Disclaimer: The characters and settings in this chapter are a product of J.K. Rowling's ingenuity, not mine
Chapter 6: The Daily Prophet and Potions
Old habits died hard, Harry was awake at four in the morning with no chance of returning to his peaceful slumber. With a heavy sigh he got up and prepared silently for the first day of his fifth year at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry and snuck out of his room and down to the common room. Now that he was clear of sleeping people, Harry didn’t bother sneaking around; he left the common room and started his leisurely walk to the Great Hall.
The castle was quiet, a change from its usual echoing noise, even the paintings were still sleeping, though some were starting to wake up was Harry passed them and they waved good morning to him while covering yawns. It was odd to see the Great Hall empty, but that made it easier on Harry, who pulled one of his many leisure books from his bag and flipped it open to where he had left off.
Around five thirty the first of the early risers started to arrive and they were too groggy at first to notice Harry, but it wasn’t long after that a few did. Cho Chang walked in, she was wide awake and noticed Harry right off and she walked over and Harry marked his spot and closed his book.
“Hello Cho how was your summer?” As far as Harry could tell without snooping, Cho was excited, but she was depressed under that, it was an overpowering feeling that stretched deep into who she was.
“Okay, can I sit down?”
“Be my guest.” Harry waited until she was sitting before asking his question “Is something wrong? You look tired.”
“I think about Cedric a lot, it keeps me up at night.” She was being brutally honest and the subject of Cedric Diggory struck a cord with Harry, he didn’t want to talk about him, even if it was with Cho Chang. “I was wondering, well you were with him, I was hoping…”
“That I could tell you what happened?” Harry finished and she nodded. “I’m sorry Cho, I can’t.” A fresh wave of sorrow washed over her. “Not because I want to be cruel, but because it hurts me to think of him, just as it does you. I can see it in your eyes, you miss him, and so do I, but hearing what happened from me isn’t going to make the pain go away. If that’s not a good enough excuse, I spent all summer trying to convince myself that his death was not my fault, it didn’t take hold until very recently that I did all I could have done.” Harry had spoken only the truth; she deserved that much from him. “I’m sorry Cho, I just can’t.”
"I understand, I suppose I wouldn’t want to talk about it either, I’m sorry I bothered you.” She stood to leave and Harry shook his head.
“You didn’t bother me Cho, and I’m the one who should be sorry for not being able to tell you what you deserve to know.”
Cho nodded and left, tears in her eyes and her depression taking hold. More and more people were walking into the hall and breakfast appeared on the tables and Harry realized that he was hungry and shoveled food onto his plate. He started eating as he resumed his reading, but again, he had to give up and mark his page when Ron and Hermione ran into the Hall and spotted him.
“Harry!” Hermione ran to him with several people in the hall watching her and Ron as they did. “Don’t scare us like that!”
“You were gone when I woke up mate,” Ron panted as he sat down and started eating right away. “And then Hermione said you hadn’t passed her and she had been in the common room since five.”
“Yeah, I was up around four, I couldn’t get back to sleep so I came here.”
“I hope you’re not going to make a habit of this,” Hermione said as she sat on Harry’s other side and started to eat as well.
“Actually, I’m trying to break the habit; I’ve been getting up really early for most of the summer.”
“Why?” Ron asked between bites.
“Good question, I just woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep.”
As the Hall began to fill the conversation became a dull roar and soon enough the heads of houses were standing to pass out the schedules to their students. McGonagall patted Harry on the shoulder when she reached him and smiled.
“It’s good to have you back Harry,” she said as she handed Ron and Hermione their time tables. “We were all worried about you, but it seems you’re doing very well now, yes?”
“Of course professor, I’m glad to be back.”
McGonagall handed him his own time table and a note before continuing down the table and talking to the other students.
“This has to be the worst Monday ever Harry, look at this. History of Magic, double Potions, Divination, and double Defense Against the Dark Arts!” Ron protested.
Harry didn’t get the chance to respond before owls started flying through the high windows to deliver their parcels. A horny owl landed before Hermione and she slipped a Knut into its bag and took the Daily Prophet from its talons.
“You’re still getting those?” Ron demanded; he seemed disgusted by the fact.
“Yes Ron, I’d like to know what the enemy is saying!” was Hermione’s retort.
“Why shouldn’t she get the Prophet?” Harry asked.
“They’ve been running nothing but rubbish all summer, other reporters are feeding off of what Rita Skeeter wrote about you and all of it is just discrediting you and Dumbledore. We talked about it last night, remember.”
