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“I’ll see you at summer.” Harry said to Tonks the day after New Years Day as he stood at the train station. Severus, Minerva, Remus and Filius had already made their journey back to the castle earlier that morning by Portkey leaving Tonks, Kingsley, Mad Eye and the eldest Weasleys to say their goodbyes to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny.

“You better write to me, keep me posted what’s going on.” Tonks told him and then, lowering her voice, she added: “And tell me what the greasy git does and we’ll have our revenge during the summer.” She grinned and winked before Molly pulled Harry into a rib-breaking hug.

“Do take care, Harry dear.” She told him.

“I will, Mrs Weasley!” Harry told her for the third time that morning.

“Draco, darling!” Ginny said loudly so that her entire family heard her, “How are you?”

Ron muttered something darkly under his breath as Ginny walked over to Malfoy but before Harry had the chance to attempt to console or calm him, Hermione rested her hand on his arm and murmured a few words of encouragement. Harry raised an unnoticed eyebrow as Ron was instantly calmed but didn’t comment as they turned and got onto the train.

Harry looked out of their compartment window and grinned as he saw Mad Eye’s top hat boldly standing out in the crowd as the train slowly pulled out of the station.

“I can’t believe how quickly this year’s gone and Christmas has just flown by!” Hermione said wistfully, “I can’t understand how I’ve learnt so little in such a long time.” She added, causing Ron and Harry to share an exasperated glance. Hermione wasn’t wrong though, Harry found himself thinking, time was certainly flying by.

***


“How have I learnt so little in a year?!” Hermione demanded of Harry in an alarming manner as they sat in the common room. It was finally June. Six months had passed since Christmas and their first NEWT exams were upon them. The coming week would hold 40% of their total grades with the remainder being assessed the year after.

“Relax Hermione…” Harry told her as he set down his notes on Potions. He couldn’t remember her having being in such a state during their OWLs and he was tempted to think that she was being melodramatic but he supposed that people would deal with things in their own way. It just so happened that Hermione dealt with exams by panicking and frantically revising from months before right up until the last minutes before she was examined. Harry briefly wondered whether Hermione was coping until Ron walked calmly into the room and threw himself down next to Hermione, winding an arm around her shoulders. Harry abruptly stood up and left the common room.

“That was effective.” Ron smirked and Hermione had to agree, acting close around Harry and flaunting their relationship certainly removed him from their presence in record timing when it was desired. It was the same with Ginny – as soon as Malfoy arrived on the scene, Harry was out of there.

“Good evening, Harry.” Remus said, not looking up from his desk as Harry entered his room through the teachers’ passageways and sat down on the windowsill.

“Why do they have to be together?” Harry demanded of Remus who sighed and rolled his eyes, his concentration staying put on the essays he was marking. Harry had asked the same questions many times in the past and he just didn’t know how to answer him. Ron and Hermione had never seemed particularly close before and all of a sudden they were together, although they seemed closest when Harry was around – something which seemed to cause the boy no end of irritance.

“Harry, you know I don’t know how to respond to that but you just have to presume that they’re happy together and you ought to put in the effort to be happy for them.” Remus told him as he gave the paper he was marking an E. “Are you nervous about your exams this week?” He asked, changing the subject rather obviously but he didn’t have the energy for tact what with the endless stream of essays he had spent the Saturday afternoon marking and the prospect of a full moon that night.

“Yeah, sort of.” Harry said, he was rather nervous – his entire future as an Auror or pursuing any other career depended on these results and they would practically be decided in the space of a week. “I’ve got Potions on Tuesday, Transfiguration on Wednesday, Charms on Thursday and Defence Against the Dark Arts on Friday with Monday free to be spent on revision for Potions.”

“So you’re going to be getting the worst over first then.” Remus stated. He knew which subjects Harry was dreading and Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts were going to be very easy for him.

“McGonagall said that some of the practical exams were going to be rather unusual and not what we’re used to…” Harry said, hoping that Remus would give him more information.

“I’m not telling you anything, Harry.” Remus told him firmly.

“Why not? Does that mean you know what they’re going to be like?” Harry asked.

“Yes I know what they’re like and trust me when I say that revision is pretty pointless for the practical exams, you either know what you’re doing or you don’t.” Remus told him and Harry looked at him, hoping that perhaps he would be able to see it in his face. Sadly, Remus did not have ‘you’re going to have to duel with an enlarged toad’ written across his forehead so Harry had no idea what he was going to have to face in his exams.

“Full moon tonight, right?” Harry asked although they both knew that it was. Remus nodded soundlessly, “Can I…?” He had yet to learn how to phrase his wanting to be with Remus that night as a question but Remus always sighed at his half completed question and agreed, tonight was no exception.

