A/N Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me through the incredibly long wait. i appreciate all of my readers and hope you'll all enjoy the new edits and the eventual ending to this story. As always, your reviews are appreciated :) Kyle
Chapter 8: Showing Snape
‘Are you insane?’ Harry said to her, disbelief written all over his face. ‘I couldn’t possibly be.’
‘Why not?’ she asked him simply.
‘Stranger things have happened to you Harry,’ Neville added, having heard what the group was discussing.
‘I would bet all of my galleons that you are the heir,’ Ron said nodding his head in agreement for once with Hermione. ‘The school year just wouldn’t be as exciting if you weren’t.’
‘Could we please just drop it!’ Harry said loudly, and everyone immediately changed subjects and started other conversations with anyone but him.
Harry looked up the center aisle toward the staff table and saw that professor Black was now chatting idly with Snape. The pair seemed to be old friends, a prospect that did not look good for the Gryffindors.
‘Know her do you?’ Neville said to Harry, who had been unaware that anyone was still watching him.
‘Uh, no. She just looks familiar to me,’ he lied, not wanting to explain that he had seen her once before in his nightmares and risk sounding crazy.
‘Well, either way, she looks a little too chummy with Snape for my liking,’ Neville said, turning back toward Lavender Brown and striking up a conversation.
Harry was surprised. It was not that big of a deal, but Neville had changed over the holidays, not only in his appearance but his manor as well. Last year, there was no way he would have started a conversation with even Hermione, let alone one of the prettiest girls in their year. Harry wondered briefly what could have happened this summer to build his confidence.
The Great Hall started to empty as everyone crowded out the large doors and headed toward their common rooms to settle in for a good night’s sleep. Harry trudged out behind Hermione and Ron, who were having a discussion about what their new time tables would most likely be like, and Ron seemed surprised that she had taken as many extra courses as she had.
‘Hi Harry,’ a girly voice sounded from behind him as he started his way up the first floor staircase. He found Cho Chang waving at him as she continued to walk with her friends toward their dormitory. He waved back half-heartedly and watched as she turned her attention back to her friends and continued on her way.
What was that all about, he wondered. He thought that Cho had gotten over him, as he had most certainly gotten over her. Shaking his head again, he climbed the stairs more quickly and caught up with his friends. Katie Bell was at the head of all the Gryffindors speaking loudly to the four first years and giving them useful hints they might use to get to class on time. Harry was glad that she had become Head Girl, but truthfully he had thought that it might be Cho instead.
It appeared that the Gryffindors were doing quite well for turning out either a Head Boy or Girl for the past few years, with Katie this year, Alicia last year, and Percy the year before that. There was no doubt who would be Head Girl his seventh year, as it was quite plain to everyone that the most brilliant witch in their year should get it. Hermione argued this with him and Ron of course, but they remained convinced.
Walking down the long wide corridor, Harry smiled and waved at many of the familiar portraits hanging on the wall, and watched as the heads of all the suits of armor turned to watch the students’ progression toward the portrait of the fat lady.
Harry heard the fat lady congratulate Katie on becoming Head Girl and then the two new Gryffindor prefects. Harry had forgotten about them, but now the fifth year prefects were rounding about the first years and trying to huddle them together enthusiastically.
Colin Creevey had pinned his prefect’s badge on upside down, winning him several smirks from the first year girls until Ginny, his counterpart, helped him to right it. Then the smirking first years all received a shock and gasped in unison as Nearly Headless Nick came wafting through the fat lady and hovered above them.
‘Hello Nick,’ Neville said loudly. ‘How are you?’
‘Very good Neville, thank you,’ the ghost smiled broadly. ‘Despite being rejected once more by the headless hunt,’ he mumbled in a more unfriendly tone. He then lowered his head toward the group and whispered to them all, ‘The new password is Murtlap Sap.’
One by one the Gryffindors filed in through the porthole into the warm and ever welcoming common room. The fire crackled in the large golden grate, lighting up the features of the golden Gryffin adorning the mantle above it, and causing the gold and crimson banners overhead to shimmer when they caught the light. The first year girls oohed and ahhed as they walked around the circular room trying to take in every detail, and touching just about everything they could reach. Marcus Evans, Harry noticed, did not look even half as pleased to be standing in the same room. He had quietly slumped over to the desk at the window and was leaning on the sill, staring out at the inky night sky.
Harry walked over to him quietly and decided that it might be best that he introduce himself to the boy. Ginny catching on, followed him over to the window.
‘Excuse me,’ Harry said, watching as Marcus turned to face him, a somber expression still in his eyes. ‘I just wanted introduce myself. I’m-’
‘-Harry Potter,’ Marcus finished for him, holding out his hand and shaking Harry’s.
‘Yes, well I guess everyone knows then,’ Harry said and smiled at the dark haired boy. ‘I didn’t realize that people outside of Britain knew who I was.’
‘All of Durmstrang know because of the Tri-Wizard tournament,’ Marcus said casually, ‘but my mom told me about you anyway.’
‘Oh,’ Harry said dumbly, slightly embarrassed that he had assumed his fame had travelled world wide.
‘I’m Ginny Weasley,’ Ginny also held out a hand for the new boy to shake. ‘I’m in your year so we’ll have lessons together.’
‘Nice to meet you. Call me Marc though, that's what all of my friends called me back home.’
'That'll be interesting,' Ginny said, 'There's already a Mark Evans at Hogwarts. He's a few years younger but it's still neat. You're not related are you?'
'Not as far as I know,' Marc said.
‘You don’t really seem to want to be here,’ Harry said quietly to the curly haired boy, hoping that he wasn’t being too forward.
‘I don’t. I had to leave my school and friends behind, and now I’ll be sleeping in a room with six strangers. How would you feel?’
Harry didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t thought of that, but decided that he would be absolutely miserable if he had transferred to Durmstrang and left all of his friends behind.
