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Ron wasn’t in lessons that day, nor was he in them the day after or the day after that. Harry had spent one whole week in lessons with only Hermione for company, and she wasn’t bad as such; she just tended to work quickly and quietly from the start of the lesson until the end of it.

Harry walked into Defence Against the Dark Arts with a feeling close to relief. Relief because it was the last lesson of the day on Friday, but only close to it because he just knew he was going to have to duel in front of the class again. Each loss seemed to drive his self esteem further and further into the pit it had already been pushed down into. Still, he did rather enjoy the thrill of a duel and he was improving, even if he believed his skills so lamentable that he couldn’t have beaten a first year.

The lesson began and Harry noticed with a sense of unhappiness the empty seat beside him which no one took; they had their seats and they stuck to them. Remus glanced at Ron’s usual seat for a moment before meeting Harry’s eyes. The former of the two smiled slightly but Harry didn’t quite manage to return it as their lesson began.

Harry found himself losing interest in his favourite subject for once and he could easily have sat there staring at Remus and sucking on a sugar quill were it not for the fact that Remus would probably reprimand him for it later on. The fact that they had argued less than a week ago made Harry rather cautious with his actions around Remus still and he hoped beyond hope to avoid another such confrontation between them.

Harry was staring mindlessly down at his desk when Hermione jabbed him sharply in the side. Harry glanced at her and then around him to see that everyone was looking at him and his feeling of discomfort increased tenfold.

“What?” Harry asked uncertainly and Remus smiled at him.

“You’re duelling with me.” Remus told him and Harry sighed but got up out of his seat. “Today we will be covering the use of distractive spells in duels. Anything which can hinder your opponent’s vision or cause them to look the other way is an advantage to you in a duel. Harry and I will demonstrate such spells in a duel, although obviously with other spells as well.” Harry stood opposite him in the room and Remus quickly waved his wand causing the students and their tables to move back a metre and his own desk and chair to move so that it was pressed against the wall. “Ready Harry?”

“Not really.” Harry said but smiled slightly and Remus did the same with spells that they wanted to use already running through their minds.

They stood perfectly still for a moment, each of them waiting for the other to make the first move.

Nox.” Remus said quietly and the room became completely dark. Harry instantly let an image of the room fill his mind and saw Remus smiling in front of him, although the image wasn’t as strong as it would be if he let his whole mind enter the room, he could not leave his body open to attack.

Remus walked closer to him and they glanced to the side of them where the class appeared to be in the light it had been in before; darkness shrouded only them.

Impedimenta!” Harry cried and the spell shot towards Remus, slipping past him with ease.

Reducto!” The class gasped as their professor sent a highly destructive curse at Harry.

Protegium!

Everriculum!” Remus said and a net shout out of the end of his wand, capturing the spell with ease and sucking it back up into his wand, leaving Harry looking impressed and the class gasping as they saw the spell caught in the orange, glowing net. Then the darkness overtook them again and Harry looked around him for something useful to transfigure in order to catch Remus out.

Silencio!” Harry said, silencing a surprised Remus before quickly adding: “Spoliar Viles!” A yellow jet of light connected their wands together. Remus’ eyes widened as he felt his strength being drained from him and he knew that it was being transferred into Harry’s wand. It was the reverse of transferring strength to one another that Remus had shown Harry in the very beginning of his wandless magic lessons. This was much more basic and could be cast with a wand, as Harry was effectively proving.

Muttering broke out amongst the class as they watched Harry taking Remus’ strength and Remus couldn’t make a sound to stop him.

Finite Incantatem.” Remus mouthed.

Finite Incantatem.” He said, his voice much, much quieter than it normally was, but it was sound nonetheless. The bond between them broke and Remus grinned at Harry, who was rather intimidated by his guardian’s confident air.

Hydratum!” Remus said and a jet of water shot out at Harry, soaking him to his skin.

“What the hell?!” Harry cried and the class laughed, most of them knowing that Harry had just been drenched even through the darkness. He shot a fast transfiguration spell at him and Remus moved easily to the side.

“That was way off Harry.” Remus smiled and Harry shook his head.

“It wasn’t.” He told him and Remus turned around sharply when his desk scuttled towards him and leapt on him, knocking him down. Remus laughed at his use of transfigurative spells in the duel, knowing that was the best example of distractive magic he could have asked Harry to use.

