- Albus Dumbledore Severus Snape
- Multiple Eras
- Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Published: 10/14/2004Updated: 11/05/2004Words: 419,861Chapters: 24Hits: 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 Summary:
- Harry's battle of wills with Voldemort comes to a climax.
The Unnamed Spell
"But... that's impossible," said Harry, not knowing what else to say.
"Indeed, Harry, that is what has always been thought," agreed Dumbledore. "But the evidence is clear."
Dumbledore caused the dream to switch to the point just before Voldemort Cursed Harry; they were in the Atrium again. "Watch carefully, everyone. Some of the Curse will get through to Harry, but a great deal of it is stopped by the shield." The scene moved at normal speed, and now that they were looking for it, everyone saw what Dumbledore was referring to. The shield lit up, obviously dissipating the energy.
"But this was a dream," Harry protested. "Wouldn't it work differently in real life?"
Hermione answered before the teachers could. "No, apparently spells work the same way in dreams as in real life. No one understands exactly why. But many spells have been discovered in dreams. When applied in real life, they always work the same way."
Harry raised his eyebrows; he hadn't known this. How does she remember all this stuff she reads? Harry couldn't help but wonder. "And it didn't work at full effectiveness because..."
"Harry, almost no spell works with 100% effectiveness the first time it is tried. I would estimate this spell's effectiveness at between... what, Severus, between fifty and seventy percent?"
"Closer to seventy," replied Snape.
"For any first attempt at a spell, that is excellent. For one like this, it is astonishing. If Voldemort returns tomorrow, Harry, I believe it is highly likely that if you keep the same level of focus, the spell will be 100% effective."
All the students except Hermione broke into wide grins. "We can't celebrate yet, though," she pointed out. "He still has to do it, he still has to keep that kind of focus."
"Didn't you see what Harry overcame there?" asked Ron. "How could Voldemort possibly make it harder for Harry than that?"
"I'm just saying, let's not celebrate yet. When Harry goes a night without a dream, wait, without waking up screaming, then I will absolutely celebrate."
"Miss Granger is right, this is not done," agreed McGonagall. "Let us be optimistic, but not overconfident."
"Don't worry, Hermione, Professor, the last thing I'm going to be when facing Voldemort is overconfident, no matter what kind of shield I've got. I was optimistic last night, and I didn't have any kind of shield; I just thought I was making progress. I never thought I'd ever come up with a new spell. How does that happen, anyway?"
"Sometimes research can uncover them, Harry, but usually they are accidents, or acts of pure creativity," explained Dumbledore. "If it is one, this would fall into the latter category."
"This is one, Professor," said McGonagall. "We all saw it. There simply is no other explanation. This will work in the real world. It must." She turned to Harry. "Do you know, Harry, what a staggering development this will be for wizardry? Such a spell has not been created in... we should ask Professor Binns, but at least a hundred years."
"If they can learn it, the spell will be of tremendous assistance to Aurors," added Dumbledore. "Especially at a time such as this. But one thing at a time. We will prepare for tomorrow as we have until now. Harry, simply do the same thing tomorrow as you did today; I would recommend you make no modifications of any sort. Also, I must ask the five of you not to mention this to anyone else. I do not want the school talking about this until we know with more certainty. Harry, to anyone who asks, you should note continued progress and express optimism, but not give details. You may wish to lead others to believe that this dream was much like the rest. I also do not wish this to get back to Voldemort. He may or may not have noticed what happened, but he may believe it to be an anomaly. I would prefer he was kept in the dark as much as possible. Is that clear to everyone?" Five heads nodded in answer. "Very well, let us return to the dormitory."
Snape left the dormitory via Fawkes. Dumbledore looked like he was about to leave, but McGonagall stayed behind, so he did too. McGonagall faced Harry.
"Harry... setting aside the discovery of an important new spell, I could not live with myself if I left here without commenting on your performance. That you are able to stay calm and focused while dealing with Voldemort is achievement enough. That you were able to do so as he took some of the most difficult moments of your life and used them to mock and attack you... I simply would not have believed it could have been done. Well, yes, the headmaster could have done it. But still, you are in excellent company. I am extremely proud of you."
Her face was showing far more emotion than he had ever seen her display, and it touched him. He took a deep breath. "Thank you, Professor," he said, then decided to throw caution to the winds; he stepped toward her and hugged her. She was taken aback, but after a second, she put her arms around him and hugged him back. After a few seconds, they separated. Harry wanted to say something else, but couldn't think of anything.
She sniffled and turned to the others, as Dumbledore smiled. Looking at Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville, she adopted the sternest expression she could muster under the circumstances, and said, "If anyone breathes a word of this-"
"Professor..." Hermione interrupted. She beamed at McGonagall. "What you said to Harry was so sweet... of course we wouldn't do that to you." The others earnestly nodded in agreement. McGonagall nodded, rubbed her eyes, and stepped back. Dumbledore added, "Interestingly, Harry, I think it likely that the trial under which you were operating was in fact a contributing factor to what you discovered. It is during our most stressful moments that we can reach deep within ourselves and find qualities we did not know we possessed. I suppose that I will have to stop being surprised by anything you do. Good morning, everyone." They turned and left.
The five students sat in silence, stunned at what had happened. Finally they started talking, and they continued until well after the sun was up.
Harry was halfway through breakfast when the morning owls came into the Hall. Harry casually noted that there were more owls than usual. This was soon brought home to him by the fact that half of the owls headed in his direction. Letters, and a few packages, started falling in front of Harry like rain, completely covering his food. As the last of the owls flew away, and people saw the pile of mail in front of Harry, a laugh worked its way around the tables. Hermione raised her eyebrows in response to Harry's surprised look. "Well, you did expect this to happen, didn't you? You're Harry Potter, you're doing something brave that involves Voldemort, you're saying his name... you didn't expect a lot of people to want to say something?"
"Well, I never thought about it, really..." Harry trailed off.
"It's a good thing," said a grinning Ron, "that you use that keen intelligence of yours in your dreams, where it can do you some good, and not waste it here, in situations like this. Hermione can always explain things to you anyway." Harry tried to look annoyed in response, but couldn't quite manage it.
"I brought an extra bag for it," said Hermione as she pulled it out of her larger bookbag. "Do you want to put them all in the bag, or read some of them now?"
Harry shook his head in amazement. "Well, let's put them in the bag, but I want to check them to see if they have familiar names first. I'll have to look at most of them at lunchtime or after Potions." They all started picking up letters and looking at them.
"Oh, this is from Mrs. Weasley, Harry!" said Hermione excitedly.
Ron and Ginny exchanged a look. "This is going to be good," chuckled Ginny.
"Dear Harry," Hermione read aloud. "If you were here, I would hug you and kiss you until you got so embarrassed you'd have to run off and hide. What you said was so incredibly sweet, thank you so much. Arthur and I were so thrilled, and he got a few dozen calls from friends and co-workers who read the article. We've been so worried about you, and we still are, but we know Professor Dumbledore will be taking good care of you. I'm sure my son and daughter are doing their best as well. We love you, Harry. Thank you! Love, Molly and Arthur."
"I'm surprised it's not longer," Ron said. "I guess they're too busy with all the calls."
"Hey, what's this?" asked Harry, who had just picked up a scroll, a rather thick one. He looked at it oddly.
"Well, open it up and find out!" urged Hermione, who Harry felt looked suspiciously like she knew what it was.
He opened it up and unrolled it; it looked to be about five feet long. He started reading aloud from the top, and couldn't help noticing that Ginny and Hermione had huge grins on their faces. "We, the undersigned female students of Hogwarts, by affixing our signatures below, do solemnly swear the following: that, if we were Harry Potter's girlfriend, we would..." Harry trailed off, leaned forward, and put his head in his hands in embarrassment as scattered laughter could be heard throughout the Great Hall, mostly female-sounding.
Ron leaned over and picked it up, then gleefully started reading in a loud voice: "we would not care how much danger he was in, we would stand by him and help him. We believe that his wishes in this matter are noble, but misguided, and we urge him to avail himself of the benefits that close female companionship can offer. Signed..." Ron was starting to laugh so hard he was having trouble finishing the statement. Harry glanced at the sheet, and saw four feet of parchment's worth of names. He blinked; there had to be about a hundred names there, which was over two-thirds of the female students at Hogwarts. Hermione and Ginny were laughing, no doubt at his reaction. Harry heard a few girls shout "Speech! Speech!" followed by others seconding the idea. Hermione and Ginny motioned for him to stand; Ron was still laughing too hard to do much of anything. When it became clear that the Hall was not going to leave him alone, he finally stood. The noise died down.
"I... I don't know what to say, really. I'm very pleased... and really embarrassed, of course..." There was more laughter. Turning serious, he said, "In the dreams, I've told Voldemort about the support I've gotten here, and how much it's helped. Not surprisingly, he doesn't understand it at all. He has no idea what the support of a community feels like. But I do, and it's great. I couldn't be doing what I'm doing right now without the support you give me, and I know that this is another form of support. Everybody who signed it..." He felt tears start to well up, so he decided he'd better stop talking. "... thank you very much." A round of applause went up as he sat down. A smiling Hermione offered him a tissue, which he started to refuse, then took. "I can't believe so many people did that," he muttered. He was still fighting off the emotion; he was deeply touched by the gesture. Suddenly struck by a thought, he picked up the scroll and looked to see whose the first name was. It was Helen Clark, followed by the other Slytherin first year girls. He noticed that the next names were other first years, and glancing down, that it went roughly in ascending order of age.
He went back to sorting through the mail, mainly because he wanted to finish his breakfast, and it was still under all the mail. He had gotten through half of it when he turned to see the five Slytherin first year girls standing behind him. He smiled and turned to face them. "So, this was your idea?"
They nodded proudly. "Some of the older girls helped us with the wording," said Helen, "but we wanted you to know we think you're wrong. It seems like a lot of other girls agree with us."
"Seems that way," Ron couldn't resist adding.
"Yes, I've heard that a lot lately," Harry said. "All I can say is, I'll worry about it when it happens. But thank you so much for doing this. It's great. I'm very happy."
"But you looked like you were going to cry earlier," a girl pointed out.
Ron snickered; Hermione gave him a dirty look. "Sometimes we cry when we're really happy," she explained.
"And we don't make fun of people for doing it," added Ginny pointedly.
"No, we don't," agreed Hermione.
"Well, maybe you don't, but-ow!" Ron exclaimed as Ginny, sitting next to him, delivered a strong backhand blow to Ron's upper arm. Hermione, across the table and unable to reach Ron, said, "Thank you, Ginny," as the Slytherins giggled.
