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Dark Sacrifice by Hippothestrowl
Chapter 3 : The Murder Prophecy
 
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In Hogwarts' main hall, the three noticed a new female teacher but she was not sitting in the defence teacher's normal chair which was empty. "Please don't let it be Snape. Please don't let it be Snape." Harry chanted to himself. He was soon to be relieved of his fear as Professor Dumbledore rose to announce:

"I am happy to introduce our new General Magical Knowledge teacher: Professor Anthea Bingley. GMK is a new discipline we are trialling for one year only. Professor Bingley will explain to you in class in due course." Bingley was a short, middle-aged woman with a pleasant, rounded face and a comfortable smile that she shared with everyone in the hall.

Dumbledore continued, slightly raising his voice above the murmurs and that was enough to quieten them:

"This year the defence against the darks art teaching post will be shared. Mr. Alastor Moody has agreed to spare some time; I myself will teach some of the classes; and Professor Asquith Tofty, who will begin later in the year, will also teach as time permits from his ministerial duties.

"Excellent!" whispered Harry, "depending on the new teacher of course. Dumbledore is fine; so is Moody; and Tofty seemed OK in the exams last year."

"You've never been taught by Mr. Moody so ... how do you know." Hermione's voice tailed off to inaudibility on the last few words. She could see Harry's thought processes on his face as he digested her statement and began to think of the sad ending to the impersonation of Alastor Moody by Barty Crouch Jr. "Sorry, Harry, I..."

"No, you're right." replied Harry, forcing himself to think forwards rather than dwell too much on the past. "But I still expect Moody to be the best defence teacher we've had; he's actively in the field. Real experience is better than theory any day." said Harry.

The sorting ceremony was uneventful until the students noticed some older children were being sorted. Two new seventh year boys were put into Slytherin, a sixth year into Gryffindor and another, a starkly attractive girl, into Ravenclaw. She had a lightly tanned complexion that contrasted nicely with her long blue-black hair. She carried herself proudly from the sorting hat and attracted a great deal of attention from all the older boys in the hall.

Her eyes caught Harry's briefly as she made her way to the Ravenclaw table. Ron wondered if the new students had moved here from abroad or perhaps been home-taught until now. He had heard this was not uncommon especially with pure-blood families.

"More Slytherins." moaned Ron. "What names did they say?"

"Laura Worthing." replied Harry, dreamily.

Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. "Snap out of it, Harry." smiled Hermione.

"Out of your league." said Ron, as the tables before them began to fill with all kinds of enticing food.

"No, it's not that." defended Harry, "I'm curious."

"I suppose we can't all be normal." responded Hermione.

After the meal, Professor McGonagall came around with the class schedules.

"Professor, I think there has been some mistake. Potions? I thought..." Harry stared in disbelief.

"Ah yes, there has been a change of plan. There were discussions ... and it has been decided that an E will suffice. I thought you'd be pleased." A severe smile showed itself briefly on McGonagall's face. She turned away as another student tried to attract her attention.

This hit Harry very hard and it showed on his face. Every year so far he had been resigned to suffering Snape's bullying but this year he had felt free for the first time. Now to have that freedom snatched away at the last moment seemed cruel.

"Come on Harry" smiled Hermione, "we can perhaps put in a little extra work and stay ahead of Snape. After all you did get an Exceeds despite him."

"If only we knew what lessons we would face in advance," mused Harry, "or could use a little magic to help. Yes, so Snape only sees what we want him to see. No, hang on, what we need is a supreme potion that will enable us to make all other potions perfectly every time."

"Imagine Snape's face." Ron said glumly, "I'd really like to see that."

"Who's this new... Anthea whatever ... What I'd like know how they are supposed to fit in yet more classes." asked Ron.

"It's only one class a week on Thursday afternoon." said Hermione, looking at her schedule. "They must have removed some other class ... but which?" she looked puzzled.

"These times are wrong. I can't work it out. They seem to have included this new 40 minute class between 2:30pm and erm... 2:45pm." said Hermione. "No wait, the next class does not start until. Ah! I think each class is shorter by five minutes. No that can't be right. We finish at the normal time. I cannot make sense of it. The start times are correct but they don't add up." Hermione glanced around for McGonagall who had walked to the far end of the Hall.

"Every lesson every day is shorter by five minutes. At least they are if you look at the start times but not if you look at the durations." said Harry, equally puzzled.

Hermione was scribbling on a parchment. "Impossible! The sum total of all the five minutes is added to Thursday afternoon." she wailed.

"So Thursday afternoon is longer?" said Harry astounded. "But we finish at the normal time so it can't be."

"I don't know how they've done it but somehow they have squeezed 5 minutes from different places in the week and inserted them together into Thursday afternoon yet without changing the length of any day."

"So ... do we have longer lesson time in total or not?" asked Ron.

"No, it's exactly the same." said Hermione. "Either these schedules have been written by someone suffering from a Confundus Charm or Hogwarts is using one of the most amazing spells ever heard of."

As they were leaving the hall, they saw Miss Trelawney was also just leaving so they waited at the doorway. The two new Slytherins pushed passed them. One was slightly effeminate with long, straggly brown hair which smelled of hair oil and his gaunt features were not improved by a long, hooked nose. He was talking to the other in a high whining voice. Ron looked at Harry and wrinkled his nose with a grimace. He was poking his fingers into his mouth and pretending to be sick just as Trelawney reached them and stared at him. "Are you ill?" she asked.

"Professor, excuse me, I wonder if you know how these schedules..." Hermione began. But Trelawney, startled, was suddenly looking through her, unseeing.

"Murderer! The intended victim points at you! No other! ... All is confusion." Trelawney staggered a little, then relaxed.

"What did you say dear? Schedules? Professor McGonagall can give you a schedule." and she hurried off.

"What was that!" asked Ron. "Has she completely gone off her head now or what?"

Harry stared after Trelawney, then at Hermione who was standing white-faced and somewhat shaken.

"Come on. Don't worry about it. We're not taking divinations anymore." and Harry guided Hermione out of the hall. "You don't believe in that stuff - remember?"



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