Lumos Solarus” Remus said calmly, his wand pointed at Harry and in a moment he was dazzled by light. Harry shielded his eyes in a moment but not before Remus had got back to his feet and blown his own desk – which was still trying to take a chunk out of his leg – across the room at Harry, taking his feet out from under him and knocking him down instantly, his head hitting the floor hard. “Are you alright, Harry?” Remus asked, lowering his wand and walking over to Harry who groaned and pulled himself up into a seating position. His head was bleeding and Remus held his hand out to it, healing it with a touch of his fingertips.

The class stared at his use of wandless magic and although they had seen it before, it still amazed them.

“Thanks.” Harry muttered as he got shakily back up to his feet and walked back over to his desk. The class clapped as Harry returned to his seat, drying himself with his wand as he went, and Remus smiled at them before putting light back around the area at the front of the room, summoning the desk back over to him and putting it back in an upright position, papers still atop it along with quills and other such stationary.

Remus returned to the front of the class and the rest of the lesson was spent mostly taking notes on the parts of distractive duelling that they would be needing in their exams whilst homework was to practice them if they could and consider any other charms or transfigurative spells that could be used in a duel to distract their opponent.

The end of the lesson arrived quickly and Remus turned from the students, rubbing off the chalk from the blackboard and turning back to find a room empty of students except for Harry. Remus smiled slightly as he saw him and Harry sat down on a nearby desk.

“You have to show me how to do that net thing.” Harry said enthusiastically and Remus smiled.

“All in good time, Harry.” Remus told him, “I’ll teach you over Christmas if you’re still willing to learn then.”

“Christmas?! That’s miles away!” Harry complained and Remus smiled at his measurements of time. That was something new he had learnt once he had grown older, (or just old, depending on his mood) that years seem to race past as if they were mere minutes. If he let himself, he could easily go off on a tangent about how he could still remember being Harry’s age but he decided against it, after all it would have been the final proof that he really was getting old.

“It’s what? Two months away?” Remus asked him with a smile, “Two months is nothing Harry.”

“That’s a sixth of a year, a whole year, Remus!” Harry said and Remus shook his head at the boy.

“I’m not teaching you before then.” He said firmly and Harry knew that he meant it. “Nice work with that desk though, Minerva will be very impressed.”

“Yeah, it was nice ‘til you blinded me and sent it at my legs!” Harry scowled at him and Remus grinned.

“So, changing the subject completely, are you going to go to Hogsmeade tomorrow?” Remus asked him and Harry nodded, “I see, and is Ron going to Hogsmeade tomorrow?”

“I dunno, I’ve not asked him about it but then I’ve hardly seen him at all this week for obvious reasons.” Harry said.

“You ought to have visited him more often, to check up and see how he’s doing. I’m sure that, although he doesn’t say it, he appreciates your company.” Remus said and Harry smiled slightly.

“Well Hermione’s been with him most of the week.” Harry said and Remus caught something in his look that was almost mischievous.

“And why haven’t you been with both of them?” Remus asked, wondering what on earth was going on.

“Because Katie, Laura and Lewis are trying to set them up.” Harry said mildly and Remus laughed.

“You’re kidding me!” Remus said and Harry shook his head, “But his brother just died, that’s never going to work! How do you plan to set them up anyway?”

“Lock them in places together really…” Harry told him and Remus snorted with laugher.

“That is never going to work!”

“Oh yeah, then tell me what will?” Harry demanded.

“I don’t know but you can’t just lock people in rooms and expect them to start liking each other!” Remus said, laughing still.

“They already do, apparently.” Harry said and Remus raised an eyebrow.

“Aha… and what’s that judged on the basis of?” Remus asked, attempting to calm himself.

“Because they argue a lot.” Harry said and Remus smirked.

“Some couples argue, that doesn’t mean that any two people who argue would make a good couple.” Remus said and Harry sighed.

“Well that’s what I thought, they don’t seem to like each other like that.” Harry scowled.

“Then maybe they don’t and you’re just going to really annoy them instead by locking them in places.” Remus suggested and Harry nodded.

“Still sounds like fun though.” Harry said and Remus shook his head in disbelief.

“Alright but Charlie died a week ago, is it such a good idea to start locking in rooms with Hermione?” Remus asked, knowing that when he next saw Harry Ron could well have given him a black eye by that point.

