A Fickle Friend

Harry entered Athenahold's office to find her on a firecall with Aonghus.

"Trainee Potter. You can put the letter on the corner there, St. James will pick it up later." She turned back around, her posture stiff, Aonghus' face tense in the green flames.

Harry opened and closed his mouth a couple of times. He had prepared a whole speech about how he was sorry, that he did want to be an auror. He put the letter on the desk and backed out slowly, feeling a little disjointed. The moment he closed the door he heard them start talking, their voices harsh even through the door.

It was anticlimactic.

Harry shook his head and walked towards the training room, wondering why Aonghus was fire calling from there.

But Aonghus wasn't there. It was just Taylor, Smith, Ailna, and Barran. The other three had dropped out here and there, exasperated. Ailna and Taylor gave him small smiles, Smith nodded, and Barran smirked.

"Not like Aonghus to be late." Taylor broke the silence.

"He was on a firecall with Athenahold a few minutes ago, I was at her office."

Barran's smirk widen. "Perhaps Aonghus is trying to get you kicked out. Won't come back to teach us until you're gone. Don't blame him, really."

Harry gritted his teeth, expecting a wash of anger to come over him, but was surprised when it didn't. He had met a few bullies in his life and Barran just didn't seem to warrant the energy it would take to deal with him.

Instead, ignoring Barran's attitude, he addressed what he said. "I wonder if that's it. It didn't seem to be a happy conversation."

Smith frowned. "I don't think so, Potter. Aonghus picks on you a lot, but I don't think he actually hates you."

"Plus, you're hands down the best of us. It would be stupid of them to let you go." Taylor gave Harry a hard to read half smile.

Harry smiled back, shrugging. "Or it isn't about me at all."

"Ultimately it's pointless to guess. We don't know." Ailna's serious face looked at them all in turn. "Potter, were you able to practice the spells and potions while you were suspended?"

Harry couldn't help himself and smiled at her. Ailna was always direct with absolutely no tact. "Yeah, I was able to even try them in dueling situations with my friends. Not quite the same stress as having Aonghus breathing down your back, but Ron and Hermione are no joke."

"Good."

The fireplace burst into green, Athenahold's displeased face in the flames. "Aonghus has some personal things he needs to deal with and all other aurors are too busy to teach right now. Do you all know the Patronus spell yet?"

Harry and Smith nodded while everyone else shook their heads. Athenahold's lips thinned. "I know that Aonghus doesn't let you respond like that. Let's try that again. Do you know the Patronus spell yet?"

Harry and Smith answered Ma'am, yes, Ma'am while everyone else answered no. Athenahold nodded. "Okay, Trainees Potter and Smith, have you ever used them against actual dementors?"

"Ma'am, yes, Ma'am."

"Ma'am, no, Ma'am."

Harry and Smith glanced at each other. Harry felt pretty surprised. He had encountered numerous dementors during the war, he had expected at least one other person to have as well.

"Trainee Smith, when did you learn the charm?"

"Ma'am, my Dad taught me last year. He was worried for… for obvious reasons, Ma'am."

"Potter?"

"Ma'am, I learned from Remus Lupin in my third year, Ma'am."

Athenahold's stiff face opened for a second, her shock plain. She quickly covered it. "And you've used it against real dementors? Surely...Surely that's not how you learned?"

"Ma'am, we used a boggart, Ma'am."

Athenahold's eyebrows came together, confusion evident.

Harry shuffled a little awkwardly. "My boggart is a dementor."

Athenahold's face shifted, hard to read, but her voice was softer, thoughtful. "This was back in your third year? That's...thirteen year olds shouldn't even know… At, at any rate, do you think that it is still a dementor?"

Harry thought, his mind flashing through horrible things he has seen, until it landed on the dark forest in his dreams, the isolation so complete that it felt like it was filling him. He realized that the feeling in the dream was almost exactly like the ones that the dementor pulled forward in him. Harry looked back towards the fire, "Ma'am, yes, Ma'am."

Athenahold looked at him sadly. "Have you fought with a dementor that was not a boggart? If so, how many have you fought off at once?"

"Ma'am, yes, Ma'am. A few times. Uh, the most I have fought off at once was probably over one hundred." Harry grimaced at everyone's gasps. "But that was a bit of a fluke, you see… Well, actually, that's too long of a story to tell. The point is that, really, I've fought off two or three at a time when taken by surprise, so I'd say that's a more accurate number."

Athenahold's open shock was back again. "By yourself? How old were you?"