“Fine, but I don’t like it.” Remus said to him. “I could easily kill you.” Harry rolled his eyes.

“You always say that and I’ve yet to be killed.” Harry said, “Even when the potion was sabotaged.” Remus just cast him an anxious glance but didn’t say anything as he attempted to finish marking his essays, which was never the easiest of tasks when coupled with Harry’s chatter.

Somehow Remus finally managed to complete his essays at the same time as talking to Harry (although once or twice he did tell a student that their work ought to shut up which then had to be magicked off) and the evening drifted by quickly. Ron and Hermione were barely talking to Harry at dinner and preferred each other’s company instead. The rest of those in their year in Gryffindor and some of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws took pity on him and often talked to him in classes and in the library when Ron and Hermione would previously have done before they found each other.

Bidding Terry Boot and Padma Patil goodbye outside the library, Harry turned on his heel and walked quickly down into the grounds, hiding himself using his wandless magic and a weak invisibility spell as he raced across to the Whomping Willow in the twilight and down into the tunnel beneath. The moon would be up soon since the sun was just disappearing below the horizon and Harry sped up a little as he made his way into the house in Hogsmeade.

“Remus?” Harry asked as he entered the small house but upon hearing no reply he walked quickly up the stairs where he found Remus leant against the wall, the heels of his hands pressed into his closed eyes, subconsciously trying to repress the monster within him. Harry walked closer to him and knelt close by, but not too close. Experience had taught him that staying too close to Remus during his transformation could, and often, did have undesired consequences which usually ended up with him almost losing an eye.

Remus? Harry asked as he stepped forwards and pressed his two front paws onto those of Remus’ some time later once the moon had fully made it past the horizon.

I’m alright. Remus said as he dragged himself to his feet, his body aching but it soon faded away as he left the bedroom and walked down the stairs, Harry bounding after him in his Animagus form as they went and conjured some light for them. Remus wandlessly cast an illuminating spell along the tunnel which led back to Hogwarts grounds as they walked along it, casting eerie shadows across the walls as they walked back towards school.

Remus slipped easily through the hole under the tree and out into the night whilst Harry had some troubles getting out on account of his being so small but he managed eventually, only to be almost swept off his feet by a swinging branch of the willow.

Idiot. Remus said to him as he touched his paw to Harry’s once he had rolled away from the tree, almost having his head taken off in the process by a vicious swipe.

He turned from Harry and walked off into the forest, treading well known paths through the dense trees with Harry following or occasionally wandering off and finding his own way around through the thick undergrowth and back to Remus.

Harry cocked his head to one side as he saw a well lit area ahead and walked in front of Remus who felt an odd sense of anxiety in his stomach and almost wanted to catch hold of Harry’s tail and pull him back but he was much too far ahead of him now so instead settled for running after him to catch up.

Harry stepped cautiously into a large clearing, illuminated by the light of the full moon. It felt strange there, not quite right as if there was some kind of magical resistance there to them but it was definitely something to do with the magic in the air around them, Harry was certain of that.

Remus wasn’t comfortable at all in the strange space that they had just entered. It was perfectly circular, which was strange in itself and he could sense something odd about it, it was almost as if all the magical energy which the school generated had been drained from the place. He didn’t like it at all. Harry was stood in the middle of the clearing, perfectly exposed and Remus quickly crossed over to him and nudged him, as if to tell him to follow as he walked out of the clearing onto the other side.

I don’t like that clearing one bit. Remus thought to Harry as he pressed his paw to his once they had walked a little bit further into the woods.

What is it?

I don’t know. Remus replied, But we’re not going back there.

Harry didn’t disagree with this and was more than happy to stay well away from the strange clearing which would have been odd just because it was a strange area of space in the middle of dense forest, let alone because of it’s strange magical field or lack thereof.

Remus turned sharply as there was a crack behind them. It sounded almost like someone had Apparated but surely that wasn’t possible; they were in Hogwarts grounds.

“Honestly, haven’t you ever read Hogwarts: A History?” The voice of Hermione demanded in Harry’s head as he remembered that Apparition wasn’t possible in Hogwarts.

He and Remus looked at each other before they both instantly turned back and raced to the clearing as silently as they could whilst running and avoiding many natural obstacles which blocked their path. Harry thought he may have seen a shadow disappearing into the trees on the other side. He tried not to leap to conclusions for once, it could have been anything after all the centaurs did roam the forest and his eyes could have been playing tricks on him.

Remus eyed the shadow disappearing back into the trees on the other side. Whatever it was had seen them and knew that they had seen it. He thought desperately as to what the sound was of, whether human or otherwise but he couldn’t place it and beside him Harry was wandering away. He didn’t feel safe anymore, nor did he feel as if he wanted to remain in the forest, wolf or not.