‘Excuse me Marc,’ Ron’s voice cut in as he walked toward the three of them, having heard most of their conversation. ‘ I’ve just received a note from professor McGonagall, our Head of House, and she said that the fifth year boy’s dormitory is too full to add another bed. Since the sixth year’s only have five you’ll be bunking with us, if that’s alright.’
‘Sounds great,’ Marc answered him, trying to smile convincingly.
‘Well, I’ll show you up to our dormitory,’ Harry said, leading the way to the right hand staircase. ‘Oh, and don’t bother trying to go up those one’s because you’ll just fall back down,’ he added. Laughing, Marc followed him up the stairs and decided not to ask how he knew this.
The sixth year boy’s dormitory was identical to the way it always had been except that now there was a sixth four-poster stationed between Harry’s and Dean’s with a shiny black trunk bearing Marc’s name at the foot of it. Once the boys were changed and ready to turn in for the night, the four others walked in, and Ron had presumably told them about their new house guest as they were all prepared to introduce themselves.
The boys stayed up and talked for another good hour, mostly about Marc’s old school, and about funny things that had happened at Hogwarts in the past. Marc was warned about the Slytherins, and seemed not to mind that they would most likely taunt him every day like the rest of them. He was also warned about Snape, and agreed with the rest of the boys that Potions was indeed his least favorite lesson. It appeared that Marc was fitting in perfectly and that many of his doubts about the move were fading away as the night carried on.
Finally, the lights were turned off and Harry pulled the hangings around his bed closed for the night and tried to clear his mind. After several minutes, Harry found that this just was not possible. He had only been back at Hogwarts for less than four hours and already he was thought to be the heir of Gryffindor, had a new Durmstrang student sleeping in the bed next to him, and found out that his new Defence professor was a woman from one of his nightmares.
Perhaps none of it mattered; he couldn’t possibly be the heir and there were hundreds of other students that the Sorting Hat could have meant. Marc seemed like a genuinely sound lad, and he might even turn out to be a great friend, Harry thought to himself, before turning his mind to the icy blue spheres that were professor Black’s eyes. How could he possibly have dreamed of a person that he had never before met? And how could she be a Black? Was he lied to about Sirius being the last of them?
Thoughts raced through his mind and Harry found himself once more chasing chocolate frogs in the outdoors and stuffing them into his mouth. Being sure not to trip on anything, Harry continued to enjoy the constant supply of sweets as he hurried toward a small slanted building that he recognized to be the Burrow. Slowing to a walk, Harry stepped through the narrow doorframe and into the ever-welcoming space. Unfortunately, as Harry looked around him, he found that he was not in the kindly self-cleaning kitchen of Mrs. Weasley, but rather standing in the mouth of a particularly cold, dark cave.
Harry took in a deep breath to calm himself and gagged at the sour smell hanging in the air. He turned around, deciding that not being in a dark, ominous cave would be the best way to avoid danger. The opening through which he came was now gone and a solid, stone wall was in its place. Having little choice, Harry stepped forward, wand at the ready, so that he could escape at the first opportunity that presented itself.
The walls were cold and wet to the touch, as he stuck to the cave’s side, ensuring he wouldn’t get lost. The constant drip of water was hitting the cave floor as he made his way deeper into, or possibly out of, the stone prison. Finally seeing signs of light ahead, Harry began to hurry and only slowed when he saw that the narrow passage opened into a large central cave. He crept quietly toward the edge of the large hollow and saw that the cave roof extended approximately fifty feet above his head. There were also a dozen other passageways similar to his running out of the cave in all directions. He was never going to get out of this stone maze.
‘Is she in place Wormtail?’ a chilling voice cut through the damp air, making every muscle in Harry’s body tense.
A tall cloaked figure walked into the center of the room, his robes billowing behind him in an unfelt wind, and Harry watched as a filthy, little man scurried forward, trembling under his master’s stare.
‘Y-yes m-master. She’ll be there for as l-long as it t-takes m-master,’ Wormtail’s cowering figure answered the cowled voice above him.
‘Good. I am pleased. Things are finally working in our advantage. It seems that the boy will stand little chance of getting in the way this time. I can sense his worthless mudblood of a mother’s love dying, and soon the protection will vanish altogether.’
Harry leaned against the icy, wet wall, shaking with rage as he listened to Voldemort’s calculated voice speak of his dead mother with such disgust.
‘And soon with that idiot Fudge out of the way, not even that old fool Dumbledore can intervene. I look forward to extinguishing the ‘leader of the light.’’
Bubbling over in the most intense anger he’d felt in ages, Harry stepped out of the shadows and thrust his wand toward Voldemort’s figure, channeling all of his rage into his curse. ‘CRUCIO!’
He watched in satisfaction as his curse struck the dark wizard but then let his mouth drop open when he only cringed slightly before raising his hand in Harry’s direction and shouted ‘No!’
Harry was unable to move and watched in silent horror as the bright red curse turned direction and flew back toward him. It struck him in the chest and as before, he felt that burning feeling, like every muscle in his body had been set aflame. He had only felt such pain once before, and this felt twice as bad. He fell to the floor screaming and writhing in pain.
Voldemort laughed a deep throaty laugh from his place in the center of the cave. ‘Nice try Potter, but it’ll take more than the nightmare of a little boy to stop me!’
Harry opened his eyes and looked up into the light blue and worried eyes of his newest dorm mate.
‘Harry! Are you alright?’ Marc asked frantically from the edge of Harry’s bed.
Harry lay shaking in his bed, still feeling the after effects of the Cruciatus curse, searing every inch of his body. Nothing like that had ever happened before, but now it was clear that the nightmares were back.
‘I’m fine Marc, forget it,’ Harry said in a muffled voice, running a hand across his forehead and pulling it away quickly again when he felt the white-hot burning emanating from his scar. ‘Go back to bed.’