"Uh, I was thirteen with the one hundred and I… I wouldn't necessarily say that I was by myself. I was fifteen when I was attacked by two dementors in an alley."

"I remember that. That was when you had a full trial for your underage wizardry. That was why?" Athenahold shook her head, her expression aggravated. "Moving on, Trainee Potter, I'm putting you in charge of training your fellow trainees on the Patronus charm. Smith can help. Once they are able to conjure a corporeal Patronus let me know. I will find a bogart for you all to practice on with trainee Potter present. I want everyone to be able to at least make a non corporeal Patronus by the end of the day. I want to have you all training against the bogart by the end of the week, is that clear?"

"Ma'am, yes ma'am!"

Athenahold popped away. Harry turned towards his fellow trainees who were looking back at him expectantly. Harry was reminded of leading the D.A. Smiling to himself, he wondered how he went from suspended to in charge in half an hour. "Let's get started."

At the end of the day Smith and Ailna's respective Wolf and Red Squirrel were charging about the room, glowing their intense silver light into the corners of the drab space. Taylor's was very close to becoming corporeal, moving from mist into something of enormous size. Barran struggled to make the non corporeal form.

"Excellent job everybody. We'll practice more tomorrow. Smith and Ailna, I'll show you guys how to make your patronus send messages as well. Taylor, you are so close. I think you should take a break tonight, I've never seen such a large patronus. Barran, I think that you should practice at home or you won't be ready by Thursday when we'll practice against the boggart."

Barran scowled at him and Harry smirked. Barran gathered his things quickly and left.

"He's such a tosser." Taylor shook his head. "Thanks Potter. You're a good teacher."

Harry grinned, pleased. "Thanks."

"I heard you taught a bunch of lower years defense spells back a few years ago, in Hogwarts?"

Harry nodded, putting his cloak on.

"I want to thank you, Harry." Smith was looking down at her hands.

Harry shook his head, "It's no problem. I like teaching, really. Besides, I didn't help you that much today Smith, you just needed a refresher."

"No, I mean all these months that we've been training together, I've meant to say it. And now that training is almost over...I just wanted to say it before we all got too busy."

"Thank me for what?"

"Saving us all."

Harry stopped in his tracks. Taylor and Ailna stopped too, looking between Smith and Harry.

Harry could feel his face turning red. "Uh, well, you're welcome. I didn't exactly do it by myself, you know…"

"Thanks Smith. I wanted to say it too." Taylor stood straighter. "Thank you, Harry, seriously."

Ailna nodded behind Taylor. "We weren't sure how to bring it up. We didn't want to say it right away, as that would look hero worship-y."

"And we really didn't want to give you that impression. Because you're certainly a hero, but…" Smith stuttered to a stop.

"But you're just Potter. You're terrible at potions, you're only serviceable at transfiguration, and you're temper is ridiculous. So we don't worship you. At all." Ailna's face was serious, her voice sincere. She wasn't trying to be mean.

Taylor smiled at her. "Not how I would have said it, but… Essentially, yeah. I mean, you're human, which makes what you did all the more impressive. So, you know, we just all wanted to thank you. Get that out of the way. We didn't want you to think that we were taking for granted all that you've done."

"Or that we're awestruck either," Smith added. Everyone nodded.

Harry felt like his face was on fire. "Ah, I'm glad that there is no hero worshipping. And...and you're welcome. I'm glad it's over too."

They all snorted, patting him on the back as they left.

The next morning Harry stood in horror, looking at the notice board on his floor. He ran to the notice board by the elevators. It was there too. He tried to pull it off but it was stuck on fast. Behind him he heard laughter.

St. James came up to him, slinging an arm around his shoulder. "With this, we're all good. You're punishment is over." Whistling he walked away, leaving Harry staring after him, pale, then red, then pale.

Posted on every inch of free space was his letter.

To the Auror Department,

I've written, I believe, three thousand versions of this letter, ranging from pleading for forgiveness to defensive babbling and everything in between. My owl knocked my quill from my hand at four in the morning in a fit of protective instinct. In my tired delirium I realized that in order to get to the right tone I had to be honest. I had to be honest in my thinking and honest in my reflections on why it was wrong.

So I want start off by saying that I don't think that I was wrong. I have seen a lot of harm come to many people while other people sat back and watched, unwilling to do anything. I have seen people turn the other way, thinking that someone else will take care of it too many times to count. I'm usually the person that takes care of it. So you see, sitting there waiting for orders while people were getting hurt, waiting for a convenient time to act, waiting for it to be safe, went against all of my experience, all of my instinct.

