A/N: Hey guys, this update is early, but I'm going to be halfway across the country for a week, so I won't be updating on Sunday. I'll have my computer with me, but I don't know if I'll have any time to write. (I doubt that a moving car will be a suitable writing atmosphere.)
This is the longest chapter yet, because I wanted to take the time to go into more detail about the Potions class. Next chapter will deal with Arithmacy, and most likely Runes, so that means that I won't get to the Goblet for a little while longer.
Now, I stated that there would be an ingenuity challenge. If you want to, PM me your ideas, they might just make it into the story. No promises whatsoever, but I think that you guys might have some really cool ideas. If you don't want to, obviously you don't have to.
Enjoy the chapter, and I might not get one out next week either, it just depends on how much writing I'm able to do.
Harry awoke at about the same time as his dorm mates, that is to say, too late. He rushed to shower and brush his teeth before getting dressed. All the times he was allowed to sleep in over the summer had really affected his sleeping habits. At the beginning of the school year he was normally the first one awake.
"Oi, Harry mate, wha' happened to your glasses?" Seamus' accent was highly pronounced in the mornings as well.
"Gone. I got my eyes fixed this summer."
Dean had just walked out of the shower, his leisurely pace was typical. "Hey, you should join the Quidditch tournament. Imagine, Harry Potter, nearly undefeated, with even better eyesight."
Ron's eyes widened and lit. "Harry, Krum is still in school. He's in his final year of Durmstrang. He should be here, and he'll be in the Quidditch championship. Just imagine flying against him…"
Harry smiled at the thought, he could certainly imagine it. The wind through his hair, the crowd cheering, the little golden ball just outside his fingers… He nodded to his dorm mates. "I'll sign up, it's not like it would take much to convince me. I am the best seeker in Hogwarts, and I don't want to lose to the French."
Neville guffawed, he was dressed and ready to leave the dorm. "The French are about as good on a broom as at defending Paris." The dorm erupted in raucous laughter, with no one expecting Neville to be the one to say that.
Everybody came and clapped Harry on the back, wishing him luck on the field, everybody but Ron, who only nodded.
Breakfast was phenomenal. Harry stuffed himself with everything in reach. He ate with less enthusiasm than Ron, but he still ate much more, and much faster, than the previous year. Professor McGonagall came by once he was done to hand him his timetable.
"This timetable, Mr. Potter, is contingent on the fact that you pass the tests administered to you by the Headmaster. Should you pass either test, you will not have to hear predictions of your death ever again."
Harry looked up at the aging professor with a gleam in his eyes. "That's what I'm hoping Professor."
"Mr. Potter, your parents were exceedingly talented, and I have seen their talent passed down to you. I beg you not to squander the power given to you."
Harry smiled as the stern woman's face melted slightly. "Professor, that's what I intend to do. My uncles have been teaching me about magic and myself over the summer, I think you'll find I am a very different person than the Harry Potter you taught last year."
"I look forward to the prospect, I truly do."
Seeing that Neville was done eating as well, Professor McGonagall strode over to the boy. His confidence was seriously lacking, and he seemed to quiver under the gaze of his head of house.
Harry looked at his timetable and groaned. Fay, who had decided that Harry shouldn't be sitting alone, looked questioningly at Harry.
"It's a Friday, right?" Fay nodded, looking worried. The two of them did share core classes after all.
"History of Magic first, followed by Charms, then double Potions with the Slytherins." Fay dropped her head to the table hard enough to shake her plate.
"Please tell me you're pulling my leg."
Harry shook his head, looking apologetic. "At least there is an even number of us, so no one has to pair up with them."
She nodded slowly. "But, it's Snape. He might decide to pair me up with Parkinson just because he doesn't like me."
Harry laughed quietly. "No, he doesn't mind you, you're a pureblood. He's too busy hating Neville, Hermione, and me."
She snorted very unladylike. "He's never too busy to hate someone. Besides, I'm the third girl of my family, fourth child. I'm rather worthless politically, and it would be an insult to marry me."
"Fay, any guy would be lucky to have you. Never think that you're worthless, because by your definition, so was my Mum. She became Lady Potter."
Fay smiled brightly. "You shouldn't go egging people on like that Harry. Half the girls in this school have crushes on you. You're just too oblivious to see it."
"I assume you're on the sane half?"
Fay looked confused. "Sane?"
"Yes, sane. The half of the girls that recognize that I'm damn sexy." Harry leaned back in his seat and smirked at her.
She cocked her head to the side. "Sexy, maybe. Malodourous, certainly." She smirked and stood to go get her timetable from Professor McGonagall, then walked straight out of the Great Hall.
It took a second for Harry to process what she said. "Hey!"
She was long gone, but Parvati laughed openly. "You should get faster on the uptake Harry."
