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Chapter 4 : A first time for everything
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When Ian woke up the next morning, he felt pretty excited. They had returned to the Castle two days earlier and today, he would begin two of his favourite subjects: Charms with Professor Flitwick, and then Defence against the Dark Arts. And that would be the first lesson of Professor Potter.
He opened the curtains of his bed. Around him, his dorm-mates were waking up, slowly, their face evolving from sleepiness to excitement, as well. They weren’t Ravenclaws for nothing.
“Hey, we have Potter today!” said Mark Jevons. “Can’t wait to see how he teaches!”
“That’ll be fascinating,” said Edwin Ryley, very calmly.
Even if he was a friendly fellow, Ian and his friends had nicknamed Edwin the Ice Cube, as he never seemed to lose his cool outlook on things. He just didn’t get either excited or angry, for that matter. He was always calm, composed, even in his way of walking. He wasn’t slow, but he looked like was always taking his time. Something that was exciting for all the others students was only making him smile lightly. But he was nice alright. You just had to adjust to his behaviour. And all of the Ravenclaw third years knew ho to interpret those attitudes he had.
“Beware, Eddie,” said Joel, teasingly. “You’ll die out of enthusiasm.”
Edwin only smiled and shook his head with indulgence. They all got up quickly, and got dressed. By the time they walked down the spiral stairs, they found the common room buzzing with activity, with many students walking out of the common room, heading for the breakfast table, in the Great Hall.
“Hey, guys!” said Mary Walburg, emerging from the stairs behind them. “Ready for the classes?”
They all nodded.
“This year, I won’t let you beat me, Malcolm,” she said, defiantly.
At the end of the last term, she had reached the third place in the grades of second year, right behind Ian, who was only two points ahead.
“Hey, why take it out on me?” he protested with a smile. “Why is it you’re not challenging Kieran.”
“I did, but it’s hopeless, you know it,” said Mary with a wince.
Kieran McDougall had been the top of the year since she was in Hogwarts. But last year, she had ended up way ahead of them, with full marks in five of her subjects. The subject of the discussion walked down the dormitories after Mary. She was with Diana Jones-Stickley. The tall browned-skinned girl seemed bent on talking Kieran’s ear off in a flow of uninterrupted questions on the way the year would go, the subjects they would be tested upon, the exams organisation. Diana was anxious by nature and always needed to be reassured.
“Diana, please,” said Kieran, after a while, with a sigh. “I’m sure the year will be great for you. Just try and relax.”
“It’s easy for you to say,” said the voice of Gina Ribizzi. “Always top in everything, it’s not like you have to worry, right?”
Gina was a nice girl usually, but she was a little jealous of Kieran’s success in studies, and so she sometimes took it out on her.
“Come on, Gina,” said Ian, gently. “Don’t start this all over, right? Kieran still has to work hard to obtain these marks. You know it, given the amount of time she spends in the Peak.”
Gina scowled a little, but she had to admit it was true.
“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Sorry, K.”
“No problem, Gina,” said Kieran. “I hope you’ll get in the team, this year,” she added.
“Are you trying the team?” asked Joel.
“Yes,” said Gina, smiling to him warmly, and blushing a little. “They need a seeker.”
“Yes, I know,” said Joel. “They need also a Chaser. Maybe we’ll make it both.”
“I hope so,” said Ian. “Because Terry needs to have some of us in the team to keep his credibility as Gryffindor’s spy.”
“I thought you were the spy,” said Kieran, with a severe look.
“Ah, but I spy for the whole school. My services are available on a broad scale, while Terry only spies for his Quidditch team,” said Ian, feigning indignation. “That’s not the same, I’m hurt you can’t tell the difference.”
“Seriously, Ian, what are you doing in this tower? You should be in Gryffindor, gloriously following the steps of the Weasley Twins,” said Mary.
“No time for that,” said Ian. “Too busy with the lessons.”
They all walked out the Common room, laughing.
As Ian and his friends were making their way to breakfast, they ran into a few familiar faces. The start of the year was the chance to catch up with your acquaintances. You spent the first days of lessons reuniting with your friends, and re-establishing old hatreds, with Tim Macke, in Ian’s case.
But it also was the moment you caught up with more distant relations.
Most times, a Hogwarts student’s closest friends were in his own House, and usually in his year. The bigger the age difference, the more distant the relationship tended to be. But there were some exception. Terry, in Gryffindor, was a close friend of Ian’s gang. And he himself kept close ties to the fifth year of his house that included Kenneth Lionheart and Kalindra Johnson. So the Feast of September the first was meant to reunite with your friends, and you had the following weeks to get in touch with the rest of the school.
