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Chapter 20 : OWLs and Shades
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. JK Rowling does, though I wish she would give him up. The poor boy deserves someone who really cares about him.
Author's Note: Yes, I did intend to do the last chapter that way. I had so much fun writing that new song, it should be illegal. Just kidding, I wouldn't want to be arrested for bashing the Weasleys, lol.
Chapter 20 OWLs and Shades
The Quidditch Cup had gone down in history as the most united game ever played. All but a few players and spectators had been united to try to put down a single person. The school was up in arms to defend Harry and punish those who had wronged him, including Dumbledore and Snape. It certainly made Harry feel better that everyone was on his side, and he couldn't feel sorry about the Weasleys. He had thought they meant well, but actions speak louder than words, and their actions were those of a family seeking its own glory. Ron Weasley wanted money and fame; Ginny Weasley wanted the glory, and the title Mrs. Potter; Molly Weasley wanted to be called the mother-in-law of the Boy Who Lived, no matter who she had to go through to get it. However, there was still something very wrong with Ginny Weasley...
Two weeks after the match, Fifth and Seventh Years were sitting their OWLs and NEWTs. Harry studied hard, but not nearly as hard as Hermione. Rumors were circulating that she was obsessive-compulsive, or simply insane. Harry quickly got the root of the rumors by watching her. He noticed that when she studied hard, and got obsessed with her work to an even greater degree than usual, she would start getting problems. These problems included the appearance of fangs.
“Hermione, you've got to take it easy, before people see your teeth,” Harry cautioned her one day.
“Harry, I'm fine. I need to do well on these tests, they determine my very future!” Hermione replied.
“You're going to do fine,” Harry said. Since Hermione was not going to take it easy, Harry knew, he'd have to take matters into his own hands. He pushed her down on the couch and looked deeply into her eyes, and concentrated. He could feel the retrovirus that gave her the fangs and reflexes of a vampire, and set to work deactivating it. Once it was done, she sat back heavily.
“You were starting to scare the First Years. They begged me to talk to you,” Harry said.
“How is that possible? I'm not scary,” Hermione replied.
“Ever since Third Year, when you kindly offered to help me, you've been a carrier of the vampire retrovirus. I activated it temporarily for Halloween, for your costume. And now, I have deactivated it.”
“How did it become activated in the first place?” Hermione asked.
“The stress of studying for OWLs. You were stressing yourself out too much,” Harry answered.
“Of course I'm stressing myself out! They're next week! And Ron won't help me study, or even study himself!” Hermione cried out desperately.
“All you need do is ask, Hermione. I have all the time in the world,” Harry said as he grabbed a book and started quizzing her. It turned out that she was having the most trouble in Arithmancy, which surprised Harry, as she loved that class.
“I have an idea that might help,” Harry said to a distraught Hermione. “Every night for the rest of the week, I will give you a problem to think about from this book. When you wake up in the morning, tell me the answer.”
“How will that help?” Hermione asked, brushing frustrated tears out of her eyes.
“Simple, the mind works best at night, when the body is resting. That's why if you sleep on a problem, you have a solution by morning,” Harry said smiling. Hermione agreed to try it. He handed her a book and said, “Now you can quiz me.”
While Hermione was quizzing Harry, he suddenly straightened. He seemed to be looking off in the distance, and she saw how glazed his eyes were. “Harry, what's wrong?”
“I can see you and me, as well as several others, at the Ministry battling Death Eaters,” Harry said. Hermione shut the book with a snap. “That's what the DA is for, right?” she asked.
“Yes, but in this case, it's a trap. We went there to save Sirius from Voldemort, but he was never in any danger,” Harry answered.
“When will the trap be set?”
“After we finish our OWLs,” Harry answered. “We just won't fall for it, unless Dumbledore decides he wants to dive head-first into mortal peril again. In that case, you and I will go, and I'll activate your retrovirus.” Hermione nodded acceptance.
The rest of the week passed uneventfully, except for another fight between Ron and Hermione. Harry stepped into the fight and broke it up. Finally, the day of the first test dawned. Hermione woke up feeling rested and refreshed, and she thanked Harry for making her get a good night's sleep.
