'If you automatically assume that you understand someone, chances are you won't'
Harry Potter: The Chronicles of Power
Harry Potter & the Whispers of Desire
Chapter Fourteen: A Lack of Understanding
Harry was more than capable of admitting that yes, Alexander's victory in the school's first quidditch match of the season had been the result of a completely legal quidditch manoeuvre - despite what Flint and the rest of his House thought about it - but that didn't mean he was prepared to put up with his brother-by-blood going around and being an insufferable little toerag about it all afterwards.
His confident swagger and general sense of arrogance had not only returned in the days since he had beaten Higgs to the snitch, but also seemed to have skyrocketed to new levels. He was often seen, and even more often heard, bragging about his 'awesome skills' at every available public opportunity, whenever he was surrounded by his throngs of admirers, each one of them hanging off his every word.
Looking at them just made Harry feel sick.
It wasn't that Alexander was holding their attention - it wasn't just that, at least - Alex was an extremely famous wizard and a British household name; he could understand that of their fascination, but what he couldn't understand was why people were also lowering themselves from their usual behaviour and freely acting like complete and utter fools around him.
I'm surrounded by idiots…
And if all that meant that he took an almost vindictive pleasure in watching the way Professor Snape docked points from the rest of Gryffindor that week in his Potions class, using it as a form of pseudo-punishment, well that was nobody's business but his own.
But once the game was over and done with, it soon became mid-November, which meant that the Christmas Holidays were quickly coming up, as were their first set of progress exams. Harry was relieved to hear that Hogwarts remained open during the holidays, so that students who couldn't return home, or just simply didn't want to, didn't have to. When the sign-up sheet had been passed down the breakfast table by Professor Snape one morning, Harry had been the very first person to sign up.
It was soon clear that he was an exception to the rules, as he found out that in the entirety of Slytherin House, the only other person who had signed up to stay with him was Morag.
"My mum's going out of the country on a business trip", she had told him, looking up at him shyly when he'd asked.
"Well then", he offered her his best smile, doing his best to try and look comforting, "we'll just have to spend it together, won't we?"
She smiled back.
He'd gotten a surprise at breakfast a few days later, when on the very last day of November, two postal owls had landed in front of him, a light brown one, knocking over his morning goblet of orange juice as it landed on the table, which he immediately had to scramble to save, while a sleek black one hovered for a moment, levelling the brown one with a human look of disdain that had left Harry feeling slightly impressed at its ability to convey human emotion, before it landed on the bench, choosing the empty spot next to him, and offered him the letter attached to its leg.
He offered it a few pieces of bacon as a gesture of thanks, before it left with a small 'hoot' in departure.
Harry then repeated his process with the light brown owl, before it too departed, and he had two letters, each one embossed on the back with a small wax seal.
Choosing to open the light brown one first, he sliced the seal open with his butter knife, and took a look at the solid black ink that greeted him.
I'm not sure where to start with this letter, but I'll keep it just like you are - short and sweet.
Your father and I would like to invite you to spend your Christmas holidays with us, at our family's ancestral home of Potter Moor.
I think that it would be nice if we all got to know each another a little better, especially since Alex's letters don't really mention you much at all, (but we have no doubt he just wants to keep you all to himself for now), and either way, we'd like to learn more about you, from you and in person.
You can write back to us at any time, just send us your letter back with one of the school owls if you don't have one of your own, or you could just ask Alex to borrow his - Hedwig is a really beautiful snowy owl, who I think would probably love to have the exercise.
We hope to see you in a few weeks.
Lots of love,
Mum and Dad
Clenching his jaw as he read more and more of the letter, he took a bite of his toast, not noticing that it had gone mostly lukewarm in his hand, chewing it mechanically, before he swallowed, ignoring the taste, as he turned his attention to Daphne, who was sat next to him that morning.
"If I was to receive an invitation of sorts", he started without a greeting and she rolled her eyes, like the others, she was becoming accustomed to his blunt phrasing and distinct lack of greetings when he wanted something, "and then burnt it without offering a response", both of her perfectly maintained eyebrows shot up in surprise as her eyes widened ever-so slightly, "would that be considered rude by normal wizarding standards?"
"Yes", she looked scandalised at the very thought of anyone doing even something remotely like that, "extremely so"
"Good", he replied, before scrunching the parchment up in his hand, until it was a small ball, and levitating it in front of him. A muttered, "Incendio", had the small ball lighting up in flames, causing those nearest to him to scoot back in surprise, before the fire burnt out and the parchment was gone.
Ignoring the looks he was receiving, especially from the blonde at his side, Harry smiled slightly in satisfaction, before using his butter knife to slice open the second letter.
