Albus Dumbledore Severus Snape
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 10/14/2004
Updated: 11/05/2004
Words: 419,861
Chapters: 24
Hits: 157,499

Harry Potter and the Veil of Mystery


Story Summary:
Suddenly with a higher profile after being proved right about Voldemort's return, Harry's use of Voldemort's name around Hogwarts gains popularity. It also attracts Voldemort's attention in the form of a series of attacks, and Harry soon finds that he is shouldering a burden even greater than the prophecy--the likelihood that Sirius's fate could come to his friends, who will stop at nothing to protect him.

Chapter 02

Chapter Summary:
On his sixteenth birthday, Harry is stunned to discover the identity of the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He learns more about Voldemort and how to fight him, and starts to face up to his feelings about losing Sirius.

Chapter 2

A Summer's Day At Hogwarts

After a few disorienting seconds, they were in Professor Dumbledore's office, standing across from his desk. Dumbledore was standing near the door to his office, seeing someone off. "Thank you, Sybil. Have a pleasant day," he said. He closed the door. He looked at Harry and Lupin. "I'm very sorry, my meeting with Professor Trelawney seems to have run long. Please allow me to store some thoughts, and I'll be with you in a moment."

Harry watched as Dumbledore opened a drawer in his desk. Harry could not see from the other side of the desk what was in it, but that immediately became clear. Dumbledore raised his wand to his temple, appeared to extract some silvery threads, and transferred them into the Pensieve that Harry knew was in the drawer. Dumbledore closed the drawer and looked up. "Harry, Remus, good to see you both. Remus, thank you for getting Harry. I hope there was no trouble."

"A little," Lupin answered, and Harry got the feeling from Lupin's expression that he would rather not have had to embarrass Petunia in order to secure Harry's release. "It's been quite a while since I've met any Muggles who are that antagonistic towards wizards. I rather admire that Harry manages not to blow up a family member every summer."

Harry made a noise that was between a grunt and a chuckle. "It's not easy sometimes. If I could be charged for all the magic I've thought of doing to them, I'd be doing life in Azkaban. But it hasn't been so bad this summer, thanks to you," he said, addressing Lupin.

To Dumbledore's slightly raised eyebrows, Lupin briefly summarized the meeting he and the others had had with the Dursleys a month ago. "Well, diplomacy has never been Alastor's strong suit," commented Dumbledore, in what he clearly knew to be humorous understatement. I'm glad it's not, Harry thought. Nothing but fear would have made them lay off me this summer.

"Well, I'll leave you two to talk, then," Lupin said. After Dumbledore thanked him again, Lupin headed for the door. When he got there, he stopped, turned, and looked at Harry. "You know, Harry, you should feel free to send me an owl if you have any questions about anything, or just want to talk, especially in the summer. Just so you know." Harry just nodded; Lupin turned and left.

"A very good man, Remus," Dumbledore mused. "A pity he couldn't have remained Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He would have filled the bill very nicely."

"That's for sure," Harry agreed. He felt a small burst of anger at Professor Snape, whose disclosure of the information that Lupin was a werewolf forced Lupin to resign his position at the end of Harry's third year at Hogwarts. "He was the only one in my time here who knew what he was doing." Then it suddenly dawned on Harry that his comment could be taken as a criticism of Dumbledore, who hired all but one of those teachers. "Sir, I didn't mean-"

Dumbledore chuckled lightly. "That's quite all right, Harry. Actually, Barty Crouch knew what he was doing, much to my regret. But I take your point. Actually, I'm optimistic that the situation might improve this year."

Harry's eyes widened slightly. "You mean you've found someone good who's willing to take the job?"

"The former, yes; the latter, that has yet to be determined. Tell me, Harry, have you heard any rumors to the effect that there is a jinx on that position?" Harry nodded. "Do you believe that is true?"

Harry thought for a few seconds, and answered, "It's true that bad stuff has happened to the teacher of that course all five years I've been here. But I really don't believe in jinxes, at least the non-magical kind. So I'd have to say no. Also, I've been involved in some way with what happened to each of those teachers. So, who knows, maybe the jinx will end when I graduate from Hogwarts."

"Well, I do not think that will be necessary, but I am glad you do not take it seriously. Now, Harry, the reason I wanted to talk to you today-"

"Professor? I'm sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to say something first." Dumbledore nodded attentively. "I wanted to say that I'm sorry-" Dumbledore shook his head slightly, but allowed Harry to continue-"about how I acted in here last month. I just couldn't control myself."

"I don't think anyone in your position could have, Harry," said Dumbledore gently. "It was simply too much to process. It takes time. But the last thing in the world you need to do is apologize. Remember, I made you stay in the room. You wanted to go, but I wouldn't let you out. It was partly because I needed to tell you about the prophecy, but partly because you needed to let go of some of your immediate pain and grief. I did feel responsible for what happened, so it seemed only right that I should absorb the initial burst. You have nothing to apologize for. If it is because I am the headmaster and you are a student, well, at that point I felt that we were just two people."

Harry nodded, feeling grateful for Dumbledore's forgiveness. "Maybe it's partly that, but it's also that... well, I have a lot of respect for you, and..." He trailed off, but he could see his meaning was clear to Dumbledore.

"I understand, Harry, and I appreciate that. But context matters in everything, not least of all here. I might react differently if you lost your temper with me for no good reason, out of contempt or indifference. But frankly, I would have been more worried about you if you had managed to keep your temper in that situation. As I said, it was just too much, and I know that your regard for me did not enter into it. But we are all human, and thank goodness for that. We cannot truly grieve for those who we did not love."

"By that reckoning, Voldemort isn't that much human, is he?" Harry observed.

Dumbledore considered this. "From this viewpoint, I suppose not. I am sure that he is no longer capable of feelings such as love, or even affection. People to him are tools to be used, instruments of control and power. Whether they are his enemies or his devoted followers, he judges them by how well he can make use of them. No more, no less."

Harry frowned in puzzlement. "But how did he get like that? Was he just born that way? Why would anyone want to be that way?"

"Your last question is the easiest to answer, so I will take that one first. He rejects love, affection and friendship because he considers them weaknesses. If you love someone, they can hurt you, with words, rejection, or their illness or death. It is a vulnerability." Seeing Harry raise his eyebrows, Dumbledore continued, "Strictly speaking, this is true. Consider your case and you may see what I mean. Last year, you and one of the Weasley twins attacked Draco Malfoy after a Quidditch match. What was it he said that prompted you to attack him?

"He was saying foul, horrible things about the Weasleys, especially Mrs. Weasley," Harry answered, the memory stirring up feelings of anger.

"He wanted you to attack him," Dumbledore observed. "He knew that with Dolores Umbridge having the power to mete out punishments, you would be sure to be penalized very disproportionately. He could not defeat you on the Quidditch pitch, so he wanted to hurt you in some other way, and he succeeded. One of your vulnerabilities, in his eyes, was your deep affection for the Weasley family. Now, bear in mind, I do not consider this a true vulnerability; the rewards we gain from such bonds far outweigh the disadvantages. I meant only that it is so for one such as Voldemort, for whom power is the only thing that matters."

"You said 'one of your vulnerabilities,'" Harry pointed out. "What were the others?"

"I was thinking of only one other, and that is your failure to recognize that such words from him or anyone mean nothing. If what he says matters to you, he has power over you. That is why he does it. You know what he says is not true. You must simply ignore it. That will take away his power."

"How can I just stand there and let him say terrible things about Mrs. Weasley?" Harry demanded. She especially had been so good to him, he couldn't imagine how he could listen to such things about her and say nothing.

"By reminding yourself that they are only words and mean nothing. We give credence to the words of others based on our respect for them, their knowledge, and their character. If you know someone is simply attempting to goad you, you can safely discount anything they say. If you wish, you may take satisfaction in knowing that by failing to respond as they wish, you are frustrating their efforts."

Harry pondered this. "Yeah, I guess you're right. It's really hard, though. I have gotten to where him insulting just me doesn't bother me... I should talk to Ron about this; he's always losing it with Malfoy. Hermione, on the other hand, seems to know this already. She never gives him the satisfaction of knowing if he's got to her. Maybe I can ask her how she does it, give me some advice."

Dumbledore nodded. "An excellent idea, and one of the many benefits of close associations; we can help each other in areas in which we need it. But to get back to your question about how Voldemort became as he is today, that is a psychological and perhaps metaphysical question. Environment and early experiences undoubtedly have some influence-as Tom Riddle, he was abandoned by his father and raised in a Muggle orphanage-but many people, including yourself, rose from trying circumstances and became fine people. I cannot say when he gave up on the idea of love and friendship. When people are psychologically wounded, they may cling to hope or give in to despair. No one can know what causes one or the other, the human mind being as complex and mysterious as it is. All we can know about Voldemort is that he is the combination of a crippled psyche and tremendous magical power. It is not at all difficult to feel sorry for him."