If any of you have spent any time under the cruciatus, you'll understand why I can't regret sparing that child even a second longer under it.

What I do regret is my arrogance. I believed that I was the only one who was fighting their instincts to go out and help. I believed that I was the only one who could see that the plan was falling apart at innocent people's' expense. But I was wrong. I should have understood that I wasn't the only one gritting their teeth. I should have trusted that other people, people with more knowledge and experience, were reevaluating what needed to happen.

And ultimately that's where my arrogance comes from, not trusting other people. Believe it or not, this is a lesson I have learned before.

Professor Dumbledore was my mentor. I can't really describe all that he meant to me. He was brilliant and good in all the ways that mattered, but he made some terrible mistakes. I learned a lot from him, not least of which was trying to learn from what he messed up. The biggest thing he messed up was not trusting people. He played his cards very close to his chest. And though, at the end of his life, I believe that I knew him well, maybe even knew him best, there were things he didn't trust me with. He manipulated and positioned people instead of talking to them. He thought he knew best. He thought that he was the only one who understood when to take action. He thought he was the only one who was gritting his teeth.

When it came time to fight Voldemort, I entered Hogwarts and saw a crowd of my friends. I saw people who had been fighting against Voldemort just as much as I had, but in different ways. I had a choice. I could have kept what I was doing close to my chest. I could have tried to protect them through ignorance, but instead I told them the truth. I asked them for help. Voldemort wasn't defeated when his spell backfired once again. He was defeated the moment I opened my mouth to tell the truth. Even if I had died (died more permanently) others would have known. He was defeated not by me, but by honesty, trust, and love.

The point of this is that this is a lesson I have learned before. I was wrong to think I could work alone. I was wrong to think that I was the only one who cared. I was wrong to assume that I knew best. I am not Albus Dumbledore, nor do I want to be.

So, then, I am at six hundred and thirty three words and kind of at lose at what else to write. I really am sorry, so I don't want to just turn this in without making the effort to do a complete two thousand words. But you know, what I wrote is sincere and I think covers it.

I will write what I could have done better, strategy and spell wise.

The rest of the letter was him talking about his failings as a wizard and an auror in great detail. Overcome with embarrassment he tried half heartedly, futily, to tug them off one last time before spinning on his heel to try to find St. James.

But St. James had already left on assignment. Athenahold was unhelpful. "You didn't know that the letters were open letters? Every time an auror writes an apology letter it is posted to the public. It's in the handbook." The then patted his hand and dismissed him.

Ailna was reading the leader as she was waiting for the elevator. She glanced back at him as she finished. "It's a good letter, Potter. Much more honest than I would have expected from an open letter, though, especially from you."

Harry groaned. "I didn't know it was an open letter!"

Ailna laughed.

The next morning the newspaper headlines were once again splashed with his name. Harry Potter Dismisses Dumbledore! The Chosen One Struggles as an Auror! Harry Potter's First Public Statement since the fall of You-Know-Who!

The reactions ranged from calling the letter a humanizing, giving a clear look into his thought process and personality for the first time since his interview about how Voldemort returned to calling for his dismissal from the Aurors as he admitted to many failings at different spells in the letter, calling him a fluke.

Harry felt like he was walking around in his pants, exposed.

St. James was back the next day. Harry cornered him in the hallway. "You know that I had no idea that the letter was an open one. You didn't tell me on purpose."

"It's not my job to tell you what's clearly written in the handbook…"

"Enough, St. James. You knew I didn't know. You knew that this wouldn't be snickered over in the kitchen by a few of my teammates, you knew that this was going to spread…"

Harry couldn't stop some heat from entering his voice as he spoke. St. James continued to smirk, making Harry want to hit him very badly.

"I don't deny it. But if the letter had been too personal, or if it had been arrogant, I would have made you rewrite it. But I don't think that it was. I know it crosses many lines, personal and professional, to decide on my own what is too personal to show the world. But the letter was perfect, and as your superior I hear a lot of doubts about you from all over the Ministry. For awhile there will be a lot of different opinions, Harry. But they won't matter. I know for a fact that the auror department understood you well and respects you better now. The people who understand are the ones who matter, the ones who are condemning you for not being perfect will never matter, not now or ever."

Harry stepped back from him, the fire gone but the anger still there. "So you were doing me a favor?"

St. James's smirk changed into a smile, more genuine. "I know it doesn't seem like it, but yes."

"You had no right."

St. James' smile became a little sad. "I know. I don't expect you to forgive me."

Harry walked away from him, his feelings mixed and confused.


