SHAMELESS PLUG: Please check out my original fiction on Amazon. Strangers In Boston, by T.S. Mann.

Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations belong to J.K. Rowling.

SPECIAL AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sorry about the delay. But I have just accepted a new job that will require me to move approximately 2,500 miles with everything I own in the world. It's been hectic.

Harry Black
and the Resurrection Game
Chapter 26: The Imperius Curse

The Three Broomsticks Inn
4 November 1994
5:00 p.m.

Finally home (for some definitions of home, anyway) after an exhausting day at the Wizengamot, James Potter stepped into his room at the Three Broomsticks with his ill-fitting plum robes on a hanger slung over his shoulder. Fighting the urge to toss them onto the floor in frustration, Lord Potter instead hung them carefully in the closet in case another "emergency session" was called while he was still ensconced here. They were his father's robes, after all, and he still hoped that one day they would be Jim's. Then, he poured himself a glass of Firewhiskey, kicked off his shoes, and sat down on his little bed to brood over the day's events.

His son—both his sons—were in deadly danger from the Triwizard Tournament, and there was nothing the government could or would do about it. Indeed, he was quietly convinced that elements of that same government were somehow responsible for everything. To James, there was definitely some connection between the Quidditch World Cup attack from earlier that summer and the current funny business involving the Goblet of Fire. And the most obvious connection between the two was the still-missing-and-presumed-dead Bertha Jorkins. It was a point he'd raised during the Wizengamot session earlier that day, only to be roundly mocked by several of the other Lords for suggesting in passing that the true purpose of the Cup attack might have been a distraction used as a cover for the Goblet's sabotage.

Of course, in James's view, the fact that most of the people who'd mocked his suggestion were former Death Eaters was persuasive evidence (in his mind, at least) that his theory had merit. Unfortunately, one of those Death Eaters was both the DMLE Director and also James's boss, so that rendered the chances of any serious investigation nil.

With a loud sigh, James took another sip of whiskey and then set the glass on the side table before reaching underneath his mattress to retrieve the book he'd hidden there earlier. He'd only read a few pages, however, before there was a knock at his door. Quickly, James hid the book once more before opening the door to find two familiar yet unexpected figures on the other side: Barty Crouch Sr. and his personal assistant, Percy Weasley.

"Director Crouch!" James exclaimed in surprise. "What brings you here?"

Flummoxed, he stepped aside to allow the two wizards entry.

"Forgive the intrusion, Potter," Crouch said gruffly before gesturing towards the younger wizard. "I believe you know my assistant, Percival Weasley?"

"Indeed," said James. "His family and mine go way back."

James reached out to shake Percy's hands, and the younger man reciprocated before his attention was drawn to something else.

"Quite so, Lord Potter. Er, forgive me, but … is that my father's car?!" Percy exclaimed while pointing to a leather valise on the floor next to one of the windows.

"It is!" James answered with a grin. "Amazing bit of magic on your father's part! An enchanted car that folds down into an easy-to-carry satchel. Ingenious!"

Percy beamed at the compliment, but then a loud harumph from Crouch interrupted them.

"Sorry, Director Crouch," James apologized. "So … what can I do for you? Does Mr. Flamel need me for anything tonight?"

"No," Crouch replied. "In fact, effective immediately, you're off the Flamel assignment. Flamel is staying at Hogwarts, and Porpentina Goldstein and Julian Montmorency are with him pretty much at all times, so your presence is redundant."

"Oh," James said with visible disappointment. As fond as he was of Arthur Weasley, he had enjoyed his brief reassignment away from the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office.

"That said," Crouch continued, "you won't be going far. I've managed to bully Fudge into reassigning you to my department full-time as a second assistant. The pay and benefits are the same, but I think I can find a better use for your skills than sitting around waiting for a 600-year-old Frenchie to decide he wants to go for a drive."

James nodded. "So, I'll be working with Percy then?"

"Technically, you'll be working under Percy, who will liaise with you and convey to you my instructions as needed."

To his credit, James didn't wince, even though he was looking at a demotion from Arthur Weasley's underling to Arthur Weasley's son's underling.

"I'm always ready to serve in whatever capacity the Ministry requires, Director," he said, mostly sincere.

Crouch gave him a gimlet eye … followed by a sly grin. "You've matured, Potter. I doubt you'll appreciate the sentiment, but in your case, I think getting fired from the Auror Corps was actually good for you."

James fumed at that, but Crouch paid him no heed. Instead, the older wizard summoned a table and three chairs and gestured for the others to sit.

"As I said, you'll answer to Percy and will perform whatever tasks he requires. Mainly odd jobs and busy work, as he's the one with the diplomatic and administrative training. Your role is to take on all the grunt work to free him up for his more important obligations."

Then, Crouch gave James a more intense and cunning gaze. "Officially, at least."

"And … unofficially?" James asked slowly.

"Unofficially, your new appointment, while structured as a borderline insulting demotion to a menial position, will allow you to go wherever you need to and pursue whatever leads you can while investigating what happened with the Goblet of Fire. Starting with a renewed investigation into the Bertha Jorkins disappearance."

At that, James's eyes lit up in understanding.

"You will need to be discreet, of course," Crouch continued. "The DIMC is not a law enforcement branch, and it is quite beyond my authority to appoint anyone to investigate these affairs for evidence of illegal conduct. Any suspected criminal activities that come to my attention are supposed to be referred to Director Yaxley."

Crouch's contempt for the suspected Death Eater practically dripped off his words.

"Nevertheless," he continued, "the nature of the Triwizard Tournament and its connections to my department do allow for some investigative authority. A discreet investigation, though. If it got out that I had hired James Potter as an investigator as a way of circumventing Yaxley, we could both be in a lot of hot water. Consequently, as a condition of accepting this job, you will agree to a secrecy oath swearing that you will not reveal any fruits of your investigation to anyone other than Percy or myself, understood?"

"Yessir!" James said firmly, excited to finally have the chance to get back into the field.

Crouch nodded. "You were on the right track before the World Cup fiasco, James. If we'd paid more attention to your concerns, perhaps that could have been avoided. But we'll do what we can to set things right."

But then, Crouch looked hesitant. "There is one other issue I feel obligated to point out. If you accept this assignment, you will not be able to provide any assistance to your son in the Triwizard Tournament. It was unclear before whether you could anyway, since you were a Ministry employee, albeit one fully divorced from the Tournament. But if you are working directly for me, there will be no question about it. Help Jim in the Tournament, and you risk losing your magic, and me mine. And so, that will be part of your oath. Is that a deal-breaker?"

James hesitated. He wanted to be there for Jim. But at this point, tracking down the ones who had sabotaged the Goblet might be more important to helping the boy survive than any advice or training James could give him.

"No sir. I'm confident in Jim's abilities. I know he'll be able to do alright without my help."

