms and comfort him. Seamus could hear the tears in Harry's voice as well as the anger but he was pretty sure everyone else could only hear anger. Seamus knew how upset Harry was that so many people considered him a liar.

"Cedric Diggory's death was a tragic accident," Umbridge said coldly.

"It was murder," said Harry. He could feel himself shaking. He had hardly spoken to anyone about this, least of all thirty eagerly listening classmates. "Voldemort killed him and you know it."

Professor Umbridge's face was quite blank. For a moment, Harry thought she was going to scream at him. then she said, in her softest, most sweetly girlish voice, "Come here, Mr Potter, dear."

He kicked his chair aside, strode around Neville and up to the teacher's desk. He could feel the rest of the class holding its breath. He felt so angry he did not care what happened next.

Professor Umbridge pulled a small roll of pink parchment out of her handbag, stretched it out on the desk, dipped her quill into a bottle of ink and started scribbling, hunched over sop that Harry could not see what she was writing. Nobody spoke. After a minute or so she rolled up the parchment and tapped it with her wand; it sealed itself seamlessly so that he could not open it.

"Take this to Professor McGonagall, dear," said Professor Umbridge, holding out the note to him.

He took it from her without saying a word, turned on his heel and left the room, not even looking back at Seamus, slamming the classroom door shut behind him.

Once he'd gone, Umbridge looked over the rest of the class. "Now, please return to your reading," she said in her usual sickly sweet voice. "Page five, "Basics for Beginners."


Tuesday 5 September 1995 – 12.19 am

Seamus held Harry tightly against his chest as Harry finally broke down in tears and sobbed about the treatment he was receiving from people who had never seemed to have a problem with him before.

"I hate being famous," Harry sobbed.

"I hate you being famous, too," Seamus said, rubbing a soothing hand up and down Harry's back. "What did McGonagall say to you when you went to her office?"

"That I need to be careful," Harry said, once he'd calmed down. "I need to remember that she's from the Ministry and reporting back to Fudge. That misbehaviour in her class could cost me more than house points and detention."

"Is that a threat?" Seamus asked, horrified.

Harry shook his head. "A reminder that Umbridge doesn't answer to Dumbledore, she answers to the Minister of Magic himself. Therefore, anything she does whilst here will be considered perfectly legal."

Now Seamus clung tightly to Harry. A little too tightly if Harry's squeak was anything to go by.

"Merlin's Balls, Harry," Seamus eventually breathed into Harry's hair. "You had better be damn' careful around that eejit of a woman or I'll kill you myself."

Harry cracked a grin and cupped Seamus' face in his hands. "That's why I love you, Seamus Finnigan," he said softly. "You don't care about the rest of the world. Only about me. Nobody has ever done that before."

Seamus smiled and raised his own hands to clasp Harry's, pulling them from his face so that he could lean in to kiss Harry. "I love that you're prepared to take on the world to keep everyone safe," Seamus murmured against Harry's lips.

They shared a sweet, lingering kiss before laying down to go to sleep. Harry nestled his head on Seamus' chest and absently traced patterns on his t-shirt clad chest. Neither of them fell asleep for quite some time.


Wednesday 6 September 1995 – 12.13 am

Seamus stirred and opened bleary eyes when he felt Harry finally slide into bed.

"How was detention?" Seamus asked sleepily.

"Lines," said Harry, curling around Seamus, tucking his feet in between the taller boy's calves. "I had to write I must not tell lies until the message sank in."

Seamus frowned. "No set amount?" he asked in surprise.

Harry shook his head and yawned. "No, just until I'd learnt my lesson and my hand was cramping up."

Seamus lifted Harry's hand up off his chest and kissed it tenderly. Harry smiled, though Seamus couldn't see that in the dark.

"You still have detention all week?" Seamus asked. "Or did she let you off?"

"She said the message hadn't yet sunk in fully so I have to go again tomorrow," Harry grumped. "I'm going to get up early to do my homework."

"Ok," Seamus said, kissing the top of Harry's head. "Go to sleep, then."

"Night, Shay," Harry said tiredly, wriggling to get more comfortable.

"Night, Har."


Thursday 7 September 1995 – 12.16 am

Harry entered the common room to find Seamus waiting up for him.

"You didn't need to wait up for me," Harry murmured, collapsing onto Seamus' lap and kissing the taller boy soundly.

"I've missed you the last couple of evenings," Seamus complained.

Harry grinned. "We don't spend the evenings together very often though," he pointed out.

"True," Seamus agreed. "But I like knowing you're in the common room so I can come over and snatch a kiss whenever I feel like one."

Harry giggled a little at that, reaching up to push a lock of hair out of his eyes. Seamus grabbed his hand and stared at the angry red mark on the back of it. "What's wrong with your hand?" he asked anxiously.

"Oh, I scratched super hard at an itch that wouldn't go away," Harry lied, smiling brightly at Seamus. "It's nothing."

"It doesn't hurt?" Seamus queried.

Harry shook his head, even though his hand was aching rather painfully. "Do you have any chocolate?" he asked hopefully.

Seamus grinned. "You're worse than a girl when it comes to chocolate," he said, pulling a bar out of his pocket.

Harry snatched it with a whoop of glee and made quick work of it. "Thanks, Shay," he mumbled. "Love you."

"Love you, too, Har," Seamus replied. "Now bed."

Harry saluted Seamus cheekily, giggling when Seamus growled playfully and slapped his arse. "Brat," he said fondly.

Harry nodded his agreement. "Yep," he said proudly.

They went up to the dormitory and Harry started undressing, heading for the shower. Seamus watched him with a slight look of worry on his face. He didn't quite believe the red mark on Harry's hand was from scratching an itch but he knew Harry well enough to know that if he called the smaller boy on his lie, Harry wouldn't talk to him for days, let alone allow amazing snog sessions.

"Hurry up, Har," Seamus called impatiently, situating himself in the bed and closing his eyes with relief.

"I'll be right there, Shay," Harry called back.

A few minutes later and Harry slid into bed beside Seamus who was already half asleep. "Thanks for waiting up for me," Harry whispered.

"No problem," Seamus murmured back. "Go to sleep."

Harry kissed Seamus on the cheek before curling around the taller boy and closing his own eyes. He still had to get up early and do his homework, after all.


Thursday 7 September 1995 – 9.09 pm

"You get out of detention early?" Ron asked when Harry bumped into him in the hallway.

Harry nodded, reaching up to rub his tired eyes. Ron's eyes narrowed and his hand shot out to grab hold of Harry's arm, whereupon he pulled Harry's hand up to gaze in horror at the words etched into the back of Harry's hand.

"Mate," Ron breathed, as Harry snatched his hand back. "Mate, that's from a Blood Quill that is."

Harry blinked warily, not saying anything.

"They're illegal, they are," Ron continued, eyes wide with horror. "You need to tell McGonagall about it."

Harry swallowed and shook his head. "Not like she can do anything about it," Harry muttered. "She's got the backing of the Minister. And don't you go telling anyone," Harry added, looking at Ron sharply. "Nobody else needs to know about this."

"Not even Seamus?" Ron asked, raising a single eyebrow.

Harry hesitated before shaking his head. "Not even Seamus," he muttered. "He doesn't need to know."

Ron looked like he wanted to argue but their friendship was still tentative and he didn't want to risk falling out with Harry again.

"Ok, mate," Ron reluctantly agreed. "I won't tell anybody."

Harry relaxed slightly and the pair continued to make their way up to Gryffindor Tower. Entering, Harry immediately sought out Seamus so he could curl up on his boyfriend's lap.

"Hey, you got out early," Seamus said in delight, as Harry curled up on his lap, burrowing his head into Seamus' neck and closing his eyes. "Does this mean you don't have to go back tomorrow?"

Harry shook his head. "No, I still have to go," he said tiredly. "Shay, I'm sleepy."

Dean grinned and stood up. "I'll leave you to it, mate," he said. "Maybe Parvati would like to go find a broom closet or something."

Dean moved away and Seamus rubbed a hand up and down Harry's back. "What's wrong, Har?" he asked. "You feel ok?"

"Just sleepy," Harry murmured. "Been getting up at five to do my homework and working through my lunch to finish it."

"Why don't you do it now and then go to bed?" Seamus suggested. "Then you can have a little lie in in the morning."

Harry shook his head. "My hand's cramping," he complained. "Can't write with it at the moment."

"Go to bed now then," Seamus suggested. "It won't be so hard to get up early then because you'll have had more sleep."

"Ok," Harry agreed. "Come with me?"

"Of course," said Seamus immediately. "You go up and I'll just tell Ron, Hermione and Neville and then join you."

"'K." Harry yawned and stumbled to his feet.

He stumbled up the stairs to his dorm and didn't even make it to the bathroom for his usual shower before collapsing on Seamus' bed and falling asleep, still fully clothed. Seamus came up a few minutes later and had to grin. Harry was laying across the bed rather than on it and he was oblivious.

Seamus locked the door to the dormitory and quickly undressed Harry and put him in a pair of pyjamas and rearranging him in the bed. Harry didn't stir once.

"Wow," Seamus muttered. "You really need to sleep."

He went and took a shower himself and changed into his own pyjamas before unlocking the door and settling in bed with a book. Harry still didn't stir.


Saturday 9 September 1995 – 10.18 am

"You were up early this morning," Seamus commented, when he finally surfaced from his bed and went down to the common room.

Harry shrugged. "Sent a letter to Sirius," he said, "and did my weekend homework."

Seamus raised his eyebrows. "Already, Hermione?" he said teasingly.

Harry scowled. "Ha ha," he said. "Now I can catch up on sleep."

"Ok," Seamus said, kissing the top of Harry's head. "Had breakfast yet?"

Harry shook his head. Truthfully, he hadn't fancied breakfast that morning but he wasn't about to tell Seamus that. "Was waiting for you," Harry said. "Thought we could go to the kitchens and get breakfast to go. We could eat out by the lake or something."

Seamus grinned and wrapped his arms around Harry from behind. "A breakfast date, Harry?" he asked, still teasing. "Didn't know you had it in you."