Harry was out of floo powder. And a number of potions ingredients. Also he needs more broom polish. Basically, he needed to go shopping. In Diagonally. He didn't want to. The stupid letter had gone public only a week ago. He was no longer under the title in all the papers, but he was still prominent, gossip columns and editorial pieces dissecting every word.

He fingered his invisibility cloak, he considered the black cloak with the large hood hanging on the door. Sighing, Harry stepped onto his front step in just his regular winter cloak. It was time to accept that he was famous, have some grace about it.

He appeared next to the apothecary and entered quickly. In the gloomy and smelly space no one paid any attention to him. He savored the inattention, but knew it couldn't last. Squaring his shoulders, he stepped out into the street, people glancing at him once, double taking, looking at him, nudging their companions, moving in close, suddenly loud, too many people trying to touch him.

Harry thought quickly, trying to figure out how to deal with this. He thought about crowd control tactics he learned recently in auror training. He needed to spot one person and make them central, have them become a sort of representative of the crowd. He needed to be careful of who he picked. It had to be someone more calm looking than the rest.

There was a middle aged wizard pressed in close to him, looking uncomfortable, glancing back angrily at the three witches who kept trying to push past him. He looked at Harry apologetically, seemed startled when Harry looked back at him.

"Hello, sir. Bit crowded all of sudden, isn't it?" Harry grinned at him. The crowd quieted a little when Harry spoke.

The man stared at him, wide eyed. "Y-Yeah. The pushy witches behind me are my wife and two daughters, they're big fans of yours. I-that's not to say I'm not a fan, but definitely in a different way than them."

Harry flushed, feeling incredibly uncomfortable. He fought the urge to run. "Ah, hello!" Harry nodded to the witches behind the man. All three started to laugh strangely, the daughters faces bright red. The crowd stopped pushing forward so much, quieted further, listening. "Are you two in Hogwarts?"

The girls nodded emphatically, stuttering and speaking over each other. "Oh yes! Ah, I'm in - in Ravenclaw. Ravenclaw! Fourth place…I-I-I mean, fourth year."

"I'm in Hufflepuff! I'm in second year. I said Hufflepuff, right?"

Harry smiled at them, wondering what on earth all these people looked so fascinated with but plowing on anyway. "Ah, do you know Luna Lovegood then? She's a seventh year in Ravenclaw?"

The older girl shook her head, then nodded. "Yeah, I mean, I know of her. She -She wouldn't ever talked to me though, she's too cool."

Harry snorted, trying to cover it up with a cough, but he couldn't hide his smile. "Luna is?"

The girl nodded again, looking completely dazed now, "Yeah, I mean, she hangs out with Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley."

Harry grinned, amused. He couldn't wait to tell them about their new reputations.

"Mr. Potter, are you going to quit being an auror?" A voice from the other side of the crowd yelled. Everybody had moved back a space, but there were people looking through shop windows, and people standing on barrels further down the street trying to get a look at him. The crowd murmured, then stopped, waiting for his answer.

Harry frowned. "No, I have no intention to. I know my letter made it seem like a can't do a levitation spell, but, well, it was an apology letter, I…"

"Good!" A different voice, further in the back yelled, to much nodding.

A witch in the front spoke next. "Good, it would be a shame for you to quit just because of some tossers writing mean columns about you."

There was a general murmur agreement. A younger boy, maybe ten, spoke next. "I liked your letter, Mr. Potter."

Harry smiled at him. "Thank you."

Harry looked around the now silent crowd. "I-I need to get going. I have a few more things to buy…"

The crowd starting moving at once, different voices speaking up. "Sorry, Mr. Potter." " Of course, make way for him, move over you." "Sorry to cause such a ruckus, it's just rare to see you out and about."

The parted for him and Harry moved through the crowd, a little pink under all the staring eyes, but smiling at those who were smiling at him, and once he and exited the main body of the group he turned back, waving. "Nice to, um, nice to see you all."

"Nice to see you!" "We'll let you get on with your shopping!" "You hear that, Rachel? You leave the poor man alone." "Have a nice day!"

As Harry entered the next shop the crowd dispersed, cheerful and flushed for having been so close to their hero.

Harry looked through the window at the smiling, laughing, excited people slowly moving back to whatever it was they were doing and felt an unexpected goodwill forming towards them. For a moment he kind of understood why people might enjoy being famous.

Then he turned, stepping back in alarm at the shop keeper staring at him with an open mouth. Harry sighed and gave a mental shrug. "Hello there."

The shopkeeper gaped at him like a fish. Harry patted him on the shoulder, moving around him to the shelves with the broom polish.