Harry buried his face in his hands. "Not you too."
She put her hand on his shoulder. "Of course me too, someone has to teach you cutting wit."
"I'll just have Ginny do that." Parvati looked at the redhead in question with a face of puzzlement. "She's a genius at wordplay."
Parvati smiled. "Really? Maybe I'll have to take the girl under my wing."
Harry raised his eyebrow at her. "You're in Gryffindor. You don't have a wing. Your sister is the twin in Ravenclaw. I'm sorry if I'm causing an existential crisis, but I figured you should know."
She shoved Harry a bit, and Professor McGonagall gave her her own time table. Harry smiled as she glared at her Friday. She was rather pretty, and Harry was surprised by the number of girls in Hogwarts that could easily be described as beautiful. As he looked around, there wasn't a single girl that was truly out of shape, and most had attractive features. Being magical is so much better than not…
Harry smiled and glanced at the Headmaster. Dumbledore inclined his head and rose to go to his office.
Checking to make sure he packed some pepper imps, Harry quickly strode after him.
Harry wandered after the aging headmaster with enthusiasm in his steps. All summer he had been preparing for these tests, now he would get to take them. Harry was going to show the world that he would be better than his parents, and better than Voldemort.
Professor Dumbledore walked in seeming circles. He would duck into alcoves and crevices in the walls, only to step out and continue walking forward. Nearly every hallway looked foreign to Harry, even though he'd walked them every day for three years. Dumbledore turned around a corner, and when Harry turned the same way, he wasn't there.
The stone gargoyle in front of the Headmaster's office stood unblinking at Harry, silently asking for the password. Harry couldn't believe it, he had been on the first floor a matter of minutes ago, and now, after walking on level ground, he was on the seventh floor.
Harry stood in front of the gargoyle, not sure of the password. I strongly hope that you will pack some Pepper Imps, they may be quite helpful.
The gargoyle jumped out of the way, irritated about something. Harry walked up the automatically moving staircase quickly, wishing to see what the tests held. Daphne's words about not having finished the Norse and Celtic runes made Harry certain he would pass Runes. Harry also studied vast amounts of high-level Arithmacy in order to create his gram. At the very least, he could have Dumbledore pull it out of his shoulder and show it to Professor Vector.
As he was walking to Dumbledore's door, it opened for him. In the center of Dumbledore's large office were a very large, very plush chair and a simple desk. Dumbledore sat at his desk, a gentle smile on his lips and in his eyes. His long silvery hair was tucked into his belt, and his hideous purple clothes were adorned with small golden belly dancers.
More than anything else, the man's fashion caught Harry completely off guard. He didn't really care about the several dozen silver instruments on a table to his left, nor did the absence of Fawkes perturb him. The old man's clothes were so shockingly ugly that Harry was pulled out of any reverie.
"Ah, Harry my boy, it's good to be able to chat."
"There are belly dancers on your robes." Harry couldn't help himself, it was just so… Odd.
Dumbledore looked down as if he had never seen such a thing, and the dancers turned into small horses galloping along. As soon as he lifted his head, the horses became dancers again. Dumbledore did this several times before giving up.
"You may be interested to know that I am given my clothes by those who would like to help me make a fashion statement. Your mother gave me these robes many years ago. I now understand why people laugh when I wear them."
Harry smiled, after hearing so many stories over the summer, the fact that his mother gave the man the robes didn't surprise him. "She sounds like an amazing woman. I just wish I could remember more of her."
The old man's smile lessened slightly. "Yes, one of the finest years we've ever had here was when your parents lead the school. I didn't pick your father for Head Boy by some passing fancy, I chose the two most popular students in the school, and thrust them before their peers. They rallied the students better than any heads I have ever appointed. I was firm in the belief that James Potter would one day be the Minister, and I am eternally saddened that our country would never see that eventuality."
Dumbledore's head bowed for a moment in a far-gone memory. "Now, Harry, would you like to take your Runes test, or your Arithmacy test first?"
"Runes, it takes a bit less thinking capacity. I'll need to be a bit more awake if I'm going to ace the Arithmacy."
Dumbledore smiled at the young teen. "I see, I have always been a morning person myself, but if that is not who you are, I can easily understand your reasoning. This test will be standardized, and once you pick up the quill you will have two hours to complete it. Are there any questions?" In the latter half of the man's speech he became far more of a teacher than Harry had ever seen.
"No sir." Harry sat in the overly fluffy chair and picked up the quill.
The test was very complex, it had a few dozen multiple choice questions related to Norse and Celtic runes, asking things like what was the difference between Nordic 'Condemnation' and 'Slavery'. The Celtic runes were more for things like farming, and helping life. The Nordic runes were primarily focused on wartime usage. They had things to repel water from a surface, useful on boats or docks, or to ensure that wind always hit a sail properly. The Celtic and Nordic runes for water were nearly identical, but the Nordic had a hook facing right, as opposed to the left facing hook of the Celts.