‘But you were flailing your arms and legs and then curling into a ball, and finally you shouted. It’s a wonder only I woke up.’
‘I said forget it!’ Harry snapped, swinging his legs out of bed and pulling himself up on one of the posts. ‘It was just a nightmare, alright. Now go to bed, I’ll see you in the morning.’
Harry padded across the dormitory, checking to make sure he had not woken the others before slipping into the washroom and closing the door behind him. Candles high above him flickered on as soon as he entered the room, and cast an eerie yellow glow onto his surroundings. He stepped up to the gold sink and turned the cold water on, splashing several handfuls onto his face then checked his reflection in the mirror.
He saw the bright red lightning bolt scar on his forehead stare back at him, but something else caught his attention. Tiny flecks of dark green were disappearing into the emerald that usually stood in its place, as though being sucked back. Why had his eyes been dark green? He hadn’t willed the change through metamorphmagi, so what could have done it? Harry decided that this was actually the least of his problems at the moment and that it could be sorted out later.
Voldemort had someone after him as usual, but now he was after Cornelius Fudge and Dumbledore, the one person he had once feared. Harry had to tell Dumbledore about the dream as soon as possible, but how could he explain without letting on that he hadn’t been practicing Occlumency. Then there was the tiny detail that he, Harry Potter, had cast the Cruciatus curse, one of the unforgivables, for which he would be thrown directly into Azkaban. He couldn’t tell that to the headmaster. No.
Harry took another deep breath and decided that perhaps the dream was simply Voldemort playing with his mind the way he had last year. If he waited a little longer and practiced clearing his mind harder it might all turn out alright. If he had another dream like it, then he would speak to Dumbledore, but not until then.
The next morning Harry was awakened by the bustle of his other dorm mates opening and closing their trunks and dressing for their first lessons.
He pulled the hangings around his bed open and found that they had all just left, each of their beds still unmade. Harry looked at his bedside bureau and saw that it was already half past eight, leaving him only half an hour to eat breakfast and get to his first class. He jumped out of bed and threw on his robes as quickly as he could before running toward the door and down to the common room.
It was empty.
Everyone else had already left for breakfast and left him behind. Why hadn’t Ron woken him and waited? He hurried out onto the third floor landing, waving good-morning to the fat lady as he rushed down toward the second floor.
‘Hurry or you’ll be late,’ she warned him.
He ran down the corridors not taking notice of anything around him and almost ran right through the fat friar at the top of the entrance hall staircase. He tried to catch his breath as he strolled through the huge doors into the silent Great Hall and watched as all of the students heads turned to stare at him.
‘Nice of you to join us Potter,’ Professor McGonagall called from where she was standing at her place at the staff table. ‘Now, as I was saying, you will all be handed your new timetable by the prefects in your house. Be sure not to be late for your first lessons, as the challenge for the House Cup has begun.’
She sat back down and started to speak with professor Black, who today Harry saw, was wearing very expensive looking robes in peacock blue, reminding him very much of Gilderoy Lockhart.
Harry rushed over to the Gryffindor table and plopped down next to Ron, trying his best not to notice the strange looks he was still getting from the other house tables.
‘Why didn’t you wake me?’ he said angrily to Ron, who was busy stuffing a forkful of sausages into his mouth.
‘I didn’t think you’d want me to, mate. I had to get up at a quarter past six to be on time for the prefects’ meeting,’ he told him, glaring pointedly at Hermione who sat across from the boys scanning a sheet of parchment that Harry assumed was her timetable. ‘Besides, I told Dean and Seamus to make enough noise when they left to wake you.’
‘Real thoughtful Ron, thanks,’ Harry said rolling his eyes as Ron continued to stuff his mouth full of whatever he could reach in front of him. ‘Anything good this year, Hermione?’ he asked, and helped himself to a bowl of oatmeal.
‘Well, it’s alright. I mean, it will be difficult but I have several more courses than you.’
A hand then reached next to Harry’s face and deposited a roll of parchment onto his lap. ‘There you go, Harry,’ Ginny smiled at him then moved on to give Ron his before continuing down the table.
Unrolling the new schedule, Harry sighed at seeing his new course load. Hermione wasn’t kidding; it was going to be a difficult term. This morning he had Charms, followed by double Transfiguration. After lunch he would suffer Potions with Snape and then on to Care of Magical Creatures and Defence Against the Dark Arts. This would be his schedule every Monday and Wednesday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he would start his morning with Herbology and double Potions, once again with the Slytherins he figured, and then lunch. He would continue on with Defence and finally, what was this, Muggle Studies?
‘Since when do I take Muggle Studies?’ Harry said aloud. ‘I was one until I was eleven. I think I’ve perfected it.’
‘I’ve got it too, mate,’ Ron said pointing to his time table.
‘We’ve all got it,’ Hermione said coolly. ‘It’s a new sixth year requirement. Dumbledore wants everyone to know a little bit about the Muggle world before we leave school.’
‘Well at least it’ll be an easy pass,’ Ron said. ‘What with everything my dad’s showed me.’ Harry and Hermione exchanged furtive looks and tried their best to not say anything.
‘Well Fridays look good for you Harry,’ she said, picking up his schedule and looking it over next to her own, ‘Double Transfiguration, double Defence and Charms. You’re good at all of those.’
‘Yeah. We’ll see,’ Harry said.
‘I’ve got all the same classes as you Harry,’ Hermione added, ‘plus Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, History of Magic, and Astronomy.’
‘What do you need all of that for?’ Ron asked her, snatching her schedule out of her hand. ‘Triple Potions, are you insane? What do you need three times the Snape for?’
‘You never know,’ Hermione said casually, ‘I haven’t decided what I want to do yet.’
‘Well, either way, I don’t have to see Snape anymore. I have all of my other lessons with you though Harry, except for double Care of Magical Creatures.’