The three men talked for several more minutes before Crouch swore James to a simple secrecy oath that he would not reveal anything he learned while investigating the Goblet of Fire, the World Cup attacks, and the disappearance of Bertha Jorkins to anyone other than Percy and Crouch himself. Then, Crouch wished James good hunting, and he and Percy departed.

Suddenly excited (and far more upbeat than he'd been before Crouch's arrival), James sat down with a quill and parchment and spent an hour brainstorming potential leads in his investigation. Once that was done, he returned to his earlier project. He locked the door and pulled the concealed book from its hiding place under the mattress: Animagery: The Deeper Mysteries.

It was the same book that Jim Potter had been using as an Animagery primer since the start of the previous summer, and which the boy had reluctantly turned over to his parents after his exposure as an (illegal) Animagus. And it was also a book which had clearly not come from Remus Lupin as Jim had believed. Based on the familiar handwriting, it had almost certainly been sent by Peter Pettigrew, who had somehow circumvented the protective mail wards at 4 Privet Drive!

James glared at the book's cover for several seconds, wondering why Peter had sent it. And also what it meant that the book had passed through wards set by Dumbledore, which should only have been possible if Peter had sent it with no harmful intent!

The stag Animagus shook his head and took another swig of whiskey to fortify himself. Then, he opened the book to where he'd last left off and resumed his own investigation into the "deeper mysteries" of what it meant to be an Animagus.

Meanwhile (in Ron Weasley's Room)

There was a soft knock at the door, and a second later, Jim entered Ron's room bearing a pensive expression, which the other boy immediately noted.

"What's up?" Ron asked.

Jim sat down in a chair while Ron sat on the bed.

"A couple of things," Jim replied. "I'm just trying to prioritize them."

"Uh-oh," Ron said. "That bad, huh. Well, how about you rip the band-aid off and start with whatever the worst thing is. That way, maybe we can end on a high note."

"Well, that's the thing. What's worrying me most may not actually be bad. On the other hand … it might be very bad. I'm worried that I might have impulsively done something … dumb today."

Ron remained tactfully quiet. Based on Jim's past history, there were a lot of ways he could respond to the possibility of Jim doing something impulsive and dumb, but most of his responses would be unhelpful. It was something Ron had lots of experience with by this point.

"Go on," he finally said cautiously.

"During the Wizengamot session today, I took a wrong turn and got lost for a bit. And then, I … well, I sortabrokeintoHarry'soffice."

Ron crooked an eyebrow. "Come again, a little slower this time?"

The other boy exhaled in frustration. "I broke into Harry's office to look around a bit."

"Harry's Office? You mean, Lord Wilkes's private Wizengamot office? Isn't that, like, a felony or something? Why would you do that?!"

Jim fumed. "It's like I said! I just got lost heading back to the hearing, and then I came across him leaving his office, but he didn't spot me. Which (a) he was supposed to be in the Chamber himself, not goofing off alone in his office, and (b) he looked like he was up to something!"

"Up to something," Ron repeated. "You say your brother, who you have literally been cursed to irrationally distrust, looked like he was up to something. So, you then decided to break into his office?!"

Jim took umbrage at that. "You make it sound like I kicked the door in! It wasn't even locked!"


The other boy winced at his friend's ire. "Sorry, sorry! I know, it was stupid, and it was my curse acting up. And I kinda knew that at the time. It's just …" For a few seconds, Jim struggled to articulate his feelings. "It was like … I was right there in front of a door, and I was curious about what was on the other side. And all of the sudden, I just … had to know!"

Ron rubbed his hands over his face. Not for the first time, Ron really wished that Jim had gone back to Shamballa for mental healing the year before as they'd planned. Between being under the Imperius, having a preexisting "fire soul imbalance" (as Healer Bhaskar had diagnosed him in the summer of 1993), and suffering whatever side effects being a raven Animagus brought to the table, Jim's impulsiveness seemed to be growing worse. Not that there was anything Ron could do at this point except mitigate the damage.

"Okay, let's move past the illegal break-in for now. We haven't even gotten to the horrible part yet. What did you discover in Harry's office that has you so bothered?"

"Not what, but who! Harry activated the portrait of Lord Erasmus Wilkes. You know, the Death Eater known as the Toymaker?"

"I know who the Toymaker was, Jim," Ron deadpanned. "You might recall that I spent several hours last summer curing five people of his Permanent Laughter Curse."

Jim winced again. He'd forgotten about Ron's role in that bit of legendary healing … for which the Daily Prophet had given the Boy-Who-Lived all the credit even though he'd been totally uninvolved.

"Sorry, sorry. But anyway, the Toymaker didn't know who I was at first, but I … well, I let it slip that I was Harry's brother, and apparently, Harry had told him all about me. About how I was the Boy-Who-Lived and the one who defeated Voldemort! And then, he started talking about how jealous Harry was of me and stuff like that."

"Jim!" Ron snapped, suddenly angry. "Please tell me that you were not taken in by a load of rubbish spouted off by a dead mass-murdering Death Eater just because it confirmed your unnatural distrust for Harry!"

Jim shook his head. "No, no. It's not that! Of course, I'm not going to believe anything that nutter said! But … from the things he did say, I kind of think that he was fishing for information about Harry. I think Harry may have been misleading the Toymaker about things. I dunno for sure, but I think Harry might have been trying to trick him into giving up information, though I don't know what about. Anyway, I was there for less than a minute before I got the heck out."

"So what's the problem then?"

"Well, if Harry was trying to trick the Toymaker for some reason, I think I might have messed it all up. Do you think I should let Harry know what happened?"

Ron stared at his friend in mild consternation. "Do I think that you should tell your estranged ex-brother—the one who is under an Oath of Enmity towards you that's just like the one that made me and Draco Malfoy hate each other on sight—that you illegally entered into his private office to strike up a conversation with the magical portrait of a Death Eater that he's trying to manipulate for some reason and that you probably ruined his scheme, whatever it was? Is that what you're asking me?"

Jim flushed. "Well, when you put it like that, you make it sound like a dumb idea!"

The redhead closed his eyes and counted down from ten. Then, he did it again in Parseltongue.

"No, do not say a bloody word to Harry about this. You're both cursed against each other in different ways. You'll just end up shouting at each other, and it'll all end in tears. Let me think about it. Maybe I can talk to Ginny and find out if she knows anything about it. Even if she doesn't, maybe I can talk to Harry through her. Maybe two degrees of separation is enough to keep you two from killing each other."

Jim exhaled loudly. "Thanks, mate. I owe you."

Despite himself, Ron grinned at Jim's expression of relief. He leaned back against the headboard. "No problem. Now, what else is on your mind that's a bloody disaster waiting to happen?"