For many students, it didn’t mean much, but for Ian, it was a huge amount of work. Ian was the student everyone went to for rumours, secrets, bets, you name it. So it meant that he had a huge network of contacts, from students to teachers, and that needed to be kept alive. So most of his free time was consumed in talking to everyone, from House elves to ghosts, to make sure a rumour wouldn’t get pas him. Kieran has once asked him why he was doing this. Ian couldn’t explain it, except he felt it was fun. He liked being in touch with what happened in the school. And he had a gift at sneaking around that made him perfect for that. As for the betting, he had never sought the prestigious, yet dubious honour of being Hogwarts official bookmaker, but given his particular gifts, students had just assumed he would be good at it, and they had come to find him. Ian guessed that the Weasley twins had set the standard in Hogwarts. The ones who mastered the sneaking in the school, held the betting pools. Instead of refusing and taking the risk of letting things go out of hand, he had decided to play along. Alexander said he was a victim of his own success. The Entropist seemed to find it funny as hell.
Sure, Ian was a household name in Hogwarts, but that meant that he had to keep up with the news. As a result, everyone came to say hello, share a few gossip on his way to class and each time he was in the corridors, actually. So Ian had to wave back at a few people on his way down to breakfast. Holden Teapot from Hufflepuff, a fifth year, caught up with his gang and told Ian that a few people in his house wanted to set up the Quidditch Cup betting pool as soon as possible, if that was alright with him. Janet Spencer, Slytherin Prefect of the same year, came to say hello and hesitantly told Ian that a few people in Slytherin would like to place bets on the Silver Quill Challenge. This came as a triple surprise for Ian and his friends, first because the Challenge had never stirred such attention so early in the year, second because they wouldn’t have expected Slytherins to express interest in it, and last because to see Janet speak with Ian about bets was quite the shocker. But he thanked her for the heads up anyway.
As they were reaching the Entrance Hall, Ian saw a clear change on Mark Jevons’ face. The boy was such an honest fellow that you could see his emotions on his face as clearly as words on the page of a book. The shift in his expression told Ian exactly who had come into his sight, before he even saw her. He followed Mark’s dreamy stare and, no mistake, there she was. Mark’s obvious crush on that girl was a clear fact and a source of gently teasing for all of the Ravenclaw third year.
Alwena Silverleaf. Gryffindor fourth year and a stunning beauty. Whenever she walked in a room, one could almost imagine music cueing in to underline her appearance. She had shiny honey blonde hair and striking blue eyes, which were so clear that they were nearly silver. And when she smiled, many students of all year, including poor Mark Jevons, stopped thinking and reverted to the intellectual level of turnips.
Where beauties like Alwena sometimes were shallow, self-absorbed, or simply too dumb to bother, the girl was a fun loving, energetic witch, and that made her pretty popular. To those who thought she was too good to be true, one could say that Alwena Silverleaf had quite a temper, as well, and an acidic tongue, which made you want to stay on her good side. A few students, including male ones owed her a black eye. She wasn’t a Gryffindor by mistake.
A decent student, Alwena hadn’t pushed the cliché and had nothing to do with the Quidditch team. In fact, her flying was calamitous. But her looks, her temper and the flair she had shown in a few fights, made her a famous witch of Ian’s school years. Ian also knew that she was of French descent, even if she had been in Hogwarts since first year, instead of transferring like Julie. Ian liked Alwena. She was a nice girl, but he didn’t feel the need to gape at her like Mark did, every time she walked by.
Alwena waved at them friendly, and they waved back, even if Mark’s wave was a little weak, like he wasn’t really focused on his moves. As she was entering the great Hall, Ian saw many of her Gryffindor Housemates follow her and among them, he spotted Terry. He hurried to join them.
“Alright, my dear half-pint,” he said, as a greeting. “I have your first bits of gossip of the year. The frenchie Goldie-locks has applied for the Quidditch team. I’ve seen her broom. It’s pretty good, so there is something there. And in other news, Henry and Vanessa have broken up.”
“Oh, that’s a shame,” said Gina, sadly. “They were such a great couple. What happened?”
“No idea,” shrugged Terry. “But they are deadly cold to each other. It kinda weighs on the whole seventh year, to be honest. The mood is pretty depressing in their gang.”
“Okay, nice to know,” said Ian. “We’ll be careful with them, then.”
“You do that,” smiled Terry. “Oh, Mark, I thought you should know… early signs indicate that Wena Silverleaf still doesn’t have a boyfriend, so…”
“Oh, sod off, Longwand,” groaned Mark, making the whole gang laugh.
When they reached the Great Hall, the breakfast tables were nearly full. Ian and his friends settled where they could. Ian took the time to shoot a venomous look at Macke, who was sneering, looking at him. But he didn’t bother much more.