“Probably not, but that won’t stop Katie.” Harry said, “She’s planning on locking them in somewhere in Hogsmeade together tomorrow.”

Remus groaned. “Seriously bad idea you know.” Harry shrugged.

“You’re probably right.” Harry agreed, “Anyway I’m gonna go see Ron so I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay, well I’d make the most of it, Ron probably won’t be too keen on talking to you after you’ve spent a week or so locking him in rooms with Hermione.” Remus said with a smile as Harry left and once he had left added: “Morons.”

He cast a quick Banishing spell on his briefcase causing it to go straight to his rooms through the teachers’ corridors and perch itself neatly on his desk. He left the room, locking it behind him with a mild locking spell before wandering along to the staffroom.

Minerva was already sat down inside, sifting through essays from her various year groups as she tried to find the ones that needed marking most urgently. She wasn’t pleased that Filch had deliberately tripped her in the staffroom, throwing her essays which had all been organised and ordered just the way she wanted them all over the floor.

“Hello Remus.” She said lightly as he sat down next to her. “Good afternoon?”

“Not bad. Duelling with Harry during the last lesson.” He told her and she smiled.

“How is he coming along?” She asked.

“Very well. We were doing distractive spells so it was a rather interesting duel.” He told her, “He transfigured my desk to life and it almost bit my leg off.”

“Really?” She asked, rather interested in what he had to say.

“Yes, I thought you’d be pleased.” Remus smiled, “It backfired though when I knocked it across the room at his legs.”

“Knocked himself out?”

“Oh no, almost though.”

“Potter been running into walls head first?” Severus asked as he sat down and joined the conversation.

“‘Fraid not. Just Potter duelling exceptionally well.” Minerva informed him and Severus made a contemptuous sound.

“I seriously doubt that he duels exceptionally well, Minerva.” Severus said icily, “With mediocre talent? Perhaps but not exceptionally by any means.”

“And when was the last time you duelled with him, Severus?” Remus asked him.

“During the summer, does it matter?” Severus asked, wondering where this was going.

“As shocking as it may seem, Harry has improved since then.” Remus told him, “You can hardly comment on his talent in the field if you don’t duel with him.”

“Perhaps I will duel with him once he has failed Legilimency spectacularly once more.” Severus said.

“How is he coming along at Legilimency and Occlumency?” Minerva asked him with interest.

“From my usage of the phrase ‘once he has failed Legilimency spectacularly’ do you really think he’s doing well?” Severus asked her curtly.

“Seriously, how is he doing?” She asked him, shooting him a glare which could have made Voldemort think twice about hexing her.

“He is a poor Occlumens but improving. He is, unfortunately, an adequate Legilimens however.” Severus informed her, albeit reluctantly, causing Remus to smile.

“So he’s quite good then.” Remus said to him and Severus pulled a face.

“He is adequate at best, Lupin. Don’t start thinking he is good at mind magic because he most certainly is not!” Severus snapped.

“Yes, Merlin forbid you teach any of your students to higher than an adequate level.” Remus said mildly and Severus had his wand out and pointed at his throat in a flash.

“You are just too annoying for your own good today, Lupin.” He spat, “And I would seriously consider watching that canine mouth of yours.”

“Don’t be so childish, Severus!” Minerva said, snatching his wand from his hand and pocketing it as if he had been a mere child playing with his parent’s wand.

The two men stared at her in disbelief before Remus burst out laughing.

“Shut your filthy half-breed mouth, Lupin.” Severus snapped at him.

“What are you going to do if I don’t?” Remus smirked at him and Severus did the only thing he could – he took a swing at Remus.

“Pathetic.” Remus said as he moved sharply backwards away from his poor shot and Severus’ fist collided painfully with the wall.

“Do try to grow up,” Minerva said as she finished organising her many essays into one neat pile.

“Order meeting tomorrow.” Filius said quietly as he sat down with them.

“Where?”

“When?”

“Why?” The three questions from the three other present members of the Order.

“We’re meeting in Hogsmeade near the Shrieking Shack at noon and I’m not sure why.” Filius told them.

“Perhaps Albus wants to do some shopping.” Remus suggested.

“Wouldn’t surprise me.” Minerva said, “He’s forever going to Zonko’s.”

“Zonko doesn’t like him going in though because all the students clear out once he arrives.” Filius smiled.

