A/N: Hello everyone! Yikes! Is it really August already? I hope you can all forgive me for my failure to update last month. But between work, vacation, and moving apartments, I've been super busy lately, so I hope you'll understand! :)

Enjoy Chapter 39!

Harry sat with Ron and Hermione in the common room that evening, explaining to his two friends in a hushed tone all about his first occlumency lesson with Snape.

"That's great, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed in an excited whisper. "It sounds like it all went really well!"

Harry nodded in agreement as he began to pull his Transfiguration homework out of his bag. There was an essay due tomorrow, and he hadn't had a chance to finish it before he had had to make his way down to the dungeons earlier.

"Well, I still don't know," Ron said a moment later. "I mean why does Snape have to be the one to teach you? Don't you think Dumbledore would be…better?"

"Dumbledore is the headmaster, Ron," Hermione interjected with a sigh. "He's bound to be incredibly busy!"

"Yeah, but…it's Snape!"

"He's really not that bad, Ron," Harry once again found himself insisting. "You just have to get to know him."

Ron made a face, and Harry quickly decided to change the subject before Ron could say anything else about the potions master.

"So what have you two been up to?" he asked, turning back to his essay.

"Well…" Hermione began.

Harry looked up again at his friend's hesitation. "What?"

It was quiet for another few seconds then, before Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick glance.

"What is it?" Harry asked, suddenly concerned. He placed his quill back down on the table in front of him and gave the other two an expectant look.

Hermione quickly glanced around the common room to make sure there were no eavesdroppers nearby. "Well," she began again, turning back to face Harry. "Ron and I were just discussing the Polyjuice Potion."

"And?" Harry prompted, secretly hoping that his friends would have decided that brewing that potion was not a good idea after all.

"Well," Ron provided. "We worked out a few of the details. But before we can do anything, we'll need to get the recipe."

"And how are we supposed to do that?"

"With your help," Hermione answered, passing a piece of paper to Harry.

"Moste Potente Potions?" Harry read, raising his eyebrows.

"It's a book in the restricted section of the library," Hermione quickly explained. "That's where we'll find the recipe."

"And what do you want me to do?" Harry questioned. "Use my invisibility cloak to go find it?"

"Not exactly," the girl replied, exchanging another look with Ron.

"Then what?"

Ron grimaced. "Sorry about this, mate. But it really is necessary."

"It really won't be that bad," Hermione argued.

And suddenly, Harry suspected that he was in for it.

Harry grumbled in annoyance, shifting his heavy bookbag to the opposite shoulder as he made his way down an empty corridor the following morning during break.

"I need new friends," he muttered, dragging his feet until he finally stood right in front of his destination.

Gilderoy Lockhart's office.

He rapped quickly on the door, before he had the chance to change his mind.

And the door swung open almost immediately.

"Harry, Harry, Harry!" the Defense professor exclaimed, standing in the doorway. "I see you've finally decided to stop by."

Harry resisted the urge to grimace at the man's blindingly white smile, as he once again shifted his bag, trying to find a more comfortable position. "Yes, sir. I don't have much time, though. Classes will be starting again soon."

"Nonsense! I'll write you a note if our chat runs a bit late."

"No, sir. That's really not necessary."

Suddenly then, the office door was flung open wider, and Harry was startled to see a second person standing next to Lockhart, an angry scowl twisting his features.

It was Snape.

"What are you doing here, Mr. Potter?" the man demanded.

And Harry immediately took a step back, his heart suddenly racing in his chest as his mind went to the piece of paper in his bag, wedged between his textbooks.

"Harry and I have had an appointment for quite some time, now, Severus," Lockhart answered jovially.

"Is that so?" Snape asked silkily, glaring down his long nose at the nervous second year, one eyebrow raised.

Harry nodded, but was unable to maintain eye contact.

"If this is a bad time, professor—"

"No, of course not, Harry!" Lockhart quickly interrupted. "Severus and I had just finished our discussion when you knocked."

There was a long, awkward silence then. Harry could feel the potions master's eyes watching him, scrutinizing him.

And Harry wanted nothing more than to run away.

"I would advise you to not be late to your next class, Mr. Potter," Snape finally stated then, as he stepped past Harry and into the corridor.

"Yes, sir," Harry answered automatically, still avoiding eye contact so that the professor wouldn't see his guilty face.

And then, with one final glare, the potions master was gone. And Harry was being ushered into Lockhart's office.