Harry was stunned. "Feel sorry for him? Look at all the people he's killed, tortured, maimed, you name it!"

"Yes, and that is exactly why I feel sorry for him," Dumbledore explained. "One of the great but not well understood truths of life is that what we do to another, we do to ourselves. Voldemort has done all this to himself as well, but he cannot feel it because he has rid himself of that which made him human. That is why I feel sorry for him. By that I mean that I pity him, not that I sympathize with him. I sympathize with his victims and their loved ones. I pity him. It is as if he has been taken over by evil, and the human personality which once resided within him is gone. That is a great loss."

It was a hard thing for Harry to understand. Voldemort had killed his parents, along with many others, and caused untold suffering. Harry couldn't easily accept the idea that Voldemort could be thought of with the kind of thoughtfulness and empathy that Dumbledore was showing.

Harry suddenly realized that they were talking about Voldemort in a way that Dumbledore never would have the previous year, when he avoided Harry in an effort to protect him from Voldemort intruding into Harry's mind. "Professor, I just thought of something... last year, you were so worried about Voldemort possessing me that you wouldn't even look at me. Now, you don't seem to be worried. What's changed?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Actually, that was one of the things I wished to talk to you about. There is still a concern, and it is still highly advisable for you to learn Occlumency. However-" Dumbledore paused, seeing a look of alarm on Harry's face, and knowing what it meant-"Professor Snape will not be the one instructing you."

The relief crossing Harry's features was equally palpable. Harry wanted to thank Dumbledore profusely, but stopped himself, knowing that Dumbledore would not approve of the implied criticism of Snape. Instead, he asked, "Who will be teaching me, then?"

"I will," Dumbledore said simply.

Even if he had wanted to, Harry could not have stopped the look of surprise and elation on his face. "Really? That's great! But... isn't this what you were worried about last year? That Voldemort would see me as an opportunity to get to you?"

"The situation is now different. Voldemort knew he would have only one opportunity to use the connection between you and he to deceive you into thinking that what you saw was real. He has used it; he will not try to do so again. It is still possible that he could try to possess you to try to reach me, but I have realized that that possibility must be confronted head-on, not avoided. It is not practical that I avoid being in your presence indefinitely. Instead, I will teach you Occlumency, and I will give you advice to help you fight him off should he attempt to enter your mind."

"How can I do that?" Harry asked. "How can I possibly get him out of there once he's in there? I'm not strong enough to do that."

Dumbledore smiled. "In fact, you are, Harry. You simply have to do deliberately what you did last month. When he possessed you briefly in the Ministry of Magic, what did you feel?"

Harry shuddered. "It was horrible. I felt surrounded, isolated, like I was in the grip of evil... which I suppose I was, come to think of it. Even worse than when a dementor is close by. I thought I would just as soon die than have that continue."

"But then you had a different thought. What was it?"

Harry looked at Dumbledore in surprise. How could he possibly know that? He preferred not to say, but sensed that it was important, and understood that he could trust Dumbledore. He slowly said, "I thought, at least I would be with Sirius again."

"And you experienced a strong feeling of affection for him, is that right?" Harry nodded. "You see, Harry, that is it right there. The love you felt for Sirius was what drove Voldemort away. He could not, he cannot, deal with it. He cannot share his thoughts with someone who loves, who feels love in his presence. It is anathema to him. Your next question may be 'why,' I would like you to see if you can work that out."

Harry thought for a minute; recalling what Dumbledore had said earlier, and said uncertainly, "Because love weakens him?" still not understanding quite why.

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, Harry. Even more than that, it practically debilitates him. As I said before, all he knows is evil and power. He finds it easy to forget that such a thing as love exists. Experiencing love is a direct reminder of what he has become. It stirs the long-forgotten remnants of his conscience, his humanity. This he cannot allow. If he did, his entire existence as he knows it now would be called into question."

"You mean, he could die?" Harry was amazed at the thought.

"No one can say what would happen, because he would never permit it. He may well think twice about trying to enter your mind again, because of what happened. But if he should try, you have the means to drive him out."

Still not quite understanding what he was being asked to do, he said, "You mean, I should think about love?"

"No, Harry," Dumbledore answered seriously. "You should feel love. There are similarities to how you summon a Patronus. When you summon a Patronus, you think of a happy memory so that you will feel happy; it drives away dementors because they are the living antithesis of happiness. In this case, you think of something that causes you to feel love, as Voldemort is the living antithesis of love. The more powerful feeling of love you can summon, the more effective it will be."

How am I supposed to do that? wondered Harry. Love was a concept that he had never discussed. He knew that some people said 'I love you' to each other, but it had never been said to him. It all seemed so unfamiliar. Feeling foolish for having to ask, but knowing it was important, Harry asked, "Umm... how do I know if I love something or just like it a lot? What's the difference?"

Dumbledore looked with great sympathy across his desk at the boy who had never known a parent's love. "It may be best not to focus overmuch on the word 'love,'" he advised. "It is merely a placeholder for a feeling, the most powerful feeling known to man. Focus on that which warms your heart, people who care for and value you, feelings of friendship and closeness."

That made things somewhat clearer to Harry; he felt he could do that. He nodded slowly and said, "I understand."

"Good," said Dumbledore. "We will be talking about this more in the future, as it is not unrelated to Occlumency."

"What?" Harry blurted out. "Professor Snape certainly never said anything about love when he was teaching me Occlumency. He just said to clear my mind."

"Yes, and the mental skills used to focus on a specific thought or feeling are similar to those used to clear one's mind. You will see this as we proceed."

Harry nodded, feeling happy that at least he wouldn't be dreading Occlumency lessons as he had before. "So, we will be starting when the term starts?"

"No, I thought we would begin next week, if you do not have any other pressing engagements. Next Monday, perhaps?"

"Next Monday?" Harry gaped. He did not necessarily object, but it seemed strange to think of coming to Hogwarts regularly in the summer. "Well.... sure... of course I don't have any plans, I'm just kind of surprised. But yes, that's fine."

"Excellent," Dumbledore said. "I will see you next Monday at 1:00 p.m.; you should come the same way you did today. Now, there is something else I wished to discuss with you. It concerns Dumbledore's Army." He smiled, and Harry saw that familiar twinkle in his eyes. "The name does have a certain ring to it, doesn't it?"

Harry grinned, happy to see Dumbledore joking about it, considering all the trouble it ended up causing the previous year. "The name was Ginny's idea, actually," he said, wanting to give credit where it was due.

"Indeed? I shall have to mention that to her the next time I see her. The name was fortuitous, as it allowed me to take responsibility when Cornelius discovered it. It would have been very bad indeed if you had been expelled. In any case, I would like you to tell me about it."

Harry spent the next few minutes telling Dumbledore the story of how the group came to be, and about the lessons. "I didn't really feel like I was teaching so much as leading a practice group," Harry concluded. "I was worried about doing it at first, but now I'm really glad I did. It helped keep me going through the bad times last year, especially after I got thrown off the Quidditch team. The others were pretty enthusiastic about it, too. I was really pleased with how everyone improved. Everyone tried really hard."

"Indeed, it does seem that you have much to be proud of. It takes courage to be the focal point of such an enterprise, though of course you have shown no shortage of that in your time here." Harry glanced down, embarrassed. "Now, I believe you have not yet received your O.W.L. results; Professor McGonagall has them and will be discussing them with you later, after we are finished here. But I will mention one of them here, now. I imagine that you would not be surprised to learn that you achieved an Outstanding score in your Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L."

Harry had hoped for, and privately expected, such a score, but had been reluctant to say it or think about it much, lest he be disappointed. "Yeah, I guess I'm not too surprised. I knew I did well. But I'm still really glad to hear it."

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, I have been told by Mr. Tofty, who conducted your exam, that he has rarely, if ever, seen such a proficient performance. Now, normally we do not discuss exam results with anyone other than the student involved, but I am making an exception in this case. Would it surprise you to learn, Harry, that all of the fifth years in Dumbledore's Army scored Outstanding O.W.L.s in this subject?"

Harry's mouth dropped open, indicating the depth of his surprise. "Really? All of them? Wow... that's great! Well, like I said, everyone was really keen. It's easier to do well when it's something you really want to do. It's probably why I do so badly in Potions."

