Harry had hoped to use the Marauder's map to find Black still lurking in the castle that night. He'd then slip out under his invisibility cloak and ambush him. Once Black was in custody, the dementors would be withdrawn and Harry would possibly have years to learn the patronus.
Unfortunately, even looking at the map under the covers of the sleeping bag after lights out, he couldn't see any sign of Black.
It was frustrating.
Knowing when Black was going to attack would have made it so much easier. Now he'd have to keep checking the map in classes and out. Undoubtedly Black had assumed he was in Gryffindor, since Harry doubted that subscriptions to the Daily Prophet were allowed in Azkaban.
He couldn't depend on that continuing to be the case. The thought of waking up with Black standing over his bed was fairly chilling.
Harry decided that he'd do everything he could to find Black as soon as possible. The fact that Black had betrayed his parents was disturbing, but in Harry's mind that just put him in with the faceless ranks of Death Eaters who were out to kill him.
It was the Dementors who were Harry's current obsession, the true threat.
Harry fell into a restless sleep on the hard floor of the Great Hall.
Over the next few days the school talked about nothing but Black. Harry caught people glancing at him out of the side of their eyes and people who had formerly been friendly to him withdrew somewhat. Harry suspected this wasn't because they resented him, but because they didn't want to be around him when Black finally came to stab him to death.
More disturbingly, the various teachers began to find excuses to walk with him. They weren't very clever in disguising what they were doing. When it wasn't teachers, Harry found himself being followed by Slytherin prefects.
Considering that he'd beaten some of the fifth year prefects in dueling club, Harry didn't feel particularly safer. It was a little insulting that they thought he needed that kind of protection. After all, Black, for all his insanity wasn't a Death Eater who was fresh and sharp with his wand. He was a broken down wreck of a man who had been drained to the last dregs by the dementors in Hogwarts.
Harry couldn't imagine what twelve years being drained by a dementor would do to a man. Just a few moments had been enough to almost destroy him.
Disturbingly as well, Lupin was absent from Defense class, and Snape substituted in. It was clear that Snape didn't care for Lupin, and he immediately substituted werewolves for the creature they'd actually been assigned.
Fortunately, there were werewolves in the Forbidden forest, and so that was one of the creatures Harry had actually bothered to study. Harry imagined that if he was going to have to repeat the semester he'd start studying the wizard killing creatures that didn't live near Hogwarts.
He'd start studying from the most dangerous and work his way down. He'd save flobberworm level creatures for seventh year, assuming they weren't covered already.
Harry carefully checked his Map as often as he dared, even during class if he thought he wouldn't get caught. He didn't bother in Snape's class, of course. Snape would confiscate the Map the moment he saw it, and Harry's chance of ending the dementor threat would be gone.
He never saw Black, however, no matter how much he searched.
One of the features of the map that Harry discovered as he repeatedly stared at it was that it revealed the passwords to various secret passages, including the one at the base of the Whomping Willow.
It was reassuring to know that he'd be able to slip out to Hogsmeade whenever he wanted, even though he doubted the teachers would officially let him go, permission slip or no permission slip.
He wouldn't have gone in public anyway. He'd have to wait until the other students were allowed to go to Hogsmeade before he went because someone his age would stick out like a sore thumb. He'd grown some, and at thirteen he was no longer able to pass for ten.
Storekeepers would note if a Hogwarts age child was in Hogsmeade during the school year alone. From what Harry had heard, Hogsmeade was a ghost town as far as children went in between visits.
Still, he needed supplies, and he fully intended to take advantage of the next Hogsmeade weekend to get more money from the Gringott's subsidiary there and to buy things from the joke shop that could be turned into weapons.
The Weasleys were being entirely unreasonable about their sister; no matter how much Harry claimed that he had no interest in her they were acting overly protective.
Harry almost suspected that it was some kind of long con, the kind of prank they'd pull on him for the entire term just to see his face at the end of the term. Unfortunately he couldn't be sure.
The one thing he was certain of was that having the dementors close by was going to be a recipe for disaster. From what he'd read they hungered for human emotion and they became less and less rational the less they fed. In that way they were a little like vampires, except that they ate souls instead of blood.