Harry blushed even as Seamus chuckled and pulled the smaller boy to his feet. "We don't have to do that if you don't want to," Harry said, as Seamus draped an arm over his shoulders and lead him out of the common room.

"Nonsense," Seamus refuted. "You thought of it so we'll do it."

Harry smiled, pleased. "Are you going to watch Quidditch practice later?" he asked hopefully. "I haven't seen much of you this week."

"That's because of that Umbridge cow," Seamus said, scowling. "She's deliberately keeping you from me cos she's a homophobe."

"How do you know that?" Harry asked curiously.

"Asked around," Seamus said, watching the elves make them up a picnic breakfast.

"Asked who?" Harry pressed.

Seamus sighed. "I didn't really need to do much asking," he said, shrugging. "Just asked a few other same-sex couples whether they'd caught her looking at them with faint disgust at all and they confirmed she had."

Harry's eyes widened in surprise. "Has she looked at us like that?" he asked in a small voice.

Seamus nodded. "I noticed on Monday when we had our first Defence class," he admitted.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry asked, sounding hurt.

"Didn't want to upset you, Har," said Seamus, taking the basket from the elves with a nod of thanks and draping his other arm over Harry's shoulders again.

Harry was silent as they walked out to the grounds. Although he revelled in the feel of Seamus' arm draped heavily around him and the feel of the taller, thicker body pressed against his side, he was deep in though.

Seamus conjured a blanket for them to sit on when they reached the lake and he sat down, back pressed against a tree. Harry placed himself between Seamus' legs and rested his head back against Seamus' shoulder.

"Why are some people against same-sex couples?" Harry finally asked curiously. He had never quite understood this as, to him, love was love no matter who the person was.

"There never used to be a problem with it," Seamus said. "Centuries ago, back in the day of the Founders, all witches and wizards were ok with it. Then magic started dwindling and Pureblood lines were dying out. That's when the Muggleborns started appearing. They brought their views on same-sex couples into our world and started infecting other witches and wizards with their beliefs."

"But why didn't the Muggleborns like it?" asked Harry.

"Because in the Muggle world you can't have children in a same-sex relationship unless you adopt," said Seamus. "You can't procreate with one another and to many people your sole purpose on the earth is to procreate and keep the population growing. Magical same-sex couples don't have that problem as the submissive in a male/male relationship is able to get pregnant and the dominant in a female/female relationship is able to impregnate."

"So, because the Muggleborns are raised thinking that men can't get pregnant and women can't impregnate they adopt the belief that same-sex relationships are unnatural and not the way of God," Harry summarised.

"Exactly," said Seamus.

"And even though people magically raised know that wizards can get pregnant and witches can impregnate they still hold the belief that it is unnatural because Muggleborns have infected our society with that belief," said Harry.

"Not all Muggleborns," said Seamus. "Some, like Hermione, come to our world with an open mind. Ready to believe that anything is possible with magic. They see same-sex couples around the school and immediately resolve to find out whether that is still a stigma or whether everything they have ever believed about procreation is true or not."

"Do you want children, Shay?" Harry asked.

"Not right now, Har, we haven't even got our OWLs yet," said Seamus with a grin.

Harry slapped his shoulder. "Prat," he said good-naturedly. "I meant in the future."

"I want whatever you want," said Seamus, nuzzling at Harry's neck affectionately. "If you want a dozen children, we'll have a dozen children. If you don't want any, we won't have any. Simple as that."

"I want children," said Harry with a wistful sigh. "All I ever wanted when I was with the Dursleys was to have someone love me unconditionally. Children do that. They love their parents no matter what."

"Except Sirius," Seamus pointed out.

Harry rolled his eyes. "He probably still loves them deep down," he said. "Just doesn't admit to himself because it's easier to hate them when you don't love them."

"Is that why you never wanted the Dursleys punished for the way they treated you?" asked Seamus curiously.

Harry shrugged. "They were the only parental figures I know," he said. "When you're a little kid you look up to the parental figures in your life and love them no matter how badly they treat you."

Seamus placed a gentle kiss on the side of Harry's neck and tightened his arms around Harry's middle.

"Then we'll have kids," he whispered. "A boy to be named after your father and a girl to be named after your mother."

Harry frowned. "I'd like more than two kids," he said. "Four or five, I think."

"Please tell me you won't want them every year," Seamus begged. "You won't want a kid a year, will you?"

Harry grinned. "I would make you wait and find out," he said. "But I love you and you're being incredibly sweet today so I'll tell you."

"I'm always sweet," Seamus protested.

"One every two or three years," said Harry. "Depending on how much mischief each child gets into."

"Sounds reasonable enough," said Seamus. "How long after we're married?"

Harry pulled out of Seamus' arms and glared at him. "If you think that's a good enough proposal you can think again, mister," he said crossly. "That was pathetic."

Seamus looked perplexed then realisation dawned as he remembered what he'd said. "Oh," he said. "No, that wasn't a proposal. It was a fact. We are going to get married some day. And yes, I will propose to you decently. Get you a ring and everything if you want me to."

Harry stared at Seamus suspiciously before settling back into his arms. "Yes, I would like a ring," he said haughtily. "An expensive one if you please. You only get engaged once."

Seamus laughed loudly. "Merlin, I love you, Har," he said, sweeping a proud gaze over Harry's body.

Harry sniffed. "Hmph," he huffed. "I love you, too. Are there any more strawberries left?"


Sunday 10 September 1995 – 11.51 pm

Seamus stared lividly at the letter Ron held in his hands. He was shaking he was so angry.

"Ron, if I ever see your brother face-to-face I won't be held responsible for my actions," Seamus practically growled, his fists clenched at his sides.

Harry snatched the letter from Ron to re-read it with wide, disbelieving eyes. He raised his gaze to Ron.

"Being associated with me could damage your future prospects?" Harry asked. "Is that true?"

"No!" Seamus cried, leaping to pull Harry into his arms. "No, that's not at all true. Don't listen to anything the evil git has to say about you. He's a nobody."

"Seamus is right," Ron said. "He's the biggest git ever born. When he stopped talking to Mum and Dad because of their being in the Order I should have guessed something like this would happen."

"What does he mean "I know he can be unbalanced and, for all I know, violent"?" Hermione spat out.

"Well, the whole family knows you have those dreams about You-Know-Who, Harry," said Ron, shifting uncomfortably when Seamus inexplicably glared at him, as though he were responsible for upsetting Harry. "Mum and Dad think of you like a son and the rest of us think of you like another brother, so I thought it only fair that your entire family know about the dreams you suffer with."

Harry's eyes filled with tears. "I," he began to say when movement caught his eye and he looked down at the fireplace. Frowning, he pulled away from Seamus and knelt down.

"Harry?" Seamus questioned.

"I saw Sirius," Harry explained.

The others all knelt down beside Harry and stared into the fire with him. Sirius' head appeared not long after.

"I was starting to think you'd go to bed before everyone else had disappeared," he said. "I've been checking every hour."

"But why?" asked Hermione.

Sirius head bobbed slightly in the fireplace and they assumed he'd shrugged. "This was the only way I could come up with of answering Harry's letter without resorting to a code – and codes are breakable."

Ron, Hermione and Neville turned to glare at Harry, who shrank back against Seamus' chest.

"I thought you agreed it wasn't safe to write to Sirius," Hermione said accusingly.

"I changed my mind," Harry said weakly.

"Why didn't you tell us?" Neville asked.

"Forgot," said Harry sheepishly. "I told Shay though!"

Seamus nodded. "Even told me what he'd put in it. It was very good. Nobody would have been able to guess what it meant unless they were one of us."

"So," Sirius interrupted. "Your scar, Harry."

"Yeah," said Harry with a sigh.

"I know it can't be fun when it hurts, but we don't think it's anything to really worry about. It kept aching all last year, didn't it?"

"Yeah, and Dumbledore said it happened whenever Voldemort was feeling a powerful emotion," said Harry.

"Well, now he's back it's bound to hurt more often," said Sirius.

"So you don't think it had anything to do with Umbridge touching me when I was in detention with her?" Harry asked.

"I doubt it," said Sirius. "I know her by reputation and I'm sure she's no Death Eater – "

"She's foul enough to be one," said Harry darkly, the other Gryffindors nodding in agreement.

"Yes, but the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters," said Sirius with a wry smile. "I know she's a nasty piece of work though – you should hear Remus talk about her."

"Does Moony know her?" asked Harry quickly, remembering Umbridge's comments about dangerous half-breeds during her first lesson.

"No," said Sirius, "but she drafted a bit of anti-werewolf legislation two years ago that makes it almost impossible for him to get a job."

"What's she got against werewolves?" said Hermione angrily.

"Scared of them, I expect," said Sirius, smiling at her indignation. "Apparently, she loathes part-humans; she campaigned to have Merpeople rounded up and tagged last year, too. Imagine wasting your time and energy persecuting Merpeople when there are little toerags like Kreacher on the loose."

"She's a homophobe as well," Seamus added. "Should have seen the look of disgust on her face when Harry and I walked into her class on Monday. I asked around and other same-sex couples have received the same look of disgust."

"Wouldn't put it past her to believe all that Muggle nonsense about same-sex couples going against God yada yada," Sirius said. "Even though she is a Pureblood and should know about same-sex couples being able to have their own children."

"Seamus explained all that to me yesterday," Harry said, nodding to confirm what he said. "He explained why some people were anti-same-sex relationships cos I didn't understand before."

"So, what are Umbridge's lessons like?" Sirius asked. "Is she training you all to kill half-breeds?"

"No," said Harry. "She's not letting us use magic at all!"

"All we do is read the stupid textbook," said Ron.

"Ah, well, that figures," said Sirius. "Our information from inside the Ministry is that Fudge doesn't want you trained in combat."

"Trained in combat!" Seamus repeated incredulously. "What does he think we're doing here, forming some sort of wizard army?"

"That's exactly what he thinks you're doing," said Sirius, "or, rather, that's exactly what he's afraid Dumbledore's doing – forming his own private army, with which he will be able to take on the Ministry of Magic."