“See, what'd I tell you? OWLs begin this morning and you're not falling asleep,” Harry said. Hermione nodded and asked, “Where's Ron?”
“Sleeping. He studied last night, all night,” Harry answered, hiding his pain at her question.
“He actually studied? I thought he wouldn't,” Hermione said.
“Last night was the first and last time,” Harry reported.
“He's going to fail,” Hermione said confidently. Harry chuckled and they walked down to breakfast. Ten minutes after they arrived, Ron ran in wearing mismatched socks and rubbing sleep out of his bleary eyes.
“Harry, why didn't you wake me for breakfast?” he asked, grabbing a piece of French toast, forgetting he didn't like that particular breakfast food.
“I didn't have the heart to pour cold water all over you an hour after you fell asleep,” Harry said innocently.
“No, instead, you would have waited until he'd been asleep for an hour and a half,” Hermione cut in. “An hour just isn't your style, Harry. You have more flair with your pranks.”
“See, that's why you and I are such a good team. You know me,” Harry said to Hermione as Ron spit out his French toast and complained. “Ron, did anyone ever tell you that spitting your food out at the table is extremely disgusting?” Harry said over his shoulder.
“How do you know what I'm doing if you're not watching?” Ron asked.
“The magician never reveals his secrets,” Harry retorted as he got up.
“Mate, don't you think you should eat something before the exams?” Ron called out.
“No thanks, I've already eaten,” Harry said.
“He sure does eat fast,” Ron remarked to Hermione. He stuffed his mouth and then leaned over to try to kiss her.
“Eeewww, Ron! Stop it!” she wailed before backing away. She got up and followed Harry.
“Why do I get the feeling he's trying to move in on my girl?” Ron asked himself.
“Maybe because you don't deserve her, Weasley,” Snape said as he walked past the Gryffindor table.
“I do deserve her!” Ron retorted. Snape turned around and walked back.
“You dare talk back to me? I say you don't deserve her. What have you done to deserve any girl?” the greasy teacher demanded.
“I-I deserve her,” Ron stammered.
“Ah ha, even you can't name any accomplishment that gives you the right to procreate,” Snape announced triumphantly. Ron looked dumbfounded. “Careful Weasley, you wouldn't want your face to get stuck that way. It doesn't make you look any brighter,” he warned with an evil smirk. “Now clear out while the Hall is set up for the testing.”
“B-but I haven't had enough breakfast!” Ron complained.
Snape looked him up and down and said, “You'd be doing the world a favor if you suddenly starved.” Then he walked away. Ron grudgingly left the Great Hall.
The students were let back in half an hour later and took their seats. They were seated in alphabetical order by their last names, which quashed any notion Ron might have had to cheat off of Hermione or Harry. Harry looked over his test paper and rolled his eyes at the simplicity. Give the incantation and wand movement required to perform the Levitation charm, the first question said. Harry answered it and moved on to the rest. After he answered all the questions, he looked back over them to make sure he didn't miss any details in his answers.
“Put your quills down and pass your exam papers forward, please,” the examiner called out. Harry passed his forward and the examiner Summoned them. Everyone left the Great Hall and Ron complained of being hungry again. Suddenly Harry grabbed Ron and pulled him aside.
“Be careful Ron, you were about to walk into Dumbledore, and he's not in a good mood,” Harry warned him.
“How do you always know someone's mood so accurately?” Ron asked.
“Because I watch them. It's not hard to tell how they're feeling simply by looking at their faces,” Harry lied glibly. He wasn't ready to tell Ron that he was an Empath, but he did notice Dumbledore staring at him, as though he knew... Harry suddenly had a vision, once again of Dumbledore being held prisoner at the Ministry.
“Hey, Harry, are you alright?” Ron asked as he steadied Harry.
“Yeah, just dizzy,” Harry answered in code, as he didn't want Dumbledore to know he was a Seer. Ron nodded and took him to a nearby classroom. He sat Harry down and ducked out to grab Hermione. “Harry's had another vision,” he reported. She sat down next to Harry and asked, “What was it about?”