"No doubt you are correct when you point out that those studying with you were highly motivated, but I very much doubt that your fellow students would have done so uniformly well unless you had some skill as a teacher. You may take my word for it; I daresay I have some experience in the matter, being as I am a school headmaster."

"I guess I shouldn't argue with you, then," Harry reluctantly allowed. "Does this mean you want the D.A. to be a regular thing? Because it seemed to me that we wouldn't need it if we had a proper Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, would we? I mean, we only started the D.A. because Umbridge just wasn't teaching us at all."

Dumbledore looked at Harry, a serious expression on his face. "You have a good point, Harry, and it is my hope that we will have, as you say, a proper Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year. I know I am asking a lot, but I would like you to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor."

Harry gazed at Dumbledore in a kind of fog. Surely he could not have heard what he thought he heard. How could he be a teacher when he was still a student? It was inconceivable. He shook his head.

"I'm sorry, Professor, I must have heard you wrong. I thought you said-"

"You were correct, Harry," Dumbledore said patiently. "I would like you to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher."

"Me? Be a teacher?" Harry was flabbergasted. "I'm just a student. Who would listen to me?"

"Why, those who wish to get an Outstanding score on their O.W.L., for a start," said Dumbledore with amusement. "Everyone found out about the D.A. when Dolores Umbridge discovered what you were doing last year and stopped it; so they know that you have been a teacher, even though in an unofficial capacity. I know for a fact that those in the group have been telling their friends and families what a positive experience it was for them. When people find out about the group's O.W.L. scores, and they will, it will seem perfectly natural for you to be teaching the class. Results matter. Now, will there be people who will not welcome this? Undoubtedly, some will say that no student, no matter how good a teacher, should teach while a student; some will say that I resorted to you because I could find no one better due to the so-called jinx, and some will say that you were offered the job because you are the famous Harry Potter. Such will always be the case; as I told Hagrid once, not a week has gone by in my time as headmaster that I have not been criticized for how I run the school. But the fact is, you are right for this position. I would not be making this request if that were not the case, believe me."

Harry was still stunned, but was also starting to feel trapped; he didn't think he could say no to Dumbledore, even for something like this. "I don't know... it's all so much..."

"I can understand why you might be intimidated by the idea," Dumbledore admitted. "It is true that this would be a Hogwarts first, but that does not mean that it is not a good idea. Perhaps you are not quite aware of how your lessons affected the others. I recently received a letter from Neville Longbottom's grandmother. I have her permission to show it to you; I would like you to read it."

Harry uncertainly took the letter Dumbledore handed him, and began reading silently:

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

I wished to write to make you aware of the great change Neville has undergone this past year; you may not have noticed, having to flee the school as you did. He is virtually a different boy; more active, confident, and outgoing than he has ever been before. He has told me repeatedly, with great enthusiasm, about what a positive experience studying in Harry Potter's group was. I do not know if that is the sole reason for his change, but I know it must be at least a large part of it. He insisted on accompanying Harry and his friends on their mission to the Department of Mysteries, which I'm certain he would never have done before. Although it was a great risk, I am proud that he had the courage and determination to do such a thing. I certainly hope that you will encourage the continuation of the group next year, now that you are back and hopefully free of Ministry interference. Also, I know you will be needing a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher next year. You could do much worse than to give Harry the job; in fact, you have done so in the recent past. I spent much of last year persuading those I know that you are not as feeble and addle-brained as the Daily Prophet has suggested. Please do not make a liar of me.


Esmerelda Longbottom

Harry still felt stunned. He knew Neville's grandmother to be an intimidating woman, not easily impressed.

Dumbledore appeared to have been thinking along the same lines. "Have you met Mrs. Longbottom, Harry?"

"Yes, last Christmas, at St. Mungo's. When we went to see Mr. Weasley, she and Neville were visiting Neville's parents."

"Ah, yes. Well, you know then that she is a woman to be taken seriously. And she was not the only one to express such a view. Now, I understand the idea may be rather startling to you, but you taught a class of twenty-five students last year, and very successfully. Being the official teacher is not that different, except that your age makes it unprecedented."

Harry grinned nervously. "Isn't that like saying that Everest isn't that hard to climb, except that it's 29,000 feet high?"

Dumbledore chuckled gently. "It is not quite the same thing, but I take your point. I gather that because of your age, you are worried about being taken seriously by the students in your classes?" Harry nodded. "Well," Dumbledore continued, "you may wish to consider that in this situation, being 'the famous Harry Potter' is helpful. Like it or not, Harry, you are an icon, a symbol of defiance of Voldemort. People who might dismiss you because of your age will accept you because of that, as well as your reputation as leader of the D.A."

"Not the Slytherins," Harry said darkly. "They'll be competing with each other to see who can disrupt my classes the best. Malfoy'll have them in open rebellion. There's no way they'll accept me."

"They are students at this school, and they will behave properly in their classes or face the consequences," Dumbledore said firmly. "While teaching, you will have all the authority of any Hogwarts teacher, with the power to take points from offenders' Houses and give detentions. I know that you will not abuse this power; if anything, I am concerned that you may be too slow to use it. You must be tolerant to a point, but not tolerate deliberate disrespect. I believe you will be able to draw the line at an appropriate place."

Harry fervently hoped that Dumbledore was right; he supposed that even Slytherins didn't want to do detentions any more than they had to. Still, there was Malfoy...

"What about Malfoy, Professor? I'll have to give him detentions every class, because he'll never stop challenging me. He hates me so bad that he won't care. Of course, I'd rather not teach him anyway; he's just going to run off and join the Death Eaters after he graduates."

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. "Who can say, Harry? You may be right, but he may surprise us. One never knows what the future will bring, and we should always hold out hope for positive outcomes. In any case, you will be spared that particular problem. You will not be teaching the N.E.W.T. classes, for sixth and seventh years; it would not be fair to you to ask you to teach classes you have never taken yourself. If you agree to accept the position, you will teach first through fifth years. I will assume the responsibility of teaching the N.E.W.T. classes, which you will be taking as well."

Harry stared at Dumbledore. He was going to have the chance to study advanced Defense Against the Dark Arts from the world's greatest living wizard? Harry felt ecstatic, then had a sudden realization-he would have this great opportunity only if he accepted the teaching position. If he refused, Dumbledore would be forced to hire an adult, who would teach all Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, including N.E.W.T. classes. Suddenly, teaching looked a lot more appealing.

"Wow..." Harry was speechless for a few moments. "Of course, it'd be terrific to study with you... but how will I have time for everything? A full study schedule is hard enough, but with teaching..." Harry couldn't imagine how he could do it.

"Yes, we will have to make certain allowances, and I do not promise that it will be easy," Dumbledore admitted. "But, as you know, all Hogwarts students of third year and above are required to take a minimum of eight classes; you will be allowed to take as few as five. You will be allowed to drop History of Magic and Divination, and to choose between Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. If you still wish to possibly become an Auror in the future, you will want to continue with Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, and Transfigurations. In whatever case, you can work out your schedule with Professor McGonagall after we have finished up here. Even with three fewer classes than last year, it will not be easy, but it should be manageable."

Harry welcomed the idea of taking fewer classes, but he thought he saw a problem with this arrangement. "What if I'm teaching a class at the same time as I'm supposed to be in another one?"

"Yes, that is a potential problem," Dumbledore agreed, "and it is one reason that I am asking you well in advance of the school year. If you agree to teach the class, the schedule must be arranged so as to avoid this. It can be done, of course." He paused, regarded Harry, and asked, "Are there any more objections you can think of?"

Sure that Dumbledore was teasing him, Harry decided to joke back: "Give me a minute, I'm thinking."

With a smile in his eyes, Dumbledore made an 'as you like' gesture, and waited. Harry finally said, "I can't think of any now... probably I'll think of a dozen tonight, but then it'll be too late."

"May I take that as an acceptance of the position? You need not give me an answer right this minute, you know. If you would like a few days to mull it over, you may certainly have them."

"No, thanks, I'd rather just say yes now and get it over with," Harry said with a mix of determination and resignation. "I know I'll end up saying yes in the end, and if I take more time to think, I'll just worry myself into a state, thinking of all kinds of arguments and problems. By saying yes now, I'll skip all that, and get straight into worrying about the actual teaching." Harry looked up at Dumbledore. "Okay, yes, I'll do it."

"Excellent, Harry." Dumbledore looked pleased, but in a way that made Harry suspect that Dumbledore had never had a moment's doubt about Harry's eventual response. "I deeply appreciate your willingness to do this. I know our students will benefit greatly."