There were longer questions regarding the magical principles imbued in the Ley Lines. One tricky question asked how the solstices would affect the attributes of the rune for 'Hope', in both languages.
Harry set down his quill and quickly read through the test, hoping to spot any mistakes. Ultimately he was satisfied with his work, and declared himself finished. The test 'locked' and became unchangeable, and the quill burst into flames.
Dumbledore looked at a clock on the wall, smiling. "One hour and seventeen minutes. Well done. I will check this over, and you have a small break before you will start on your Arithmacy exam." The old headmaster temporarily abandoned his 'teacher' phase. "Would you care for a lemon drop?"
Harry graciously declined. He stood up to stretch his legs a bit, then started thinking about his summer experiences with Remus. He mentally reviewed the ways parabola affected vectors, and how ninety degree angles worked in certain formulae but not others.
After a few minutes, Harry began the test. It was comparatively simple, he only had to identify every governing principle of a few magical diagrams. It took about an hour to find and write down each of them, but he was confident that he found them all.
Again, he checked over his work, and found a mistake. Quickly deciding to fix it, he stumbled on to a problem, if he fixed the issue he had, he would break the entire spell. If he left it alone, it would look like he was right, when in fact it would be an incomplete diagram. Scribbling furiously to avoid the winding down timer, Harry explained all the intricate details about his dilemma.
Almost as soon as he put the final period on his parchment, it sealed itself and his quill burst into flames. Harry handed the rolled up parchment to the Headmaster, and received his Runes test back.
"Very well done my boy. Top marks indeed, if you had been in the class last year I daresay that you would have scored the top three students." Dumbledore steeped his fingers. "What could you have done this summer to have gained such a skill in absorbing information?"
Harry lifted his hair to show the headmaster his scar, the faint white lines showing clearly against his tan. "I had my scar looked at, the goblins removed it without my asking, and it seems to have been inhibiting my learning potential. Sirius has also been helping me every day, and he is very good with runes."
Dumbledore's grandfatherly face lost all of its charm or charisma. He looked every day of his age, and then some. "The scar was hampering you?"
Harry's face showed his confusion at Dumbledore. "Yes, why?"
The old man's head dropped. "When I left you with your Aunt and Uncle, I had to opportunity to remove your scar. I now know that if I had, you would have been happier. It is a bitter pill to swallow. I had believed that you would enjoy the idea of a memento."
Harry shook his head. "From what I understand about my father, I can see why you would think I would enjoy the scar. However, given my living situations, I have grown in such a way that I hate it. I thought that you might have had the chance to remove it though, and I'm glad you didn't. The goblins described a 'wraith' flying out of the wound and possessing one of them. Four goblins died fighting it before it fell. If you tried to remove it, who knows what would have happened to you."
"If I may make a theory, Headmaster, I think that it could have been a piece of Voldemort himself. In that way, I had a connection to him. His magic was in my body, allowing me to use his parseltongue. I didn't mention it to him, but Bill talked about something called an 'Ankh' in one of the tombs he worked in. He said it was the necklace of a long dead pharaoh, and it contained that pharaoh's soul. The soul possessed an apprentice that was working the dig, and she killed herself to be rid of the pain of possession. I think that the piece of him in my scar tried to possess me, but wasn't aware enough to succeed, or I am simply resistant to it."
"That is most troubling, and I hereby award fifty points to Gryffindor for your excellent deduction. I will take your observations to heart and mind, and I will get back to you on my research regarding them." The Headmaster's face had lost all of its color during Harry's speech.
"Now, Hagrid is currently not busy, I think that you wanted to speak to him? Please note, with the incident between Buckbeak and Mr. Malfoy last year, he is being carefully monitored in his teachings. I think that taking an apprentice would help him immensely." The old man's eye's customary twinkle was radiant.
"I will find you to give you back your score on the Arithmacy exam when I have finished looking it over."
It was obviously a dismissal, and Harry nodded respectfully to the man.
"Oh, and Harry, I apologize for trying to get you to leave your Godfather's at the beginning of the summer. It is obvious to anyone with vision that it has been the best place for you."
Harry nodded, the man was certainly apologizing a lot, but he also needed to work on his foresight. "Yes sir, he's a great man."
Hagrid's hut was on fire. Harry sighed as he saw it. Somehow the man managed to set his own home on fire two or three times a year. After rushing to help twice in first year, Harry just watched and waited. Hagrid had his frilly pink umbrella pouring out vast amounts of magic water.
Harry was amazed by the show. The Auguamenti charm could create a controlled jet of water, but the torrential power and volume that Hagrid created was insane.
Who knew Hagrid had that much magic?
