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Chapter 43 : Stalk and Hide
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Stalk and Hide
Soon Monday morning had rolled around again, and with it the start of their second week of classes. After Care of Magical Creatures, where Kettleburn taught them about phoenixes and firebirds and their differences, which were that they originated in Russia and sang hauntingly beautiful songs and could heal by means of them on occasion, while phoenixes originated in China and then migrated all over the world, and their tears could heal almost any wound and cure any poison, even deadly basilisk venom. A phoenix's tail feathers were also used in some potions and for wand cores, while a firebird's could also be used in some drafts, though they were a bright orange and yellow in color, while a phoenix almost always had red feathers.
Their homework that night was to write a foot and a half of parchment on the similarities and differences of each bird and which one they would prefer as a familiar. Kettlebuen said nect class they would discuss the assignments and also the subject of wizard familiars.
"I think owls are the best," James declared loudly as they were walking back up to the castle. "Certainly they're more noble than Snivellus' cat. Everyone knows most cats are familiars of dark wizards, you just have to look in their evil eyes and see it!"
"Right on!" agreed Daniel. "That's why cats were killed during the Plague Years in London. Because they had the evil eye and were drawn to evil influences."
"I think cats are creepy," added Lisa.
"And I think you're all barmy," Lily snorted, as she went past them. "Cats are beautiful creatures, and people killed them in those times out of superstition and stupidity."
"Two traits that all of you seem to possess," sneered Alice.
"In spades," Severus added.
"Shut up, Snivellus!" Potter growled. "Everyone knows you're joining You-Know-Who as soon as you finish school. And your evil cat ought to have been exterminated for attacking me last year. Better watch out, or else some night I might find the little beast and skin it."
Severus clenched a fist. "You touch Grey and your mouth will have a hole in it where your teeth used to be and you'll be talking out your ass."
"Lay a hand on me, Snivellus, and my father will sue your grandfather for every Galleon he's got!" James threatened.
"Only problem with that is, Potter, your old man doesn't have any place to put what's left of his vault!" sniggered Dorian. "And ain't that a shame?"
The other Slytherins jeered at Potter, making him go red, and hurry into the castle and to the second floor for Defense.
James was so angry that he slammed open the door to the classroom and made some papers fly off Professor Gold's desk and onto the floor. The professor looked up and said, in an even yet firm tone, "Mr. Potter, isn't it?"
James scowled at the professor. "Yeah?"
"That's yes, Professor Gold, when you address me," Gold said sharply, his eyes narrowing. "Please don't slam doors when you enter my classroom, Mr. Potter. It's not acceptable behavior. You also knocked some papers from my desk, now pick them up."
"I did not!" James protested. He couldn't believe how unfair this idiot was being to him, after what he'd had to endure outside.
"Excuse me?" Gold's voice was suddenly sharp as a knife. "Pick up my papers and hand them back to me. Lying about it will only earn you a swift detention."
James slouched over and picked up the four pieces of parchment scattered on the floor. "Here . . . sir," he said, his tone just this side of disrespect.
Gold took the papers and then said reprovingly, "Mr. Potter, I don't care what kind of mood you come into this classroom with, but let me make one thing perfectly clear. While you are here, I expect you to treat me with proper politeness and respect, am I clear? Behaving like a spoiled brat of a five-year-old will gain you nothing good, understand?"
"I . . . I wasn't . . . Professor!" James whined.
"Oh? And do you talk like that to your Head of House, boy? Or your father?" Gold demanded. "Because if you did, McGonagall would have you scrubbing floors before you could say Quidditch, and if any son of mine spoke to me with that tone in his voice, he'd be spending the afternoon in his room contemplating dust bunnies, with no broom and no supper either."
James looked shocked at the way the seemingly mild mannered professor was scolding him. He didn't like it one bit either, and resolved to write a letter home to his father as soon as possible and tell Charles that this Muggleborn Gold, or whatever he was, was being unfair and bullying him. "Then I'm glad I'm not your son!" he muttered rebelliously.
Gold's brown eyes flashed almost amber, and he said softly, but with steel in his voice, "And well you might be, Potter, because you'd have a hard time sitting down if I had the raising of you. Take your seat and quit that mumbling, I can hear every word you say, before you get thirty points taken away and detention besides."