“So, what is the program, for this year?” he asked, taking his seat at Kieran’s right.
“Well, first, we have the new options,” said Kieran. “Arithmancy will be just great. Professor Weasley is a very bright woman. I’ve talked to her once in the library. She helped me with some tricky charm.”
“Tricky, you mean a spell for the OWLs or for the NEWTs exams?” asked Ian.
“Er… well, for the OWLs,” admitted Kieran, with a blush.
“And you want to catch up with this?” he asked Mary, who burst into laughing.
“And we have the Hogsmeade Week ends,” said Joel. “I’ve never been there. It will be intensely cool. I can’t wait to go to Honeydukes! I heard it’s fantastic.”
“Alright, we have to make plans for the first week end,” said Ian.
“It’s in more than a month,” said Kieran, on a patient tone.
“The sooner we’re ready, the better,” said Ian, dead serious.
After breakfast, Julie was about to discover the worst subjects in the school, according to Mandy and Kalindra.
“Potions and History of Magic,” wept Mandy, leaving the table. “How could they do it to you for your very first day here?”
The black-haired girl and Kalindra had proclaimed themselves as Julie’s guides in Hogwarts. They didn’t leave her for a second. They led her in the corridors leading to Potions class. And still Mandy was moaning over Potions.
“Is it that bad?” asked Julie, a little worried.
“Not really bad,” explained Kalindra with a grin. “But Snape is the most unpleasant teacher of the entire school. It has become a tradition for us Gryffindors to loathe the guy. He will jump at any motive to take points from us. I heard he’s done this since he’s become a teacher, some sort of grudge he has against Gryffindor. Word is… it has to do with Professor Potter’s father.”
“And what’s wrong with History?” asked Julie, sobered from her enthusiasm for Potions after Kalindra’s little speech.
“If Snape’s the most unpleasant, then Binns is by far the most boring one,” said Kalindra.
“I’m afraid I must agree on this,” said Jennifer, catching up with them. “Professor Binns’ goal seems to be to turn every single one of us into ghosts like him.”
“In English, he’s boring to death,” added Will Tyler, with a toothy grin.
“Thank you for that precision, William,” said Jennifer coldly. “May I remind you that as a prefect, you shouldn’t speak ill of teachers that loud?” she finished on a whispering tone.
“Nobody will ever be perfect enough to match your own standards, dear,” said Will.
Julie suppressed a chuckle as Jennifer was looking at Will with haughtiness. She turned from him, and walked away, her nose high.
As they were walking to the dungeons, where they would have their first Potions lesson of the year, Julie saw that Will kept on teasing Jennifer endlessly. She gave an interrogative look to Kalindra.
“What’s the deal with those two?” she asked.
“That’s quite simple,” said Kalindra. “They fancy each other but get so much at each other’s nerves that they would rather die than admit it. I give you the tip right away, so you don’t get surprised.”
“They’re cute, if you ask me,” commented Mandy, with a sly grin.
“They’re wasting time, if you ask me,” said Julie, which made the three of them laugh.
As they reached the dungeons, they were greeted by the vision of Slytherins waiting at the door of the classroom.
“Are we sharing Potions with those gits again?” asked Mandy with a frown.
“Apparently,” sighed Will.
Julie noticed then that one of the Slytherins was eyeing her very closely. She recognized him. Robert Donahue. The handsome guy from the Feast. They waited a long moment, and Professor Snape came, quickly opening the dungeon’s door. Julie saw Kenneth move quickly aside, to leave him passage.
“Well, inside,” he said, with an unctuous voice that sounded all but sincere.
Once everyone was settled (Julie noticed that Donahue had seated right behind her, and the impression of his eyes on her back make her blush slightly), Snape turned to Julie.
“Since we welcome a new student in our year, I’ll have to check on her level in Potions, of course, as we must be sure, she’ll be able to sit the OWLs exams that will take place at the end of this term. You should be warned that I will not accept in my NEWT, next year, any student who won’t be able to reach an E in his OWL in Potions. And that is only because Professor Dumbledore insisted I did so. So reaching an E will be a challenge. Therefore, I will note you all along this year with the OWL standards. I expect the students of this class to reach at least an A in any exercise. Those who won’t will have to undergo additional homework. Am I perfectly clear?”
“This Potion we will deal with today may seem complicated, but as it is regrouping most of the basis of brewing, it will be a very good way to judge the knowledge of Miss Carteret.”
He shot Julie a strange sort of look, curious mix between dislike and interest. Julie shifted on her stool. Snape looked away. He waved his wand to the blackboard.
“The composition of the Potion appears on the board. You can start… now.”