Nothing Harry had heard suggested that the dementors were being fed. Considering that children felt emotions more intensely than adults, or at least weren't as good at hiding them, and there were hundreds of children not far from the dementors...Harry felt that the Ministry hadn't really thought their plan through.
When it all happened, Harry had no intention of being one of those who had their souls devoured. Unfortunately, he doubted that going to his professors would do much good. He was widely considered to be a little mental, what with his conspiracy theories and paranoia.
He'd been a little too open about his opinions in the past. If he had a chance to do it over he'd have pretended to be as clueless as a Gryffindor. Unfortunately, most of his mistakes had been made in his first year, and that ship had already sailed.
"Professor Snape?" Harry asked cautiously as he peered into the doorway of the potion master's office.
He hadn't had many opportunities to enter Snape's office; the man seemed to do the best he could to avoid Harry, although that had changed a little since their business deal with the Basilisk.
Despite the slight softening in his attitude toward Harry, Harry knew better than to try to take advantage of it in class or in public. Snape was a former Death Eater, a fact that was confirmed by some of Harry's Slytherin contacts.
Undoubtedly, even if he'd largely renounced his ties to Voldemort's organization, he still had to deal with his former contacts. If he really was a spy for Dumbledore, as the court records indicated, he might still be spying for Dumbledore in which case he would have to be even more careful about who he angered.
Despite his past, Harry had gradually started to trust Snape a little more. The man had come to rescue him after the basilisk incident after all. If he'd really wanted Harry dead, he could have simply waited to tell Dumbledore and not come until after Harry was dead and eaten.
Snape's office was just as Harry remembered it. It was gloomy and dimly lit, with shadowy walls lined with shelves of large glass jars filled with ingredients. Many of the ingredients were slimy and revolting, pieces of animals and plants floating in potions of various colors.
If it had been Harry, he'd have lit the ingredients from behind. That would have made them even more horrifying, and would have increased the intimidation value of entering his office.
As it was, Harry couldn't understand why Snape kept things so dim. He wasn't actually a vampire, although Neville seemed to think so, especially now that Snape was angry about whatever Neville had done to repel his boggart. He'd been doubling down on his abuse of Neville, which had increased the number of incidents in potions class because of Neville's anxiety.
Harry had taken to sitting farther away from Neville, because sometimes Neville's mistakes affected everyone in an area. He noticed that the other Slytherins had taken to doing the same. Although he could tell that this bothered Neville, the last thing Harry needed was a face full of boils to go along with his other issues.
Some of Neville's mistakes had put some of the Gryffindors in the hospital for as long as two days.
"Come to beg for your Gryffindor friend, Potter?" Snape said, entering from another room.
Harry shook his head. "If you enjoy seeing Gryffindors covered in blisters, it's not my place to complain. He'd probably be a little safer if you let up on him though."
"Then why did you come here?" Snape asked, scowling. He glanced at the door, as though to see whether anyone else was listening.
"Because I've got a problem and you're my Head of House."
From what Harry had heard, Snape was much more responsive to the problems of other members of his house than he was to Harry.
"And what sort of problem might that be?" Snape asked. He returned to sanding behind his table, which was scattered with essays, presumably that he was due to grade.
"I've been trying to learn the patronus spell from Professor Lupin," Harry said.
At the mention of the other professor's name, Snape stiffened. "I'm sure he would be...proficient in teaching that."
Harry nodded. "I don't have any problem with his teaching. The problem is with me. He says I cast the spell perfectly, but I can't generate more than the slightest glimmer of a patronus."
"It is a highly advanced spell," Snape said. "And despite your...determination, it may simply be beyond you. Some adults are simply incapable of learning it."
"The problem is coming up with the memories I'm suppose to use. I just don't have any memories happy enough to power the spell."
Snape stared at him, his face expressionless. Unspoken between the two of them was the knowledge that many dark wizards couldn't cast the spell, no matter how talented they were for the very reason that Harry couldn't cast it.