“The usual. Dumbledore diving head first into mortal peril again,” Harry said casually.
“What does he do this time?” Ron asked with a grin. He was sadistic enough to enjoy Dumbledore's pain.
“He picks a fight with Voldemort, and he's going to come out badly,” Harry said. Hermione nodded and said, “Let's go get lunch.” Ron never noticed the obvious change of subject and enthusiastically expressed his delight with that idea. They trooped out of the unused classroom, and Harry noticed Dumbledore lurking behind them.
After lunch, they were called back into the Great Hall in alphabetical order to take the practical portion of their Charms OWL. Harry was one of the middle names, so Hermione had already come out and wished Ron good luck. Before Harry was called in, Dumbledore called him out of line to speak to him. He had known the second Dumbledore had come within range.
“I'm just going to come right out and say it. Are you plotting to kill me?” Dumbledore asked.
“If I was, you'd be dead already,” Harry answered coldly. The coldness in his tone covered up the anguish in his heart.
“How many times are you going to lie to my face?!” Dumbledore exploded, causing several other students to look over. Ron ambled over, fingering his wand. He took one look at Harry's pain and rage-filled face and drew his wand.
“Are you looking for another lesson, Headmaster?” the red-head asked genially. Harry's already overtaxed mental shields broke and he felt waves of hatred and pure sadistic pleasure coming from Ron and Dumbledore. The two emotions intermingled so that Harry had a hard time distinguishing who was feeling what. Harry collapsed to his knees and Ron aimed his wand.
“Give me one reason, and I swear I will,” he warned. Dumbledore reacted more swiftly, and disarmed Ron with one wave of his hand. Harry cried out in pain at Dumbledore's anger and fell forward. Hermione shrieked in anguish and ran forward. She threw her arms around Harry to attempt to shield him from Dumbledore's rage.
“Harry, Harry, it's okay. Everything is going to be okay,” she whispered into his ear. She looked down and saw his fangs starting to peek past his lower lip.
“Go now and we won't press charges,” she warned Dumbledore. He just smirked and Ron stepped in front of his girlfriend.
“She's mine! Don't you touch her!” the red-head cried.
“I am no one's property!” Hermione shrieked disgustedly. Ron ignored her.
“Potter!” a voice called. “Potter!” It was the examiner calling Harry to the Great Hall. Draco Malfoy finished his exam and came out. He took one look at the scene and ducked back in. “He's getting attacked, Madame. He'll be in later.” The examiner rushed out and shrieked. It was Griselda Marchbanks and she faced Dumbledore down bravely.
“Are you trying to prevent this boy from taking his OWL, Albus?” she asked in a thin voice.
“Griselda, I'm the victim here. These two students tried to attack me, and their friend is plotting to kill me,” Dumbledore lied easily. She raised her eyebrow and said, “I see you've been practicing that, but you still haven't mastered it. I've heard better lies.” Dumbledore winced and she continued, “It looks as though you've been trying to kill him and his friends are just protecting him.” She helped Harry up and supported him into the Great Hall while Dumbledore opened and closed his mouth like a beached fish.
“Are you going to be alright, Mr. Potter?” she asked.
“Yes, I'll be fine. Thank you for helping me get away from him,” Harry answered, as he regained control over his emotions. He followed her orders and performed the various spells flawlessly, and to much praise from old Griselda Marchbanks.
“Oh, you do have a certain flair. You're not an exhibitionist, but you do make sure everyone sees how well you're doing,” she said.
“Ummm, thanks,” Harry replied, taken a little by surprise. When he was dismissed, he left to tell Hermione what Marchbanks had said.
Over the next few days, the Fifth Years took their OWLs. The Transfiguration and Herbology OWLs went well, especially for Harry and Hermione, but of course Ron failed. He couldn't even transfigure a teacup into a rat, whereas Harry easily outstripped him by turning the pile of sawdust on his desk into a flock of songbirds. He was later dismissed with high praise from the examiner, which Hermione emulated. Hermione had walked right past McGonagall without seeing her, but Harry noticed her right off. He turned to salute her with a grin. “I think you'll be proud, Professor. I've just aced another OWL,” he said. McGonagall smiled and congratulated him and Hermione noticed the book she was holding, The Power of the Vampire, by Heinrich Weisen.