Sulking, Potter went and sat down in his assigned seat, thinking that Gold was monstrously unfair and he was going to tell his dad to look into the blighter's background and see if he could drum up any dirt on the professor and get him sacked, because it was obvious Gold had no respect for the Potter Name and how to treat one of its members.
The rest of the class came in then, and took their seats quietly. Gold rose and stood in front of his desk, his manner relaxed, and said, "Today we're going to have some exercises in practical magic, but first I want you to turn to chapter seven in your texts and read up on the section titled "Magics of Concealment and Disguise." You have an hour to finish that, then we'll go outside and put into practice what you've learned."
He leaned calmly back against his desk and watched as all the students got out their texts and began reading. Once he was satisfied all were following directions, he returned to his seat and began marking some fifth year quizzes with his red quill. But he kept one eye out for any troublemakers, especially that Potter brat, whose arrogance and spoiled behavior grated on his nerves. Minerva had warned him about Potter, and now he understood why. But he was determined to make sure that the over-indulged boy didn't get away with such disgraceful behavior in his class. People assumed that because he didn't raise his voice meant he was a pushover, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
Rosier nudged Parkinson with his foot and the two began whispering behind their hands about the professor's robes, speculating as to why they were so ordinary. Parkinson said it was because Gold probably was poor as a church mouse, while Evan said it was probably because as a Muggleborn he didn't know how to dress properly, and was too stupid to buy a book and learn how.
"No talking, Mr. Rosier and Miss Parkinson," Gold's voice whispered silkily. "Or else that'll be twenty points from Slytherin."
Parkinson and Evan almost swallowed their tongues. They looked up guiltily and met Gold's disapproving stare, and quickly looked away.
Severus wanted to cheer as he read his text. This new professor seemed to notice things his other teachers missed, and his quiet manner was far more intimidating than if he had shouted at them. He also didn't seem at all afraid of reprimanding Potter and his company, which earned him bonus points in Severus' eyes.
He winked at Lily and continued reading, finishing the chapter ten minutes before Gold called a halt and asked some questions to see who had absorbed the reading. Lily raised her hand and Gold called on her, and she answered his question about the Chameleon Charm correctly, earning ten points for Gryffindor.
"Very good, Miss Evans!" the professor praised. "Now, who can answer this one? Besides an Invisibility Cloak, what other kind of magical item can aid a wizard or witch in sneaking away from an enemy?"
Severus raised his hand, along with Frank, Sirius, and Jane.
"Mr. Snape, let's hear your answer."
"You can also wear Boots of Silence or Concealment, sir. They make you quiet as a cat when you walk, and even walking on leaves or something else that makes a loud noise won't give you away," Severus replied.
"Excellent! Ten points to Slytherin," Gold said. "Most people neglect to recall that even though an Invisibility Cloak renders you unable to be seen, it doesn't mean you can't be heard . . . or even smelled. A hound could track you down by scent even with a cloak on, and the Auror Department has a unit who trains dogs to work with them for that very purpose. In order to fully conceal yourself, you must consider all of the senses, not just sight."
"My dad says that an Invisibility Cloak is among the most valuable items a wizard can possess," James stated arrogantly.
"That's a matter of opinion, Mr. Potter," Gold replied. "Now, I want you all to line up at the door. Then follow me outside to the stand of oak and aspens where Professor Kettleburn holds his class. We're going to have an exercise on concealment."
The class eagerly rose and did as he had said. They hadn't had much experience with practical exercises, not since the Magnusson brothers had taught dueling when they had taught the last half of the year after Hardbroom had been kicked out. Miss Bones had done some practical instruction, but by and large most of their teachers preferred to teach using texts and small examples.
Severus observed his professor as they walked over to the stand of trees, noting that Gold walked nearly silently over the ground, his boots gliding over the earth, gracefully, almost like Greymalkin when he was stalking prey. The professor's gait reminded him a little of the Black Cloaks, who had learned an economy of movement when they fought, and made very little noise when they moved, though Gold was even quieter than they were.