"I'm always going to keep this," Harry said to the girls, "to remind me of how you supported me and cared about me."
"Just make sure it reminds you to have a girlfriend, too," said Helen seriously. "We really believe what that says. We think it's important."
Harry nodded. "I understand, and I appreciate that. It was..." Harry trailed off again. "Thank you."
"See you in class," one of them said, and they headed off. Harry looked up and saw Justin and Ernie standing on his other side, having already arrived while Harry was talking to the girls. They looked highly amused; Harry rolled his eyes. "Why couldn't you have come by before that scroll got here?"
"Well, it's more fun this way," explained Ernie with a straight face.
"And here I thought I was popular," Justin added. "Those were your Slytherin firsts, right?"
Harry nodded. "Apparently, it was their idea."
Justin smiled. "Couldn't help but notice you were having a bit of trouble keeping it together there. Not that I blame you, of course," he added, pretending to be scared, as Ginny turned toward him.
"Better say that," Ginny muttered.
"It's funny, it's like you can only handle so much emotion," said Harry, "and I've been getting so much help around here... but I can use every bit of it."
"What happened in the dream last night?" Ernie asked.
"The main difference was, he tried to goad me," Harry said, wanting not to lie and settling for leaving out many details. "He wanted me to lose my temper, because that would make it hard for me to fight him off. He taunted me about... some difficult times I've had. Believe me, you haven't been goaded until you've been goaded by Voldemort." Justin and Ernie looked like they believed it. "Just barely, I managed to stay in control, to not be goaded. In the end I got Cursed, of course, but it felt different. I'm making progress, and I'm optimistic."
"It was harder than you make it sound, Harry," said Ginny. "I wouldn't have believed what you did if I hadn't seen it. It was an incredible act of control."
"Wait a minute... you've seen it? How did you see it?" asked Ernie. Hermione explained about the Pensieve and how it worked. "So," she concluded, "Professor Dumbledore thought it would be helpful for him to see them personally, and Harry agreed. But he also asked us to come along, he wanted us to see them too."
Justin and Ernie stared, wide-eyed. "So... you've seen Voldemort?" asked Justin.
Hermione nodded. "You couldn't imagine a more evil person. Everything he says, his attitude... it's like he considers people bugs to be squashed if they annoy him. It gives you a chill just to look at him. Now imagine that... along with this evil thing reminding you of the hardest moments of your life, when you've suffered losses, or done something you wish you hadn't, showing them to you in images so you can see how you looked, then taunting you about them... and knowing you're going to be Cursed in a short time. That was Harry's situation. Most people would be on the ground, crying. I know I would. But he just stood there, calm as anything, and managed to project a sadness for Voldemort's lack of humanity. He never lost his control. Imagine that."
Ernie and Justin were silent for a short time. Finally Ernie said, "I don't think I can, really. It's all a bit too much."
"You're telling me," agreed Ron. "I was right there, and I felt like I wanted to strangle Voldemort for what he was doing to Harry."
"I think we were all crying, or wanted to," said Ginny. "Even Ron," she added pointedly.
Ron avoided answering directly. "Harry's been through some hard stuff," he said.
"Well, I cried a bit, and I don't mind admitting it," said Neville defiantly, as Ron looked down. Hermione looked at Neville admiringly and took his hand in support. "And I'm not even the one it happened to. Professor Dumbledore could have done what Harry did, but no one else could have. I'm sure of it."
Justin and Ernie were quiet again. Ginny said, "Yeah, that's kind of how we felt. There just isn't that much to say, at some point."
"It is hard to think of anything, compared to this," Justin agreed. He put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Hang in there, Harry. We're proud of you." Ernie just nodded.
"Thank you both, really," Harry said gratefully. They walked back to their table. Harry went back to working on sorting the mail, as he realized it was getting late, and he still hadn't finished his breakfast. He was able to take a few more bites before he had to head off to his class.
Harry had been looking forward to this class: it would be only his second class with the Slytherin and Gryffindor first years, both groups of which he felt particularly close to. He walked in the door two minutes before the class started, and everyone was there. As soon as they saw him, the students gave him a loud round of applause. He smiled as he put down his bag on the desk. "Thank you, but I've already been embarrassed enough for one morning. For one day, in fact." The students laughed.
They asked him about last night's dream, and he gave them an account almost identical to what Justin and Ernie had been told. He explained why he needed to stay calm, and answered their questions. The lesson continued the work on the Protection Charm, introduced the Disarming Charm, and talked about more basic elements of spellcasting. Harry wanted to introduce the ideas he'd heard from Dumbledore on Friday about the mental elements of spellcasting, but he wanted to wait until he had more of a chance to discuss it with Dumbledore.
Fifteen minutes before the end of the class, a Slytherin boy raised his hand. "Excuse me, sir, but I wanted to ask you about these..." He held up a snack from a Skiving Snackbox. "We still have them."
"Ah," Harry said. So much had been happening, he had forgotten about the whole Snackbox problem. "Has Malfoy asked for them back?"
"Has he talked to you at all since last Friday?"
Harry shook his head, annoyed. "He was supposed to get them back from you. Looks like it slipped his mind. Are you asking me what I think you should do?"
"I'm not sure I can answer that, because as a teacher, I'm supposed to encourage you not to do this. As a person, though, I'd say this: if you're going to do it, do it because you're concerned about what he might do if you don't. Who knows, he could be mad at you if you do take them, for getting him more detention, or if you don't take them, for not doing what he said."
Hedrick raised his hand. "That's exactly what we thought, sir. We really aren't sure what to do. But I understand you can't tell us this. Do you mind if we talk about this for a minute?" Harry motioned for them to go ahead. The ten Slytherins huddled; a few Gryffindors leaned in to listen, and reported back to the rest.
The Slytherins returned to their desks. Hedrick said, "We're sorry, sir, but we're going to take them."
Harry nodded. "After you do, go to Madam Pomfrey. She'll probably complain about healthy kids going to her infirmary, but go there anyway." They ate the Snacks, bled, threw up, fainted, and headed off to the infirmary. Harry finished up the lesson with more Disarming practice.
His next lesson was similar, of course, except for the lack of a Snackbox problem. A Hufflepuff boy asked whether the Slytherins had eaten the Snacks. When told they had, most of the students cheered, or made other noises of satisfaction. Harry felt he should comment.
"I should tell you," he said, "that it's usually better not to do something that hurts someone else for your own satisfaction. I should tell you that we should avoid enjoying other people suffering, even if they deserve it. I should tell you that taking the high road is better." He paused. "But since it's Malfoy we're talking about..." The class roared its laughter. He smiled and put up a hand. "No, that's a joke, really," he said. "Look, no one deserves ten detentions more than Malfoy, that's for sure. He was warned, and he didn't do what I told him to do. But here's the problem.
"Last night, in my dream, Voldemort tried to encourage me to use the Cruciatus Curse on him." Some of the class gasped. "You might wonder why. The answer is, he wanted me to like it, he wanted me to want to do it more. In June, a Death Eater who I was fighting told me that the only way to do the spell, to make it work, is to enjoy the suffering of the other person. You have to want them to be in terrible pain, otherwise it won't work." The class looked very disturbed. "This is the most evil thing that can come from enjoying someone's suffering. Now, compared to that, enjoying Malfoy's suffering is very minor. He's really nasty, he deserves it. But it's a step, a first step along the road that leads to the Cruciatus Curse. Some people allow themselves to occasionally enjoy others suffering, in situations like this, and they're still good people. I'm no different than anyone else; I was happy when Malfoy lost his prefect's badge. But you have to be careful. You have to know that it's better not to do it than to do it."
There was a silence. Then a boy raised his hand and asked, "Did you want to do the Curse on Voldemort, sir?"
Harry shook his head. "No, I didn't. There would be no point; it would only hurt me. Causing him pain isn't how I'm going to beat him. He wants me to be more like him, but there's no way I'm going to do that."
As he headed off for lunch, he suddenly felt quite tired. Not surprising, he realized, as he'd had four straight days of four or five hours' sleep. Just one more night, he thought. He had a quiet lunch with Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville, then headed over to the staff room. He said hello and half-sat, half-flopped on a couch. John, sitting next to him, said, "We like to try to take it easy on the furniture, but we make exceptions for the sleep-deprived."
"Thanks, John. I feel like I could sleep, but it's probably not a good idea."
"Good thinking, you don't want to test your new spell until you're in your own bed, familiar surroundings," said Flitwick.
Harry looked at McGonagall quizzically. "Professor Dumbledore told the staff about it before our first lessons this morning," explained McGonagall.
"I'm quite excited about it, Harry," Flitwick continued. "It's an amazing development."
"I've been told, but to be honest, right now it's exciting to me only because it'll help cause this whole situation to end," Harry admitted. "Once I've had a good night's sleep, I'll think about what it means."
"Very understandable," agreed Professor Sprout sympathetically. "So, have you gotten through any of your mail?"
"No, I don't know when I'm going to do that. I've been kind of busy."
"Well, you should try to do it tonight," she urged him. "I'm sure most of them will be supportive, and it'll be good for you to know that people understand what you're trying to do."
Harry just nodded, but really didn't think he would do it. What if a lot were negative? He knew he was doing the right thing, and didn't want to have to read arguments against what he was doing, especially with Voldemort attacking him in his dreams every night. I'll look at them tomorrow morning if I'm successful, he thought.
"Oh, Harry," she continued, "I heard what you told my students about Schadenfreude. I'm very impressed, that someone so young has that perspective."
"I'm sorry, Professor, I told them about what?"
"Schadenfreude, Harry, is a German word which means 'pleasure derived from the suffering of others.'" She now spoke to the other teachers. "Apparently they were enjoying the idea that Malfoy would get ten more detentions, and Harry gave them a little talk, telling them that it's the first step down a path that leads to the Cruciatus Curse. As I said, I was very impressed."
Harry gave her a small smile. "Unfortunately, I'm now uniquely qualified to give that kind of lecture." He paused, then looked at McGonagall. "Professor, did you or Professor Dumbledore tell them about this morning's dream?"
"I gave the staff a general account, Harry, but of course I did not go into details, especially those of a personal nature," she said.
Sprout nodded. "She just said that he threw the most awful events of your life back in your face and taunted you, but you stayed rock-solid calm."
"She said she couldn't imagine anyone else except Professor Dumbledore being able to do what you did," added John.
Flitwick joined in. "Yes, and she said that it was the most remarkable thing she'd seen in many years, and that she was so proud of you that-"
"Yes, thank you, everyone," said an annoyed McGonagall, as the other teachers laughed; Harry joined in also. "I did relate to Harry my opinion of his actions."
