Chapter 9 : Snapes and Shadows
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A/N I'll continue getting as many edited chapters up each day before Christmas as I can. Hope to have them all done before the new year :o)
‘How can she be so narrow-minded,’ Hermione asked in accordance with what Ron was saying. ‘She’s based her opinions of us on what Professor Snape has told her.’
Harry walked up the third floor staircase between Ron and Hermione, lugging the enormous black volume he was given to write his essay. Unlike Ron and Hermione, he was not worried about the injustice of their new professor’s attitude, as he was still thinking about her relation to Sirius. She had called him her brother-in-law, something Hermione must have missed, otherwise she would have immediately realised that made their Defence professor the widow of Sirius’ only brother, Regulus Black, the Death Eater.
He continued to think about how she could have managed not to be one as well until his thoughts were interrupted by Hermione offering to help him write his Defense essay.
‘Thanks Hermione, but with this text I think I should manage it quite quickly. I’m going to head to the library right now actually, as soon as I grab some supplies from my dormitory.’
Ron gave the password to the fat lady and they all clambered through the porthole. Ginny was sitting in front of the fireplace with an Herbology textbook on her lap and quietly read about subtle differences in poisonous plants. She looked up as they walked in and closed her book with a yawn.
‘You’ve obviously not had that cow Black yet,’ Ron sniped and sat in one of the armchairs next to his sister while Harry headed up to the dormitory.
He walked into the sixth-year boys’ room and was surprised to see Marc laying on his bed with a Quidditch Weekly magazine laying open next to his History of Magic text.
‘Sorry,’ Harry apologised for disrupting him, and walked over to the foot of his bed to grab some ink and parchment. ‘Just grabbing some supplies.’
‘Are you going somewhere?’ Marc asked, closing his magazine and sitting up.
‘Just to the library. Professor Black’s set me an essay due for tomorrow and I have to get started or I’ll never get through it.’
‘Are Ron and Hermione going too?’
‘No, I’m the only one with the essay. I lost my temper with her because she was being unfair to the Gryffindors, so it’s my punishment. Be careful what you do in her class though, because it looks like she’s just as biased as Snape.’
‘Oh,’ Marc nodded his understanding before collecting his book and grabbing a bottle of ink and a quill from his bureau. ‘Well, I’ll come with you then, if that’s alright. I have to finish my essay for Professor Binns on the Giant Wars and I can probably help you with your essay too. Going to Durmstrang did have its advantages. There aren’t many students at Hogwarts as advanced in defending against the Dark Arts as me.’
Harry led the way back downstairs, deciding not to tell Marc about his Defence record.
They slipped out of the common room quietly, not wanting to get stopped by anyone, and Harry showed Marc one of the secret passages behind a hanging of a badger at the end of the second floor corridor. The pair walked through the narrow tunnel, sloping downward as they went, until they came out behind an identical hanging across from the library doors.
They chose a table as far away from Madam Pince’s view as possible and Harry opened the borrowed, dusty volume to check the index for any clue about the French Ministry’s unforgivables. Sure enough, halfway down the page he found what he was looking for: France and Belgium’s Unforgivable’s: Les Impardonnables.
Flipping to the right page, Harry started to read about the three curses he already knew to be unforgivable in Britain, but then learned about a fourth one considered to be almost as bad as the killing curse that received equal punishment.
The Morsus Adficio curse causes a witch or wizard at the receiving end to feel pain equal to that of the cruciatus curse, if the victim is lucky enough to only be under the curse for moments. If under the spell for too long, permanent damage is imminent and the witch or wizard’s magic is slowly drained, leaving them as powerless as a Muggle forever.
Harry couldn’t believe it! Why was this curse not made unforgivable in Britain, and how had he never heard of it before? As he continued to read and began transcribing things onto his essay using his new Quick Quotes Quill, he learned that the curse was very uncommon, as it required an incredible amount of magic to cast, and thus had only ever been cast twice before by French wizards.
‘Nasty business that Adficio curse,’ Marc said, having heard Harry dictate the contents of his essay to his quill.
‘I don’t know what I’d do without my magic,’ Harry whispered, noticing Madam Pince leaning over her desk and craning her neck to see the boys. Harry wondered what terrible things she could possibly imagine they were doing in the library.
By half past six both boys were done their assignments so they packed up their things and slowly made their way to the Great Hall, discussing Viktor Krum’s latest victory for Bulgaria at the championships the previous week. Upon entering the Great Hall, they immediately spotted Hermione arguing with Ron at the Gryffindor table. They slipped into their seats next to Ron and Neville, and Hermione gave them a quizzical look.
‘Where were the two of you?’ she asked, huffing loudly at Harry and the new fifth year student. ‘Off playing quidditch I imagine.’
‘Actually, we were in the library finishing our homework assignments,’ Marc told her, and watched her registered look of surprise, and then approval.
‘Well, it turns out you are a very good influence for Harry then,’ she told Marc, looking pointedly at Ron, whose attention was already stolen by turkey pie.
