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 07

Chapter Summary:
Harry heads off to Hogwarts two days earlier than usual for orientation for his new position, including a private dinner with Dumbledore, and a staff meeting at which he must confront a hostile (as usual) Snape. He also has a dream, sent by Voldemort--accidentally, or intentionally?

Chapter 7

Back To Hogwarts

Harry stepped out of the fireplace and was greeted by Professor McGonagall. "Welcome, Professor Potter," she said, with a smile in her eyes that did not extend to her mouth. Harry was not bothered; he was well used to her undemonstrative nature. She shook his hand, and gestured him out of the room. They exited to find themselves in the main room of the Hogsmeade Owl Office, where over a hundred owls stood ready to make deliveries.

Harry looked around. He had been in this room before on a previous Hogsmeade visit, but not in the room with the fireplace. "Professor, why doesn't this fireplace get used more? Wouldn't it be a lot faster than the Hogwarts Express?" They walked out onto the main street of Hogsmeade, towards the Hogwarts gates.

"Yes, it would, but the Hogwarts Express has been running virtually since the invention of the train," she explained. "It is a tradition we would not like to lose. It gives the students a chance to renew acquaintances and catch up on news. Also, the Owl Office is not affiliated with Hogwarts, and so we cannot just use it any time we please. We request its use for teachers for whom Apparation is not suitable and other unusual situations." She paused. "Such as a teacher who is not yet old enough to Apparate." He was almost sure he saw a small smile there.

"Professor, how is it going to work with me being a teacher, dealing with the other teachers? I mean, you always refer to each other as 'Professor' when mentioning them to a student, or when talking to each other, unless you're on a first-name basis. How is that going to work with me?" He had been wondering about that for a while.

"Just the same as with any other professor, except when you are actually in classes as a student," she replied. "At those times, you will be treated no differently than any other student, with one exception. You will not be given detentions." Harry looked at her, surprised. "Professor Dumbledore," she continued, "feels that to do so could undermine your authority at the times you are teaching. He will inform you later of the standard of behavior he expects in return for this consideration." Her tone added the message of, 'and if you don't adhere to this standard, you're going to have to answer to me,'

"Basically," Harry guessed, "that I don't do anything that would ordinarily get me given detention?"

"To start with, yes," she answered sternly. "Generally, in my classes you have behaved satisfactorily, though not ideally, so I foresee no problems. But I would personally recommend that you behave as a student in the same way that you would like students in your classes to behave. You will soon find out what it looks like from our side of the fence.

"Now to get back to your question, when not in classes as a student, you will be treated exactly as an ordinary professor would. Other professors will refer to you, in or out of your presence, as "Professor Potter," unless they feel they have your permission to use your given name. If someone does whom you would prefer not to, simply say, 'Professor Potter, if you please,' and they will comply with your wishes."

"I'll believe that when I see it," Harry said. At McGonagall's sharp look, he added, "You know who I mean, Professor. I'll be surprised if he doesn't gag."

"Did I mention, Professor Potter, that we do not criticize fellow professors?"

Harry sighed. "Professor Dumbledore did," he admitted. "Well, I suppose I can do it if he can."

Her face still registered disapproval. "You will do it unconditionally, regardless of the behavior of others. If any teacher steps outside the bounds of appropriate behavior, they will be spoken to by Professor Dumbledore or myself. Most teachers have no difficulty with this. I do not expect that you will either."

"No, Professor, I didn't think I would. It's the teachers who have to do things differently, not me."

They were walking through the Hogwarts gates, Harry still carrying his extra-light trunk over his shoulder. He looked around at all the familiar sights, highlighted by a bright, clear summer day: the lake with the squid, the Whomping Willow, the Quidditch pitch off in the distance, and of course the castle. As they passed Hagrid's hut, McGonagall shouted, "Hagrid! Are you in there?"

From inside the hut, Harry heard a dog barking, and Hagrid shouting "Jus' a minute, jus' a minute." In a few seconds, he came out, saw Harry, and grinned broadly. "Good ter see yeh, good ter see yeh." He patted Harry on the back more lightly than usual; Harry did not go flying forward as he had expected. Harry reached up and patted him on the back; even though Harry had grown a bit over the two summer months, he couldn't come close to reaching Hagrid's shoulder. "A professor! Well, Harry, I got ter say, nothin' yeh do surprises me anymore. I'm as proud of yeh as I was fer myself when Professor Dumbledore made me a teacher. Congratulations."

"Thanks, Hagrid," said Harry. "I'm looking forward to taking your N.E.W.T. class. I bet you'll have some good stuff lined up."

"I will, don't yeh worry. Now, yeh'd better be movin' along there, yeh've got lots ter be doin' today. I'll find yeh when yer not so busy, we'll have a cuppa."

"Good. See you later," Harry said cheerfully. He continued walking toward the castle with McGonagall. "It's good to see him here, like always," Harry commented. "Last year when he wasn't here, we were pretty concerned. It doesn't feel quite right if he's not around."

"I know what you mean, Harry... I'm sorry, I really should say, Professor Potter..." She paused for a second, and Harry jumped in, hoping not to interrupt.

"Professor, please... I don't plan on calling any teachers by their given name... except Hagrid, of course... but I still want you and Professor Dumbledore to call me Harry if you'd like. It really wouldn't seem right otherwise."

She looked at him with what could be affection, but Harry found it hard to tell. "Very well, I shall keep that in mind."

They walked up the steps to the main entrance of the castle, and went inside. As it had during his Hogwarts visit a month ago, it seemed too barren to Harry, too in need of students walking and running in the hallways. They'll be here soon enough, he thought. And then they'll be expecting me to teach them.

McGonagall led him to her office. "I always meet with the new teacher first; conducting orientation is one of my responsibilities as deputy Headmistress. This meeting is to let you know what you will be doing over the next two days." She went on to detail them: "There will be a meeting with me to discuss school regulations and the teacher's general responsibilities, a tour of the grounds, a talk with Professor Dumbledore and I about how you plan to approach your classes, then a private dinner with Professor Dumbledore. Tomorrow, there will be a staff meeting in the afternoon, and a staff feast and social event after dinner. On Sunday, your time will be your own until 6:00, when you will join us at the teachers' table for the students' welcoming feast. Do you have any questions so far?"

Harry shook his head, but he was reeling a bit. A private dinner with Professor Dumbledore? All this seemed so foreign to him, like what someone else should be doing, not him. All he could do, he thought, was go with it, and hope that Dumbledore knew what he was doing.

The first meeting went all right, Harry felt. Professor McGonagall had explained some of the teachers' extracurricular responsibilities, such as occasionally patrolling the grounds and supervising detentions, but explained to Harry that he would be excused from most of them, as he had his studies to attend to. She told him that he would have the usual teachers' prerogatives of assigning detention and taking points from the houses of offenders, not only in his classes, but anywhere in the school except when he was in a class as a student or in Gryffindor Tower. She went over the school rules with him-just for form's sake, as he already knew most of them ("having broken quite a few of them yourself," she added).