Julie began by noting carefully the basic instruction, as her own teacher in France had once told her. She then began to prepare her ingredients. She could feel the eyes of many students as she was working. And when she raised her gaze to Donahue, he smiled at her encouragingly. She smiled back and went back to work.
By the end of the lesson, she put a stopper on a bottle, labelled it with her name, and went to put it on Professor Snape’s desk. Snape looked at the potion, with a pensive look.
“Well, it seems like, for once, special students do take their studies seriously,” commented Snape with a drawling voice.
Julie avoided his gaze and went back to her cauldron, cleaning up everything. She was gathering her belongings, and she was looking for her bottle of Dragon’s blood, when it appeared right under her nose. Robert Donahue was holding it out to her. She caught it with a grateful smile.
“Thank you,” she said.
“You’re welcome,” said Donahue. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Robert Donahue.”
He held out his hand.
“Yes, I’ve heard about you,” said Julie, taking it
Donahue raised it to his face and planted a slight kiss on the back of her hand. Julie blushed really hard this time. Her chest seemed to echo the pounding of her heart. Donahue smiled mischievously.
“Don’t believe anything they say, then,” he told her. “And if you ever need any help with Potions, you can ask me whenever you want. I’m pretty gifted at that, even if I’m not at anything else.”
“Well, thanks,” she said. “Err… I got to go, now,” she said, showing her friends waiting for her.
“I’ll see you soon,” said Donahue, with a smile that showed he was looking forward to it.
He let go of her hand slowly. And she managed to grab her bag, walking away from him slowly, aware that she was smiling stupidly. Donahue didn’t depart from his open smile.
Julie joined Kalindra and Jennifer, who were grinning knowingly. They both grabbed her arms and dragged her out of the dungeon, toward the upper classrooms, where they would have History of Magic.
Oh, my goodness, who is this guy? How can he have such an effect on me? thought Julie.
And then she realised something else that sent a tingling feeling across her whole body.
He seems to like me.
“He’s hooked,” said Kalindra.
She and Jennifer started to giggle. Julie rushed out of her thoughts.
“What?” she said.
“He likes you, that’s certain,” said Jennifer.
“Come on, he hardly knows me!” protested Julie, despite being elated they shared her impression.
“Like it has ever stopped anything,” said Kalindra. “I told you he was nice, didn’t I?”
“Well, he’s pretty sure of himself,” said Julie. “But he’s handsome! Wow, I thought my heart was jumping out of my chest, when he kissed my hand!”
“What did he want?” asked Jennifer.
“Well he introduced himself, and he offered to help me in Potions,” said Julie, still pretty excited.
“Like you would need his help,” said a voice from behind them.
The three girls turned to se who was talking. It was Kenneth.
“What do you mean?” asked Julie, surprised.
“Your Potion was the only one who had the right nuance of red, so you’re better than him in brewing, apparently,” said the young man.
“Well, thanks,” said Julie, not sure of what it meant.
“Just stating the facts,” said Kenneth, shrugging.
“Oi, Lionheart, we’re waiting for you,” said Rob Drakefang, ahead of them. “Are you too busy trying to woo the girls or what?”
Kenneth smiled and shook his head.
“See you in class,” he said, before he picked up the pace to join his friends.
Kalindra looked at him in disbelief. Then she looked at Julie, then at Kenneth again.
“What’s wrong?” asked Julie.
“I don’t believe it,” said Kalindra. “He talked to you… and he made a compliment?”
Julie was puzzled, but Jennifer shared Kalindra’s look of disbelief.
“What?” said Julie.
“Kenneth Lionheart has never spoken three words to a girl except for us in five years in Hogwarts,” explained Jennifer. “He’s like that.”
“Really?” said Julie.
“He’s hooked as well,” said Kalindra in disgust. “Two in less than two days. We’d better pick our choices right now, Jenny, or that chick will steal us all the best guys of the school. First she conquers the hottest guy in the year, and then she unfreezes our Kenneth...”
“Don’t be ridiculous! They’re not ‘hooked’!” protested Julie.
“They are,” sighed Jennifer. “Too bad. I guess we will end up with the likes of Will Tyler and Rob Drakefang.”
“As if that would really bother you,” said Kalindra, laughing. “I wouldn’t complain about Rob, for my part. He’s grown into such a hottie.”
They started to laugh again. But Julie felt uneasy. Were these two boys so fond of her? She couldn’t believe that she could be so attractive. She told that to her two friends who looked at her, eyes widened.
“And she’s blind, to add on things!” said Kalindra in disgust. “Someone give a mirror to the girl.”
