Chapter 1 : Double-Oh Potter
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All was well at Hogwarts.
Happy children poured from the Great Hall, their stomachs full of dinner, chattering and laughing. Blushing girls avoided strategically placed mistletoe and grinning boys tried to trap them in it. Fairies buzzed about the holly and the ivy and someone shouted with glee – having finally gotten a kiss.
Unbeknownst to them all, someone lurked in the shadows. Watchful eyes took in all that happened, keen ears picked at conversations. With practice, the observer blended in perfectly with the shadows. In the ideal position to see the entrance to the Great Hall and the corridor that lead outdoors or upstairs or down and had a view of the staff’s door to the Hall as well. The observer moved nothing but his eyes as all of the students and professors vacated the Hall and not even a ghost was left to be seen. All but one professor.
Professor Darius Ryan, Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was his turn to close the doors as the elves appeared to clean up. He did so dutifully and then, glancing around as if to make sure no one was watching, he started up the stairs, unaware of this observer. The man in the shadows frowned, eyes narrowed to suspicious slits. Where was the professor going? His classroom was in a different direction and his quarters were right beside it. The other professors seemed to have, mostly, gone to congregate in the staff room for after dinner drinks. All the students had returned to their dormitories to finish up a bit of homework or play games and gossip. The professor was up to something.
All was not well at Hogwarts.
With ease from practice, the observer slipped from his place in the shadows and went after the professor. He knew exactly how far to stay behind so as to remain unnoticed and never lose his subject. The professor never knew he had a silent, moving shadow. Up stairs and around corners and through corridors he moved until at last he came to a non-descript door on the fifth floor. The observer melted once more into the shadows, half hidden behind a tapestry and a statue. Professor Ryan checked for watchful eyes once more, glancing over his shoulders in all directions, but the observer was too clever for him. He muttered something, pointing his wand at the door, and entered, shutting it firmly behind him.
The observer waited minute – and then two – and then stepped out of the shadows. On silent soles he crept up to the door. It seemed perfectly ordinary. Standard seven feet in height, thick oak and iron, normal to the touch, and without any abnormal marks. He pressed his ear against the wood without much hope. As expected, he couldn’t hear a thing; any villain worth his salt would have put up silencing charms. Frowning in frustration, the observer stared at the closed door. He tested the knob but it didn’t budge even a fraction.
For nearly an hour the observer waited, tucked away once more in the shadows. Finally the professor emerged from the room, looked around furtively again and leaves. He’s wearing an odd, satisfied smile on his face. Wavering for a moment between looking in the room and following the suspicious man, he finally gave in, sparing the door one last glance and hurrying to keep up with his quarry. Upon arrival at the professor’s quarters he rethinks the decision but the clock is chiming curfew and rounds of prefects and professors begins soon so he slinks away, determining he is done only for the night.
Some would say he’s a mad man who’s got hold of a useless stick and won’t let go. Sitting among the students at breakfast the next morning he feels the questioning looks directed his way but refuses to give in. Surreptitiously he keeps an eye on Professor Ryan. The man seems to be innocently eating toast and sausages but there’s a gleam in his eye the observer doesn’t miss. Today, the clever watcher thinks, today he will unmask this villain.
“Oi! Pass the jam, will you?”
He passes the jam.
The next evening he is carefully positioned once more. He watches the ghosts float by and the happy, unaware, students leave the Hall. Once again, Darius Ryan closes up the Great Hall. Once again, he glances furtively about and then makes for the fifth floor.
He hadn’t been doing this all term. In fact, until just three weeks ago, his observer hadn’t noticed thing out of the ordinary. Then he started to receive owls more and more frequently. He dismissed class early some afternoons and then wasn’t at dinner. He had started disappearing into this room for the last week. He arrived back at the castle at unholy hours with a tousled appearance. He was, most assuredly, up to something. The professor entered the room. The observer stepped out of the shadows.
He pressed his ear to the door once more, eyes closed, listening intently.
“What are you doing?”
He gave a rather undignified shriek.