Hagrid's water slowed as he doused the flames on his hut. He laughed loudly as he picked up a small creature in his giant arms. "Don' do tha' again yeh little guy." Hagrid had what seemed to be a small pink creature in his arms.
"Yeh' like to make things explode eh little guy? They'll 'ave fun with yeh!"
Harry sincerely hoped he wasn't talking about students. The pink thing exploded from one end of its body and shot forward out of Hagrid's arms. It landed in his garden, where it exploded again to try to make it to the forest. Hagrid lazily waved his umbrella in a circle, as if to show boredom, and the pink thing flew back towards him. He picked it up and placed it in a wooden box, undoubtedly charmed to be fire resistant.
Harry walked up towards the giant man. "Hey Hagrid!"
Hagrid turned his big beady eyes on Harry. He smiled warmly, his giant bushy beard pushed up toward his hair. "Harry! I was wonderin' when yeh would come visit me. Yeh said yeh wanted teh talk about your classes? I couldn'a help but notice yeh dropped mine."
Harry was glad that the large man didn't hold it against him. "Yeah, I wanted to ask if I could get private lessons. I want to know about more interesting creatures, the kind that you need to go for an Echo class handling license to learn about. Class work on creatures just seems so boring, especially after Buckbeak last year."
Hagrid's eyes lit up like bonfires. "I was hope'n you would ask tha'! 'O course I can give yeh private lessons. Look, this is a Blast-ended Skrewt. I bred them for potions ingredients."
Harry looked in the box that Hagrid placed the pink thing in. It was ugly, and looked like a giant slug with insect legs. It exploded from the 'Blast-End' and Harry watched it run into the wall. "Is it blind?"
"No, just young and stupid. They're a new creature. I was hoping for a way to make manticore quills that could resist tremendous heat, so I bred a manticore and a fire crab. It made these."
Harry tried to wrap his head around that. Manticores were notoriously dangerous, and highly intelligent. Fire Crabs, were just crabs that lived in lava instead of water. How could they breed?
"Magic Harry. It's teh answer to almost everythin'. Now, I don' give much Homework, how abou' yeh have your lessons with me at night? We'll have teh go into the forest, and you would be helpin' me with my Gamekeepin' duties. We'd patch up the animals of the forest, and you could learn a lot abou' them."
Harry smiled, he had wanted to learn the forest anyway. "That would be great! I only have astronomy on Wednesday nights. Dumbledore told me you should take an apprentice, and I would be more than happy to take that spot.
"Thanks Harry. Yer a real life-saver there. How abou' Mondays and Fridays for yer lessons?"
Harry grinned at the large man. "That sounds good. Do you want to start tonight or next week?"
Hagrid stroked his giant beard. "How abou' we start at teh end of next week?"
"Sure! I don't have anything good going for me on Fridays, so that will be nice."
Hagrid laughed at Harry and clapped him on the back. "I'm glad teh be of service Harry. Ah! Professor Dumbledore is waving yeh over. I'll see yeh later Harry."
The large man lumbered into his hut, his great feet shaking the ground the entire way.
Harry turned to see the headmaster standing on the steps, parchment in hand, and jovial smile on his lips. He had changed out of his shocking purple robes, and into nearly equally shocking tan ones with white pegusai. He handed the parchment to Harry, his smile broadening. "I am very glad that you have learned to apply yourself to your school work over the summer. The points you raised in the brief summary about the conflicting parabola have been answered on the paper. You have the highest score in Arithmacy for your classmates, your work on the conflicting rays put you above even Ms. Granger. Your work here simply proves that I made a mistake in trying to return you to your family."
Harry's emerald eyes met the Headmaster's twinkling blue ones. "It's about time you figured that out professor, those people never saw me as family. Now, if there isn't anything else, I should get to lunch. I don't want to be late for my first Potions lesson of the year."
Dumbledore's eyes lost their twinkle for a moment, but not long enough to actually convey any meaning. "Of course, I doubt Professor Snape would be very forgiving."
Harry thanked the headmaster for his time, and for allowing him to change courses, and walked toward the Great Hall. The stone walls of the castle echoed the sound of hundreds of students walking, running, or even limping to get food. Shouts, voices, and spells were echoed through the great walls of the ancient castle.
The Great Hall was packed with nearly all students; it always was at the beginning of the year. There weren't any people skipping, nor were there any pick-up sports games going on the grounds.
Looking up and down the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables, Harry picked out people from most of the houses, sitting and chatting with friends from across house borders. Not a single Slytherin was anywhere but their table, nor was anyone paying them visits. Daphne and Tracey were having a quiet discussion, and Blaise seemed to be suffering through a lecture from Malfoy.