Harry took a deep breath, still in his Office. He knew that the students were now waiting for him in the classroom on the other side of the door. He remembered the different entries of his various teachers in the Defence against the Dark Arts, from Quirrell to Lupin, with Lockhart, the fake Alastor Moody, and the Late Professor Bishop.
He couldn’t just do the same thing as Lockhart!
An image formed in his mind. Himself standing before the class, pointing at a photograph of himself which was winking.
Me, Harry Potter. Seven times defeater of Lord Voldemort, Winner of the last world cup and of the National Quidditch Cup three times in a row. But let’s not talk about this… When I got rid of Lord Voldemort, that wasn’t by catching a snitch under his nose...
Harry felt a shiver down in spine. That was too ridiculous too even think about this.
Oh, come on, Potter, you’ve seen worse than that. You’ve had two of the worst teachers in history. You can’t be worse than Lockhart and Umbridge!
He took another breath, expired deeply.
“Come on, Potter, Showtime,” he said, smiling at the call that his coach was giving him at each beginning of Games in London team.
He pushed the door opened and entered the classroom. The students fell silent. Harry felt the weight of dozens of pairs of eyes on him. The class was composed of Ravenclaw third years. He recognized Ian Malcolm, Alexander’s pupil, in the front rank. He walked to his desk, and nodded discreetly to Ian, who smiled and winked.
“Good Morning, Class,” he said. “As you know it surely by now, I’m Harry Potter and from now on, I will teach the Defence against the Dark Arts in this school.”
The students were listening intensely, with eyes fixed on him. Harry was under the impression that they were waiting for him to begin to float in the room with some kind of halo around his head. He knew that the first impression on the first class would be very important, especially with Ian sitting in this class, as Ian was the first source of rumours in Hogwarts, these years. He might as well set his way of dealing the lessons right now.
“Alright,” he said, sitting casually on his desk. “I guess I won’t have to introduce myself more precisely, given the expressions of the faces I see in the class. Am I correct to think that everyone has already talked about me at length, Mr. Malcolm?”
Ian gave him a little smile and nodded.
“At length, Sir,” he said.
“So, to all those students who would have heard about me from their classmates, or by any other way, let me dispel some rumours or ideas you could have on me. First, I’m nothing of some kind of Hero with superior powers. This description should only refer to Professor Lockenburn.”
A little chuckle ran through the class. Harry felt some of his nervousness fade away.
“Second, in spite of all that you may have heard, I’m not someone with a superior wisdom or any superior knowledge. Any praise regarding wisdom should only refer to Professor Dumbledore. As for the knowledge, you should also check with Professor Weasley. I know her, she’s a well of science.”
The smiles grew wider on the faces.
“So why am I here?” said Harry. “That’s quite simple. I’m here to share some of my experience with you. It is true that I’ve been confronted with many challenges and that it has given me some knowledge of what a wizard should fear, or should be ready to fight. And I hope I will be able to teach how to fight these things. Hopefully, you won’t have to face those kinds of challenges, but in the case you should, I’ll do my best to prepare you.”
The silence in the room was really intimidating. Harry got off his desk.
“Now, you are in third year, so you have learnt the basics in Defence such as protection spells and the most common creatures that may try to harm you in the “outside” world. So, this year, we will focus on the most dangerous creatures you may have to face in the wizarding world, and the way to fight them, destroy them, or make them flee. This year we will cover the boggarts, and the incantation that will allow any wizard to get rid of it, and we will increase the difficulty along the year, with trickier creatures and more dangerous ones. By the end of the year, we will study the Wild Werewolves and Dementors, and the different means to repel, conquer, and even kill them. By this time, exams will be at hand. You will have a theory exam and some practical test for this subject. This is something you’re now familiar with, as Professor Armstrong had created this new exam for years now.”
He marked one short pause.
“So before we begin,” he said. “Does anyone have a question?”
Some hands rose in the air.
“About the course?”
The hands stayed in the air.
“I should have known that,” said Harry, with a smile. “Ravenclaws, right?”
Some chuckles in the classroom.
“Alright, Miss McDougall, you first,” said Harry, pointing at Kieran, Ian’s best friend.
“Sir, are we going to study other things than creatures this year?” she asked, in a tone that suddenly took Harry back in his own school years, and he heard the echoes of Hermione’s eager voice.
He had a smile.
“That will depend on the way we progress. If we’re through with Dementors before Easter, I will set some extra lessons about duelling practices. I heard that some students tried to create a Defence Association, recently. I will watch this kind of things closely. This can’t be allowed in Hogwarts.”
Most of the hands went down, but Ian’s shot up in the air.
“Yes, Mr Malcolm?”
“I heard you were the first student to create the DA, Sir,” said Ian. “And now, you forbid it?”
