Training and Confrontations


Story Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities grow, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, R/T, and a paternal Ron.

Chapter 24

Chapter Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities growing, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, Remus/T, and a paternal Ron. Part III (the autumnal term until New Year's Day) continues through Chapter 35.
Author's Note:
The HPSN starts; many Slytherins choose sides and some Hufflepuffs make a promise.

Chapter XXIV

Harry woke up with a headache.

Simply taking a deep breath told Harry he was in the Infirmary without even opening his eyes, and he wondered for a brief moment if Voldemort had overcome all his training and had managed to attack him.

Then he remembered who had been attacked. Harry scrunched up his face, determined not to cry.

He felt a weight he hadn't been aware of movement by him on the bed. "It's alright to cry," Hermione said with a sob, "I know I am." Harry grabbed onto Hermione and cried on the shoulder of her robe while she held him and cried nearly as hard as she cradled Harry in her arms.

They cried for some time, but as Harry wound down, he had to ask, "Why?"

"We don't know, Harry," another voice said.

Harry instantly stopped crying and managed to sit up without dumping Hermione off the bed. Harry glared at Dumbledore. "How long have you been here?" Harry demanded.

"Not long," Dumbledore said. "None of the three perpetrators will say anything, other than confessing their guilt. They are not currently under the Imperius, and claim that they were not. Misters Nott and Montague have been expelled and may be arrested for assault. Mister Crabbe has been arrested for attempted murder."

"Attempted? You mean. . . !"

"Miss Lovegood suffered a cracked skull and a very severe concussion, but she will pull through," Dumbledore said. "She will need a deep healing sleep tonight, and a few days rest to fully recover. You may see her after breakfast."

"Thank God," Harry said. He realized that Hermione's tears had been tears of relief, not sorrow. He frowned. "Malfoy. . . ." Harry started.

"Mister Malfoy may or may not have been directly or indirectly involved," Dumbledore admitted. "Both he and Mister Goyle left on one of the earlier carriages, and since the other three have confessed, they may not be questioned further under any form of compulsion."

Harry frowned.

"Harry, we know that Mister Malfoy may have been involved, but if you do anything, it will look unprovoked. If he was involved, he will give himself away, and we can deal with him then. Until that happens, you must not allow yourself revenge. You must not leave your self open to punishment."

Harry said nothing.

"Because of this attack, Fifth and Sixth year classes will not start until Tuesday morning," Dumbledore went on. "You may stay here, or go back to Gryffindor as you please tonight."

Dumbledore leaned over and placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I am very sorry for this, Harry. Although I of course am not as close to Miss Lovegood as you, I am saddened by her injury, especially in this evil fashion."

"Thank you, sir," Harry whispered. He looked blankly at the ceiling, debating. He really wanted to be alone, or alone with Luna and Hermione, but he could almost hear Luna telling him he should not be alone at a time like this, and he was sure he could not convince Dumbledore to let him see Luna until the morning at the earliest. "I guess I should go back to Gryffindor, sir."

"Very well. Do you think you could eat anything?"

Harry looked ill just at the concept. It had been a very close call, both in terms of Luna's life, and his using the Killing Curse.

"I thought not," Dumbledore admitted. "Here, I had the kitchens send this up."

Harry stared at the tall glass, confused.

"An American confection -- a double chocolate malted milkshake with an egg whipped in. You need some sustenance, and the chocolate should help you a little. You may go when you finish it."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Harry said in a dispirited voice. He and his group had failed their first real challenge.

After Dumbledore left, Harry asked, "How are Neville and Ginny?"

"Ginny is spitting fire," Hermione admitted. "After . . . oh, that's right. I need to apologize to you."

"You're the one who stunned me?"

Hermione nodded. "I couldn't be sure you wouldn't kill Crabbe." Hermione scowled. "I know I was considering it until I realized Luna wasn't dead, and I didn't have time to convince you she wasn't."

Harry nodded. "I would have. I wish you could have thought of some other way of stopping me, but I'm glad you did stop me."


"I forgive you, Hermione," Harry said, hugging her close. "Tell me about Ginny and Neville."

"Ginny went over and really stomped on, well, she stomped and ground her heel into them. Even magical repairs won't work, and so they won't be having children. Ever."

Harry grimaced.

"Physically, she's fine. Neville is fine, too, and he'll be allowed out in the morning. He's sleeping now."

"What time is it?"

"A little before Ten. Harry, you know how I feel about Luna, how Luna and I feel about you, right?"

Harry nodded.

"You'll try not to hurt Malfoy, right? At least until we can legally prove he deserves it?"

Harry smiled grimly. "Since you put it that way, I'll agree. However, I think I'll be putting a lot of muting charms on the little prick until then."

"As long as it's nothing much worse than that, I won't say anything other than to mind your language."



