|SIYE Time:2:26 on 16th December 2017|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Sequel to Darkness Within. This story begins the night before Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Canon couples accurate to JKR. The romance between Harry and Ginny will develop slowly due to their ages. Please note rating and warnings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 10334; Chapter Total: 369
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you to my beta Arnel!
Draco smirked as he entered his empty dormitory in the Slytherin dungeons. His walk around the lake that morning had been interrupted by the witch who consumed most of his free thoughts lately. In response to his mother’s request for a couple of alternatives to Pansy Parkinson as potential betrothal choices, he had come up with Astoria Greengrass and Anna Henry. Both were attractive witches connected to wealthy pure-blood families. Much to his surprise, his mother had quickly selected the Gryffindor. Draco was still unclear about the exact reasons behind the choice. When he had asked, his mother had simply replied that Anna would be an excellent match. He knew his mother well enough to know it was more than that. Both his parents had written letters in recent months encouraging him to pursue a relationship with her. His mother had advised him to court the witch and offered a few romantic suggestions. His father had bluntly told him to seduce the girl.
Draco was pleasantly surprised when he literally bumped into Anna that morning while walking around the lake. Neville had permitted him to spend time with Anna; however, they had never been alone together for any length of time until this morning. She seemed calmer than previously. He wondered if the lack of an audience or the surprise of their meeting was responsible. The sudden appearance of her owl had given him the idea to offer her something no other Gryffindor at Hogwarts currently enjoyed. He gave her the chance to write a letter and send it off immediately with her owl, Mista. As a member of Dolores Umbridge’s Inquisitorial Squad, he promised to allow her to send the letter sight unseen. He had kept his promise and was certain he had earned a measure of trust and respect in return.
Setting his school bag on his bed, he pulled out the quill Anna had used to write her letter home. He looked at it thoughtfully for a moment before pulling out a blank piece of parchment. Anna could apparently be somewhat naïve. He was not truly disappointed by that fact. Sitting on his bed, he found himself wondering about the full extent of her innocence. Muttering the Duplication Spell, he placed the quill carefully on the parchment. Draco smiled with satisfaction as the words began to spread. He had not been certain of the spell’s validity, but clearly it had worked.
Picking up the parchment, he began to read an exact copy of the letter she had written.
Dear Aunt Augusta and Remus,
I have the opportunity to write and quickly send off a letter that won’t be read by others here at Hogwarts.
First, I want to assure you that Neville and I are both well and studying hard for our O.W.L. exams. Neville is understandably most concerned about Potions and History of Magic. I’m confident he’ll do quite well in Potions since Professor Snape won’t be administering the test. Hermione has been kind enough to share her notes to help us all study for History of Magic. Professor Binns is not a particularly effective teacher, though I don’t imagine it would be easy for him to be let go, since he is a ghost. My concerns, as I’m sure you can imagine, Remus, are about Astronomy and Arithmancy. I don’t know why I struggle so much in identifying the constellations in the night sky. I remember all the stories perfectly well regarding each one, but the stars seem to blur together for me rather than creating the outlines we’re supposed to see. Arithmancy is equally hit or miss. Hermione and I have been working together quite frequently on some of the more challenging concepts. I’m determined to pass both and not disappoint either of you.
We have truly tried not to worry about the betrothal letters, but it’s been rather complicated. Neville has separately allowed both Ernie and Draco to accompany us on various outings. Their behavior has been perfectly correct, but the stress of knowing about the decision to be made this summer has been occasionally overwhelming. I keep replaying the four names as a sort of litany running through my mind. I admit I’ve been entering the forest more often than required lately. The sense of calm that washes over me as I feel the power rise helps me relax. I know it’s a crutch and one that I should not be so dependent upon.
Draco frowned as he rapidly scanned the remainder of the letter. It contained the usual ‘miss you, love you, looking forward to seeing you soon’ type of drivel.
Returning his attention to the previous paragraph, he touched the word four with his finger. Who were the other two? He had personally read all of Anna’s and Neville’s letters, as well as any addressed to them for weeks. No mention had been made of two new offers. All four must have been reported to Anna and Neville prior to Dumbledore’s departure. Were they students? He had been watching carefully and was certain that no other student had approached Neville or made any attempt to court Anna. If they were students, they were not actually pursuing her. Of course, they might not be students. Two men he was completely unaware of could be interested in Anna. Recent Hogwarts graduates perhaps. He tried to recall who among the Sacred Twenty-Eight had a son complete school recently.