Time to go back. Remus thought to Harry who nodded and followed him without question. Harry was quite glad to be out of the forest as thoughts of whatever that thing had been began to plague him although time and time again he told himself that there was probably nothing there.

Unable just to walk into the castle unhindered, Remus and Harry stayed in the castle grounds, mostly in the shadows, for the remainder of the night until the moon neared the horizon. Harry turned back to himself when Remus transformed back to his human form and cast a number of spells in quick succession to ease his pain slightly and make him more comfortable before taking him to the hospital wing on a stretcher.

Madam Pomfrey gave him her usual disapproving glare but didn’t say anything as she took the stretcher from him; Harry had long since been bringing Remus into the hospital wing the morning after the full moon and although she had had some initial concerns the boy never seemed harmed. There’s a first time for everything. She thought to herself as she put Remus to bed and shooed Harry out of the hospital wing.

Harry returned up to his dorm to sleep for most of the day, which was Sunday, in the hopes of preventing himself from having the time to think about his upcoming exams. He climbed into bed and the moment his head touched the pillow he was asleep.

“Well, how is it developing?” Voldemort demanded of Lucius who bowed before him.

“It is going well, my lord.” Lucius said smoothly, “It will be perfected very soon, within the fortnight I would have thought.”

“Excellent. I hope your hard work pays off, the task will be tough but I have no doubt that you can manage.” Voldemort said, fixing Lucius with his cold, piercing glare. “Harry! How lovely to see you again.” Harry felt agony in his forehead as he tried to pull out of Voldemort’s mind and for one fearful moment he thought he would hold him there until he fell backwards into inky darkness.


Harry bit back a yell as he opened his eyes to the bright light of some time late in the afternoon. Lucius Malfoy was not in front of him and his fingers where not frighteningly white and skeletal, just pale and a little too thin. The beds around him were empty and it was ten past two in the afternoon, Harry discovered by looking to his clock at the side of him, he could see Ron flying on his broom through the window as he raced around the school with the rest of the Quidditch team.

The realisation that he, Harry, was the Quidditch captain and Ron was leading them was an unpleasant one. They could at least have waited for him to get out of bed, although on second thoughts it was mid afternoon. They still shouldn’t be training without me. Harry thought vehemently as he got out of bed and went for a shower.

Some time later found Harry sat in the kitchens eating a small lunch which threatened to get larger as the house-elves crowded round him and tried to feed him more and more food. As Harry stared down at his sandwich the door to the kitchens opened and Harry tensed, ready to leap behind one of the counters if it was a member of staff who walked into the room.

It was a member of staff but it was not one from whom he would hide.

“Remus, how are you?” Harry asked the man who sat down wearily beside him and accepted the house-elves offers of food.

“I’m all right.” Remus shrugged as he took a sip of some tea that Winky brought him.

“That clearing last night…” Harry said some time later, bringing Remus out of his stupor and reminding him that something of mild interest had occurred the night before.

“I’ll ask Dumbledore about it later, or better yet I’ll bring it up at the next Order meeting.” Remus said thoughtfully as he wandlessly performed an awakening charm, which would hopefully keep him a little more awake and alert than before.

“When’s that?” Harry asked him and Remus thought for a moment.

“Not until Saturday.” Remus said, “Not like it matters anyway, I’m sure it’s nothing.” Harry watched him and was reminded of the way in which Remus had almost dragged him out of the clearing and then their abrupt and also welcome departure from the woods soon after it was suspected that someone had managed to Apparate into that area.

“You really think it’s nothing?” Harry asked him with a raised eyebrow but Remus didn’t respond as he drunk more tea, hoping that the caffeine would assist his spell and not cause any interesting side effects.

“I really don’t know, Harry.” Remus said as he stared down at the bowl of cereal that one of the house-elves had brought him and thanked him/her absentmindedly as he dug his spoon into it and chased a few cornflakes around the edge of his bowl with his spoon.

Harry tried to take his mind from the clearing in the forest but he found it harder and harder to do as he tried to pinpoint just why it had felt so strange to be stood inside the circle.


***


Harry walked down corridors and secret passageways with a strange twist of anxiety in his stomach as he stopped outside one of the dungeons with all the other sixth years who had taken Potions that year. He glanced around to see that there were really only very few of them there, perhaps ten or so.

“As with your OWLs, you will make a potion under exam conditions with an examiner watching you as you go to make sure that no cheating occurs,” McGonagall told them and she seemed to stare particularly hard at Malfoy at this point who glared back at her in return, “The potion you will be making is written upon the board but it will not be familiar to you. The ingredients and the procedure for making the potion will be written upon the blackboard and you will have three hours to concoct your potion, leaving a sample in a clearly labelled vial at the front of the classroom once the three hours are up.” She said all this calmly as Snape stood to the side of her, his eyes wandering over the students. He looked satisfied when he saw that Harry appeared less than composed at the idea of almost half his NEWT in Potions being over in the next three hours.