"Okay, class," Gold said when they had reached the grove of trees. "I want you to pay close attention to what I'm about to say next. It's time for you to learn a new spell, one that could save your life someday if you are being hunted by an enemy. It's a simple spell, but I've found that the simplest spells are often the best to cast, because they are quick and when you are trying to hide from an enemy, that counts heavily in your favor. So, we will now learn the Chameleon Charm, which will enable you to hide in plain sight from someone. The wand movements are as follows . . ."
He demonstrated the easy glide and flick motion, and then said, " . . . followed by the incantation Abscondario!"
No sooner had he spoken the word than he vanished from view.
Everyone gasped and looked about.
"Where'd he go?" cried Frank.
"It's like he disappeared!" exclaimed Lily in amazement.
Peter jumped as he felt something tap him on the shoulder.
"Here I am," said Gold, his voice echoing slightly in the air just over Peter's shoulder.
"Where?" squeaked the boy.
"Right here," he replied, now his voice seemed to come from just in front of the Gryffindor.
The students peered at the place where they thought the professor was.
Then Gold reappeared, not in front of them at all, but behind them.
Several students, including Potter, jumped.
"How . . . how did you do that?" demanded Sirius.
"The Chameleon Charm allows me to blend in with my surroundings so completely that it's as good as being invisible," the professor answered. "Not only that, but I'm a bit of a ventriloquist, and can throw my voice when I wish," he said modestly. "Let us practice for a bit, then we're going to play a little game called Stalk and Hide."
Severus paired up with Lily and they practiced the incantation and wand movements together. After three tries, Severus managed to make himself blend in with his surroundings, though it took Lily twice as long to manage it.
Sirius, Peter, and Frank managed it after twelve tries, and so did most of the class, except Potter, who could only seem to get the spell partially correct.
"Stupid charm!" he snapped after the twentieth try. "I say my Invisibility Cloak is way better than this crummy spell."
"But not everyone can afford a cloak, Mr. Potter," interjected Gold. "While any wizard can cast my crummy spell, as you put it."
Several Slytherins and a fair number of Gryffindors snickered at Gold's sly wit. Furious, James continued concentrating until finally he made himself blend in with the tree he was leaning against, though Severus could see he still hadn't mastered the charm completely, for he cast a shadow.
"Now, I'm going to divide you up into threes," Gold stated. "One of you shall cast the Chameleon Charm and hide, the other two shall try and find the hidden student. You have fifteen minutes for this exercise, and the one who finds their hidden person the fastest shall get twenty-five points."
He called out the groups for the assignment then. Severus ended up with Lily and Sirius, while Frank was put with Peter and Jane. Potter ended up with Alice and Goyle. Evan was partnered with Rabastan and Avery, while Parkinson, Mary, and Rodolphus worked together. Remus worked with Emily and Nott.
"Who wants to hide?" asked Severus.
"You'd better," said Sirius. "You seem to be good at it, Snape. I'm better at finding."
"All right," Severus agreed. He cast the charm and vanished from view.
Soon the clearing was filled with students calling out the name of their partner and feeling about the trees for whoever was hiding.
Severus ducked around a tree, smirking, as Sirius and Lily started searching for him. It was like a game of hide and seek, he thought, only with magic.
Sirius sniffed the air, and then he moved suddenly towards the tree Severus was hiding behind. "I think we're getting close, Lily. This way."
"How do you know?" she queried.
"I just . . . do. I can . . . err . . . smell him."
"Like a dog?" she whispered.
"Umm . . . sort of," Sirius whispered. Then he followed his nose and cried, "I've found you, Severus!"
Severus reappeared then, and several students groaned when they saw him standing next to Sirius.
"Good job!" Gold said, clapping softly. "That's twenty-five points for Gryffindor."
Lily beamed proudly and so did Severus and Sirius.
Finally, they all had completed the exercise, and Gold said, "Now, I want you to try and find me. The first one who succeeds will get thirty points and a day without homework."
Then, as before, he vanished from view.
The students scattered, all of them trying to locate the elusive professor.
But even Sirius' keen sense of smell seemed to desert him as he darted about the clearing, trying to smell Gold's spice aftershave.