"Yes, and she said you hugged her, Harry," added Flitwick. "Your reputation for bravery has been further enhanced." There was more laughter.
"Well, anyway," said Harry, almost having lost his original point, "I asked because he was trying to taunt me into using the Cruciatus Curse on him. I would never have considered it anyway, of course, but especially since I was trying to focus on love, it seemed really absurd. But it occurred to me in class, because the Cruciatus Curse is the ultimate example of... I'm sorry, what's that word?"
"Schadenfreude," Sprout repeated.
"Yes, thank you, of Schadenfreude. So, it wasn't hard to think that that kind of thing starts out with the easy stuff, like being happy about Malfoy."
"I am certainly not happy about it, Harry, I assure you," said McGonagall. "I am not looking forward to another ten hours with that..." She trailed off, unable to think of a word sufficiently polite yet accurate.
"By the way, how did you hear about that already, Professor?" Harry asked Sprout. "That only happened an hour ago."
Sprout chuckled. "Word of your lessons spreads quickly. In my case, one of my students told me that you told them about Voldemort's taunts. I asked a question, and the story came out. They don't need much encouragement to talk about you."
John grinned. "Or to date you."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I was wondering if that was going to come up. I couldn't believe they did that."
"They're right, you know," said John, seriously.
"Funny thing is, I never even said it. I just said I didn't think I could deal with having a girlfriend, and he just... divined the rest. I don't know if I even would have thought of it."
"Well, just don't think that you can't change your mind just because you said it in an article. You never know what's going to happen," advised John.
Harry changed the subject. He was beginning to tire of that subject, mostly because everyone was telling him the same thing. There was little he could say in response, because of his lack of experience. All he knew was that it was how he felt. He found Hermione's argument so far the most compelling, that he was not defying Voldemort if he refused a girlfriend out of fear of him.
The rest of Harry's afternoon seemed to go slowly, perhaps because the lesson was Potions. Harry almost fell asleep twice during the lecture portion of the class, only to be nudged by an anxious Hermione. At least one of those times Snape had obviously seen him, but to Harry's surprise, said nothing. After Potions, Harry and Hermione went back to his dormitory and rested. Fawkes sang, and Hermione fell asleep within minutes. At one point Ginny came in just to get something, but ended up lying in her bed too, entranced by Fawkes. "I'm not going to hear much phoenix song when I'm back in my dormitory, am I?" she asked.
After dinner, Hermione went to the library, while Harry and Ron had a fly, Fawkes on Harry's shoulder, not flying free as he had before. Harry wondered if he was being more closely guarded. They watched the Ravenclaw team having a practice, and Harry flew close enough to wave at Cho. One of Cho's teammates kidded her by yelling, "Hey, Harry, Cho's having a bit of trouble finding the Snitch, could you help her out?"
Harry spent the rest of the evening having a go at some Transfigurations homework, but he wasn't up for it. He was very tired, and was almost impatient for the night's dream to be upon him. He had asked Dumbledore to make their Occlumency lesson for 9:00, so he could get more sleep before the attack happened. Finally, 9:00 arrived, as did Dumbledore. They had their lesson, Harry feeling very comfortable and confident. The lesson concluded, Harry lay down, concentrated on Occlumency exercises, and listened to Fawkes's song. He was asleep in minutes.
Harry was suddenly in the graveyard. If he had been dreaming prior to this, he had forgotten it very quickly. He slipped easily into a state of love. He waited for Voldemort to appear.
"Good morning, Potter. Are you tiring of this yet?"
"I can think of other things I'd rather be doing, Voldemort, but I can do it for as long as you can. I think that answers your question."
"Can you, now? How long can you go without a good night's sleep?"
"Long enough." Harry thought of Hermione, of Ginny. The atmosphere was one of love. He felt pity for Voldemort, who would never know love.
"Brave words, Potter. And your actions... some might say they are brave, but I say they are foolish. You will bring down ruin upon yourself. You weaken every day."
Harry looked around and saw light on the horizon, ever so gradually getting stronger. "Sorry, Voldemort, but it's you that's weakening. Look over to the horizon. It's getting lighter. Your control of this... place is getting harder for you to maintain." He listened to the phoenix song.
"A little light in the sky is meaningless, Potter. You will be Cursed every night until you die; who knows how long it may take. Do you wish to reconsider?"
Harry prepared. "No, thanks. I never will, so you may as well get on with it."
"Very well, Potter. Crucio!"
As Voldemort said the word, Harry activated his shield. He prepared to visualize the shield and focus on it energy being made of love, but found the shield up before he expected it to be; merely wanting it up had summoned it. Harry concentrated on love as the Curse flew toward him. It hit the shield, dissipated a little, and then disappeared. Harry was totally unaffected.
Voldemort looked at him in disbelief. Harry said nothing, but simply looked at him with sadness and pity. Finally he said, "It's over, Voldemort. You've lost. There's nothing more you can do here."
Voldemort was furious, obviously thinking that nothing Harry could have done could have affected the spell. He raised his wand again. "Crucio!"
Again Harry's shield snapped on nearly without his conscious thought; the mere intention to use it seemed to summon it. Voldemort's Curse hit it and again dissipated, in thoroughly unspectacular fashion. Harry didn't think he had ever seen more frustration on anyone's face.
"You can try to Curse me all night long, Voldemort, it isn't going to work," Harry said, now feeling even calmer. "I'm going to keep saying your name, and encouraging others to do so. We're going to fight you, and we're going to win." He paused, and looked at the horizon. "Really getting bright out, isn't it? Not quite the right effect for a graveyard."
He stared at Voldemort, filled with sorrow and pity. "I wish there was something I could do for you, Voldemort, but I know you're beyond help. I wish I could help Tom Riddle. He must still be somewhere. Maybe it's not too late for him."
One more time, Voldemort tried. "Crucio!" Again the shield snapped on, and again there was no effect. Voldemort made a strangled noise of frustration and was gone. There was only the graveyard, with the sky a brilliant white, but comforting rather than blinding.
Suddenly Harry was awake. He looked to his right, and saw Hermione's worried face; he realized that she expected him to wake up screaming shortly. Her look changed to confusion, then to happiness as he sat up. "Did you have the dream yet?" she asked quietly, so as not to wake the others. Her tone sounded like she felt it was something she dared not hope for.
Then Harry saw Dumbledore, who was again at the head of the bed. He had obviously been summoned by Fawkes, who had recognized that the dream was starting. Harry looked at both, and nodded. "I had it. The spell worked. It's over."
Still trying to stay quiet, Hermione leaped into the air in joy. She pulled Harry off the bed and hugged him fiercely. He hugged her back the same way. He whispered into her ear, "Thank you, thank you so much... you've been so good to me, all of you..." She squeezed him again in reply. They broke apart after a few more seconds.
He then looked at Dumbledore, who was standing now, looking pleased to have watched Harry and Hermione celebrating. Harry suddenly felt waves of love for this man who had cared for him, protected him, and taught him the connection between the word 'love' and what was in his heart. Filled with euphoria, he stepped toward Dumbledore and hugged him; Dumbledore hugged him back. Harry looked at him and quietly said, "I love you. I couldn't have done this without you. I'm so grateful..."
"If you love me, Harry, there is one thing you must do," said Dumbledore, with the familiar twinkle very obvious in his eyes. "You must call me Albus from time to time."
Harry chuckled, still deliriously happy. "I love you, Albus." Hermione looked on in delight.
"I love you too, Harry," Dumbledore replied. "I am very proud, and still a little amazed, at what you have accomplished. Would you like to go back to sleep now?"
Harry shook his head. In a way he was still tired, but was much too happy right then to sleep, and said so. "I should get the dream in the Pensieve before too much time goes by. But we don't need to wake the other professors, do we? They can see it later, there's no urgency."
Dumbledore nodded. "Let us watch it in the Pensieve now, then. I do not think the memory will fade, but if we watch it now, then I will remember it as well, so there will be no chance of anything lost. Hermione, I assume you will want to see it as well?"
She beamed at him. "Are you kidding? Of course! I want to see one of these that has a happy ending!"
They were all still speaking in whispers. Dumbledore whisked the Pensieve over, and Harry used his wand to extract the memory. Soon they were all in the graveyard, watching the dream. No one said anything until it was over, but Hermione gasped the first time she saw Harry's shield work completely. After Voldemort disappeared, the sky stayed white, rather than reverting to the beginning of the dream, as it usually did. "I rather like this skyscape," Dumbledore mused.
"Oh, Harry, I'm so happy, so happy," exulted Hermione. "It's so amazing, what you've done. And that spell... not only is it effective, it's beautiful. I'll bet they end up calling it a Potter Shield, or something like that. They should, anyway."
"You of all people, Hermione," said an amused Dumbledore, "must know that spells are almost never named for the wizards who discover them. But these circumstances are unique, and they may merit a change in policy."
"Oh, yes, let's name it for me," Harry said sarcastically but humorously. "I'm not nearly famous enough as it is."
Hermione was still too exuberant to be annoyed. "But you deserve it! Look at what you had to go through to find it! That would have broken most people!"
Harry shrugged. "I'm not sure I care whether it gets named for me, really. If people can use it to avoid getting Cursed, that'll be more than enough for me."
Hermione looked puzzled. "That reminds me, Harry, what's the incantation for this spell? I never heard you say one."
He hadn't thought of that. "There isn't one. At least, not that I know of. I never used one, or thought of one. I just did the spell."
"I had noticed that, Hermione," said Dumbledore. "In Harry's case, as his spells are operating at 100% effectiveness whether vocalized or not, it was not necessary for him to employ any particular incantation. If there is one, it may come to Harry at some point when he is not thinking about it."
"Professor, are any other spells made up of the energy of love?" asked Harry.
"No, Harry. This is the only one."
"I have to wonder now why nobody ever thought of that. I mean, love is so powerful, it seems obvious when you look at it."
"The discovery of spells is more art than science. Look how you came up with yours. I have no doubt that people have thought of it before, but you are the first to actually find one. Unknown spells are very, very hard to find."
"I guess I can see now why you found this so amazing yesterday. It's funny how it showed up just when I needed it most."
"It is really not strange at all, Harry," Dumbledore explained. "Think about how families find out that their children are magical. Even without a wand, the children summon magic when they most need it: when in danger, terrified, or angry. This situation was roughly analogous to that."
"Professor, now that this has worked in the dream, we need to make sure it works in the real world. We should do a test."
"That makes sense, but the only way to do a test is for someone to use the Curse on you."
