A/N: Sorry for the long break between updates, finally graduating from my Master's program and moving back home has delayed me from posting the chapter. I hope that you all enjoy the new one and I look forward to reading some reviews!
Edit: I got some flak this week from reviewers (across various chapters) about only having one person speaking per paragraph. While this is generally what you should do and how your English teachers will teach you, it is not actually a grammar rule. As long as I am not confusing my reader, I can have 200 people speaking in one long, drawn-out paragraph if I wanted. I left one example in this chapter to show my point.
I don't have a beta reader, if my style choices are getting your knickers in a twist please PM me and offer your services. I'd prefer the reviews be on the quality of the narrative and not the misplacement of my commas and/or my paragraph structure. I am only human after all.
To all of you who have expressed your enjoyment, please disregard the above, it was not directed at you and I hope you enjoy the story, warts and all.
The next week for Harry was similar to the first. His students were all excited for their Defense classes and he was energized by their enthusiasm. His own classes were a bit more of a struggle for him, however. Hermione got frustrated with his seemingly dismissive attitude toward their lessons during the theory sections. He attempted to placate her, but when he had no more trouble than she did performing spells during their practical lessons she was nearly inconsolable. "Hermione, I'm really not doing this on purpose, it is just how my brain works now. I memorized the texts over the summer so I have all the theory at hand when I need it."
This wasn't what Hermione needed to hear however, Harry was taking shortcuts and she didn't feel that it was fair. "How can we compete Harry? You've probably got the entire Hogwarts library in there." At this she poked his head, Neville took the opportunity to make a hollow sound with his tongue. Harry glared at Neville as they continued from Transfiguration to the Great Hall for lunch.
"For one, it is not a competition so please don't think that I'm going against you in class Hermione. Secondly, once you have your occlumency down I will show you how to memorize books. No, you won't have the capacity that I have, per usual I'm a freak of nature. You will probably only get a dozen or so books for instant recall. The rest of the information, including what you've already got in there, can be organized so that you can recall the information better. I'm not holding anything back from you guys, you just aren't ready yet." Hermione made a gruff noise and forcefully dug into her grilled chicken salad that Dobby had prepared for the group for lunch. Harry groaned, "Really Hermione, the only things that I have that you don't are some theory assignments from the Headmaster because he wanted me to start thinking out of the box. Ever since I came back from the institute it is like he is hell-bent on showing me that magic is just as useful as psionics." At this point Harry was gesticulating wildly with his fork causing Ron to duck.
Hermione giggled at this and treated her salad a bit better. "I'm just used to being the top of the class Harry, I liked being able to help you." At this point Ron, Neville, and Harry were looking at her incredulously. As far as they were concerned that was the exact opposite of how she felt for the last five years.
"You mean to tell me," began Ron, causing Hermione to look up from the book she was reading as she ate, "That all the crap you gave me about asking you for help was a ruse? I nearly failed potions third year because you held out on your notes for two weeks!" Hermione had frozen with her fork halfway to her mouth, unsure of how to react to Ron's sudden rant. She sputtered a few times before Ron's face broke into a grin and he started to laugh, which spread to the rest of the group save Hermione. "You deserved that. Yes, I know I should do my homework on time, I know what you were trying to do. I will still ask you for help even if I don't need it." Hermione responded very maturely, by throwing a crouton at him, bouncing it off of his face.
Later that week Harry's friends all filed into the 6th year NEWT Defense class, Harry stood at the front and leaned against his desk while the class filled. When they were all settled in he raised his hands for silence and got it relatively quickly. "Since you are my NEWT students, I expect you all to be able to do some self-study with the Syllabus. If you are having trouble we would love to have you at the study session on Saturday nights, save for Hogsmeade weekends. For the next few weeks, however, I will be handing your tutelage over to a good friend of mine, and my associate Defense professor, Professor Elena Smith. She will be helping you with the foundations of Occlumency. You will be mine again the first class of October, but until then you will focus on the defense of your mind. Any questions?"
Lisa Turpin raised her hand and Harry gestured for her to speak up, "What is Occlumency and how will it help us in Defense?" Harry had expected this and went into an explanation of the art of defending your mind, "If you don't defend your thoughts, a practiced Legillimens can pick out your spells before you cast them and have a counter ready before your spell leaves your wand. This is one of the major advantages Voldemort has over many of his opponents as neither Occlumency nor Legillimency are widely known subjects." The class paled at the thought of their minds being read and sat a little straighter in their chairs. "Our goal here is to keep you from broadcasting your tactics, we don't expect you to build mental fortresses that would defend against a concentrated assault, but keeping your plans to yourself can keep you alive in any duel. Once you finish with this section of my class we will move on to getting rid of those pesky physical tells that can broadcast your aim."