"Well, that's the only potential disaster, so far as I know," Jim said. "But since I'm here—what are your plans for this Saturday? Are you going to the Imperius thingy?"

The "Imperius thingy" referred to the DADA seminar that Professor Moody had scheduled for Saturday morning, one to be given by a visiting Auror and dedicated to the Imperius Curse. And somewhat annoyingly, a seminar which had been scheduled for the morning of the first Hogsmeade weekend. The actual seminar was scheduled for 9:00 a.m., but afterwards, all the students would have the opportunity to be placed under the Imperius, so that they could experience the Unforgivable in controlled circumstances and hopefully learn how to throw it off.

"Well, of course I'm going to the seminar," Ron replied, "but I was planning on going to Hogsmeade in the afternoon. Hermione is having dinner with Healer Dagworth-Granger at the Three Broomsticks, and she asked me to come along for moral support."

Then, he hesitated. "Unless you need me to hang about for some reason. What is it, more research for the Tournament?"

Jim's face went sour for a moment. Part of his punishment for entering his name without his parents' permission was the loss of Hogsmeade privileges for the entire school year. And while he'd been spending most of his free time with Ron in the library looking for spells to help with the Tournament, Jim felt he was at an impasse since he still had no idea what the first challenge was going to be.

"No, no, that's fine. It's just … well, Padma's not a fan of Hogsmeade, and since I can't go anyway, I was thinking of inviting her to a picnic down by the lake. I'll go down to the kitchens and ask the house elves to pack us a basket."

"So … you're asking Padma out on a date?" Ron asked slowly, as if he were unsure about the concept of "dates."

"Well … yeah, I guess," Jim replied hesitantly. "I haven't really thought of it in those terms really. But yeah, I guess this will count as our first date."

"And you want to make sure I'm out of the way, I reckon."

"Not necessarily," Jim said, albeit with some reluctance. "I mean, you could always ask Parvati out and we could make it a double date. She likes you, doesn't she? Actually, from the way Padma talks about it, Parvati may have a bit of a crush on you."

Ron blanched slightly at that. "I don't know about that. But I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be asking someone out on a date who's still engaged to Indian Draco."

Jim smirked at the nickname he and Ron had come up with for Parvati's snobbish and arrogant fiancé. Though Ron did not share his friend's amusement.

"Okay, if you don't want to ask Parvati out, is there someone else you're interested in? Lavender, maybe?"

The other boy made a face. "No, no. It's … okay. I don't want to horn in on your … first date or whatever you're calling it. I'll just spend the day at Hogsmeade. That or I'll find something else to do. You two have a good time. But Sunday, we're back in the library, okay? I mean, the first challenge is coming up soon."

Jim snorted. "Don't I know it! That's part of why I want to go on at least one date with Padma! It might well be my only chance!"

Ron paled at that bit of gallows humor. "Please don't say things like that, Jim," he said quietly. "You're gonna survive the Tournament. No, you're gonna win the Tournament. I know you can!"

The Boy-Who-Lived smiled wanly at that. "Thanks, Ron. For everything." He rose from his chair. "Say, wanna come down to the Common Room? Maybe we can drag Seamus and Dean into a few hands of Exploding Snap!"

The redhead hesitated before shaking his head no. "Not tonight, if it's okay with you. I'm feeling kinda tired. And I still need to finish my Potions essay for tomorrow."

"Okay, I'll let you get to it." Jim rose and headed for the door. "See you tomorrow, mate."

Ron just waved jauntily, and then Jim left the room. Once the door closed, Ron gave out a long-suffering sigh before dragging his pillow up and over his face as if half-heartedly trying to smother himself.

"I hate my life," he said to no one in particular.

7 November 1994
The Great Hall
9:30 a.m.

"The Imperius Curse!" exclaimed John Dawlish with grave authority. "The most insidious and versatile of the Unforgivables. And perhaps the most dangerous."

The Auror's voice echoed through the Great Hall, which had been chosen as the location for this seminar. The tables had been removed just after breakfast and the benches and chairs rearranged so that they all faced the raised platform from which Dawlish spoke. Sitting behind him on the platform were Professor Moody, all three Headmasters, Director Crouch, and Chief Auror Bones. The Great Hall was packed, with all the Hogwarts students plus all the visiting students and their respective faculties in attendance. Snape stood in the back next to the door, a dour expression on his face.

From his lectern, Dawlish continued.

"The Killing Curse and the Cruciatus are often thought more terrible than the Imperius because one brings instant death and the other unimaginable pain, neither of which is a property of the Imperius. Nevertheless, I would submit that the Imperius is the most dangerous Unforgivable because the other two can only harm or kill a single person at a time. Ensnare someone with the Imperius and give them the right instructions, however, and that victim might go forth to kill or torture dozens of others before they can be brought down, while the anonymous caster who ensnared them hides safely in the shadows. And what's worse—if the caster is skilled enough at the Imperius, they can compel their victim to use the Imperius on others, all of whom will remain enslaved until the original caster's control is broken. When You-Know-Who fell, it caused a cascade failure in the web of Imperius victims he had under his control, with scores of highly placed government officials who had Imperiused each other instantly breaking free.

"Like the other two curses, the Imperius is referred to as Unforgivable because of the psychological effect its usage has on the caster. More than any other form of dark magic, the Unforgivables are considered evil spells, not simply because of their effects, but because casters who use them repeatedly come to accept the idea that they themselves are evil for having done so. In fact, this psychic impression of evilness, of unforgivability, is the reason why most wizards and witches prove incapable of casting them at all—the average person's mind simply recoils at the emotions the Unforgivables instill, thus preventing the curse's completion. But that resistance can be overcome with will and experience, and the more readily you accept the suggestion that you are an evil person, the more able and less reluctant you will be to use the Unforgivables without restraint. This is especially true for the Imperius. Other than out of sheer cruelty for its own sake, even the most ruthless criminals seldom have the opportunity or need for the Killing Curse or the Cruciatus. But there is literally no end to the possible commands that a caster can give to an Imperius victim.

"Indeed, a sufficiently skilled caster can compel his victim to use spells that the victim doesn't even know so long as they're in the caster's repertoire, or even make use of physical skills in which the victim has no training. An Imperius victim can be made to perform gymnastic feats with ease or to travel to a location they've never seen before as long as the caster has been there. Worst of all, they can be ordered to attack, curse, and even kill people on sight who they've never met before so long as the caster has a clear mental image of that target. After all, why go to the time and effort to break into a wizarding home and kill an entire family that had gained You-Know-Who's ire when you could Imperius a wizarding child who'd just finished her first year at Hogwarts and have her murder her whole family in their sleep?!"

Most of the audience shifted uneasily at that last remark, and even Dawlish himself seemed to falter a bit.

"Forgive me … that was a reminder of my very first case as an Auror."

The Auror swallowed and steeled himself to continue.

