FRONT OF THE MIND
Harry thought it would be a rather messy proposition to try and eat chops and fried tomatoes while juggling a glass of pumpkin juice under an invisibility cloak as he hurried to Lupin's office, so he quickly finished his meal on the lower landing, and cleaned his robes before heading to Lupin's office. At length, he found himself standing in front of the office that Lupin had used when he had taught Defense against the Dark Arts. Suddenly he realized that he wasn't even sure that this was where Professor Lupin was, it was lunchtime after all, and Professor Lupin might be in the Great Hall eating. "No help for that," thought Harry, and he knocked on the office door.
The knock was answered almost immediately. A wear-worn Professor Lupin stuck his head out of the doorway and looked inquiringly up and down the corridor. Harry couldn't understand why the Professor didn't greet him until he remembered that he was still wearing the invisibility cloak. He cleared his throat before slipping from under the cloak to give a bit of advance warning that he was about to appear out of thin air.
Lupin lowered his wand, stepped back into the office, and beckoned Harry in, just the slightest trace of a smile softening his haggard features. "Well Harry," Lupin began, "I have to say that if that had been your father, he would have taken great pleasure in trying to scare me into a supreme fit of the collywobbles." As he closed the door, Lupin allowed himself a slow chuckle and a sigh before turning from his nostalgia and directing his full attention to Harry. "I must say thank you Harry for saving my life, all our lives, last night." As Harry started to protest, Lupin cut him off, "No Harry, I haven't a doubt that if Greyback had been given reign and time, he would have killed me, and as many of your schoolmates as possible. Professor McGonagall explained some of the events of last night, although her telling doesn't square with a rumor that damage was done and Greyback escaped."
Harry surveyed Professor Lupin and asked, Professor, do you remember what you gave me when we first met on the train to Hogwarts?"
Initial puzzlement and then understanding crossed Lupin's lined face as he said, "Chocolate, which I may add, you were reluctant to eat," and then, "Did I pass the test?"
"Yes, professor you pass. Now you should verify that I am who I appear to be," stated Harry plainly.
"Good idea. You never can be too careful. Let me see. What did I take with me when I left Hogwarts after my last teaching engagement?" asked Lupin.
Harry thought back and answered, "Your suitcase and an empty grindylow tank."
"Right. Now that we are fairly sure of whom we are, I am given to understand that you are here to learn Occlumency from me. At the outset I want it understood that I am not great shakes at Occlumency. I can mask my thoughts moderately well but nothing like Severus Sna..."
Harry's temper flared immediately at the mention of Snape's name. "Yeah, he was pretty good, wasn't he? He fooled Dumbledore! He fooled Moody!" Harry's voice rose and shook as he let his temper free.
"Yes, he deceived us all. I admit that I trusted him too. He had given what appeared to be numerous proofs that he had changed, that he was on our side," Lupin finished and watched to see the effect of his words on Harry.
Harry continued on in his angry tone, "Yeah, everybody trusted him to be on their side, Dumbledore and Voldemort alike. Who's to say that he isn't just on his own side? I hate Snape for what he's done and I'll kill him if I get the chance." Harry's wand was in his hand and his breaths came in gasps, as if he had just run a long distance.
"Well," said Lupin mildly, "If anyone has the right to hate Severus, it would be you. But don't you see, Harry, this is even a better reason to learn Occlumency. Severus Snape is a very skilled Legilimens. If you are truly determined to face him down, you will have to do it with your mind closed to him, otherwise he will be able to counter your spells as you form the thought in your mind. You will not be able to defeat him."
As Harry considered Lupin's words, he recalled the frustration of not being able to touch Snape with any magic the night Snape had run from the castle after killing Dumbledore. Snape had blocked every spell Harry had thrown at him. And Snape had taunted him with it, "...blocked again and again and again, until you learn to close your mind..." Here was the motivation he needed. He would learn Occlumency not for protection from Voldemort, but in order to strike at Snape. Harry had his grand cause, his motivation. Pushing the anger down inside himself where it could feed on his hatred for Snape, Harry addressed Lupin, "Where do we get started?"