They then walked the grounds, but mainly just chatted, as again there was not much that Harry had to be told that he did not know. He enjoyed the walk, as it was a nice day. Hagrid joined them for part of it, giving his perspective on the familiar sights.

Back at the castle, Harry went to Gryffindor Tower to unpack his trunk, which a house-elf had undoubtedly taken from where he had left it in McGonagall's office. She had told him that normally she would be showing the new teacher his quarters, but she and Dumbledore knew that Harry would want to stay in his usual Gryffindor quarters, so he went there instead. It felt strange, again, being in the room he had shared for five years with Ron, Neville, Dean, and Seamus, but alone this time. He unpacked his things and flipped through the book he'd gotten from Hermione, reviewing his tentative plans for his classes. At a few minutes before four, he went to Professor McGonagall's office, carrying the book with him. He and McGonagall then set out to Professor Dumbledore's office.

She paused when they reached the gargoyles that guarded Dumbledore's office. "Lemon drop," she said, and they were allowed to pass. The door to Dumbledore's office was open; he was obviously waiting for them.

"Minerva, Harry, come in," said Dumbledore cheerfully. He motioned them to sit down, then did so himself. "Well, Harry, first of all, please tell us what you have in mind for your classes. You need not be overly detailed. For now, we wish to know how you are generally thinking."

Harry took a deep breath before starting. "Well, I was planning on using this book," he said, holding it up to show them, "as a very general guide as to what to teach at what time. But I also wanted to ask for advice from both of you."

McGonagall looked at Dumbledore, then Harry, in dismay. "The school could have provided you with a copy of that book. You need not have purchased it for yourself," she said.

"I didn't. Hermione bought it for me for my birthday," he explained.

McGonagall and Dumbledore looked mildly surprised. "Quite a gift," she commented. "That book is not inexpensive."

"I didn't know that," Harry said, slightly surprised. "Well, you know Hermione, nothing's too good when it comes to study."

"Or her friends, it appears," observed Dumbledore. "In any case, yes, Harry, that is a good place to start. What general modifications do you plan to make?"

Harry had thought about this. "I'm thinking in kind of the same way as I did with the D.A.," he said. "Since Voldemort and the Death Eaters are out there, the first thing I want to do is work on the stuff that'll have value against them. So I'll be emphasizing those things and not doing so much on stuff like grindylows, which are on the O.W.L. but aren't really relevant to our situation." He looked at them, waiting to see what they thought.

Dumbledore nodded his approval. "Excellent, Harry," he said. "That is exactly how I hoped you would see it. We are in a difficult time, and so the lessons should be more of a practical nature."

Harry smiled, and related to them Ron's joke in Diagon Alley about Harry's teaching to his expertise of surviving dangerous situations, and Mrs. Weasley's reaction.

Dumbledore nodded. "It is understandable that Molly would think it inappropriate, but Ron was exactly right. I did not choose you as a teacher for your encyclopedic knowledge of everything that might be encountered on an O.W.L. test. You have demonstrated the ability to use these spells in difficult situations, and last year you demonstrated the ability to teach them. Now, have you thought about how you plan to conduct your classes in general? For example, more practice or more lecture, and so forth."

That was easy. "Much more practice, much less lecture," said Harry confidently. "I'm not sure what I would have to say, anyway; as you said, I'm not an expert on most of this. I guess that most of the lesson time will be taken by practice."

"That sounds entirely reasonable," Dumbledore agreed. "But if I may make a suggestion..."

Harry nodded eagerly. Dumbledore continued, "When it is appropriate, you may want to consider occasionally talking about the situations in which you have used some of what you will be teaching them. Tell them about Voldemort. Tell them about dementors; the third years and younger students may never have seen them. If you are comfortable with it, using your personal experiences to illustrate what you are teaching may have a great motivational effect."

Harry considered it; it was not an idea he immediately took to. Talking to strangers about very personal experiences was not something he was keen on; giving the interview to the Quibbler in February had been difficult. But he was prepared to take anything Dumbledore suggested very seriously.

"I hadn't thought of doing that," he said. "But I guess I can see what you mean. When we had that meeting in the Hog's Head last year, I wondered if people had just showed up to find out about what happened last June, and they were pretty impressed when Ron and Hermione were telling them about all the stuff I'd done. I mean, to be honest, it's not something I'm exactly eager to do. But I will... as I think about it, telling them about Voldemort, maybe even spending a whole lesson on it, is probably a good idea," he continued, now thinking out loud. "Half of them will jump out of their chairs when I say the name, but if they start hearing it enough, they'll get used to it... probably most students have this exaggerated fear because of all this business about the name."

"Quite so, Harry. I'm glad you see that," said Dumbledore. "This could be very valuable to the students. Ironically, the fact that you are not eager to do so makes you all the more qualified. It will be obvious that you are not attempting self-aggrandizement." To Harry's puzzled look, McGonagall supplied, "People will know you are not boasting."

"Ah, yes," said Harry, embarrassed that he hadn't known that word. "Okay, well, when I can find a time that seems good, I'll try to do that."

"Good. Thank you, Harry," said Dumbledore. "Now, let's look for any possible lessons in which you might need special supplies, so we can get them for you in advance."

"Oh, wait, there's one other thing I wanted to mention," said Harry. "I know this is usually N.E.W.T. standard, but I'd like to teach the Patronus Charm, or at least try to, to third through fifth years. I know not everybody will get it, but the chances of anyone having to defend themselves against dementors is much higher these days. So I thought that would be a good idea. A fair number of people in the D.A. managed a Patronus before we got caught."

"Of course, Harry, you may do so. To be clear, this chat we are having is not so that we can control and micromanage how you teach your class. You do not have to clear things with us; you may do as you like in your class. We simply wish to know what you plan to do. We would not be doing our jobs if we did not," Dumbledore said.

Harry nodded, then had a thought, and asked a question which he might not have had he thought about it more. "Professor, did you have a chat like this with Dolores Umbridge?"

McGonagall bristled. "Professor Potter, that is a matter far removed from the purpose of-"

"Minerva," Dumbledore interrupted. She looked at him in surprise; it seemed to Harry that Dumbledore must not have often interrupted her. "Harry suffered sufficiently last year to deserve an answer to his question."

"Suffered?" She looked puzzled, because she knew Dumbledore wouldn't have said what he said without good reason. "Being thrown off the Quidditch team and having three weeks' worth of detentions is unpleasant, I agree, but 'suffer' seems too strong a word for it."

"Minerva, do you recall that before Professor Umbridge left us this year, I had a chat with her, in which she was most forthcoming with truthful answers?" Harry wondered how Dumbledore had managed that, and realized that there was still a lot he didn't know about Dumbledore's abilities.

"Of course, we discussed that. Why?"

"Because she told me what she had Harry doing in those detentions." He then described the pen she had made Harry use to write lines, and how it worked.

McGonagall's mouth dropped open. She stared at Harry, horrified and astonished. Her mouth moved, but no sound came out for a few seconds. Finally, she managed, "Why... why on earth did you not come to me and tell me this? I would have put a stop to it even if it meant having to restrain her physically!"