Finally he said, "And just what is it that you think I can do about that?"
"I'm not sure I'll ever be able to cast it," Harry admitted. "And if I can't then I'm in trouble."
"Expecting to go to Azkaban, are you?" Snape asked. He smirked.
"There are dementors right outside the door," Harry said. "And they haven't been fed. How long do you think it will be before they decide to come on in and have themselves a little feast?"
Snape stared at him for a moment. "And you aren't concerned about anyone else in this proposed disaster?"
"You've seen my luck," Harry said. "I'm no Gryffindor. I try to stay back, away from danger, and yet every time I'm the one staring down a basilisk or a troll or a crazed professor. There's a good chance that if the dementors come, I'll be in the front of the line."
"So you think I'm the one to teach you how to have happy memories?" Snape asked.
Harry smirked. "Considering that you have to deal with Neville in potions class, I'd say no."
Although Neville was his friend, he definitely had his flaws. He had anxiety problems and some memory issues. Those didn't outweigh his loyalty or his sense of humor, of course, but they had to be addressed.
Harry doubted that he himself was that good of a friend.
Snape smirked back, then asked,"What then?"
"Teach me occlumency," Harry said. "Dementors detect people by sight and by their emotions. I have ways of hiding from sight, but emotions I can't control."
Snape froze. "And who told you I even have that skill?"
"It stands to reason," Harry said. "Records say you were Dumbledore's spy during the war. Either you were able to conceal your thoughts from Voldemort, or you were actually working for Voldemort and concealed your thoughts from Dumbledore."
"Don't say his name," Snape hissed. He leaned forward. "Do you know why people fear saying his name?"
Harry shook his head. He'd assumed that it was because they feared retaliation from him or his followers. The fact that they were afraid to even say it in private was less understandable.
"There is a powerful spell, a taboo which reveals the speaker's location every time the Dark Lord's name is spoken aloud. Those who spoke it, whether in public or in private often were visited shortly afterward by the Dark Lord's followers."
Harry frowned, trying to think back to whether he'd ever spoken Voldemort's name in a place that wasn't warded or where Voldemort didn't already know he was, like Hogwarts.
"The Headmaster says it all the time," Harry said, finally.
"The Headmaster is able to defend himself if anyone appears to have an issue with his saying it," Snape said shortly.
"Someone should have told me," Harry said. He scowled. "Something like that would seem vitally important for me to know."
"The taboo was broken when Voldemort vanished," Snape admitted. "The Headmaster undoubtedly hopes to make it useless by having too many people saying the name for it should it be established again."
Too much noise for it to be useful...a strategy Harry hadn't considered yet.
"I suppose it would be a good way to set up an ambush," Harry said. He suddenly shifted topics.
"What about the Occlumency?"
Snape was silent for a moment, staring at him. "Do you know what that kind of training entails? You practice trying to shield your mind from being entered by the legillimens. At least at first you risk having every secret in your mind laid bare to your teacher."
Snape hesitated. "You don't strike me as the type to trust anyone with your secrets."
Was Harry ready to share the secret of his resets with Snape? Although he trusted him more than he had in the past, he wasn't sure. If Snape really was a triple agent and working with Voldemort, then Voldemort's learning about his ability was a sure recipe for disaster.
"I didn't think so," Snape said, staring at Harry's face.
Harry hesitated. "What about Legillimency?"
"You think I'd trust you to reach into the minds of others?" Snape asked. He shook his head. "It's a power that is very easy to abuse."
Harry said, "It'd make it easier to find out who's trying to kill me."
Snape stared at him skeptically, and no matter how hard Harry tried, he couldn't convince him to teach him.
Nothing Harry tried in the next few weeks convinced him at all.
Rain sluiced down everywhere and the wind blew so hard that Harry could barely see ten feet in front of him. He couldn't understand why anyone would be out in this, but Quidditch was so popular that everyone in the school had come out.
Harry had tried to beg off; while he enjoyed the occasional Quidditch match as much as anyone, being outside in this sort of weather seemed like a stupid thing to do. Even when the prefects had insisted he'd refused.