“I’ll set things straight, right now,” said Harry. “The DA was a very, very special case. It stood for Dumbledore’s Army at the time, not Defence Association, like many believe. We were students that were worrying about the way the lessons were given in the Defence class. The teacher of this time wasn’t really a teacher but some political move against those who believed in Voldemort’s return. We needed to be prepared for War. So we decided to teach ourselves. These were dark and different times, where Lord Voldemort was threatening our very future. I do hope that you won’t need to resort to such measures in this year. First, because I hope you won’t have to defend yourself against another dark Wizard such as Voldemort. And second, because I hope I won’t be as pitiful a teacher as Professor Umbridge was. And, I must add that this association had the support of Headmaster Dumbledore, at the time, even if it was clearly unofficial. The other associations that took place after that weren’t authorized. Because many of them were nothing than a place to learn how to jinx your fellow students. The original DA only aimed at learning how to defend ourselves, for reasons of extreme necessity. This is why any association aimed at Defence will have to be granted my authorization. I may accept some constructive project, but I won’t tolerate any deviation.”
The students nodded. Ian’s hand stayed down.
“So, now, we will begin,” said Harry. “I’ll begin the year with boggarts, as I told you. On the next class, we will have a practical lesson with one boggart, so I will see if you understood right what we will discuss today.”
He sat behind his desk. Now his nervousness had faded. The students were listening hard, even harder than he had ever listened to a lesson himself. He had to admit that beginning his first lesson with Ravenclaws was easier than to begin with Slytherins.
“So, who will tell me what a boggart is and what it can do?” he asked.
He knew that someone would come up with an answer. And, no mistake, three or four hands rose in the air.
“Miss Ribizzi?” he said, pointing to her.
And his first lesson began quite well, as the young girl was giving the precise definition of the boggart he had learned from Remus Lupin, years ago.
Not so bad, for a first, Potter, he told himself.
Now, to say that all of Harry’s lessons went that good would have been an exaggeration. If Harry was now quite confident in his approach of teaching, he was on the other hand, less at ease with some of the Slytherin students. They didn’t cause him trouble, but he didn’t like the way they were looking at him during the lessons. Of course, not all the Slytherins were that hostile. But he had spotted some that were potentially a problem.
“This Macke,” he told Hermione, when having lunch with her, on Friday, at the end of the third week of the term. “Nasty little clone of Malfoy.”
“Yes, I know,” said Hermione. “I’ve got him in my Arithmancy lessons. He’s always trying to pick on Ian Malcolm. But Ian seems to be among the most gifted of the group, with Miss McDougall. She’s really brilliant, that one.”
“Oh yes, I figured that out,” said Harry. “Very close to someone I know. She’s shooting her hand in the air as quickly as you did, back then.”
“Oh, thank you, Harry, that is very, very interesting,” said Hermione with a dark look.
“So, who would be the most promising student in your opinion?” asked Professor McGonagall, at Hermione’s left.
“Well, if you set apart Miss McDougall and Ian, who are really brilliant,” began Harry, “there are some promising students in third year, especially in Ravenclaw. Gryffindors are eager, but unruly. Slytherins in third year are an awful bunch of contemptuous rich boys, but we should beware of Wilfrid Venansius, one of Macke’s cronies. He’s too bright for his own good. There is a very bright one in second year. He’s in Hufflepuff. I was surprised, too,” he said when Hermione raised her eyebrows. “But he’s very smart and he learns very quickly. And he prefers to help his friends rather than shining in class. That’s surely why he’s in Hufflepuff.”
“And beyond third year?” asked Professor McGonagall.
“Well,” said Harry. “This fourth year isn’t very good, unfortunately. Some are doing very well, but the average is not that promising. I think Alwena Silverleaf is good enough, but she’s kind of lazy.”
Hermione nodded in agreement.
“But in fifth year, I noticed some Slytherin students that were quite good in Arithmancy,” she said. “Miss Spencer, the prefect, is a very serious student and Mr. Donahue is pretty sharp,” she said.
“Yes,” said Harry. “But he’s also very sure of himself. A little over-confident, if you ask me. On the other hand, maybe Kenneth Lionheart could do great things if he start to be a little more confident.”
“Speaking of Gryffindor,” said McGonagall, “what do you think of our foreign student?”
“She’s bright,” said Hermione. “She has a very strong mind.”
“And a pretty strong will,” said Harry. “She resisted many things I tried on her. And so did Mr. Lionheart. I’d say he’s very strong-willed, and pretty gifted with a wand.”
“That’s not surprising, Harry,” said McGonagall.
“No, I guess it isn’t.,” said Harry.
They went on over the students subject for some times. Then Harry turned it to Quidditch.