Harry had a determined look on his face; he was remembering those detentions, and the effort it took to endure the pain and not show it. Dumbledore was regarding him seriously. "If you have been watching Harry's face for the past few seconds, Minerva, the reason should be apparent."

She stared at him more intently; he saw realization dawn in her eyes. "It was a battle of wills... you didn't want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she got to you." She was still amazed, but now for a different reason.

"That was the main reason," Harry confirmed. "The other reason was... Ron told me to go to you, that you'd stop it. I said, yeah, but how long until there's another 'educational decree' that says you get sacked for criticizing her? It just wasn't going to do any good in the long run. But, yes, even if I thought you could have stopped it, I wouldn't have done it." Harry wondered, looking at her face, whether he had been brave, stubborn, or just stupid. All he knew was that it had seemed very important at the time.

"I think," Dumbledore said, "that nobody who knows about this would ever question Harry's toughness. And that is why I feel that Harry deserves an answer to his question. But I think the larger question you have in mind, Harry, is how did things come to pass that she was forced on us in the first place?" Harry nodded. "The fact is that I was outmaneuvered bureaucratically and politically; I did not foresee that particular line of attack. No doubt I should have, and I am sorry that you and others have suffered for it. Once she was in, there was little we could do. It was also true that a few people I approached about the position declined, and we later understood that they were pressured by the Ministry to do so

"Now, to answer your actual question, yes, we did have this chat with her. She told us exactly what she planned to do, which was exactly what she did in fact do. We expressed our concerns; she was adamant, and made sure we knew that her plan had the Ministry's support. We recognized the limits of our power, and made no attempts to press her further. Trying to force her to do as we wished would have failed-you cannot make someone be an effective teacher-and would certainly have prompted further Ministry action, a rationale you will note is similar to what you mentioned a moment ago. Sometimes we must allow something bad to happen so that something worse does not happen later."

Harry understood, and said so. "It was a pretty hard year."

"For us, too, Harry," McGonagall said. "We were not physically tormented in the manner that you were, but the teachers were under siege last year. We could not speak freely in the staff room, and those 'observations...'" She shook her head in disgust at the memory.

That prompted a memory, and Harry smiled; he told McGonagall what satisfaction all the Gryffindors had derived from her treatment of Umbridge when her class was observed. Dumbledore smiled, as did McGonagall, though a small one. "We'd seen her push around so many teachers, it was so great to see. It made us feel better."

"Well, now that the Ministry has its attention more properly focused on Voldemort, we are once again being left alone," said Dumbledore, more or less closing the subject. "We may have challenges this year, but they will be different challenges."

The conversation went back to teaching. Dumbledore and McGonagall gave Harry some tips based on their years of experience. After about an hour, they stopped, and Harry followed Dumbledore to his quarters, where they would have dinner.

Harry walked into one of the few rooms at Hogwarts in which he had never been before. Dumbledore's quarters were larger than Harry expected, with a spacious living room, a study area, and a bedroom. Dumbledore offered Harry a seat in a very comfortable old chair, and sat down on a nearby chair himself.

"So, Harry, how are you feeling about things now?" Dumbledore asked.

"Very strange," Harry said honestly. "Like I'm not where I'm supposed to be. If this was a dream, someone would walk in and discover that I'm just pretending, and I'd be thrown out."

Dumbledore smiled. "Be assured that if anyone comes through the door, it will be a house-elf bringing our dinner. But I know what you mean. The feeling will subside. You will adapt to it, and in a few months, perhaps you will be thinking that being a student is harder than being a teacher."

Harry chuckled lightly, and said, "I hope you're right. That would be nice."

Harry took the opportunity to ask some questions about Hogwarts history; he discovered that Dumbledore had been headmaster for forty-one years, the longest tenure ever. Dumbledore told Harry stories about teachers who had long since gone. Harry was fascinated. He told Dumbledore that he wished there was a class called 'History of Hogwarts,' and that Dumbledore taught it.

"If there were such a course, Harry, then there would have to be a test for it. You would find that stories can be a lot less interesting if you know you will be tested on them. You start looking for the trees, and lose view of the forest."

"Wouldn't that be true of any class?" Harry wondered.

"To an extent, yes," Dumbledore conceded. "But the class you propose would have no value other than entertainment, so testing would ruin it. I'm sure you have noticed that very few of your actual classes could be called entertaining."

Harry grinned. "Well, a few, maybe. The one in third year where Neville put his grandmother's clothes on a boggart pretending to be Professor Snape comes to mind."

"Yes, I heard about that," said Dumbledore. "I believe that Professor Snape was... displeased."

"That's putting it mildly," Harry said, not noticing Dumbledore's deliberate understatement. "He made Neville's life in Potions really difficult for the next few months. Even treated him worse that he treats me, for a while." Harry paused, wanting to ask Dumbledore a question but not sure if he should. He decided to go ahead.

"Professor, were you told the reason that Sn- sorry, that Professor Snape stopped teaching me Occlumency last year?"

"Yes, I was told. Why do you ask?"

"Well... first of all, I shouldn't have looked in the Pensieve. It was a huge temptation, but I still shouldn't have done it, and I know that." He paused, about to continue, but Dumbledore commented first.

"I do not judge you harshly for that, Harry. In fact, I do not judge you at all." At Harry's very surprised look, Dumbledore continued: "I feel that Professor Snape should not have tried to protect his memories by placing them in the Pensieve. It made the situation even more unbalanced in his favor than it already was. He could gain access to your most personal memories without risking his. This is part of the reason that I suspect his motives for using the methods he did. In any case, do continue."

"Well, I saw what my father did to him, and I hated it. My father behaved like a bully. Even if I assume, as Sirius said, that Professor Snape gave as good as he got, I can understand why Snape hated him. But what I'd like to know is, why did he hate me, from the very first? Why blame me for what my father did? I've never understood that."

Dumbledore looked thoughtful. "I would say first that the fact that your father died a hero has a lot to do with it, as does your instant, and to his eyes unearned, celebrity. I daresay that if your father had died a random and anonymous death, and you were unknown... he might not be pleasant toward you, but it would not be as it is now. I believe he feels that James Potter was posthumously lionized in a way that obscured his true nature, and especially since you look so much like James and have many of his abilities, it is easy for him to transfer those feelings to you. You give him, in essence, a second chance to get even with James Potter somehow."

Harry was still not sure he understood how this could drive Snape's behavior, but it did make sense in some ways. But something Dumbledore had said is passing bothered him more. "Do you think that being a bully was my father's true nature?"

"No, of course not," Dumbledore assured him. "He could be arrogant, even bullying, to his enemies, but there was nothing he would not have done for his friends. Look at what he and his friends did for Remus. It is the sort of thing that you, Ron, or Hermione would do for each other. As Sirius told you, he grew out of the sort of behavior that you saw in the Pensieve. The person he became is the important thing, and he became a good, brave, and honorable person. You have nothing to be ashamed of, though in a way it speaks well of you that you are."

"I know I'm not like he was in that way. I don't go out of my way to look for opportunities to harass Malfoy, for example. If he leaves me alone, I leave him alone. Does Professor Snape really not see that? Is it so important to him to see me as my father that he can ignore reality?"