"Well, here's one way to look at it," Harry said, half to himself, "I can't hardly be any worse than Lockhart or Umbridge. That's some consolation... Hermione will go crazy, she'll be so pleased, she got me that book, after all..." Something clicked in Harry's mind, and his eyes narrowed. "Professor, you said that you got more than one letter suggesting that I be made Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. One of those wouldn't be from Hermione, would it?"

In a very amused tone, Dumbledore said, "I'm sorry, but I am not at liberty to divulge the contents or sources of much of my private communications."

"I knew it," Harry exclaimed. He felt exasperated and proud at the same time.

"I should emphasize, Harry, that I had the idea to do this before it was recommended to me by anyone. If you would like someone to blame, you need look no further."

Somewhat abashed, Harry said, "No, I don't really want to blame anyone, I just kind of wished she'd have run it by me first. Of course, I'd have told her that she was off her nut."

"I should think so. You were looking at me in much the same way a short time ago," Dumbledore observed. "Of course, I am long since used to it, what with the business with the Daily Prophet last year."

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that; can you imagine what they'll do with this? 'The Boy Who Lived to teach his fellow students at Hogwarts.'" Harry shook his head. "They'll make me look like a tragic hero or an arrogant upstart, and I'm not sure which is worse."

"I assume they will choose whichever characterization fits best with the thrust of the article," Dumbledore mused. "You do, however, have experience with this as well; I trust you will not be bothered by it."

"Usually I just don't read the paper, that does it okay. Funny how the fact that I'm used to being famous is a help here."

"It seems fair that it should help now and then, as it is quite a burden most of the time," Dumbledore agreed. "Now, let's take you down to Professor McGonagall's office."

They left Dumbledore's office, passing the stone gargoyles to which one wanting to enter the office had to give the correct password. Harry absently wondered what this year's password would be; his experience was that it was always a sweet or confection of some sort. He then realized that as a teacher, he would be told the password as a matter of course. He wondered what other aspects of life at Hogwarts would be different because of his new position.

Lost in his musings, he happened to glance up to see that they were just about to enter Professor McGonagall's office. As they walked in, McGonagall stood, and looked at Dumbledore expectantly. He smiled and said, "Minerva, may I present to you our new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor." Harry glanced around the office, looking embarrassed.

McGonagall smiled; a small one, but by her standards it was a wide grin. "Welcome to the staff, Professor Potter."

Harry nearly flinched. "Are people really going to call me that?" he asked plaintively. "I don't know if I can get used to that."

"Well, if that's the worst thing to happen to you, you can be very grateful," advised McGonagall. "I daresay, however, that you will manage to get used to it."

"Indeed," agreed Dumbledore. "I seem to recall that it took me some time as well. I'll leave you two to it; I must be off on some errands. Minerva, I trust you will take him to my office when he is ready to go home?"

"Of course, Professor," she said, and he departed. To Harry, she said, "Please sit down." Harry did so.

"First, Harry, I would like to express my condolences for your loss, for Sirius's death. I know what he meant to you. And... well, you have had more than enough loss for one lifetime. I fervently hope that you will have no more."

She was looking at him with great sympathy. Since McGonagall was usually quite stern, Harry did not know whether to be more surprised by this or by her calling him by his given name, which she had never done before. He felt very affected by her concern; he had always liked her, even though she was strict.

"Thank you, Professor. I appreciate it," Harry said sincerely.

She nodded. Not wanting to linger on the subject, she asked, "So, how do you feel about becoming a teacher?"

"Right this minute, a bit terrified," Harry answered honestly. "Part of me is wondering how I managed to get myself into it."

"If I had to guess, I would say that you found it particularly difficult to say 'no' to Professor Dumbledore," she said with understated amusement. "You would not be the first to whom this has happened. Teaching will be unfamiliar at first, but after a while you will be fine, I'm sure."

Harry nodded, not saying anything. He very much hoped she was right, but he still felt overwhelmed by the whole experience.

"Now, I would like to discuss your O.W.L. results with you, in terms of how they will affect your schedule. First of all, here are the results themselves." She handed him a piece of paper.

Harry read it quickly, scanning the important parts. His scores were: Astronomy: fail; Care of Magical Creatures: Exceeds Expectations; Charms: Outstanding; Defense Against the Dark Arts: Outstanding; Divination: fail; Herbology: Acceptable; History of Magic: fail; Potions: Exceeds Expectations; Transfigurations: Exceeds Expectations.

He didn't quite know what to feel; some scores were better than he'd expected, others, worse. He was surprised to see three 'fails', though he realized they were understandable: he'd never taken Divination seriously, and had expected to fail after taking the exam; he felt History of Magic was borderline, but he missed the last ten minutes of the exam due to the pain and panic of the false vision that eventually led him to the Department of Mysteries; and as for Astronomy, he felt reasonably sure he would have passed had he not lost the time everyone else did due to the commotion that took place that night and was the source of Hermione's complaints that the exam results were not fair. Even so, he was not happy with three 'fails.'

The most shockingly positive result was the Exceeds Expectations score in Potions. Immediately after the exam, Harry felt he might have squeaked by with an 'Acceptable,' but was amazed to learn he had done even better. My potion must have ended up all right, he thought.

His other results were as expected or better; he hadn't expected an 'Outstanding' in Charms or an 'Exceeds Expectations' in Care of Magical Creatures or Transfigurations. On the whole, he was satisfied. He consoled himself with the thought that of his three 'fails,' none were in subjects that would affect his desired field. The Astronomy 'fail' bothered him a little, he realized; he should have passed, he felt, and while he didn't feel passionately about it as Hermione did, he could understand why it was so important to her.

He looked up and saw Professor McGonagall looking at him as if trying to discern his reaction to his results by his facial expressions. "It's kind of a mixed bag, isn't it?" she commented.

"Well, I suppose I could have done better in a few things, but overall it's not that far from what I thought would happen." He remembered Hermione's nascent crusade, and thought he would help her out if he could. "The Astronomy 'fail,' though... I really think I should have passed, but with what they did to you and tried to do to Hagrid, it was impossible to concentrate--"

"Yes, I understand, you needn't elaborate further," McGonagall interrupted him. "Believe me, I have already heard plenty on the subject from Miss Granger."

"And?" Harry prompted her. He was curious to know where she stood on the subject.

McGonagall sighed. "Objectively, I would say I lean a small bit in Miss Granger's direction. On the one hand, O.W.L.s are so important that a student should make every effort to ignore any distractions, even such as the events of that evening. The fact that Hagrid is your friend about whom you were greatly concerned should not affect the disposition-"

"We were concerned about you, too, Professor," Harry blurted out before he had a chance to think better of it; he knew that McGonagall had a particular aversion to being interrupted. "We thought they might have killed you."

McGonagall looked slightly annoyed and embarrassed at the same time. "Thank you, Harry," she said kindly. "Fortunately, the people at St. Mungo's know what they are doing. To continue, as I said, one can say that those taking the test should never allow themselves to be distracted. On the other hand, Miss Granger is quite correct when she points out that it is up to the testers to provide a distraction-free environment. In addition, then-Headmistress Umbridge," she continued, saying Umbridge's name with obvious distaste, "can certainly be held accountable, as she provoked the confrontation which caused the distraction, with disregard for the fact that testing was taking place nearby. So, I would say that Miss Granger has a fairly good case."

"It wasn't only us who were distracted," Harry pointed out. "Even Professor Tofty, after you were attacked, said something like, 'Really! Not even a warning! Outrageous behavior!' So, if even the professor was distracted..."

"Yes, that is also a very good point, one that Miss Granger did not fail to mention in her owl to me on the subject," McGonagall agreed. "However, in the end, this will not be for me, or anyone at Hogwarts, to decide. The O.W.L. board will make the final decision.

"Now, let us move on. I would like to discuss your schedule for this year. I assume that Professor Dumbledore has informed you that you may take fewer classes so that you will have time to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts?"

Harry nodded. "So, I guess I have to decide which classes I'm going to take." He paused. "Professor, what am I going to do about Potions? You said last year that I need a N.E.W.T. in them to become an Auror, but you also said that Professor Snape won't teach the N.E.W.T. class to anyone who got less than 'Outstanding' on the O.W.L., so I don't see how I can take the class. Isn't it kind of unfair to make it that hard to get in? I mean, even you only require 'Exceeds Expectations' to get into your N.E.W.T. classes."

McGonagall gave Harry a slightly sour look, annoyed that Harry seemed to be asking her to criticize a fellow professor. "My opinion of Professor Snape's standards is really not relevant. He is a professor and can set the standards he chooses."