The following morning dawned wet and gloomy, the sky overcast with dark grey storm clouds that spit the ground with rain every half-hour or so. Harry hesitantly pulled himself out of bed, bringing his pillow with him, and walked over to Ron’s four-poster, where he carefully covered the snoring redheads face and watched him struggle for a moment before collapsing in laughter.
‘What are you trying to do, kill me?’ Ron gasped, out of breath and tangled in his sheets and duvet.
‘Just thought you needed a wake-up call,’ Harry said, still laughing as he started to pull on his school robes.
As the others began to stir, Harry and Ron made their way down to the common room. Both boys were unsurprised to find Hermione and Ginny already sitting in the armchairs in front of the fireplace, talking quietly to one another.
‘Good morning,’ Ron said tiredly, wiping the sleep out of the corners of his eyes and yawning widely as he plopped into the remaining chair next to Hermione.
‘A very good morning, I’d say,’ Hermione said smugly, lifting her chin and grinning at the boys.
‘Why’s that?’ Harry asked suspiciously.
‘Do you remember yesterday at breakfast?’
‘What, when you stormed up to Dumbledore and McGonagall? I think the whole bloody school remembers that!’ Ron said sardonically.
Ignoring him, Hermione went on, leaning forward in her seat. ‘Well, I told McGonagall that if they didn’t do something soon that I would have Luna’s dad print another interview in his magazine. She didn’t seem too keen on the idea. Last night after dinner, she pulled me aside and told me to purchase a copy of the Prophet today. She promised it would be worth it.’
‘You don’t think Fudge’ll admit that Voldemort's back again, do you?’ Harry said skeptically to Hermione, rocking back and forth on his feet with a hand on the back of Ginny’s armchair. ‘He’s already given a nation wide alert and nothing has occurred to prove it.’
‘I’m not sure what they’ll print, but if McGonagalll thinks it’s worth it, then it must be.’
When the other sixth years and Marc had come down from their dormitories, the small group made their way down the corridors to the Great Hall for breakfast. The last bit of their journey ended up in a sprint as they were once again chased by Peeves, who today, was dangerously swinging one of the large battle-axes from a suit of armour on the third floor.
All through breakfast, Harry, Ginny and even Ron, watched as Hermione continuously craned her neck in all directions in search for a post owl.
‘Eat something, Hermione. It’ll help you pass the time,’ Ron suggested, now breaking his fasting period and digging into a large plate of bacon, dropping several pieces on Hermione’s plate as he filled his own.
‘No thank you, Ron. I can’t even think about eating at a time like this. This could make history as the day Voldemort came back.’
Ron cringed and scrunched his face in distaste when she said the Dark Lord’s name.
‘Oh, grow up Ron,’ Ginny said, noticing her older brother’s reaction.
Just then a loud screech came from overhead and dozens of owls swooped down to the tables from the rafters high above. The instant an owl landed in front of Hermione, she reached out an arm and pulled fiercely on the copy of the Daily Prophet attached securely to its leg, causing the bird to be dragged across the table with it.
Once Ginny had untied the paper from the disgruntled carrier and given it several pieces of bacon, she turned to Hermione who had already unrolled the pages and was now completely absorbed in one of the articles. They all sat in silence while Hermione read on and on, before Ron finally spoke.
‘Well, is it in there? Does everyone know?’
‘See for yourself,’ she said, shoving the paper in front of him and Harry and huffing loudly with a sour look on her face.
Harry had to scan the whole page before finding the miniscule headline in the middle of the seventh page:
HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED RISES FROM THE DEAD
It has been absolutely ascertained that the most feared Dark Wizard of his time, Lord Voldemort, has returned from what everyone thought was the dead.
‘I’m still unsure of how he entered the Ministry of Magic, but rest assured that everything is under control, and that He-who-must-not-be-named will not pose a threat for much longer,’ Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge said.
After a daring break-in to the Ministry, five Death Eaters from Voldemort’s inner circle were captured by Aurors in a very simple raid. Malfoy, Knott, Macnair, Crabbe, and Goyle were all sentenced to life in Azkaban without trial, as they all possessed the Dark Mark on their forearms, indicative of their continued loyalty to the Dark Lord.
After a brief duel in the atrium, destroying the priceless monuments that have worked as fountains for nearly fifty years, He-who-must-not-be-named managed to escape with his most loyal servant, Bellatrix Lestrange.
‘I’m still not sure how he escaped, but I assure you he almost met his end in that entrance hall,’ Fudge told the Daily Prophet.
It’s been reported that there were no Auror casualties, but that the infamous murderer Sirius Black was killed during the battle, leaving the position of the Dark Lord’s most loyal servant open to his cousin Lestrange.
At this time there is no need to worry, as there is no imminent danger, and everyone should continue their business as usual.
‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ Ron blurted. ‘That’s not what happened. They didn’t even mention Dumbledore or Harry, and Fudge makes it sound like he dueled with Vold- you know who.’
Harry simply stared at the Prophet in disbelief, his jaw clenched, fury running through his veins.
‘I can’t believe this!’ Hermione said finally. ‘The way they’ve told everyone that things are under control, and that no one should worry. Of course there’s imminent danger! Voldemort’s back!’
‘And how dare they still call Sirius a murderer?’ Ginny said, looking at Harry, who as of yet had said nothing.