The class nodded along with this and Harry gave a few examples of how intentionally using a physical tell could lead your opponent into a trap. When they were ready for their Occlumency tuition Harry tapped Elena, who had waited in his office, and she came into the room and joined Harry at the front of the class. Harry had by now pulled himself onto his desk where he sat cross-legged across his blotter and gestured for Elena to begin.
She went through a lot of the explanation that Snape had for him the year before, but with her she actually explained how to clear your mind and covered the basics of meditation. When she called for everyone to close their eyes and imagine a peaceful image to focus on, Harry climbed off of his desk and began to walk the classroom, nudging a few students awake and correcting the posture of a few more who were never going to get relaxed enough in the positions that they were in. At this point Elena was speaking inside their minds though with their eyes closed they couldn't tell that her lips weren't moving. The double period passed quickly for the meditating students, and when the class broke it was a very relaxed group of students who got their things ready to leave.
"Read at least the first three chapters of your Occlumency for the Occluded texts for next week, and practice these meditation techniques every night before bed, or when you have time to try it out. Next week I will be testing your shields. As long as you aren't broadcasting then my job has been a success. After we are done in a few weeks I will stop by once or twice a term for surprise inspections so don't think that you can stop once I've gone." Elena called over the din of the students gathering their belongings to leave. Harry waved his friends on, explaining that he needed to discuss the class with Professor Smith before heading down to lunch.
"Well that went smoothly." He grinned, flicking his wand and conjuring a chair for her across from him at his desk. She sat down and crossed her legs and nodded.
"Yes, you must have set your foot down last week because those students were all willing to learn despite there being no real spellwork involved." Harry shrugged and Elena changed the subject, "How are you holding up? With all the extra responsibilities being thrust upon you, you doing okay?"
Harry sat back and thought about the last two weeks and the way that he had gone from running around frantically to being prepared for all of his classes, both the ones he was teaching in and the ones he was learning in. "Yeah, I mean it was hectic at first but I've learned how to better manage my time, I'm getting all my homework done on time and all of my professors have noticed that I've been working extra hard in their classes so even when I'm a little late they don't give me hell for it."
Elena grinned, "Glad to hear it. The boys tell me that the Institute is too quiet without you. None of the new students are any good at that game you four spent too much time playing over the summer and they haven't been having too much fun without you." Harry shook his head, laughing quietly.
"Yeah I've talked to them almost every day, I miss them to death, I never felt like a kid much before I was able to spend my summer with those guys. With Dudley I had the figure of a big brother but none of the support, Ron and the Weasleys treat me like family, and I feel the same way about them, but no matter how they hide it they know that I'm "The-Boy-Who-Lived". With the guys I feel like I have real brother figures, they don't treat me differently because of who I am or what I can do and that probably affected me more than anything else this summer. Do me a favor, tell them to stop by Hogwarts on Saturday night, they bailed on me last week and I need Mark here so I can help him with his magic." Elena stopped with whatever she was about to say and quirked an eyebrow at him.
"You're helping Mark with his magic? He never seemed interested in learning before, he was more than content working on his psionics. Did you say something to change his mind?" Harry looked at his hands for a minute and Elena tapped him to get his attention. "Does this have anything to do with the memories you showed the boys? They won't tell me what they saw and they all seemed really worried about you." Harry frowned at his hands before looking up and meeting his friend's eyes. He expanded their connection and pushed memories toward her, Voldemort coming back, Sirius falling through the veil, Voldemort possessing him, Dumbledore telling him the prophecy. She sat quietly for a minute assimilating the information. She knew about Black, but she had more context now and understood the burden one of her favorite pupils was under.
"He wanted to have more options to fight with, he wants to learn to use them in tandem to keep things unexpected. I made a whole syllabus of spells for him, that is where I got the idea for class. He was supposed to be working on them without me, and I want to check his progress when they come to visit." Harry was wringing his hands now and when he realized what he was doing he stopped and placed them flat on the desk in front of him. "I don't want to drag them into my fight, but if I try to push them away they'll come at the first sign of danger, no plan at all, hoping to do as much damage as possible with shock and awe. I can't let them get hurt but I can't stop them either."
Elena came around the desk and gave him a quick hug, "I'll talk to them for you, sometimes tapping can be so impersonal." He nodded and composed himself. "Lets get to lunch before Dobby comes to hunt you down." Harry laughed and linked his elbow around hers and together they walked out of the classroom and down to the Great Hall.
