Harry sat for some time in a stupor of thought. Finally, feeling pressed for the D.A.D.A. class, he secured his backpack and left Gryffindor tower. When he arrived at Moody's class, he noticed the subdued level of whispering. Moody's aura always lent strict decorum in his classes; even so Harry was surprised at the restraint. As he took his seat, he saw the reason for the demure whispers. Sitting in a dark corner of the room was a stranger. A cloak covered him to almost the tip of his nose. He didn't move but his penetrating eyes took in everything around him.

Moody rose from his desk and began the class. "As you have no doubt noticed, we have a visitor. I have invited Treylon Baskin to our class to give you a new perspective on Defence Against the Dark Arts. Mr. Baskin is a trapper. He makes his living trapping and killing animals for their pelts. I know that may shock some of you, but there it is. Mr. Baskin has learned how to attract his prey. He is very good at what he does. He can teach you how to avoid those things that could be used to attract and trap you. Listen well."

The class was absolutely quiet as the stranger swept to the front of the room. As his cloak fell heavily away, he was revealed as a rangy man of average height. His black hair was cut very short and the stubble of a beard shadowed his chin. Merciless black eyes smoldered beneath heavy brows.

"Alastor has asked me here to teach you about yourselves."

Harry felt a shiver race up his spine. The man's very tone carried death.

"I have learned that trickery, bait, and deceit will capture almost any animal." Baskin looked around the class. "You are no different than animals. At least not until I teach you the ways of the trapper. After that, your intellect may allow you to avoid my kind."

Harry wondered at the value of this dangerous teacher, but he did not stir. He felt like a cobra under a mongoose's stare.

"Trapping is a very simple matter," he began. "All I have to do is find what attracts you. Food and concealment work in ninety percent of the cases. A combination of sex and pride brings that to virtually one hundred per cent. It's all about bait versus the victim."

Harry heard a murmur pass through the room. He had caught it too. The word "victim" brought many a visceral image to his mind.

Seemingly unaffected by the murmur, Baskin continued, "Generally speaking, the easiest prey is a solitary animal. Those animals that hunt or travel in packs are more difficult to trap. One will often pick up on what others miss."

He walked to a table set to the side of the room. With a flourish, he swept off a covering. Underneath was a wicked assortment of traps and snares. He picked up a trap with particularly sharp teeth set into imposing steel jaws.

"You wouldn't step into this would you?" He watched heads shake side-to-side throughout the room. "So you say. But I can get you to do it with the right bait."

He pushed down with all his weight. Setting the trip, he stepped carefully away. "It doesn't look much different now that before, does it?" In answer to his own question, he took a pole the diameter of a man's wrist and prodded the trap. The jaws snapped shut with such force that the pole was broken into splinters.

Several people moaned. Lavender Brown screamed. Harry could associate with the sentiment. He too, imagined his arm or leg caught up in the unforgiving jaws. He shivered again.

"It doesn't have to be as drastic as these traps," he said motioning to the table. "It can be as simple as a fishhook." He held up a tiny barbed hook. "Who, in their right mind, would place this in their mouth? Not even a fish will take a bare hook. But disguise it with a worm, or a bit of hair or feather, or some coloured thread, and they will bite. They will swallow the entire thing. What would it take to catch you?"

He let the class think before going on. "I can disguise the trap, the snare, the hook. I can attract my prey with the smell, or the sound, or the promise of food. SNAP! I can attract them with the scent of a male or a female. SNAP! I can introduce the scent of an outsider. Some animals are fiercely protective of their territory. They come to fight, or drive an intruded from "their" land. SNAP!"

Sickened, Harry's thoughts flickered to his failure with the professor's fake Snape.

"I've only one time that I was discovered and made to dance to another's tune. A lone wolf. Smart. Wary. He didn't need the pack. He was better off on his own. It became a deadly game between us, but I knew it was just a matter of time until I found his weakness. He delighted in pulling up my hidden traps. He would drag them about until they snapped and then he would steal the bait. He even left me little "presents" indicating his derision of my skill. I thought long and hard. He was smart. I had to give that to him. I began to set my traps with less care and concealment. I fed him many a meal, and cleaned his messes from many of my traps. Then I set out in earnest. I set the regular, haphazard traps, but around the perimeter I set skillfully concealed traps with no bait. I waited for him to come in. I knew in his arrogance he would set off the obvious and blunder into the hidden."