Scowling in frustration, he focused on the other odd section of the letter. Why was Anna going into the forest? What power was she talking about? She almost sounded guilty about it, as though she was aware she should not be doing it, but couldn’t stop herself. Of course, the fact that she was freely admitting it to her guardians hinted that whatever she was doing could not be too bad. He wished he had the opportunity to share the letter with his parents, particularly his mother and hear her thoughts. Staring at the letter once more, he knew full well he couldn’t risk keeping it. Picking it up, he quickly set the parchment on fire, letting it burn to ash as it fell to the floor.
Harry walked into the Gryffindor common room and sank happily into the soft cushions of the sofa next to Ginny.
She looked up from her book and smiled. “How was your lesson?”
He glanced around, pleased to observe that only his closest friends were near them. “Fine.”
Ginny raised her eyebrow questioningly, just as Hermione murmured. “Really, Harry. You always say everything is fine. Can’t you give us a bit more information than that?”
Ron chuckled as he looked up from the notes he was reading with Neville.
“The lesson actually went pretty well,” Harry admitted quietly. “Snape said that surprisingly I was making adequate progress in learning magic more advanced than that generally expected of a fifth-year student.”
“That actually sounds like a compliment,” Ron muttered. “From Snape.”
Harry nodded. “He made a point of reminding me that my connection to…Him…is rather unique. He warned me to not become cocky due to my ‘moderate success’ and to continue to be on my guard.”
“That sounds reasonable,” Hermione commented. “What about your dreams?”
“I told him they still happen, but are rare now instead of a nightly event. He seemed…I don’t know…understanding of that, I guess. Like he didn’t expect them to completely disappear,” Harry explained.
“That’s wonderful, Harry,” Anna said softly.
He smiled at her. The others didn’t know about their secret lessons, and he wasn’t about to tell them since it would ‘out’ Anna as an Occlumens.
“Time for you to work on your O.W.L. revisions, then,” Hermione announced. “Do you want to join Ron and Neville with the History of Magic notes, or Anna and me with Astronomy?”
Harry made a face at his best friend and leaned forward. “I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t think I have any chance at all of passing History of Magic, so I’m not going to waste any more time on it.”
Hermione narrowed her eyes and took in a deep breath just as Ginny patted him on the back. “Good decision, Harry. Most careers in the wizarding world don’t require an O.W.L. in History of Magic. Bill and Charlie both advised me not to worry about that class.”
He smiled at the lovely redhead beside him in relief. “What advice did your older brothers offer about preparing for the O.W.L.s?”
“Focus first on the tests you really need to pass for the career you most want,” Ginny explained. “Then, concentrate on the classes you believe you can definitely pass with a bit more revision.”
Harry nodded. “Professor McGonagall told me to become an Auror I need to do a bit better in Transfiguration and Potions.” He rubbed his forehead. “I think Divination is a lost cause, but I believe I can pass Astronomy.”
“Then, those are the three classes you should be focused on most during these last few weeks before exams,” Ginny smiled.
“How can you say that?” Hermione demanded. “Harry can’t just give up on two classes!”
Ron glanced at Neville, and they both carefully organized the notes in their hands. “Ginny’s right. Bill and Charlie both did well in school, and they have good careers. We can trust their advice. There’s no way I’ll pass History of Magic or Divination. Thank you for your notes, Hermione, but I really should focus on the other classes.” He held out the neat stack of notes to her with an apologetic smile plastered on his face.
Hermione huffed for a moment before taking them. “I suppose you feel the same way, Neville.”
He raked a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I’m really going to focus on Potions and Transfiguration. I want to make sure I pass them to please Gran and Remus. They won’t be upset about me failing History of Magic anyway.”
Anna rifled through her bag for a moment and pulled out her old Potions textbook. “The potions most likely to turn up on the O.W.L.s are starred. Be sure to read the notes written in the margins by each one.”
“You wrote in your Potions book!” Hermione exclaimed.