As promised Harry's three friends from the summer turned up at dinner on Saturday night. Whispering spread throughout the crowded dining hall until Harry stood and raced toward the three teens, throwing himself into Simon's arms. "Oh my hero, you came. When you hadn't written me…" this was as far as he got before Simon dropped him on the floor and walked around him, taking his place at the table and accepting a plate from Dobby. "Prat." Harry stated simply, picking himself up off of the floor.
Simon held up a finger and chewed and swallowed as the table budged down so Harry could sit down again, "You deserved it." Harry shrugged and grinned before taking up his utensils again forking food into his mouth. Simon greeted those that he knew and did his best to ignore the stares he was getting from the female population of Hogwarts. He leaned over to Harry and whispered, "All of these girls are staring at me…it's a bit creepy."
Harry laughed and looked up at Simon, batting his eyes, "But Sy, you're such a big strong bloke. It is entirely your fault you look like you stepped out of a Witch Weekly romance story." Simon growled at him and punched his shoulder. "Oww! That is abuse on a professor that is, I'll have Filch lock you up in the dungeons." Filch, who had been passing by at the time perked up at Harry's words so he quickly added, "Juuuust kidding Filchy, nobody is getting the chains tonight. If you're good maybe I'll go find a Death Eater for you to string up." Filch frowned and continued down the aisle and out of the hall, grumbling all the way.
Simon turned his back on Harry and began talking to the closest witch, who happened to be Lavender Brown. Ironically she was acting much like Harry had when they arrived but since she was actually attractive, and female, he didn't mind. Mark was talking to Luna and Ginny, hearing stories about Harry that he hadn't heard yet, and Coggy was just finishing getting an explanation of the DA's original incarnation from Hermione. He looked over at Harry who was finishing his smoothie, obnoxiously sucking the last bits through his straw and making a lot of noise. "Do you always act like a child, or only when we are around?" Harry grinned and said nothing, continuing his one man band routine. "So which two do Simon and I get to mold into real men?"
Harry pulled his straw from his glass and pointed it first at Neville, and then at Ron. "There are your Play-Dough sets, oh he of big muscles and tiny brains." Coggy pushed with his mind and knocked Harry back out of his seat on the bench, causing him to land on his back with his legs still draped over the bench, laughing to himself. Coggy then turned to Neville and Ron who had looks that screamed 'who me?' plastered on their faces.
"Harry has asked Simon and I to get you two into the shape of his choosing so that he can rely on you to not get dead. It won't be fun, but discipline rarely is. In a few months you will thank us in the form of Jaffa cakes and crisps." The two wizards in question merely nodded their heads dumbly, unsure of how to react, or what Jaffa Cakes were. By this time everyone had finished eating and Dumbledore called for them to vacate their seats so he could arrange the tables. Coggy called for Dobby and instructed him to kit out the two boys in exercise clothes and Dobby complied with a snap of his fingers. "Come on Rozencrantz and Guildenstern, Harry tells me there is a Quiddich pitch that is great for laps." The two boys groaned and followed Coggy as he jogged out of the hall, Simon followed them and helped them keep pace.
The study groups formed themselves and after the first week were pretty autonomous. Hermione came to the area Harry had set aside for his tutelage of Mark, "That is why you made sure their homework was all done before dinner, wasn't it?" Harry nodded and turned back to Mark correcting his grip on is wand and had him go through the wand movements of a few spells. "Why," began Hermione again, "Do you think that Ginny, Luna, and I don't need the same kind of molding? Also…Rozencrantz? Guildenstern?" Harry sighed and turned to his best friend.
"Firstly, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a fantastic play you should look into. Secondly, you three aren't physically built like they are, if you were built like Bulstrode, sure, but you aren't. You are agility fighters not strength fighters. After I give Mark a whirlwind tour of blasting hexes he and I are going to work on psionics with you three so go get your tutoring in before I drag you away in an hour." Hermione opened her mouth to argue, thought better of it, and hurried off to help students with Ancient Runes. Harry rolled his eyes as he turned back to Mark, "Women." He shook his head and conjured some targets for Mark to blast into pieces. "Show me what you've got Tiny." Mark glared at him and flicked his wand, transfiguring the targets into replicas of Harry's head. Harry grinned at this, "Cheeky bugger."
Mark went through his syllabus in order, causing the targets to do everything from levitate to combust to transfigure into slabs of stone. Harry nodded and flicked his wand, bringing up a shield to separate them from the rest of the Great Hall. "Bring everything you've got, psionics, magic, whatever just do your best to bring me down." Mark nodded gravely and, with no warning at all, attempted to trip Harry up with a mental tug at his feet. Harry spun with the motion and sent a spell Mark didn't recognize straight at his chest. The blond boy dodged out of the way, firing a string of spells back at Harry as he readjusted his position. It went on like this for ten minutes, spells sparking against the shield as the boys danced around each other, sometimes by choice, often because they were manipulating each other. Much of the original DA was used to Harry's dueling techniques, but as they stopped studying and started observing the duel they noticed that something had changed, spells seemed to glide around his form, never fully connecting.