Lupin began cautiously, "As soon as Professor McGonagall informed me that you would be stopping by today for Occlumency training, I began to outline the lessons. Always the teacher, you see. At any rate, I determined that I would not rely on any of your prior training because, as you have stated, those instructions may have had ulterior motives. We begin at the beginning then. We will take it slowly at first. I want you to begin by assessing the situation you are in. When someone is trying to break into your mind, they have a specific purpose, a reason to chance the incursion."
"What do you mean chance the incursion," interrupted Harry. "Is there a danger to the Legilimens?"
Lupin looked shocked for a moment but then regained his composure and asked, "Didn't Snape tell you that the mental wedge used by a Legilimens to open another's mind can be reversed, used as a weapon by a subject with strong force of will?"
"No, that must have slipped his mind," said Harry a bit too sarcastically, but unbidden came images he had acquired from Snape's memories of an unhappy childhood. Harry realized that he had come precariously close to breaking Snape's spell, of using it against Snape, and he had never known it. Harry calmed his excitement at the realization and refocused on Lupin. "Professor, I apologize. I was bang out of line and I am ready to do whatever you ask of me. I am ready to learn," said Harry honestly.
Lupin seemed skeptical at Harry's change of attitude but began anew, "As I was saying, a Legilimens will have a specific purpose and may be deceived by presenting, at the front of your mind, the appearance of what he desires to acquire. Most people are lazy, they will accept that which they are presented, particularly if it is the easiest path to their desires. Be warned however, a skilled Legilimens with patience and time can break through all but the most stout mental defenses. We have a case on point: Bertha Jorkins. Voldemort had the leisure of time, and in the end was able to break through a very powerful memory charm and extract hidden information. This example should urge you to caution. Voldemort is not one to trifle with when time is on his side. I can teach you enough to enable you to face him in a temporary arena, but given an extended period of time, success can only be achieved through your own force of will." Lupin ceased speaking. He watched Harry to see if his words were being taken seriously.
Harry blinked, "I understand that the ultimate success or failure will be up to me. I understand this isn't just a lesson to memorize some pointless facts. I understand that this is serious and I am ready for whatever it takes." Harry finished speaking and looked expectantly at Lupin.
"Very well," said Lupin, "first you attempt to determine what the Legilimens is seeking and focus that topic in the direction you desire to deceive the interrogator. By force of will you can 'create' your own reality as a false facade. If done skillfully enough, the Legilimens will accept the false facade for truth and look no further. This skill takes practice to perfect. Indeed an unskilled Occlumens will try to give too much information in the false memory and may become trapped or confused in the conflicting details. A skilled Occlumens will come across as a bit thick, with only fuzzy, to-the-point details. By limiting details, the chance of detection is lessened. On the extreme end of the spectrum is the Occlumens who can create a complex 'alternate reality' and pass it off as the truth. These Occlumens face a trap of their own making, if their altered version of reality has the tiniest disconnect or misalignment with the facts of the real world. You see Harry, it is almost impossible to create an alternate reality and have it consistent with the real world in small details. It only takes a small inaccurate detail to fracture the illusion. The Legilimens will then recognize the lie and break through the false front of the mind."
Harry absorbed these words and recognized the dangerous path he was pursuing in trying to deceive Voldemort or Snape. He considered a moment and asked, "Wouldn't it be better to stick closely to the truth and only alter the small details you wish to hide?"
"Yes Harry, that would be one method, but realize that the 'small' details you have mentioned are probably what the Legilimens is looking for. The easiest course of action is to play it thick. Fill the front of your mind with vague or confusing details, play it as if you really are confused or don't remember well. I might mention that to produce a front of the mind block, you need not have a wand nor invoke magic. It is true that there are shield charms that will slow or stop an unskilled Legilimens' progress, but a skilled Legilimens will see the use of magic immediately and know you are attempting to hide something. With that admonition in place, let us take a step into practice," concluded Lupin.