“Of course not! My grandmother wrote all the notes in that book the year before she died. She wanted to be certain she passed her knowledge on to me and that I wouldn’t forget her lessons.” Anna explained. She turned to the boys and held out the book. “Katherine was an expert at making potions. She received an Outstanding on her Potions N.E.W.T.”
The three boys moved to sit beside one another so they could all read the book together.
“Your grandmother really tried to teach you a lot before you came to Hogwarts,” Hermione observed.
“Yes, she did.” Anna smiled wistfully. “Would you like to continue with Astronomy or switch to Arithmancy?”
Hermione shoved her notes into her bag and stood up. “Let’s go over to the table to work on Arithmancy.”
Anna nodded as she rose to follow her dormmate.
Neville and Anna shouted themselves hoarse during the final Quidditch match of the year. Ron saved a remarkable number of goals allowing the Gryffindor team to be victorious over Ravenclaw when Ginny caught the Snitch from right under the opposing Seeker’s nose. Knowing that Gryffindor had managed to win the Quidditch Cup during this extremely challenging school year was a balm to the souls of every member of Gryffindor House.
The news from Harry and Hermione that Hagrid was keeping his half-brother, the giant, Grawp, in the Forbidden Forest, had been a shock to put it mildly. The fact that Hagrid expected his students to visit his brother and somehow teach the giant to speak English was ridiculous. Neville felt once again that this miserable school year simply needed to come to an end as quickly as possible.
The O.W.L. examinations began on a Monday with Charms. Written examinations were held in the morning with the practical portion in the afternoon. Transfiguration, Herbology, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Ancient Runes rounded out the first week. The second week began with Potions, then Care of Magical Creatures, and Astronomy the following morning. Wednesday afternoon was Divination and Arithmancy with the Astronomy practical scheduled for that night.
Neville carefully filled out his star chart while double checking everything in the telescope. Periodically, he closed his eyes, recalling his lessons over the summer with Remus and Anna to verify his work, before moving on to the next section. He was so focused on his chart that he flinched at the sudden loud noise from the grounds far below them. Peering around he realized most of his classmates were focused on the area around Hagrid’s house.
“No!” Hermione cried.
Her outburst was met by a scolding from Professor Tofty, one of the testing administrators, but the students could not tear their eyes away from the dramatic scene playing out below them. Aurors, led by Professor Umbridge, were trying and failing to subdue Hagrid. Spells seemed to bounce off him as he roared with anger. The situation only intensified when Professor McGonagall attempted to intervene on her colleague’s behalf. Several of the fifth-year girls screamed in horror as they watched four Stunners strike his Head of House, causing the witch to land hard on her back, clearly unconscious. Most of the students were too horrified to focus on completing their star charts, and the exam soon ended.
The final O.W.L examination was History of Magic on Thursday afternoon. Neville was writing his responses as quickly as possible. He knew he wasn’t going to pass this one anyway. He simply wanted it all to finally be over. He set his quill down just as Harry screamed before collapsing on the floor of the Great Hall.
Anna’s eyes shifted from Harry to Hermione and back again as she listened to their heated exchange. Harry had experienced a vision of some sort while taking the History of Magic examination. He saw his godfather in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry being tortured by Voldemort. Harry was terrified for Sirius and determined to travel there and rescue him. Hermione was desperately trying to reason with him about the improbability of his godfather being at the Ministry with Voldemort. He wanted to take immediate action, while she was determined to force him to slow down and think before he acted. Ron was occasionally joining in on the conversation sometimes backing up Harry and other times seeming to agree with Hermione. Anna glanced at Neville with relief when Ginny and Luna suddenly appeared.
“Harry.” Ginny looked around uncertainly. “What’s going on?”
“Never mind,” he replied roughly.
She raised her eyebrow. “I only wondered if I could help.”
Harry raked both hands through his hair. “Well, you can’t. I don’t want you involved.”
“That’s rather rude,” Luna said serenely. “Unless you’re being protective of Ginny, and then, it’s quite gallant of you.”
Harry flushed and turned away.
Hermione grabbed his arm. “We need everyone’s help! This could be a trick of Voldemort’s. We have to check on Sirius before we just set out on a rescue mission to the Ministry!”
“How are we supposed to check up on Sirius?” Harry demanded.