“So this week end, are the Gryffindor tryouts?” he asked McGonagall.
“Yes, we will pick up two new chasers.”
“I’ll have to see that,” said Harry.
This was even worse than she had feared it would be. First, she didn’t have a clue that the tryouts would be public. Trying to earn her place in the team was one thing, but doing it in front of so many students was a completely different deal.
And worst of all, Professor Potter was sitting in the stands, with Professor McGonagall! Being the living legend of Quidditch he was, being ridiculous in front of Harry Potter would be the ultimate shame.
Come off it, Julie, she told herself. You were in your school Quidditch club, and you had a team of your own. You were good. No reason you would be ridiculous here.
The candidates were flying around the pitch to warm up their brooms. Julie was making perfect circles around the pitch, testing the speed limits of her broom, which she had brought in her trunk. It was a personal creation of one of her uncles, who was making brooms for Professional Quidditch players. He had called it the Julie1, on her measures and specifications.
While flying, she saw that the stands had a lot of spectators, looking at the tryouts. Two persons stood out, because they were looking straight at her. Robert Donahue was sitting at one end of the stand, near the Slytherin part of the seats. She felt suddenly completely lost. To think of failing in front of him was too terrible to endure. She saw him looking at her and smile. He was here to see if she was gifted on a broomstick. Maybe he was scouting for his team, or he was trying to pay attention to what she liked. She wasn’t sure which prospect would put the biggest pressure on her and which would please her more.
On the other end of the stands, Kenneth was also watching her. But there was something different in the way he was looking at her. He wasn’t smiling to be attractive, he wasn’t waving. He was just watching her. And she could see in his eyes that he was watching her moves carefully. Then, he seemed to be satisfied, and shifted his focus to another candidate.
She leant on her broom and flew over the stand. She passed Kenneth, who just followed her with the eyes. She passed Donahue who waved to her. Julie waved back.
Well, at least, Robert does seem to be here for me, thought Julie, as she saw that Kenneth was now looking at some other player.
She saw that Kalindra was walking up the stand and sat beside Kenneth. They began to chat. Julie wondered distractedly about what, but then, she heard McGonagall call for the players. She got quickly back on the ground.
“Alright,” said McGonagall. “The team will do attacks movements with each of the candidates, so the captain, Miss Walborough will be able to decide which player will be chosen. So we will start with Mr. Michael Finnegan.”
As the team took off, Julie leant against the wooden wall of the stand. Suddenly, a shadow covered her face from above. It was Donahue, bending over the barrier of the stands.
“So, are you ready?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I hope, at least.”
“I hope you’ll do well,” said Donahue. “That would be great to see you play against Slytherin.”
“Are you in the team?” asked Julie.
“No, unfortunately, I’m a disaster on a broom,” said Donahue. “But maybe with a teacher like you…”
“Even if I’m not taken in the team?” said Julie, with a twisted smile.
“Well, at least, you know how to fly without falling off your broom,” said Donahue. “That’s more than I can claim.”
“Miss Carteret, it’s your turn, please,” called McGonagall.
“Good luck,” said Donahue.
Julie took her position in the team, and on the Captain’s whistle, they all took off.
“Good luck!” shouted Kalindra from the stands, as Julie took off with the rest of the team.
“She doesn’t need luck,” said Kenneth, without raising his voice. “She’s the best of the three candidates.”
“How do you know?” asked Kalindra, surprised.
“I looked at the way they were flying during the warm up. She only makes the moves she needs to make. The others try to impress the public. And she flies quite faster, as well. With a cousin who won the World Cup, you didn’t notice that?”
“I was paying more attention to the stands, there,” said Kalindra, pointing to Donahue, who was waving at Julie. “If I were you, I would make my move quickly. He’s a pretty tough competitor.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Kenneth.
“Sure, you don’t,” scoffed Kalindra. “You’ve been eyeing her since you’ve met her. I can see those things, Kenneth. Why don’t you ask her out? She may be more than willing, but if Donahue gets there first…”
“Well if she likes him, it’s her choice, not mine,” said Kenneth. “And honestly, if she likes him…” he added with a dark look toward Donahue.
“She likes him because he’s gallant, attractive and fares well with the girls,” said Kalindra. “You’re the only one to thing he’s such a git. Even I can’t understand why you’re loathing him that much. That’s pushing it, Kenneth.”
“Look at that,” said Kenneth, dodging the issue and pointing at Julie.
Kalindra followed his eyes and saw Julie make a superb recuperation, taking a shot and scoring by the same time. It was a beautiful move.
“Wow! She’s good, alright!” exclaimed Kalindra.
“See? I’ve told you…” said Kenneth.