‘What do you expect Ginny?’ Hermione said to her plainly. ‘He was never cleared, so according to the Ministry he was still a criminal and a fugitive when he died.’
Harry could no longer stay silent. Looking up from the paper he fixed a cold glare on Hermione. ‘And now the whole world thinks that he was killed fighting next to his Master, not on our side. You just couldn’t leave it alone, could you Hermione. You had to go and make them angry, and they took it out on Sirius!’
Harry threw the paper back down on the table and stormed out of the Hall, leaving a hurt and bewildered Hermione behind.
‘He can’t possibly blame me for this?’ she said to Ron and Ginny, who were both looking at her sympathetically.
‘Just leave it be Hermione, he’s angry right now,’ Ron told her as he continued to eat quietly. ‘You know he doesn’t mean it.’
Harry stormed through the entrance hall and out the large front doors, stomping his way down the front steps. The sun still hid behind wispy storm clouds but made feeble attempts to shine down on the grounds. Harry walked the perimeter of the castle until he reached Hagrid’s hut and the edge of the forbidden forest, dark and menacing as always. He leaned his back on one of the outermost trees and closed his eyes to clear his mind.
That article had been written to place the Minister in the limelight. What else should he have expected? Now Sirius would forever be remembered as a betraying murderer and not one of the members of the Order of the Phoenix who had died fighting against Voldemort. This was typical Fudge.
Slowly his anger ebbed away and was replaced by guilt. He wasn’t angry with Hermione at all, and he even supported her efforts to put pressure on the Ministry, but the way she spoke so plainly about Sirius’ death made it sound like she was siding with them. Still, he oughtn’t to have reacted like that and he definitely owed her an apology. He continued to rest and didn’t open his eyes until something sharp scratch his shoulder.
‘Hey!’ he shouted, opening his eyes in time to see a long tail jump back into the branches above.
He stood up and peered into the dense branches above his head to catch a glimpse of what had scratched him. He stepped back when he saw the giant brown eyes of the Kremler they had studied the day before appear from the dark cover.
‘Hello there,’ he said softly and held his arm out the way he had watched Charlie do it for her to grab hold of. The kremler crept out of the branches and climbed down the trunk toward his outstretched arm. ‘You can do it,’ he encouraged her.
Just as she reached his arm, she reached out a paw and scratched fiercely at the air with a hiss. Still holding his arm up in the air, Harry was surprised when Hedwig landed casually where the kremler was meant to sit. He watched as the hairless tail disappeared into the upper branches of the tree once more before turning his attention to his pet owl. Hedwig was cooing quietly and Harry saw that she was carrying a small roll of parchment in her talons. Taking it from her, he unrolled the note and smiled as she nipped at his ear before taking off again toward the owlery. Harry instantly recognised McGonagall’s curly green handwriting.
Your first session will be at seven o’clock in my office. Bring your wand and your birthday gift.
Harry’s sour mood instantly vanished upon reading the note, as tonight he would start his animagus training. Noticing a slow trickle of sixth years from the edge of the castle, Harry made his way to greenhouse three for his first Herbology lesson of the year, now hurrying as rain started to spit down on him.
Members of all four houses were stationed around the long tables bearing various odd-shaped and coloured plants, while Professor Sprout stood at the head of the center table where she generally taught the lessons. Spotting Hermione in the middle of the center table, he walked quickly toward her to apologise before the start of lesson, but found that she had filled the spots around her with Ron, Dean, Seamus, Parvati and Lavender. Clearly she did not want to speak to him right now. He couldn’t exactly blame her.
Finding little space with the other Gryffindors, Harry walked up to the front table where Neville sat two seats away from Professor Sprout, intensely inspecting the violently green petals of the plant in front of him.
‘Mind if I sit with you Nev?’
‘Sure, ’ he said, looking up briefly from the odd specimen and smiling at him. ‘Looks like we’ll be working together all morning, what with Snape’s double lesson next.’
Harry grinned at the blond boy and took his seat to wait for the lesson to begin. He realised that he rather liked working with Neville, especially in Herbology, where he had always been particularly talented.
‘Good morning class,’ Professor Sprout greeted them all loudly, speaking over the constant beating of raindrops on the greenhouse roof. ‘Today we will be working in pairs to examine the very exotic plant on the workbenches in front of you. Can anyone tell me the name of these plants?’
Hermione raised her hand and was immediately called upon. ‘These are Putnich Plants, named after the wizard who found them three hundred years ago,’ she said loudly, a broad smile on her face.
‘Very informative Ms. Granger, five points to Gryffindor,’ Sprout announced. ‘Now we will be taking samples- did you have a question Mr. Longbottom?’
‘Uh, no Professor,’ Neville said quietly, ‘I just wanted to point out that these plants are in fact Putnich Pods, small outgrowths made from the sap of the Putnich Plants, discovered by Peter Putnich’s daughter Penelope Putnich.’
‘That’s absolutely correct Mr. Longbottom, and much more precise. Ten points to Gryffindor.’
Harry smiled as Neville reddened the way he always had when he was embarrassed, and noted the flush in Hermione’s cheeks at finding out that she was only partly correct.