There was absolute silence in the classroom for thirty seconds. Finally, Dean blurted out, "What happened?"

In response, Baskin turned his cloak in-side-out. Lining the cloak, always next to him, was a magnificent wolf-skin lining. Baskin smiled a feral smile. "There is one trick that works on humans that hardly ever works on animals. Hunters of men use friends, relatives, even strangers, to lure their intended victim. Knowing what the bait is may help you see the trap. Not caring about the bait is the only way to avoid it."

Moody thanked Baskin who returned to his secluded seat. The class sat in shocked silence at what had been presented. Moody rallied them by starting a discussion about methods and tactics Death Eaters used to recruit and coerce. Harry listened half-heartedly to talk of money, threats of personal or familial harm, promises of power, luxury, exemption from consequences; indeed, all things used to either entice or cow others.

The class finally came to the conclusion that the best methods of protection were staying in trusted groups, such as families, and bringing any threats immediately to light.

"Very good," said Moody. "Fore-warned is fore-armed. Now watch out for each other."

Moody held Harry after class. "Potter I'd like you to meet with Treylon privately. There are some things he can teach that are not readily available elsewhere."

Treylon Baskin emerged from the shadows and walked up to Harry. He extended his hand. Harry hesitated. "Good, you show caution. One fewer lesson to teach. Come with me Mr. Potter. Alastor has arranged for a room where we can talk."

Harry looked at Moody for confirmation.

"One moment," said Moody. "Potter come here." Harry obeyed. "These lessons may seem distasteful, but they are vital. Listen to Treylon. His knowledge and methods may save your life."

"For you professor," confided Harry.

"Be cautious of your trust," growled Moody. "And, by the way, where are your friends? I noticed that Weasley and Granger did not attend class today."

Harry shrugged. He didn't know what to say. He hadn't noticed the absence of his best friends. Stunned by the thought, he allowed Baskin to lead him away from Moody and down the hall to an empty classroom.

Baskin noted the look on Harry's face. "Don't know what's troubling you...don't really care. This is a prime example of what I've been trying to impress upon you. Right now you don't feel like fighting, for either yourself, or for others. That's a luxury you can't afford. You have to be ready one hundred percent of the time. I know your history. I know that you are hunted at this very instant. What are you going to do about it?"

The words sank into Harry's psyche. He determined he wasn't going to let Voldemort win so easily. "What am I going to do? I'm going to do whatever it takes," said Harry defiantly.

"That's more like it! But are you really willing to do WHATEVER it takes?" goaded Baskin.

"Yes I am!" said Harry with a sharper edge to his voice.

"Well then you need to get over the "I" in "I am." Are you a hero, a leader, or a follower? Be mightily careful of your answer. It's a weighty decision."

"I've never styled myself a hero, I don't seem to be much of a leader, and I've been told I don't follow rules very well," said Harry.

"Decide!" said Baskin forcefully. "But consider. A hero cares not for his own life. He is willing to give his life for a cause. A follower does what he's told; not out of love or principle, but simply out of duty. A leader, that's a different matter altogether. A leader stands by a direction, a goal. He can't ever falter. A leader understands that a time will come that he will order others into situations that may cost their lives. They may be his friends, but even if they are strangers, a true leader recognizes the capital cost of his orders. A leader must be able to order others to die."

The severe brutality of Baskin's words shook Harry. He had fought this very battle in his own mind. He considered the night of Dumbledore's death, he Harry, had ordered the D.A. to protect the castle. True, he had given them his remaining Felix Felicis, but they could have faced death anyway.

"Is there no other way around this?" asked Harry almost pleadingly.

"Yes. Never away...die. Not attractive choices? You are beginning to see the cost of leadership. Decisions have consequences. Consequences that others must pay. Consequences you must be willing to live with." Baskin smiled a savage smile.

"It would be easier to do this on my own," reasoned Harry.

"Do you have friends who will follow you? Friends who will try to protect you? If so, they have made their choice. Can you serve them better by coordinating actions, or by being part of the action? A leader bites the bitter brand and goes on. He cannot see all the possible results of his decisions, but he decides nonetheless. He chooses the best course available. He sees the end and never gives up, because to give up is to waste the life effort of all who have served his cause."

Harry swallowed the acid that had risen in his throat.

"Choose now. Lead or follow. Never look back. If you question your decision it will tear your life apart. Only make such a decision once."