She opened the door and smiled at Harry as he walked past. Snape however made sure that he glared at him and drew his finger slowly across his neck mouthing ‘you’re going to fail’ as he did so. Harry walked inside, seating himself in the middle of the room, making sure that Malfoy was nowhere near him, or at least not near enough to sabotage his potion. One of the examiners whom he remembered from his OWLs was sat at the front of the room as another two walked around them, looking stern and the exam hadn’t even started yet.

Harry looked up to the board and as he did so words began to appear upon it:

Dreamless Sleep Potion

Ingredients: one dried toad, one ounce of newt eyes…


Harry’s eyes raced over the board, taking in the instructions and the ingredients. Then he read it again twice more to hopefully prevent against more mistakes than were necessary before his eyes ran over the words at the bottom again.

Leave to simmer for fifteen minutes and bottle whilst still bubbling.

You may begin. Good luck.


He took out his cauldron and set it up calmly whilst he noticed that Malfoy was already throwing ingredients haphazardly into it. He took the time to carefully measure out all that he would have to use, knowing that it would be better to be prepared for once instead of cutting up things whilst the three hours went on. As he shredded his hemlock he briefly wondered whether it was of the hair inducing variety before his mind wandered back to his written exam that morning. He could have done better, he knew that much. He had mistaken the ingredients of the Polyjuice potion and forgotten that drinking an entire vial of Focussing Drought could potentially kill but otherwise he thought he had done quite well.

He was brought back into the dungeons and out of his thoughts just in time to notice his cauldron bubbling rather too violently and calmed the fire beneath it before it got out of hand. If he could learn how to properly brew this potion it could be of much use to him in the future, especially if his dreams about Voldemort got particularly nasty. Come to think of it his dreams had been quite relaxed recently and he had little to no pain in his scar. That, if anything, was suspicious but Harry just didn’t have time to dwell on it as he put all his concentration into brewing the potion correctly.

“Your three hours are up, unless you have already done so bring a vial of your Dreamless Sleep potion to the front, labelled clearly and then leave the room.” The examiner said from the front of the room and in silence Harry left the room with Hermione close behind, although they made sure that Malfoy had left the room before they put their vials on the desk at the front; they didn’t want to find out that someone had spat in their potion when the examiner hadn’t been looking and had failed because of it.

“How do you think you did?” Hermione asked him and Harry shrugged.

“Not that badly, although I got a bit distracted at the beginning.” Harry said and Hermione nodded. “At least my potion looked like yours though and nothing like Malfoy’s, which is always a good sign.”

“You shouldn’t judge your own potion on mine, you know.” Hermione said and Harry rolled his eyes.

“Why on earth not?” He asked her, “Your work is always right and if you get anything but an O in your Potions NEWT then I will push Snape down a flight of stairs.” Hermione smiled slightly and Harry noticed the bags under her eyes as they went in to lunch.

“That’s all for today then, we’ve got the rest of the day to revise–” She said.

“Or just to relax in.” Harry butted in.

“Relax?! We’ve got Transfiguration tomorrow!” Hermione said and looked positively horrified at the idea of doing anything but revising until the last minute. Harry had other plans, he was not going to let the exams completely take over his time; he knew that if he stayed up until midnight revising then he wouldn’t sleep and if he didn’t sleep then he would do poorly in the exam. He would get an early night and hope that he slept, using some of the Dreamless Sleep potion he had made if necessary. By using some of the potion he had taken out of his practical Potions exam he could also find out whether or not he would do well in his Potions NEWT at the same time.

“Well I’m not revising all night.” Harry said.

“Suit yourself.” Hermione said, taking out a book on Transfiguration at dinner, reading whilst she ate.

Harry found himself reading over her shoulder whilst he ate but he was certain that his other exams would go alright. He had already done the worst of the four, although he was very intrigued to learn what his Defence Against the Dark Arts exam would hold which Remus was so unwilling to part with. He supposed that he would be finding out soon, whether he wanted to or not.

A/N: I just had to skip to June at some point or run the risk of just ending my story after Christmas instead which I didn't really want to do so this is my alternative. Anyway... the next chapter is currently unwritten but for about four pages and it will have the Defence Against The Dark Arts exam in it which should be mildly interesting or at least I hope so. Just four more chapters after this one and lots of action coming up in the penultimate chapter and the next one as well, or at least there should be if I write it well (and I'll try to) :o) I'll try and post the next chapter (Probably called 'Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests' or something like that) on Monday or Tuesday.

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