"Such a wonderful man, Severus is," Lockhart began rambling as he shut the door.

"Uh-huh," Harry agreed absently, making a face at one of the portraits of Lockhart on the wall that had taken the time to wink at him.

"He has generously agreed to assist me in putting together a little dueling club," the man continued. "We were just discussing some of the details."

Harry remembered the conversation he had overheard between Snape and Lockhart a while back. Snape hadn't wanted to help Lockhart with the club, then. He wondered what must have changed the man's mind.

"That sounds like fun," Harry said, hoping he sounded as cheerful as he was pretending to be. He opened the flap of his bag then to retrieve the piece of paper he had stored there, caught between the pages of Voyages with Vampires. The sooner he got the man to sign it, the sooner he could leave.

"Ah, I see you brought your textbooks with you!" Lockhart beamed, clapping his hands together in excitement. "Marvelous! Shall I get right to signing them, then?"

Harry suppressed the urge to sigh. Ron and Hermione definitely owed him for this.

"Did you get it?" Ron asked, as soon as he caught sight of Harry rounding the corner from the Defense corridor, a piece of paper clutched tightly in his hands.

"Yeah," Harry said, a look of distaste crossing his features. "I got it."

"Did you have any trouble at all?" Hermione questioned, taking the paper from her friend's outstretched hand and studying the signature.

"With the signature?" Harry scoffed. "Please. I don't think he even knows what it is I asked him to sign. I think he'd sign just about anything if it was held still for long enough."

"Then why does your face look like that?" Ron asked with a smirk.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh, the usual. He wouldn't stop going on and on about how wonderful he is. He actually wanted me to help him answer some of his fan mail! And then of course he had to sign all my textbooks."

Ron began laughing as the three of them started walking in the direction of their next class.

"I did have a close call with Snape, though," Harry added quietly then, and Ron's laughter immediately died. "He was in Lockhart's office when I got there."

"You don't think he was suspicious of you or anything, do you?" Hermione asked, concerned.

"No, I don't think so," Harry answered. "He wasn't there long. I don't think he suspected anything."

"Well good," Ron said, letting out a breath in relief. "Could you imagine the sort of trouble we'd be in if he found anything out?"

Harry failed to suppress an involuntary shiver as he shook his head no.

The trio finally rounded the next corner up ahead.

And only then did the potions master emerge from the shadowy alcove he had been hiding in.

Harry was concerned.

Snape had been unusually quiet that evening during their nightly brewing session, and judging by the man's body language, the young Gryffindor couldn't help but to feel that he must have done something wrong.

"Professor?" the boy asked, after several long minutes of silence.

"Yes?" the man responded in a clipped tone.

"I finished with the daisy roots, sir," Harry answered nervously, pushing the pile of chopped roots towards the potions master for inspection.

Snape glanced down at Harry's work for the barest of moments before turning back to his cauldron without a word.

Harry bit his lip, looking down at the recipe before him to see what needed to be done next. But he couldn't help but to continue to steal glances over at the professor, who continued to ignore him.

"Is there something wrong, sir?" Harry finally blurted out. If the man was upset, why didn't he just say so?

Finally then, Snape turned to face him, wiping his hands on a clean cloth as he did so. "You tell me, Mr. Potter," the man responded in a dangerous voice. "Have you gotten into any trouble recently?"

Surprised, Harry automatically shook his head. "No, sir."

"What were you doing at Lockhart's office today?" the professor suddenly demanded.

The Gryffindor had not been prepared for the question. "Um…"

"Answer me, Potter. And do not even think about lying."

Sighing, Harry just hung his head.

"I am waiting," the man bit out impatiently.

Silence reigned in the dungeon classroom then as Harry tried to think of what to say. He couldn't tell Snape the truth. Not if he didn't want to get himself, Ron, and Hermione into a huge mess of trouble.

"I was…asking about a homework assignment," the boy finally managed to get out, his stomach immediately twisting into knots at the lie.

Snape tossed the cloth he had been holding back onto the counter. "I believe we are done here this evening, Potter."

Harry's head snapped up. "But sir—"

"I can tolerate many things, Mr. Potter," the professor interrupted. "Lying is not one of them. Now go."

Harry knew it would be pointless to argue then, and his face crumpled as he slowly crossed the room to gather his belongings.