Hermione was staring wide eyed at Harry as she held the paper so that he and Ron could see the front page. When he looked up, almost the entire Hall was looking at him if not already reading the article. Those that didn’t have a copy were looking onto someone else’s to read the front page. ‘Harry Potter Tells All: His Story of the Tri Wizard Tournament’ was printed in big bold letters on top with a picture of what must have been his return to the pitch after his battle with Voldemort. In the picture he was passed out in Sirius’ arms with Cedric’s body lying next to him and a crowd around him.
Hermione, Ron and Harry all read the article with everyone else in an eerie silence that was unusual in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. For the most part, the story was completely true, a few things had been omitted, but Dumbledore had done a very good job in relaying the tale. The part about his parents and Cedric returning as ghosts wasn’t there, and the entire part about his and Voldemort’s wands connecting was gone, but it seemed that the rest of it was there. To Harry’s surprise, the article didn’t make him out as a troubled teen, or a hero, or anything; it was the cold hart facts and nothing else. Dumbledore must have let the reporters see a memory of him telling the story, because they told of how he cried when he spoke of Cedric and the pained expression on his face during the whole telling.
When the trio was done reading the article Harry stood, leaving the rest of his food on his plate. “Let’s go.” He cast an almost angry glare up at Dumbledore for not warning him in advance about the article, but quickly turned and walked away. The shock in the room was maddening to his senses and his own depression at the entire event was bubbling to the surface again.
“Okay Harry.” Hermione and Ron stood and followed him out of the Great Hall as everyone stared after him and the two cast glares at everyone they could.
They walked back to the common room in silence and Harry appreciated that from his two friends, but their concern and curiosity was annoying. He fell into his favorite seat and tiled his head back to rest it on the back of the couch while Ron sat next to him and Hermione sat in her favorite arm chair.
“Yes,” he said before they could ask, “it was true, all of it. There was only one piece missing and it isn’t important.”
“Wow Harry, we had no idea it was like that. No wonder you were in such bad shape,” Ron said.
“That’s very insensitive Ron!” Hermione scolded.
“And yet I appreciate it, I’m sure everyone will be talking about this for a while, I need you two to be insensitive about it. Merlin knows no one else will be like that.”
“Trust me Hermione, I know what I’m talking about, be insensitive for a while.”
“If that’s what you really want. What did that note you got with your time table say?”
Harry had forgotten about the note until she had mentioned it and he opened it now and read the handwriting that was definitely McGonagall’s. “Most of the professors understand if I wasn’t able to complete my homework for the summer and are extending my due date until the beginning of next week. Great! I spent all that time cramming to get those essays done and they don’t even care!” Harry collapsed into the couch with a heavy sigh.
"You finished your homework?” Hermione asked.
“Yeah and it took me two whole days to do it and I didn’t get an ounce of sleep the entire time!”
Harry looked up and saw Angelina Johnson, a chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team; she was walking over to them with her long braid of black hair swishing behind her.
“Is something wrong?”
“This,” she held up the article, “is it true?”
“Yes.” Harry kept his face blank.
Angelina’s expression softened as did her emotions. “I’m sorry, you left before I could talk to you, I’ve been made Quidditch captain this year, you’re still going to play aren’t you?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I play?”
“Well, I didn’t know if you were allowed to play or not, you are allowed aren’t you?”
"Yes Angelina, I’m allowed to play.”
She went stern again. “Good, because our practices will be twice as hard this year. We’ll be holding try outs for our new keeper on Friday too, so don’t go getting a detention, I want to know how the new person fits in with everyone.”
“Will do Angelina, no detention on Friday.”
“Good.” She waved and walked away and Harry somehow felt better at the concept of Quidditch practices.
“We should get going; we don’t want to be late to History of Magic.” Hermione led the way to their first class of the year.
The stares directed Harry’s way were maddening, he hadn’t been such a spectacle since he had first entered the wizarding world when he was eleven. Not to mention the mixed emotions whenever he was around, curiosity, sympathy, sorrow, suspicion, and they didn’t stop either.
He wanted to do well in History of Magic, but he was just too tired to try and listen to Professor Binns, the ghost was the most boring speaker Harry had ever heard with his monotone droning, so he just put his head down and elected to copy Hermione’s notes later. Next thing he knew Hermione was shaking him awake so they could go to potions.
As they walked, Harry’s sense of dread was building, Potions was not a class he wanted to be in today. He couldn’t face Snape or the Slytherins at the moment and yet he knew that if confronted he would act cool and collected and he wouldn’t do anything rash and when he had a chance he would go and blow something up just to make himself feel better.