Baskin swept his cloak about him and left Harry alone with his demons.

He sat in the room a long time. He tried to sort out his feelings and priorities. He vacillated from firm commitment of leadership to thoughts of running away. He wondered once again if his friends would be better off without him. He saw he was a lightning rod for Voldemort's wrath. Those around him were bound to be struck by mere proximity. When he had finally stripped down all his reasons; duty, loyalty, friendship, destiny, pride, revenge, and protection...he was left with one thought... "I want to do this. No one can make me. I will fight, and I will lead if necessary, but I will do it because it is the right thing to do."

Harry gathered his renewed resolve and headed for Gryffindor tower. He had to talk to Ginny, and he needed to find out what had happened to Ron and Hermione.

As he pelted down the hallway, he thought he saw Ron duck into a secret passage behind a tapestry. He yelled Ron's name, but by the time he got to the tapestry, no one was there, the passage was completely empty. He slipped into the passageway and pulled out the Marauder's Map. His three friends were in the common room.

"No way Ron could have gotten there that quickly. I must have been mistaken about what I saw," said Harry aloud.

"Talkin' to himself! He is!" cackled Peeves as he zoomed toward Harry. "Potty's going dotty!"

Harry silently glued the poltergeist's tongue to the top of his mouth, and ignoring the rude hand gestures, made for the common room.

When he arrived, he found Hermione pacing in front of the fire. Ginny was on the sofa with Ron. It wasn't until Harry rounded the sofa and looked Ron in the face that he understood Hermione's agitation. Ron was pale and drawn. His eyelids fluttered as he fought to remain conscious.

"Harry!" anguished Hermione when she saw him. "Just look at Ronald! He won't let me get him any help. What should we do?"

"We take him to the hospital wing, and we do it right now!" said Harry forcefully.

"No you won't," muttered Ron weakly.

"Watch me!" said Harry.

Neville came over. "Can I help?" he asked.

"Absolutely. I'll immobilize him. You can help me steer him through the corridors to the hospital. Ginny, please see to Hermione."

Harry layered a series of spells. Ron was subdued, lifted, and floated out of the common room and directly to the hospital.

Madam Pomfrey rolled her eyes when she saw Harry and Neville.

"It's not me this time," said Harry. "Something's wrong with Ron."

The matron swept to work, moving Harry and Neville to the side. In an instant she had Ron in a bed and was checking his pulse and temperature. "How long since he's slept and eaten?" she asked.

"He slept last night, I think," said Hermione, "and he definitely ate this morning."

"He didn't sleep last night. He told me so this morning," said Harry.

"And before that?" asked Madam Pomfrey.

"I'm not sure," admitted Harry. "He moved from our dormitory room, so I don't know about the night before.

"This boy is exhausted. I don't know what you have been doing, but I know what he'll be doing tonight. He'll be sleeping here." She reached into a bedside cabinet and withdrew a potion Harry recognized. It caused dreamless sleep. She spooned it into Ron's mouth.

Ron struggled, but he was too weak. "No Harry you don't understand. I've done it. It flows like water. It flows..." And he was gone.

"You may go now. He will sleep until morning," said Madam Pomfrey.

"I'd like to stay," said Hermione in a small voice.

"It's no use. He'll be out until morning." To prove her point she raised one of Ron's arms and let it flop across his chest.

"It may not make him feel any better, but it will help me," said Hermione.

"Oh, that's how it is," said Madam Pomfrey sagely. "Very well you may stay. Off with you other three." She turned and headed back to her office.

"Thanks Harry," said Hermione. "I didn't know how to force him to come here against his will."

"You are a prefect. You force others to your will all the time," said Harry.

"I know that," said Hermione. "It's different with Ronald. I can't force him." She stammered thanks to Neville and Ginny and sat down to watch Ron.

"Do you know what he was talking about, or what he's been working so long and hard to accomplish?" asked Harry.

"No idea," said Hermione as she reached out to hold Ron's hand.

"We'll be going then," said Harry. "We'll check back after D.A. practice."

Hermione muttered agreement and the others left the hospital.

Once in the hall, Harry asked Ginny and Neville if they had seen Ron doing anything taxing. Neither had. Making best use of the time traveling back to Gryffindor tower, Harry told Neville what he needed done with the D.A. until he got there. He charged Ginny to assuring that no one but signed D.A. members got into the Room of Requirement.