For a good fifteen minutes, they searched all over, but Gold remained hidden.
Finally, Severus decided to use a Revealing Charm, and then he cast it right where he thought Gold would be.
For a single instant, he flickered into view.
Lily reached out and grabbed the professor's sleeve. "Found you!" she cried triumphantly.
"You did indeed, Miss Evans. That's another thirty points for Gryffindor," the Defense teacher acknowledged. "You also have a free pass from me for homework to be used whenever you wish for this term. Well done!"
Lily felt as if she had won the TriWizard Tournament.
Then Gold turned to Severus and said, "You have earned twenty-five points for Slytherin for ingenuity, Mr. Snape, for using a Revealing Charm in a most unusual manner." He smiled at the quiet boy.
Severus found himself basking in his achievement, for it was rare for a professor to compliment him for using the intuition he'd been born with, especially in a class outside of potions, which he knew he excelled in.
But then the moment was spoiled by James declaring loudly, "Professor, they cheated!"
Gold looked towards the sullen handsome boy, one eyebrow raised. "How's that, Potter?" he demanded.
"Snape's a Slytherin, and Evans is his best friend, and those slimy snakes always cheat, everyone knows that," James stated.
Lily gasped at his effrontery. "That's not true, Potter!"
"Miss Evans is correct," Gold snapped, angry at the other's attempt to manipulate the situation. "She won the game fair and square, Mr. Potter. Your attempt to belittle and discredit her speaks of nothing more than envy and sour grapes. She just won points for your house, you should be happy about that, not whining and attempting to hog all the glory for yourself."
Several of the students watching sniggered into their sleeves at their teacher's astute assessment of Potter's manner.
James went red and was reduced to stuttering incoherence. He hated Gold more than ever now and resolved to put the Muggleborn loving fool in his place if it was the last thing he did.
Gold turned away, answering questions from some other students, his brown eyes sparkling and his lean handsome face animated as he discussed his favorite branch of magic with the youngsters.
While James seethed and MacDonald comforted him and sneered at the brown-haired professor behind his back, Remus leaned against a tree, one arm about his middle, and concentrated on not losing the breakfast he had eaten that morning. He found Gold engaging, lively, and an excellent teacher, and wished he were not so close to the time of the full moon, so he could appreciate the professor's methods properly. They finally got a halfway decent teacher again, one that could do more than regurgitate a textbook, and he was sick with full moon fever! It figured. He took deep breaths, hoping to stave off the nausea that always accompanied his condition around this time.
"I'd like you all to write a short essay for me on concealment spells and their uses for homework, the answers can be found in your textbooks. You shall be graded on the conciseness, accuracy, and grammatical correctness of your work," Gold was saying. "Class dismissed!"
The students quickly scribbled down the assignment, then broke up, heading back to the castle in small groups.
James slouched off with his friends, inwardly cursing the Defense professor, and Remus ventured to leave as well, to follow his friends, but his rebellious stomach had other ideas.
The next thing he knew, he was suddenly spectacularly sick all over the forest floor, unable to fight his nausea. As he retched humiliatingly, a prisoner to his curse, he felt hands gently holding him through the worst of the spasms, and heard a soft voice saying, "Easy there, Lupin. Merlin's staff, boy, you're burning up! Why didn't you say something?"
Remus wanted to die, he was so embarrassed. "Sorry, sir . . ." he babbled.
"Sorry for what? You're sick, it's not your fault," his professor soothed, his hands cool on the boy's flushed cheeks. "Was it something you ate, or just a stomach flu? In any case, let me help you to the Hospital Wing and let Pomfrey take a look at you."
Remus cringed. "Oh, no, sir! Please, I'm fine now, it's just anxiety."
"Nonsense, Lupin. Anxiety that leaves you running a temperature and puking your guts up isn't something to be ignored," Gold said. "Come, let me help you, lad."
Remus blushed as his professor pulled out a handkerchief, muttered something, and then gently used the now damp square of linen to wipe his burning face with it. "There now! If I could, I'd Apparate there with you, then again Sidelong Apparition would probably aggravate your condition and you'd end up puking all over my shoes, and while that wouldn't be the first time that's happened to me, I'm sure you'd rather avoid that. Come, child, take a deep breath. That's it, now let's start walking, take your time, and if you feel sick again, we'll stop, okay?"