"Again, Harry, I cannot say, but I do know that it is in the nature of many people to ignore a reality that does not suit them. You need look no further than Cornelius Fudge's behavior over much of the past year. Deep down he knew perfectly well that Voldemort was back, but he seized on the fact that he had not seen Voldemort with his own eyes as an excuse to avoid dealing with what he did not wish to. It happens all the time, and none of us is immune to the temptation. One of the great personal challenges we all face is facing up to unpleasant realities."

Harry pondered this. Resignedly, he said, "I guess I shouldn't complain. I got a lot of good things from my parents. If I picked up an enemy from them, well, that's life, I guess."

"I would not describe Professor Snape as an enemy. Perhaps you are that to him, in his mind, but he need not be that to you. Assigning him that role only solidifies it in the reality that he is attempting to create. I would describe him as a person who is trying to do what he feels is right-he is, as you know, a member of the Order of the Phoenix-but is very wounded in some ways. He is trying to cope with those wounds, but does not prioritize the ones associated with your father. Instead, he is venting the pain from those wounds onto you.

"Let me give you some advice. You may take it or leave it as you choose, but for your own sake I hope you will take it. I encourage you to make this a project, one for your emotional health and development. Forgive Professor Snape. When he treats you badly, do not respond in kind; remember that he is wounded, and have as much compassion for him as you can summon. Try to let his hostility roll off you; use the Occlumency training from this summer to aid you in clearing your mind. Do not respond to his challenges or provocations. Do not judge the success of your endeavors by changes in his behavior; what you are doing, you will do for yourself, not for him. The better you can manage it, the more you will benefit. This may not seem obvious, but I assure you, it is true. It will require a good heart, which I know you have. It will also require emotional control and patience, which you can learn, and are vitally important to success later in life. I have done my best to embody these traits, and any success or regard I have gained is largely due to what mastery I have achieved in this area. In addition, practice in this area will help you keep emotional control in other instances, for example, any future confrontations with Voldemort."

Harry was having a hard time digesting this. Forgive Snape, even after Dumbledore knew how Snape had used Harry for a mental punching bag over the past year? After how terribly Snape had treated him? It didn't seem possible. But then, Harry thought, this is Dumbledore. I admire him for his power, but even more for his manner, his tranquility, that things never get to him. Is this how? Is it because he's mastered what he's saying I should work on? This, and Dumbledore's last sentence, made Harry think of a question.

"Professor, in June, I was amazed that you kept so calm when you confronted Voldemort. You didn't seem nervous or angry. I've seen you angry, but you weren't then. Is this a part of what you're talking about?"

"It is related, yes. It is important to maintain emotional control in dealing with anyone, but Voldemort in particular. He feeds off anger. It strengthens him and undermines you. You could give him no better gift than to deal with him in anger. Emotional control gives you the power to deprive him of a weapon he can use against you."

The door to Dumbledore's quarters opened, and three house-elves walked in, carrying trays, plates, silverware, and glasses. They set Dumbledore's table and placed the food and drink on it. Dumbledore thanked them; they bowed, and departed.

"Well, it appears that it is time to eat, Harry." He gestured Harry to follow him, and they sat at the table.

Harry did not take particular notice of the food; he was still preoccupied by what Dumbledore was asking of him. "I don't know, Professor. What you're asking... it seems like more than I can do."

"Many things will seem like more than you can do, until you do them. Snatching an egg out from under a dragon would have seemed like more than you could do, until you put all your energy and will into finding a way to do it. This will take time and effort. It will not happen at once. There will be setbacks, occasions when you will fail. But every step forward you make will strengthen you, and help you succeed more in the future. It could even save your life."

Harry felt that Dumbledore was asking too much of him. He looked down, at his food, but didn't register it. "How can I just change how I feel about something, especially this? I mean, I don't know how I would even begin to do it."

Dumbledore nodded understandingly. "The first step is to change how you react, if not how you feel. When you react, try to observe your reactions, as if you were standing outside yourself. Use the same calming and focusing techniques that you have learned in the Occlumency classes; focus at first on controlling your actions. If you always act based on your emotions, others can manipulate you easily, as did Mr. Malfoy on the Quidditch pitch last year. You must choose your actions, not have others choose them for you. It may feel as though you have no choice but to respond a certain way to a provocation, but we can all choose our actions. Like the dragon egg, it is simply a matter of wanting it badly enough, of being determined to do what it takes. You can do it, I assure you."

Harry had been wavering between the ideas of telling Dumbledore he couldn't do it and telling him that he'd think about it, but something Dumbledore had said sent a chill down his spine. When Dumbledore said that Malfoy had manipulated Harry on the Quidditch pitch, it dawned on him that that was exactly what Voldemort had done in drawing him to the Department of Mysteries. He had counted on Harry to react with his emotions. But I had to go, he told himself, I thought Sirius was being tortured. No, responded another part of his brain, you had to do something, but you didn't have to go running off without thinking. This is what Dumbledore is talking about. You were terrified for Sirius, but you'd have helped him more by stopping and thinking, even if Voldemort had actually had him. If you'd done what Dumbledore is suggesting you do, Sirius would still be alive.

He winced internally, even though he'd already blamed himself dozens of times in his own head for Sirius's death. He also suddenly realized that it might not be a coincidence that what Dumbledore was suggesting would have had that effect. He's not asking me to do this for Snape's sake, Harry thought. He's trying to get me to control my emotions in general, and doing it with Snape is just for practice. And isn't this what I said I wanted to do, when I talked to Hermione in the library that day? To not have her get killed because I lost my temper and didn't think straight? Here's my chance, he's telling me how to do what I said I wanted to do. But does it have to be Snape? He sighed. If Dumbledore thinks I can do it, then maybe I can. At least, I should try. He looked at Dumbledore and gave a small nod. "I'll try."

"I am glad to hear it. Glad for your sake. It will help you a great deal, and I will do what I can to help you along. Now, let's tuck in, before the food gets cold."

They ate, chatting as they did so, about more mundane matters. After they finished, Dumbledore gestured him back to the chairs they'd sat on before. As they sat down, a thought suddenly occurred to Harry, something he'd wanted to ask someone about over the summer. He had no reason to think Dumbledore knew the answer, except that Dumbledore seemed to know everything.

"Professor, in June, in the Department of Mysteries... when we were trying to find Sirius, we came across that room, the one where you found us. There was that thing that looked like an archway, the one that Sirius fell through. What is that? What does it do?"

Dumbledore paused before answering. "No one knows, exactly," With a small grin, he added, "That is why it is in the Department of Mysteries. In fact, it is the reason the Department of Mysteries is where it is, and the Ministry of Magic around that. They were all built around that structure."

"How old is it? Who built it?"

"Ah, those are true mysteries indeed. No one knows the answer to either question; it has been there for as long as recorded history extends, and its creators are unknown. As to your first questions... before I answer, let me ask you, why do you ask about this?"