‘Now, we will be cutting open the bulbous portion of the bright green pods and gently squeezing them until the pollen sac expels the bright blue powder used in invisibility charms. You are to hold the glass jars around the pods before squeezing them, so not to lose any of the precious pollen. If there are no questions you may begin.’
The instant Professor Sprout was done giving directions, the greenhouse filled with the noise level of a small stadium as the students ambled about getting supplies and chatting to one another. Neville was already making a small incision in the side of one of the large green pods hanging off of the thick square stock of their plant. He reached out a hand to hold the plant steady for him only to have Neville knock his hand out of the way quickly.
‘I’d put on a pair of gloves if I were you. If you get the pollen on your skin, it’ll change between the brilliant blue and a vomit green for the next week or so.’
‘Ah.’ Harry pulled his hand back and retrived his new pair of dragon hide gloves from his bag. Noticing Neville’s green ones, he asked, ‘Are those Welsch Green?’
‘Yeah, Gran bought them for me for the new school year. Those are Swedish Short Snout aren’t they?’
By the end of their lesson, Harry and Neville had bottled fifteen pods worth of pollen and labelled them before handing them over to a very happy Professor Sprout. Harry found he’d actually enjoyed the task with Neville telling him interesting facts as they worked.
‘Good job everyone, there will be no homework assignment today. See you all Thursday.’
The very grateful students began to file out of the warm, damp greenhouse, each dropping off labelled jars of pollen on their professor’s desk.
‘I knew you were good in Herbology Neville, but fifteen jars! That was brilliant!’ Harry said, clapping a hand on the blond boy’s back enthusiastically. ‘The closest amount to that was Justin’s eight jars.’
‘It was nothing. I just really love Herbology, so that makes it simpler for me. Like you and Defence.’
Harry stopped smiling as the thought of their horrid new professor popped into his head. ‘I don’t think I’ll be doing as well this year as I did for the first four.’
‘We’ve had Defence for five years,’ Neville reminded him.
‘You can’t count last year. It was hardly a lesson at all, unless you count reading the most useless information in the world a lesson,’ Harry explained to him.
‘What, you mean History of Magic?’ Neville joked, and the pair laughed all the way down the corridor to the entrance hall and down to the dungeons.
When they reached the portrait of Sir Cadogan halfway down the somber passageway, Harry stopped his imitation of Professor Binns’ droning and the pair stopped abruptly in their tracks. Just ahead of them Professors Snape and Black spoke in hushed voices next to a large hanging bearing a long black serpent. The boys took a step back against the opposite wall where they could hide themselves in shadow, and hopefully overhear some of the conversation.
‘I don’t know what it is I’m to say, Severus,’ Professor Black’s whisper reached their ears first.
‘Don’t worry about it, there is still plenty of time, and until we know for certain it is probably best not to tell anyone.’
‘What am I to do about my sixth-year problem? He keeps on asking me about his Godfather and I cannot lie to the boy forever. He will eventually figure it out.’
‘Not yet. Potter cannot know, whatever happens, or we fail. Do you understand Hyacinth?’ Snape’s hiss of a voice commanded the blond woman as he held her shoulders firmly. ‘It is not a simple task that you are seeing through, but one that must be completed none the less.’
‘I suppose you’re right, I simply grow tired of his bidding. Does it still hurt you every time?’ she asked the hook-nosed man, reaching down and rubbing her forearm. Harry gasped quietly when he realised what she must be concealing under her robes, and to whom she was answering. She was Voldemort’s spy.
‘What are you two doing?’ a voice said from directly behind the boys, and they both to jumped and yelped loudly.
‘Shhhhh!’ Harry hushed Hermione, who had just snuck up behind them on her way to Potions. ‘They’ll have heard us now,’ he said angrily. Looking back to the professors Harry was unsurprised to find the wall hanging standing alone, with no traces left behind that the secret conversation had taken place moments before.
‘Where did they go?’ Neville asked, looking around him quickly in case they got caught from behind again.
‘What are you talking about? There’s no one there,’ Hermione said airily as she made her way out of the hiding place in the shadows and down the corridor toward their classroom. Neville and Harry exchanged looks before jogging to catch up to their bushy-haired friend.
They entered the classroom and took their respective seats, Harry and Neville scanning the room for Snape. With the start of lesson bell, Harry turned to face Hermione and decided that now would be a good time to apologise, as Snape had yet to arrive.
‘Hermione, I just wanted to say sorry for earlier. I didn’t mean it. I was just really angry because you were talking about, well you know,’ he said upon noticing Parvati’s interest in what he said, ‘and it just sounded like you were siding with the Ministry.’
‘You know that I would never side with Fudge,’ Hermione said to him with narrowed eyes, ‘and if you don’t know that by now, then I don’t know why we’re friends.’
‘I do know that Hermione, and I said I was sorry,’ Harry said pleadingly.
‘Alright, but you have to stop taking your anger out on me,’ she added before looking away from him and quickly opening her book to wherever it was she was reading.
‘Oh, and Hermione, we’re best friends,’ he added before turning to the front and staring into Snape’s dark black eyes not a foot away from his face.