“Excuse me Professor, may I borrow that book? I'd like to read more about vampires,” Hermione asked. McGonagall agreed and handed it over. Hermione opened the book experimentally, and it immediately fell open to the chapter on Black Forest vampires. She guessed that was Harry's breed.
“Come on, Hermione, you at least need to eat,” Harry said.
“What about you, when did you last eat?” Hermione asked.
“Last night,” he replied. “I'll be fine for another week at most.”
“It's Defense Against the Dark Arts tomorrow. Are you going to be fine with Umbridge?” McGonagall asked.
“Oh yeah, she doesn't bother me. It's Dumbledore butting in that I'm worried about,” Harry said confidently.
“Then allow me to drug his pumpkin juice tonight. A nice dose of Dreamless Sleep Potion should go a long way to ensuring you have a stress-free exam tomorrow,” the Transfiguration teacher grinned mischievously. Harry thanked her and moved on, with Hermione reading about Black Forest vampires. Suddenly a hand reached out to grab the book, but it didn't reach it. Harry had seen it coming and grabbed the wrinkly wrist with an iron grip.
“I would thank you to leave my friend in peace while she's reading, Headmaster,” Harry said coolly. Hermione looked up with round brown eyes slowly filling with tears. Harry's first instinct was to comfort her, and Dumbledore took that opportunity to snatch the book. He read the same page Hermione had been reading and didn't even notice when Harry and Hermione walked on. Once they were around the corner, Harry Summoned the book back and handed it to Hermione, who smiled beautifully.
The Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL started well enough, with the written portion. Harry grinned at one of the last questions; Give the characteristics of the Romanian vampires, and the weapon most likely to scare them away. Harry wrote down a detailed answer, which he had found in the book Hermione had borrowed from McGonagall the day before. When the papers were collected, Harry left, still reading his. He bumped into Hermione, who had been staring wide-eyed at Ron, who was busy chatting up Luna Lovegood. Harry covered up his pain at Hermione's perceived distress, and whistled. Ron looked over to them, glared at Harry, and went back to talking to Luna.
“Alright, if he's going to ignore us, we'll ignore him,” Harry said. He took Hermione's arm gently and led her away. “So what did you think about that question about Romanian vampires? I think I got all the characteristics. I mean, I got the greasy black hair, the pale skin, and the above-average aggression.”
Hermione took her cue and chuckled. “I think you might have missed something. I also got the name anomaly and the shampoo brand most likely to send them scurrying, as well as the place they scurry to.”
“You also got the shampoo? I wasn't sure which brand, so I didn't put any,” Harry continued, smiling. “I also did notice that their names most often start with 'S', but I didn't think that was important enough to put down.” They heard Colin and Dennis Creevey start howling with laughter. “Glad you're entertained, guys, but I don't think he is,” Harry called out. For at that moment, Severus Snape was stalking towards the two boys. They squeaked and ran, while Harry and Hermione interposed themselves between the furious teacher and the fleeing boys.
“Remember my warning, Snivellous? Keep away,” Harry said calmly. Snape abruptly stopped. “That's better.” Once Colin and Dennis were safely out of the way, Harry and Hermione moved.
Later that day, they had their practical Defense OWL. When Harry was called in, the examiner said nothing, though he did glance suspiciously at him. Harry guessed Dumbledore might have gotten to him, probably before McGonagall had put him to bed. The OWL went well enough, though the examiner, Professor Tofty tried to stump him. Finally, at the end, Tofty said desperately, “I'll bet you can't do this! Produce a Patronus, if you can!”
Harry rolled his eyes and thought of the way Hermione's smile made him feel. The feeling of warmth filled him to bursting, and he raised his wand. “Expecto Patronum!” he incanted. Instead of a gigantic silver stag galloping majestically out of his wand, something else altogether happened. A figure that looked suspiciously like Heinrich Weisen stepped out and raised a bugle to his silvery lips. He blew a short burst and stepped aside. Harry watched in wonder as several more forms marched out. He saw his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandparents, and so on through the generations until finally Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw. The figure of Weisen blew another burst on his bugle and led the shades marching out of the room.
