Disclaimer: Please note that this story is fanfiction and is my twist on the story of Harry Potter created by JK Rowling with many of its characters and settings belonging to her, despite any changes by me
Chapter 11: Study Groups
Ron spent all day Sunday in the common room with Hermione doing homework. Harry spent the morning with his two best friends doing what was left of his homework, and if Hermione wasn’t so thorough and didn’t spend half the time helping Ron, she would have been done by lunch as well. All the same, it gave Harry time to himself and he set out to wander the halls for a while before returning to the chaos of having two best friends who couldn’t get along for five minutes. Prongs was good company, his vocabulary was improving by leaps and bounds and his curiosity sent him running off down the halls, leading Harry along behind him. They were in the seventh floor corridor when Harry found Prongs scratching at the wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and Harry looked at the wall closely but didn’t see anything, though the sky fox clearly knew that something was there. Harry sent to pacing back and forth in the hallway as he watched his little friend sniff at the wall. It was on his third round when Prongs jumped and the wall started to change and a door appeared where there had been none before. When Harry entered he found an empty room with absolutely nothing inside it. Harry though back to the fighting that he had learned over the summer and realized that this would be a perfect place for him to practice, the work had done him good over the summer and he wanted to keep it up.
With Prongs stretched out on the stone floor watching, Harry went through all of his drills that he had learned. He wasn’t sure how long he was at it, he lost track of time early on, but when Prongs leapt onto his shoulder he stopped and turned his attention to his familiar.
I’m hungry, you’ve been doing this too long.
“Sorry, let’s go to dinner then, maybe the others will be there too.”
When Harry left the room he watched the door vanish behind him before running through the empty halls to where most everyone else was, the Great Hall. He walked into the crowded room and joined the Gryffindor table where Ron and Hermione were already eating and clearly arguing.
“Where have you been, you disappeared after lunch?” Hermione demanded.
“At first I was just wandering around, and then I decided to find an empty classroom and try some defensive spells I read in a book,” Harry lied. “I lost track of time until Prongs let me know he was hungry.”
The little sky fox was already diving into a large bowl of fruits.
“What kind of spells?”
“Remus gave me this book over the summer on defensive spells, it’s a little more advanced than fifth year stuff, but I didn’t think it was too hard, I started to get it down after a few tries.”
“Really, which book, do I know it?”
Harry grinned; he knew the mention of a book would take her attention away from the actual spells, especially since he hadn’t actually been using magic at all. “You probably haven’t heard of it, I think he got it out of Sirius’s library to be honest, you can take a look later.”
“Oh that would be great!”
Hermione went off on a tangent about all the defensive books she had read and Harry and Ron shared a glance and shook their heads.
“So what were you really doing?” Ron asked in hushed tones.
“What makes you think I wasn’t practicing spells out of a book?”
“You’re my best mate Harry, I know you better than that. You wouldn’t spend four hours practicing spells out of a book.”
“You do know me. I was practicing muggle fighting.”
“It helps me think.” The confused look on Ron’s face made Harry continue to clarify. “There are actual techniques and styles to muggle fighting; it’s not just hitting someone. Sirius taught me a little once I started getting better over the summer.”
“You know what, if you actually do practice spells, let me come too, I want to actually learn something this year.”
“That’s right,” Hermione said, neither boy had noticed that she had stopped talking.
“Who’s right about what?” Ron asked.
“We need to actually learn defensive magic…” Harry didn’t like the realization that washed over Hermione or the secretive emotions. “Harry, you could teach us.”
“You could teach us defensive magic, you know more than we do and you’ve had experience using it. I bet you’d be a much better teacher than the one we’ve got.”
“No, that’s a bad idea Hermione; I don’t need to get into any trouble with that woman.”
“So no one will know.”
“This is a school, everyone knows everything Hermione.”
“She’s got a point though, we do need to learn and you are the best option to teach us. Think about it, we can’t use a teacher, they’d just say no, so it has to be a student and you really are the best option, having done everything that you’ve done.”
“What is that supposed to mean, ‘having done everything I’ve done’?”
“First year you faced Voldemort and Quirrell,” Hermione stated.
“Second year you killed a basilisk and faced Voldemort again,” Ron continued.
“Third year, you fought off a hundred dementors at once.”
“Fourth year –”
“Don’t say it, I understand how you can think I’m the best choice when you say it like that, but you’re forgetting a lot. First year, I never would have made it all the way to the final chamber without you two. Second year, I was the one who was hearing voices and I thought I was going crazy, Hermione, you were the one that figured out it was a basilisk. Third year, I never would have been able to save Sirius if Remus hadn’t taught me the patronus charm and if you hadn’t had your time turner Hermione. And last year everyone helped me, I don’t know exactly how many people got me through the tournament and I couldn’t even save Cedric.”
“But you’ve still done so much more than the rest of us, you know more than we do when it comes to defense and you have more experience. Deny it all you want Harry, you’re the best option there is.”
“The answer is no, I can’t afford to get into trouble, besides, I have Quidditch and classes to deal with.”
“So do I mate, but I’m willing to do it.”
“I’m not, I told Remus and Sirius that I would stay out of trouble this year and so far I’ve been bad at keeping that promise, I don’t want to break rules and risk getting into more trouble. I’m sorry if that’s not what you want to hear, but I just can’t teach you.”
“Will you at least think about it? I’m sure others would like to learn as well, you could think of it as a study group.”
“Fine, I’ll think about it, but the answer is probably going to be no.” Harry didn’t need to think about it, he was sure the answer was going to be a very big, resounding no; he wasn’t going to cause trouble for his guardians, not this year.