‘Isn’t that touching,’ he said mockingly to the whole class. ‘That will be five points from Gryffindor for delaying the start of lesson, and five more for irrelevant discussion.’
Glaring hard at the school’s most despised professor, Harry said nothing, but allowed his expressions to speak for him.
‘Today we will be brewing the draft of illumination. It is used in many forms of decoration around the globe, but is also occasionally employed by Aurors in the process of questioning dark wizards. When they have captured several culprits it is common these days that they will plead innocent and insist that they were acting under the Imperius curse. Very cowardly,’ he added with a look of disgust.
Harry and Neville exchanged unimpressed glances.
‘The Aurors simply place a strand of hair from each prisoner in the vile of Illumination Draft and with a simple spell the guilty party or parties will be given up by a lime green glow below their skin’s surface. If brewed correctly the draft should be pale green and give off a small amount of similarly-coloured steam. It should also be of very thin consistency.’
Harry listened, for the first time in five years, intently to what Snape told them, as it pertained to Auror training and would possibly prove to be useful in his future. He noticed that the rest of the class also appeared very interested in what their teacher had to say, but no one, not even Hermione, was as absorbed as Neville. He was scratching notes feverishly across a piece of parchment, barely watching his quill as he did, so as not to miss a thing Snape said.
Finally Snape ended the short lesson and flicked his wand at the blackboard where instructions for the brew appeared. Moments later, Harry and Neville were busy grinding the necessary pixie elements, and skinning the gryffin liver component for their draft.
As always, Snape circled the room, walking up and down the aisles in search for something to criticize. Unfortunately for Lavender and Dean, he was unable to find anything wrong with Harry and Neville’s brewing procedure and took thirty points from them instead. The boys at the front most station worked quietly, effectively adding and stirring their ingredients, first clockwise then counter clockwise, for the next hour until eleven o’clock marked the halfway point in their double lesson.
‘You will all bottle a small sample of your draft and place it on my desk for the day’s grading,’ Snape told the class with a tone sharper than usual.
Harry held his vile perfectly still while Neville ladled a scoop of their lightly steaming powder green draft into the bottle’s neck.
‘Professor,’ Malfoy said loudly from his place at the back of the dungeon, ‘could you come and check our draft, so that we can see how we did?’
Snape stood and practically glided over to where Malfoy and Pansy sat together before their cauldron.
‘Let’s see,’ Snape said, reaching for a ladle to scoop the potion and let it fall back in, ‘the consistency is very good and the colour is also quite acceptable. This will earn an Outstanding for the day.’
Malfoy and Pansy smirked widely at the whole class before bottling their sample and starting to tidy up. Harry could hear Hermione huffing quietly in frustration behind them, as she knew that Malfoy’s potion was far from the Outstanding level, whereas hers and Parvati’s clearly was. He watched as she brought her vile up to Snape’s desk where he accepted it without comment, as it was indeed a perfect specimen, leaving him nothing to criticize but the way it was bottled with the cap on slightly too tightly for his liking.
Malfoy walked up next and made quite a show of tripping over Hannah’s concealed book bag and throwing his uncapped sample toward Harry and Neville’s cauldron. Harry lunged forward to catch it, but before he could reach it, it paused in mid-air, turned direction, and landed with plop and a small gurgle in the cauldron in front of Pansy.
‘Professor!’ Malfoy cried in anger. ‘Did you see what Potter did? He banished my sample into our cauldron. The draft will be ruined!’
‘Yes, Mr. Malfoy, I did. Potter you will serve a weeks detention with me every night at seven o’clock-’
‘I didn’t do anything!’ Harry shouted in protest.
‘The whole class saw you do it scar-head,’ Malfoy screamed at him, fury flashing behind his gray eyes.
‘You will serve detention at seven-’
‘How could I banish something without a wand?’ Harry said more evenly now, thankful that he did not need his wand that morning.
Snape stared at him coldly for a moment and Harry could tell that he was searching frantically for a way to justify the punishment. ‘And why is it that you are not carrying your wand, Potter?’
‘Because I only had Herbology and Potions this morning. There was no need.’
‘Very well,’ Snape smirked at him now. ‘Granger, your wand.’
Hermione hesitantly pulled her wand out of her robes and handed it over to Snape, who waved it through the air and shouted ‘Priori Incantatem.’ The whole class watched as the tip of the wand began glowing brightly, indicating the last spell cast to be ‘lumos.’
‘Take your wand back, Granger,’ Snape spat tersely. ‘You next, Longbottom,’ Snape reached a hand out for Neville’s wand.
‘Longbottom can barely walk straight, let alone cast a decent spell,’ Malfoy sneered.
‘All the same, Priori Incantatem,’ Snape cast once more as he waved Neville’s poorly mended wand and watched a glowing impression of the aguamenti charm. He grudgingly handed the wand back to its owner and stared at the class.
‘Luckily you already received your grade for the day Mr. Malfoy, as it appears that someone in this room has learned a secret or two in concealment charms. You will all write a foot long essay on the effects of the illumination draft to be handed in at the end of lesson. Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Parkinson, you are exempt from this assignment as you were sabotaged today. You both may leave early.’