“Merlin’s beard, Roxanne, you scared the nargles out of me!”
“I wasn’t exactly quiet coming down the hall. What were you doing?”
“Nothing.” He snapped. His young cousin didn’t look as if she believed him. “Go away.”
“I want to know what you were doing. If you don’t tell me, I’ll tell Albus you were kissing a door.” She crossed her arms and looked mulish.
He turned bright red and glared down at her. “I wasn’t – just go away. You wouldn’t understand.” The door opened then and he jumped again. Roxanne looked at him with amusement.
“Potter? Weasley? What are you doing out here?” The professor came out shutting the door behind him too quickly for them to see what was inside.
“Just taking a walk. You know, cousins just enjoying some family time.” James squeaked out. Roxanne opened her mouth with a frown and he stomped on her foot.
“Oh Merlin, Roxanne! Sorry Professor, I’d better get my cousin to hospital. She’s got wickedly sensitive toes. They’ll ache for days if Madame Bones doesn’t get something for her. Strange malady. Got it from her mother’s side, of course. Don’t let us keep you!”
Still babbling, James grabbed Roxanne and dragged her down the corridor. Over his shoulder he saw a mystified professor watching them go. Not the sharpest stick, James thought. Longbottom would have seen through it in a trice. Of course the Herbology professor was also a close friend of his father’s and knew no strange maladies affected any of the Weasley-Potter clan.
“What is wrong with you?” Roxanne demanded, wrenching free of his grasp as they rounded the corner out of sight. James popped his head back and saw that the professor had already disappeared back inside the room. He was determined to find out what the man was up to.
“What? Oh. Nothing, Rox. I’m busy.” He tried to walk away from her then but she dogged his steps.
“Busy? Molesting a door?”
“I was not molesting a door!” He raised his voice at her and received some curious glances from a bunch of Hufflepuffs walking past. Lowering his voice he glared at his cousin. “I was not molesting a door.”
“Then what were you doing?”
“You are really annoying, you know that?”
“I was listening, all right?”
“The hell for?”
“None of your blood business. Go away.”
He finally lost his young nuisance as they came to Gryffindor tower. Roxy went to join her friends on the sofa and he took the stairs to his dormitory two at a time. Bursting through the door he observed the three boys who all stopped to look at him.
“Oi! Where have you been?” Demanded Lysander. Sander, as they referred to him, was sprawled across his bed on his back, playing with a quaffle.
“I was doing something.”
“Cryptic.” Mused Colin Longbottom. “You missed dessert.”
“So?” His mates all looked at him askance. Alright yes, in nearly seven years at Hogwarts he had not once, ever, missed dessert. “I had something I had to do.”
“This isn’t about your stupid Ryan theory is it?” Fred asked.
“It’s not stupid! It’s a verifiable hypothesis.”
“You been hanging ‘round Aunt Hermione again?”
“Don’t be silly.”
“Get it from one of Teddy’s letters?”
“Shut up. It’s a good theory.” James pouted. So what if Teddy used big, smart sounding words? Nothing wrong with using them himself.
“What’s this then?” Questioned Colin. The tall, freckled blond eyed James curiously. “What Ryan theory? Are you talking about Professor Ryan?”
“James reckons Ryan’s up to something. He’s been following him around for a week like some sort of nefariousness is going to pop up in front of him.”
“You’re spying on a professor?” Colin and Sander started laughing. James pouted a bit more.
“Rude.” James glared at his fellow seventh years and flopped down on his bed.
“Why in Merlin’s name do you think he’s dodgy? He’s a brilliant professor.” Colin said. “Dad met him over summer hols and said he was great.”
“He’s up to something.” James insisted.
“How do you figure?” Asked Sander. He was being flippant but James reached under his bed and pulled out a box.
“Here,” said James. “For the first month of term nothing was unusual. But then he started acting oddly. Showing up late for meals, dismissing class early some afternoons. He’s grown absent minded and disappears sometimes. He comes back to the castle late at night and he’s got this room on the fifth floor where he locks himself away. Sometimes for hours!”