They all paused, sifting through this new information unable to believe what they'd just heard.

"That's the most stupid thing I've ever heard, including all the stuff that Luna Lovegood comes out with," Ron burst out.

"So we're being prevented from learning Defence Against the Dark Arts because Fudge is scared we'll use spells against the Ministry?" said Hermione, looking furious.

"Yep," said Sirius. "Fudge thinks Dumbledore will stop at nothing to seize power. He's getting more paranoid about Dumbledore by the day. It's a matter of time before he has Dumbledore arrested on some trumped up charge."

Harry yawned then, causing Sirius and Seamus to smile. "Bed," said Seamus firmly. "You didn't sleep well last night and all last week you had bloody detention with bloody Umbridge."

"Ok," Harry said, not putting up a fight. "Bye, Siri, it was nice talking to you."

"Yeah, Pup," said Sirius fondly. "I'll try and do it again sometime."

"Maybe you can come visit us next Hogsmeade weekend?" said Harry hopefully.

"If I'm not busy with Order stuff then yeah," said Sirius. "I'll bring Remus as well."

"Ok," Harry agreed, looking happier than he had all week. "Bye."

Sirius' head disappeared with a pop and the group of Gryffindors made their way up to bed.


Monday 11 September 1995 – 8.19 am

MINISTRY SEEKS EDUCATIONAL REFORM

DORLORES UMBRIDGE APPOINTED

FIRST EVER HIGH INQUISITOR

They all stared at the headline in horror, all having a faint idea what that would mean for Hogwarts and for them.

"What does the article have to say, 'Mione?" Harry asked.

"In a surprise move last night," Hermione read aloud, "the Ministry of Magic passed a new legislation giving itself an unprecedented level of control at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"'The Minister has been growing uneasy about goings-on at Hogwarts for some time,' said Junior Assistant to the Minister, Percy Weasley. 'He is now responding to concerns voiced by anxious parents, who feel the school may be moving in a direction they do not approve of.'

"This is not the first time in recent weeks that the Minister, Cornelius Fudge, has used new laws to effect improvements at the wizards school. As recelt as 30th August, Educational Decree Number Twenty-Two was passed, to ensure that, in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.

'That's how Dolores Umbridge came to be appointed to the teaching staff at Hogwarts,' said Weasley last night. 'Dumbledore couldn't find anyone so the Minister put in Umbridge, and, of course, she's been an immediate success, totally revolutionising the teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts and providing the Minister with on-the-ground feedback about what's really happening at Hogwarts.'

"It is this last function that the Ministry has now formalised with the passing of Educational Decree Number Twenty-Three, which creates the new position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.

'This is an exciting new phase in the Minister's plan to get to grips with what some are calling the falling standards at Hogwarts,' said Weasley. 'The Inquisitor will have powers to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch. Professor Umbridge has been offered this position in addition to her own teaching post and we are delighted to say that she has accepted.'

"The Ministry's new moves have received enthusiastic support from parents of students at Hogwarts.

'I feel much easier in my mind now that I know Dumbledore is being subjected to fair and objective evaluation,' said Mr Lucius Malfoy, 41, speaking from his Wiltshire mansion last night. 'Many of us with our children's best interests at heart have been concerned about some of Dumbledore's eccentric decisions in the last few years and are glad to know that the Ministry is keeping an eye on the situation.'

"Among those eccentric decisions are undoubtedly the controversial staff appointments previously described in this newspaper, which have included the employment of werewolf Remus Lupin, half-giant Rubeus Hagrid and delusional ex-Auror, "Mad-Eye" Moody.

"Rumours abound, of course, that Albus Dumbledore, once Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, is no longer up to the task of managing the prestigious school of Hogwarts.

'I think the appointment of the Inquisitor is a first step towards ensuring that Hogwarts has a Headmaster in whom we can all repose our confidence,' said a Ministry insider last night.

"Wizengamot elders Griselda Marchbanks and Tiberius Ogden have resigned in protest at the introduction of the post of Inquisitor to Hogwarts.

'Hogwarts is a school, not an outpost of Cornelius Fudge's office,' said Madam Marchbanks. 'This is a further, disgusting attempt to discredit Albus Dumbledore.'

"(For a full account of Madam Marchbanks' alleged links to subversive goblin groups, turn to page seventeen.)"

They all fell silent as Hermione set the paper down again. "So, Umbridge is here because Fudge forced her on us because he wants to gain control of Hogwarts," said Seamus grimly. "Thought as much."

"It's disgusting!" Hermione burst out. "The Ministry has no place in a school older than the Ministry itself is! Someone needs to do something about this."

Harry sat up straight. "''Mione," he whispered, eyes wide with sudden clarity. "I have an idea but I'm definitely going to need your help and it definitely can't be put into action just yet."

"What is it?" Hermione asked immediately.

Harry looked around at their group of friends. Only Parvati and Lavender were currently missing. "Dean," Harry said, "tell Parvati and Lavender that all of us are having an emergency meeting in the common room at midnight tonight. They need to be there if they want a chance at bringing down Umbridge."

"Will do," said Dean, standing and hurrying away.

Harry looked down the table to where Fred and George were sitting with Angelina, Alicia and Lee Jordan. "Ron, get the twins and their friends to join us as well," he said.

"Ok, Harry," said Ron equably.

"Ginny, you know Luna Lovegood well, right?" said Harry.

Ginny nodded.

"Great, let her into our common room tonight," said Harry. "Her dad's the editor of the Quibbler. That could come in useful."

"Ok," Ginny agreed.

"Neville, you know Susan Bones, right?"

"Yeah," said Neville.

"Good, bring her, Hannah Abbott and Ernie Macmillan along," said Harry.

"What are you doing, Harry?" Seamus asked.

"I'm planning on re-organising the Ministry for good," said Harry grimly.


Monday 11 September 1995 – 12.01 am

"Sorry!" Harry cried, falling into the Gryffindor common room. "Detention with the old bat again."

Seamus sniggered but Angelina looked furious. "Is there a reason you asked us here?" she said coolly.

"Yes," said Harry rather breathlessly, collapsing onto the couch next to Seamus. "Raise your hand if you seriously dislike Umbridge."

Every single one of them raised their hands. Harry nodded. "Ok, raise your hand if you think Fudge is a moronic idiot that needs to be kicked out of the Ministry."

Again, they all raised their hands. Harry nodded again. "Great," he said.

"What has our opinion on Fudge and Umbridge got to do with anything?" Angelina asked impatiently.

"Well, I want to re-organise the Ministry," said Harry calmly. "Susan, Ernie, I asked you here because you both have relatives in high positions in the Ministry."

Susan and Ernie nodded in confirmation. Harry looked at Hannah. "Your mother is Lady Abbott, correct? Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Abbott?"

"That's right," said Hannah a little nervously. "And I'm the Heir Apparent. Due to take my place upon my mother's death, which I hope won't be for many, many years."

"Good," said Harry, rubbing his hands together gleefully. "The rest of you are here because you are really close friends of mine. Luna, you're here because your father is the editor of the Quibbler and sometime in the future we will need articles printed about what we're doing and they need to be truthful. Not the rubbish the Daily Prophet prints."

"Ok, Harry," said Luna dreamily.

"First of all," said Harry. "I need to know everything regarding the history of the Ministry of Magic and all of its departments. Secondly, I need to know the history of the Wizengamot."

Everyone nodded. "Then what?" Angelina asked.

"Then we plan a new Ministry," said Harry, a little excitedly. "We plan out new departments or changes to existing departments that are necessary."

"What's all this got to do with Fudge and Umbridge?" asked Alicia.

"They're going to be out of a job," said Harry matter-of-factly. "We're going to get rid of Fudge and put in someone who can actually do the job. Then Umbridge won't have a leg to stand on."

"Who do you have in mind?" Lee Jordan asked curiously.

Harry looked at Susan. "Your aunt is Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, correct?" he said.

Susan nodded.

"Then she is the perfect candidate for Minister," said Harry firmly. "Not only does she know the Ministry inside and out but she is a support of Dumbledore and dislikes Fudge."

"Add that she's a relative of one of the people rearranging the Ministry and she's probably the only candidate we could even consider," said Hermione, her eyes alight with possibilities.

"Ok," said Harry. "So, when you get a spare moment, I want all of you to learn about the Ministry and the Wizengamot. We all need to know the ins and outs of it if we're going to rearrange it and start again from scratch."

"How long will this take us?" Katie Bell asked.

Harry shrugged. "Dunno," he said. "But once we've all learnt everything there is to know about the Ministry and the Wizengamot then we'll have to start having meetings to work out how we're going to do this. If you don't want to be a part of this you can say so now."

Silence.

"So, you're all in?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Of course!" they all chorused.

Harry grinned and bounced up and down in his seat slightly. "Brilliant," he said. "Meeting adjourned."


Tuesday 12 September 1995 – 11.57 pm

Harry gratefully sank his hand into the bowl of essence of Murtlap. Seamus carded shaky fingers through Harry's hair, encouraging the smaller boy to lean into his side.

"Sorry I didn't tell you," Harry muttered.

"Why didn't you?" Seamus asked stiffly.

"Cos I knew you'd be angry," said Harry in a small voice. "And I didn't want you to do something stupid."

"I'll get over it," said Seamus with a sigh.

"She's an awful woman," said Hermione in a small voice. "Awful. You know, I was just saying to Ron, Neville and Seamus when you came in...we've got to do something about her."

"I suggested poison," said Ron grimly.

"We are," said Harry. "We're going to take on the Ministry and win."

"No...I mean, something about what a dreadful teacher she is, and how we're not going to learn any Defence from her at all," said Hermione.

"I agree," said Neville, nodding. "But what can we do?"

"We need to do it ourselves," said Hermione.

"Do what ourselves?" said Harry.

"Teach ourselves Defence Against the Dark Arts," said Hermione promptly.

"There's not much we can do by ourselves," Ron pointed out. "We can read books and teach ourselves from those but that's about it."

"No, I agree, we've gone past the stage where we can just learn things out of books," said Hermione. "We need a teacher, a proper one, who can show us how to use the spells and correct us if we're going wrong."