‘Sounds like we’ll be busy though,’ Harry sighed and finished the last spoonful of oatmeal in his bowl in time to catch the loud screeching from the ceiling.
Post owls came swooping in through an open window at the top of the Great Hall and started to drop parcels and letters onto the laps of the students to whom they were sent. Hermione caught her copy of the Daily Prophet and placed a sickle in the leather pouch bound to the post owl’s leg before unrolling it and starting to read. She laid the paper down quickly for everyone to read an article on the second page titled Break-in at the Ministry.
This morning when the security guards entered the fourth station office in the records department, they were baffled to find that the door had been opened and the files room in disarray. While it has been ascertained that only one file was missing, this reporter was not able to determine which one. It appears that the intruder knew exactly what it was that they wanted but were unable to locate it, tearing apart the entire filing system in their mission to find it. No one was injured during the incident and the department of magical information sharing promises to keep us updated.
- Newly returned reporter for the daily prophet, Rita Skeeter.
‘What are you going to do Hermione?’ Ron asked at spotting the author of the article.
‘What do you mean?’ she asked simply.
‘About Skeeter? She’s not supposed to be writing, she promised! Are you going to tell the Ministry that she’s an illegal animagus?’
‘I’m afraid I can’t Ron. Our deal was up in June. She promised not to write for one year and she stuck to it. I’ll have to do the same. For now,’ she added with a hint of a smirk. She flipped through the other pages of the Prophet quickly and huffed loudly when she reached the back.
‘What’s the problem?’ Harry asked, fully aware that she would continue to huff loudly until someone did.
‘The problem is that it has been two months since Fudge saw Voldemort-’ several students around her cringed when they heard her, ‘-at the Ministry of Magic, and still there has been no announcement or public warning to the magical world since the initial announcement. Granted it was a severe warning, there has been no news since then. How can they protect themselves if they don’t know what’s out there? It’s as though Fudge hopes they’ll all forget what they told them two months ago.’
Harry sighed. He had managed for two months not to speak of Voldemort to anyone, but Hermione was right. Ignoring this problem would not solve it.
‘What are we supposed to do about it?’ he asked. ‘The Order are trying their best to find out what he’s planning but he seems to have dropped off the maps again, no movement at all.’
‘That could mean he’s planning something big Harry, and everyone will be defenseless because they don’t know,’ she said angrily, throwing the paper down and stalking up to the staff table.
Everyone watched as she walked up to Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore and spoke to them quietly. Seconds later McGonagall stood up, thin-lipped and white-faced, and pulled her into the anti-chamber behind the staff table. All of the other tables were now talking openly of Hermione’s strange behaviour and what she could possibly be discussing.
‘That would be Hermione,’ Harry said across Neville, where Marc was sitting, staring after her like she had two heads.
‘She does this sort of thing all the time,’ Ron added, not taking his eyes off of his food.
‘Yeah, she introduced herself to me this morning when we first walked in. Seems like an interesting girl.’
Dumbledore then stood up and everyone waited silently to hear what the problem was. ‘If anyone else has a scheduling error please feel free to speak with your Head of House at the end of your lessons.’ He sat back down, and Harry could hear all of the tables expressing their disappointment that it was not something more clandestine.
The first warning bell rang and a loud buzz and clatter rose as the students gathered their things for the first lesson of the day and the Great Hall started to clear out. Harry and Ron started to make their way out of the hall, assuming that Hermione would meet them there when she was done attacking Professor McGonagall. They had reached the second floor landing before Neville strolled up beside them and jokingly thanked them for waiting.
‘Sorry Nev, I didn’t realize you were taking Advanced Charms this year,’ Ron said to him, trying his best not to imply that he couldn’t do it.
‘Yeah, I only scored an acceptable on my O.W.L. but I spoke with professor Flitwick last night and he said that if I made an effort to do better, he would be more than happy to allow me into his class. I’ll have to do some study hall sessions as well.’
‘That’s great,’ Harry said to him and they snuck in behind the giant mirror on the second floor to cut off about five minutes.
Upon entering the Charms classroom, Harry was surprised to see Parvati Patil and her twin sister Padma sitting next to one another in front of Ernie MacMillan. Looking to the back he understood why there was a Gryffindor sitting next to a Ravenclaw in front of Hufflepuff, when he noticed Malfoy sitting next to Pansy Parkinson. All four houses were present.
Harry took a seat next to Ron and Neville, and Hermione came rushing into the room to sit in front of him as the second bell rang, signalling the start of lesson.
‘As you might have noticed,’ Professor Flitwick’s high voice squeaked from his place atop a pile of textbooks on his desk, ‘we have all four houses together for this lesson. As it is your sixth year and there are fewer of you moving forward in Charms, it only seemed appropriate. Now today we will be reviewing our O.W.L. charms before going over our first term schedule.’
Harry partnered with Hermione, and Ron with Neville, while they practiced their old summoning and banishing charms. Halfway through the lesson a large pillow whipped across the room and smacked Neville square in the face so hard that he was knocked backward onto the floor. Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were laughing hysterically from their spot at the back of the room, having obviously sent the projectile.
‘Maybe next time you won’t forget to look at what you’re doing, idiot!’ Malfoy called at him. Professor Flitwick did not notice the disturbance, as he was busy helping Ernie pick up a pile of books that Hannah abbot had just knocked to the floor by reducing their shelves to matchsticks.
Ron and Harry both pointed their wands at Malfoy but before they could hex him, Neville was back on his feet with two small pillows in his hands. He quickly banished them toward the Slytherins and cried ‘Engorgio’ so that the pillows grew to ten times their regular size and sailed across the room, knocking both Malfoy and Pansy off their feet. The whole classroom roared with laughter as they pointed at the pair struggling to get up from underneath the enormous pillows.