After dinner the trio went back to the Gryffindor common room and sat around the table in the far corner beside the window where no one would bother them. Hermione helped Ron to finish up the last of his homework and Harry read one of his books with Prongs curled in his lap.
“Alright, I can’t keep my eyes open anymore, I’m going to catch up on some sleep, I’ll see you in the morning Hermione,” he said as he stood and stretched with Ron following suit.
Harry packed up the books he had set out while Prongs climbed to his shoulders and he was leaving for bed when he spotted something strange in the fire. He looked harder and saw it again, Sirius’s head was floating in the flames and Harry quickly ran to the fireplace and knelt before it.
“Are you alone?”
“It’s just me, Ron and Hermione. What are you doing fire calling?”
“Mail isn’t safe, the ministry is starting to intercept it and check for anything suspicious. Is that Prongs, the sky fox you told us about?”
“Yeah, he hardly ever leaves my side, I can’t wait for you and Remus to meet him for real.”
“I can’t wait either kiddo. Now… you wrote that Umbridge isn’t letting you do magic, is that true?”
“Yes, she has us reading out of a book and she claims that theory is enough for us to be able to do whatever magic we need. It’s a load of rubbish.”
“That sounds about right; the Minister thinks that Dumbledore is trying to create an army to fight against the Ministry so Umbridge is doing her best to stop the students from learning anything that involves actually defending or attacking.”
“Now that is the biggest load of rubbish I’ve ever heard, Defense Against the Dark Arts is just that, Defensive magic that we’re supposed to use when we’re in trouble, that’s the most important class here.”
“If I were in your position, I’d start teaching myself. We’ll send you a few good books to learn out of, you need to know how to defend yourself Harry.”
“Sirius, I can’t risk breaking the rules, Umbridge is looking for any excuse to give me more detentions.”
“‘More detentions’? What happened Harry?”
“She knew my past Sirius, the whole school knows my past because of her, and she doesn’t approve of Prongs so I haven’t exactly been on the best terms with her.”
“She broke the contract? She wasn’t supposed to say anything, I’m sorry Harry; I’ll do something about it.”
“Don’t bother, it doesn’t matter anymore. You can punish her all you want, it doesn’t change the fact the entire wizarding world will know about it soon enough.”
“Harry I… we had to tell them or you would have had to go back… I couldn’t let you go back to them.”
“I understand the reasons behind it Sirius, but something more could have been done to prevent her telling.”
“I know; is there anything I can do for you Harry?”
“No, not right now. Is there something else you called for?”
“I want you to be careful with what you write and who you write to, I don’t know who that unmarked letter was for, but I hope you can trust whoever it is. And use the mirror if it’s important and you can’t reword it. And Harry, break the rules and teach yourself defense, we’ll be sending those books your way, use them.”
“Sirius,” Hermione knelt down beside Harry and looked intently at the floating head in the flames. “Ron and I want to learn defense too, we think Harry should help us learn since he has so much experience, what do you think, is that a good idea?”
“That is up to Harry, if he doesn’t want to teach you, then you have to teach yourselves.”
“But if it were you in Harry’s position, would you help us?”
“No, I probably wouldn’t, but not because I don’t think you need to know how to defend yourselves. I wouldn’t teach you because it would take away from time where I could be teaching myself. Harry’s a quick learner; I think that if he were teaching others they might slow down his own progress.”
“I don’t learn that fast Sirius, I could easily teach others and still have time to teach myself,” Harry objected.
“I don’t think you should Harry, you need to know how to defend yourself more than anyone else there, let the others learn on their own, concentrate on what you need to learn. I’ve got to go; Remus is scolding me for spending too much time with my head in the flames.”
“Tell him I miss him.”
“I will kiddo, try and have a bit of fun.”
Sirius disappeared from the fire and Harry moved from the floor with Hermione following suit.
“I guess he has a point, you do need to learn Defense more than the rest of us.”
The small glimmer of hope from Hermione was all Harry needed to know that she was trying to trick him into teaching her and probably others as well. “Sorry, Hermione, but I just can’t afford to teach anyone else, it’ll be hard enough avoiding Umbridge as I try and learn on my own. I’ll give you a few suggestions if you want, but I can’t teach you.”
“Harry, you have no trouble avoiding anyone, you seem to know when people are around and don’t think you can cover that up from us, we know you too well. Look, we’re going to try and get a few other people in on this so we have more people to practice with, we’ll let you know when and where and you can come if you want, I hope you do, if not then fine, you can learn on your own.”
Hermione was mad at Harry for not teaching her, but she had figured out that Harry could avoid people and that wasn’t a good sign, she would start looking into how soon and he didn’t want her to know.
“Goodnight Hermione, I’ll see you in the morning.”
Harry retreated up to bed and Ron entered a few minutes later, he seemed stuck in the middle between wanting to learn like Hermione and trying to respect what Harry wanted.
It wasn’t long before Ron’s snores joined Neville’s and yet Harry was still awake, his mind refused to leave the subject of Hermione’s study group alone and Sirius’s words stung, making him sound special when he wasn’t. He rolled over and groaned into his pillow, he wondered how they did it, despite being able to know their intentions and their schemes and having enough reason to avoid getting himself trapped, Harry couldn’t help it; he was interested.
There was no chance for sleep that night, Harry’s mind was running on its own, deciding how to set up this study group and what he should teach them, who should be allowed in, how many should be allowed in. By morning he had every little detail planned out in his head as to how this could work and he knew exactly what to do to keep himself from seeming to interested in Hermione’s little group. Prongs was the lucky one, he slept all through the night.