"It doesn't matter; I'll block it. You said spells work the same way in reality as in dreams. You saw this. You know it'll work," Harry said stubbornly.
Dumbledore hesitated, then nodded. "Very well. I will arrange for a preliminary demonstration tonight. The Ministry will want to send an observer. If the spell is successful, as I am sure it will be, there will be another, more formal, test of it shortly thereafter.
"We should exit the Pensieve now, so you two can get to sleep. It will not be strictly necessary, but I will watch over Harry for the rest of the night, Hermione. You will not be bothered any further by Voldemort, I am nearly certain. But I will not be sleeping much anyway; I have much to think about. I will stay."
Harry, Hermione, and Dumbledore left the Pensieve, and were back in the quiet of the boys' dormitory. Harry and Hermione exchanged whispered 'good nights' and got into their beds. Dumbledore sat in his chair, having moved it away from Harry's bed. Fawkes started singing. Getting comfortable in his bed, knowing for the first time in days that his sleep would not be interrupted, Harry focused on love, and his friends-not as a relaxation technique or anti-Voldemort weapon, but just because he wanted to, to appreciate what his friends had done for him, had helped him do. He was again asleep quickly.
Harry awoke to see that the sun was up; he had missed seeing sunlight when he awoke for a few days. He sat up, remembered what had happened, and jumped out of bed. Dumbledore was still there, awake, in his chair. All the others were awake, and broke into wide smiles when they saw him.
"Hermione and Professor Dumbledore told us everything, of course," said Ginny, walking towards Harry. "We're so happy, we're so excited..." She threw her arms around him in triumph.
"Thank you, Ginny, thank you for everything you did. You were wonderful."
"I was so happy to do it, Harry. We all were." She released him and stepped back. Harry stepped forward to hug Hermione. "Did you get enough sleep? Are you okay for today?" he asked.
She nodded, "Yes, thanks," and let go.
Harry approached Ron, a wide grin on his face. Ron grinned back and extended his hand. Harry just shook his head, still smiling.
Ron figured it out, and rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on..."
"Too bad, Ron," said Harry. He stepped forward to hug Ron, who sighed and hugged Harry back. "Thank you, Ron. Especially for bringing me back that first night."
They stepped apart. Ron's face was now a bright red, but he smiled. "No problem, mate." Harry saw the girls trying not to laugh at Ron's discomfort.
Harry moved on to Neville, who didn't flinch or look uncomfortable. He hugged Neville, who returned the gesture. Harry stepped back and said, "Thanks for staying, Neville. It meant a lot to me." Neville just nodded, smiling and overwhelmed.
Dumbledore stepped forward. "Harry, the school will want to know what happened. The first years, not having heard you scream, will have relayed that information to others, but people will want a few details. So you will not be besieged with requests, I thought I would make a brief presentation at breakfast. I would also like to show a small amount of the dream to the school, to illustrate things properly. I hope that will be all right with you."
"Sure, sir, whatever you think is best," Harry agreed. He would be happy not to have to tell it twenty times, enjoyable as this story would be.
"Very well, then... if you will change into your day clothes, I will escort you down to the Great Hall, where I believe most everyone is waiting." The students closed the curtains on their beds and changed clothes, then followed Dumbledore out.
They entered the Great Hall to find virtually everyone there; all the teachers were present at the teachers' table, including Hagrid, which was a rarity. A loud buzz went up when people caught sight of Harry and the others. Dumbledore strode to the center of the teachers' table.
"I wish at this time to give you all some information which will be of great general interest," he announced, using the magical microphone. "I am pleased to announce that Harry had a dream encounter involving Voldemort last night, but was not Cursed. He has prevailed, and will not be disturbed again."
A huge cheer burst forth from the audience. Plates and cups were banged against tables and each other. A few people hugged. Except for Snape, the teachers applauded enthusiastically. The din went on for almost a whole minute.
"Yes, we are all most gratified," agreed Dumbledore when the Hall got quiet enough for him to continue. "But the means of his victory is perhaps even more remarkable than the victory itself. Harry did not dodge or avoid Voldemort's Cruciatus Curse. He fashioned a defense against it.
"To properly understand what I am saying, it will be better for you to see it with your own eyes. Some of you may know that there are means to retrieve images and scenes from dreams. We have done so with Harry's dream last night. It will be displayed in the air, above me, with audio.
"I warn you that Voldemort will appear and speak in these images. The images begin approximately thirty seconds into Harry's dream." Dumbledore waved his wand, and Harry saw himself and Voldemort, in the graveyard, floating above the teachers' table. There were quite a few gasps from the audience.
The images moved. Harry saw himself say, "Sorry, Voldemort, but it's you that's weakening..." There were gasps again; Harry suspected they were due to his calm, or perhaps that he addressed Voldemort directly by his name. They gasped again when Voldemort threatened Harry, and yet again when Harry calmly defied him. Harry had to remember that even what was being shown here, while by no means the worst of what he had gone through, was probably very frightening to the other students. They had never seen Voldemort before. Harry wondered if by showing this, Dumbledore was trying to accomplish something similar to what Harry was doing with the name: to diminish fear with familiarity
Then Voldemort hit Harry with the Curse, which Harry's shield stopped. Each of these actions caused more gasps. Harry glanced down the Gryffindor table and saw a row of stunned looks as people watched, mesmerized. As the dream images continued, Harry saw that Dumbledore had edited out what he said near the end about Tom Riddle. He supposed that Dumbledore felt that it would not be understood properly unless one knew what was said in the third dream. At the end of the dream, when Voldemort vanished, defeated, there was only silence in the Hall. Harry had wondered whether there might be applause, but he gathered that everyone was still too stunned.
"Quite remarkable, both Harry's composure and the defense he used. Now, I will summon up a closer image of how Harry appeared just before the first attempted Curse by Voldemort. Harry will now activate his spell," continued Dumbledore, as the Hall watched Harry's shield suddenly appear. "Now watch carefully as Voldemort's Curse reaches the shield." Everyone watched the Curse dissipate and fizzle quietly.
"Excuse me, sir," shouted a seventh year Ravenclaw, "what spell was that?"
"I cannot give it a name," Dumbledore explained, "for it is something that Harry... invented, or discovered, whichever you like... yesterday. It is a previously unknown spell, and it is capable of stopping the Cruciatus Curse, something heretofore believed to be impossible."
Again there was no sound in the Hall, just a stunned silence. Dumbledore continued, "The first test of this spell will take place tonight in the Great Hall at 7:00 p.m., after dinner. Anyone wishing to stay and view the test may do so. That is all for now. Congratulations again to Harry, and thank you for your attention."
Dumbledore stepped away from the podium. There was silence for a few more seconds, then a few students started clapping. Gradually, more and more joined, and finally there was a thunderous ovation. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Neville were looking at him proudly. He smiled at them, then closed his eyes and let the feelings wash over him. He reflected that what he was truly happy about was that Voldemort was gone from his mind, but this... this was almost as good.
The applause finally died down, and Harry started on his food. There was a lot of talking in the Hall, as people exchanged impressions and speculations. The owls came in, and dropped another twenty pieces of mail in front of Harry. He realized that he could now look at yesterday's mail without fear of the effect it would have on his morale. His friends didn't talk to him, sensing that he needed to eat in peace.
Harry had gotten through most of his food when he saw Ernie and Justin walk up; Harry stood to greet them. "Hi, guys," Harry said. "I wanted to thank you again for coming by every day. Like everything else, it helped."
They looked at him and nodded, but didn't say anything. Finally Justin said, "You know, it's kind of hard to know what to say, after seeing what we just saw. I feel like asking you if you plan to walk on water next."
Harry laughed. "If it'd help me get away from Voldemort, I'd give it a try, believe me. I'm a bit surprised too, especially about the spell. It was such a strange thing."
"I see your 100 came in handy," said Ernie. "I noticed that your spell doesn't have an incantation, but for you, it doesn't need one, does it?"
Harry nodded. "Bet you're one of the very few people that picked up on that, Ernie. No, no incantation came to me. I kind of wish it had, just so other people could use it more easily. But I was happy to get what I got, that's for sure."
"So, you have no idea where it came from?" Justin asked.
Harry shook his head. "It just came to me, out of the clear blue sky. I've never had anything like that happen before. When you're in a situation like that, a lot of times you don't think, you just do things."
"I pray, Harry, that I'll never find myself in a situation like that," Justin said. "But I did get to see what you were talking about yesterday. He's just... like you said, Hermione, evil. He gave me chills."
"By comparison, the dream you saw was mild," Hermione replied. "Yesterday's was much worse, much harder for Harry. Professor Dumbledore thinks that's how he came up with the spell, that he was forced to... reach deeper into whatever abilities and resources we have. Harry was pushed really, really hard, and that's what he came up with. It's one of those things about people that we don't really understand all that well."
Ernie nodded. "I feel like there's a few things that I don't really understand all that well... like how Harry did what we just saw him do. But maybe there are things we're not meant to understand." He extended a hand, which Harry shook.
"Well, Harry, there's one thing I can say for sure," said Justin, shaking Harry's hand as well. "In that interview, you said that it was strange being famous when you did nothing to merit it. You're not going to be able to say that anymore; at this point, you'd be famous even if you weren't Harry Potter. And deservedly so. Congratulations."
"Thanks, you two. See you tonight?"
"Yeah, I don't think we'd miss it," Justin said as they walked away.
The day was a strange one for Harry. He still felt happy and triumphant, but he felt that people were treating him strangely. His students especially were more subdued than usual; they seemed to be gaping at him half the time, and nervous when he called on them. He gave Ron and Hermione his impressions at lunch. They smiled.
"I know your modesty wouldn't have let this occur to you, Harry," said Hermione, "but think about how this looks to them. All they've heard all their lives about Voldemort is how terrifying he is, how he's to be feared, how many he killed, and so on. Then they start your classes. First off, you're the Boy Who Lived, so that's pretty impressive right there. Then, you-unique in wizarding society, except for Dumbledore-use his name, and encourage them to do so. To them, that already makes you really brave, really amazing. Now you invent a new, powerful spell, and use it to defeat Voldemort in a battle of wills, facing horrible pain. To them, you might as well be Merlin, or something. They're probably in awe of you right now. It'll go away, hopefully, but you'll have to deal with it for awhile."
"Would it help if I made fun of you a bit, Harry?" Ron offered. "It'd be tough on me, but hey, anything for a friend."
Harry chuckled. "Well, don't stretch yourself. Only if something really good comes up. Like if I get another scroll."
"Well, we can't really hope for that, can we," Ron said. "Ah, that was a good one."