"Are you talking about Moony?" asked Harry. "Cos I don't think he'll be able to get into the castle while Umbridge is here."

"What about Sirius?" asked Seamus. "He could meet us next Hogsmeade weekend and come back as Snuffles."

"No, neither of them," said Hermione.

Neville frowned. "Er, who are you talking about then?" he asked, perplexed.

Hermione heaved a very deep sigh. "Isn't it obvious?" she said. "I'm talking about you, Harry."

"About me what?" said Harry.

"I'm talking about you teaching us Defence Against the Dark Arts."

"Me?" Harry repeated. "But I don't know how to teach! I can't teach. I'm not qualified to."

"But you're brilliant at Defence, mate," said Ron. "The best in the year, if not the school."

Harry laughed. "Don't be ridiculous," he said. "Shay, tell them I can't teach."

"No, they have a point, Har," said Seamus. "I've seen you practice Defence and you are amazing at it. You have really good instincts. Plus, you had one-on-one teaching from Remus with the Patronus Charm so you can just work from there about how to teach."

"But," Harry continued to protest.

"Just think about it, Harry," Hermione pleaded.

Harry frowned. "All right," he agreed. "I'll think about it but I'm making no promises."

"Ok," Ron, Hermione, Neville and Seamus chorused.


Friday 29 September 1995 – 8.09 pm

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville were sitting in the library doing some of their homework. Seamus was in the common room with Dean.

"Any thoughts on teaching Defence, Harry?" Hermione asked casually.

Ron and Neville looked up sharply.

"I've been thinking," Harry admitted slowly. "And bouncing ideas off Seamus."

"And," Hermione prompted.

"Well, maybe I could teach a couple of lessons," Harry said slowly. "Just trial ones. See how they go. If they go alright then maybe I'll continue until we get rid of Umbridge."

Hermione looked smug. "I knew you'd come around."

Harry rolled his eyes. "I'll tell Ron you love him," he taunted in Parseltongue.

Ron, Hermione and Neville all shuddered. "Creepy, Harry," Hermione moaned. "Don't do that."

"What did you say?" Neville asked curiously.

Harry shook his head. "Doesn't matter," he said. "So how are we going to do this?"

"Well, Umbridge isn't exactly going to approve of this, is she?" said Hermione briskly. "So I thought we would have a meeting in Hogsmeade to discuss it with anyone interested in learning from you."

"Sounds good," said Ron. "Three Broomsticks?"

"I thought the Hog's Head," said Hermione. "Nobody really goes there so we wouldn't be overheard."

"No, the Three Broomsticks," said Harry slowly. "It's always busy in there and packed with Hogwarts students at the weekend. Nobody will really pay much attention to a large crowd of us sitting, having a drink together."

"Good point," said Ron.

"Plus, it's always really noisy in there so we won't really need to keep our voices down, will we," said Neville.

"I'll get the word out," said Hermione, gathering her things together.

"Ok," the guys all chorused.


Sunday 8 October 1995 – 12.19 am

"It went well today," Seamus commented, once they were in bed.

Harry frowned. "There were a lot more people there than I thought there would be."

"Every house but Slytherin," Seamus confirmed. "And I think there are only two people who are really unsure about it."

Harry nodded. "Smith and Edgecombe," he said. "Yeah, I noticed how reluctant they were."

"I wonder why they came if they don't particularly want to be involved?" Seamus wondered, ignoring Harry's amused expression as he steadily moved his hand up Harry's thigh.

"Might be spying for Umbridge," said Harry with a shrug. "And Shay, if you want a hand-job just ask or jump me. Don't be all sneaky about it."

Seamus grinned and rolled over to hover above Harry. "Why, Harry," he purred. "I thought you'd never ask."

And he swooped in for a heated kiss.


Monday 9 October 1995 – 7.39 am

Seamus came down the stairs from the dormitory yawning and stretching his arms over his head. He caught sight of Harry and Neville huddled around the noticeboard and walked over to see what they were whispering about.

"What you looking at, Har?" he asked, slinging his arm over Harry's shoulder.

Harry pointed at a large notice that had been placed in the centre of the board, covering several other notices.

BY ORDER OF THE HIGH INQUISITOR OF HOGWARTS

All student organisations, societies, teams, groups and clubs are henceforth disbanded.

An organisation, society, team, group or club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students.

Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge).

No student organisation, society, team, group or club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor.

Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an organisation, tea, group or club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.

The above is in accordance with Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four.

Signed: Dolores Jane Umbridge, High Inquisitor

"What are we going to do?" Seamus asked. "Are we still going ahead?"

"Well, yeah," said Harry. "It's not like we were going to be official, is it? We had already planned to be an underground club."

"I wonder who tipped her off?" said Neville thoughtfully.

"I wonder if Hermione knows," said Seamus. "Let's go see."

"I'll go," said Harry. "Shay, you stay here with Neville and fill Ron in when he finally comes down."

"Er, guys can't go up to the girls' dormitories," Neville pointed out.

"Gay guys can," said Harry with a smirk. "I've been up there before."

And with that he proved himself right by walking up the stairs without mishap. He knocked on the door to Hermione's dormitory and walked in only to whip back around with a cry, covering his eyes.

"My eyes!" he cried. "They burn! 'Mione, put some clothes on!"

Hermione giggled and finished buttoning up her blouse. "Honestly, Harry, what do you expect when you barge into my dormitory like that. How did you get up here anyway? The stairs are warded against males."

"Not gay males," Harry said, keeping his eyes covered and squeezed tightly shut. "I think my mind is scarred for life."

Hermione tutted. "It's your own fault," she said unsympathetically. "What did you want anyway?"

"Educational Decree Number Twenty-Four is posted on the noticeboard," said Harry.

"What does it say?"

"You need permission from the High Inquisitor to have an organisation, team, group or club," Harry recited. "All of the above are defined by the meeting of three or more students."

"Ah," said Hermione. "Well, that just makes things a little tougher for us. Never mind, I'm sure we can figure it out."

Harry turned back and goggled at her. "Never mind?" he repeated incredulously. "Are you sure you're the 'Mione I know and love?"

Hermione grinned and linked arms with Harry. "Come on," she said. "Let's go to breakfast."


Monday 9 October 1995 – 10.00 am

"What do you mean owl communication is being watched?" Ron demanded. "That's invasion of privacy, that is."

"It's not just letters being read," said Harry wearily. "McGonagall said all forms of communication. That includes the Floo Network. Sirius is going to get me into more trouble if he turns up in the common room tonight."

"We'll just tell him the Network is being watched and letters being read," said Hermione anxiously. "I'm sure he won't want you to get into trouble."

"I dunno, 'Mione," said Harry, sagging against Seamus. "Sometimes he acts like he thinks I'm my dad."

Everyone sucked in their breaths. They knew how much that had to hurt Harry. Ever since he'd entered the wizarding world people had been comparing to his father because he looked so much like him. Seamus rubbed Harry's back soothingly. "Come on," he said. "We don't want to be late to Potions."


Wednesday 11 October 1995 – 7.48 pm

"Where are we going?" Seamus asked, as Harry dragged him down a corridor with Ron, Hermione and Neville trailing behind them.

"Dobby came through!" Harry cried. "He found somewhere for us to practice."

Hermione's eyes lit up. "Where?" she asked eagerly. "Did he say where?"

"Yes he said," Harry laughed. "And we're nearly there."

They came to a stop outside a stretch of wall. On the opposite wall was the tapestry depicting Barnabas the Barmy's attempt to teach trolls ballet.

"There's nothing here, mate," said Ron a little impatiently.

"Give me a second," said Harry. He walked up and down the stretch of wall three times chanting 'We need somewhere to learn to fight. Just give us a place to practice...somewhere they can't find us' in his mind.

A squeal had Harry looking at the wall. He whooped when he saw a door had appeared in the wall. "Told you!" Harry cried, bouncing up and down on his toes.

He reached out and opened the door and ushered everyone inside. They stopped and stared around in awe. The room was huge. Several bookcases lined one wall. A second wall held shelves full of equipment. Cushions littered the floor.

By the time it was eight o'clock everyone had arrived and pulled up a cushion. Harry cleared his throat nervously.

"Well," said Harry, slightly nervously. "This is the pace we've found for practice sessions, and you've – er – obviously found it ok."

"It's fantastic!" said Cho, and several people murmured their agreement.

"It's bizarre," said Fred, frowning around at it. "We once hid from Filch in here, remember, George? But it was just a broom cupboard then."

"Hey, Harry, what's this stuff?" asked Dean from the rear of the room, indicating the Sneakoscopes and the Foe-glass.

"Dark detectors," said Harry, stepping through the cushions to reach them. "Basically they all show when Dark wizards or enemies are around, but you don't want to rely on them too much, they can be fooled..."

He gazed for a moment into the cracked Foe-glass; shadowy figures were moving around inside it, though none was recognisable. He turned his back on it.

"Well, I've been thinking about the sort of stuff we ought to do first and – er – " He noticed a raised hand. "What, Hermione?"

"I think we ought to elect a leader," said Hermione.

"Harry's leader," said Cho at once, looking at Hermione as though she were mad.

Seamus gave the pretty Asian girl a sharp, angry look and muttered something under his breath.

"Yes, but I think we ought to make to vote on it properly," said Hermione, unperturbed. "It makes it formal and it gives him authority. So – everyone who thinks Harry ought to be our leader?"

Everybody put up their hand, even Zacharias Smith, though he did it very half-heartedly.

"Er – right, thanks," said Harry, who could feel his face burning. "And – what, Hermione?"

"I also think we ought to have a name," she said brightly, her hand still in the air. "It would promote a feeling of team spirit and unity, don't you think?"

"Can we be the Anti-Umbridge League?" said Angelina hopefully.

"Or the Ministry of Magic are Morons Group?" suggested Fred.

"I was thinking," said Hermione, frowning at Fred, "more of a name that didn't tell everyone what we were up to, so we can refer to it safely outside meetings."

"The Defence Association?" said Cho. "The DA for short, so nobody knows what we're talking about?"