"Harry, I'm curious," said Neville. "Why did you choose Luna and me to lead out?"

"Because when it comes to focus, I couldn't ask for better instructors. Show them how to bring their spells down to tightly concentrated fields. The goal is to improve their accuracy and their confidence. Tell Luna that I'm sorry I didn't get to talk to her before the practice. I trust both of you. Do your best and I'll be there as quickly as my class with Lupin is concluded."

"Good luck." He kissed Ginny and watched until they were safely through the portrait hole before he donned his invisibility cloak and headed for the class with Lupin.

Minutes later, Harry removed the cloak and knocked on Lupin's door.

"Come in Harry. I have been expecting you," said Lupin.

Harry took the seat opposite.

"I hope the experience today with Treylon wasn't too unsettling. Moody told me what he arranged. I know Baskin can be a bit overpowering." Lupin smiled at Harry.

"He does have a forceful personality," agreed Harry. "But I learned a more sure vision of what I want to accomplish, and I made a decision."

"Then I hope you count it worth the time," said Lupin. "As an aside I might mention that the Ministry uses him as a bounty hunter. Not for animals, for wanted criminals. He is the only non-Auror they employ in that capacity. He has even hunted Fenrir Greyback. If he seems slightly paranoid, he has good cause."

"Back to Occlumency tonight then Harry?" asked Lupin, cutting to the purpose for their meeting.

"Before we do, I have a favor to ask," said Harry. "Could you help me ascertain that this silver locket has no magical device? I've tried spectrum and aural analysis; I've tried physical manipulation and mass weighing. I just want to be as sure as possible."

"Do you anticipate a large or a small magical force?" asked Lupin.

Harry didn't want to give away what he was looking for, but he knew Lupin needed to be warned. "A considerably large force," he responded evasively.

"I see. Harry you know that I must exercise considerable caution around silver, because of my...ah...condition. But I will do what I can. You say you tried weighing the locket?"

"Yes," said Harry.

"And the scales were accurate I assume?" prodded Lupin.

"Accurate enough to measure a breeze," Harry assured him.

"How attached are you to the locket?" asked Lupin.

"Why?" asked Harry suspiciously.

"Because the only thing left is disassembly. That can be messy, and it rarely leaves a serviceable product in its wake," explained Lupin.

"I have no particular interest in the locket beyond what magic it may contain," admitted Harry.

"Very well." Lupin picked up the locket and went to the fireplace. Harry's first thought was that Lupin was going to cast the locket into the flames, but he didn't. He selected a log from among the firewood, set it on end, and placed the locket on the log. He then conjured an ax.

"What do you intend on doing?" questioned Harry.

"I'm going to attempt to cut the locket in half," said Lupin as he hefted the ax.

"Why not use the sword?" asked Harry motioning to the broadsword next to the suit of chain mail armor.

"The ax has more mass. If there is magic in play, the mass and the momentum of an ax will carry it through its arc where a sword might be deflected."

"I see. Before you try this, I have a piece of magic I'd like to include in the experiment," said Harry. Lupin nodded. Harry conjured his golden shield, modifying it so it flowed around where Lupin's hands met the handle.

"Impressive magic," said Lupin as he admired the shield. "You must teach me this spell."

Lupin motioned Harry to the side. He made a mighty swing. The sharp blade struck the locket and cut it cleanly in two pieces. Immediately Harry felt a sharp pain in the back of his hand. A small sliver of silver that had been sheared from the locket, had bounced off the protective shield and was sticking, needle-like, in his hand. Harry pulled the shard free and a pinprick of blood welled to the surface.

Lupin stared at the tiny sliver of silver in Harry's hand. "That could have killed me."

Harry dropped the sliver next to the pieces of locket. They looked at each other in shocked silence.

Lupin recovered first. "That was a bit melodramatic," said Lupin, with a huge breath. "But now I'm absolutely confident that this locket is no more than a solid piece of silver."

Harry picked up the severed pieces of the locket and placed them on Lupin's desk. To assure himself, he touched them gently with a whisper charm. Nothing happened. He concentrated on the shape of the original locket and the two halves melted back together, fine scrollwork re-etching the soft metal. Within a minute, the locket appeared as before Lupin's swashbuckle.

"I'm impressed," broke in Lupin. "Altering silver is no easy task. Your father would have been proud."

Harry's ears went pink. "Thanks professor. I appreciate the comment. It means a lot coming from one of his closest friends."