Harry watched as they grabbed their things and left the room laughing to themselves and smirking at the rest of the class who still had another hour of torment.
‘You may now start your essays. There will be no need to talk or points will be deducted.’
When the lunch bell had rang, the six Gryffindors slumped up the dungeon stairway, rubbing their hands and grumbling about the injustice of the long essay.
‘I can’t believe he blamed me for the banishing charm,’ Hermione complained as they sat down across from Ron and Ginny in the Great Hall. ‘I mean, I knew he’d blame you Harry, but why Neville and I? He had no reason.’
‘Actually he did,’ Neville said quietly. ‘It was me.’
‘What!’ Hermione said, her eyes as wide as dinner plates. ‘How? Snape checked your wand.’
‘Yes, but not the right one.’ Neville pulled his glued wand out of his robe pocket and then reached into the other one and pulled out a slender leather case. Opening the case, he pulled out another wand; one that Harry did not recognize.
‘If that’s your wand, then who’s is that?’ Ron asked curiously about the one from the casing.
‘My mum’s,’ Neville answered calmly. ‘That’s the one I used in the Potion’s classroom, and mine is the one that Snape inspected. It was my dad’s.’
‘Very sneaky,’ Ron said in approval, reaching across the table to pat Neville on the back.
‘Why do you carry both?’ Ginny asked him, now suddenly fascinated by the boy who had always proven to be extremely dull.
‘Well, I snapped my dad’s at the Ministry this summer remember, so now I use my mum’s. But Snape doesn’t know that,’ he added with a small grin.
Harry just stared at the easily embarrassed boy in front of him, who as of today became the first student he had ever seen fool Snape. He could hardly believe it. Now he was certain that there was something different about the blond boy, because the Neville he knew would never have tried that.
The warning bell for their next lesson rang as they were finishing up their lunch and all of the sixth year students collected their things to make their way to the Defence classroom or to their common rooms for supplies. Remembering his essay assignment for Professor Black, Harry told his friends that he would meet them in the lesson and turned off toward the common room to fetch it.
The corridors were filled with laughing students and most of the translucent house ghosts were floating above their heads as he made his way up the third floor stairway to the portrait of the fat lady. ‘Murtlap Sap’.
‘Very well, but you must be quick or you’ll be late. You don’t want the house cup to go to Slytherin,’ she warned, making him quicken his pace significantly.
He rushed through the porthole and across the empty but very warm common room, almost running right into Marc, who was coming down the boys stairway with quite a large rucksack on his back.
‘Sorry Harry,’ he called as he continued toward the exit, struggling under the weight of his bag.
‘Where are you off to?’ Harry asked, not worrying now about being late, but curious instead as to why Marc was carrying such a large rucksack.
‘Oh, just off to Defence class,’ Mark told him quickly, and Harry noticed the dark circles under the boy’s normally light blue eyes. Today they seemed somewhat dull and sunken in, and he looked rather pale, giving off an overall impression of illness. Marc looked extremely unnerved and on the verge of tears.
‘But Marc, I have Defence right now,’ Harry told him, watching the younger boy’s eyes race around for another answer.
‘That’s right, sorry, I meant Potions,’ he said, slapping a hand to his forehead dumbly and telling Harry he had to be on time before rushing through the exit.
Harry climbed the stairs to his dormitory, wondering what could have been wrong with Marc, and why he had lied about where he was going. Should he follow him? No, not with Defence as his next lesson. There was no way he could get out of detention with that foul woman if he got caught skiving. He collected his essay and the large volume used to write it from his bedside bureau and quickly rushed back out into the corridors.
Entering the classroom, he was relieved to find that the lesson had not yet started and that all of the students were still chatting happily to one another before their wretched teacher could kill the mood. He took his seat in the second row, once again next to Ron, and let the enormous text and his essay drop heavily onto the desk with a thud.
‘Finished it then, did you?’ Ron said to him, a proud smile on his face as he patted Harry on the back.
‘Yeah. It wasn’t all that bad though. Sort of interesting actually.’ Ron slid away from him, bug-eyed and open-mouthed.
‘Be careful!’ Ron said loudly. ‘Harry’s caught the Hermione virus, and it might be contagious.’ He started to laugh loudly next to Harry and Neville, who had now joined in, as well as Dean and Hermione, who had reached over and slapped Ron hard on the arm, making him wince slightly as he continued to laugh.
‘That will be five points from each of you,’ Professor Black’s stern voice cut through the air, bringing with it instant silence. ‘And an additional five from both Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley. You are Prefects and should be setting a good example, not creating disruptions and mayhem.’
All of the Gryffindors grumbled loudly, not caring what their professor would do, and each of them showing their dislike for her clearly in their eyes. No one looked more upset than Hermione though, who was now glaring daggers at their professor, for what Harry noticed was only the second time in six years.
‘Today we will be learning a very basic but useful blocking technique and then we will move on to a curse.’
Mumbles travelled the classroom as all of the students whispered to one another excitedly.
‘Yes Mr. Malfoy?’ Professor Black asked quietly of the platinum-haired Prefect’s raised hand.
‘I’m sorry Professor, but did I hear you correctly? Will we actually be learning a curse? Normally we learn how to defend against them and that sort of rubbish.’