Harry sat down at the Gryffindor table. There would come a day where he would sit at Slytherin, but the first day of classes didn't seem wise. The lunch menu was always simpler, mostly sandwiches and salads. There were always foods left over after feasts, Harry eagerly tucked into the food from the previous night. The House Elves always seemed to reheat the foods at the same flavor and texture as if it was fresh, meaning there was no reason not to eat leftovers. That didn't seem to sink in for the Muggleborns, some of whom were avoiding the last night's dishes like the plague.
Harry chuckled at Lavender Brown, who was deftly avoiding certain foods. She was easily the pickiest eater in Gryffindor. In previous summers, Harry would have killed for the leftovers on her plate.
Before Harry could take a jaunt down memory lane, Fay sat right in front of him. "How did the exams go?"
Harry grinned through his mouthful of food. Unlike Ron, Harry actually swallowed before responding. "Great. I did better than Hermione on Arithmacy, and I'm in the top three for Runes. I think that just means that three people got perfect scores."
Fay stopped spooning food onto her plate to glare into Harry's eyes. "I worked so, so hard for rank ten in Arithmacy. I can't believe you managed to beat Hermione."
Harry shrugged and leaned back, crossing his arms. "In her defense, she probably got a perfect score. I just found an error in the exam and explained how the entire exam is set up to fail because of conflicting rays. Dumbledore was impressed, and whoever wrote the exam will probably get fired for that. We're paying huge amounts of money to go to one of the best schools in the world, we shouldn't have to deal with wrong answers printed on the Teacher's version, or rigged Arithmacy circuits."
Fay nodded enthusiastically. "Do you think they'll give bonus points for the messed up exam?"
"It's possible I suppose, but unlikely. The amount of legwork and man-hours wouldn't be worth it to the average employee."
"But, as you said, we are paying huge amounts of money." Fay pointed at Harry's chest with her fork, a piece of lettuce hanging off the edge of it.
"Yes, and there are enough heirs of noble families here that it would be a huge embarrassment. That's the reason I said unlikely, not impossible. We're talking about hundreds of man hours, maybe thousands, for what the average employee will see as spoiled brats that want better scores on their tests. People would quit, some would be fired, and the examination company might die."
Fay's eyes had grown ever wider through Harry's explanation. "When did you become so business savvy?"
"Pranking this summer. It's all about planning and follow-through, and then you have to clean up your mess. I've learned quite a bit about cleaning up." Harry answered and stood. "I have to go to the commons room to get my potions textbook. I'll see you in class."
Fay looked like she had forgotten potions with the snakes was next. "Be warned, I overheard other students complaining that they're trying to promote inter-house unity. We might actually get split up into the pit of vipers."
Harry grinned at the brunette. "You're worrying for nothing. I speak their language."
She cocked her head to the side. "Politics won't help you make a potion with a snake trying to sabotage it."
"Who said anything about politics? I actually speak the language of vipers." Harry whispered the last half of his statement in parseltongue, causing the brown haired girl to shiver slightly.
"That is so creepy…"
Harry shouldered his bag, the Gryffindor dormitory looked unusual to the average eye. Ron's portion was messy, with posters and candy wrappers thrown about. Seamus's was completely spotless, he was the neat-freak in the dorm. Dean's had non-mobile pitcures of football players hanging on the walls. Neville had a plant thriving under a were-light, his expert hand would cut away the leaves and stems in such a way that they could grow back in a matter of days.
Harry walked over to Neville's plant, he had forgotten what Neville had said it was called last year, but each leaf was apparently worth seven sickles. It had long red thorns and vibrant green leaves, at least on the top. The bottom of the leaves were blood-red, and smelled strongly of honey.
Neville's voice came from behind Harry. "Don't touch the thorns, they're somewhat poisonous. It's no big deal except for a bit of loss of motor control. We don't need that right before potions."
Harry pulled his hand back, it was within inches of one of the long thorns. "Thanks. Say, Neville, have you ever heard of the book Potions Basics and Parallels?"
Neville thought for a moment, then grabbed his remembrall. It remained smoky black, causing Harry to note that Snape truly never did talk about it. Neville held up the little ball. "Obviously I haven't. What is the book for?"
"Everything a first year potions professor could ever hope for. It is a self-teaching method for students to learn how to add ingredients, the principles of slicing versus crushing, and it explains a bit about potions schema."
"What? Why didn't Professor Snape assign that book? And what is a Potions Schema?"
Harry chuckled slightly, and motioned that the two of them needed to get moving. "First, Snape is simply a horrid professor, and I have given up trying to understand why he would sabotage anyone. Even if the person he's sabotaging is himself. Second, a Potion Schema is a diagram of how potions ingredients work together to get an effect. It shows the intended effect in the center of the Schema, then it displays 'strings' that branch out and connect the ingredients together. It's a bit difficult to explain without simply showing you, but you should certainly get the book. I think it's the first in a small set, and all of them could probably help you immensely."