Harry recalled how entranced he was by the archway and the black veil, fluttering when it had no reason to. "I heard voices coming from it... voices I could barely hear, but I was sure they were voices. I felt drawn to it, like I wanted to go through it. Hermione grabbed me and kind of snapped me out of it, and we left the room. But I know it was powerful, something about it. I mean, I was convinced that Sirius was being tortured, and I let myself get distracted? That's why I'd really like to know."

Dumbledore nodded sympathetically. "I understand, Harry. Let me ask you another question... Did anyone other than you react in this way? Did anyone else hear voices?"

"Yes, Luna said she did, too. Neville looked kind of entranced, but I don't know if he heard voices."

"And, Harry, can you think of anything that you, Luna, and Neville have in common that the others do not?"

Nothing came to Harry for a moment. Then, after a minute, a light dawned, and his eyes widened. "We can all see thestrals..."

"Yes, Harry, you have all seen death with your own eyes. But in the case of the veil, it is not necessary to have seen death personally, just to have lost a very dear loved one. What is known about the archway is that it calls to such people. It gives them the feeling that it is imperative that they pass through the veil. Countless people have followed its call over the centuries."

"If you pass through it, do you... die?" Harry asked uncertainly.

"All we can say for sure is that those who pass through it are never heard from again. Whether they are dead... that we cannot know, unless we strictly define death as once having been present on the planet, and now no longer being so. Those who pass through it may be physically alive in some other dimension or type of reality, for all we know. Or, they could be dead. There are many theories, but no one can say."

Harry thought of a question that Dumbledore would be able to answer. "What do you believe, Professor?"

Dumbledore leaned forward a little. "One school of thought, Harry, believes that the spirits of those who die go there, as a way-station on part of a greater journey. It could be considered a kind of resting area. It is believed that those drawn to it are able to sense their loved ones' presence behind the veil, and the more the person was loved, the stronger the pull toward the veil. You lost your parents. Luna lost her mother. You both felt a strong pull; I believe that is the reason. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people have had contact with the area through dreams, or spiritual endeavors. This school of thought fairly closely mirrors my beliefs. Again, though, nothing is known for certain."

"I see." Harry was inclined to adopt for himself Dumbledore's opinions if he had none of his own as yet. He also found it comforting to believe that Sirius was still around someplace, in some fashion, even if he was not accessible. "And the archway and the veil... they're just a physical path to this place, a connecting point between this world and that one?"

"Yes, exactly. But I cannot even take a reasonable guess at who built it, or why they did. The thing is shrouded in mystery. It is, in fact, often referred to as the Veil of Mystery. Or sometimes, the Veil of Life, or the Veil of Death... different names go in and out of fashion."

"It was rippling... even though no one was touching it, there was no wind, it was still rippling."

"Yes, that adds to its aura, both in the abstract, and when one sees it," Dumbledore said.

Harry was silent for a short time, thinking of Sirius. Dumbledore seemed to know it, and did not disturb Harry's thoughts. Harry soon brought up a new topic of conversation, and they talked for a while longer. At 10:30, Dumbledore suggested that they call it a night. "You will soon, as you know, have to be in the habit of getting up at 7:00 or earlier," he pointed out. "Best to get started tonight; you will want to be at full alertness Monday morning." Harry almost wished Dumbledore hadn't made that reference to Monday morning; he was enjoying the glow of spending the time with Dumbledore, and didn't want to think about worrisome things. But he knew that, of course, Dumbledore was right. He thanked Dumbledore for having him over, said good night, and left.

He walked along the hallways of Hogwarts, heading for Gryffindor Tower, his head buzzing with all that he'd discussed with Dumbledore. As he turned a corner, saw a black-robed figure approaching. He looked up to see a familiar face, in a familiar expression: Severus Snape, looking annoyed and disgusted. "Professor Potter," hissed Snape, in a tone that put quotation marks around the first word.

Harry was about to react angrily to this, but suddenly thought, this is what Dumbledore wants me to do, here's my first chance to do it. Control your emotions. Don't react the way Snape wants you to. He felt himself calm down somewhat. He looked at Snape and nodded politely. "Professor Snape," he replied. Making an effort to keep calm, he paused for a second, his eyes asking the question, 'Is there something you have to say?'

Snape stared for a second, then his expression changed into one of mild surprise mixed with the usual loathing. Taking his eyes off Harry and looking straight ahead, he continued walking without another word. Harry wondered what the look he saw meant; it was as though Harry's manner had surprised him. Well, he thought, if doing what Dumbledore said to do got me out of a confrontation with Snape, then it's benefited me already.

He walked into Gryffindor Tower, through the common room up to the sixth years' room. He changed into his nightclothes, and got into bed. It seemed as though a few dozen thoughts were competing for attention in his head. It was over an hour and a half later that he fell asleep.

Harry was in a room, a relatively bare room. As he looked down, he could tell he was sitting at a table. He was wearing long, black, flowing robes, and staring straight ahead. He heard a voice from the next room. "My Lord... may I enter?"

He noticed that his head was nodding. "You may."

Bellatrix Lestrange entered the room. She kneeled in front of him, kissed the hem of his robes, and stood up again, not sitting at the table. "My Lord... did he talk?"

He laughed lightly, casually. "Of course he talked, Bella... everyone talks; the question is, do they have anything worth saying, or hearing. In this case, I believe he did."

She looked at him hungrily. "If I could know, my Lord..."

He somehow knew that he was looking at her imperiously, with great disdain, even though he could not see his face. "You dare to ask me for favors... so soon after your failure?"

She looked abject. "Forgive me, my Lord. I am your most loyal-"

"Lord Voldemort rewards loyalty, but only when it is mixed with competence. What good is a loyal but incompetent servant? You have already had your punishment... or would you like a little more?"

She dropped to her knees. "I am yours to command, my Lord. I merely wanted to know so that I could more ably serve you-"

"Yes, yes, I see that you believe that," he said, sounding almost disappointed. "Now, let us review, to make sure you remember... exactly what was your failure at the Department of Mysteries?"

"I was ruled by my emotions, my Lord. I was not thinking tactically, about the success of the mission. I put my own pleasure ahead of your interests. I failed to secure the prophecy." The brisk way in which she said it made it sound like she had said it before, perhaps many times.

"Yes, very good, Bella. It is good that you remember. Malfoy at least kept his mind on what had to be done, though he too failed. He and the others will suffer for their mistakes as well, once they are liberated, which will be soon enough.

"As to the man... though you do not deserve the privilege, I will tell you. He also believes that the Legion is there for me to access, and he told me how he believes it can be done. It is roughly consistent with what the other two said, before I allowed them to die. I now believe it is within my grasp."

"But they will have it very well protected, my Lord. The Ministry... Dumbledore..."

He felt a sneer form on his face. "The Ministry are fools, and they would still be hounding Dumbledore instead of looking for me if not for your mistakes. As for Dumbledore, he will be handled. Snape will take care of that."