"I love you."

"I love you, too." She hugged him close, and then reminded him, "Now, drink your milkshake."

When Harry and Hermione got back to the common room, he was surprised to see all the other Fourth through Seven years there (except for Neville, of course), along with Dennis Creevy. Harry remembered that they had all been in the DA the year before.

Katie Bell stood and came over to Harry. "Harry, we've been friends for five full years now, haven't we?"

"We have," Harry agreed.

"Then I hope you don't mind," she said, and threw her arms around Harry's shoulders. "Harry," she whispered as she hugged him, "I am so very sorry for what happened. Ginny told us how friendly you are with Lovegood."

"Thanks, Katie," Harry said. Katie kissed his cheek and let him go.

Every one of the Gryffindors present at least came up and shook Harry's hand and offered their support. Unlike the start of the year before, Harry knew, his House would be firmly with him.

In the end, Harry was standing with Hermione, Ron, and Ginny, while the others had gone to their rooms. "Harry," Hermione said, "I hate to bring this up, but do you remember the last thing Luna said before she passed out?"

Harry nearly teared up a little, but merely nodded and fought the tears down.

"Well, she usually knows what she was talking about. She woke up for about ten minutes in the Infirmary, and made a suggestion, which I've decided to implement. It will also partially hide the fact that Luna and I are, well, that we're with you and each other like we are. We are going to make certain that this time, you have all the support you can get. For part of that support, well, here." She handed him a sheet of parchment. "Do any of the names on this list bother you?"

Harry glanced at the list and frowned. "Bother me for what?"

"This is the HPSN," Ginny announced grandly.

"The what?"

"The Harry Potter Support Network," Hermione replied. "Every day, or at least every day each member can without disrupting class or something like that, each member will give you a kiss."

"You have got to be kidding," Harry protested. "There are . . . sixteen names here!"

"Colin isn't one of them, is he?" Ron asked.

Harry scowled at Ron, and then looked at the list again. He reached over to a nearby table and picked up a quill, scratching Colin's name off the list.

"Harry, admit, you tend to isolate your self and brood," Hermione accused.

"Maybe," Harry admitted.

"Well, Luna and I can't be as close to you as often as we'd like to be, like we were when we were away. This is one way we're going to make certain you get the emotional support you're going to need in the fight against Voldemort. That's because a lot of your moral strength comes from emotional support, platonic love, if you will. You're going to get plenty of it."

"This seems a bit extreme, to say the least," Harry pointed out. Ron snorted, but wisely said nothing.

"I'm sure the list will get longer, once we let Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws join," Ginny teased after giving her brother a dirty look.

Harry's scowl easily equaled anything Krum ever managed.

"It's a good thing you stopped being the Seeker," Ron said to Ginny.

"Yeah, I wouldn't want to scowl like that," Ginny teased, getting the joke.

"You and Luna won't mind?" Harry asked.

"Of course not," Hermione said. "You love us in all the important ways. This is just to get everyone thinking in terms of supporting and helping you."

Harry sighed.

"And to distract everyone from your relationship with both Hermione and Luna, and their relationship as well," Ginny reminded him. Harry frowned again.

"It won't be that bad," Ron said. "Think of it as just a small sacrifice for the cause."

"Seriously," Hermione said also after making a face at Ron, "go to sleep. Madam Pomfrey gave me this. It's not a Dreamless Sleep Potion, but it should help you tonight." She handed him a small vial.

"Thank you," Harry said.

"Goodnight," Hermione said, kissing Harry deeply.

"Goodnight," Ginny said, kissing Harry's cheek.

"Come on, mate," Ron said. He hesitated, and then put his arm around Harry's shoulders and took him up the stairs.

Monday, September 2, 1996

Dean Thomas woke up early. He was usually the first boy awake in the room. This morning, he saw that Harry had beaten him, which was unsurprising considering that Harry's restless dreams had woken Dean three times in the night despite the potion. The smaller teen (for Dean now stood more than an inch taller than Ron) was still just able to squeeze himself into the small window seat length-ways, something Dean had not been able to do for a few years. Dean went over and placed a hand on Harry's shoulder.

"Morning, Dean," Harry said without looking up.

"Morning," Dean acknowledged. He knew there was very little good about this morning from his friend's point of view. "Harry, there's been something I've been meaning to tell you for a couple of months."

"What's that?" Harry asked.

"I'm sorry for not being there for you last June at the Ministry."

Harry finally looked at Dean, confused. "Why would you be sorry for that? It was a horrible experience, and a horrible mistake on my part."

"I'm sure it was both," Dean agreed. "Still, if I had also been there, maybe things would have gone just a tad easier on you and the others who did go."

"Maybe," Harry agreed. Dean had not been one of the best at Defense in the DA, but he was very good.