"With your classes, I'd suggest maybe you try more humor, make sure you make some jokes if you can," suggested Hermione. "It might humanize you more."
Harry nodded. "I try to do that anyway, but I'll keep it in mind."
After lunch, Harry went to the staff room, as usual. He was applauded as he entered, and got pats on the back from John and Flitwick, and a kiss on the cheek from Sprout. He was asked how he was doing, and told them what he had told Hermione and Ron. "Hermione thinks... this is embarrassing to say, but she thinks they're in awe of me."
Flitwick smiled. "Well, we're in awe of you, Harry, why shouldn't they be?"
Harry couldn't help but grin. "Well, I think you're just teasing me, but-"
Flitwick interrupted him. "Anyone in this room who thinks I'm teasing Harry, raise your hand." Nobody did. "Harry, I don't know if you're aware of how what you did looks, but... watching this morning, I practically had an accident just looking at Voldemort." This got a chuckle around the room. "He inspires terror in mature, adult wizards. I'm not any kind of coward, but I couldn't imagine myself doing what I saw you do this morning. I just don't think I would have it in me. We know you're only sixteen, we know there's still a lot you have to learn and experience. But what you did is literally awe-inspiring. You have to understand that." Other teachers nodded.
Harry found it hard to believe, but decided not to argue it. "But even if that's true, you would be in awe of what I did, not in awe of me. You all would still tease me, treat me the same way. But the students are acting like they're in awe of me, like I'm some... I don't know, but something. I want them to look at me like they did last week."
"They will, Harry, you just have to give them time," advised Sprout. "You taught them within a very short time of them seeing you do something that was... well, as Professor Flitwick said, awe-inspiring."
"You should have seen what he did on Monday morning, in the fourth dream," said McGonagall. "This one looked easy by comparison, I assure you."
Harry nodded. "Also, today I had the comfort of knowing I had that spell, and that it would probably work. I was actually looking forward to him trying the Curse, so I could find out for sure."
John yawned ostentatiously. "No, nothing at all awe-inspiring about that."
"By the way, for that demonstration tonight, who's going to do the actual Curse?" asked Harry. "I hadn't thought about that." The other teachers looked uncomfortable.
"Professor Dumbledore was just in here discussing that," said McGonagall, a cloud seeming to form over her face. "It is his intention to do it himself."
"What??" Harry almost screamed. He jumped to his feet. "Absolutely not! No! He can't!"
"We offered similar opinions, Harry," McGonagall said softly. "He was insistent. He would not ask anyone to do this, although several of us volunteered to do it. He felt he could not shirk this."
"He's damn well going to shirk this," Harry said furiously. "I'll back out, I won't do this if he's that determined. I won't let him. He can't do this." He stormed out of the staff room, heading for Dumbledore's office.
He knocked and walked in; it looked like Snape and Dumbledore had been having an animated conversation. Normally Harry would have been curious as to what it was about, but now he didn't care. Dumbledore turned to Harry.
"Harry, what can I-"
"You're not doing this," Harry said hotly. "I won't let you. I'll back out of the whole thing."
Dumbledore paused, regarding Harry with fondness and patience. "I did plan on telling you myself, but-"
"I asked them. They told me."
"I see. Harry, there are some things one cannot ask others to do-"
For the third time in a row, Harry interrupted Dumbledore. "You wouldn't have to ask them, they said they volunteered. And I can't let you. I can't do it."
Dumbledore looked at Harry with affection. "I understand, and I appreciate it. But what kind of leader would I be if I delegated out unpleasant tasks to those under my command?"
"You would be," Snape said, "the kind who recognizes reality, the reality that tasks are best performed by those who can best accomplish them, with the least difficulty. Professor Potter," he said, turning to Harry, "who do you feel should perform the Curse?"
"Isn't it obvious?" Harry asked in exasperation. "You, of course."
"I have been telling this to the headmaster for the past ten minutes, but he will not accept what I say. Perhaps he will accept it from you."
Harry's eyes flashed. "He will accept it from me, or I'm not doing it." He turned to Dumbledore. "I'm serious."
Dumbledore was still patient. "Harry, imagine a situation in which someone had to Curse Ginny Weasley, and it had to be you, Ron, or Hermione. Would you allow one of them to perform such a task?
Harry had to pause. "I wouldn't want to," he admitted, "but if she pleaded with me to let it be someone else, and there was someone much better suited to do it... I'd like to think I would. If it would mean that much to her that I not do it."
"Why do you think, Harry, that Professor Snape is better suited to do this?"
Harry was almost speechless; this seemed so obvious. "The person doing the Cursing has to want to cause the other person to suffer. I know how you'd feel, doing that. You love me! He doesn't even like me! Do you know how many times I've seen him look at me as though he'd like nothing better than to do the Curse?" Realizing what he'd said, he quickly looked at Snape and said, "No offense."
Snape raised an eyebrow. "None taken." They looked at Dumbledore.
"Harry, what you have just said is precisely the reason that I do not want Professor Snape doing this."
Snape seemed very frustrated. "I am in control, Headmaster. You fear needlessly. It is only a few Curses, done for a very specific reason, under controlled circumstances. You would be emotionally damaged, while I would not, which is the point I assume Professor Potter was making."
"And my point, Severus, was that there are things that Harry does not know; he cannot evaluate the cost or risks to you."
"Even if he were told, he could not do so. But he has intuitively grasped the cost to you. You and I know the effect on me, and only your stubbornness prevents you from recognizing that the cost to you is much higher than it is to me. Even if he knew, he would choose the same." He paused, looking at Dumbledore. "And that disturbs you. You would not want him to choose your interests over mine. Headmaster, he loves you. What else can he do? If you love him, you should do as he wishes." Harry was stunned; he had never heard Snape have the concern for anyone that he was displaying for Dumbledore, nor did he imagine he would ever hear Snape using the word 'love.'
Dumbledore gazed at Snape levelly. "I love you both, Severus. Perhaps in different ways, but I would not easily put my interests above yours, or even his above yours."
"And you care nothing for the distress you know it would cause those who care about you?" Snape pressed. "You can suffer doing what I could do, in which case those you care about will suffer too, including him," he said, pointing to Harry. "Or, you can suffer the regret of letting another shoulder what you feel is your burden, in which case, you suffer alone. Which is better?"
Dumbledore looked at Harry. "This is one of the classic types of moral dilemmas, especially for people in leadership positions. You will experience it one day, no doubt sooner than you would like. If you love those under your command, you will wish to take for yourself the most difficult tasks. But if they love you, they will wish to do it for you.
"I assure you, Harry, that this is not as clear-cut as it seems to you. There is information you do not have, which I cannot tell you at this time without Professor Snape's permission. This is not as easy for him as you think it is."
"But is he right, sir?" Harry asked Dumbledore, his tone near pleading. "Is the cost to him lower than it is to you?"
"We cannot say definitively, Harry, in situations like this. But he may be correct."
"I am correct," said Snape softly. "You know it. Trust me, Albus."
Dumbledore looked at Snape in surprise. If Harry had to guess, he would have guessed that this was the first time Snape had ever called him that. Dumbledore closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again. "Very well, Severus. You will perform the Curse."
"Thank you, Headmaster," Snape said.
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said to Dumbledore. He turned to leave, as did Snape, who followed him out. The walked together; obviously both were headed to the staff room. "Thank you, Professor," said Harry sincerely.
"I did not do this for you, Professor," said Snape evenly. "I did it for him."
Harry met his eyes as they walked. "I know. That's why I'm thanking you."
Snape seemed to consider this. "You're welcome," he said, just before they entered the staff room.
They walked in, and all eyes were on them; the staff obviously knew what the discussion had been about. Snape said nothing, so Harry said it instead. "Professor Snape will perform the Curse tonight."
There were a few low whistles in the room. Harry looked confused, which McGonagall noticed. "I have been at Hogwarts for forty years, Harry, and I can count the number of times the headmaster has changed his mind on the fingers of one hand. I would be most interested to know how it was managed."
Snape glanced at Harry, a silent request not to elaborate. Harry simply said, "We ganged up on him. It was hard for him to say no to both of us."
"That must have been quite some ganging up," mused Flitwick.
"You should get your things ready, Harry, as you have a class in a few minutes," said McGonagall. "Mine, you may recall. I assume you have done all your homework and practice?"
"Would you really assume that?" asked Harry, deadpan. The others laughed. "Actually, I did have a go at it last night, but for some reason, I couldn't keep my mind on it. I imagine I'll do better next week."
"I daresay you will," she said, to more laughter. She got up, and they left the staff room together.
There was an atmosphere of expectation at dinner in the Great Hall. Harry had just finished eating, but like everyone else, he wasn't going anywhere. It would not be long before the demonstration of the new spell would take place. Harry had little doubt that it would work, so he was not worried, but he could tell his friends were. He tried to reassure them, but they were not convinced. Finally, he said, "Do you think that McGonagall and Dumbledore would let this happen if they thought there was any chance of it not working?" They saw his point, but were still not put totally at ease.
"Can I join you guys for a minute?" They looked up and saw Hugo Brantell smiling down at them. They gave him a cheerful hello, and Ginny and Hermione separated so he could squeeze in. "Ah, a good spot, right between two attractive girls," he said.
"Hey, that's not fair, you'll know whether we believe you or not," said Ginny.
Hugo did an impression of an overblown reporter, stage-whispering, "I'm here at the Gryffindor house table here at Hogwarts, the site of the most incredible five days in wizarding history, and I'm talking with the man of the moment, the one on whom all eyes are on, the one to whom others look for guidance and leadership. So, tell me, Ron, how does it feel?" All the Gryffindors near them burst out laughing, including Ron.
Ron ran with the joke. "Well, I don't mind telling you, Hugo, it's a little tense. I have to sit here and watch, and you know how hard that can be. But I'm bearing up well, thank you very much for asking."
"I assume you're here covering this, not just as a spectator?" Harry asked.
Hugo nodded. "I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but it's a huge story. This could be an enormous development in wizardry. Assuming everything goes as planned tonight, I'll be here tomorrow too."
"What happens tomorrow?" asked Ginny.
"It's a little bit similar to tonight, only more formal and without such a big crowd. Tonight is just to prove the spell exists informally, so the Ministry knows there should be a formal display of it. Tomorrow, three Aurors will come here, and test the spell, make measurements, ask Harry detailed questions about the spell, bother him about why there's no incantation, and so forth." Harry smiled, but Hugo saw beneath it. "I'm sorry, Harry, I know you're not happy about that. I think it'll come with time."
Harry nodded. "I just want people to be able to use it. The annoying thing is that people really can't practice it. You just have to use it in the situation and hope it works."