"Yes, but couldn't you talk to him? Ask him to..." Harry trailed off, knowing that what he was about to suggest was useless; Snape hated Harry so much that Snape was bound to laugh in McGonagall's face if she asked such a thing, and McGonagall's expression confirmed it for Harry. "I'm sorry, Professor, but this is very important to me; I'd really like to become an Auror. You did say to Umbridge-"

"I was wondering whether you would bring that up," McGonagall said resignedly. "Yes, I did say to then-Headmistress Umbridge that I would stop at nothing to see that you got the chance to become an Auror. I admit, and you probably already know, that I said it in anger, not necessarily expecting that I would have to follow through on it. Still," she said as Harry held his breath, "one must keep one's word, and I intend to do so here. I will ask Professor Snape to accept you into his class, and if he refuses, I will teach you Potions myself."

Harry was amazed that she would go that far. "Thank you, Professor, thank you very much. It means a lot to me."

She nodded briskly. "Now, as for the rest of your schedule. You will be taking Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, and Transfigurations. The other two choices are Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. Which would you like to take?"

Harry considered. "Well, I really would hate to stop having classes with Hagrid."

McGonagall replied, "Yes, but you must consider the effect on your future career, not your friendship with a teacher. I'm sure Hagrid will understand if you choose not to take his class."

Harry was not at all sure of that, considering how emotional Hagrid could be at times, but decided not to argue the point. "Well, which class is more useful for becoming an Auror? It seems like neither one is that related."

"Yes, that's true," she agreed. "That is why I am giving you the choice, and why your class load is being reduced to five. But if you want my opinion, I would-by a very small margin-recommend Care of Magical Creatures. It would be easier to study Herbology outside the school in the future, if you wanted a thorough grounding, than Care of Magical Creatures. Hagrid is quite resourceful in acquiring creatures."

"Yeah, I expect that it won't be long before we have a class on dragons, with a couple tied up just out of reach of his house," Harry joked.

McGonagall looked at him sternly. "I would reprimand you for that kind of comment, if I did not know that you mean it affectionately." Suddenly her frown vanished, and her tone became a confidential one. "To be honest, I've wondered the same thing for some time now. I only hope it happens after I'm retired."

Harry grinned, wondering whether she would have shared that with him if he were not now a fellow teacher. "Probably most students would say it would be cool, but now that I've had first-hand experience, I know better." He would not soon forget his encounter with the Hungarian Horntail in the Triwizard Tournament.

"Yes, I would imagine," she agreed. "Now, then, there is one more matter to discuss. I want you to know," she said, looking at him seriously, "that before the last school year, I recommended to Professor Dumbledore that you be made the Gryffindor house prefect. Despite your, ahem, checkered history with school rules, I felt your leadership qualities made you suitable for the position. In retrospect, it is clear from your experience with the D.A. that my judgment was not mistaken." She gave him another small smile. Embarrassed again, Harry nodded. "Professor Dumbledore," she continued, "did not disagree with my judgment, but he felt that your, shall we say, unique status would make fulfilling your prefect duties more onerous. He asked me to submit another recommendation, so I chose Mr. Weasley. Mind you, I am not in any way dissatisfied with the job he has done."

"I am glad you chose him, I really am," Harry assured her. "It meant more to him, especially his family, than it would have to me, but it's very nice to know you would have chosen me, if I didn't have this... Professor, what exactly did you mean by my 'unique status?' Did you mean being famous, or the treatment I was getting in the Daily Prophet, or this connection I have to Voldemort?"

"The third," McGonagall answered. "Professor Dumbledore foresaw that your connection to Voldemort could complicate your life, and he felt you did not need another complication, honor though it may be."

"He was right," Harry said. "This past year was hard enough; being a prefect would have made things harder. Was that was you wanted to tell me?"

"No, I was just getting to that. This year, as Angelina Johnson has graduated, the Gryffindor Quidditch team needs a new captain. You are currently the senior team member, the one with the most experience. Not incidentally, you are an outstanding player; Oliver Wood tells me that he is sure that you could play professionally in the future if that were your goal. For those reasons, you would be a logical choice for team captain. However-"

"I'm going to be a teacher this year, and I'll be lucky to find the time just for Quidditch practice, never mind being captain," Harry finished her thought.

She gazed at him sternly. "Yes, that's right, but I will thank you not to interrupt me. I do not take kindly to it."

Harry looked repentant. "Sorry. The thing is, I'm not sure I'd make a great team captain anyway. You see, they have to know about strategy and tactics, and make game plans for the whole team. Wood was always doing that. But I'm a Seeker, and Seekers don't have to coordinate with the other team members that much. I think Ron would make a much better captain."

"Yes, I had a feeling you were going to suggest Mr. Weasley," said McGonagall.

"Well, he is the best person for it," Harry said defensively. "He's followed Quidditch all his life, he's a big fan, so he knows strategy backwards and forwards. Also, he comes from a family of good Quidditch players, so he's got more experience than he's had just being on the team. I really think he'd be good."

McGonagall regarded him evenly, giving no indication of how she saw matters. "Very well, I will take your advice under consideration. I just did not want to deprive you of such a well-deserved opportunity without your consent."

"Thank you, Professor, I appreciate it."

"Well, it appears then that we are done here. Unless there is anything else you would like to discuss?"

"No, thanks, Professor," Harry said after thinking a moment. "I guess I'll go home and start trying to figure out how to be a teacher."

"You will be fine, Harry, trust me," McGonagall assured him. "Professor Dumbledore once told me that a famous Muggle said, 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' Or, as a wizard put it, 'You can't escape a dragon if you're so scared that you can't run.' It comes out the same either way. If you get your anxiety under control, you will have done the hard part."

Harry knew from his Triwizard experience that it was true, but he still wasn't sure exactly how he was going to do it. "So, are we going back to Professor Dumbledore's office?"

"Not just yet; there is someone else here who wants a word with you. Would you come with me, please?"

Harry nodded and followed her. He wondered who else wanted to see him, but since she didn't tell him, he figured she wouldn't even if he asked. As they walked through the corridors and passageways, Harry thought about how different things looked when the school was so empty in the summer.

"Professor," he asked, "I was wondering, what does Peeves do in the summer? I mean, there's nobody here to bother, is there? It would be boring for him to stay here."

McGonagall chuckled. "You know, I'm not sure. I'm not here much in the summer myself, so I wouldn't know. Perhaps he goes into Hogsmeade to bother the residents there."

"But why is he even here at all?" Harry asked. "I mean, I don't care, but just out of curiosity... he does nothing but cause trouble. Couldn't Professor Dumbledore get rid of him if he wanted to?"

"Mr. Filch has asked the same question countless times, in rather more colorful language," McGonagall said. "Of course Professor Dumbledore could keep Peeves out, but he refuses to do so. He has said that Peeves 'keeps people on their toes,' I believe was the phrase he used, and another time he mentioned not wanting things to get boring. He feels that Peeves adds character to the school." She paused. "I have not always seen eye to eye with Professor Dumbledore on this matter, but I must admit, Peeves earned his keep last year. That was a reminder to me not to question Professor Dumbledore's judgment."

Harry grinned. Peeves had mercilessly harassed Dolores Umbridge after Dumbledore fled Hogwarts last year, acts approved of by all who supported Dumbledore.

McGonagall and Harry entered a room which Harry, who again had not been paying great attention to where he was being taken, realized was the library. He looked across the room and saw a lone figure, sitting at a large table with three books spread out in front of her. Based on that, Harry would have known who it was even if he couldn't have seen her face.

"Miss Granger," McGonagall said, startling Hermione. "I believe you wanted to see Professor Potter when I was finished talking to him?"

Hermione's eyes went as wide as Harry had ever seen them. She just stared for a few seconds, then she let out a loud shriek and raced for Harry. Harry was getting used to being hugged by Hermione, so he wasn't bothered at all, even though she was more excited for him than he was for himself. She plowed into him and held him tightly, saying, "Oh, Harry, that's so wonderful..."

Harry smiled and hugged Hermione back, and glanced up to see Professor McGonagall with a very amused look on her face. Hoping they would know he was joking, he said, "Um, isn't there some Hogwarts rule about teachers hugging students?"

Hermione chuckled but didn't let go. McGonagall said, "Yes, it is assumed that the teacher in question will use his experience and maturity to determine whether or not it is appropriate. I feel you will somehow manage. When you are finished, come see me and I will take you to Professor Dumbledore's office." She departed.

Hermione took a half-step back, still holding Harry's shoulders. "It's so good to see you, Harry! It's great that we both happened to be here on the same day. And, my goodness, you're a professor! Isn't it amazing? Aren't you excited?" She finally let go of him, looking at him expectantly.