"Based on the last five years, you might need some more people with you this year. I'm with you, Harry."

"Thanks, Dean."

"There's something I need to tell you, which I haven't told anyone but Seamus and Parvati."

"Then Lavender probably knows, too."

"Probably," Dean agreed with a smile. "Anyway, I found out this summer I'm not Muggle-born."

Harry looked confused. "How?"

"It turns out my father was an auror. He never told my Mum that he was a wizard; she thought he was in the British secret service."

"How did you find out?"

"It turns out his younger brother is also an auror. He visited us for Dumbledore, and he looks a lot like my father."

"That wouldn't be Kingsley Shacklebolt by any chance, would it?"

"Actually, it is. He told me you know him. He gave me over three weeks of extra dueling practice." Dean looked determined. "Next time, I'm with you, Harry." He stuck out his hand, and Harry shook it with a smile.

"Come on," Dean said. "You can get breakfast as early as Six-thirty. I've almost never seen a certain group of snakes there before Seven-twenty. Let's avoid the rush."

Harry managed to smile back.

To their surprise, Ginny, Hermione, Katie, and fourth year Natalie Macdonald were sitting and waiting for him. Each had a bright green band around their upper left arms, with 'HPSN' in gold letters.

"You're joshing," Harry said. The girls smiled. "I am going to get SOOooo much teasing about this."

Ginny stood and walked over to Harry and embraced him. "Yes, we're serious, and yes, you'll get teased, but the benefits should outweigh that. You can't wallow in self-pity and anger like last year if at least fifteen girls are hugging or kissing you every day." She pulled Harry down and kissed his nose. "Right?"

"I guess," Harry said softly, "although you should know why that was unlikely anyway." The other three girls came over and did the same, Natalie very shyly, since she didn't really know Harry all that well.

"That's something you don't see every day," Neville teased from the entrance to the common room.

The group looked up. Ginny ran over and hugged him with even more enthusiasm than she had Harry.

"I don't get anything from the rest of you?" Neville teased.

"No, Longbottom," Katie answered, "you're Ginny's private property. Sorry."

"That's alright, I'm pretty happy with that arrangement." Neville came over to Harry. "Harry, I'm sorry I wasn't able to do anything last night."

"I know, Neville. I feel the same way. We shouldn't have been taken by surprise like that." He looked at the group. "You know. . . . OW!"

Katie and Ginny had both slapped him on the back of the head.

"Yes," Hermione said, "we know it's dangerous to be around you. You know what, Harry? It's dangerous to be alive right now. It's dangerous to be a Gryffindor. It's dangerous to come from a family that supports Dumbledore or has any Muggles in their background, as I found out last summer. I'm sticking with you. So, sorry, but that argument didn't work for the five of us this summer and it won't work with anyone with any brains or guts this year. Those thugs would have attacked anyone standing around you last night, so you're just going to have to remember you're a target, and remember that we don't care. We're going to help, and you're going to beat Voldemort."

Harry looked doubtful.

"Harry," Dean said, "do you want Voldemort to win?"

"Of course not."

"Is he coming after you again?"

"Yes," Harry said simply.

"Then if we want him defeated, we have to help you. Since you're our friend, we want to help you anyway. Give up and admit you need us and need our help. It will make life easier for all of us."

"But it's dangerous. . . ." Harry stopped when Dean raised his hand.

"Harry, if I dope-slap you, it'll hurt a lot more than if Ginny or Katie does it. This attitude of yours is a form of egotism, and I don't like to see you think this way. Just give up and accept the fact that we like you, and that we're with you."

Harry sighed. It had been difficult to accept with his close friends, who were now to some degree trained warriors. It wasn't easy to accept with his more casual friends, but he knew he had to.

"Come on," Katie said. "Let's eat."

Even though it was still well before 7:00, there were already a number of very quiet students in the great hall. The assaults of the night before had brought home that the war could touch people even at Hogwarts. Before Harry had walked five feet into the hall, a group of six Slytherins headed his way, the Slytherin prefects.

Harry only knew two of them by name, and it was Daphne Greengrass, the new sixth year girls' prefect, who acted as the speaker for the group. "Potter . . . Harry . . . we've never gotten along, and I doubt if we will now. Still, we wanted you to know that most of us, hopefully all of us, still in Slytherin are very sorry for the incident, the near-tragedy, last night. Most of us would never even consider following the Dark Lord, let alone staging an attack like that."

"Longbottom," Blaise Zabini added, "we're glad you weren't hurt too badly. Potter, I know you're usually a pretty fair guy. Right now, I think Draco is confused, especially by something you told him on the train. He swears that attack shouldn't have happened, and Greg couldn't have faked at how shocked he was to learn it happened. I'm sure you're tempted to take out what happened on them, and who knows, maybe they've fooled me and you should. Could you try not to until they do something else stupid?"