The dungeons were as dreary as ever and with Ron and Hermione flanking him and several other Gryffindors keeping their eyes peeled, Harry couldn’t help but feel that he was letting them fight his fights, it didn’t feel right. Slytherins were waiting for them at the entrance to Potions, the door was closed and locked, as usual, but that hardly mattered. Everyone watched Harry, the Slytherins keeping back their snide remarks and biding their time and the Gryffindors just begging for some real answers that he had yet to confirm. Harry’s empathy made everything harder, as it had all day, but blocking it off had never done him any good and he let the emotions come to him while he waited.
“Well, well, Potter, didn’t think you’d show up today,” Malfoy’s all too familiar voice said from down the hall. “Quite the story in the Prophet this morning, you’d do good to write a book instead, that story would make a great fiction novel.”
“And here I was thinking my day couldn’t possibly get any better Malfoy,” Harry replied. “But again, you’ve proved me wrong, of course, now is your chance if you want to blast me, I’m unarmed again.”
“Very funny Potter, if that dog of yours hadn’t been here I would have done much worse!”
“Oh, like what?”
“Probably would have blasted you into next week, gotten you and your lies out of my hair.”
"Can you do that? If you can I’d like to see it, me, I’ve gotten someone two days into the future, unless you count knocking them unconscious for a week, but that’s rather easy.”
“You think your funny, don’t you Potter?”
“Not really.” The frustration rolling off of Malfoy lifted Harry’s spirits, he enjoyed toying with his school time enemy’s emotions, it gave him a sense of satisfaction that nothing else could. “But I did hear this good joke over the summer if you’d like to hear it. You see these two muffins were in the oven and one muffins turns the other and says, ‘it’s so hot in here!’ and the other muffin replies, ‘Oh my god, a talking muffin!’”
Several Gryffindors snorted their laughs as they tried to keep them in and Harry caught several Slytherins doing the same, though he himself wasn’t in a laughing mood. It was almost a guarantee that if Snape hadn’t appeared right then, Malfoy probably would have cursed Harry again. But he wouldn’t dare do it in a professor’s presence, even if it was Snape’s.
Once everyone was at their seats and silent, Snape started to talk and Harry listened but didn’t care, even when he was given the glare that he had become so accustomed to he only returned it with a blank face and no emotion. The bat-like professor explained that this would be the last year for most of them as he only accepted outstanding O.W.L. students into his N.E.W.T. potions class. It gave Harry a sense of relief to know that this would be his last year having to take Snape’s classes.
“You will be working on a potion that appears frequently in the ordinary wizarding level exams, the Drought of Pease, meant to calm anxiety and sooth irritation. The instructions are on the board –” he flicked his wand and they appeared “– and the ingredients are in the cupboard –” said cupboard opened at once with another flick of his wand “– you have an hour and a half – start”
Harry read the instructions through immediately and then went to gather the ingredients, of all the things in the instructions, the syrup of hellebore was the easiest to miss as it came after an instruction to let simmer for seven minutes in the third line. It was easy to skip that part and so Harry intended to do just that, it was never quite right when one of his potions was right and so he would, once again, give Snape an excuse to ridicule his work.
All in all, his potion could have been worse, rather than emitting a dark gray smoke instead of the correct silver vapor like Hermione’s, it could have been spitting green sparks like Ron’s or have the consistency of cement like Neville’s. But when Snape made his rounds the worst of the ridicule landed on him.
“What is this supposed to be Potter?”
“A Drought of Peace.”
“Can you read Potter?”
“Read the third line of instructions for me then, Potter.”
Harry didn’t need to look at the board, but he did anyway and he read the third line. “Add powdered moonstone, stir three times counterclockwise, allow to simmer for seven minutes, then add two drops of syrup of hellebore.” He looked Snape in the eye. “I forgot the hellebore.”
Sparks of suspicion and curiosity crossed over Snape as he looked Harry in the eyes, he seemed to be catching on that Harry was missing things on purpose. “I know you did Potter, and that makes this useless. Evanesco.”
Harry’s potion, no matter how useless, vanished and Snape turned away. “For those of you have read the instructions you will fill one flagon with a sample of your potion, label it clearly, and put it on my desk for testing. Homework, twelve inches of parchment on the properties of moonstone and it’s uses in potion making, to be handed in on Thursday.”
Harry set to cleaning up his work space and as soon as the bell rang he was out of the dungeon classroom and heading up to the great hall with Ron and Hermione on his heels.
“Harry,” the ever suspicious Hermione was giving him a strange look, “did you skip the hellebore on purpose?”
“What gave you that idea Hermione?”
“The way you spoke to Snape when he told you to read the third line, it was like you knew that you had missed that step before hand. Did you skip it?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“I just doesn’t seem right to do well at potions in his class, he needs to mock me and anything I do and I’m fine with that, so I do things like miss things on my potions on purpose, it’s been going on for a while now.”
“I don’t understand you mate,” Ron muttered as he shook his head.