“Alright, so Miss Walborough has decided to pick up Miss Carteret and Mr. Thornhill as the new chasers of the Gryffindor team,” announced Professor McGonagall.
Julie was caught in a hug by Kalindra.
“Well done, girl! You were great!” said the black girl.
“That was a very good demonstration,” said Donahue, joining them, grinning.
“Well, thank you,” said Julie.
“I guess I’ll have to warn my team that the new Gryffindor Chasers are quite impressive,” he said. “So, see you soon?”
“Yes, good bye,” said Julie, suddenly feeling very childish, looking at him as he walked back to the Castle, and waving dreamily.
Kalindra snapped her fingers in front of her face.
“Have you reached the moon on that broomstick of yours, yet?” she asked, with a mischievous smile.
“What? Oh! Sorry. It’s just that he’s nice to have come to see my tryout,” she said. “I’ve seen you were chatting with Kenneth in the stands. Are you trying something, there?” she asked, genuinely interested.
“With Kenneth? No way. I’ve known him for too long for that,” said Kalindra. “He’s a very good friend, though. Which is why I want to tell you he was here for nobody but you, today.”
“He wasn’t looking at me all the time, you know,” said Julie. “He was interested in the other players.”
She was still looking at the Castle.
“Yeah, he was, so he could compare their flying to yours,” said Kalindra. “Once he was done with that, he knew you were going to be picked even before the tests began.”
That sentence surprised Julie.
“He said and I quote: “she doesn’t need luck, she’s the best of the three candidates”.”
Julie was surprised. She looked for Kenneth in the stand or on the pitch, but there was no trace of him anywhere.
She went to the changing room, telling Kalindra to wait for her at the exit of the stadium. She changed quickly, still rejoicing for her being in the team. She was even singing lightly when she walked through the pitch, her broom over her shoulder.
Suddenly, she felt that something was watching her. Intensely. Some hidden reflex in her made her pull out her wand, and look around her, searching for incantations in her head. The pitch was empty. Nobody around could watch her through the stands. But she still felt the weight of eyes on her. She turned to the Forest. And she felt it, even clearer than before. Something there, watching her, like something hunting for its prey. She felt fear rise inside her.
“Julie?” said the voice of Kalindra.
Suddenly the impression vanished, as quickly as it had appeared. She didn’t feel anything anymore. Kalindra joined her, looking concerned.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Something, there in the Forest, watching me,” said Julie, her wand still in her hand.
She looked again to the edge of the Forest.
“But it’s gone,” she finally said.
“There are lot of things in this Forest, you know,” said Kalindra. “From Centaurs to Werewolves. It’s possible that some of some creature was roaming at the edge of the woods.
“Yeah, I guess your right,” said Julie, putting her wand back in her sheath, bound to her belt.
But, as she was walking back to the Castle with Kalindra, she couldn’t get rid of some sort of uneasiness. Was something out there to get her? Or was it just stress after the tryouts?
She shook away her doubts. Whatever it had been, it was over now.
Her mother’s command echoed inside her very being. She was running like never before in her life. Her short legs couldn’t get her away fast enough. The hooded figure was right at her ankles. Fear was crashing through her like a furious wave. She had never been so afraid in whole existence. Her breath was fast and her heart was pounding.
She turned left in the street and suddenly, someone was in her way. A wizard. He was bald and he was waving a wand in his hand. He aimed at her chaser.
The hooded figure flew back, hitting a wall.
All she could see was her mother running to embrace her, but she heard a distant voice.
“You can’t escape us forever, child!”
Julie woke up with a gasp. She looked frantically around her and saw that she was safe in the comfort of her four poster bed, back in Gryffindor tower.
Panting, she realised this had been a really vivid nightmare. No, to be honest, it wasn’t a simple nightmare. She had been plagued by such dreams for as long as she could remember. But never had it been so clear. And somehow, the feeling of threat she felt at the memory of the dream felt disturbingly familiar. It felt like the feeling of dread she had gotten at the edge of the woods.
It couldn’t be just nerves about either the Quidditch season starting or Robert’s flirting.
What was wrong with her?
A/N:Alright, that's done! I 'm sorry it took me so long to finally update this, but I had a huge rewriting to do on this one, and I got sidetracked by my job, personal life and inspiration, that dragged me toward my original stuff. But I decided to get back and finish that damned update!
I didn't add that much, but the grammar in that first draft was positively dreadful. Not that it's perfect, now, but at least it doesn't look like I'm attacking the english language with an axe any more. To my defence, I wrote that chapter something like six years ago, and my english has improved dramatically, since that time. Hope that you liked that bit, and I assure you things will get both clearer and will pack more action very soon.
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