As Harry prepared himself for the mind incursion a thought floated to the surface, "I've learned more about protecting my thoughts in the last half hour than Snape taught me in months of practice."
Lupin drew his wand and pointed it at Harry, "I'm going to attempt to break into your mind Harry," began Lupin. I'm going to attempt to discover the location of the Order of the Phoenix headquarters. This is information that Voldemort has great interest in acquiring. Do you know how you will front your mind to protect the secret?"
Harry nodded a tentative "yes."
"Good," said Lupin raising his wand. "Legilimens!"
Harry, rather than clearing his mind as Snape had instructed him, filled his thoughts with disconnected images; transport by floo powder ending with a kneeling view of the cabinets and cases in Borgin and Burkes, the rough walls and rock ceiling of a dark passageway to Honeydukes, the dusty broken appearance of the inside of the Shrieking Shack, and as a test, a completely contrived scene of the ground opening up at the back of the gravestone revealing hewn stone steps leading into blackness. He could feel something flitting around in his head but it wasn't the massive intrusion he had experienced when Snape had accosted his mind. He focused on the images and picked at details without letting the thought of the actual location come to the fore of his mind. Harry could see Lupin clearly, and as a test, pushed back a bit with his own force of will. He was surprised to "see" a series of images flicker through his mind; Lupin playing as a child, the fearful night that Greyback had bitten him, the pain of were-transformations, and to Harry's astonishment a slip of parchment with the address of 12 Grimmauld Place. Harry was sure that the image had not come from his memory because the slip of parchment he had been shown had borne the inscription "The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix can be found at number twelve Grimmauld Place, London." To Harry's horror, as he considered this thought, the slip of parchment seemed to float in image in his mind.
Lupin lowered his wand and the spell ended. "You started out very well Harry," intoned Lupin, "I was led down some very disconnected paths, but then I tricked you. You pushed on my mind so I let you think you were entering my thoughts, my recollections. I placed thoughts in the front of my mind that I knew you would accept, including the slip of parchment. I led your mind to where I wanted to go. I let you replace my fractured memory with your complete one and gained the address for which I was searching. Voldemort is more subtle and wilier than I will ever be, don't make the mistake of underestimating him."
Harry dropped his gaze in shame. It had taken less than a minute to break through his defense, and this was Lupin, not Voldemort.
"Harry, do not be discouraged," said Lupin, "you did extremely well for a first attempt. You had me fooled. You had me looking in areas not remotely associated with the Order. Remember your anti-Dementor lessons; they took patience and practice, and this magic is equally a challenge to master. Be cautious of tricks and snares, anything that brings you mentally close to what the Legilimens is seeking is a path to avoid. You can do this Harry! Look inside yourself and let's try again."
Harry looked up and nodded. He was going to master this. He never wanted Snape in his mind again. "I'm ready Professor, but I would ask you to push me. Make me work for the result. Voldemort won't take it easy on me, neither will Snape, and I want to be ready," said Harry with determination in his voice.
"Very well Harry," said Lupin, "Legilimens!"
Harry filled his mind with a shield of fractured images; a meadow surrounding the crystal clear stream inlet to Hogwarts Lake, a wall of water covering a secret iron gate, a password protected entrance. Here Harry focused on a mind feint and let slip, and then attempted to cover the word "Primero." Harry could feel Lupin pushing mentally, pushing hard, but it still wasn't the swooning pain that Snape had caused. Harry placed a feeling of horror at revealing the location as well as the password. He let the feeling flood his mind, let the feeling of self-loathing become real, the pain become real. Harry realized that he had tears streaming down his face. He pushed back mentally, pushed with a force backed by a feeling of ultimate inner self-betrayal. Lupin's office came sharply into focus. Harry found himself kneeling on the flagstone floor. Lupin was getting back to his feet as if he had been knocked down.