She looked as though she wanted to scoff, but dared not. She looked at him darkly and said, "My Lord, Dumbledore must have turned him. He has not shown any loyalty, he stays-"

He whipped out his wand and pointed it at her; her mouth was still moving, but no sound was coming out. She bowed her head in immediate repentance. "SILENCE!" he shouted. "It is not for you to make such decisions! I gave him the test, and he passed it. If he were disloyal, I would know. Now, is that clear?" He waved the wand; she could talk again.

Her head was still bowed, her eyes down. "Yes, my lord."

"Very well, Bella. You may leave." She kissed his robes again, and withdrew. He walked over to the window, and looked at the partly cloudy morning sky. "They will follow me," he said to himself. "They will follow me."

Harry woke with a start. He knew instantly what had happened. That was not a random dream; he knew it came from Voldemort's mind. The question was, was it deliberate, like Harry's dreams of the Department of Mysteries last year, or accidental, like when he saw the snake attack Mr. Weasley. He knew what he had to do. He looked at the clock; it was 7:30. Late enough, he decided. He quickly got into his robes and exited Gryffindor Tower.

He wondered whether Dumbledore would still be in his quarters or in his office, but he figured he should check the office first. When he reached the gargoyles, he quickly said 'lemon drop,' and was admitted. He heard voices coming from the inside of the office; Dumbledore must be talking with the past headmasters' portraits, he realized. He knocked on the door; the voices went silent. Dumbledore opened the door.

"Good morning, Harry! Do come in. I was just telling my predecessors..." He trailed off as he saw the expression on Harry's face. "What has happened?"

"I had a dream," he said, "one of the same kind as last year. The Voldemort kind."

Dumbledore pointed his wand at the office door, then again, and turned back to Harry. "Just a moment, Harry, if you would. I have just summoned Professors McGonagall and Snape. They should be here shortly."

Harry looked concerned. "Why are you sending for..." he wanted to say 'Snape,' but realized he shouldn't, so he trailed off instead. He assumed, though, that Dumbledore knew what he was about to say. Dumbledore looked at Harry seriously.

"Harry, I have told you more than once that I trust Severus Snape. I understand why you find that difficult to accept, but I ask you to do so, on my word. For security purposes, anything you can tell me, you can tell him."

"Sorry, Professor. I guess some things are hard to get used to. I'll try."

After Snape and McGonagall had arrived, Dumbledore said, "Harry was starting to tell me that he had a dream. It was the type of dream in which he sees from Voldemort's perspective. I stopped him, and sent for you. Harry, please continue."

"Excuse me, Headmaster," Snape interrupted, "but might it not be wiser to instruct Professor Potter not to tell anyone the dream, including us? We know that his reception of it must be deliberate. You wanted him to study Occlumency to prevent events such as these dreams. Their information may harm us more than help. It may be to lead us into a trap, as he was led into one."

Harry's first thought was that it was quite a coincidence that Voldemort had vouched for Snape's loyalty in the dream, and here was the real Snape, trying to prevent Harry from sharing the information. He could not know, of course. Could he?

"The danger is not in the information itself, Severus, but in how we use it or not." He turned to Harry. "Please proceed."

Harry related the dream, he was confident, virtually word for word; such dreams were always more vivid than normal dreams, and easier to remember. He tried not to look at Snape as he related the part about Voldemort being sure of his loyalty. He looked from one to the other; all had neutral expressions throughout, except that Harry thought he saw some eyebrows flicker when he mentioned the 'Legion.' He finished, and they exchanged concerned expressions.

"Harry, I must ask," said Dumbledore gently, "did you practice Occlumency before going to sleep last night?"

Harry looked down, having wondered whether this question would be asked. "No, it was the first time in a month that I haven't." Harry was spared making an effort to look earnest; he knew Dumbledore would know if he was lying, and so didn't have to worry about that. "I think it was all that stuff last night, the different surroundings... I just forgot."

Dumbledore said, "Understandable. You will, of course, take this as a sign of how important it is to remember to practice Occlumency every night before going to sleep." Harry nodded. To everyone, Dumbledore said, "We now must consider the possibilities. For example, it seems highly likely that Voldemort sent him the dream on purpose, but it is not impossible that it was spontaneous and unknown to Voldemort."

"Headmaster, before you continue..." Harry knew what Snape was going to say, and he was right. "Should not Professor Potter be excused?"

"No, Severus. Harry's access to information will be widened considerably. Last year, I gave him too little information, and we lost a man. I will not make that mistake again. I have realized that denying Harry information will probably harm more than it will help. He is integral to this fight. You know the prophecy; you know what it may come down to. He is young, but not inexperienced. He must have more information."

"Headmaster, have you considered all elements of this? He is still immature, and highly impulsive, as we saw last year. He-"

"Yeah, I have the impulse to save a friend who I thought was being tortured," Harry snapped. "Are you saying that's a bad impulse?"

"You should have checked! This is exactly what I mean, Headmaster. Professor Potter," Snape said sternly to Harry, "I know he was close to you. But in a movement like this, none of us can afford to act based on whatever feelings we have without considering what it might mean to the strategic arc of what we are trying to accomplish. You ran off to the Ministry without the first thought about that." He glanced at Dumbledore. "I do not hope to dissuade the headmaster; when he makes a decision, he does not usually reverse it. But I am telling you, the time may come when you regret it. Would you walk into certain death if the headmaster asked you to?"

"Yes," said Harry firmly, staring at Snape.

"Would you silently assent if he asked Miss Granger or Mr. Weasley to do so?" Harry bit his lip and said nothing. He knew what the answer was, and from the look on Snape's face, he knew Snape knew. "Or," Snape continued, "would you plead with him not to do so? Ask him to send you instead, when your survival may be necessary for our larger aims? We cannot afford that, Professor. You need to understand that. I will have little tolerance for arguments against actions because they might cause harm to this person or that person."

Snape might have continued, but Harry cut him off. "So however many corpses it takes to beat Voldemort, it doesn't matter? Individual lives mean nothing?"

"I think," said McGonagall, "that Professor Snape meant that they do not mean nothing, but that they must be balanced against other considerations, sometimes in ways you would not easily understand."

Making his voice more polite now that he was talking to McGonagall, Harry said, "I think I would understand if it was explained to me, at least. I've been through a lot."

"Yes, you have, and that is one of the reasons you will be getting more information," said Dumbledore, taking back the reins of the conversation. "But Professors Snape and McGonagall make a valid point; there are times when hard choices have to be made, and made with an emphasis on strategic ramifications. That is not easy for anyone to get used to, nor should it be. However," he said, now addressing Snape and McGonagall, "Harry will not be in a decision-making role, so I refuse to condemn his unwillingness to send a friend to their death. But he has a role, and he will do better with more information. He will do his best, as we all do. He is deeply involved, not of his own choice. He is Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived. He cannot help but be at the crux of events. You must know that, Severus."

Snape looked a little startled to be suddenly addressed by name. "You are no doubt correct, Headmaster," Snape said, his tone leaving no doubt about how he felt about that fact. "I am simply concerned that he could inadvertently harm the movement."

"I think, Severus, that Harry will find it within himself to do what he knows he must. Now, let us return to the question of this vision of Harry's. Was it deliberate, or an accident? Opinions?