"Well, if by 'excited' you mean 'overwhelmed' or 'terrified,' then yes, I'm pretty excited," Harry replied. "Hermione, how can I be ready for this? I don't know if I can do it."

"Of course you can," Hermione said, trying not to be impatient with Harry's nervousness. "You taught twenty-five of us. How can this be any different?"

"Because we all wanted to be there. We were all motivated," Harry pointed out. "I'm going to be teaching a bunch of people-"

"This isn't like Divination or History of Magic, where people don't care," Hermione interrupted him with surprising vehemence. "Defense Against the Dark Arts may be the most practical and important subject in the whole school. I promise you, nobody is going to come to class not caring whether they learn anything or not. They'll want to learn, and they'll pay attention to what you say. You don't have to give lectures if you don't want to; in fact, it may be better if you don't. If you want to, just do what you did with us last year. That worked pretty well."

"Yes, it did, I have to admit," Harry agreed. "Did you hear that all the fifth years in the D.A. got Outstanding on their O.W.L.s?"

"No, Professor McGonagall didn't tell me that, but I'm not surprised. We all were doing pretty well. I assume Professor Dumbledore told you that to explain why he asked you to take the job?

"Yes, he did. He also said that a few people sent him owls suggesting that I be made a teacher." Feigning suspicion, he added, "I think I know who one of those people might have been."

"I was right, wasn't I?" Hermione answered, playing along and pretending she was wounded by Harry's accusation. "I was sure you'd make a good teacher, and Dumbledore agrees with me, so I'd say I'm vindicated. Just because you don't recognize it yet doesn't mean it's not true."

"Well, you keep on saying that, and maybe one of these days I'll believe it's true," Harry said resignedly. "You could be right, for all I know. It's just so new, and such a shock-I had never even thought about the idea-that it's very hard not to be intimidated by it right now. Maybe, hopefully, I'll get used to it by the time the term starts."

They sat down at the table Hermione had been working at when Harry and Professor McGonagall had come in. "You will, Harry, I'm sure you will," she said.

Harry appreciated her efforts to make him feel better. "Thanks," he said seriously. He looked at her for a moment and said, "See, now, if it was you, I could understand that. You're as close to a perfect student as there is. You could be a teacher, for sure."

Hermione smiled wistfully and shook her head. "No, Harry, I couldn't, certainly not now. There's a reason Dumbledore chose you and not me. Sure, I know lots of stuff, but knowing and learning aren't the same as teaching. I'd be impatient with the students because they don't study as much as I do. A teacher has to inspire the students to want to learn. You do that without even knowing you do. I know, I was in the D.A., I saw. People wanted to learn from you, they had confidence in you. Even Zacharias Smith, at the end."

Harry raised his eyebrows; if that was true, he hadn't known it. He mused that he was lucky to have Hermione as a friend; she was trying so hard to help him. It was really nice that she happened to be there...

"Hermione, I just thought of something. Why are you here? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm really happy to see you, but it's not like you're here studying every day of the summer," he said, gesturing to the books on the desk. He paused. "Are you?"

She chuckled. "No, I'm not. I'm not even studying now. Professor McGonagall gave me special permission to come in and use the library today because I wanted to do research for my petition to the O.W.L. board. Didn't I tell you that on the phone yesterday? I could have sworn I did."

"Oh, that's right," he said. "Sorry, I'm a bit distracted, to say the least. How's it going? Found anything?"

"A few things so far, but they're contradictory. There are a few cases of people getting a chance to take the test again, but under more dire circumstances, like the students being attacked by wild creatures, things like that. Nothing I've found yet has spoken to our specific case. I talked to Professor McGonagall about it, and she thinks it'll come down to the board members using their judgment. But there is one thing I'm concerned about..." She trailed off.

Harry just nodded, gesturing for her to continue.

"The thing is," she went on, "that one possible outcome of this is that the entire exam is ruled invalid. I mean, what I'm hoping for is that just those who want to can take the test again, but it could end up that everyone has to take it again, whether they want to or not, whether they passed or not. If that happens..."

Harry nodded and finished her sentence. "...you're not going to be very popular."

"That's putting it mildly," she agreed. "It'll be a lot more like it was for you in our second year, when everyone thought you were the Heir of Slytherin. Except I'll be hated, not feared."

Harry nodded sympathetically. "Hard to say which is worse."

"Hated," she said immediately. "If you're feared, at least people will leave you alone because they're scared. I'm really getting nervous about doing this, Harry. I mean, this could affect people's lives. People could lose their O.W.L.s because of me. You could, for all I know."

He shook his head. "Nope. Failed Astronomy," he said simply.

"Oh, that's a relief," she said quickly, then suddenly covered her mouth, mortified at what she'd said. "Harry, I didn't mean-"

Harry laughed, causing her to halt her apology in mid-sentence. He said, "Don't worry, I knew what you meant. Really, I'm not that bothered either way. In a way, I kind of hope more people failed, so your idea becomes more popular."

"I hate to say it, but yes, that would help me," she agreed. "But for now, all I can do is wait for the school year to start, and see what people think. But I have to ask myself, it is right for me to even risk that? Can I justify doing this just so I can have my unblemished row of Outstandings? Would people be right to hate me if I did?"

Harry found it hard to answer that question, since he was more focused on what would make Hermione happy than abstract questions of right and wrong. He simply said, "Well, you should just try not to worry about it until the school year starts. Focus on other things, and this may work itself out."

"Maybe you're right," Hermione said. Then she smiled and said, "Of course, I could say the exact same thing to you, for your situation."

Harry smiled back as he realized the truth of what she said. "Yeah, but that would be really sneaky of you. I guess it's harder to take advice than to give it." He paused. "By the way, thanks for the birthday present. It's really nice, not to mention really useful."

"Honestly, I didn't really expect that Dumbledore would make you a teacher," Hermione said. "I hoped, but I thought the book would be useful for the D.A., if nothing else. In a way, it's too bad that there'll be no more D.A.-I liked that it was only people who really wanted to be there."

Hermione paused, then suddenly looking nervous and tentative, she said, "Harry, there was something I was going to ask you about on the phone yesterday, but it's probably better to do it here anyway. I was wondering... how you were doing. I mean..."

She seemed to be trying to find a way of asking without saying the necessary words, but he understood her meaning. "About Sirius, you mean," he said quietly.

She nodded, looking apologetic. "I've never lost anyone I've been that close to, but I think I can imagine how hard it's been for you. I almost don't want to ask, because bringing it up will just remind you of it, but I really want to know how you're doing with it. I've been really concerned about you."

Harry sat in silence for a moment. In a way he didn't want to talk about it, for the reason she had just mentioned, but in a way he did, because he hadn't talked about it at all since it happened. Also, Harry couldn't imagine who he could talk about this with if not Hermione. He couldn't brush her off with a 'fine, thanks' as he could with most people. "Some days are better than others," he said. "But in general, it gets a little less bad with time. I really miss him, though."

"I know," she said with a very sympathetic expression. "I wish there was something more I could do."

Harry suddenly remembered how he'd felt upon seeing Hermione struck down by the Death Eater in the Department of Mysteries. "There is," he said. "Stay alive."

She looked at him quizzically.

"When you got hit, in the Department of Mysteries, Neville and I were checking for a pulse, and all I could think was, don't be dead, it's my fault if she's dead. I just couldn't bear to think of it. And then it happened, with Sirius. I don't know if I could stand to have it happen again. I feel like I'd just lose it."

"Did you feel like it was your fault with Sirius?" she asked.

"Yeah, I did," Harry said, emotion rising. "If I hadn't been fooled-"

"That's part of life, Harry," she said intensely, as if by the power of her conviction she could make him see things differently. "No one is perfect, and we can't be expected to be. What if I had died? It wouldn't have been your fault, just the fault of whoever killed me. I chose to go with you; I would have been furious if you'd tried to stop me. I was responsible, not you. When Sirius heard that you were in danger in the Department of Mysteries, if someone had suggested to him that he stay behind for his own safety, what do you think he would have said? He would have told them to go fly a kite! He was going to protect you, and that was that. You know that."

"Yes, he died protecting me! My parents already did that. How many more people, people I care about, are going to have to die protecting me?"

"However many it is, they'll risk it because they choose to, Harry," she said firmly. "And because they care about you, it's not right to deny them that. Not the dying, of course, but the taking risks to protect you. After all, you're like that, too! In the first year, you and Ron saved me from that troll. You didn't even know me, except that I was a bossy teacher's pet. You did it anyway! Why? Because you thought it was the right thing to do. You'd do it again in a second. I don't have to ask, I know. What if I were in danger and I told you not to come help me because then you'd be in danger too? You'd come anyway! You couldn't stand not to. You wouldn't worry that you might get killed and I'd feel guilty.