"Yeah, the DA's good," said Ginny. "Only let's make it stand for Dumbledore's Army, because that's the Ministry's worst fear, isn't it?"

There was a good deal of appreciative murmuring and laughter at this.

"All in favour of the DA?" said Hermione bossily, kneeling up on her cushion to count. "That's a majority – motion passed!"

She pinned the piece of parchment with all of their signatures on it to the wall and wrote across the top in large letters:

DUMBLEDORE'S ARMY

"Right," said Harry, when she had sat down again, "shall we get practicing then? I was thinking, the first thing we should do is Expelliarmus, you know, the Disarming Charm. I know it's pretty basic but I've found it really useful – "

"Oh, please," said Zacharias Smith, rolling his eyes and folding his arms. "I don't think Expelliarmus is exactly going to help us against You-Know-Who, do you?"

"I've used it against him," said Harry quietly. "It saved my life in June."

Smith opened his mouth stupidly. The rest of the room was very quiet.

"But if you think it's beneath you, you can leave," Harry said.

Smith did not move. Nor did anybody else.

"Ok," said Harry, his mouth slightly drier than usual with all these eyes upon him, "I reckon we should all divide into pairs and practice."

As everyone paired up, Seamus sent Harry a wink and mouthed, "I'm proud of you," to him. Harry's cheeks warmed and he hung his head shyly. Nobody had ever told him they were proud of him before. He smiled secretly to himself and started moving among the couples to make suggestions on improvement to them.


Thursday 12 October 1995 – 1.09 am

Harry whimpered as Seamus removed his hand from his erection and started kissing down the column of his neck. He whined as Seamus paid close attention to his erect nipples before making his way down to Harry's navel, where he swirled his tongue in and around Harry's bellybutton, causing Harry to moan loudly and thrust his hips up again. Seamus grinned and started nipping at Harry's hip bones, trailing kisses down the inside of his thighs, deliberately ignoring Harry's erection.

"Shay!" Harry moaned, tugging on Seamus' hair. "Shay, please!"

"Please what, Harry?" Seamus said huskily.

"Touch me!" Harry whimpered. "Please touch me!"

Seamus grinned. "As you wish," he said sinisterly, before swallowing Harry whole.

Harry cried out and tightened his grip on Seamus' hair. "Oh Merlin!" he almost screamed. "Shay!"

Seamus bobbed his head up and down, his tongue swirling over the tip and down over the vein on the underside of Harry's shaft. With one hand he pressed Harry's hips into the sheets, with the other he fondled Harry's balls, rolling them in his hand, lightly running the tips of his fingers over the sensitive veins.

"Shay!" Harry cried. "Shay, I'm gonna – "

He didn't get to finish his sentence as Seamus swallowed around his length, Harry's balls tightened and he came with an explosive shout. Seamus eagerly swallowed everything that shot into his mouth, lapping up anything that he missed. He sucked Harry until he went soft.

Releasing Harry's now soft penis, Seamus moved back up Harry's body and kissed him hard, forcing his tongue into Harry's mouth. Harry thought he should be disgusted at the taste of himself but as it was coming from Seamus' tongue he found it a turn-on.

Harry reached between them and took Seamus' erection in hand. "I can't return that favour yet," he murmured between long, drawn-out kisses. "I'm not ready for that."

"Ok," Seamus moaned, his hips jerking as Harry started working what he considered magic on his body.

Harry bit down on Seamus' lip and that action caused Seamus to tense, shudder and cum hard in Harry's hand. Harry milked Seamus of all his seed before bringing his hand up to his mouth and lapping up everything on his hand. Seamus watched with dilated eyes.

"Merlin's balls, Har," Seamus groaned. "Do you want to go again?"

Harry giggled and let Seamus wave his wand to clean them both up. "I wanted to know what you taste like," he said innocently.

"Merlin, I love you," Seamus breathed, tugging Harry in for a cuddle.

"Did you really enjoy the lesson today?" Harry asked.

"You were amazing, Har," said Seamus. "I'm so proud of you. Words can't describe how proud I am."

Harry sighed happily and pressed a kiss to the side of Seamus' neck. "Thanks, Shay, love you."

Seamus squeezed Harry affectionately. "So, what do you have planned for the next lesson?" he asked eagerly.

Harry giggled. "Nuh uh, not telling," he said. "You'll have to wait and see."

"But, Harry," Seamus whined.

Harry giggled again. "Sleep now, Shay," he said.

Seamus sighed. "Sleeping with you offers me no benefits," he said teasingly.

Harry didn't answer. He'd already fallen asleep.


Sunday 5 November 1995 – 12.09 am

"How dare he?" Harry sobbed. "How dare Malfoy talk about my mum like that? He had no right. No right!"

"No, Harry, he didn't," Seamus said, feeling helpless as Harry sobbed against his chest.

"And Umbridge had no right to give me a life ban in Quidditch!" Harry cried, suddenly beating his fists on Seamus' chest and causing the taller boy to wince. "True I only play cos I love to fly but – "

"Calm down!" Seamus interrupted firmly. "Harry, you need to calm down before you make yourself ill."

"It's not fair," Harry continued to cry, slumping in Seamus' arms. "It's not fair."

Seamus sighed. "No, Harry," he said. "It's not."


Saturday 11 November 1995 – 12.01 am

Seamus woke with a groan. His erection was encased in something warm and wet. He opened his eyes blearily and grinned sleepily at Harry who was in the process of giving him his first blow job.

"Didn't have to do this, Har," Seamus groaned, flinging his head back onto the pillow.

"Wanted to," Harry hummed around Seamus. "It's your birthday."

Seamus shuddered and groaned as he came in Harry's mouth. Harry swallowed as much as he could before licking up the drops he missed. Finally he raised his head and grinned at Seamus. "Happy birthday," he chirped. "Want your present now?"

"Sod my bloody present," Seamus muttered, grabbing Harry's shoulders and pulling him up and tossing him onto his back before swooping down and kissing him heatedly.

Harry moaned under the onslaught, not protesting when Seamus quickly tugged down his pyjama bottoms and moved to swallow Harry whole. Already worked up from giving Seamus a blow job, Harry didn't last long before releasing into Seamus' mouth.

Seamus crawled back up Harry's body and kissed him sloppily before collapsing onto his back and sighing.

"Best wake-up call ever," Seamus said in appreciation.

"Do you want your present now?" Harry asked.

Seamus opened his eyes again. "You mean it wasn't the blow job?" he teased.

"No, you prat," Harry giggled. "Here."

Seamus took the large box from Harry, ripped off the paper and took off the lid. Inside was a VCR player to be hooked up to his television at home and some films for him to watch. Seamus had only mentioned in passing that his parents had refused to buy a VCR so he could watch his favourite films over and over again so he was surprised that Harry had bought him one.

"Wow, Har," said Seamus in awe.

"I only got you films from last year," Harry said nervously. "I didn't know what your favourites were."

"What ones did you get?" Seamus asked curiously.

Harry's face lit up. "The Lion King, because it sounded cool," said Harry with a shrug. "Talking animals and whatnot."

Seamus grinned.

"The Mask, cos somebody told me it's hilarious," Harry continued. "Dumb and Dumber, cos I was again told it's hilarious. Natural Born Killers, cos I was told it was based on a true story and really really really good. Pulp Fiction, cos it's by the same guy as Natural Born Killers. And Miracle on 34th Street, cos who doesn't love a Christmas film for children."

Seamus grinned and leant over the box to kiss Harry again. "You're amazing," he murmured. "I've not seen any of these. You'll definitely have to come to mine this summer so we can watch these. We can also go and buy my favourite films so you can watch them with me."

"I've never seen a film," Harry said wistfully.

Seamus swallowed thickly. "Then I'm incredibly lucky to be able to influence you to my way of thinking," he said with a tight grin.

Harry smiled and helped Seamus put the videos back in the box with the VCR and stash it in Seamus' trunks. They snuggled up together and Harry sighed happily.

"Happy birthday, Shay," he said. "I love you."

"Love you, too, Har," Seamus murmured back.


Sunday 12 November 1995 – 5.09 am

Seamus woke up and instantly knew that Harry had not been in bed for some hours. He groaned and heaved himself out of bed to go take care of his exceptionally full bladder. He threw on an old t-shirt that was too tight on his shoulders and headed down to the common room, hoping Harry was down there. He was.

Harry was curled up on the window seat, watching the rain fall. He had a closed expression on his face and that worried Seamus because it usually meant Harry was either feeling guilty about something or he was thinking bad thoughts.

"Har?" Seamus called. He didn't get a response.

Seamus sat down next to Harry on the window seat, squeezing himself in with some difficulty. He reached out to card his fingers through Harry's hair.

"What you doing up, Harry?" Seamus asked softly.

Harry shrugged. "Couldn't sleep," he finally answered dully.

"Why not?"

Harry shrugged again. "Hagrid's back," he said, abruptly changing the subject.

"Oh yeah?" Seamus said.

"Mmm," Harry hummed. "Got back around midnight. I snuck down to see him."

"Did he say where he'd been?" Seamus asked curiously.

"To the giants," said Harry, turning so he could lean against Seamus. "With Madame Maxime. He was trying to get them on our side."

"Did it work?" Seamus asked.

"No."

"Is he ok?"

"Yeah, he met his half-brother," said Harry. "Grawp. Brought him back with him. He's living in the Forest now."

Seamus wanted to groan but instead nuzzled his nose into the curve of Harry's neck. "That's nice," he murmured. "Come back to bed and try and get some sleep."

"Ok."

Seamus stood and gently pulled Harry to his feet. He led the smaller boy back up to the dormitory before pulling his t-shirt off and throwing it on the floor.

"I should get rid of that," Seamus muttered. "Way too tight on me."

"Mmmm," Harry hummed. "That's why I like it."

Seamus grinned as Harry curled around him contentedly and closed his eyes, quickly drifting off to sleep.


Thursday 16 November 1995 – 10.00 am

Seamus soothingly rubbed Harry's back as they headed from Care of Magical Creatures to Herbology.