Rubbing the centre of his chest and looking at Harry with admiration, Lupin began, "That was more than excellent Harry. Not only did I fail to obtain any correct information as I knew it, but the intensity you used to mask your 'slip' was more than believable, it was palpable. You actually knocked me down with the force of your will wall."
Harry realized that he still had tears in his eyes. The image he had created had been so complete that a part of him had believed that he had failed to guard the secret. The downside was an intense sense of failure. "I'll have to learn to deal with this or it will tear me apart," Harry thought ruefully. Then to Professor Lupin, "How do I handle the feeling of failure that is my own mind's creation?"
"You don't. At least not initially Harry," said Lupin. "You must allow the Legilimens to believe you are broken. Once the false premise has been accepted, the Legilimens may re-enter your mind to verify the information obtained. I must caution you, the false front must be solidly consistent. You may have noted that I allowed you to 'see' scenes from my life; scenes that were embarrassing or extremely personal. We guard those memories most diligently and when a Legilimens captures these memories they will use them as leverage, as weapons to break your will. Therefore, you must learn the ability to have those things openly probed while providing a front of embarrassment and its attending humiliation. Only by accomplishing this, will you be able to deceive the Legilimens. You may examine your feelings about the false front and come to mental resolution after you are out of the Legilimens' presence. Let's try again. This time I am not going to tell you what I am attempting to discover. Your job is to determine where I am going and to stop my attempts."
"I understand," said Harry seriously, "Please remember I don't want you to take it easy on me; take an adversarial approach. It's the only way I can prepare."
"Very well," said Lupin, and then without warning "Legilimens!"
Harry was caught off guard and had to quickly set his mental barrier to a neutral observation of his surroundings. He could feel Lupin's intense mental pressure. It still didn't rival Snape's mental harassment. At the outset Harry couldn't tell where Lupin was searching, but gradually Harry had a vague impression about Dumbledore's Porcrux. Harry focused on the blasted landing outside Dumbledore's office, Dumbledore's empty, and dark portrait frame. Dumbledore's office with smashed instruments and disarrayed furniture and even a glimpse of an empty shelf where the Sorting Hat and the case containing Godric Gryffindor's sword had rested. Harry could feel Lupin increase the mental pressure, looking for more details, for collateral corroboration. Harry responded by deliberately fogging the edges of the images, and adding mental pictures of wolf (he thought dog) footprints in the dust and debris leading out of Dumbledore's office. When he visualized the "dog" prints he transitioned to a scene of Aunt Marge and the Dursley's laughing at him trapped in a tree by Ripper the bulldog. Harry let the scene build until it was all he could see; he let the shame and humiliation flood his mind. He dwelt on the pain, letting it engulf him.
Suddenly the pressure was gone. Lupin was standing in front of Harry, wand lowered, a look of astonishment on his face. "Harry," he began, "I am impressed. I pushed you literally as hard as I have the ability to push. I would believe that there has indeed been extensive damage done to Dumbledore's office and his portrait and that the damage has something to do with a dog! How much of that was real and how much was contrived?"
"Everything was real, just rearranged a bit," said Harry. He considered telling Lupin of his plan to deceive Voldemort about Greyback, but decided against the course. Instead, he looked to Lupin and asked, "Professor there are a couple of questions I have about Legilimency and Occlumency." Without waiting for permission to ask the questions, Harry went on, "Firstly, Snape had me try to clear my mind of all thought and emotion at the beginning of each attempt at Occlumency. That didn't seem to work very well. Is it a valid method? Secondly, when I chased Snape the night he killed Dumbledore, I couldn't touch him with a spell. He blocked everything before I could even get the words out. Will this training allow me to prevent that in the future?"