‘Sorry Malfoy, but you’re the one running into pillows the size of mattresses,’ Neville said quietly before turning back to a shocked Ron and resuming his practice.
By the end of the lesson, Harry felt as though he had wasted the last hour on things that he knew he could do perfectly. The bell sounded and the entire classroom replaced their practice equipment before collecting their bags and heading for their next class. The four Gryffindor friends walked down the third floor corridor, passing the humpbacked witch and laughing about what had happened in their first Charms lesson.
‘That was amazing Charms work Neville,’ Hermione told him, beaming at the usually fumbling boy who could no sooner fly to the moon than cast a double charm.
‘It was nothing,’ Neville said blushing and shrugging his shoulders. ‘Besides, I’ve been dying to do that for ages.’
The four of them walked into the transfiguration classroom on the second floor and saw that once again they would be sharing their lesson with the other three houses. It seemed that of the four houses, only Gryffindor would be having every one of it’s sixth years in Advanced Transfiguration, something that definitely did not go unnoticed by their Head of House.
Like professor Flitwick, McGonagall spent the first half of the double period going over the previous years techniques and then lecturing the group on the importance of their upcoming N.E.W.T’s. Ron groaned, mumbling that they weren’t for almost two years and that only Hermione really cared.
‘That will be five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Weasley, and I suggest that you sit up straight and pay attention as we will be practicing these spells in a moment.’ Ron’s ears turned pink as McGonagall continued and the rest of the sixth years turned their heads to either stare or smirk at him.
The practice turned out to be a very good idea, as when it came to turning their goblets into animals once again, only three students other than Hermione managed to perfect it and raise their hands upon successful completion.
‘Very good Ms. Granger,’ she said over her spectacles at the furry white rabbit scurrying across the desk top. ‘Five points to Gryffindor. You too, Mr. Potter. Do catch that turtle before it falls off the desk. Ah very nice Mr. McMillan, five points to Hufflepuff. Now before you leave I will ask you to read pages- what is it Mr. Longbottom?’
Neville still had his hand stretched into the air, ‘Professor, you haven’t checked mine.’
‘Very well, but I told the class only the completed ones should raise their hands to-’ she stopped speaking at seeing the little lion cub sitting to Neville’s right, purring loudly as he stroked it’s head.
For a moment she said nothing and just stared at the feline in wonder. ‘Exceptional, Mr. Longbottom,’ she said recovering, and returning to her normal tone. ‘Ten points to Gryffindor.’
Harry had never seen Neville look more proud or embarrassed since he met him. She gave them all a ten inch essay to be written on the importance of Transfiguration in the present climate to be handed in the following Monday, and then the end of lesson bell rang and Harry heard the scrapes of chairs above them as all the other classrooms were let out for lunch as well.
Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville all walked down to lunch, and the boys discussed what new things they would be learning in that class. Harry noticed Hermione watching Neville strangely, as though she wanted to ask him something, but kept quiet. Ron was going on about metamorphmagi when they ran into Ginny and Marc, who were just coming in the doors from their first Care of Magical Creatures lesson.
‘I really like Professor Weasley,’ Marc started. ‘He knows so much about magical creatures and seems to enjoy teaching about them too. He told us that he works with dragons in Romania, is that true?’ he asked, looking at Ron.
‘Yeah, for years now. Absolutely loves it! I can’t wait for his class later, it should be great!’ he said, reaching across the table for some scalloped potatoes and a heap of macaroni.
‘How are you liking Hogwarts lessons Marc?’ Hermione asked and smiled encouragingly.
‘They’re alright so far. I’ve only had Care of Magical Creatures and History of Magic, and I can tell you which I prefer.’
Harry and Ron rolled their eyes and grumbled loudly at the thought of Professor Binns’ droning about any and every boring fact in magical history.
‘Well,’ Ron said as they were finishing up their lunch and starting to collect their bags once more, ‘have fun with Snape you two, I’m off to double lessons with Charlie. See you there in an hour.’
Hermione got up and led the way toward the dungeon stairway while Harry followed. The temperature dropped instantly and drastically as the pair walked down the cold stone steps and into the torch lit corridor beneath the entrance hall. The hangings and portraits adorning the walls were all somber and depressing as they passed them, until of course they reached one that simply did not fit in.
‘Hold it, scallywags! You will not intrude on my corridor!’ The loud noise of clanking metal and clicking hooves approached as the image of Sir Cadogan galloped from frame to frame to keep up with Harry and Hermione, brandishing a sword all the while. The inhabitants of all the other portraits either scowled and made rude gestures at him, or continued to sleep on peacefully as the over-zealous knight rampaged through the dark hall.
‘Give it a rest,’ Hermione called to him as they continued to their Potions classroom, his loud mumblings growing fainter as they walked on.
Upon entering the classroom, Harry was surprised to find that although all four houses were once again together, there were only thirteen students, including he and Hermione. They took a seat near Parvati, Lavender and Dean, waving over at Ernie and Hannah, who unfortunately got stuck with the seats in front of Malfoy and Pansy, luckily the only two Slytherins. Four Ravenclaw girls sat behind Dean and Lavender, leaving Parvati without a partner.
Harry, realizing that Snape would most certainly do everything in his power to punish him and ensure that he received zero marks for the day, instructed Hermione to partner up with her for her own good. She argued but finally conceded and sat down next to a very grateful Parvati just as the office door at the front of the room burst open and Snape came whipping out, his black robes whirling around him with the usual start of term fanfare. His eyes scanned the room quickly and Harry noticed a registered look of surprise for a moment before they turned back to their regular dark glare and fell upon him.
‘As I told you all last year, I only accept the few students that receive Outstandings on their O.W.L.’s resulting in a much more refined and efficient class. The few of you that managed to get here on merit,’ he glared pointedly in Harry’s direction before continuing, ‘will have a very difficult first term and even harder second term. Those of us who are here for other reasons will find that even one assignment below the grade of Exceeds Expectations will have you out of this classroom forever.’