Walking quickly through the corridors, Neville had to sidestep a first-year who was looking for their class. ("It's down the next hall and two doors on the right.") "I'll get that. Why is he allowed to be a professor here anymore? There's not a single person who likes him, save his own house and that can't really count."
Turning a corner to descend the stairs into the dungeon, Harry thought about how to word his next sentence. "The Slytherins are in an odd position. On one hand, Snape favours them, but on the other, I know for a fact that they've never heard of the book I just told you about. They're not getting much of a better education than we are, just better bonuses from his bias."
"That's true, but just look at them, it's not really how the deal with me that I care about anymore. The ones in our class, Malfoy and Nott in particular, love to mess with the younger years. They love the protection they get from being able to just run crying to their head of house."
Harry nodded then made a slashing motion across his neck, signaling to kill the conversation. He lowered his voice significantly. "Here in the dungeons, conversations can echo. We can talk more later."
Neville inclined his head slightly and heard the remnants of Harry's whisper floating in the air. He turned his head slightly and heard a commotion in front of them, where the potions classroom was.
Malfoy was posturing again, his shoulders back and his chin upright. He looked down on Sally Smith, seemingly towering over her. Sally's eyes were moist with unshed tears.
Tracey moved slightly, directly into Harry's path and not giving him time to react. He just managed to not stumble, but he found a piece of parchment in his hand.
Written on it was a simple command. Declare yourself Heir Black, in front of all of the Slytherins.
Hoping that she meant all his year mates, Harry reached an arm around Sally's slightly trembling shoulders. "Sally, don't worry about him. He's just a jealous ponce who can't tie his own shoes without aid from his father or head of house."
Sally smiled, which was the intention all along.
Malfoy fumed. His lips drew together and quivered with the force he was exerting through every muscle in his body. "You're one to talk Potter. You can't even wear decent muggle clothes. They're what, five sizes too big? It's a true shame to see how far the house of Potter has fallen."
Harry was in a bit of a corner, how could he refute what Malfoy just said? It was true, and everyone there knew it.
As they say, the truth will set you free. Harry just hoped this didn't come back to bite him. "That's not my fault. You see, my Aunt and Uncle, on my mother's side of course, raised me. I was the unwanted nephew to distract from their own son. Ever the fools, they didn't believe my father and Godfather when the two men told them they were Noble Lords. Growing up, I didn't know your culture, I didn't know your world. However, this summer I have done quite a bit. I'm now well on my way to becoming the Nobility that my family's land deserves, and my clothes fit. Besides, if the House of Potter has fallen, shouldn't you also say that it is shaming to see how far the house of Black has fallen?"
Nott stood to Malfoy's defense. "Draco is Heir Black, it's not shaming at all, he is a perfect pureblood."
Harry raised an eyebrow, it seemed the Slytherins were rubbing off on him. "When, Draco, did you become Heir Black?"
This time Parkinson spoke for Malfoy, although he didn't seem to have the colour in his face to even move his jaw. "He always has been!"
Harry crossed his arms and shook his head, moving his foot forward slightly. To those who knew how to read body language, he simply said 'test me'. "I am Heir Black Parkinson. I have been since the day I was born, and Lord Black was declared my Godfather. Should he die, I will receive forty-five percent of everything he owns." It was a bluff, he would get everything, but Malfoy didn't need to know that.
"Oh? And where would the other Fifty-five percent go? I'm sure that it would be a more suitable benefactor." Malfoy was grasping at straws, and he knew it. He kept glancing at the potions classroom door, hoping salvation would come in the form of Snape.
"Yes Malfoy, it would. The majority of the gold in the Black vaults would go to places for orphans and beggars, the Black fortune would go to those less fortunate. We wouldn't want to sully the Black family motto and make people think we were rotten or corrupt, would we? Toujours Pur, Draco, always pure of heart and intent."
It was a corruption of the true Black family motto, but it was so close, and so romanticized, that people believed it. It truly meant for blood, but intent and heart wouldn't be hard to shift it into, blood and heart were very close after all.
Salvation came too late for Malfoy. His classmates were looking at him like he was a traitor, and he himself was stuttering, hoping to find something to say, anything to refute what Harry said. Sure, he could refute the principles of Toujours Pur, but as a Pureblood supremacist, he wouldn't have much credence.
Snape opened the door finally, and beckoned the classes in. The Slytherins moved to the right side of the classroom, while the Gryffindors moved to the left. Snape walked down the center aisle, his bat like robes billowing in his wake.
Snape's desk was cluttered with quills, inkpots, and fountains of light. He placed his hands on the edge of the polished wood, and looked at a piece of parchment before him. His eyes would dart from the names to the people, making eye-contact with everyone. It was an odd practice, all he should have to do is tap the paper, and roll would be taken.