"Excellent questions Harry," said Lupin, "let's look a little closer at them. In the first place it is almost impossible to completely blank one's mind of thought...emotion...yes ...thought...no. Your brain doesn't like an empty stage. Generally speaking, the more one tries to remove all thought from one's mind, the harder the brain struggles to put up some...any, image or memory. Something, some conscious thought, will always slip through. Even if it were possible to blank your thoughts, a skilled Legilimens would "see" your blank mind and know that you were attempting to hide something. A blank mind would not last long against a talented Legilimens. Second, big spells have to gather considerable power or energy from the surroundings. A Legilimens can see the thought of gathering that power in your mind and block the spell before it is completed. Come over here a moment and I'll give you a rough demonstration of this concept." Lupin then walked across the office toward a suit of chain mail armor that stood along the dark wall. On his way he picked up a decrepit looking broom. Harry followed obediently and the pair stopped in front of the ancient armor. Lupin handed the broom to Harry and picked up the claymore that stood next to the armor. "Which Harry, your broom or my broadsword, would be most effective against this armor?"
Harry sensed a trick, but couldn't see how a broom could be as useful as a broadsword against armor. After a moment's consideration, he said, "It looks like your sword would have the edge over my broom."
"Interesting use of words," said Lupin. Harry ducked as Lupin swung the huge sword in a broad arc and into the chain mail armor. The edge of the sword gave a great impact but did not sever the interlocked links of chain.
"I don't get the point," said Harry.
"Another interesting choice of words," said Lupin as he drew the broadsword back and ran it point-long into the chain mail. The wedge-like tip of the sword was stopped by the small links, preventing even the barest amount of the point from penetrating what was beneath the armor. "Now Harry," said Lupin, Try stabbing the armor with your broom."
Harry was doubtful of the demonstration but obeyed. To his amazement, as the broom straws came into contact with the armor, they flexed and found passage between the chain mail links. He saw that the small straws were not stopped by the armor, and had the straws been needles, the armor wearer would have been in serious hurt. Comprehension dawned on Harry, "Are you trying to say that small spells could get past a Legilimens' defenses where large spells would be detected and deflected?"
Lupin's beaming smile was answer to Harry's question.
"But what good are small spells when I'm facing Voldemort or Snape?" asked Harry a bit more sarcastically than he had intended.
"Harry, if you can truly layer your mind, build that false front we have discussed; then you will be able to present one magic as your intent while using a smaller more subtle magic to attain your purpose." Lupin fell silent and waited for Harry's response.
At length, after considering Lupin's words, Harry began, "I could practice this with the D.A.! We could learn how to get under, or around, or through the big protective magics." Harry's thoughts spun off in a dozen directions as he contemplated the prospect.
"Yes," said Lupin, "you may find some useful small spells that could evade larger magics. You have grasped the concept quickly and now it is yours to hone," said Lupin as he replaced the sword next to the suit of armor. "And now, our time is up for this instruction. Professor McGonagall has informed me that you will be excused from regular classes the last week of our term and she has asked me to instruct you at every opportunity on the topic of Occlumency. Accordingly, here is my schedule of free periods next week." Lupin took a small folded parchment scrap from his worn work-a-day robes and handed it to Harry. "I'll expect you at those times, prepared to do mind battle. Are you up to it?" asked Lupin with a mischievous wink.
"Absolutely, sir," said Harry, "I look forward to learning more and mastering this."
"Well actually, we don't have much time. If you look at the schedule you will find only five hours of free time available. You have learned quickly today, but I'm not going to say that you will be able to master this complex magic in such a short time." Lupin's statement was edged with concern.
Harry, somewhat distractedly said, "There may be more time than we might anticipate. You are right, however, it is time for me to be going. Thank you so much for what you have taught me."
"It was my pleasure," said Lupin as he watched Harry gather his things and disappear under the invisibility cloak. As the door closed, a smiling Lupin muttered to himself, "You are so much like James, it was my pleasure."