"Ok, Har?" Seamus asked anxiously.

Harry nodded but didn't speak. He had his arms wrapped around his middle and he was gazing at the greenhouses with unseeing eyes. Seamus exchanged looks with Ron, Hermione and Neville. None of them knew what to do.

"Tell Professor Sprout I'm not feeling well," Harry muttered finally, and he took off at a run back to the castle.

Seamus watched him go, his heart sinking painfully. "Where's Mr Potter going?" Professor Sprout asked from behind him.

"Not feeling well, Professor," Seamus lied. "Probably gone to Madam Pomfrey."

Professor Sprout sniffed and ushered them all into the greenhouse for their lesson.


Thursday 16 November 1995 – 12.09 pm

"What d'you reckon is wrong with him?" Ron asked, as they made their way to the Great Hall for lunch.

"It's the Thestrals," said Seamus. "He hasn't had a nightmare about the graveyard in weeks and Hagrid's lesson probably brought it all back."

"It's not like he would have forgotten," Ron said, flinching when Seamus turned to glare at him.

"Of course he hadn't forgotten!" Seamus snapped. "You don't forget witnessing a murder, but you can stop thinking about every second of every day. You can put it behind you and move on with the rest of your life."

"Harry's gone backwards, hasn't he?" Hermione said in a small voice.

Seamus sighed. "Yeah," he admitted. "And he was doing so well as well."

"Do you reckon he'll be in the Great Hall?" Neville asked quietly.

Seamus stopped short. "No," he breathed. "He'll be in the dormitory."

And the blond took off in the other direction.

Seamus entered the dormitory to find the curtains of Harry's bed pulled tightly closed. He walked over and opened them and looked down at Harry. The small boy had fallen asleep. He was curled up in a tight ball, wrapped around a pillow. Tear tracks stained his cheeks and his face was still scrunched up in misery. Seamus sighed, reaching out to tuck a lock of black hair behind Harry's ear. He was so worried about Harry. He was struggling to come to terms with witnessing Cedric's death. He still had nightmares though they were now, thankfully, few and far between.

Seamus watched Harry sleep for a moment more, wishing he could take Harry's pain into himself for once. Harry didn't deserve the agony he lived with daily.

"Oh, Har," Seamus murmured, stroking a single finger down Harry's scrunched up cheek. He smiled sadly when Harry unconsciously leant into his touch. "You don't deserve this."


Thursday 21 December 1995 – 2.19 am

It took Harry forever to fall asleep. Since Hagrid's class on Thestrals Harry had become even more withdrawn than before. He felt guilty for beginning to leave the graveyard and Cedric behind. Harry lay awake for hours listening to Ron and Neville snoring. Seamus' arms tight around him and the weight of his heavier legs pinning his own hips and legs down offered him some comfort as he snuggled closer for extra warmth.

When Harry finally fell asleep he went through a series of dreams: he and Ron playing chess and flinging cruel insults at each other; Cho cornering him under the mistletoe in the DA room earlier that day only to pull back and spit in his face and announce he would never be as brilliant as Cedric had been. That particular dream made Harry shudder fitfully against Seamus, causing the taller boy to sleepily tighten his grip on Harry's slender form.

Harry's dreams took a turn for the worse. His body felt smooth, powerful and flexible. He was gliding between shining metal bars, across dark, cold stone...he was flat against the floor, sliding along on his belly...it was dark, yet he could see objects around him shimmering in strange vibrant colours...he was turning his head...at first glance the corridor was empty...but no...a man was sitting on the floor ahead, his chin drooping on to his chest, his outline gleaming in the dark...

Harry put out his tongue...he tasted the man's scent on the air...he was alive but drowsy...sitting in front of a door at the end of the corridor...

Harry longed to bite the man...but he must master the impulse...he had more important work to do...

But the man was stirring...a silver Cloak fell from his legs as he jumped to his feet; and Harry saw his vibrant, blurred outline towering above him, saw a wand withdrawn from a belt...he had no choice...he reared high from the floor and struck once, twice, three times, plunging his fangs deeply into the man's flesh, feeling his ribs splinter beneath his jaws, feeling the warm gush of blood...

The man was yelling in pain...then he fell silent...he slumped backwards against the wall...blood was splattering on to the floor...

His forehead hurt terribly...it was aching fit to burst...

"Harry! Baby, come on wake up!"

Harry's eyes flew open and he gasped through his tears. Flinging himself upright he felt his head collide with Seamus' solid chest before he rolled sideways and vomited all over the floor. He was shivering and a cold sweat covered the entirety of his body. He had never felt so ill in his life. Sitting back upright, Harry pressed his burning, aching forehead into Seamus' chest once more, reaching up to cling to broad shoulders.

"Shay," Harry whimpered pitifully, feeling strong arms wind around him and start rocking him back and forth.

"What happened, baby," Seamus urged. "That was no ordinary dream. You were hissing in Parseltongue."

"Mr Weasley," Harry whimpered, unaware that the rest of the boys were awake and crowding around the bed in fear. A number of other boys were crowding into the doorway and listening attentively, wondering why Harry had been screaming in his sleep. "He's been attacked."

"What?" Ron gasped.

The comment brought the twins fully into the room to crowd around the bed as well.

"Har," Seamus began uncertainly, thinking that perhaps Harry had been dreaming after all.

"No!" Harry shouted suddenly, wincing as it caused his head to vibrate with more pain and his stomach to roil again. "Mr Weasley's been bitten! Badly. There's blood everywhere!"

Harry pulled away from Seamus and retched again. He felt a burning desire in his gut to be sick again but could only retch and cough hoarsely. A hand reached forward with a wad of toilet roll but Seamus impatiently pushed it away in favour of pulling off his t-shirt and using it to tenderly wipe Harry's mouth and forehead.

"Nev's gone for help, baby," Seamus murmured.

"Dumbledore," Harry muttered, gratefully sinking back into Seamus' warm, comforting embrace. "Need to tell Dumbledore. A dirty big snake attacked Mr Weasley."

"Harry, mate," Ron began but quickly shut up when Seamus shot him a death glare.

"Nev's gone for McGonagall, baby," Seamus soothed.

He could hear footsteps running up the staircase now. Professor McGonagall was ordering the other students back to bed as she ran past them.

"Potter, what happened?" she asked, moving into the crowd around the bed.

"Mr Weasley," Harry muttered, still shivering violently. "He's been attacked. Some huge snake bit him. There's blood everywhere." Tired green eyes peered up at the stern, Scottish witch. "You do believe me, don't you?" he asked uncertainly, even as McGonagall thrust slippers and dressing gowns into Seamus' arms, an indication that she wanted him to get Harry moving.

"Of course I do, Potter," she said briskly. "Come along now. The Headmaster needs to hear this."

Seamus helped a trembling Harry into his dressing gown and wrapped a thick blanket around the thin boy's shoulders for extra warmth. He could see Ron and the twins anxiously hovering, wondering what was going on.

"The rest of you should get back to bed!" McGonagall ordered sharply.

"Yes, Professor," they muttered, not making an effort to get back in their beds.

"Can you walk, Potter?" McGonagall asked, already hurrying out of the dormitory.

Harry couldn't. Shivers had turned his legs to jelly. Seamus lifted him onto his back instead, holding his legs tightly. Seamus had never felt so worried and helpless the entire time he'd known Harry.

"Come along," McGonagall said. "Quickly now, we don't have much time."

The Weasleys all blanched. "You mean," Ron began in horror, "that my dad really has been bitten by a snake?"

"We can't be sure, Weasley," said McGonagall. "But it's best to be on the safe side."


Thursday 21 December 1995 – 5.10 am

The kitchen was silent. Harry was curled up on Seamus' lap, one hand stretched out to cling tightly to Sirius' robes. His eyes were open but glassy and unseeing. He was still racked with shivers despite the thick blanket wrapped around him. Seamus kept running one hand up and down his trembling back, carding the other through Harry's tangled hair. The twins had long since fallen into light dozes, their heads resting against one another for comfort. Ron and Ginny were on the sofa, curled up against one another for comfort.

The kitchen door swung open to admit a very tired Mrs Weasley. Harry shuddered even harder as he was flooded with guilt. My fault his brain kept chanting at him. All my fault.

Mrs Weasley collapsed into the chair next to Sirius and gave a weak, shaky smile. "He's going to be all right," she said, her voice weak with tiredness. "He's sleeping. We can all go and see him later. Bill's sitting with him now; he's going to take the morning off work."

All the Weasleys let out loud gusts of relieved breath. Ginny burst into tears, causing Harry to flutter his eyes closed in pain. He pressed even closer to Seamus for comfort. My fault. All my fault his brain continued to chant.

Mrs Weasley leant across Sirius to grasp hold of one of Harry's hands. She pressed a tender kiss to the knuckles. "Thank you," she whispered. "I don't know what would have happened if it hadn't been for you, Harry. They might not have found Arthur for hours, and then it would have been too late, but thanks to you he's alive and Dumbledore's been able to think up a good cover story for Arthur being where he was, you've no idea what trouble he would have been in otherwise, look at poor Sturgis..."

Harry shuddered at her words, cringing away from the highly grateful woman. Thankfully, Mrs Weasley didn't notice. She pressed a last kiss to Harry's palm before releasing his hand. Harry immediately curled it into Seamus' t-shirt, desperate to hold onto something.

"How about some breakfast," Sirius suggested quietly, rubbing Mrs Weasley's back soothingly. "Then we should all go to bed and you can go visit Arthur after lunch."

"That sounds good, Sirius," said Mrs Weasley.

"Dobby!" Seamus called, suddenly grateful that Harry's elves responded to his call as well. "Winky!"

The two elves popped into the kitchen, amazed to see everyone awake at such an unearthly hour. "Yes, Master Shay?" Winky asked politely.

Seamus felt his cheeks heat up at the use of Harry's pet name for him. "Could we get some breakfast please," he asked awkwardly.

"Is being a pleasure, Master Shay," said Winky, bowing deeply.

The two elves set to with abandon but Harry couldn't care less. He'd opened his eyes again, scared to fall asleep and become the serpent again. My fault. All my fault.