"But more than versatility, the Imperius is the most commonly-used Unforgivable—and the one that most often leads to life sentences in Azkaban—because of the most insidious aspect of the curse: To put it plainly, it feels good. The Imperius Curse is intensely pleasurable, both for the victim, who is trapped mentally in a dream-state that makes it hard to resist, but also for the caster, who experiences an almost-narcotic rush of power from the experience of enslaving another's will. The Imperius is, in a very real sense, addictive. The more you use it, the more you want to use it. And the more it's used upon you, the more ready you are to continue your submission. During the last war, most dark wizards arrested and imprisoned for using Unforgivables were not the murderers or torturers, but rather the ones who used the Imperius to enslave others to You-Know-Who's cause. And having used the Imperius once, many of them felt compelled to use it again and again and again, often for the most frivolous of purposes. Indeed, often for no purpose at all save for the pleasure of humiliating their victims until they were inevitably discovered.

"You are here today to learn about and even experience the Imperius Curse because most of the dark wizards prosecuted for its use were not found out because they were caught in the act. Rather, it was because they pushed their victims too far, so that the victim's mind finally rebelled against some unacceptable order and broke free of the curse. In the next phase of this seminar, you will be subjected to the Imperius first-hand under controlled circumstances. So that you can recognize what it feels like. So that you can learn to be on guard against the seductive feeling that nothing matters so you might as well just obey. And hopefully, so you can learn to throw it off before you're made to do something you will regret for the rest of your life."

Dawlish paused and looked out over the crowd. "Any questions so far?"

Several hands went up, one of which belonged to Harry Black. And after Dawlish had answered a few other queries, he finally called upon Harry.

"In his lectures on the other two Unforgivables," Harry began, "Professor Moody explained that they both had esoteric components that required a degree of hatred for a particular person that would be beyond the capacity of most people to maintain. What are the esoteric requirements for the Imperius, and are they also too demanding for the average wizard? Or are they something that we should be concerned about from potentially anyone?"

"Well, to answer the last question first: Yes, you should be concerned about potentially anyone since, as I mentioned earlier, an experienced caster can essentially cast the Imperius through someone already under the curse against a third person, even if the second person could not ordinarily cast the Imperius on their own. But to answer what is probably your real question: The Imperius does not require hatred so much as contempt. You must be able to maintain in your mind the idea that your intended victim is absolutely your inferior and that their basic humanity is less important than whatever temporary needs you have that you want the victim to fulfill. In other words, a firm belief that the victim simply doesn't matter. And unlike the Killing Curse and the Cruciatus—each of which requires monomaniacal hatred for someone but not necessarily the current target—the Imperius requires you to believe in the inferiority of whoever you use it on. In other words, the curse might succeed against one person but fail against another according to the subjective beliefs of the caster about the intended victim, even before the victim's ability to resist comes into play."

Harry nodded at that answer, but then, he noticed that, a few seats away, Hermione Granger suddenly thrust her arm up. Instantly, the Slytherin felt a sudden frisson of concern that was justified a few seconds later when Dawlish called on the Muggleborn girl.

"So, if the Imperius Curse is actually easier to use against people one considers to be inferior in some way, to the point of being worthy of contempt, would you agree that societal and institutional bigotry based on blood status would have the effect of making it easier for Purebloods to use the Imperius against Muggleborns and Halfbloods rather than the other way around?"

The question seemed to catch Dawlish by surprise, as did the sudden wave of murmuring that washed across the hall.

"Well … I'm not aware of any studies or anything supporting that conclusion. But I can see your point. Given how Death Eater ideology focused on blood purism to an intense degree, it probably made it easier for You-Know-Who's adherents to employ the Imperius against their enemies, especially since that ideology would have allowed them to view even fellow Purebloods who could be characterized as blood traitors as being viable targets for the curse…"

Dawlish's response was cut short by a loud cough from the Chief Auror sitting behind him. He blushed slightly and quickly changed topics away from the fraught issue of blood purism in Ministry politics.

"But I reckon that's enough questions for now. Let's move on to the next topic: how to tell if a friend or loved one might be under the Imperius."

Dawlish's lecture continued for another half hour followed by a short break, during which Dawlish, Moody, Crouch, Chief Auror Bones, and Dumbledore exited into a nearby waiting room. The Chief Auror looked around at the others with a hesitant expression before finally pulling out her wand.

"I still can't believe I'm doing this," she said irritably. "Particularly with two known Death Eaters on the premises."

"Professor Snape has my complete trust, Amelia," said Dumbledore. "But if it will put your mind at ease, I have arranged for Headmasters Karkaroff and Maxime to provide a tour of the Durmstrang ship and the Beauxbatons carriage for myself and a few other faculty members, including Severus. Afterwards, we will lunch together in Hogsmeade. And so, I can assure you that those two individuals will be under my observation for the entire length of this exercise."

"And the rest of the Durmstrang visitors?" asked Moody.

"I quietly but thoroughly investigated all of their backgrounds when they were chosen to attend," Dumbledore explained patiently. "None of them were ever associated in any way with the Death Eaters nor had any history of criminality or even unusual proficiency with the Dark Arts. Granted, in addition to Karkaroff, both Sandor Farkas and Luminita Zedescu were heavily involved with the Balkan Liberation Movement, but the latter two were never connected to the faction that worked with Voldemort."

Dawlish and Bones visibly flinched at the Dark Lord's name. The others took it in stride, though Crouch frowned at Dumbledore's casual use of the taboo name.

"What about students?" he asked aloud. "Did you do any background checks on the older Durmstrang brats, most of whom have probably had Dark Arts training and two of whom are the spawn of a Death Eater?"

"Crouch …!" Amelia began warningly, but Albus interrupted her objection.

"Barty, I know your concerns about our current head of the DMLE. But I find it unlikely that, even if our fears about Corban Yaxley are justified, he taught his sons to cast the Imperius Curse before the age of seventeen."

"Indulge my paranoia, Albus. Can't you have a house elf shadow them invisibly for the next few hours?"

"The Hogwarts Headmaster is forbidden to use house elves to invade the privacy of students," the older man said flatly.

Crouch gave a rueful expression that then grew thoughtful.

"Very well. But speaking of house elves, Albus, that reminds me: I have a small favor to ask. For the duration of my stay at the castle, would you mind assigning Winky to me for my personal use? I miss the dear thing greatly, and I'm sure she feels the same. It would ease both my time here and perhaps help her efforts to integrate with the other Hogwarts elves."

"I don't see any problem with …" Dumbledore stopped suddenly, and his eyes narrowed. "Barty, are you going to use Winky to spy on the Yaxley boys?"

"I understand what you just said about respecting the privacy of Hogwarts students and agree with you completely," Crouch said in a monotone voice.