James spread out his proof. A parchment detailing Professor Ryan’s habits old and new. A chart tracking his movements over the last three weeks. Times and dates of ‘suspicious behavior’ carefully documented. Pictures of the professor looking over his shoulder and ducking into the mysterious room on the fifth floor. The three boys stared at the array of information and gaped.
“You know,” ventured Colin. “If you put this much work into your school assignments you’d be top of the class.”
James scowled at him but otherwise ignored the comment. Disregarding the truth of it.
“Look here. On the fifteenth of November he was in the room for three hours. Three. What is he doing in there?”
“Does it matter?” Fred earned a scowl of his own. “Oh come off it mate, he’s a professor. He can do what he wants.”
“If Dad and Uncle Ron had had that kind of attitude, Voldemort might have taken over Hogwarts their first year. If Aunt Hermione had thought that way a basilisk could have killed them all their second year. If Teddy’s dad hadn’t investigated then a murderer might still be living in this castle! If- “
“Alright, alright. We get it.” Said Sander. “But that was different. I mean, come on. It’s not as if anymore of those sort of people are around. Your dad locked ‘em all up.”
“If Dumbledore had thought that way, Voldemort could have been a professor.”
“What?” Fred said incredulously, clearly of the opinion that his cousin and best friend had gone mad.
“Wait, really?” Asked Colin.
James stood with a solemn look on his face.
“Hogwarts needs me.”
Once again, James, the spy, stood before the mysterious door. This was his last chance, he knew. Everyone would be getting on the train and going home for Christmas tomorrow. Who knew what the dodgy professor would accomplish over holidays? No, he told himself, this ends tonight.
“What is it with this door?”
He squealed but managed to keep it relatively quiet. Turning, he glowered at his cousin.
“Roxy. Are you following me?”
“Are you following the professor?”
“What? No.” She raised one brow at him. James wished he could do that.
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“Shut up Roxy. Go away.”
She started laughing and he glowered, pouting.
“Shut up! Alright. Ok. Yes, I’m following Ryan.”
“He’s up to something. And I’m not crazy! I’ve been watching him. He’s definitely up to something.”
Behind him, James heard the door move. He whirled around, determined this time to catch the professor in the act. He yelled ‘AHA!’ and grabbed the door, throwing it wide open. Professor Ryan stood on the other side, startled. His usually neatly combed hair was disheveled and his tie loose. James’ keen eyes took this all in, along with the red smudge on the corner of the man’s mouth.
“Potter? What are you doing?”
James looked past the man, sure he would see the evidence of the professor’s treachery.
Instead, all he saw was a strawberry blond woman with a dark, possibly murderous look on her face.
James squeaked. “Dominique!” His older cousin advanced on him, pushing past the stunned professor. James tried to back away but she grabbed him and pulled him in. An equally stunned Roxy started to slowly back away, but Dominique pinned her with a glare.
“Rox. In here. Now.” Acting very out of character, Roxy meekly obeyed. Dominique slammed the door behind them.
“Uh – um…” The professor stammered. “Perhaps I should…”
“I’ve got this, darling.” Dominique said.
“Darling?” James squeaked. He really needed to stop doing that, he thought.
“Yes. Darling.” Dominique glared at him. “I was going to introduce him at Nana’s on Christmas. We’ve been seeing each other since April.”
“YOU’RE DATING A PROFESSOR?”
“Well he wasn’t your professor when we met. And what does it matter if he is? Professor’s are allowed love lives too, you git.” Roxy choked a bit and the professor flamed red.
“Potter, that is, James, I think I should say – “
“Oh please.” James said. “Don’t. Don’t say it. Don’t say anything. What are you doing here, Domi? And for Christ’s sake, do NOT say Professor Ryan.”
Dominique smirked. “I call him Dare.”
Roxy finally piped up. “Do you make a habit of this? Turning up at the castle?”
“Yes, she bloody well does!” James exclaimed. “It’s disgraceful!”