"Well, you did last night. Professor Dumbledore showed me the images he showed everyone at breakfast. You did pretty well."
"Thanks, Hugo," said Harry.
Ron sputtered. "Pretty well? You must be kidding-"
Hugo started to laugh. "Yes, I am, Ron. Just curious, does anyone know the idea of my joke?"
"You were saying what Harry wishes everyone would say," supplied Hermione, "instead of telling him what an amazing, awe-inspiring, unforgettable, tremendous, and stupendously brave thing he managed to do, which he's been hearing all day and is getting sick of."
"You really do know the answer to everything, don't you?" smiled Hugo, as Hermione looked at him in feigned annoyance. He turned to Harry and said, "After it's over, I wanted to interview you about it, just a few questions. Well, no more than a dozen, anyway. Professor Dumbledore said I should do it so that all the students can hear. I wanted to make sure that was okay with you."
Harry smiled. "Well, is it?"
Hugo chuckled at the challenge. "You shouldn't test me, Harry, your eyes are too expressive. Ah, I see you've been told that recently. Anyway, you're not thrilled about it, but you recognize that people are legitimately interested, so you'll do it for that reason. If it was strictly for people's entertainment, you'd be looking for the nearest door."
"Seeing Professor Lockhart at a young age kind of put me off the idea of wanting publicity," Harry agreed.
"So, Hugo," asked Ron, "have you talked to many people here yet today? What's the mood like?"
"You probably know too, Ron, but I know you think I might see something you don't. People are overwhelmed at what Harry did; frankly, myself included, but more or less everyone. Some older Slytherins acted like it was no big deal, but they were completely lying." Everyone chuckled. "I could tell you in more detail, but I'm pretty sure Harry doesn't want to know."
Ron snorted. "Of course he doesn't, why do you think I asked you?" Harry smiled and playfully shoved Ron. "Can you imagine, Harry," asked Ron, "what Fred and George would be saying if they were here?"
Ginny giggled. "They'd be talking about where your statue was going to go up, taking your measurements for it. Or telling the first years that you were born on a mountaintop in a thunderstorm. They'd really be having fun."
"I visited their shop today, by the way," said Hugo. "They made lots of jokes, and were very understated about it, but they were thrilled about the mention in the article, and they're very proud of you. Even you two," he added to Ron and Ginny.
Forgetting who she was talking to, Ginny asked, "They said that?"
"Of course not, Ginny," replied Hugo with amusement. "This was me cheating. But they did say something about being glad there were still two Weasleys on the Quidditch team."
Ginny's response was cut off by Dumbledore's magically enhanced voice. "May I have your attention, please. We will now witness a brief demonstration of the spell which you were shown at breakfast this morning. In attendance are two Ministry of Magic Aurors, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Hubert Dawlish, and journalist Hugo Brantell. Harry, would you step up here, please?" Harry got up and walked to where the teachers' table usually was; parts of it had been moved so people could see more clearly.
"Harry, is there anything you need before we proceed?"
"I think I'm okay, just give me a minute to get ready," Harry said. He closed his eyes and felt love. It seemed almost palpable, in this large room, the support of his fellow students and fellow teachers. He could sink into it easily, he could feel it all around him. He took out his wand and nodded to Dumbledore. "I'm ready."
"Very well. I shall count down from five to zero. On zero, Professor Snape will issue the Curse. Five, four..."
Harry had forgotten about the crowd, he was peaceful and comfortable.
"Three, two, one..."
Harry still felt relaxed, but he felt the atmosphere change, only a tiny bit, as if things were getting dark. Somehow, he thought, he would know the spell was coming even if not for the countdown.
"Crucio!" As Snape said the word, as in the dream, the shield snapped on almost automatically. The spell hit the shield and quickly dissipated. The shield lingered for a few seconds, and went off. The crowd erupted in cheers. Harry smiled, though he had fully expected this. He looked over at his friends, very happy to see them so happy for him.
Dumbledore said, "Thank you. Most impressive, Harry. We will now do it one more time, for confirmation. I will count down from five again. Five, four, three, two, one, zero."
"Crucio", Snape shouted. Again Harry's shield went up, and again there was no damage. Again Harry felt as though something was changing in the air just before the spell was cast, but he wondered whether he was imagining it. The students cheered again. To Harry's surprise, Professor Snape walked up to him and offered his hand; Harry shook it, wondering if this was part of a ritual involved with such demonstrations. Dumbledore shook his hand too, then McGonagall. Dumbledore addressed the crowd.
"Thank you for your attention. Mr. Brantell would like to ask Harry a few questions now, and I thought there might be some interest in this, so I have arranged for the audio to be enhanced. Hugo?"
Hugo walked up to where Harry was standing. "Harry, may I ask you a few questions?"
"Depends, do they have anything to do with girlfriends?"
Hugo smiled as the crowd laughed. "Don't tempt me, Harry. First of all, can you describe how this spell came to you?"
"I wish I could, Hugo. It was just there, that's really the best way to say it. It was as if I just got this idea, fully formed, and did what it felt like I should do."
"Can you say exactly what you did? How would you describe the process of casting the spell?"
"When the idea first came to me, I imagined a shield that totally surrounded me. I imagined it looking bright, and made out of the energy of love, which is probably the most unusual thing about it."
The audience murmured a bit, suggesting that they thought it was strange. Hugo asked, "What made you think of doing that, Harry?"
Harry took a deep breath. He was less than thrilled to explain the details publicly, but had already decided, with some encouragement from Hermione, that the spell was too important not to make the information about it public. "This goes back to my whole approach to dealing with Voldemort. The second time I met him, last June in the Ministry of Magic, he tried to possess me, to put his... spirit, I guess, into my body and control it. It was horrible, like being lost in a sea of evil. After a few seconds, I felt like death would be better than existing like that. Thinking of that made me think of... people I loved who had died, that I would be with them, and that made me feel love. As soon as that happened, Voldemort retreated, he left my body, and I was myself again. Later, Professor Dumbledore explained that Voldemort left my body because he can't tolerate the presence of love. His... maybe essence is a better word... is one of pure evil. It can't tolerate being around love, because love reminds it of how empty and barren it is. So Professor Dumbledore told me that this was my best defense against Voldemort, to avoid being taken over, to try to stop dreams and other intrusions.
"So, even before the dreams started, I was trying to do mental exercises, to be able to summon up feelings of love, to focus on them. It wasn't easy; I was raised in a home where love wasn't expressed, so it wasn't familiar to me. I wasn't comfortable with it. But, it's amazing how the possibility of having to deal with Voldemort is a great motivator. I put a lot of effort into working it through, to being more comfortable with it. Ginny and Hermione were a great help," he said, looking at them. "I guess this is easier for girls. Ron, on the other hand, was no help at all." The crowd laughed, as did Ron. "But most helpful of all was Professor Dumbledore, which won't surprise anyone who's spent any time around him. Both his example and his advice helped me. So, when the dreams started, I knew what I had to do. During the dreams, I focused as hard as I could on feelings of love, of being calm. I knew it was the only way to get through what I had to go through.
"Now... and I'm just now getting to the answer to your question, Hugo... in the dreams, I was constantly focusing on love, trying to create an atmosphere that he wouldn't like. He tried to possess me again in the first dream, but doing deliberately what I did accidentally at the Ministry of Magic, I was able to push him out. I couldn't push him out of my dreams quite so easily, but I knew eventually I could do it. The hard part was withstanding the Curse every night. So, when I had the inspiration for the shield on the fourth night, it was already second nature to be focusing on love, so it seemed totally natural to me to have the shield energy be composed of love, which I had come to think of as a source of energy, something real. It had driven Voldemort out of my mind; it seemed real to me. So that was what I did. It wasn't something I planned. It was as if my mind knew what it should do without me thinking about it."
A hush had fallen over the crowd. Hugo said, "Harry, that was probably the most personal thing anyone's ever said to me in front of three hundred people." The crowd chuckled. "Why did you go into so much detail about this? Love isn't something that most people talk about like this."
Harry smiled. "First of all, Hugo, the Hogwarts community is very sensitive and understanding. I'm sure no one will be teasing me about this at all." This got a big laugh. Hugo interrupted to say, "Yes, and I'm sure that someone who's come to understand and focus on love will not be of any particular interest to the girls at Hogwarts." The crowd again laughed.
"See, it's already started," Harry said. "But to answer your question, there are two reasons. First, it's not going to make any sense to say I focused on love unless I explain the background, why it was necessary to do that. Secondly, this is important for people to know, much more important than any embarrassment I might feel in talking about it. I now realize what a powerful weapon love is, and if anyone doesn't believe it, all they have to do is look at the shield. The Cruciatus Curse was thought to be unblockable, but love is so powerful that it could do it. It could cause Voldemort to retreat. Who knows what else it might do? People have to know."
"Has this focus had any effect on you in your day-to-day life?"
"I've been around you long enough, Hugo, to know that you already know the answer, you just want me to say what it is." Hugo nodded, and Harry chuckled. "Yes, it's had a great side benefit. I feel more relaxed, calmer, less easily agitated than before. Last year I was on edge a lot, testing the patience of my friends," he said, looking at Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. "I felt a lot better this year, before the attacks, and I'm sure it was because of that that once the attacks started, I was able to get through them without despairing. It was a really difficult situation."
"Another of your famous understatements, Harry, but never mind. So you feel this focus has made you a happier person?"
"Yes, I definitely think so. I had no idea that it would, I had no idea about love, to be honest. I just worked as hard as I could to follow Professor Dumbledore's advice, and this was the result. I'm very grateful to him." He looked at Dumbledore, who smiled back at him.
"Harry, I talked to some people in the scientific community today, and they said that if tonight's test proved successful, it would be the most important new spell in three hundred years. How does that make you feel, being the one who discovered it?"
"I guess 'pleased and amazed' would describe it. I feel like you expect me to say 'proud,' but since it came to me without my thinking about it, I don't feel like it's 'mine,' but just something I found, that I was very lucky to have found."
Hugo shook his head. "Harry, you've made me take off my reporter's hat for a moment. Your accomplishment was partly in finding the spell, but mostly in managing to survive the situation with your spirit intact. For four nights you had no defense against the Curse, but you didn't back down. Most people would have never gotten that far, far enough to find the spell in the first place."
Harry started to answer, but was drowned out by a quickly building wave of applause. Harry smiled with embarrassment as he saw that the teachers had joined it. "Thank you," he said when the applause faded. "But I can't say it enough, and I'll say it again: Professor Dumbledore, my friends, Fawkes, the teachers, and all of you... helped me keep my spirits up. I benefited from your help more than you can probably understand. I knew I wasn't alone. It helped me focus, and I'm grateful to everyone."