The others stared at him with varying degrees of consternation at what Crouch said and what he hadn't said. Then, Dumbledore sighed.

"Very well. I'll trust you not to abuse this privilege, Barty," he said warningly. Then, Dumbledore summoned Winky to the chamber and ordered her to obey her former master's instructions for the remainder of his time at Hogwarts. The tiny thing burst into tears and raced to hug Crouch's legs. He smiled warmly and patted his former elf on the head.

"There, there, Winky. Now pop off to my quarters and wait for me there. I'll be along momentarily to discuss your duties for the duration of my stay."

With a loud sniffle, the elf disappeared.

"Is, um, that everything?" Dawlish asked hesitantly. "The Seventh Years should be waiting for me in the classroom, and I'd like a few minutes to meditate before I start … you know."

"I understand, Dawlish," said Bones. "And I appreciate the nature of the burden you're shouldering today."

Then, she pulled out her wand and summoned her Patronus, a stern-looking eagle.

"Go to Senior Auror Thicknesse at Auror Command and convey this message: This is Amelia Bones, passcode Babel-Ossuary-Newton-Etherial-Sigma. I hereby direct you to initiate the Auror Corps Directive 7-11-94-Gamma. Duration: 5 hours."

The eagle disappeared in a flash of light.

"Right," she said to Dawlish. "Give it a few minutes. And then, the alarm at the Ministry which alerts the Aurors to the use of an Unforgivable at Hogwarts will be silenced for the next five hours. You're sure you can get through the whole Hogwarts student body in that time?"

Dawlish looked at her with a slightly ashen expression. "I can do it, Chief Auror. I just … won't enjoy it."

The other four nodded solemnly, even though they all understood that his last statement was a lie. The true danger for John Dawlish was that he would enjoy it all too much.

Later …

The current NEWT-level years were a bit smallish, and so Dawlish and Moody had elected to combine all of the Seventh-Year Hogwarts students and their counterparts from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang into a single class, and then do the same for the Sixth Years. The DADA classroom had been magically expanded to accommodate them all. To Dawlish's surprise, out of a room of over fifty students, a full dozen were able to at least struggle against his Imperius. Indeed, four of them—the Beauxbatons Champion and three of the Durmstrang Seventh Years—were able to throw it off completely by their second try, though Viktor Krum, the Durmstrang Champion, showed no signs of resistance. Dawlish reckoned that, with additional training, the other eight gifted students could probably develop complete resistance as well, at least to an Imperius cast by someone of his skill level. Of course, any actual dark wizard would probably perform the spell well above his level, a point he made clear to the students. This was because John Dawlish (unlike, say, the typical Death Eater) was trying not to become a sadistic monster, a mental state that would naturally make an Imperius cast by said monster far more potent.

The Sixth Years, by comparison, included only three students who could resist the Imperius to any degree, at least on their own, all from Durmstrang. Notably, Cedric Diggory, like Viktor Krum, showed no sign of resistance. But the class did include one surprising anomaly. Dawlish placed one of Arthur Weasley's boys (Fred, to be specific) under the curse without difficulty. Oddly, however, George Weasley very quickly became distressed at the sight of his twin succumbing and yelled out Fred's name. And that immediately gave Fred the proper encouragement to throw off the Imperius completely! Intrigued, Dawlish (with Moody's permission) put Fred under the curse a few more times with the same results: Fred had no resistance to the Imperius on his own until his twin brother George yelled at him to snap out of it, at which point he did so easily. And the same was true in reverse when Dawlish placed George under the curse. Moreover, each twin seemed able to recognize instantly when his sibling had fallen under the spell even when the effects were not obvious, and both of them seemed to feel unusually affected by the mere sight of the other being put under the spell.

Now quite curious about this hitherto unknown aspect of the Imperius, the Auror directed George to step out of the room, count to twenty, and return. When George came back in, he saw that Fred was wearing a vacant expression and pointing a wand straight at him. After about two seconds of hesitation and confusion, George let out a snort.

"Right," he said cheekily. "Now you're just faking it!"

Fred, who Dawlish had not cursed that time, burst into laughter. Dawlish simply looked back and forth between the Weasley Twins, his Ravenclaw eyes lighting up in academic curiosity.

"But this is just fascinating!" he exclaimed delightedly. "I really want to run some experiments now on how the Twin Bond reacts with the Imperius Curse …"

"Dawlish!" Barty Crouch barked out warningly, causing the Auror to flush quickly and then pause to clear his throat before resuming.

"… but, of course, that would be very wrong!"

After a few more minutes, Dawlish wrapped up with the Sixth-Year students, who swiftly exited the classroom. Some were excited about the day's lesson while others were still uncomfortable or even upset over being Imperiused.

Next came the Fifth Years who, to Dawlish's disappointment, did not contain any students able to show more than token resistance. After that session ended, the Auror exhaled as the last student departed and then rubbed his hands over his face furiously.

"You okay, Johnny?" asked Moody.

"I'm fine," Dawlish muttered stoically. "Let's just get through the next group and then maybe we can take a break for a bit."

By that point, more students had entered. The Fourth Years were a much larger class than their older peers, and so were split into two sessions. The first group included the Slytherins and the Gryffindors, plus Draco Malfoy, the only Fourth Year visitor to attend the Tournament. Crouch stepped forward and clapped the Auror on the shoulder.

"You and Professor Moody seem to have things in hand," he said. "Unless you feel I'm needed here, I should like to step out now. I need to talk with Winky and take care of some paperwork, and I'll also be joining Albus and the others for the faculty luncheon at the Three Broomsticks."

He favored the Auror with a smile. "You should come along, Dawlish, whenever you're finished for the day. After all, I suppose this makes you an honorary DADA professor, doesn't it?"

The other man paled at Crouch's humorous suggestion that he had anything to do with the notoriously cursed DADA professorship.

"I'll … try to stop by, sir, time permitting. I'm actually going to the Three Broomsticks anyway to meet up with my partner."

"Oh? I didn't think you were assigned a partner while on this assignment."

"My … domestic partner, Director Crouch."

Crouch's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Ooooh, I see. Well, feel free to bring him along as well if you want. I should like to meet him."

The Auror nodded noncommittally, and then, after shaking hands with Moody, Crouch departed the room, passing by several Fourth Years along the way. He paused to nod respectfully at both Jim and Harry, the two underage Champions whose lives had been put into jeopardy by the Tournament he'd brought to Hogwarts. He also scowled at the sight of Draco Malfoy in his Durmstrang robes.

Meanwhile, the guest lecturer braced himself and regarded the incoming students. He also focused his Occlumency on blocking out his awareness of the seductive afterglow that came from using the Imperius Curse repeatedly, not to mention blocking out any thoughts of how much he might enjoy using that curse in ways more entertaining and provocative than were called for in his carefully drafted and intentionally boring lesson plans.