He glanced toward Harry once more.
‘Now, unlike some of your other lessons, we do not have the time to waste on reviewing last year’s curriculum. If you are not able to keep up with what you have already learned, I do not see how you will be able to function in this class.’
The Ravenclaw girls at the back of the room looked extremely down-hearted as they listened to Snape’s opening speech and one of them looked ready to walk out.
‘Today we will be brewing a strengthening potion. It was commonly used hundreds of years ago by warriors before going into battle against trolls and other such creatures. Today it is bottled and used widely for growth effects in plants and animals, as well as in healing. It is an extremely complicated procedure that requires impeccable timing. It is made easier by brewing with a partner and ensuring that one can be stirring while the other prepares and adds the correct ingredients.’
He smirked at Harry, who of course did not have a partner. ‘For anyone without a partner, I suggest you work quickly.’
Malfoy and Pansy snickered loudly at the back of the room, and Hermione gave Harry a sympathetic look. A knock at the door had the entire room turn their heads to see who would be interrupting one of Snape’s lessons.
‘Come in,’ Snape snapped from his place in front of the blackboard, narrowing his eyes at the doorway. The door creaked open and Neville walked in with his schoolbag over one shoulder and a cauldron in his arms.
‘Sorry to interrupt Professor,’ he started nervously, ‘but-’
‘Who have you come to collect, Longbottom?’ Snape cut him off coldly, speeding up the interruption in his routine.
‘Actually sir, I’ve come to join the class.’
‘You can’t be serious Longbottom,’ Snape said laughing openly at the suggestion. ‘Your Acceptable O.W.L. disqualifies you.’
‘Yes sir, but this note from the Headmaster overrides that,’ Neville said quietly, trying not to make eye-contact while handing forward a piece of parchment.
The snide look on Snape’s face vanished as he stormed toward Neville and ripped the note from his hand. The entire class watched as line by line, Snape’s face hardened and his eyes grew darker, until finally he set the note down on his desk and looked at the blackboard.
‘The instructions are on the blackboard, you have one hour.’
Neville walked to the front of the room and took the empty seat next to Harry, who just shook his head in wonder. He hadn’t quite figured this new Neville out yet. He was still quiet, polite and even a touch nervous, but there was something new that he couldn’t put his finger on.
‘Why do you want this class Neville? I thought you were thrilled to be rid of Snape. Besides, anything less than Exceeds Expectations and we’re both out.’
‘Don’t worry, we’ll manage. And I need this course if I want to become an Auror.’ Harry’s eyes widened as he stared at the boy next to him, starting to count out frog’s eyes and Screwt ears for chopping. He had never thought that Neville would want to be an Auror. In fact, he’d be the last person he would choose to hunt dark wizards. But there was his answer; this new trait in his friend was a quiet determination that hadn’t been there before.
Harry turned his attention to the blackboard and started to read the instructions to the very complicated brew. Halfway down he noticed something that made him smile. The unthinkable had happened: Snape had made a mistake. He flipped through his textbook to make sure before raising his hand and waiting for Snape to call on him.
‘What is it Potter? Manage to destroy your potion already? That will be an instant zero for the day-’
He took a deep breath and hoped he didn’t get a month’s detention for this. ‘Actually sir, I just wanted to point out an error in the instructions.’
The whole class stopped what they were doing to stare at Harry, who had just told professor Snape that he had made an error. Snape stared at him for a moment before standing and walking over to his and Neville’s station.
‘You think you can find an error in my brew when you’ve proven that you can barely cut ingredients properly?’ he spat scathingly.
‘I just thought that when frog’s eyes were mixed with beetle wings the effect would not be a strengthening draft. The text states specifically that scarab wings are required for the strength potion to be effective. A small detail, but important nonetheless.’
Snape’s eyes widened momentarily then narrowed when he realised that Harry was correct. He flicked his wand to erect the mistake and turned on Harry once more.
‘That will be five points from Gryffindor for the interruption and five more for your arrogance.’ Snape was aware of all the students’ gazes on him, and appeared to Harry to be just barely containing his rage. ‘You will all write a three foot essay on the brewing and effects of the strengthening potion to be handed in on Wednesday. You can all thank Potter for cutting class short today. Class is dismissed, but Potter stay where you are.’
The class gathered their things quickly and left the room faster than Harry had ever seen. Hermione looked back over her shoulder and mouthed ‘We’ll wait outside’ before disappearing through the doorway behind Neville.
Harry and Snape sat in silence for the next few moments before Harry decided to speak.
‘Will I be serving detention with you or Filch, then?’
‘You will not be serving detention, but I will be watching you,’ he ground out. ‘I am not sure how you spotted the error that you did, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough. And remember Potter, one grade below my standards and you’re gone. Now get out of my sight.’
Snape turned around and walked back to his office, slamming the door behind him as he went and not bothering to see Harry out. Harry grinned to himself as he left the classroom.
The instant Harry walked out of the Potions classroom, Hermione and Neville came rushing over to him wanting to hear what had happened. He explained to them that Snape did not punish him as he had expected, but rather gave a cryptic warning and didn’t even take any more points. They all just considered him lucky.
The walk to Hagrid’s hut was calming for Harry, as it took them about ten minutes to cross the castle before walking down the long stone steps and then across Hogwarts grounds. The sun was out and was shining sporadically from behind wispy, white clouds that were there one minute and gone the next. Harry could see Ron sitting on the ground next to Seamus, who had also just completed the first hour of their double Care class. Next to them were Parvati and Lavender. Seeing them trudging down the lawn toward them, Ron called to Harry, Hermione and Neville to sit with them.
‘Hagrid’ll be happy this year,’ Hermione said looking around the crowd of students in the much larger class than most.