"C-can I come back tomorrow night?" Harry asked quietly, his eyes planted firmly on the floor.

"I don't believe your services will be required," Snape answered brusquely. "I will see you on Tuesday for our next Occlumency lesson."

Harry closed his eyes and sighed. But as he began walking towards the exit, Snape spoke again.

"Whatever it is you and your little friends are planning, Mr. Potter, I would strongly advise you not to act on it. The very last thing you need is to find yourself in another heap of trouble."

Harry met the man's eyes then. How did he know? Had the man read his mind without him knowing it?

Snape raised his eyebrows, almost daring Harry to deny that he was planning something.

But the young Gryffindor remained silent. And a moment later, the potions master was gesturing towards the door, indicating that Harry should leave.

"Harry, what is it?" Hermione asked for what felt like the hundredth time. It was Saturday morning, the day of the big Quidditch game. And Harry was still refusing to eat any breakfast.

"Oh, leave him alone, Hermione!" Ron interjected. "He's just nervous!"

"He's been acting like this for three days," Hermione pointed out. "This is about more than just Quidditch, isn't it, Harry?" she stated then, turning back towards her friend.

Harry's eyes wandered momentarily over to the staff table, and Hermione quickly followed his gaze.

"Has something happened with Professor Snape?" the girl asked, knowingly.

She's too smart for her own good, Harry thought to himself, before letting out a sigh. "He knows," the boy answered quietly.

"About what? The Polyjuice?" Ron asked, alarmed.

Harry shook his head. "Not about the Polyjuice. But he knows that we're up to something. He told me so the last time I saw him."

"And he didn't try to make you tell him what it was?" the redhead returned skeptically. "Are you sure he wasn't just bluffing?"

Harry shook his head. "No. He knows."

"And this is what's making you so upset?" Ron sounded confused.

Harry shrugged. "I just don't know if I can go through with it anymore. We could really get in a lot of trouble."

Ron and Hermione exchanged a look then, but decided to drop the subject for the time being.

Harry zoomed around the Quidditch pitch, relishing in the feeling of having the wind whip through his hair and across his face. He suddenly felt much better than he had in days, and he took in huge lungfuls of fresh air as his eyes roamed across the field, looking for any signs of the small golden snitch.

Of course, it was only a few moments later that one of the bludgers began following him around the pitch, nearly smacking into him several times before one of the Weasley twins finally managed to bat it away.

"Careful there, Harry!" Fred warned, racing off once again.

But it seemed that the bludger was already changing course to head back in Harry's direction. As fast as he could, the boy shot off towards the opposite end of the field, hoping that the bludger would give up and follow someone else for a while.

A moment later then, the Gryffindor heard, rather than saw, when Malfoy zoomed up next to him on his fancy new broom. Harry only just managed to swerve out of the way to avoid a collision.

"Watch it there, Scarhead!" the Slytherin called out, smirking.

"It's not my fault you don't know how to control your broom," Harry shot back. "Maybe a Cleansweep would be more your speed?"

Malfoy's eyes flashed in anger before a nasty sneer crossed his features. "Are you jealous, Potter? I'm sure it must be difficult not having a father to buy you nice things."

Malfoy glanced quickly over at the stands then, and following his gaze, Harry soon caught sight of the man that must be Draco's father. He had the same eyes, the same white-blond hair. And he wore a smirk on his face that was nearly identical to the one that Draco was currently wearing.

"Or to come to your Quidditch matches," Malfoy added as an afterthought.

Everything happened very quickly then. Harry's eyes automatically scanned the crowd, not stopping until they found the section where all the teachers were sitting. He saw McGonagall and Flitwick and Sprout first. And then he recognized some of the professors that taught the older students. But there was no sign of—

"Harry, look out!" screamed George from halfway across the pitch.

But before Harry could so much as turn his gaze away from the crowd, something slammed into the side of his broom.

And his arm exploded in pain.

Malfoy watched in shock as Harry swayed dangerously on his broom then, before quite suddenly lunging forward, a steely glint in his eyes. The blond quickly veered away from the Gryffindor, whose outstretched hand suddenly seemed to close around something small just inches away from where Malfoy's head had just been.

And in the next moment, Harry's eyes began to close.

And he was plummeting towards the earth.

A/N: Let me just take a moment to thank you all once again for your wonderful reviews. You have no idea how happy they make me when I'm having a stressful day.

Thanks for reading! :)


August 8, 2017