Moody stood off to the side and regarded the Senior Auror in silence save for the soft whirring of his magic eye.

About ten minutes later, Dawlish completed his introductory remarks and began the practical portion of his lecture. The first person he called up was Gregory Goyle of Slytherin.

"Now, Mr. Goyle," Dawlish began. "Would you describe yourself as athletic or graceful?"

Greg nearly laughed at that. While stocky and muscular for his age, the Slytherin still had a reputation for clumsiness.

"Not really, sir," he answered somewhat nervously.

Dawlish nodded and then swiftly raised his wand. "IMPERIO."

Almost instantly, Greg's eyes glazed over. Dawlish took a moment to point out some of the tell-tale signs of Imperius control, most notably the boy's vacant expression and the milky-white sheen of his eyes. The Auror also made sure to note that a victim who had been given standing post-Imperius orders and then released from the spell would typically not show most of those symptoms if the spell had been cast carefully and subtly by an experienced dark wizard. Instead, the victim might appear completely normal after being released from direct control until the time came for him to act on his instructions. At that, Harry and Jim couldn't help but look in each other's direction for just a moment while Ron, standing next to Jim, merely winced.

Dawlish turned back to Goyle and spoke in an unnervingly firm voice.

"Do a handstand. And then walk around at my direction on your hands."

Immediately, Greg raised his arms up over his head before bending down sharply to put his hands on the floor while kicking his legs up—a perfect handstand. And without the slightest bit of difficulty, the boy began walking back and forth in front of the class on his hands as if he were a skilled acrobat. A few students laughed nervously, but for the most part, there was a frightened silence at the display. Then, Dawlish directed the boy back to where he'd begun.

"When I release you from the spell, you will remember everything you did."

Then, he lowered his wand, which had been pointing at the boy continuously as he moved around the room. Immediately, Goyle shook his head and his eyes returned to normal. After a second to think, the Slytherin visibly shuddered at the memory of his loss of control.

"So, Mr. Goyle," Dawlish asked. "What do you remember?"

Greg licked his lips as he tried to articulate his thoughts. "I remember you pointing your wand at me and casting the spell. And then, everything was just … nice. A strange sort of floaty feeling. I just felt … happy."

And from his expression, it was clear he now understood what Dawlish had meant about the Imperius Curse's addictive qualities.

"And do you remember walking around on your hands?"

"Yes sir," the boy answered. "But I have no idea how I did it!"

"Would you please try to do a handstand now?

Goyle gave the Auror a dubious expression before dutifully trying to perform even a simple handstand, but he was completely unable to maintain his balance and instantly fell to the floor.

"Good effort, lad," said Dawlish as he helped the Slytherin back up before turning back to the audience. "Now, consider what just happened. Mr. Goyle performed physical actions under the Imperius that he was incapable of performing when not under the curse. And to be perfectly honest, I could not have walked around on my hands either, so it's not like any physical skills were transferred by the spell. Rather, when it comes to purely physical activities that require agility or coordination but no special training, I just need to be able to visualize what I wanted Mr. Goyle to do with his body, and the curse does the rest. Of course, I couldn't order him to do physically impossible things like fly under his own power or jump from the top of the Astronomy Tower and land safely."

Then, Dawlish frowned and corrected himself. "It goes without saying that I could have easily ordered him to jump from the top of the Astronomy Tower if his safety or even survival was not a concern. Under the control of a true dark wizard, a victim can easily be compelled to torture himself, and he will do so without regard to things like pain, fear, and even blood loss!"

Much of the audience grew squeamish at that, but Dawlish persevered. "Only the most powerful casters can instill such orders without maintaining constant direct control. I could not have ordered Mr. Goyle to walk back to his dormitory on his hands without me following after him to maintain the curse. But someone like, say, Augustus Rookwood could easily give such an order and have it be obeyed for quite a while. Indeed, Rookwood could probably give someone a compulsion to walk everywhere on their hands, and it would last for some time before wearing off. It might be a permanent compulsion absent intervention from a Mind Healer or the death of the caster. Of course, that would be a rather frivolous use of the Imperius for a man like Rookwood, but he could certainly give very complex instructions regarding physical actions, including actions beyond the victim's normal capabilities, that would last indefinitely.

"I should also note one limitation of the Imperius. Regularly at the Auror Academy, well-meaning trainees ask whether it might be acceptable to use the Imperius for some life-saving purpose. One hypothetical presented was putting someone trapped in a burning building under the Imperius to give them the physical dexterity and agility to climb out a window and down a drainpipe or trellis to safety. That would not work, however. As I mentioned this morning, the spell's esoteric elements require a desire to dominate the target, who must be someone who the caster considers to be an inferior and generally someone towards whom the caster feels an impulse towards cruelty. I can imagine far-fetched scenarios in which someone put under the Imperius might benefit in some way from the experience, but as a practical matter, the Imperius Curse cannot be cast without malicious intent."

Immediately, Harry Black raised his hand with a question.

"Could you expand on what you mean by the caster considering the victim to be inferior. Is it enough for one person to be in a position of authority over the other? For example: could a parent use the Imperius against one of their children simply because of the parent-child relationship?"

At that, Jim's head snapped in Harry's direction angrily, but before he could say or do anything, Ron leaned over and elbowed him sharply. Meanwhile, Dawlish considered the idea seriously.

"Hmm, well, I'm pretty sure if you can cast the Imperius on your own child, you probably don't love them very much. I would say that in a healthy parental relationship, even a stern parent still has a fundamental level of respect for the humanity of their own offspring. There have been dark wizards who went to Azkaban for using the Imperius on their children, but they were all abusive even outside the use of the Unforgivable."

At that, Jim's anger at Harry was forgotten, as he looked suddenly stricken at Dawlish's words.

"Now then, let's move on to a related aspect of the spell: giving orders that require knowledge the victim does not actually possess."

Dawlish sent Goyle back to his own seat while he looked around the room for a second.

"Raise your hand if you're a Muggleborn, please."

Only two Gryffindors raised their hands. Hermione Granger did so almost defiantly, but Dean Thomas was more cautious. Dawlish glanced at Hermione but after their exchange earlier, he decided to call Dean up to the front instead.

"Mr. Thomas, are you familiar with a singer by the name of Celestina Warbeck?"

"Well, I've heard of her," the boy said hesitantly, "but I'm not much of a fan, to be honest. I don't think I know any of her songs or anything. I think she's more popular with older witches and wizards."

Dawlish gave a sour expression at that dig against his favorite singer. Out in the audience, Harry stiffened slightly, as he noticed that the Auror had suddenly grown more excited about what was coming next. With a quick wand motion, Dawlish barked out "IMPERIO" and Dean was under the spell, his eyes glazing over and becoming milky white, just like Goyle's had. Dawlish turned his head towards the audience while keeping his wand trained on the boy.