Harry scanned quickly and realised what she had meant. While more people had taken this course as it was quite simple and guaranteed a pass, only one sixth year Slytherin had decided to enroll. Hermione continued to glare at Millicent Bullstrode as Charlie Weasley walked toward the group and started the lesson.
‘I think that should be long enough of a break. Everyone seems to be here. I’m Professor Weasley, but I would really prefer it if you would all please call me Charlie.’
Everyone smiled at one another, deciding that this was going to be a fun course, considering the professor went by his first name.
‘For those of you just joining us for the second hour of the course, we will be learning about kremlers.’
Hermione’s eyes widened, and Parvati and Lavender squealed their excitement as Charlie walked back to the edge of forest and up to one of the trees. He reached his arms up to one of the lowest branches and pulled down a tiny creature with enormous eyes.
Back by the group of gathered students, he put the animal down on the grass and they could all better see the kitten-like creature. It had a completely fur-covered body with a wet pink nose and giant pleading brown eyes. Lavender reached out a hand to pet the creature as it waddled toward her, but Charlie stopped her, telling the class that you must always let the kremler make the first move. One by one, the kremler inspected each student, walking up to the edge of their robes and sniffing or rubbing on one of their legs. Its tail, like no other kitten Harry had ever seen, was about two feet long and hairless.
‘The kremler is a very rare creature, mainly found living in dense woods and dark forests where it can occasionally be seen just above the tree tops. Its giant round eyes afford the kremler excellent night vision, allowing it to hunt for its diet, primarily comprised of wood lice. It’s long hairless tail is used to maneuver through the forest quickly like a fifth limb, similar to a monkey’s.’
As Charlie continued to describe the feline creature, Lavender let out a gasp and Parvati stepped back, leaning behind Dean when the light brown fur on the kremler’s back darkened and stood up on edge. Before anyone could react to this further, two bumps raised behind its front legs and a shiny translucent wing unfolded on either side of its body. Rearing back onto its hind legs, the kremler leaped into the air and started to soar high above their heads. The students all stared at the tiny creature in amazement as it circled them from above.
‘As you have just witnessed, a strip of fur on the kremler’s back darkens moments before it extends its waxy foot long wings and takes off. When in a hurry, the change can occur almost instantly. For example, if it needed to escape from a predator.’
‘Does this one live in the Forbidden Forest, Charlie?’ Ron asked his older brother, as Hermione watched the kremler move about in the air.
‘Yes, actually. There are about five of them living together deep in the forest, but this is the only one that ventures out to see me. It was dumb luck actually that I was able to tame her. Wild kremlers aren’t generally shown in this class as they are far too difficult to catch, and we would have had to rely on photographs and read about them instead.’
A loud scream had the entire class look over at Lavender Brown, on whose shoulder the Kremler had decided to land. She stood stalk still and as far as Harry could tell, was not even breathing.
‘It’s alright Lavender,’ Charlie said, ‘she seems to like you. Just don’t make any sudden movements and you’ll be fine.’
Lavender, too afraid to listen properly, started to shake her shoulders frantically, trying to knock the Kremler off, but instead of falling, the Kremler extended its sharp claws and dug them in for grip. Lavender let out an ear-piercing wail and the class watched as blood started to soak the surface of her robes.
Growing irritated with the commotion, the kremler’s furry cat ears pointed backward and it bared its tiny sharp teeth, letting out a low warning growl. Charlie started to walk over to her quickly, in hopes of removing the agitated creature, but before he could, Neville stepped up and reached a hand under the creature’s chin. The entire class watched in subdued awe as Neville stroked the kremler’s throat and it’s ears returned to normal before it retracted it’s claws and allowed him to pull it into his arms where it sat peacefully purring.
‘Excellent work Neville!’ Charlie said and pat him on the back. ‘Someone’s read their book. Ten points to Gryffindor.’
He turned to inspect the wounds on Lavenders shoulder, telling her that it would be alright and that the kremler had only been spooked. He sent her up to the hospital wing with Parvati so that Madam Pomfrey could mend the scratches.
The rest of their lesson went well, without any further attacks or injuries as they one by one took turns feeding the kremler a handful of wood lice. Harry hated to admit it, and he never would aloud, that this was now their second substitute Care of Magical Creatures professor that turned out to be better than Hagrid.
While the others were busy taking their turns with the new creature, Hermione and Neville told Ron about what had happened in their first Potion’s lesson.
‘The one time something great happens in that bloody class, and I’m not even in it!’
The lesson ended and they all started to walk up the grounds toward the castle for their fifth and final lesson of the day, Defence Against the Dark Arts. Harry could hear Dean and Seamus talking about Professor Black and wondering whether she would be like Umbridge, teaching strictly from textbooks, or perhaps like the fake Moody who had put them all under the Imperius curse. Either way, everyone was anxious to see what the new staff member would be like.
Harry suddenly heard a cackling behind them and as a suit of armor crashed down inches from Dean’s right leg, he saw his first glimpse of Peeves the Poltergeist whipping overhead and laughing madly as he threw ink bottles at the hurrying students. The Gryffindor students reached the doorway to the Defense classroom in no time at all, as they were running from Peeves, and piled in quickly, slamming the door shut behind them.
Having been in this classroom for the past five years, all of them received a shock to see it looking so differently. The room had evidently been expanded, as there was now double the number of tables and chairs, creating the appearance of a small auditorium. They understood immediately why as the warning bell rang and other students started to trickle into the room. Harry sat in the second row next to Ron and behind Hermione, who naturally took the front center seat. All four houses were once again in this class but it appeared that every single sixth year student had enrolled, whether because they wanted to learn or because they wanted to see what the new professor would do, Harry was unsure. Even Crabbe and Goyle had managed to pass their Defence O.W.L.