"I've thought about this a lot lately, Harry, because I thought you might feel this way. I think that the fact that we risk our lives for each other, not just you and I but people in general, is one of our noblest qualities. When we do, we make a statement about the other person and about ourselves. Because it's risky sometimes it goes bad, but that's the chance we take. And when it does go bad, we feel sad that we lost a friend, but we should honor their life and their sacrifice, not beat ourselves up over what they did. Sirius wouldn't want you to blame yourself for what happened. You know that."

Try as he might, Harry couldn't deny the truth in some of her words. "Part of me knows that, but..." He thought for a few seconds, then looked at her, still pained. "I know I can try to do that, and I think I will eventually, but the problem is... when I blame myself for what happened, there's at least some truth in it. You said it's part of life, and you may be right, but it's still my fault. It's more my fault than you know, in fact..." He trailed off and saw that she was waiting for him to finish the sentence, but being patient, knowing it was hard for him.

"When I was having those dreams, I wanted them to continue," he admitted. "I knew Professor Dumbledore wanted me to learn Occlumency so I wouldn't have them, but I wanted to keep having them anyway, I wanted to know what was behind the door I kept seeing, it was like I needed to know. I imagine that's part of what Voldemort had in mind. But the point is, I knew what I was supposed to do, and I didn't even try to do it, I did the opposite. No reason, just that it was what I wanted to do, so I did it. And look what happened."

She looked at him very sadly. "That still doesn't make it your fault," she said. "You had no way of knowing the dreams were deliberate, nobody warned you about it. They, Dumbledore, gave you way too little information. He told you what to do, but not why to do it, which is also important. If he had-"

He shot her an angry look. "I'm not going to blame him. It wasn't his fault."

"I'm not saying it was, Harry, really," she said, still sad in the face of his anger. "Just that there were all kinds of things that factored into it. You did what you thought was right with the information you had, and it's really understandable that you'd want to know what was behind the door. You can't blame yourself."

Harry's anger had faded, replaced by guilt and sadness. He suddenly felt as though he needed to get off his chest what had preoccupied him for the past month, alone on his bed on Privet Drive. "Yes, I can... I have, a lot. I've thought about this so much, trying to think of what I should have done differently. I feel like what it all comes down to is that I just acted on whatever I felt, didn't think first. Not only when I got the vision of Sirius being tortured, but other things... attacking Malfoy after the Quidditch match, talking back to Umbridge when I would have been better off keeping my mouth shut... not to mention yelling at you and Ron so much." He looked up at her with a very small smile, wanting to apologize without actually saying the words.

She nodded her appreciation. "It wasn't that bad."

Harry wondered whether she meant it, or was just trying to be nice. "Anyway, I just can't be doing that anymore. What if I lose my temper, do something stupid, and you die, or Ron, or Ginny... I just can't let that happen." He looked at her with a very serious expression, unconsciously conveying how much he worried about it. "I need to control myself, I need to think before I do things. I need to grow up, basically. I'm sixteen, I'll be an adult in a year. I need to act like one, not like a spoiled kid who throws a fit every time something doesn't go his way."

"That's not how you've been acting," she said forcefully. "You've had so much stress in your life, it's really understandable that you might react to things like you have recently. I'm sure most people wouldn't have done as well as you've done with what life's thrown at you."

He thought for a few seconds. "Who knows, maybe you're right. But all I know is, I can't afford to do that anymore. I mean... what if next year, I'm sitting with Ron or Ginny, saying, if only I'd kept my head, Hermione would still be here... I need to do better."

Again, she looked at him with great sympathy. "You will, Harry, I'm sure. Don't worry, nothing's going to happen to me. I know it almost did last month, but I really think that's not going to happen again. Don't ask me why, I just don't think it will."

"I really hope you're right," he said after another pause. "And thanks... I appreciate your talking to me about it. I feel a bit better. Which is strange, because I'm not sure I feel less bad about how I acted, or less responsible for Sirius... I don't know exactly what it is I feel better about."

She nodded. "I know what you mean. It helps just to talk, Harry, if something's really bothering you. Even if nothing can really be done or changed immediately, it feels better to have talked about it. You've never been the kind of person to do that all that much, a lot of times you've just kept things bottled up. But talking is better. And if you can get things out of your system, you might find it easier to stay in control like you want to, not lose your temper so much."

"I wouldn't know," he admitted. "But maybe you would, so I should listen. Talking about that kind of thing isn't exactly what I'd think of doing. But I'll try." He paused. "I kind of wish I could have had this conversation with you before we went home from Hogwarts. It would have helped over the past month."

She shook her head. "It was way too soon. The wound was so fresh, you were in such pain, you couldn't have separated your emotions from the situation, even for a short time. But that's natural. I mean, if you were killed saving me, do you think I'd be able to not blame myself, even though I know rationally that it really wasn't my fault? No way. I'd cry and wail and beat on things and curse myself for ever having been born so you wouldn't have had to die saving me. It would all be irrational and I would know it but I would feel it anyway. It's part of being human."

"When you say that," Harry said, "the first thing I think is that I wouldn't want you to wish you had never been born, and then I realize that the fact that it's the first thing I think just proves your point. It emphasizes that you're right, that Sirius wouldn't have wanted me to beat myself up all summer. He would have wanted me to remember him fondly and have as happy a life as I could. It's just kind of hard."

She nodded, then after a moment, said, "By the way, are you hungry at all? I've been here for a few hours now, and I could use some food."

"Yeah, it's been a while for me, too, sounds good. I haven't had anything since my birthday cake this morning. Mrs. Weasley sent it to me," he explained. He knew that Hermione knew that the Dursleys were highly unlikely to even recognize his birthday, much less do anything nice for him.

"That was very nice of her," Hermione said as they got up and started walking.

"It sure was," Harry agreed. "Also, it was pumpkin, so it's kind of more substantial, which is important when I'm at the Dursleys'." The topic of his food situation while living with the Dursleys took them into the kitchens, where they started looking around for house-elves to help them. They did not have to look for long.

"Harry Potter!" a voice shouted, and it was obvious to Harry who it was. Dobby ran up to him and hugged him around the waist. "Dobby is so happy to see Harry Potter! Harry Potter is great and brave, and will make an excellent teacher!"

Harry looked down at Dobby, startled. "How in the world did you know that? I only found out a little while ago!"

Dobby smiled. "House-elves is hearing many things, Harry Potter. Professors is talking where house-elves can hear, and they doesn't care, for they knows that house-elves is keeping their secrets." His smile grew even wider. "But this is not a secret, for of course Harry Potter knows about it. Hogwarts is very lucky to have Harry Potter."

Though he was used to hearing Dobby talk about him in the most outlandishly superlative terms, Harry still blushed. Hermione said, "Yes, that's true, Dobby, it really is," still trying to bolster Harry's confidence.

"Miss Hermione Granger, who is trying to free all the house-elves as Harry Potter has freed Dobby," Dobby said suddenly, favoring Hermione with a fervently admiring look. "Dobby is sad that house-elves does not appreciate Hermione Granger's help. They does not deserve such a kind and generous champion. How could Hermione Granger be anything else, though, being such a great friend of Harry Potter's? Hermione Granger is not only very clever-Dobby has overheard many teachers say so-but also virtuous and wise and compassionate."

Now it was Hermione's turn to blush. Harry smiled mischievously, enjoying her embarrassment, and said, "Yes, that's true, Dobby, it really is," parroting Hermione's most recent words. She gave Harry an annoyed look and blushed even more.

Dobby beamed. "Dobby would be honored to get some food, if you is hungry."

"Yes, that would be great, Dobby, thanks." Harry said. Dobby sped off.

Still smiling, Harry turned to Hermione. "You know, I think Dobby forgot to mention some of your good qualities. You are all those things he said, of course, but there's plenty more. For example-"

"Oh, shut up," she said, trying to look stern, but unable to help smiling. "He really does go overboard, doesn't he?"

Harry nodded. "You should have seen him that Christmas when Ron gave him the sweater his mother always makes. It was nothing to Ron, but Dobby was ready to canonize Ron on the spot." He paused. "Of course, living with the Malfoys all those years, you might think of the smallest act of kindness as a big, big deal."

Dobby ran back up to them. "The other house-elves is getting your food together." After a second's pause, he said, "Dobby has heard that Harry Potter again faced He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and again lived to tell of it." He had an unmistakably awed expression.