"Now, let's do something a bit more complicated. Every time I snap my fingers, you will begin to sing 'Cauldron of Hot Strong Love' in your best Celestina Warbeck imitation, including choreography, until I tell you to stop. You will continue to do this every time I snap my fingers until after you have left the room, at which point the compulsion will end. You will not remember that I have used the Imperius curse on you, nor anything that happened while you were under the curse, though you will still obey the commands you have been given. You will also forget about performing the song as instructed after I tell you to stop. Your memories will return once I tell you to remember."

Dawlish snapped his wand down, and Dean's eyes returned to normal. He blinked a few times and then looked up at the Auror expectantly.

"How do you feel, lad?" Dawlish asked.

"Um, a little nervous, but I think I'm ready for you to try the curse against me."

"Oh? And how do you know you're not already under the effects of the Imperius?"

Dean laughed uneasily. "Well, I think I'd remember that sir."

Dawlish nodded sharply and then raised his hand and snapped his fingers. Immediately, Dean threw his arms out dramatically and started to belt out Celestina Warbeck's signature tune with aplomb. As he continued to sing and even swing his hips in time with the music, the auror addressed the students who all watched the performance in horrified fascination.

"Now ignore Mr. Thomas's lovely singing voice for a second and consider the ramifications of what he's doing. First of all, observe that I am not actively maintaining the curse now. I have given Mr. Thomas his instructions, and he is fulfilling them. It is no longer necessary for me to keep pointing my wand at him as it was when I compelled Mr. Goyle to continuously perform complex physical actions. But more importantly, Mr. Thomas is singing a song he doesn't know. His knowledge of the lyrics and tune and even the choreography he is performing were drawn from my own memories of having seen Celestina Warbeck in concert and implanted within him as part of the command by the spell itself. In other words, when a dark wizard or witch gives the victim a command through the Imperius, they also give that victim all the empirical knowledge needed to fulfill it provided the caster has that knowledge to impart."

By that point, the Auror had needed to raise his voice to be heard over the crescendo of Thomas's singing. Dawlish smirked almost arrogantly.

"I guess that makes me one of those older wizards that Mr. Thomas spoke so disparagingly about."

Then, he gestured with his hand towards Dean's face. "Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will note that he now shows none of the signs of Imperius control that I described earlier. He is obviously acting out of character, but if I'd given him more subtle instructions—like wait quietly and patiently until Professor Moody here is looking the other way and then strike him from behind with the Killing Curse—only someone truly experienced at detecting mind control would notice anything out of the ordinary until it was too late."

Several students gasped at Dawlish's casual reference to enslaving a student to use as an assassin, and all of them looked shaken. Dawlish, however, ignored the reaction and turned back to the spellbound singer, smiling and nodding his head along with the music. But after another full verse of the song (well-performed, it must be said), Moody quietly called out the Auror's name. That seemed to break Dawlish out of his own spell, and he quickly told Dean to stop singing. Dean stopped instantly and looked around in mild confusion.

"You okay, Thomas?" Dawlish asked innocently.

"Um, a little nervous, but I think I'm ready for you to try the curse against me."

Out in the crowd, Harry and several others shuddered as they noticed that Dean had repeated the exact same answer as before and with the exact same inflections. Dawlish smiled condescendingly.

"That's quite alright, Mr. Thomas. On second thought, just go back to your seat for now."

Dean shrugged and headed back towards his waiting seat. But halfway there, Dawlish snapped his fingers again, and instantly the Gryffindor resumed his Warbeck imitation.

"Sorry, I couldn't help myself," Dawlish said with what Harry thought was the beginning of a cruel expression. "The boy really does do a spot-on Warbeck impersonation! I mean, not only is he pitch perfect, but he is nailing Celestina's style!"

Dawlish laughed at his own comments while the Gryffindor continued to sing and dance. No one else laughed. After a few more seconds, Moody again called out the Auror's name a bit more forcefully, causing Dawlish to once again regain control of himself. He ordered Dean to stop, and the boy once again looked around the room in confusion, particularly since everyone else in the room was staring at him aghast.

"Mr. Thomas," Dawlish said with authority. "Remember."

Dean froze and blinked a few times before he practically fell into his chair while looking as if he were about to throw up. Dawlish turned back to the crowd with a stern expression.

"I should also note that, had I not given Mr. Thomas a command that would allow him to remember what happened, he would never even know that he'd been Imperiused nor recall what all he did while Imperiused absent high-level psychic healing or my death, the latter of which would completely end any lingering compulsions on anyone I'd ever used the Imperius against. And while the compulsion I gave him to perform that song will end as soon as he leaves the room, had I not included a trigger to end the compulsion, it might have lasted for days or even weeks. A more subtle compulsion might well last for the rest of Mr. Thomas's life. So too might the obvious compulsion to perform that Warbeck song whenever he heard someone snap their fingers if the caster was a true master of the curse!"

Dawlish turned back to Dean, now with a somewhat more compassionate expression.

"Mr. Thomas, if you wish to leave the room for a few minutes to compose yourself and perhaps go to the loo and splash some water on your face, you are free to do so. All the commands will be neutralized upon your return."

Dean nodded and slowly rose from his chair. At Dawlish's direction, Seamus Finnegan accompanied Dean out of the classroom. Harry noticed that the Gryffindor was avoiding eye contact with the other students, but he seemed quite humiliated, if not traumatized, by the experience.

"And just imagine," though Harry, "how much worse it would be for someone compelled to actually hurt or kill people while under the Imperius!"

"Right, then," Dawlish said to the class. "Everyone form a line. Now that you understand what this curse does and what to look for, I'll test each of you. Nothing as elaborate as what I did to Mr. Goyle and Mr. Thomas. Just a quick and instant command so that you can feel the curse's effects and, with luck, find some way to resist it."

As Harry watched carefully, Dawlish placed one of his classmates after another under the curse. Theo hopped around the room on one leg. Lavender Brown imitated a squirrel. Neville performed a series of very impressive cartwheels. Blaise was forced to only speak in rhyming couplets. Ron was compelled to skip around the room like a little girl.

Then, it was Hermione's turn, and Harry suddenly (and unaccountably) gritted his teeth at the thought of her being subjected to the Imperius and made to act against her will. But then, to his and everyone else's surprise, the bushy-haired witch showed signs of resistance! The command had been to sing the Muggle national anthem. But while she initially showed signs of being Imperiused and sang the first few words, Hermione suddenly stopped, and her face contorted into a mask of concentration. She continued with the words to "God Save The Queen," but she wasn't really singing them. Rather, it was more like each word was being dragged out of her mouth. Dawlish actually released her from the curse before she reached the end.