When Potter, Harry was reached, Snape's eyes met Harry's own. There was a spark in them, almost like a kind twinkle, but far more malevolent. His eyes drew Harry in, and knowledge was pulled to the forefront of Harry's mind.
"It would take skill for someone to manipulate my mind. As Heir Black, I was taught occulmency from a very young age. To be able to confound me, Snape would have had to learn to avoid Occulding barriers, such as the ones I had."
Sirius was sitting on his favorite chair, his arms splayed across the back of the cushions and his feet propped on the table. He looked very little like a Pureblood lord, rather like a homeless beggar. Harry had only been on the island a week, and Sirius's body was bony and pale.
"That means, that Snape was a practiced legillimens even in fifth year. If you can, avoid eye contact with him, and if you can't just make sure your mind is your own."
Harry found the memory coming to him, he supposed it was because of Sirius's warning not to look Snape in the eye. But as Snape's face registered anger, Harry knew what was happening. He locked eyes with the Potion's Master again, and willed another memory to the surface.
Sirius's eyes were the definition of anger, the steel color could rip into a man's mind with a glare. He opened his mouth, but all that could be seen was his cheeks rising. "Never enter my Godson's mind again Snape. If you do, you'll wish that you were faster all those years ago, and James never saved your sorry excuse for a life."
The memory was real, but the anger was only partly. Sirius had provided the memory as a weapon and a warning. The anger in his eyes was the result of the thought of Snape in Harry's mind, and forced anger.
Snape staggered slightly. Anyone who wasn't watching wouldn't have noticed it, but everyone was watching. Recovering quickly, Snape spoke quickly.
"The Board of Governors has decided that in light of the Triwizard Tournament, the houses need to mingle. This means that you will all be forced to partner with a student from the opposite house."
Snape picked up a list and smiled, it was predatory and cruel. "Draco Malfoy, and Ronald Weasley."
Both students started yelling, but a wave of Snape's wand silenced them. "There will be absolutely no arguing. These people will be your partners until the Christmas Holidays."
"Pansy Parkinson, and Hermione Granger."
Hermione looked at the pug-like pureblood with revulsion, and was met by a look of contempt.
"Theodore Nott, and Neville Longbottom."
"Blaise Zabini, and Harry Potter."
Harry let out the breath he was holding, he had though he might be stuck with the overgrown apes, who were paired with Dean and Seamus. He walked over to Blaise's table, who had been sitting with Tracey, but she moved over to sit with Fay, who although was irritated with sitting next to a Slytherin, she was happy it wasn't Parkinson.
Blaise grinned and motioned in Snapes direction. "He screwed up, if he wanted to make everyone unhappy he could have switched Malfoy and me. Now, I know that I won't fail miserably."
Harry looked at Ron, who was sitting two rows ahead of him. "He's not bad at potions, it's just that he's so slow and exacting. His portion sizes are always spot on, he just isn't fast enough with a knife or mortar and pestle."
"Eh, I'm decent at it. Hopefully I'll be better this year instead of blundering."
"Why? Did something change?"
"Yeah, go read Potions Basics and Parallels. It's a book that will explain everything Snape didn't."
With everyone in their places, Snape continued speaking, his voice ghosting over the assembled students, only a whisper escaped his lips, but not a soul missed the words. "This year, two of the best schools in the world will bear witness to the finest students the United Kingdom has to offer. This year I will be harsher, I will be more intense. Do not mistake me, we will be the best school here, because we have the legacy. I will expect nothing less than excellence. If you do not receive an Outstanding, it will only be an acceptable. There will not be any Exceeds Expectations, as my expectations are Outstanding."
"You will be brewing a potion to burn water, the instructions are on the board. Begin."
Harry stood stock still as the instructions revealed themselves, they would be using Manticore Quills and Hellspores, neither of which are normally used until sixth year. He turned to Blaise, who was also staring at the board.
Blaise chuckled then started walking toward the basic ingredient cupboard. "Yeah, don't get blown up."
Harry walked toward the cupboard for advanced ingredients, there were only a handful of students there, the ones that realized how dangerous the two reagents were. Harry quickly got four Manticore Quillls, the recipe only called for three, but he didn't want to take any chances.
Hagrid, you may have saved my potion. Harry shook his head at the improbability of Hagrid mentioning the fact that Manticore Quills didn't handle heat well.
Suddenly struck by an idea, Harry walked to the potions professor. "Sir, I know the Manticore Quills deteriorate at high heats, but I don't know the precise temperature. Since we can't be expected to know NEWT level potion reagent properties, could you enlighten us to what temperature that is?"
The Potions Professor glared at the fourteen year old. "Yes, Potter, you seemed to have learned something this summer. Manticore Quills will burn at seven-hundred degrees when freshly acquired. After harvesting, the number drops from seven hundred to somewhere between four hundred and four hundred and fifty."