“I don’t know! I guess…we’ll have to…break into Umbridge’s office and use her Floo connection to call Grimmauld Place.” Hermione looked slightly horrified by her own suggestion.
Everyone seemed to consider the idea briefly before assigning jobs to one another to make it work. Ron set off to distract Professor Umbridge. Ginny and Luna kept a lookout at one end of the corridor, while Anna and Neville were at the other end. Hermione went with Harry under his Invisibility Cloak into Umbridge’s office to use her Floo.
As the minutes slowly ticked away, Neville turned to Anna. “What do you think of all this?”
She shrugged and chewed her lip. “I don’t know. Harry’s connection to Voldemort…” She grimaced. “He wasn’t asleep in the exam, Neville. I was sitting diagonally behind him. It wasn’t a dream. Harry was awake the whole time until he fell to the floor!”
He took her hand. “You think it was a vision, like what a true Seer might have?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m afraid,” she admitted. “For Harry and for Sirius.”
Anna shrieked as arms grabbed her roughly from behind.
“What’re you doing here outside Professor Umbridge’s office?” Vincent Crabbe demanded.
“Let go of her,” Draco seethed at his friend, who immediately released her arms. “I’m sorry, Anna. Neville. I’ll need your wands. Professor Umbridge will be wanting to speak with you both in her office.”
He took their wands, stowing them in his pocket, before taking them to the Defense Professor’s office.
Walking into the room, Anna flinched at the sickeningly sweet décor. Harry had not exaggerated about the lacy covers and doilies covering every piece of furniture and flat surface. Vases of dried and fresh flowers adorning all corners of the small room. The wall of decorative plates, each featuring a playful kitten, was particularly disconcerting when compared to the malice on the face of the woman who collected such innocent looking items.
“Well,” Professor Umbridge raised an eyebrow as Luna and Ginny were led into the room as well. “Mr. Potter, you do seem to have led a large number of students into trouble today. I wonder why they were so willing to risk punishment to assist you. Hmm,” she pursed her lips thoughtfully. “You were using my Floo. Who were you trying to call?”
Anna forced herself to remain calm as the interrogation continued. Harry was impressively self-controlled as he refused to answer the professor’s questions. She felt a moment of panic when Professor Snape was called upon to provide Veritaserum so that Professor Umbridge could question him under the influence of the truth serum. Fortunately, the Potions teacher denied having any more in his store cupboard. Harry even had the presence of mind to communicate a coded message about the danger Sirius was in before the man left.
Her moment of relief was short-lived as Professor Umbridge pulled her wand after pacing the office while mumbling to herself.
“Desperate times and difficult children…require forceful actions,” she announced, though she was apparently talking to herself rather than to any of them. “Regrettably, a breach of Ministry security cannot be ignored, regardless of the age of the perpetrator…a high level of response is expected in such situations.”
Anna glanced around at her classmates. For the first time, she truly doubted the sanity of their Defense Professor. As her eyes met Hermione’s, she realized she was not the only one who was afraid.
“The Cruciatus Curse can be highly effective,” Umbridge continued. “It will surely encourage you to make the right choice.” She smiled at Harry as she advanced upon him, her wand at the ready.
“No!” Hermione shrieked. “Please professor, you can’t. It’s illegal!” She glanced about the room desperately as if seeking inspiration. “The Minister would not expect so much from you. Mr. Fudge would never want you to break the law.”
Their professor sighed quietly. “Dear Cornelius.” A small smile lit her face. “What he does not know will not hurt him.”
Everyone seemed to hold their breath as Professor Umbridge circled Harry once before pointing her wand resolutely at him.
“I must do what is necessary,” she whispered. “Cruc-”
“Noooo!” Hermione screamed.
Anna was stunned as her friend spun a tale of a powerful weapon hidden outside the castle by the Headmaster. Hermione made it sound as though Professor Dumbledore had created a magical artefact that would take over the British wizarding world and enable him to become Minister. The performance was so obviously false that Anna was stunned when Umbridge fell for it and quickly led Harry and Hermione out of the office.
The others stood quietly looking at one another in various states of concern and disbelief.
“I’m taking Miss Henry to another room to question her,” Draco announced peering at his fellow Slytherins. “Guard everyone carefully until Professor Umbridge returns.”
Author’s Note: Disclaimer — Part of this chapter comes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
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