‘Yes, you did hear me correctly Mr. Malfoy, and the best way to defend against a curse is to know the curse itself, and that sort of rubbish.’
A few of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs laughed, and Malfoy went pink in the cheeks.
‘We will be learning to block the disarming charm, Expelliarmus. Yes Mr. Potter?’ she asked sternly in response to Harry’s hand in the air.
‘I finished my essay, would you like it now?’ Harry said through gritted teeth, and watched as she smiled at him.
‘Why, yes I would. Accio essay.’ The class watched as Harry’s essay whipped across the room and landed neatly in the palm of Professor Black’s hand. Placing the unread essay on her desk, she turned back to the class and stared at Harry for a moment.
‘Well done Mr. Potter, that will be an Acceptable.’
‘But you haven’t even read it!’ Harry argued at the blond woman, who was smiling more broadly than ever.
‘You can’t grade something if you haven’t read it. It’s absurd!’ Hermione cried in a near hysterical shriek.
‘You are absolutely right, Miss Granger. Excellet suggestion.’ She lifted her wand and with a swish and flick she suspended the assignment two feet off her desk. As the entire room watched intently, she cried ‘Inflamare!’ and the once neatly rolled essay caught fire on both ends before becoming a pile of ash on the edge of her desk.
‘What are you doing!’ Hermione shrieked, unable to believe something so dreadful could occur in her perfect schooling system, ‘Harry worked hard on that!’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Harry said from behind her, trying to calm her so that she would retake her seat and avoid further Gryffindor punishment. ‘I’m alright with an Acceptable.’
‘No Mr. Potter, Miss Granger is correct. I cannot grade something that I have not read, so you will not receive a grade for that. I will require a new essay to grade. This time on the Unforgivables from Spain. You will once again require the use of that text. Two feet to be handed in by tomorrow’s lesson.’
Harry narrowed his eyes further, and watched as her broad smile extended to her icy eyes before she continued with the class instructions. One by one the students stood and, using Professor Black’s twirl and jab technique, successfully blocked then countered the ‘Expelliarmus’ charm. Thoroughly pleased with themselves, many of the students sat back down and awaited the professor’s next instructions.
‘Each of you will now pair off for the next exercise.’
All of the students looked to the person with whom they were seated and then back up to the professor.
‘I’m sorry, I meant someone from a different house.’
There was a mad scrambling as everyone started to pair off as quickly as possible so not to get stuck with a Slytherin partner. Moments later the students of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw were paired successfully, but every Slytherin was still in their seat.
‘This won’t do at all,’ Professor Black said, shaking her head disappointedly at them. ‘Miss Granger you will work with Miss Bullstrode, Mr. Thomas with Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Longbottom with Miss Parkinson-’
Harry watched bitterly as each of the Gryffindors were paired with a Slytherin. As Ron was paired with Goyle, Harry’s stomach retched because that left only Malfoy. Plopping down next to him at the back of the room, Harry turned back to the front so he wouldn’t have to look at the greasy blond ferret’s smug expression.
‘Open your books to page one hundred and thirty five and read the paragraph describing the effects of the Morsus curse. You will then discuss the effects with your partner and how you think it would be used most effectively.’
Harry opened his book and heard the rustle of pages signalling the class’ compliance. He started to read the description of the pain-causing curse when he realised that Malfoy was still just sitting there without a book in front of him.
‘You’d better read Malfoy. I’m not losing points because you’re not doing what you’re told,’ Harry said stiffly, throwing a glare his way.
‘I don’t have to read it scar-head. I’m very familiar with the Morsus curse, proving again that I know more about Defence Against the Dark Arts than the famous Harry Potter,’ he retorted, more smug than ever.
‘That’s interesting,’ Ron said from his spot next to Goyle, ‘because last I heard, the famous Harry Potter scored the new record in Defence on his O.W.L.’ Malfoy’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment before the regular snot expression returned.
‘If I had the most senile examiner of the bunch, I would have the record too,’ Malfoy scowled at Ron before looking away.
Satisfied with the reaction, Harry started to read the information about the Morsus curse and immediately understood why his blond-haired partner would be so well acquainted with it. The curse was a particularly nasty bit of dark magic, causing pain to different parts of the victim, depending on which body part is specified during the casting of the curse. Harry was surprised that more Slytherins weren’t aware of this element in the Dark Arts. Especially Crabbe and Goyle, both of their fathers being known Death Eaters.
Moments later, the end of lesson bell rang and Harry found himself once again lugging the heavy Unforgivable’s text through the noisy corridors toward his next classroom.
‘Where do we go?’ Ron asked Hermione, who was the only one of them to have previously taken Muggle Studies.
‘If you read your timetable you would see that it’s on the fourth floor, just down from the spare Astronomy classroom,’ she told him, handing her own timetable over. Harry could tell she was still quite upset about Professor Black’s treatment.
‘There’s a spare Astronomy classroom?’
‘You’re absolutely hopeless,’ Hermione rolled her eyes.