"Yeah, well... not everyone who was there that night lived to tell of it," Harry said somberly. "I wouldn't have lived if Dumbledore hadn't been there to save me."

"Professor Dumbledore is a great wizard," Dobby agreed, nodding. "But Harry Potter is still brave and noble. Dobby has been telling the other house-elves about Harry Potter's bravery."

"Why, Dobby?" Hermione asked curiously. "Are they interested?"

"No, they isn't, not really," Dobby admitted. "But Dobby wants to persuade the other house-elves to oppose He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Dobby is hoping Harry Potter's bravery will inspire them."

"Wouldn't they oppose him anyway?" Hermione asked.

"They doesn't like him, of course," Dobby explained, "but they thinks it isn't their business. They says that house-elves is only thinking of serving their masters, not getting involved in things outside their houses."

"But if Voldemort-" Harry started, but Dobby flinched badly, as though burned. "I'm sorry, Dobby, but I'm going to say his name. Professor Dumbledore told me I should. Besides, how can we fight him if we're not even brave enough to say his name?"

Dobby nodded, but looked miserable. "Dobby is sorry, sir. But Dobby is not nearly as brave as Harry Potter."

"I think you will be, Dobby, when you have to be," Harry assured him. Dobby straightened up proudly.

"Anyway," Harry continued, "I was saying that if he were to take over, some of their families would be killed, and they would either be killed or have to live with evil masters, like you used to. Doesn't that matter to them?"

Dobby's head bobbed up and down. "Of course Harry Potter is right. Dobby is trying to explain this to them. But house-elves is not used to thinking about anything outside their home. Even to think about it is hard for them. Dobby must be patient. But it may be difficult, since Dobby is wearing clothes and getting paid, they thinks his ideas is strange, and they doesn't want to listen to him."

Just then, two house-elves rushed up with plates full of food and flasks of pumpkin juice, and presented them to Harry and Hermione. They bowed, as did Dobby, who said, "Thank you for seeing Dobby, sir and ma'am! You is most kind!"

Harry and Hermione said good-bye and left the kitchens, heading for the Great Hall, where the students normally ate. "Funny," Harry commented, "how Dobby has this way of making me feel guilty when he praises and compliments me for doing something I didn't even intend to do in the first place. I mean, we went to get food, not to see Dobby, but as far as he's concerned, we honored him and paid him a huge compliment."

She nodded, and thought for a few seconds. "You know, after we graduate and you get your own place, he'd probably love to be your personal house-elf. He'd think it was the greatest job in the world."

Harry had never thought of that. He wondered if it was possible, and how he'd feel about having a house-elf.

Harry and Hermione had a long lunch, eating and talking well into the afternoon. Not only was it great for Harry to see Hermione again, but she kept trying to provide moral support to overcome his nervousness about becoming a teacher. With her help, he was starting to get used to the idea, and he was even looking forward to reading more of the book she got him for his birthday. He thought the more he read it, the more comfortable he'd be. She cautioned him that while she should take ideas from it that he liked, he shouldn't do anything from it that he was uncomfortable with. By the time they finished, he felt a lot better, and he told her so.

"Thanks, Harry," she said, obviously pleased. "I'm really glad I could help."

"Me, too," he said. "I just wish I could help you more with the O.W.L. thing."

"You've done what you can," she assured him. "I'll do a little more research today before I go home, then I'll just have to wrestle with my conscience over the rest of the summer. Can I walk you back to Professor Dumbledore's office?"

"Yeah, sure," said Harry. "We just have to stop by Professor McGonagall's office first, she's supposed to escort me there." They headed in that direction.

"So, you are ready to go home?" asked McGonagall when they arrived at her office.

"Yes, I am," answered Harry, and the three of them set off to Dumbledore's office.

She noticed that Harry seemed a bit jauntier than before. "Feeling any better?" she asked.

"Yes, thanks," Harry replied. "Talking about it with Hermione has helped. It doesn't seem quite so impossible now."

As they came within sight of the gargoyles which guarded the headmaster's office, Harry saw Dumbledore and Professor Snape leaving Dumbledore's office and heading in their direction. This ought to be good, Harry thought wryly. At least Snape can't be as horrible to me as he'd like, with Dumbledore and McGonagall around.

"Ah! Professor McGonagall! Harry! Hermione!" Dumbledore exclaimed in cheerful greeting. Harry made eye contact with Snape, who seemed to be trying to put up the most polite expression he could, but still looked as though he smelled something truly foul.

"Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape," greeted McGonagall cordially. Harry and Hermione nodded to both.

"Ah, yes, Severus, this gives me a chance to introduce to you the newest member of our faculty," Dumbledore said.

Harry concentrated on keeping his face blank. No smiling, no nothing.

Snape looked around in obvious confusion. "Headmaster? I don't understand. I see only the five of us."

"Yes, indeed," said Dumbledore agreeably. "I have prevailed upon Mr. Potter to accept the post of Hogwarts' Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor."

There was silence for about five seconds; it seemed that everyone was waiting for Snape's reaction. Snape's face was blank, as though trying to process information that would not compute. Finally, he said, "I'm sorry, Headmaster, I must not have heard you properly. Would you say that again, please?"

Dumbledore chuckled. "You know, Severus, that was exactly how Harry reacted when I asked him to take the job, almost word for word."

Snape was so astounded he wasn't even looking nastily at Harry. "Headmaster... surely, this is... unprecedented..." His expression left little doubt but that he thought this was a very bad idea, but with Dumbledore, he would only go so far.

Dumbledore continued smiling. "Again, exactly what Harry said earlier. Harry brought up six specific objections to my request. It is not like him to be so... disagreeable," he said, glancing at Harry in such a way as to make sure Harry knew he wasn't serious. "Fortunately, in the end, he reluctantly acceded to my request, for which I thank you again, Harry," Dumbledore said, looking at Harry benignly. "I know you did not want this."

Harry's mind raced. Oh, I see what he's doing, Harry thought. He's making sure Snape knows that I didn't want this, so Snape can't claim later to me or anyone that I somehow connived or tricked Dumbledore into giving me a privilege I didn't deserve. He's making sure that he's the target of Snape's wrath, if there is any. Well, it is true, and better him than me-at least Snape won't be nasty and vicious with him.

"And, wouldn't have imagined it in a million years," Harry affirmed vigorously and truthfully. "All I can say is, I'll do my best."

"And we can ask no more than that," Dumbledore said kindly. "Well, Professor Snape and I must be moving along. Harry, Hermione, I hope you have pleasant summers indeed. Minerva, I will be seeing you later. Come along, Severus."

Dumbledore gently guided Snape away, Snape still speechless. Harry felt that Snape was looking at Dumbledore as though he were truly concerned for Dumbledore's mental well-being.

"Well, that wasn't so bad," Hermione commented to Harry. "It was very good of Professor Dumbledore to do that, to try to direct Professor Snape's anger away from you."

"Yes, it was, but it won't work in the long run," said Harry. "No matter what Professor Dumbledore says, next time I'm alone with him or even in a class..." He trailed off, feeling the rest of the sentence was obvious.

Hermione finished it anyway. "...he'll be really nasty and make all kinds of insinuations or outright slanders, I know."

McGonagall's eyes went wide. "Miss Granger, you are talking about a Hogwarts professor! You will speak with the proper respect!"

Hermione looked at McGonagall earnestly. "Professor, I respect you, and I'll do as you ask, for your sake. But I've been in classes with Harry for five years, and I've seen him treat Harry so badly, for so long, for so little reason, that it's very hard to think of him with any respect. He takes shots at me, too, but I'm always raising my hand and drawing attention to myself. Harry never does, but Snape singles out Harry anyway. Ask any Gryffindor fifth year, they'll tell you."

Harry said nothing; he didn't know whether Hermione's outburst would do any good, but he appreciated the impulse behind it.

McGonagall stared at Hermione for a few seconds, then headed towards Dumbledore's office, her face impassive, Harry and Hermione following. Harry took this to mean that she had nothing more to say on the topic. He had never seen a student be as frank with McGonagall as Hermione had just been, and he suspected that it was only McGonagall's respect for Hermione that stopped her from admonishing Hermione further.

They entered Dumbledore's office, and McGonagall gestured toward the cat figure on Dumbledore's desk. Harry said goodbye to McGonagall and Hermione, thanking the latter again for the book. He then grasped the Portkey to return to his other, less preferred world.

Author notes: Soon, in Chapter 3: A confrontation on Privet Drive involving Harry, Malfoy, and Dudley pulls the Dursleys closer to the world of magic than they had imagined would ever happen.