"Thank you, Harry," said Hugo, indicating that the interview was over. The crowd applauded one more time. Harry stepped down and headed toward the Gryffindor table. He reflected again on how lucky he was, despite all he had to go through, as he was patted and congratulated by his friends.
Harry got a good night's uninterrupted sleep that night. Dean and Seamus moved back into the dormitory; Fawkes sang again as a precaution, and Harry knew that Fawkes would retrieve Dumbledore if it was necessary. But he knew it wouldn't be, and it wasn't. At breakfast, Hermione told him that she was ready with the communications arrangements he'd asked for, and that she'd managed to find Pansy alone to tell her to meet Harry at 4:00. Harry found one of his Slytherin first years and told them to meet him at 4:15 and to keep it quiet.
He took his Invisibility Cloak and the Marauder's Map with him to his afternoon Charms class, so he could go directly to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. He arrived at a few minutes before four to find Pansy already there. Ron and Hermione had come with him, and they stayed in the outer room to stand lookout as Harry and Pansy retreated to the office.
"How are you doing, Pansy?"
"Oh, Harry... watching the demonstration last night, the images yesterday morning... do you have any idea how hard it was for me to keep my feelings off my face? To pretend I felt like Malfoy did? When I was so amazed and proud of you that I could burst? And what you said about love yesterday, it was just... inspirational. It was beautiful."
"Thank you, Pansy. I'm really glad you feel that way. But now that this is over, you should be able to keep your true face hidden better."
She nodded. "I'm just so glad for your sake it is over. I was so happy to hear it yesterday, I almost cheered along with everyone else. You should have seen Malfoy when Dumbledore showed those images. He was so scared when he saw the Dark Lord, I thought he was going to wet himself." Harry laughed. "I shouldn't talk, though, I was pretty scared myself. But I don't pretend otherwise. And when you used your spell, in the dream, and told him that he'd lost, Malfoy was so stunned, it was funny to watch. He just couldn't believe it."
"Poor Malfoy, his hero defeated. So what's it like in Slytherin these days?"
"Malfoy's keeping a very low profile. What you accomplished has caused most Slytherins, even maybe half the older ones, to abandon the pretense that they agree with Malfoy about you. They say things like, 'I don't care for Potter personally, but what he did was pretty amazing,' that sort of thing. The younger ones are really open in their support, talking about it in the common room. Malfoy's been spending a lot of time in his dormitory, which I'm really pleased with, since I can't go in there. It's safe to say that nobody has to fear saying nice things about you, which is great."
"I'm really glad, Pansy. That was all I wanted in the first place. By the way, the first years will be here in a few minutes. You have to understand that they may be reluctant to believe that you're with them. They've seen only the opposite from you."
She nodded. "I know that, I'm ready to try to convince them."
Hermione came in. "Harry, they're all here."
"Okay, thanks. Pansy, you stay here, I want to talk to them for a minute first. Come out when you hear me ask for you. Ron'll warn you if someone's coming; grab the Cloak out of the bag if you need to. I'll ask for you in a minute." She nodded again, and he walked out into the classroom.
He could tell that the Slytherin first years were excited to see him. He smiled and sat down near where they were standing. They spent a few minutes giving him their reactions to his recent actions, after which Harry got down to business.
"The reason I asked you here is that there's someone who wants to help me, to help us. She has been doing it for a few days now, and her help could be very important. You're going to be surprised when you see who it is, but I ask you to listen to what she has to say." He walked to the office and gestured for Pansy to come out. As she did, there was a gasp from the Slytherins; Harry could tell this was not something they were happy about, at least at first. Harry put his arm around Pansy's shoulders for a moment as a kind of silent endorsement, and they sat down next to each other, in front of the first years.
"But she's Malfoy's friend!" Augustina Delva almost shouted. "She's always with him, laughing and stuff."
"Think about it, Augustina," said Hedrick. "If she's a spy, she has to act like that, doesn't she?"
Harry nodded. "That's right, Hedrick. She came to me on Saturday, after Nott tried to kill me. She told me she wanted to help, that she was sick of Malfoy and wanted to do something better. I didn't know whether to believe her at first. She hadn't been very nice to us for five years." Pansy smiled, embarrassed, at his understatement. "But I've talked to her a lot since then, for a few hours over the past few days. I can see what kind of person she is, how she wants to be better than she was. I trust her. I believe her."
Pansy turned to face the first years. "I know it may be hard for you to believe me like Harry does. You've only seen the worst part of me, saying nice things about Malfoy, laughing with him, acting stupid. But when I'm with Harry, I can be who I want to be. He's been very kind. I've been very angry with myself for things I've done, for how I've been. I've cried on his shoulder, I mean actually, and he's been forgiving and understanding. He's been wonderful, and I'm grateful to him."
The first years looked entranced; they'd probably never seen anyone open up like this. Even Ron and Hermione looked impressed. "I want to keep pretending to be Malfoy's friend. I mean, I don't really want to, I hate him now. I've been so stupid to have been his friend before. But I want to keep pretending because I might find out something that could help Harry. He was almost killed on Saturday. I want to stop that from happening again. If I'd known Nott was a Death Eater, I could have told Harry, for example. I can find out things you can't, and I can understand small things that you might not, because I've been here so long. If you want, you can help me help him."
Harry spoke again. "You have to decide whether to help her. I have no authority over you, I can't tell you to do anything. You help me because you want to, and I'm very grateful for that. All I can tell you is that I trust her. You also need to understand that she's taking a risk, a big risk. You support me openly, all the Slytherins know it. Pansy tells me that no one's bothering you for it any more, and they probably won't in the future. But what she's doing is very dangerous. If anybody finds out what she's doing... it's not impossible that she could be killed. It probably wouldn't happen, but you need to understand how important this is. Whether you help her or not, it's very important that you not say anything to anybody about this. She could be in real danger."
The Slytherins looked somber. "If we helped her," asked Helen, "what would we be doing?"
"Not that much, really," Harry answered. "Most of the time there wouldn't be so much you could do. It's mainly that you could tell her about things you noticed, things you heard, things that seem strange. She's in a better position to understand such things than me, or even you. It could help her find out about another Death Eater, help her protect me."
"All I want," Pansy said earnestly to the Slytherins, "is to keep him safe. What he's doing is so important. I'm so glad he doesn't have to worry about the Curse anymore, but he's still in danger."
There was silence, then Hedrick asked, "Is it okay it we talk about this for a minute?" Harry nodded, and led Pansy away to the other end of the classroom as the Slytherins huddled. "It's a little democracy they've got there," Harry said, smiling.
"Harry, thank you for everything you said, for everything you've done. Thank you for trusting me."
Harry smiled and shrugged a bit, not knowing how to respond. "Well, you opened up to me, that probably did it as much as anything else. By the way, tonight's formal demonstration of the new spell is closed, the whole school can't watch, and I'm only allowed to invite some friends and family. But I've asked Dumbledore to request that the prefects be there as well, so you can come and it won't look suspicious."
She smiled gratefully. "Thanks, I appreciate it." They talked for another minute. The Slytherins separated, indicating that they were done talking. Harry and Pansy walked over to them.
"We've decided that..." Looking at Pansy, Helen said, "We don't really know you, so we don't know that we can trust you, for ourselves. But we trust him. He risks his life for us, for all wizards and witches everywhere. And he trusts you." Turning to Harry, she continued, "So, if you trust her, then we trust her, because we trust you."
"Thank you," said Harry and Pansy at the same time. Some of the Slytherins giggled. "Now, I need to say this again, and I'm very serious," Harry said. They nodded attentively. "It's very important that you tell no one about this. No matter how close friends you are with them, no matter how much you trust them, you can't tell them. They don't need to know, and it could put Pansy in danger. You shouldn't even talk about it among yourselves anywhere except your dormitories in case you're overheard. Don't use her name, don't say things that could help someone figure it out. Now, you might be thinking, of course, we know that, we're not stupid. I trust you, and I know you're smart. But I'm saying all this because of how important it is. I hope you understand that."
"We understand, sir," said David. "We won't let you down, or her." The others confirmed this with their eyes and nods.
"Okay," said Harry. "Now, I've asked Hermione to work out some way so that we can signal each other if we need to. Last year, with the D.A., we had fake Galleons that she had charmed to communicate meeting times. So, what have you come up with this time, Hermione?"
"Well, I decided to use Galleons again, for the same reason-it's not so suspicious to have one in your pocket. You just have to be sure not to try to spend it accidentally. Here, I'll give them to you now, and you can look at them while I explain how they work." She handed them out to everyone; each one had a small paper on it with the recipient's name. The first years looked impressed.
"First of all, each Galleon lights up in certain situations, and the area of the light shows which person it is. Imagine that each Galleon is like a slice of a pie with twelve pieces, or think of it like a clock. The first piece represents Harry, that is, from 12:00 to 1:00. From 1:00 to 6:00 are the boys, in alphabetical order. Then Pansy is from 6:00 to 7:00, and the girls are the rest. So, the right side is boys and the left side is girls, that's easy to remember.
"Now, you can signal each other using these. Here's one way of doing it: you just squeeze the center of the coin. I'll do it with Harry's." She squeezed, and on all the other coins, Harry's slice of the pie started blinking and vibrating. Everyone let out a gasp of appreciation, even Pansy. "So if you see that, you know Harry's signaling you. It's vibrating so you'll feel it in your pocket. My idea is that this is a distress or emergency signal; the blinking means that it's being sent to all the other coins. If it's just a general signal, nothing urgent, you do it differently. You find the right spot on the coin and you press the edge. Let's say Harry wants to meet Pansy. Harry presses the edge at Pansy's area." She did so, and Pansy's coin vibrated and lit up at Harry's area, not blinking. "So, if Pansy sees this, she knows Harry wants to talk to her. Also, Harry's and Pansy's can exchange basic information, like a time to meet. I didn't do that with the rest because you don't need it, and it's better to keep it simple. Any questions?"
Pansy and the Slytherins had dazed looks. "This is simple?" asked a girl named Sylvia.
"Now, this is how Harry and I feel all the time," Ron said, grinning.
"It'll be fine once you get used to it," Hermione said, ignoring Ron. "For you first years, it'll be mainly to signal Pansy that you want to talk to her. You don't need to signal Harry, since you can meet openly with him if you want. You don't really need to signal each other, of course. I would also advise you not to use it unless it's necessary, since whoever you signal can't look at it if there are people around."