Dominique threw him an assessing gaze. “How would you know that, James?”
“I find myself quite curious to hear your answer.” Ryan added. “Have you been following me?”
“Well, to be fair,” Roxy offered, “He thought you were hatching some evil plot. So there’s that.”
“What?” Ryan said incredulously.
“You’re following my boyfriend?”
“To be fairer, I didn’t know he was that! Bleurgh. I wish I still didn’t. Imagine if I had come in at a different time! I could have lost my innocence!”
“Listen here, you little gnat.” Dominique snarled. “One, you have no innocence, I know you better than that. Two, evil plot? What are you, a bloody spy?”
“No! What? Of course not. Ridiculous.” He tried to casually brush off the conversation but Dominique was having none of it. She pierced him with The Look. A terrifying gaze that every Weasley woman seemed naturally gifted with. He had certainly seen it from his mother enough times.
“Well… Oh come off it. He was acting bloody suspicious and I just thought… Well – Dad! And Dumbledore! He could have been Voldemort!”
“You’re an idiot, James, Potter.” Dominique declared. “And if you breathe a word of this to anyone I will make your remaining days both few in number and miserable.”
He gulped. Dominique was rather scary.
“As for you.” Domi rounded on Roxy. “Same goes. You can’t even tell Lucy. I mean it! And no giving Darius a hard time – you will get no special treatment just because he’s dating your cousin.”
“That’s right.” Declared the professor. The three cousins mostly ignored him.
“Now get out of here. I’m busy.” Dominique smirked again and James gagged. Roxy giggled. The two younger cousins left and Dominique shut the door behind them.
“Aunt Ginny is definitely going to hear about this.” Roxy gave him a treacherous grin and scampered off. James dragged himself to his dorm, still feeling a bit green. It just wasn’t right! His cousin couldn’t be doing… those sorts of things… with a professor! No matter if she had been out of school and even met the bloke before he became a professor. It was just disturbing.
His three fellow seventh year Gryffindors were all in their room when he got back. Fred and Colin were working on their Transfiguration essays due in the morning and Lysander was practicing something for charms.
“Return the conquering hero.” Quipped Colin. Fred laughed and James shot them a glare.
“Discover his dastardly plan?” Fred queried. The three boys laughed as James shut himself in his bed with the curtains shut.
“Yes, actually. I did.”
“Oi! You what?” Sander pulled the drapes open and the three stared at James.
“Professor Ryan has a girlfriend.” He yanked the curtains shut as they started laughing again. He could hear they yukking it up and generally taking the mickey. James curled up in a ball and tried to un-see a few things.
Roxy came to stand beside James. Everyone was gathered at the Burrow to celebrate the holiday. Nana was shoving biscuits into them all and Granddad was trying to charm the tree to stand upright. Aunts and uncles were talking and laughing and cousins were sharing their stories from the year at school with the five who had already graduated. Teddy and Rose were in the kitchen as she chattered at him and he actually listened. Lily had glued herself to her father’s side, her favorite place to be and Albus, with Louis, was attempting to help Granddad. Hugo was playing some card game with Vic and Molly; Lucy was following Nana about. Only Dominique was missing.
“Domi’s here!” Bill proclaimed suddenly. Everyone cheered, looking forward to meeting the mysterious boyfriend. Domi hadn’t dated anyone as long, or as seriously, as this man. James looked down at Roxy, who smirked.
“They’re going to explode.” She announced.
“It’ll be brilliant.”
The two cousins had had long enough to adjust to the shock and were feeling quite smug.
Dominique entered then, with her professor in tow. He unwrapped his scarf and hung it with his coat and hat. When he turned, the entire Weasley-Potter clan was waiting for him. He looked a bit nervous but brave as Domi took his hand and stepped forward. James was watching his younger cousins, who were all staring in shock. Except for Rose, but she never seemed shocked, just took everything in stride.
“Everyone, this is Darius Ryan, my boyfriend. Dare – everyone.”
“WHAT?” James and Roxanne started to laugh.
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