"Like actually kill someone?" Harry asked drily. The Slytherins all winced. "I'll do my best, but he had better watch himself around me and my friends. If Luna and Neville hadn't been in my line of fire a moment too long, neither would have been hurt, and there wouldn't have been enough of Crabbe and Montague to have been identified."

Coming from a sixteen-year-old, that should have sounded like an empty boast. None of the students who heard it thought it was anything but a plain fact.

"Right," Zabini said. "So, like Daphne said, we are sorry for your friend. We all hope she's better soon."

"Thank you, Zabini," Harry said. "I might wonder whose side any individual Slytherin might be on, but I've never thought most of you were Dark."

"There is a simple answer to that, Potter," the Seventh year female prefect said. "Right now, few of us are on either side and the ones who are, are on yours. From your point of view, that's an improvement over the last two years. Trust me on that, if nothing else."

"Thanks." The two groups nodded, and went to their respective tables.

Harry was surprised at how hungry he was, even though he had not eaten anything other than the malt the night before. He sat so that he faced the Slytherin table. He was not about to allow Draco to come up behind him.

At about 7:20, Malfoy, Goyle, Parkinson, and Bulstrode came into the great hall. A hush fell over most of the students, and then the First years quieted as well.

Malfoy flushed, and herded his little group to the Slytherin table. He sat them, and himself, facing away from the Gryffindors, which Harry took as a sign they would not be causing trouble that morning at the least.

Harry quickly finished and excused himself from the table. Hermione was about to remind him that the class schedules needed to be distributed yet, but caught herself. Harry would not care about his schedule that morning; Hermione barely could bring her self to care. He would be visiting Luna, and she would be right behind him.

She and the rest of the table, and many of the others in the hall, saw Harry stand, stop, and then stare fixedly at the spot where Luna should have been sitting, and then flee the great hall, nearly in tears.

In the silence, a soft sob was heard. Looking towards the front of the hall, the students saw Professor McGonagall almost throw the schedules at Katie (who was standing beside her) and flee into the small teacher's room. The other three heads of House, even Snape, looked shocked for a moment, and then quietly started to distribute the schedules. After a moment of hesitation, Katie did the same.

Harry stood in front of a window overlooking a courtyard. He was not thinking about anything, he was just standing. If anything, he was trying to avoid thinking. He was avoiding thinking about the attacks the night before, about Sirius, about the Prophecy, about Malfoy, about classes, about Snape, about Voldemort. As he tried to keep his mind clear, he grimaced, as he realized he had a lot he did not want to think about.


Harry turned at the soft sound of his name, and saw that Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott, the Sixth year Hufflepuff prefect, were standing there. The two best friends could easily pass as fraternal twins instead of second cousins. Both were average height and pretty with similar features. Hannah always had a pinkish complexion, with long, thick, pure blonde hair. Susan's hair was similar, although it had a slightly reddish tint to it. Both had long legs, and Susan was bustier.

For once, however, Harry didn't have an eye for their beauty. He just looked at them quietly.

Susan came a little closer. "We're very sorry about what happened last night, Harry," she said quietly.

"We don't know Luna very well," Hannah admitted, "but from what we saw of her in the DA last year, she's . . . nice."

"She is," Harry said with a smile, "Nice and kind and caring."

"We're still with you, Harry," Hannah said.

"Auntie Em told me once this summer that during the first war with You-Know-Who, people came to distrust one another and that wizarding society almost came apart," Susan said. "We trust you, Harry."

"Shouldn't you be trusting Dumbledore?" Harry asked.

"Harry, do you know how many times I've spoken with Dumbledore?" Hannah asked. "Never."


"Not even to say 'hello' in passing," Hannah answered, "and I'm a prefect. We know you. We trust you. And, we're hoping the DA will continue."

"It will," Harry said.

"Good," Hannah said, with Susan nodding her agreement.

"Do you think you could all try doing one thing?" Harry asked.

"What's that?" Susan asked.

"Say his name."



The two teens looked confused for a second, and the recognition hit them. "Really?" Susan asked.

"Really. If you don't want to use his phony title, call him by his name."

"What's his name?" Hannah asked.

"Tom Riddle, Tom Marvolo Riddle."

"Really?" Hannah asked. "The Marvolos were an old family that I thought had died out."

Harry again marveled at what Pure-Bloods knew and thought they knew.

"His mother was the last Marvolo, his father was a Muggle." The two girls looked shocked. "I'll tell the story in the first DA meeting next Sunday, if you really want to know. Third years and above."

"We'll want to hear it," Susan said.

"And Hufflepuff will be there," Hannah said. "We don't forget our friends."

"Thank you."

Author notes: I wrote over four chapters with Luna dead, and just did not like it. I went back and rewrote the story in late November and December.