"It must be deliberate," Snape offered, still casting unpleasant glances at Harry, as if it was going to take some time for him to be used to Harry's presence. "I believe that it is highly unlikely that the Dark Lord would be so careless as to accidentally allow this to be seen."

"But then the part that involves you doesn't make any sense," Harry pointed out. He was a bit hesitant to speak up in this company, but Dumbledore had as much as told him he should, and so he did. "Why should he want us to think that you're loyal to him? How does that help him? In that case, if you are loyal to him, and this vision is deliberate, then he's just exposed you, which is no good for him. So it would only make sense for him to do this if he suspected your loyalty. But if he suspected your loyalty..."

"I would be dead," Snape confirmed.

"Not bad, Professor Potter," said McGonagall approvingly. "You do catch on. But there can be wheels within wheels. It is possible that he considers Professor Snape a truly valuable operative, but is willing to sacrifice him to make us take more seriously what is contained in the other part of the vision. This business about the Legion."

"Yes, excuse me," Harry said embarrassedly, "but would you explain what this Legion is?"

"Certainly," said Dumbledore. "It is really no more than a legend. The name 'Legion of the Dead' refers to the notion that there are, in the spiritual realm, a number of souls, or spirits, who are mired in darkness and have not moved on to whatever is next. It is said to have been prophesied that these spirits, which are in a kind of purgatory, would unite under a leader who was able to lead them out of their current state. Led back into the physical world, they would be put to evil uses by their liberator. They would not be physical as such, but could affect physical things. They would be, in a sense, like poltergeists. Any number of such beings could wreak great havoc. Voldemort either thinks he can retrieve and control them, or wants us to think he can." He paused. "Your thoughts, Severus?"

Snape considered. "It is not inconceivable that he would make such an attempt. His focus is on gathering forces at this time. But I still feel that this is almost certainly not genuine. I believe that the references to the Legion are little more than a distraction, and the discussion about me intended to make you uncertain. He feels that you will not condemn me without proof, so my usefulness may continue, but he will want you to worry about those close to you having divided loyalties. He may try to discover from me whether your behavior has changed; for example, if you seemed to stop trusting me, he could have me give you counsel opposite to what he truly desired you to do."

"In which case," McGonagall continued, "the question is, should we pretend we never heard what Harry was sent? Or should we pretend to have believed it, and so have security at the site increased, and have Professor Snape tell Voldemort that we are distancing ourselves from him?

Harry had a thought. "Won't he suspect us if we act like we believe him? I mean, he's already deceived me once with false visions. Why should he think it would work again? Hmmm... But then again, why send the vision at all if he doesn't think we might believe it?" He looked pensive.

McGonagall regarded Harry sympathetically. "You can think yourself into knots with this sort of thing," she said. She turned to Dumbledore and said, "I have to agree with Professor Snape; it is difficult to see this as genuine."

Dumbledore said, "I would be inclined to agree, but there is another factor to consider. It was recently brought to my attention that there were a few scattered abductions worldwide involving Seers, especially ones renowned for the spiritual nature of their Sight. Six such Seers, from four continents, suddenly disappeared within a week of each other, over a month ago. Professor Trelawney came to me expressing concern that she might be targeted." Harry saw McGonagall roll her eyes. Dumbledore continued, "In any case, this information supports the thought that the vision is genuine. Or, he is putting considerable effort into making us think it is."

"I do not doubt that he would do such a thing," said Snape. "He might wish us to worry about his intentions even if his message was not delivered by Professor Potter. I believe we can conclude nothing from this information, one way or the other."

"Again, I agree," said McGonagall. "We should keep in mind that it is not impossible that it could be genuine, but we should take no action, act as if Professor Potter never relayed this to us."

"Very well, that is what we shall do, then," agreed Dumbledore. "I believe, then, that we are finished here for now."

Harry thought of a question. "Professor," he asked, looking at McGonagall, "you mentioned 'security at the site.' Which site did you mean?"

"I meant, the site where Voldemort would have to go if he were to try to summon the Legion of the Dead. The legend says that the only place from which the Legion can be summoned is the Veil of Mystery."

Harry went to the Great Hall to have breakfast, his mind reeling with all he had heard. There seemed to be five different ways of looking at it from each side. He was beginning to appreciate the value of the Occlumency lessons even more; who knew how many similar visions he had been spared? He knew he would not forget to practice Occlumency before bed again for a long time.

Eating and thinking, he suddenly realized that there had been no conversation regarding the part of his vision which predicted an escape for Lucius Malfoy and his fellow Death Eaters who were apprehended in the Department of Mysteries. Were they going to prepare for that?, Harry wondered. Would they put extra security around the prisoners, or not do so as part of pretending they'd never heard about Harry's vision?

Maybe Snape had been right, his uncertain side suggested. Maybe he didn't have enough experience to take part it those meetings. He had certainly felt in over his head. But then he remembered that Dumbledore didn't need him to make decisions, or even to necessarily offer input, but simply to be informed of what was going on. If that was all he need do, Harry realized, he could probably do it.

Harry spent the rest of the morning wandering around outdoors and preparing in more detail for the first week of lessons. He was still more worried about the disciplinary aspect of teaching than he was about the educational part of it. There was not much more he could do about that, however, than wait for the situation to occur.

The staff meeting started at 1:00, and lasted three hours. Harry had worried about it a bit, but need not have, as it hardly involved him at all. Harry only spoke for a short time; he gave the other teachers a brief sketch of how he was going to approach his classes. Professor Flitwick asked how he was going to handle detentions, given his schedule; Harry explained that Professor McGonagall had agreed to supervise any detentions he handed out.

Flitwick smiled. "That's very nice. Minerva, would you be a dear and supervise my detentions as well?" There was light laughter around the room.

"Certainly, if you wish to be a student and take the same course load as Professor Potter, I will be happy to supervise your detentions." There was more laughter.

"Alas, I'm not sure that would be worth it," said Flitwick.

"Speaking of detentions," said Snape, in a polite yet threatening manner, "if I hear, Professor Potter, that you are handing out unusually high numbers of detentions to students belonging to Slytherin House..."

Harry had already decided to push back if Snape pushed him. "...then it'll mean that Slytherins are deliberately testing my authority, and so I'll talk to you, and ask you to help bring them in line." Snape looked at Harry as if he couldn't quite believe what he'd heard; the other teachers exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. "I'll be sure," he continued, "to follow Professor McGonagall's example, and discipline students no matter which House they belong to."

Snape had not missed the implied insult. "Are you suggesting-"

"Would you like to see the statistics, Professor Snape?" McGonagall cut him off, irritated. "For five years running, you have the highest differential of all teachers between points awarded and taken form your own house versus other houses. As for detentions, only..." she riffled through a stack of parchment, then read one for a few seconds, "5% of the total time you handed out was to Slytherins, compared with 18% for Hufflepuffs, 21% for Ravenclaws, and 56% for Gryffindors".

"Students of my house know better than to misbehave around me," Snape said acidly. Harry couldn't help himself; he audibly scoffed.

Snape glared at Harry. "You have a comment, Professor Potter?" The sneer surrounding the word 'Professor' was extremely clear.