"I'm not hungry," Harry muttered when a plate of food was placed in front of him.

Seamus continued to rub Harry's back. "Still feel sick?" he asked sympathetically.

Harry nodded, not wanting to admit that he wasn't hungry because he was consumed by guilt. My fault. All my fault.

"Ok then," Seamus said. "Do you want some dry toast to help settle it?"

Harry shook his head and buried his face in Seamus' neck, closing off any further discussions. He sat silently as everyone forced down some breakfast, most of them too tired to eat anything really. When they all rose to go upstairs to get some sleep, Harry hesitated, seeing that Seamus wasn't going up just yet.

"I'll be up in a moment, Har," Seamus said calmly when Harry looked at him longingly.

Harry chewed on his lip anxiously before nodding. He bowed his head and slowly made his way up to their bedroom. Seamus watched him go before turning to Sirius.

"This is going to set him back," Seamus stated.

"Merlin." Sirius dropped his face into his hands and heaved a deep sigh. "Why the hell did it have to be Harry, huh? He's the sweetest kid I know. He's going to be consumed by guilt for seeing this."

Seamus sighed. "More sleepless nights," he said tonelessly. "Yay."

Sirius gave Seamus a sharp look. "Do you begrudge sharing a bed with my Harry?" he demanded. "Do you dislike being kept awake by him?"

"Of course I dislike being kept awake by him," Seamus snapped back. "I dislike it because it hurts Harry. You should see him after one of his nightmares. Merlin, it takes so much for me to get him to calm down and even more for me to get him to go back to sleep. I don't like it because it's making him ill. It hurts him.

"And no," Seamus added coldly. "I don't begrudge sharing a bed with Harry. I love him."

Sirius gave Seamus an appraising look. "Have you told him this?" he asked.

"End of third-year," Seamus said stiffly. "He reciprocated at the beginning of fourth."

"Are you going to ask me for his hand when the time comes?" Sirius asked with a cheeky grin.

"I'm going to be traditional about it, yes," said Seamus. "The Dursleys robbed Harry of any self-esteem. He still doesn't quite believe that anybody could love him. He adores it when I do little romantic things for him."

"He's lucky to have you," said Sirius. "Not many would put up with all his insecurities."

Seamus gave a sad smile. "It's too bad that all his insecurities came from the same source. How I would love to get my hands on those bloody Muggles."

"Hear hear," said Sirius grimly. He glanced up at the clock and rose to his feet. "You'd better get up there before he has a panic attack."

Seamus glanced up the staircase, rather surprised he didn't see Harry's pale face peering down from the landing. "Yeah," he agreed. "Oh," he added, stopping in the kitchen doorway. "And Harry's lucky to have you as well, Sirius."

Sirius grinned. "Anybody would be lucky to have me," he bragged.

Seamus returned his grin. "I'll tell Harry that," he said.

When Seamus entered his and Harry's bedroom he found Harry huddled against the headboard in what appeared to be an extremely uncomfortable position.

"I thought you were going to bed, Har," Seamus said steadily, approaching the bed.

"Scared," Harry muttered. "Don't want to be the snake again."

"I can ask Dobby for some Dreamless Sleep if you like," Seamus said, whipping off his t-shirt and pulling down sweatpants, leaving him dressed only in his boxers.

"Isn't that addictive?" Harry asked cautiously as Seamus peeled back the covers and settled underneath them.

"Not if you only use it in moderation," said Seamus. "Do you want some?"

Harry hesitated before shaking his head. "Don't want to take the risk," he said.

Seamus lifted an arm, inviting Harry to dive under the covers and cuddle with him. "You need sleep, Har," Seamus said gently. "You'll feel even worse later if you don't."

Harry reluctantly joined Seamus in the bed, curling himself into his favourite position. Seamus pressed a kiss to the top of Harry's head and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy tightly. "Get some sleep, Har," he said, closing his eyes.

Harry just lay there. Sleep was impossible for him.


Thursday 21 December 1995 – 5.18 pm

Seamus sat outside the locked door of his bedroom, resting his forehead against the wood. Harry had come back from the hospital and immediately locked himself away without a word. Seamus had been able to hear muffled sobs coming from inside for the last half hour and was chomping at the bit to get inside and comfort his mate.

"Come on, Har," Seamus groaned. "Just let me in."

The Weasley twins had informed Seamus of what they had overheard at the hospital. Apparently the Order were under the impression that Voldemort was possessing Harry. No wonder the small boy had locked himself away.

"Go away," Harry said shakily. "I want to be alone."

"No you don't," Seamus argued. "I know you too well, Harry. You can't pull that trick on me."

Ron came up the stairs then. "Still not letting you in?" he asked.

"Just told me to go away," said Seamus morosely. "If only the twins would unlock the door for me."

"I heard that!" Harry snapped suddenly. "And if the twins know what's good for them they'll keep well away!"

Seamus groaned and hit his head against the door. "Come on, baby," he pleaded. "Please let me in."

"No," said Harry irritably. "Just leave me alone." Silence. "And don't call me baby."

"Bloody hell." Ron gaped at the door. "He really is pissed, isn't he?"

Seamus nodded glumly. "I don't know why he's taking it out on me, though," he said, looking disgruntled.

"He'll come round, mate," said Ron comfortingly.


Saturday 23 December 1995 – 6.09 pm

"Harry James Potter! You will open this door and let me in right now!"

Harry started from his position curled beneath the duvet on the bed. What was Hermione doing here? Wasn't she supposed to have gone skiing with her parents? Moving slowly, Harry moved from the bed and unlocked the door before quickly diving back under the covers. He didn't particularly want to see anyone but he knew that Hermione would make his life hell if he didn't let her in.

A bounce on the bed alerted Harry to Seamus' presence as a taller, thicker body wriggled under the covers with him and curled around him protectively. Harry gave a tiny whimper and pushed back into the body. He had missed Seamus but hadn't wanted to subject him to his, Harry's, presence.

"Come out from under there," Hermione said briskly. "We want to talk to you."

"No you don't," Harry argued, his voice muffled by Seamus' arm. "You just think you ought to."

"Don't be so stupid," Hermione snapped, quickly losing patience with her friend. "Now come out of there and face me like a man."

Harry winced and felt Seamus press a kiss to his cheek in comfort. "Come on," Seamus whispered. "Better late than never."

There was a pause before Harry reluctantly sat up, the covers still wrapped tightly around him. He was paler than normal and had dark shadows under his eyes from lack of sleep. Seamus sat up behind him and pulled the smaller boy in between his legs, wrapping his arms around his waist.

Ron, Ginny and Hermione all crowded onto the end of the bed and looked Harry up and down anxiously.

"All right, mate?" Ron asked evenly.

"Fine," Harry lied.

Hermione snorted. "Liar," she said affectionately. "You're not fine. Now, tell us what's bothering you."

"Nothing," Harry insisted.

"Don't lie," Hermione said sternly. "Ron, Ginny and Seamus all told me that you'd locked yourself in here and weren't letting anyone in. Poor Seamus had to share a room with Ron."

"Not really a hardship," Harry muttered. "We do share a dorm after all."

"It's not the same, Har," Seamus pointed out. "At Hogwarts I have you in my bed."

"Harry," said Ginny gently. "We told Hermione what we overheard at the hospital."

Harry stiffed in Seamus' arms. "Oh," he said stiffly. "Right. And you wanted to say goodbye and good riddance, right?"

"Don't be stupid," Hermione snapped impatiently. "We wanted to tell you it's complete and utter tosh and you're our friend no matter what."

"Complete nonsense," Ginny agreed. "No way are you being possessed by You-Know-Who."

"How would you know?" Harry demanded.

"Because I've been possessed by him and would easily recognise the signs," Ginny snapped back.

Harry recoiled in horror. "I'm sorry," he said, looking distressed. "I forgot."

"Lucky you," said Ginny bitterly.

"But," Harry continued. "I was the snake in the dream. How do you explain that if not possession?"

"If you were really the snake, Har, then you would have left Hogwarts and trust me," said Seamus, "you were in bed the whole time."

Harry chewed on his lip anxiously. "Really?" he asked in a small voice.

"Really," Seamus confirmed, nuzzling his nose into Harry's neck.

They sat in silence for a moment as Harry processed what they'd told him. Ginny eventually pushed a plate of sandwiches forward. "You haven't eaten," she said calmly.

"Eat, Har," Seamus urged. "I don't want you wasting away."

Harry finally relaxed and gave a small smile, reaching for a sandwich. "Thank you," he said softly.


Friday 5 January 1996 – 4.12 pm

Christmas and New Years had been spent, rather morosely, at the hospital with Mr Weasley. Harry had been exceptionally quiet, unaware that his attitude was unduly distressing both Mr and Mrs Weasley.

The holidays were now drawing to a close. They would return to Hogwarts on the Sunday, ready for classes to start on the Monday. As the departure date drew ever closer, Harry withdrew more and more. He took to trailing after Sirius, clinging to Seamus' hand as the older boy trailed after him. Harry needed comfort and nobody knew how to give it to him.

"Harry, Snape's here to see you," Sirius told Harry quietly, finding the small boy in a rare moment that he was away from his guardian.

Harry blinked up at Sirius warily, edging closer to Seamus. "Why?" he asked.

Sirius shrugged. "I imagine he has a message from Dumbledore for you," he guessed. "Come on. He's waiting in the kitchen for you."

Harry stood, tugging on Seamus' hand to get him to follow him. He hadn't released Seamus' hand in days. Not even when sleeping. He quietly followed Sirius to the kitchen.

"Sit, Potter," Snape barked.

Harry quickly sat down, carefully avoiding Snape's glare.

"Potter, the Headmaster has informed me that you are to study the art of Occlumency with me this term."

"Why?" Harry asked curiously. "What is it?"

Snape sneered. "The art of protecting one's mind from outside invaders, Potter," he said disdainfully. "Although why anyone would want to invade your mind is completely beyond me."

Harry scowled and Seamus rejoiced mentally. It was the most life-like thing Harry had done in days. "Why am I to learn it, Professor?" Harry asked through gritted teeth.