It wasn't until Professor Snape had insisted that he go that he realized that he was going to be forced to go because the school staff feared leaving him alone in the castle while Black was after him.
Dumbledore and several of the professors were waiting inside for Black on the theory that he may have heard about Harry's love of staying inside during games.
Worse, instead of getting his usual spot near the aisles, the prefects had insisted that he sit in the middle of the row. Presumably this was to keep Black from easily getting to him, although Harry suspected it was just as much to keep him from slipping away while no one was looking.
As it was, he was miserable in the middle of a crowd that was huddled together to keep warm. Despite this he was soaked to the skin and frozen, and it had to be worse for the players, who were moving through the air.
There was a water repelling charm, but Harry hadn't learned it yet as it didn't seem necessary for survival. He could see however that Hermione had learned it, from the smug look on her face and the fact that she was dry instead of looking like a drowned rat like everyone else. She must have also cast it on Neville.
For once Harry was rooting for both teams' seekers. The game ended when either seeker found the snitch, and the sooner the game was over the sooner he could be inside with a mug of hot cocoa.
Harry had given up on paying attention to the game; he couldn't see with all the rain on his glasses anyway. Instead he simply closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the crowd; the cheering, the oohs and the aahs as the players made daring plays.
As everything fell silent, Harry opened his eyes. He wondered if something had happened; perhaps someone had been hurt.
Instead he realized that even the wind had gone silent, even though he could still feel it pounding against his skin.
A familiar feeling of cold washed over him and Harry felt a sudden sense of horror as he realized what it was. As lightning flashed he saw a hundred dementors on the pitch, and before he could do anything they were spreading out everywhere.
Dementors began floating up the stairs, scattered among all four houses. People began to scream and panic, and Harry saw several students being pushed and shoved and falling over the side to land unmoving on the pitch twenty feet below.
It took him a moment to react as the people around him screamed and began to panic. The dementors had all the escape routes blocked and there wasn't any way to get away. Some students began to jump, but the dementors left on the field simply swooped over to them.
Harry could see at least a dozen dementors bent over bodies in the field, presumably relieving them of their souls.
He would have done something, anything to help but he already felt the memories overwhelming him. He fell backward, and he could feel someone stepping on his hand as they ran backward, hoping to find a way off the back of the bleachers even though they were even higher off the ground than the first.
A pair of seventh years, one a prefect grabbed Harry and started dragging him to the top.
Harry was only semi conscious, but he wondered at the sudden heroism of the seventh years. Everyone else seemed to only be out for themselves.
He couldn't move and what he saw was in flashes; dementors were in the stands now, grabbing students and pulling them in for the last encounter they'd ever have in this world or the next.
People were pushing and shoving each other, gathered at the top of the stands in a tight crowd.
He heard a sharp crack as one of the older sections of stands collapsed. The sounds of people screaming were interspersed with the bodies of those the dementors had already finished with, lying desolate in the lower section of stands.
Harry saw first years lying dead or worse; Pansy Parkinson was among the dead, as were Goyle. Crabbe was still fighting for survival, although he was being approached by three dementors who looked ready to fight over his body.
Harry was being dragged to the top of the stand. The crowd was getting tighter around them, a crush as people tried to get away from the dementors. With the collapse of one section of the stands more people were coming in this direction in an effort to escape the dementors.
This was it; Harry was going to die with the feeling of a knife in his stomach, with the glare of the basilisk, with the feeling of being crushed under train wheels.
He hoped that Hermione and Neville had gotten away, but he wasn't sure how.
Harry was pulled away from the two seventh years holding him by the press of the crowd. Dementors were surrounding them and people were crushing in on all sides. Harry slipped down and felt people begin to step on him.
He couldn't breathe; he could feel a rib break as people stepped on him and he could feel something stab into his chest. He suspected it was his own rib.
He felt fluid filling his throat but he couldn't breath anyway as the pressure of people piling on people above him grew.
The last thing he saw as he died was a bright, blinding flash of light, and he thought he heard Dumbledore's voice.
It didn't matter; it was too late.
Harry died choking on his own blood.