Harry thanked the man quickly, then walked back to his desk. Blaise had arranged all of the basic ingredients in a semi-circle around his cutting board and other preparatory items. "So?"
"Manticore Quills degrade at somewhere between four hundred and four hundred and fifty degrees. I need to know the exact temperature for this. You need to see if you can take an edge off of the Hellspore's heat production."
Blaise nodded then ran to the basic ingredients again, grabbing a ball of fur of some sort. Harry placed an iron skillet on a heat source, carefully setting the thermometer so that he could find the exact point the quill lost it's potential.
After careful observation, Harry noted the quill melted slightly at four hundred and thirty-seven degrees. Blaise had added the snow white fur into a mortar and pestle, and was grinding it into a powder with the Hellspores. Somehow, as the ingredients mixed, they cooled off.
Blaise explained the fur. "It's Eurasian Mountain Mouse fur. It'll cool off the hottest of potions without damaging any effects. I don't really know where I learned that, but it's the most useful thing we have right now. If he doesn't bias against you too badly we'll certainly get an O for this alone."
Since they got the dangerous steps out of the way, Blaise and Harry managed to finish the potion in an hour and a half, over fifteen minutes before anyone else.
Before they bottled it, Harry reached into his bag to grab an unbreakable vial. "Hold on, I want some of this for myself."
Carefully ladling the potion into the vial, Harry noticed a slight distortion in the air before him.
"I placed an illusion. I don't know what my esteemed head of house would do if he found you taking some of that. It's certainly dangerous probably too dangerous to legally have fourteen year olds making."
Harry placed the vial back in his bag, and dealt up a potion for himself and Blaise. He handed it to Blaise to give to the Professor, and they both walked out of the class together, both of them before anyone else.
"Well, I know he's normally brutal in his first potion of the year, but did that seem like a bit much to you?" Punctuating Harry's statement came a rather loud explosion.
"Longbottom…" Blaise muttered while shaking his head. "Yes it did, but this is Snape we're talking about. He's a few knuts short of a galleon." Blaise looked over Harry's shoulder at the potions door, Nott was leaving next to a badly burnt Neville.
"How did Nott manage not to get burned while Longbottom's got it all over him?" Blaise looked at the burns on Neville's face and arms with pity.
Harry shook his head and sighed. "Sabotage. I knew Neville was too good at herbology to fail potions this badly." He looked over his shoulder at the ugly red, purple and black wounds on Neville's hands and face.
"I'll see you later Harry. I should get going." Blaise walked away from Harry at a sedate pace, the perfect air of casual irritation. He was very good at pretending to be annoyed by Gryffindors.
Harry walked over to his roommate. "Hey, Neville, let's get you to the infirmary."
Neville nodded, wincing from the pain of motion.
The hospital wing was oddly named. It wasn't a wing, but rather a single, long room. Beds lined both walls, with magical currents of air blowing over each bed, providing either heating or cooling to the infirm. The beds themselves were starched white linen, providing the feeling of being completely free of contagions. At the far end of the room stood a low stone wall, topped with tall glass panes. Madame Pomphrey walked quickly to the two boys as they entered, slowly dragging one of Neville's legs.
The healer looked down at Nevilles burns with an expression of pity, but no real shock. "What happened to Mr. Longbottom?"
It took a moment for Harry to realize she was addressing him. "All I know is that we were working with Hellspores, and Neville's cauldron exploded.
The Hospital Matron waved her wand over Neville's body in a recurring arc. His pain visibly decreased, and Harry recognized it as a numbing spell, making a silent note to learn the incantation.
Neville's eyes constantly threatened to close, and he was quickly losing the uphill battle to remain awake. Harry was concerned on his way up, but the healer didn't seem to be a bit worried. She levitated his nearly unconscious body onto one of the cool beds and began the process of undressing the boy. The white dividers moved of their own accord to separate the Gryffindor from any watching eyes.
After a couple of minutes Madame Pomphrey came out. She walked briskly over to where Harry sat on the edge of a bed. "Are you injured at all Mr. Potter?"
He shook his head violently. "No. No, I had already finished and turned in the potion before he got burnt. I was just the only one in the hall to bring him here."
The motherly matron's gaze softened. "You did well, ten points to Gryffindor. Who was his partner?"
"Twenty points from Slytherin then. As his partner, Nott should have brought Neville to me."
"How long will he be in here?"
"About three days, he should miss his first Monday at school, and his first weekend, but he should also be glad no shrapnel got into his torso." The Hospital Matron turned on her heel to her office, while muttering about abysmal safety precautions in the Potions classroom.
Harry walked out of the Hospital wing and ran his hand along the brick wall, idly thinking about Nott. There was a time for pranks, and a time for real retaliation. Only Nott could say which he would take.