Remus lowered his head, ashamed, but Gold was not condescending or disgusted at his sudden weakness, and instead supported him gently with an arm about his waist as they walked back to the castle. Twice more they halted so poor Remus could throw up, and each time the professor competently held the boy's head and murmured soothingly, saying calmly, "You're fighting it, boy, it's best to relax and just let your system purge itself of the sickness."
" . . . sorry, Professor Gold . . ."
"Shh . . . heavens, boy, this won't be the first time I've dealt with a sick child, you've nothing to be ashamed of, it happens . . ."
Remus found in his misery that the mysterious Defense teacher was actually remarkably competent dealing with his illness, making him wonder absently if the man had ever been a Healer or had some training prior to teaching. There was more than met the eye to this professor, Remus thought as he leaned upon the lean yet strong arm all the way to the infirmary, where Gold released him to Madam Pomfrey's care after informing her with a kind of professional aplomb what had occurred.
The mediwitch assured him that she had things under control, saying quietly, "I think it may be a mild stomach flu, Rob, so best wash your hands."
"I figured as much," Gold agreed, then went to do as she had said. "I'll inform the professor in his next class about it. Feel better, Lupin," he said kindly, then glided from the room.
Remus lay down on the hospital bed, thinking that Gold was certainly one of the most compassionate professors he'd ever had, and thanked Merlin it was so, for if it had been Hardbroom he probably would have still been crouched on the ground of the aspen grove while she mocked him for his weak stomach and made him walk back to the castle himself. Pomfrey, who knew of his true condition, would be able to treat him with the proper potions, he thought wearily and closed his eyes.
Gold hurried back to his classroom, as he wished to mark a few things down in his grade log before preparing to teach his afternoon class of third year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, when he heard a supercilious voice saying, "Now get down on your knees and pick up everything, you stupid piece of dung, and while you're doing that you can lick my shoes as well, Rolly, old boy!"
"O-Okay, J-James!" whimpered a small voice in response.
Gold felt his temper skyrocket, and he crept down the side corridor leading to the boy's toilet, itching to take that bully James Potter over his knee right then and there, and only school policy prevented him from meting out a well-deserved spanking to the rotten brat. He came upon the older boy standing in the corridor smirking at a small first year who was kneeling before him, sniffling, and trying to pick up several quills, bottles of ink, and parchment on the floor.
"Just what in hell is going on here?" he demanded silkily.
Potter jerked up and said quickly, "Nothing, professor. Summerset here was clumsy and spilled my backpack all over, he's just picking it up now."
"Oh really? And is there something wrong with your hands, Potter, that you can't be bothered to pick up your own things?" Gold queried frostily. "Do you think I'm stupid, Potter, not to recognize that you're bullying another student?"
"Me, sir?" James cried, attempting to play innocent. "You've got it all wrong, Rolly here is a clumsy oaf, he trips over his own feet, ask anyone . . ."
Gold rolled his eyes. "Spare me the lies, Potter, I've heard better from toddlers trying to sneak biscuits from the biscuit tin." He turned to the first year. "Mr. Summerset, get up off the floor and be on your way to your next class, you have no need to do anything Potter says, he's not a king and you're certainly not his subject."
Roland scrambled to his feet and darted away, calling over his shoulder, "Yes, sir. Thanks, Professor Gold!"
Gold nodded, then said, his brown eyes hard as flint, "As for you, Potter, you have detention with me at seven o'clock this evening for terrorizing another student, as well as thirty points from Gryffindor. Now pick up this mess and get to class, before I decide to subtract more points for deliberate dawdling."
"Sir, that's unfair! I wasn't doing anything!" James protested, picking up the rest of the contents of his bag, which he'd deliberately spilled so he'd have an excuse to pick on Summerset.
"Uh huh, right. And I was born yesterday," snorted the Defense teacher. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched as James scurried to pick up everything and shove it back in his bag and then hurry past him to class, grumbling a silent stream of invectives regarding Gold and all his ancestors as he did so.
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