“Anyway, I would love to stay and chat… really,” Severus said in his usual cool tone, “But I have a moron to teach Legilimency to.” He got up and walked out of the staffroom, taking a longer route to his office, knowing that Potter never was punctual.

“Good evening, Professor.” Potter’s voice greeted him when he arrived at his office and he inwardly cursed himself for not taking a faster route and beating the boy there.

He looked at the boy contemptuously by means of reply as he opened his office and marched in, Potter following him inside.

“So, have you been practicing?” Severus asked him, ready to chastise the boy if he had been practicing his Legilimency.

“I’ve been practicing my Occlumency but not my Legilimency.” Harry told him truthfully; he had been keeping himself awake just that little bit longer in order to perform his Occlumency and keep out the dreams from Voldemort that threatened to wake him screaming in the morning. His Legilimency he couldn’t practice because to do so he would have to break into someone’s mind and risk giving away his skill. As well as that Snape had forbidden him to break into anyone’s mind, just because it was poor decorum to do so, but Harry strongly suspected that it was because he didn’t want Harry breaking into his mind and getting away with it.

“Good.” Severus said coolly as he faced Potter across the room. Wands were drawn and they were ready. “Now today you are going to get into my mind, from there without using your wand. Wandless magic is stronger; I know that much Potter so therefore it would be of great advantage to you to be able to use your wandless magic and your Legilimency together.” He told him and Harry nodded. He had lied to both Minerva and Lupin earlier on when he told them that Potter was adequate at Legilimency because that was simply not the truth, the reality of the matter was that Potter appeared to be highly suited to breaking into the minds of others and with his nosy nature this did not particularly surprise the Potions Master. “Ready?” Harry nodded, “Then what are you waiting for?”

Severus heard the boy mutter the spell under his breath and a moment later his presence was pressing gently at his mind, slipping carefully past his temples. He always hated those who attempted a more subtle approach into the mind; they were always so much harder to shake off and remove completely and at times you didn’t know that they were even there.

Harry pressed forwards with his mind from a distance, slipping easily inside the outer layer of Snape’s mind and then moving quickly and subtly deeper inside as Snape pushed at him to remove him completely but never quite managed to push him very far back. He was quite good at Legilimency, no matter what Snape might say to him and he was determined to stay in his mind, glancing through some of his more awful memories until Snape had to tell him to stop.

A flicker of a face here and there … his parents … Sirius … Voldemort … Dumbledore … flashes of green … screaming … Azkaban … Sirius again … himself … the Marauders’ Map … Remus in his werewolf form … someone who looked as if she could have been Snape’s mother … Bellatrix … the veil … more green flashes … a destroyed house that looked oddly familiar…

All the while Snape was pushing at him but he was too fast to get pushed out too far but that house, why did he know it? The area around the house filled his mind and he knew that Snape was now letting him see this and if Snape was letting him see this then there was no way that it could be good.

Inwardly Snape groaned for letting the boy get such a good grip on his mind as he sifted through his thoughts, seeing his parents, Lupin, Black… they were all there but then there was the Potter’s destroyed home in Godric’s Hollow. He felt a strange stab of pain for them but ignored it quickly and before he knew it, he was allowing Potter to enter his mind more fully as the memory expanded to show the rest of the area and the sign at the top of the road which read: Godric’s Hollow.

Harry gasped when he saw the sign, although part of him knew that he hadn’t physically gasped, just in his mind. It was a small, hidden Wizarding community, he knew that much, and although Muggles had access to it, they rarely took up residence there.

“Are you just going to gawp around the neighbourhood boy, or are you going to come and look at the ruins of your home?” Severus asked him from the side and Harry realised that Snape’s mind had become almost like a pensieve as he saw a Severus standing across the street from him. That was when he glanced down and saw that he too had a form, it was himself naturally, and he was wearing Muggle clothing he wore most often. “You would sooner be a Muggle than a Wizard?” Severus asked, noting his clothing as Harry crossed the street to him and the two of them walked around the corner. Harry did not answer his question but that alone was enough to secure the knowledge in Severus’ mind that the boy was not happy with his magical status.

He had been aware that Lupin had been teaching him some form of wandless Occlumency for use when in the minds of others or in that strange world which could only be accessed by the mind but he didn’t know just how well Harry could dodge and evade the forces he used to try and remove him. He could just have flung up walls and strong barriers around himself but that would have given him away instantly and he liked the protection which was other people’s ignorance.