"Yes, I do." Harry glared back; this was something he'd wanted to say for a long time. "Slytherins know better than to be disrespectful of you, I'm sure. But when their misbehavior is harassing other students, you manage not to notice. It's been like this in Potions for five years. A Slytherin, usually Malfoy, throws stuff at a Gryffindor. You never notice that, but if a Gryffindor retaliates, you notice immediately. If a Slytherin complains of being harassed, you take action; if a Gryffindor does you do nothing. Last year, a Slytherin hexed a Gryffindor from behind in the library, over a dozen witnesses saw it, and you did nothing. I could go on."

"I'm sure the staff weeps bitter tears at the cruel mistreatment your house has suffered," said Snape, bathing every word in unnecessary layers of sarcasm.

"I'm not asking them to, and you know it," said Harry, now on a roll. He thought about stopping to measure his next words, but instead, propelled by emotion, plunged forward. "I'm just making a point. I know what you do is deliberate. Slytherins are chosen for their ambition, as the Sorting Hat says every year. You're teaching them that if they keep on good terms with friends in high places, they can get away with more than others can, which I suppose is how it is in real life. What I'm saying is, you have a lot of nerve warning me not to do something you do yourself. I know you're just trying to put me on the defensive, to make me not want to give Slytherins detentions, even if they deserve it. Well, it won't work." Harry continued to glare at Snape defiantly.

"Well, let us move on from this topic," said Dumbledore, who had said nothing for the past several minutes, staying out of the dispute. "Professor Potter has already been advised regarding handing out detentions; I will let him know if he missteps. Professor Snape, I would like to see those statistics change for the better next year. Now, what is next?"

Harry had little to say for the rest of the meeting. Snape continued to shoot him poisonous glares, which he met with eye contact every time. He remembered what Dumbledore had said the night before, but he felt that the situation was different. He knew he had reacted emotionally, but he hadn't lost his temper, and felt he had made a good point. Even if I can manage to overlook all he's done to me in the past, I'm not going to let him push me around, Harry thought.

The feast/social event for the teachers that evening was more enjoyable than Harry had thought it would be, largely because Snape was away "on an urgent matter," the teachers were told. Their lack of a negative reaction suggested to Harry that Snape was no more popular in the staff room than he was among non-Slytherin students. Either that, or they were used to his being unsociable.

Harry sat between Professor Dumbledore and Professor Smith, who he had seen numerous times around the school but had never formally met. Professor Smith taught Muggle Studies, and was very popular with the female students; he was tall, movie-star handsome, and was friendly and affable. He asked Harry about his Muggle experiences, and shook his head sadly at Harry's answers. "There'd be a lot more people who thought the way your aunt and uncle do, I'm afraid to say, if they knew about wizards. Another good reason not to make the presence of wizards known."

Intrigued by Smith's avoidance of the phrase 'our presence,' Harry asked, "Are you Muggle-born?"

Smith smiled. "Not only Muggle-born, but non-magical. I married a witch in my early twenties, which was when I found out about magic. I learned all I could about the wizarding world, it was fascinating. I met Professor Dumbledore about ten years ago and had an excellent chat with him, and when the Muggle Studies position opened up six years ago, he thought of me. I understand I'm the first Muggle to teach at Hogwarts for well over a century."

"I guess I never thought of taking your class," Harry admitted, "because I grew up with Muggles, and not very nice ones at that. I guess Muggles were something I wanted to get away from."

"I can understand that," said Smith. "But I'm sure you know that most Muggles are nowhere near like your relatives."

"Funny, I was telling my cousin the same thing in reverse, after the first wizard he ever talked to was Malfoy."

Smith's face darkened. "Ah, yes. I heard about that. As well you should tell your cousin that. Malfoy and people like him are why my class is doing poorly."

"How do you mean, 'doing poorly?'" Harry wondered.

"I mean, enrollment is down," Smith said. "It's lower than any other elective class, even Arithmancy and Study of Ancient Runes, which are much harder. In my six years at Hogwarts, not a single Slytherin has ever taken my class."

"Isn't that just as well, since all the people who think Muggles are scum get put into Slytherin?"

"I can't believe every last one thinks that," Smith argued. "There must be some who are interested. They just fear they'll be ridiculed if they do. That's what people like Malfoy do."

Harry continued talking to him about Muggles for a while, and after dinner was finished, everyone got up and wandered around chatting, renewing ties to friends and colleagues they hadn't seen for a while. A bit like the Hogwarts Express for teachers, Harry thought. Harry did not have to try to circulate; every professor there approached him at some point to chat, and he found almost all, given that Snape was absent, to be quite friendly. The only exception was Trelawney, who treated him with a certain cool formality; Harry wondered if he'd snickered too loudly and too often in her class for her to like him. Professor Flitwick came by and cheerfully discussed Harry's O.W.L. result and test, with which he was very pleased. He, and later Professor Sprout, thanked Harry for standing up to Snape as he did. Most everyone wished him luck and offered support. Harry was amazed at how nice they were being to him; he had expected at least a few besides Snape to be resentful of a sixteen-year-old teacher. But it seemed this was not the case. Harry thought it was likely that this was a result of their confidence in Dumbledore, but then he remembered that Dumbledore had hired Quirrell and Lockhart, so some of it had to be regard for him personally.

Near the end of the evening, Dumbledore asked for everyone's attention. Harry could have sworn he heard the sound of a spoon striking a wine glass, but Dumbledore was holding neither. The group quieted down quickly.

"My friends, a word, if I may... it is so very good to see you all again. You look happy and well. I am very glad to see comfort and good cheer in this room again." Harry recognized the allusion to Dolores Umbridge's presence; there was a small cheer. "And as we do every year... or at least recently, it has been every year...we ask the newest member of the staff to make a small speech and a toast. Professor Potter, if you would step forward?"

There was applause from the teachers, as Harry stood rooted to the spot in surprise until McGonagall put her hand on his shoulder and guided him forward. He felt totally at a loss. A toast? He thought of his Occlumency training. Clear your mind, he thought. It seemed to work; he felt less nervous very quickly. As the applause died down, Harry stage-whispered to Dumbledore, loudly enough for all to hear, "You could have warned me." This was greeted by chuckling, and Dumbledore's reply of, "Oh, no, it must be spontaneous."

Harry looked out and saw nothing but friendly faces, and it warmed his heart. "I, uh... I was pretty nervous, you know, about teaching this year, and the meetings today, and... well, anything to do with this job, come to think of it..." Most teachers laughed. "But everyone in this room has been great. I really appreciate your support. Also," he continued, getting less nervous as he talked, "I want to thank Professor Dumbledore for his confidence in me." Dumbledore nodded in Harry's direction. "And for a toast..." He thought for a few seconds, then said, "Here's hoping for an uneventful year."

There was some laughter, and everyone held up their goblets-except Hagrid, who had to lower his-and repeated, "An uneventful year!"

As he drank, Harry thought, just once, just once would be nice.

In Chapter 8: Harry speaks at the welcoming feast, teaches his first class, and unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that will change his life.