"Because the Headmaster wishes it, Potter," said Snape. He rose to his feet, glaring down at Harry and Seamus. "You are to report to my office every Monday evening at six o'clock. If anyone asks, you are taking remedial potions lessons. Merlin knows you could do with the help."

Harry winced. He knew he wasn't brilliant at Potions. Everything about it was so precise. So unlike cooking where it didn't matter if you guessed how much of an ingredient to use and when to add it. Harry had always cooked by instinct so being asked to brew Potions in an exact manner completely threw him for a loop and left him panicking slightly.

"Yes, Professor," Harry said. "Monday at six."

Snape scowled at Harry once more, just to get the point that he despised his very existence across, before sweeping out of the kitchen. Harry simply rolled his eyes. He had long become immune to Snape's scowls and glares. He received far too many of them for them to be effective against him.

Harry tipped his head backwards to look at Seamus, who was sat behind him. He giggled slightly at the faint look of disgust Seamus wore.

"Extra lessons with him!" Seamus demanded. "No thank you!"

"So you don't want to come with me, Shay?" Harry asked sweetly.

Seamus froze. "Don't do that, Har," he warned. "Don't give me the eyes."

Harry's eyes lit up for the first time in days. "What?" he said. "You mean these eyes?"

Seamus slammed his eyes closed. Harry had a rather effective puppy dog expression that he used whenever Seamus was being rather stubborn about something. Risking a glance, Seamus noticed that Harry had turned to face him so that he got the full power of the look. Squeezing his eyes closed again, Seamus began to chant, "Don't fall, don't fall, don't fall," to himself. But he eventually groaned and dropped his head into the crook of Harry's neck.

"Cruel," he moaned. "I have no choice, do I?"

Harry giggled and patted Seamus' cheek affectionately. "Don't worry, Shay. I doubt Snape will let you tag along anyway."

Seamus sighed in relief. "Don't worry me like that, Har," he said weakly. "Almost gave me a heart attack, you did."

Harry giggled some more and leant up to press a quick kiss to Seamus' cheek just as the Weasley clan tumbled through the door, celebrating that Mr Weasley was freshly released from the hospital. An impromptu celebratory party was started and it was late when everyone finally stumbled to bed.


Saturday 6 January 1996 – 8.19 pm

A knock on the door had Harry and Seamus look up from where they were re-packing their trunks for their return to Hogwarts the next morning.

"Come in," Harry called, tossing a sock at Seamus and giggling when it landed across the blond's face.

The door opened to reveal Sirius. "Hey, kiddo," he said affectionately. "Nearly done?"

"Yup," Harry agreed, picking a shirt out of Seamus' trunk and putting it in his.

Sirius sat down on the bed and watched the couple for a moment before motioning to Seamus with his head that he wanted the blond to leave.

"I think Ron borrowed one of my shirts," Seamus said. "I'll go check."

"'Kay," said Harry.

Seamus quickly disappeared, leaving Harry alone with his godfather. Harry smiled up at Sirius as he shut his trunk and turned to finish packing Seamus'.

"I have something for you, kiddo," Sirius said softly.

Harry looked up in surprise. "Why?" he asked.

Sirius gave a grin. "'Cos you're awesome and need spoiling," he said.

Harry giggled and joined Sirius on the bed. Sirius handed him a rather small parcel and Harry eagerly ripped into it to find a small, intricately carved, hand-held mirror. He stared it before looking at Sirius curiously.

"Are you telling me I need to work on my appearance?" he asked.

Sirius chuckled. "It's a Two-Way Mirror," he explained. "I have the other one. Your Dad and I enchanted these back in our third-year so that we could have a chat when in separate detentions."

Harry leapt forward to hug Sirius tightly. "Thanks," he said, his voice slightly muffled by Sirius' robes.

"I thought they'd be a useful way of communicating since Umbridge is watching the owls and Floo connection," said Sirius.

"I love it!" said Harry excitedly. "How does it work?"

"Hold it and say my name," said Sirius. "I'll always have it on me so that I can answer as soon as you call."

Harry hugged Sirius again, feeling the older man press a kiss to the top of his head. "Siri?" Harry eventually asked after a moment of blissful silence.

"Hmm?" Sirius queried.

"Is this what it feels like to have an adult love you?" Harry asked, peering up at him curiously.

Sirius froze and then gathered Harry up in a tight embrace. "You've always been loved, Harry," he said fiercely. "James and Lily loved you so so much. I loved you from the minute I set eyes on you. Remus loved you as soon as he knew you'd been conceived. Remember, Harry, that even though there was nobody to show you how loved you are when you were growing up they still loved you from afar."

Harry blinked tears away. "I love you, too, Siri," he whispered.

They stayed in that fierce embrace for a little while longer, until Seamus popped his head back around the door to announce that they had an early start in the morning and should probably get to bed about now.

"Night, kiddo," said Sirius, reluctantly releasing Harry.

"Night, Siri," said Harry, as Seamus sat down next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

"What did Sirius want?" Seamus asked, once Sirius had left.

"He gave me a Two-Way Mirror," Harry said, stifling a yawn. "They belonged to my dad and they used them when they were in separate detentions."

"Cool," said Seamus. "You'll be able to speak to him more often now, then."

"Yeah." Harry was unable to hide his yawn this time and he was quickly led to the bed.

"Sleep," said Seamus firmly.

"Ok," Harry agreed sleepily. "Night, Shay."


Monday 8 January 1996 – 8.09 pm

Harry was shivering as he made his way to the library. He spotted Seamus at a table at the back with Ron, Hermione and Neville.

"Hey," Seamus whispered, when he collapsed into the chair next to him. "How did it go?" He peered at him closely. "You look awful," he added bluntly.

Harry felt on the verge of tears again but he was determined to hold them in. He was fifteen, not a baby. He couldn't keep crying over every little thing. "Scar hurts," he finally muttered.

"What happened?" Hermione asked, looking concerned.

"Snape saw a lot of my memories," he forced out through a thick throat.

"Like?" Ron prodded. "Was he deliberately searching for ammunition?"

"Maybe," said Harry helplessly. "He saw a lot of the Dursleys, the Dementors, Cedric." Harry stopped and took a breath, sneaking a look at Seamus through his eyelashes. "He saw our first kiss."

Seamus scowled. "That was private," he bit out harshly.

Harry flinched. "I'm sorry," he muttered.

"Not your fault, Har," said Seamus with a sigh. He really hated the Dursleys for making Harry so submissive in personality. He personally thought it a miracle that Harry was able to maintain a facade to the rest of the school that told of great Gryffindor bravery and a cocky confidence.

"Did you get very far in learning Occlumency?" Neville asked, getting to the point of the lesson.

Harry shook his head. "If anything I got worse," he said, looking miserable. He shivered again. "Although, I now remember what I'm dreaming about."

"Cedric?" Ron said, looking confused. He winced when Seamus glared harshly at him, pulling Harry onto his lap.

"No," said Harry, sagging tiredly against Seamus, nuzzling his aching forehead into Seamus' neck. "That long, windowless corridor I've been dreaming about. It's the Department of Mysteries."

"How do you know that, Har?" Seamus asked.

"Sirius' trial," said Harry. "It was in courtroom ten."

Seamus ran a hand comfortingly up and down Harry's shivering back. "I'm gonna take Harry to bed, guys," he said, standing up still cradling Harry in his arms. "He doesn't look at all well."

"Ok," they all agreed. "We'll walk back to the common room with you."

Neville and Ron grabbed Harry and Seamus' bags so that Seamus could concentrate on holding Harry upright as they walked back to Gryffindor Tower. Ron and Neville followed Seamus up to the dormitory but before they could get in the doorway they heard Harry cry out and fall painfully to his knees as he started laughing manically. Seamus called Harry's name, trying to bring the small boy back to them. Feeling that Harry would like some privacy when he came back to himself, Neville and Ron tossed the bags onto the nearest bed and left again.

They didn't hear Harry vomiting on the floor or telling Seamus that something had happened to make Voldemort the happiest he'd been in fourteen years.


Tuesday 9 January 1996 – 08.19 am

MASS BREAKOUT FROM AZKABAN

MINISTRY FEARS BLACK IS 'RALLYING POINT' FOR OLD DEATH EATERS

The Ministry of Magic announced late last night that there has been a mass breakout from Azkaban.

Speaking to reporters in his private office, Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic, confirmed that ten high-security prisoners escaped in the early hours of yesterday evening and that he has already informed the Muggle Prime Minister of the dangerous nature of these individuals.

"We find ourselves, most unfortunately, in the same position we were two and a half years ago when the murder Sirius Black escaped," said Fudge last night. "Nor do we think the two breakouts are unrelated. An escape of this magnitude suggests outside help, and we must remember that Black, as the first person ever to break out of Azkaban, would be ideally placed to help others follow in his footsteps. We think it likely that these individuals, who include Black's cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange, have rallied around Black as their leader. We are, however, doing all we can to round up the criminals, and we beg the magical community to remain alert and cautious. On no account should any of these individuals be approached."


A/N: Sorry about the long wait, guys! I sent this to iGymnast a while ago but I guess she's busy or something so I decided to post this unbetaed. As soon as iGymnast gets back to me I'll update it with the betaed version.

I've had a couple of people ask me why some of this is in bold. I thought I'd mentioned that in chapter one but I'll say it again now - anything in bold, excluding dates and times - is a direct quote from the books. It is not intended as plagarism but as a way of enhancing the story by using some of the quotes that I like best and feel I could not do without.

Also, I know I usually post a whole school year in each chapter but this was getting beyond ridiculous with the length so I chopped it here and will end fifth-year in the next chapter. There are only two more chapters to this, guys!

Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing this! I think it's my most popular fic, although that could just be because of the sheer length of it.

Please bear with me when it comes to getting the next chapter out. I have a new job now and it takes me an hour and a half to drive there and to drive home again. I'm leaving my house at seven in the morning and not getting home until half past eight in the evening so I'm too tired to do any writing during the week and it's left to the weekends only now. I apologise in advance for the long wait.