Reaching the fourth floor landing, they saw students from other houses walking slowly, also searching for their new classroom. Harry walked in behind Ron and found that the room was a perfect duplicate of their Charms classroom with the exception of the teaching materials and wall hangings. The shelves running around the room were filled with items from the Muggle world and Harry laughed at a shelf covered in electric plugs and light bulbs that reminded him of Mr. Weasley. Harry looked up toward the poster Ron was reading, depicting an old stationary car over the words: Department of Motor Vehicles. Come Get Your Driver’s Licence. He laughed when he saw Ron’s guilty expression, telling Harry that he was thinking about illegally driving the Ford Anglia in their second year.
Approximately half of the students were busy looking about the room wide-eyed while the other half were sat there neither bothered nor interested in what the course called Muggle Artifacts. Clearly many of the students were muggleborn or at least half-blood, and had the opportunity to see many of these everyday items before.
Seamus was halfway through explaining to Ron the purpose of a typewriter when a short, plump, bespectacled man walked in, carrying a tattered old briefcase similar to Lupin’s and a thick brown volume that Harry knew to be the class’ reference. He set the book down onto an old, but freshly varnished desk, before adjusting his braces and looking up at the class with a smile.
‘Hullo everyone, I’m Professor Windum and we’ll be together for the next several months on Tuesdays and Thursdays for sixth year Muggle Studies.’
Harry noticed him wink and smile at someone in the class but didn’t know who until Hermione gave a small wave. He had forgotten that she was probably the only one of them all to have already taken the course and met the professor.
‘Professor Dumbledore has now made this a requirement for all sixth year students,’ Professor Windum started to tell the class.
‘Always rubbish from that Muggle and Mudblood lover,’ Malfoy drawled from the back of the room creating a cacophony of shrieks and grunts of approval from the other Slytherins present. Professor Windum had apparently not heard him and Hermione pretended not to as she flipped through the pages of Technology: What’s it Good For?
‘We will start with a very simple term of basics including Muggle transportation, lifestyles and clothing,’ he continued to tell the less than interested class. ‘Then after Christmas, we will learn about their politics and laws.’
The hour passed slowly as their pudgy professor rambled about cars, trains and airplanes, interrupted often by Malfoy’s snide remarks and Seamus’ indignant huffs of boredom. Finally, the end of lesson bell rang and the whole class was dismissed with a ten-inch essay assignment on the practicality of driving laws. The sixth years all griped as they filed out of the classroom, lamenting about the injustice of learning about a world they barely needed.
‘I, for one, am glad we have to take this course,’ Harry said to no one in particular.
Hermione looked surprised for a minute and then figuring it was sarcasm, continued on her way.
‘Good one mate,’ Ron said, grinning as he too continued toward Gryffindor common room.
‘No really, it’ll be a really easy Outstanding,’ Harry added, and heard Hermione cluck and shake her head in disapproval a few steps ahead of him.
After having written that essay last night, and having to write another tonight, Harry decided it would be best if he took a quick nap before dinner. That way he could feel energized and improve his chances of success during his first animagus training session with McGonagall. What would it look like if he could barely keep his eyes open after the second day back to school?
He told the others that he would see them during dinner and walked up the twisting stairs to his dormitory, where he pulled back the hangings of his four-poster, crawled underneath the heavy duvet, snuggled his face deep into his pillow and almost immediately fell into a dreamless sleep.
He was awakened less than an hour later by a scream louder than he thought he’d ever heard. He bolted upright in bed and looked around in the darkness. Harry saw the large red numbers on his tiny blue clock glowing five sixteen, and hopped out of bed to see what the commotion was all about. He hurried across the dorm room as the horrible screaming continued and didn’t stop until he was halfway down the stairs. Finally emerging from the staircase, he fell upon the strangest sight he had seen in a while.
The portrait of the fat lady slammed shut and all of the Gryffindor students from just about every year were crowded in a large circle in the middle of the round room, none of them speaking, and all staring at someone in the middle that Harry could not see. Slowly stepping forward, he was shocked to find Hermione and Ginny leaning over a petrified looking Ron, surrounded by pieces of what used to be a handsome end table.
‘Ron!’ Harry cried and rushed through the sea of students to kneel next to his best friend and find out what had done this. ‘How did this happen? Is he petrified?’ he asked Hermione who stared worriedly at the frozen redhead.
A few students behind him laughed at Harry’s comment, receiving deadly glares from all three of them.
‘Enervate!’ Hermione shouted, flicking her wand at Ron and watching as he slowly unfroze and started to stir, reaching up to his head and groaning as he sat up in the pile of splintered wood. ‘There’s nothing left to see here. You can all get on with your business now,’ Hermione shouted with authority to everyone still gawking.
‘You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Now go to dinner!’ Ginny added for the students that did not leave immediately.
The students filed out of the common room quickly, most of them now whispering about whatever it was they had seen, though Harry noticed Dean quietly edge around the room and slip out alone.
‘What just happened here?’ he asked again, looking to Ron, who was still rubbing his head and looking groggily at everyone. ‘Who attacked you?’ he asked. ‘Was it a Slytherin?’ he added more urgently. ‘Was it Malfoy?’
‘No,’ Ginny said coldly, standing and fixing a menacing look on her face. ‘It was Parvati.’
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