The students separated themselves and sat with their houses, much in the same way they did in the Great hall. The Slytherins sat in the back next to the Ravenclaws while the Gryffindors were up front with the Hufflepuffs. The students spoke to others from their own houses for another several minutes before a door at the top of the staircase at the front of the room opened, and Professor Black stepped out onto the landing, her icy blue eyes sweeping over her new classroom.
Everyone sat quietly as she surveyed them, her eyes jumping from student to student as though evaluating each one’s potential. Finally, the critical stare ended and she descended the staircase, brilliant crimson robes sweeping behind her as she went. Once at her desk, she produced a long white wand with what looked like silver string wound around it. She flicked it at the blackboard and the class watched as the words Professor Black wrote themselves across it in curling blue writing.
‘Good afternoon, I am Professor Black. I will be your professor for the remainder of the year and I do hope it will be a good one. Provided you follow the rules and pay attention during my lessons we should not have any problems. Now, we will start at the back of the room and I want all of you to stand in turn and tell me your name, your house and what it is you most fear. That way we can work together and hopefully by the end of the year, your fear will be no more. You there, in the back, get us started.’
Padma Patil stood up nervously and pulled her robes straight before introducing herself. ‘I’m Padma Patil ma’am, sixth year Ravenclaw Prefect, and I am terrified of Banshees.’
‘Very well, you next.’
The sandy-haired boy in front of Padma stood and introduced himself, ‘I’m Justin Finch-Fletchley, sixth year Hufflepuff, and I’m afraid of dark wizards.’
Professor Black nodded and the next five people went, until they reached Hermione. She stood up proudly and just like Padma, Hannah and Ernie announced her name, year, Prefect status and then her fear.
‘I am most afraid of failing when it matters most.’
Malfoy and his group of Slytherins snickered from the corner and Hermione flushed bright red. Professor Black flicked her wand in their direction and every one of the Slytherins found their voices gone.
‘Very good. We will work on that Ms. Granger,’ she told her, ignoring the Slytherins flailing their arms in the back and grasping at their throats as they tried to create the tiniest of sounds and failed.
Dean started to stand next but sat back down when Hermione continued to speak. ‘Excuse me Professor, but I am curious regarding your connection to the Black family.’
Professor Black’s polite tone vanished immediately and her features hardened as she stared at Hermione. ‘That, Ms. Granger is none of your concern and quite frankly, much too forward for a pupil to ask of a professor. Your rudeness will cost Gryffindor ten points and I ask that you not interrupt my class again with such meaningless drivel.’
Hermione sat down with a look on her face as though she’d been slapped and Harry wished he could thank her for trying. Professor Black flicked her wand and returned the Slytherin’s voices to them before turning her attention back to Dean so that he might continue. He told her of his fear of water, Ron of his fear of spiders and Parvati of her fear of snakes.
Things seemed to be progressing smoothly, and the blond professor seemed to have forgotten the rude interruption as she once again had a smile on her face while she listened. Finally, it was Harry’s turn and he started to stand, only to be told to sit down.
‘There’s no need to introduce yourself, Mr. Potter. I am well aware of who you are and I’m sure everyone in this room knows who you most fear.’
‘Actually Professor, I don’t think they do,’ Harry retaliated, indignant to her assumption.
‘Are you trying to tell me Mr. Potter, that I am wrong in assuming that the thing you most fear in life is Lord Voldemort?’ she said with a now sarcastic tone and raised eyebrow. Most of the class had gasped or yelped quietly at the mention of Voldemort.
‘That is exactly what I am telling you,’ he said firmly, now standing and staring back at her.
‘Well, Severus told me that you were arrogant, but to say that you do not fear the Dark Lord is more than I expected. Another five points from Gryffindor for your lying Mr. Potter, now please be seated so that we can continue.’
Harry was once again filled with rage and he dipped his hand into his pocket for his wand. Next to him he saw Neville shaking his head and mouth the word ‘No’. Letting go of his wand, Harry did not sit back down and continued to speak.
‘I’m not lying. Voldemort is not the thing I fear most,’ he said through gritted teeth, trying his best to control his temper. And I am also curious as to how you could possibly be a Black. I was told that when my Godfather Sirius Black was murdered in front of me this summer, he was the last of them.’
Almost all of the students, Slytherins included, listened carefully to what Harry said. Most of them were unaware that Sirius Black had been his Godfather, and they were all shocked that Harry had seen another murder take place. Parvati and Lavender held their hands over their mouths, shows of sympathy for Harry. All of the students also seemed quite keen on learning the answer to the question that had now been asked twice.
The professor narrowed her eyes at him now, and started to speak very clearly, conveying her anger.
‘Whether you are a liar or not is not up for debate as it has been made clear to me that you did in fact tell terrible lies to the whole class last year. I believe there is a scar reminiscent of your detentions with my predecessor,’ she said, and smiled as Harry tucked his hand into his robes so that no one could see the faint scar on the back of his hand. ‘As you all seem to be interested in my relation to the infamous murderer Sirius Black-’
‘He was not a murderer!’ Harry screamed at the short blond woman, but was suddenly pulled into his seat by Neville and Ron.
‘Good idea, Mr Weasley,’ she said to Ron, the one of the two who had already introduced himself, ‘And as I told Ms. Granger, none of you have any business bringing up my late brother in law. Now if you would all kindly finish the simple task that I set for you, without interruption, we will continue with today’s lesson.’
Professor Black allowed the students to finish introducing themselves before having them take out their textbooks and reading about the curses against which they would learn to defend themselves first term. The rest of the lesson went smoothly, without pause or a single question from any of the students, who were now unsure of what might be considered inappropriate.
Harry had shockingly managed not to get himself a detention for his outburst, but instead he was given an essay on the four curses considered unforgivable by the French Ministry of Magic. The essay was to be handed in the next day and Professor Black had summoned him a large black leather-bound volume from her office titled ‘What They’re Called Where You Live: 59 Countries’ Unforgivables’.
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