An awkward silence stretched the air. Harry had time to think about some of the experiences and discoveries to which he had been exposed. The comment about silver focused his mind on werewolves. "Professor I know we were going to practice Occlumency, but could we talk about the Greybacks?"

Lupin looked warily at Harry. After a moment's consideration he asked, " What would you like to discuss?"

"Did you ever hear about Fenrir Greyback's brothers and sister?" asked Harry, hoping to gain further insight into the young Tom Riddle.

"I never knew more than the rumors that circulated in the werewolf community. Fenrir came back to the forest pack many years after his family had been presumed killed by trolls. He was received as a sort of werewolf folk-legend. His tales of the treachery of Albus Dumbledore and the Ministry were believed wholeheartedly. Fenrir never produced any proof whatsoever, but to the downtrodden, a complete lack of proof is sure evidence that those in power have sanitized a situation. To this day, there is absolutely no support for either the Ministry or Dumbledore among the werewolves. The pack in the forest actually celebrated when they were informed of Dumbledore's death. It is a sobering statement on how far wizards have yet to go to heal the breach between the two races."

"I have some new information," said Harry hesitantly. Now that the words were in the air, he wondered if he had spoken out of turn. He pushed on, " I found Tom Riddle's diary. It indicates that he was the moving force behind the Greyback's deaths."

Lupin looked stunned. "If that could be proven...if the werewolves could be made to accept that Voldemort had killed their could change the entire werewolf-wizard dynamic. Harry what proof do you possess?" Lupin's eyes were alight with the fire of possibility.

"I have the diary. I know where the graves are located. I just don't have anything directly..." Harry's words trailed off as he looked at the spot of blood on the back of his hand.

"What is it Harry? Are you all right?" asked Lupin with concern.

"I was just thinking. Myrtle was killed by the basilisk. It just looked at her. It didn't bite blood. Tom Riddle's father and grandparents were killed by the Avada Kedavra blood. Hepzibah Smith was blood. Frank Bryce, Avada blood. Bertha Jorkins was tortured for information. I'm not sure about her, but she was years after Riddle had left Hogwarts. That leaves the wizard who provided the parchment and...the Greyback pups!"

"I have no idea what you are talking about," admitted Lupin.

"It's all right professor," said Harry excitedly. "I may have just had a revelation about how to counter Fenrir Greyback's misinformation campaign. I need to do a bit more study before I explain further."

"May I be of help?" asked Lupin.

"Most likely," said Harry as his mind reeled with possibilities. "Just how magical are werewolves?"

Lupin seemed wrong-footed by the change in direction of the conversation, but recovered quickly. "Under the best of circumstances, a considerable magic is necessary in human transfiguration. Werewolf transformation is very similar. The magic is at its zenith during the change. The great irony is that when our magic is at its height, we are completely at its mercy. We have no control whatsoever. The remainder of the month, no extraordinary magic is exhibited."

Harry's enthusiasm over his epiphany was immediately tempered by the hollow sound of Lupin's explanation. "I may have a solution for that also," said Harry. "Something else I have to consider and refine. I promise that you'll be the first to know if I succeed."

The clock on Lupin's wall was joined by the tower clock pronouncing six o'clock.

Harry looked at the clock and considered. "You'll be facing the change in a few days, won't you?"

"Yes, and without the Wolfsbane potion. I'll barely make it through the remainder of term. That was one of the reasons I was reluctant to take the position when Headmistress McGonagall offered it to me," explained Lupin.

"What about Professor Slughorn? He seems a tremendous potioneer. Is it possible he could brew the potion?" asked Harry.

"He would be up to it. But to be honest Harry, some of the ingredients are mightily rare, mightily expensive. I've run out of the funds necessary to procure them. Additionally, one has to start the series of draughts a week prior to the full moon. No, I'll endure the change without the potion." Lupin looked utterly defeated. "We must call it a day. I'm sorry we never got to Occlumency, but I believe you have another engagement."

"Yes you're right," said Harry. "The D.A. has been going on an hour without me. I need to go. Would you like to come along?"

"I would like that, but I think I will stay here and conserve my strength. I'm going to need every bit of energy I can garner for the next few days."

"I understand. Don't give up hope. I really do have a plan," said Harry.

Lupin did not look hopeful when he inclined his head in dismissal.

« Chapter 30 - Practice Makes Perfect   Chapter 32 - Unicorn Jumpers »


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