"Well done, Miss Granger!" he exclaimed with a grin. "The first Fourth Year to show any resistance! I'll wager with a bit more practice you can throw it completely."

"Thank you, Auror Dawlish," she replied in a shaky voice. She stepped away … and Jim took her place.

Dawlish cast the Unforgivable on the Boy-Who-Lived, and his eyes did go glazed and milky. Then, the Auror ordered Jim to jump onto the nearby desk, but Jim didn't move at all. Surprised, Dawlish repeated the order more forcefully. Rather than comply, however, Jim just blinked his eyes a few times.

"No," he said slowly. "I don't think I will, thanks."

Dawlish's eyes widened in surprise. "Well done, Potter! Everyone! Look at that, you lot … Potter beat it on his first go! I think that's the best anyone's done the whole day except for a few Seventh Years! Good job!"

Moody spoke up, then, for the first time in the whole class. "Yes, Potter. Very good job indeed! If you don't mind me inquiring, though … have you ever been targeted with the Imperius before?"

"… no sir," Jim said firmly but while studiously avoiding eye contact with either Moody or Dawlish. Nearby, several of Jim's friends who knew perfectly well that he'd been Imperiused (if not by whom) looked at one another in surprise at the lie.

"Hmm. All the more impressive for it then. Perhaps some more of your Boy-Who-Lived weirdness."

Jim nodded, though his jaw was clenched. "Probably so."

Then, Jim stepped aside to join the others who'd been through the curse. Along the way, he and Harry made eye contact. Neither said anything, though Harry did crook an eyebrow sardonically.

A moment later, it was Harry's turn. "IMPERIO!" It was the most wonderful feeling the boy had ever experienced. Harry felt a floating sensation as though every thought and worry in his head was wiped gently away, leaving nothing but a vague, untraceable happiness. In other words, it was such a wholly unnatural feeling for Harry Black that he instantly identified it as a foreign mental influence. Then, through the haze of unnatural happiness, he heard Dawlish's voice echoing inside his brain. Jump on to the desk … jump onto the desk. It was at that point that several thoughts raced through Harry's mind so quickly that he almost felt like he was dilating.

One: I am under the Imperius Curse. But I know I am, and I can therefore recognize the order to jump on the desk as unnatural.

Two: Because I know the order is unnatural, I am not compelled to obey it.

Three: But, do I want to reveal at this point that I can resist the Imperius? Or do I want to keep that talent in reserve in case someone tries to Imperius me for real later?

Four: On the other hand, do I mentally have it in me to pretend to be vulnerable to the Imperius right after Jim shrugged it off like it was nothing? Even if it's the tactically wise thing to do?

Five: Would I fool anyone even if I did pretend to be vulnereable? Presumably Dawlish as the caster knows whether someone he Imperios … Imperiuses? ... is under control or not.

Six: What is the verb form of "to place someone under the Imperius" anyway?

Unfortunately for Harry, while all of those contradictory thoughts raced through his head, they did not do so fast enough for him to resolve the conundrum in time. His desire to resist the curse warred with his desire to pretend to submit to it (with a momentary flash of confusion over the Unforgivable's proper grammar), resulting in him doing neither. Instead of either jumping onto the desk or preventing himself from doing so, he smashed into the desk with enough force to knock it over. Then, he fell to the floor with a yell of pain.


"And good job to you too, Black!" Dawlish exclaimed, oblivious to the boy's injury. "Not as good as your brother's effort, but you nearly threw it off as well!"

Harry bit down on his urge to snarl something sarcastic at the Auror. Instead, he closed his eyes and focused his Occlumency on suppressing his pain receptors so that he could ignore his two broken kneecaps.

"Say, do you want to go again?" the man asked gamely. "Another two or three tries, and I'm sure you could resist the curse!"

Harry glared at Dawlish. "Perhaps it would be best, sir, if you proceed with the other students while I receive some medical attention!"

"Dawlish," Moody drawled in annoyance. "Stop nattering and heal the boy's kneecaps."

"Huh? Oh! Blimey!" Dawlish rushed forward and knelt to cast healing magic. "Sorry about that Mr. Black. Got caught up in the moment."

"Uh-huh." Harry grimaced at the itchy sensation of his kneecaps knitting themselves back together, but then, he relaxed as the pain subsided naturally. Dawlish helped him to his feet, and the boy walked over to his Slytherin friends somewhat stiffly while Moody restored the desk with a flick of his wand.

After another few minutes or so, the Gryffindor-Slytherin class wrapped up nearly fifteen minutes early, and Moody released the students, all of whom quickly left the classroom in hopes of enjoying the remainder of their Hogsmeade weekend. Once they were gone, Dawlish sighed loudly and then slumped against the desk.

"So," Dawlish asked Moody somewhat acerbically. "Am I getting … weird?"

"Maybe a little. Good thing you've got a boyfriend who's qualified to check you out later for any developing pathologies. We only have one class left. For today, at least."

Dawlish nodded ruefully. This assignment was not just for one day. Rather, he would be returning to the castle intermittently over the term to provide Imperius resistance training for any students who wanted it.

"Do we have time for me to take a break? I need to meditate and reinforce my architecture."

Moody pulled out a pocket watch and checked it. "We're running about 15 minutes early. Tell you what. Take half an hour. The faculty lounge is near here, and it's got a private toilet in it. Go freshen up and do whatever psychic mumbo-jumbo you need to do. I'll send word that the Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw section will start 15 minutes late. That work for you?"

Dawlish nodded gratefully. Moody gave him directions to the faculty lounge, and the two men exited the DADA classroom, each heading off in opposite directions.

Somewhere else in the castle, at some point during the thirty-minute break …

There was a sharp knock at the door.

"Just a minute," came a voice from inside.

The door opened.

"Oh, it's you. What can I … wait, what are you …?!"


Next: Encounters in Hogsmeade. The Weighing of the Wands. And Rita Skeeter drops by for a chat.

AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is being written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.

AN2: What the Sinister Man is reading:

Professor Dawlish by Ambracian. (A03. Complete.) Because of chicanery by Griselda Marchbanks, Umbridge is blocked from serving as DADA instructor at the start of Fifth Year, and Auror John Dawlish (to his great chagrin) is sent instead. And unfortunately for Umbridge, he's a conscientious Hufflepuff.

anglerfish by DragonflyxParodies. (A03. Incomplete.) Lily Potter has had enough of Dumbledore's "cult" and James's devotion to it. So, she's making plans to file for divorce before James realizes that Harry is a Parselmouth. And so is she.

AN3: Special thanks to my Discord editors: Nemo's Flower Song, Farsight, Rorschach's Blot- not the author, Daniel?, Sandyna (Melanie), BlueWater5, EssayOfThoughts | Aich, Earwing, Farsight, StillPossible (they/them), Idefix, and Sakkiko. Thanks guys!

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