Harry felt he had no choice but to follow, so that's what he did. He followed them all the way to Dumbledore's office, where he saw the bleary-eyed Headmaster doing some paperwork. The door opened as he shades approached. “I thought I left orders-” Dumbledore started to say, but stopped at the sight that greeted him. His face paled and he started sweating. “Oh crap...” he muttered. The shades entered two-by-two, first with James and Lily Potter. They started haranguing him for his abominable treatment of their only son, and then they faded away, only to be replaced by James' parents. Charlus and Dorea Potter seemed to be under the impression that Dumbledore had some problem with the continued existence of the Potter family. All the rest of the shades had the same suspicion it seemed, and Harry, who was rather enjoying the show, noticed how much Dumbledore seemed to sweat.
Finally, the shades of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw came in, and Dumbledore nearly died right there. The shades looked around the office contemptuously and then deigned to look at Dumbledore. “Our family seems to have been particularly targeted by you. Are you sure you're not a follower of the Dark?” Gryffindor asked. “I would have surmised that you secretly admire the Prince of Darkness,” Ravenclaw said coldly, and then they too vanished.
“T-t-this i-is i-impossible!” the examiner stammered, very white. Dumbledore looked like he was going to have a stroke and a heart attack at the same time. Harry pocketed his wand and said innocently, “So, how did I do?” Tofty looked searchingly at Dumbledore, as though unsure of something the old man had told him in the past.
“Full marks, and a few bonus points,” Tofty finally said confidently to Harry. Harry grinned and left, whistling. Before he was too far away, he heard Tofty question Dumbledore. “You told me that boy was a Dark Wizard in training. Why did you lie to me?”
“I have seen him with Lord Voldemort, doing his bidding,” Dumbledore said carefully. “He is among the darkest of Dark Creatures, a vampire. He strikes by night, but by day wears the form of an innocent schoolboy. He has enchanted several people to his service, and possibly to his Dark Master's service.”
“You think he's a vampire?” Tofty asked incredulously. At that moment Griselda Marchbanks and Dolores Umbridge walked past Harry and into Dumbledore's office. Tofty turned to address the two women. “Dumbledore seems to think Harry Potter is a vampire in the service of He Who Must Not Be Named!”
“Now I've heard it all,” Griselda said, shaking her head.
“I was already aware of the Headmaster's suspicions,” Umbridge simpered. Tofty and Griselda rolled their eyes. “I have seen nothing to indicate that Harry Potter is dead. He seems healthy and is active in the day,” Griselda said. “I have seen him standing in direct sunlight with no pain, and I have seen him eat real food. I think you should stop slandering the boy, Albus.” Dumbledore sighed.
“Also, vampires have no heart and can't love. Potter loves deeply, or he would never have been able to produce a Patronus of that caliber, or any kind of Patronus,” Tofty finished, looking loftily at Dumbledore. The two examiners left, not knowing Harry was following them.
Over the next several days, Harry watched Ron not prepare for the next week of their exams. Hermione, of course, after she had taken her Ancient Runes OWL, hunkered down to study for her remaining exams just as devotedly as she had the rest. Harry was right there to support her the only way he knew how. He helped her study when she needed help, and he made her stop when she was going too far. With the next week came Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, Astronomy, and Divination. Of course, Hermione wasn't taking the latter, but Harry saw her looking longingly at his notes from that class. And to top it all off, other students had started to whisper that even though Ron was her boyfriend, it was Harry who was so devoted to her, while she seemed devoted to Ron. They whispered that Harry was getting a very raw deal. He had all the looks, talent, and brains, as well as a monster crush on the girl, but he had none of the benefits. Harry, of course, knew all about the whispers because of his super-sensitive hearing.
* * * *
EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Potter Procession”… was actually my idea. How do you all like it? Good? Bad? Review!
And thanks for reading.
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