"Is this what you do all that time you're in the library?" asked Pansy, amazed.
"No, but that's part of the reason I can do this," Hermione replied.
"Excuse me, but could you tell us this again, please?" asked a boy. Everyone laughed, and Hermione took him through it again. They practiced a bit, got another talk from Harry about security and what to do if they lost it, and they left. Pansy stayed back to talk to Harry, and to have Hermione explain how they could send each other times to meet with their coins. Pansy thanked Hermione warmly, said goodbye to Harry, and she left.
As Pansy walked away, Ron and Hermione walked up to Harry. "So, what do you think, Hermione?" asked Ron. "You're better at this sort of thing than I am."
"What sort or thing?" Harry asked.
"Ron was asking me at lunch whether I thought Pansy might be falling for you."
Harry rolled his eyes, but Ron looked serious. "What, you think it's impossible?" asked Ron.
"I think Ron has a reasonable point, Harry. Just the situation practically begs for it to happen. Think about it. You're the only person in her life with whom she can, as she said, be the person she wants to be. Being with you once a week is going to be the highlight of her week. You'll be happy to do it and enjoy it, but not like her; she'll look forward to it all week. It would almost be amazing if she didn't transfer some of that excitement onto you. And then there's you; look at how you're regarded around the school right now. Sure, that'll fade somewhat, but it's still there. And that you're a nice, kind, sympathetic person-and you do like her, I can tell. She can tell, too. Her eyes just lit up every time she looked at you. I'm not saying she's in love with you, not right now. But she's got a hard year ahead of her as long as she's under cover, and you're the only bright spot in it. It's not hard to see it coming."
Harry was frustrated. "What do you think I should do, then? Stop meeting her? Stop being nice to her? Stop liking her? I couldn't do that to her!"
"Calm down, Harry," Ron said. Unable to keep a small smile off his face, he added, "Focus on love."
"Very funny," Harry said, annoyed. Ron looked upset that his joke hadn't worked.
"Harry, I'm not criticizing you, and of course you shouldn't stop doing what you're doing," said Hermione earnestly. "I'm not sure that there's anything you can do. Maybe it's not nice of Ron and I to speculate on it, as if her feelings didn't matter. They do. But you should be aware of the possibility."
"She's aware of the possibility! She said on Sunday that it wasn't me that she was keen on, so much as what I represent. It seems at least possible that she could keep them separate."
"Well, I hope you're right, Harry, I really do. Maybe we shouldn't have brought it up, there's nothing you can do anyway. Let's go back to Gryffindor Tower, and we can help you go through the mail from the article."
They headed back to Gryffindor tower, and Harry calmed down. They spent an hour and a half reading through the mail, which was mostly supportive, and included two dozen requests for autographs. Hermione offered to go get him some parchment for that purpose.
"I'm not going to sit here signing autographs!" Harry almost shouted at her. She and Ron both looked at him, concerned. He exhaled. "I'm sorry... I don't know, maybe I'm concerned about what you said about Pansy. I hope it doesn't happen. I'd hate to cause her that kind of pain if it did."
"I know, Harry," Hermione said soothingly. She cast an accusatory glance at Ron, who didn't happen to be looking in her direction. Harry realized that she blamed him for bringing it up, since now it just worried Harry, and there was nothing he could do. "You should go on just as you have, be a friend to her. She needs one, badly. It's the only thing to do. Who knows what'll happen. If it happens, just help her out as best you can."
Harry reluctantly realized that she was right, and went back to reading the mail. He made Hermione happy by signing the autographs after all.
The Great Hall was cleared after dinner and the long tables moved, so there would be clear space in the middle of the room. Harry was up near the teachers' table talking to Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, Cho, and Justin. He was allowed to invite ten guests, and had chosen Justin to express his gratitude for Justin's support. Being a prefect, Ernie needed no invitation. The other five guests were Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Fred and George, and Remus Lupin, all of whom walked into the Hall together and approached Harry.
Harry got a very enthusiastic hug from Mrs. Weasley, and handshakes from the four men. Lupin said, "Thanks for your letter, Harry. I was going to write back, but then this happened, and I was able just to come here. But I appreciated that you took the time during a crisis like that to write to me."
While Lupin was speaking, Harry noticed that the Slytherin prefects had come in, and Pansy was near enough to hear him talking to Lupin. He said to Lupin, "It was helpful to do it. So, how about the amusement park?"
Lupin smiled. "I have the whole day blocked out on my calendar."
Standing nearby, Fred said, "I have to say, I still feel a bit woozy."
"About what, Fred?" Harry wondered.
George answered, "Just before we came in here, Dumbledore showed us the images he showed the school yesterday morning. Looking at... Voldemort isn't my idea of a fun thing to do."
"Five points for Gryffindor, George," said Harry. Everyone nearby laughed.
"We couldn't believe it, Harry," agreed Fred. "The way you just took it to him, even though you'd been Cursed four nights in a row, as if you didn't have a care in the world. I know Hermione says you're a bit thick, but no one's that thick."
"I don't say that!" Hermione said, indignantly.
"That's right," Harry said. "Ron's the one who says I'm thick. Hermione's just the one who makes me look thick."
"Ah, how much we've forgotten, so quickly," lamented Fred.
"'Tis the nature of schooling," agreed George.
"I sincerely hope not, gentlemen, or I have not been doing my job," said Dumbledore, who was just walking by.
"Hello, Professor," said George. "It was great of you to come by the shop."
"Yes," added Fred, "We should get a photo of you and Harry, put up the title, 'Our two most prominent customers.'"
"Harry, they are ready for you," said Dumbledore, gesturing Harry to where he should stand. Harry said goodbye to his friends and walked to where Dumbledore had indicated.
As the senior Auror present, Kingsley Shacklebolt made the opening announcement. "Tonight we are here to observe a new spell, which as yet has no name, discovered by Professor Harry Potter, instructor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Professor Potter, each of the three Aurors will discharge the Cruciatus Curse at you two times. For the third round, you may request to attempt variations as you choose. Do you have any questions?"
"No," Harry responded.
"Very well, Professor. We will begin when you are ready."
Harry looked at the assembled faces. Most of the people he felt close to were in the room, watching him, silently cheering him on, proud of him. He smiled and took it all in. They brought me through this, Harry thought. He felt their love, their caring. He basked in it, then turned.
* * * * *
POTTER DEMONSTRATES ANTI-CRUCIATUS SPELL AT HOGWARTS
Aurors Stunned At Effectiveness of As-Yet-Unnamed Spell
(Hogwarts) Hugo Brantell, Daily Prophet
A week of stunning developments in Hogwarts Professor Harry Potter's crusade to name He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named ended in spectacular fashion today, as Professor Potter successfully unveiled his new spell to veteran Aurors and representatives of the magical scientific community.
As reported here yesterday, the spell was developed extemporaneously by Professor Potter during the fourth night of an ordeal in which He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named invaded Professor Potter's dreams each night, insisted that Professor Potter cease his crusade, and used the dreaded Cruciatus Curse, with full effectiveness, on Professor Potter when each night he refused to do so
Senior Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt led the team of Aurors who cast the Curse and measured the effectiveness of the spell used to block it. "His spell blocked the Curse with 100% effectiveness," said Shacklebolt. "If I hadn't just seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it."
The other Aurors were equally impressed. "His shield quite overwhelms the Curse," reported Auror Hubert Dawlish. "In addition, it fully surrounds him, so there is no place for the Curse to get through. Most new spells have required lengthy periods of refinement, but this one appears to be fully formed and perfect."
The three Aurors sent the Curse at Professor Potter twice each in the initial two rounds of testing. In the third round, in which the one presenting the spell may attempt variations on it, Professor Potter made requests which moved those close to him to fear for his safety. The first variation he requested was that the spell be done silently rather than on a countdown, so that he would have as little time as possible to prepare. Doing so, he blocked the spell.
The second variation Professor Potter requested was that he be blindfolded, then the Curse sent at him silently. His close friends, in attendance, strongly objected to this idea and attempted to dissuade him. He firmly overcame their objections, assuring them with complete confidence-which this reporter's empathic abilities confirmed-that he would suffer no harm. The doubtful Aurors acceded to his request and blindfolded him thoroughly, then cast the spell silently after a wait of longer than a minute, so that Professor Potter would be less likely to anticipate the Curse purely by chance. To the Aurors' amazement, Professor Potter successfully blocked this Curse as well, his shield coming on while the Curse was en route.
Professor Potter then requested that three Curses be sent at him simultaneously, on a countdown, from three different directions. The Aurors, however, refused his request, and no amount of arguing on his part would move them. "If the Curse were something less dangerous, we would have accommodated him," said Shacklebolt, obviously in awe of the risks Professor Potter wished to take. "And frankly, the shield was so powerful that it might well have stopped all three. I would guess that it would have. But we didn't know for sure, and I didn't want to think about the effect of three simultaneous Curses on anyone."
A disappointed Professor Potter then chose as his third variation to be subjected to the Curse from behind, with no warning, the spell cast silently. This Curse was blocked by the shield as well.
How, Professor Potter was asked, could he have cast a defense against spells he could not have known were coming? "It was something I started to notice in the later dreams," he explained. "There was a different... feeling in the air just before V-------- cast the Curse. I'm sorry, but I can't explain it any better than that. I also noticed it in yesterday's preliminary test, so I was confident that I would be able to anticipate the Curse. Obviously I was right. I'd much rather find this out now than find out the hard way against V-------- or his Death Eaters." The professor's tone and manner, while inwardly and outwardly relaxed, conveyed his firm belief that such a confrontation must inevitably occur.
As reported yesterday, a unique feature of this spell is that it is to be cast while the caster is strongly focusing on the emotion of love, and that the shield is to be formed of the energy of love. The scientific community has asserted that there is no scientifically verifiable such thing as 'the energy of love,' but Professor Potter insists, with unshakable certainty, that that is what he summoned, and that is what it is.
Unfortunately, part of what makes the spell so remarkable-that it can stop the Cruciatus Curse-also inhibits testing and research; the price of failing to stop a spell is so high that few will be willing to experiment. Professor Potter has offered to be a subject for whatever experiments the scientific community may find desirable; the community is now weighing his offer.
Meanwhile. Professor Potter has accepted Mr. Shacklebolt's invitation to visit the Ministry this weekend to give a presentation on his spell to the full complement of Aurors. "I'd say that people will want to come in on their day off to hear what he has to say," said Shacklebolt confidently.
(Related story on page 9.)
Author notes: In Chapter 14: Gryffindor plays Slytherin in the first Quidditch match of the year. Spoiling for revenge, Malfoy plans to win any way he can.