He allowed his thoughts to wander as he walked because even in his own mind, he could use the strongest Occlumency he knew and hide his thought processes from Harry, who was still dangerously close to his current thoughts, just not quite there yet.

They turned the corner and Harry saw the wreck of his previous home. There were people swarming about it and he saw Severus there on the far side, alone, just looking. He saw one or two people that he recognised: Mad Eye, Filius, Dedalus Diggle, Mrs Figg but there was no Remus there, or Sirius but it was day time and early morning by the looks of it so Sirius would probably already have been committed into Azkaban.

“You think too loudly, Potter.” Severus told him, but it was not particularly unkind.

Sorry. Harry thought automatically but did not speak; he knew that Snape would hear his thoughts anyway.

“Black already has committed into Azkaban if you care to know.” Severus told him.

“When is this?” Harry asked, his mouth feeling dry and oddly numb.

“1st November.” Severus informed him.

So the morning after… Harry thought.

“Indeed.” Severus said as his eyes wandered over the wreckage which represented so much more than just the wreck of one house, but it was the wreck of so many lives: Potter, Lupin, Black even Voldemort’s life had been ruined and almost taken from him but he supposed that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I wonder why people can see the house… wasn’t it under the Fidelius Charm? Maybe it breaks when the people it protects are dead, but I didn’t die… Maybe because Peter told Voldemort where it was then it broke… But Grimmauld Place is under the charm and he’s told people where that is and it can’t be seen by everyone…

“Your thoughts are too cluttered, Potter.” Severus told him, “And you think too fast.”

“That’s what Remus says.” Harry answered absentmindedly before he could help himself.

“Please do not compare me to that dratted godfather of yours again, Potter.” He said, putting in the effort not to simply call him ‘the wolf’ whilst speaking with Potter. “And people can see the house because it was destroyed. The spell was not put over you and your parents; it was put over the house so they could not leave it and no one could see it or enter it.” Severus explained with rather more patience than he was used to. “Do you have any more questions or can we leave now?”

“Why are you there?”

“Why am I there?” Severus repeated, quite confused to say the least, “I hated your father, Potter, but that does not mean that I wanted him dead.”

“No, I mean that I thought you were tried as a Death Eater…” Harry asked, wondering when Snape was going to hex him.

Severus was slightly amused by the cautious attitude on Potter’s part and his wonderment at not yet having been cursed into oblivion. To be quite honest Severus was rather bemused by the fact himself, that added to his answering Potter’s questions with a certain degree of civility.

“That was a long time before this, and Dumbledore testified at my trial which ensured I was freed.” Severus said, not looking at Potter who was similarly not looking at him as they stared at the broken house.

Harry could see parts of his old life – broken chairs, a wand lay whole on the pages of a shredded book, ashes, roof tiles, bricks, his own toys, glass. All that added to the candles which had been placed at the side of the rubble and the people that stood fighting back their tears.

“What did you have to do to make Voldemort trust you again?” Harry asked and they both knew that his question would not be answered.

“I will never tell you or anyone that. Not even Dumbledore.” Severus said. “Now are you quite finished?”

“Just one more question.” Harry said, “Where is Godric’s Hollow and what happened to the rubble and the house?”

“That was two questions, Potter.” Severus informed him, “Ask Lupin to take you there during Christmas and as to what happened, I do not know; I have never been back there since.”

Harry felt the room slide back into focus as Snape’s mind released him and the place which was once his home faded from view, even as it etched itself into Harry’s memory.

“Up until you decided to fight your way right into one particular memory you did very well.” Snape told him. “Remember – don’t practice and I will see you on Sunday morning for your Occlumency lesson.” Harry nodded and walked quickly out of the room without another word.

A/N: So what did you think? I quite liked this chapter, although in places I had no idea what I was writing or why but never mind... Forty chapters, I can't believe it! Thanks to everyone who read this far, hope you're still enjoying it. The next chapter will be up soon and will be called either 'Hogsmeade' or 'The Horrors of Hogsmeade' or something along those lines, depending on what I finally write about in that chapter (I'm quite uncertain about it you see.) Anyway, that will be up the day after tomorrow which will be Tuesday, so I look forward to reading your comments and I'll 'see' you on Tuesday! :o)

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