McGonagall, the appointed chaperone for the study session that week, had sent her Patronus after the Headmaster and Professor Flitwick at the three minute mark, and the two came in at nearly the same time near the nine minute mark. Flitwick grinned as he saw a spell chain that he had mentioned to Harry at breakfast that morning break Mark's shield. Dumbledore was astounded at the display the two teens were putting on, he mused to himself that this must be what it feels to watch him duel someone of a high caliber. Suddenly the light stopped flying and it took a second for the Headmaster to see what had happened, Harry had snuck a stunner past Mark's more than adequate defences, knocking the blond boy against the shield and off of his feet. Harry summoned his wand and canceled the shield spell, walking over and ennervating his friend. "Tonks has been training you, hasn't she?" Harry accused as he pulled his friend to his feet.
Mark blushed slightly and nodded sheepishly, "I wasn't making a lot of progress so I contacted her and asked if she would be willing to give me some tutelage. She's a really good teacher and I had a lot to catch up on." Harry nodded, glad that there was someone on site to kick Mark's butt if he fell behind. He made a note to himself to send Tonks some chocolate and flowers. Harry beckoned the girls over and had Mark start on their tutelage, showing them how to project their mind and use it to manipulate objects. They started small but they were all determined, by the end of the lesson Hermione would be making a brick dance around her to some unheard tune.
Harry left them in Mark's capable hands and walked over to where Neville and Ron were being run ragged by Simon and Coggy. They were sweat soaked and each had been equipped with weapons of medieval warfare, Neville with a large axe and Ron with a kite shield and sword. They were sparring with one another, each interaction being corrected by their tutors, correcting their stance and posture to help them keep their balance. Harry approached them and they relaxed their posture and turned to him, "Having fun you two?" he asked, grinning widely.
"There is no way that they made you learn how to use this stuff, why would they?" asked Ron incredulously, panting heavily as he did so. Harry flicked his wand at the Great Hall doors and a few seconds later the Sword of Gryffindor came flying into the room and into his outstretched hand.
"Most wizards won't know what to do if you get within striking distance of them with a weapon like this, one of the things that Godric was most famous for was tricking his opponents into allowing him to get close, and then he would finish the job with his sword. Headmaster would you mind demonstrating?" Dumbledore nodded and faced off with Harry, drawing his wand and giving the youngest professor a nod to indicate he was ready.
With an incredible burst of speed Harry was moving towards the Headmaster, dodging the spells that were being cast at him with alarming agility. Harry took a circuitous route to Dumbledore but he was soon close enough to bat the Headmaster's wand hand away from him and place the flat of his blade against the old wizard's neck. The room had gone silent at this astonishing display of speed, the entire duel lasting mere seconds. The Headmaster yielded and Harry withdrew the blade and bowed to him. "As you can see, even our esteemed Headmaster would have a problem dealing with someone that came in close, this is an advantage that I want you two to own. If this were a real duel Professor Dumbledore would have wandlessly banished me when I got within a few feet though, so you should keep that in mind."
The grin that flashed on Dumbledore's face betrayed that he could have indeed sent the boy flying, but played along to allow him to prove his point. "Even still Harry, you were much faster than I expected. If you boys can tie in some spells with your approach you should be able to keep your opponent off guard long enough to end the duel." Ron and Neville were standing and staring at the two men who had just casually displayed both speed and power. They nodded grimly and faced off again, swinging their weapons and probing defenses.
The warning bell for curfew rang a few minutes later and the rest of the school snapped out of their mesmerized trance and began filing out of the hall. Ron and Neville shook hands with their new instructors, and promised to join Harry in the morning and to practice a few times during the week on their technique. Harry collected the three boys and walked them down to the gates before giving them hugs and promising to come visit during the next Hogsmeade weekend. Mark, Simon, and Coggy waved one last time before striding toward the village, fading out of sight as they translocated back to the Institute.
Harry pushed himself through the wards and found himself in his dorm room. He grinned at his two friends as they were passed out in their four posters, still in their clothes and dead to the world. He climbed into bed himself and yawned, falling to sleep himself as Mark tapped him to let him know they were all safely in their rooms. He meant to respond, he really did, but his bed seemed to pull him in and he was asleep before the thought could cross his mind.