For the attention of Mister H J Potter,
Son of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter,
The Lord Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, and his wife, the Lady Narcissa (née Black), of the Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy, do request the pleasure of your company at their home, Malfoy Manor, located in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on the evening of the Twenty-Fifth of December, in the Year of our Lord 1991, for this year's Yule Ball, taking place in support of Saint Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
The evening's entertainment will involve music from a live band, dancing in the main ballroom, as well as a small theatre piece.
Various Hors d'oeuvres will be served throughout the evening, and light refreshments will be available for all.
Please note, that while those considered to be legal 'minors' are welcome to attend, they will not be permitted to consume the alcohol-based beverages available, regardless of parental and guardian consent.
The event starts at exactly four o'clock post-meridiem; and is expected to last until the early hours of the morning.
All proceeds generated by the event will be donated to the aforementioned hospital, in full.
Please R.S.V.P no later than midnight ending on the Ninth of December 1991.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
Lucius Malfoy IV
Lord of the Ancient & Noble House of Malfoy
He read the letter becoming more and more surprised with the more he read. He knew that on their first night, all the way back at the Welcoming Feast, Draco had told him that he'd made a good impression on his father, but that was one thing, this - an invitation to the Malfoy Family's Annual Charity Christmas Party - was another thing entirely.
"So, are you going?"
He jumped in his seat at Daphne's voice in his ear, to find the blonde girl leant over his shoulder, completely calm while she read through the letter he held in his hands, sparing him an amused look as he settled back down, before he folded over the letter, calmly tucking it into his pocket.
"Do you mind?"
"No, not really", she sat back in her seat, "if you didn't want an opinion on that one, then you probably wouldn't have asked me about the first one"
She has a point there.
He clenched his jaw and she kept smiling at him, completely amused and enjoying trying to rile him up, testing his self-control, "What do you think?"
"About you going?"
"I think that's a terrible idea"
He actually felt surprised at that, and it showed on his face, "What? Why?"
"Well", she straightened up, "to put it quite frankly, you have zero social training for these kinds of situations", at his look she explained, "yes, you do a fine job of walking with us, and talking with us, better than some of us who were raised to act this way even", her glaze flicked over to where Crabbe and Goyle were sat stuffing their faces, and he nodded his understanding, "but there's more to it than just that. There's multiple centuries' worth of culture and history you just don't understand - yet", she amended at his sour look, "there are all sorts of customs you just don't know about, and while some people wouldn't mind, you would no doubt offend some people at these things if you didn't speak and move the way you're supposed to, and well", she gave him an unimpressed look, "it's a ball"
He was sure he was being an idiot, but he just had to ask, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Do you own dress robes?" She frowned lightly, "Do you even know how to dance?"
She had him there, as he opened his mouth, before muttering a defeated, "No"
"Would you like my advice?" He thought about it for a moment, before nodding, and she started an explanation of her thoughts, "Before you can even think about going to one of these, you need to be fitted for dress robes, take enough dance lessons to fit in with high society, your manners are definitely adequate, but extra lessons definitely wouldn't hurt, and then you need to undergo learning about the social etiquette and customs of the wizarding world", as he opened his mouth to argue, she cut him off, "reading one of the Malfoy books is an excellent start, but there are several more that would be a great benefit to you", she ran her eyes over him in a manner that made him feel like he was part of the dinner menu, "would you like a list?"
With a promise from Daphne to provide him with a list of useful book titles by the end of the Christmas Break, she stayed behind after breakfast to help him pen his response to Malfoy Senior. Only once they were both happy with it did they head for the staircase, she left him on the fourth floor, heading to the library to start on a Transfiguration essay that he had already written, and bidding her goodbye, he continued up the staircase, past the seventh floor and straight up to the owlery.
Ignoring the dozens of student-owned and families' owls, he took a moment to stare at the bright white snowy owl that he now knew belonged to Alex - Hedwig as it was apparently called - it was, he had to admit, the most beautiful owl he had ever seen, before he moved past her, and made his way up the small staircase, ignoring the dozens of owl droppings and small rodent skeletons, all the way to the very top where the school barn owls were kept.
Selecting the best looking one of the batch, which wasn't really saying much as they all looked rather worn down, he attached the letter, complete with a Slytherin House wax seal, given that he didn't have a personal one, to one of the owl's feet. The owl hooted once in recognition, before stretching his wings, and heading up, out of one of the owlery's large windows, and then southward, in the direction that he presumed Malfoy Manor was located.
Harry honestly had no idea where in Britain, Wiltshire was.
Pleased with the outcome, though feeling slightly disappointed that he wouldn't be attending the ball, this year at least, he stood at the edge of one of the windows, watching the small brown shape flap it wings until he could no longer make out its outline against the early morning sky. He lingered for a moment, enjoying the feeling of the morning sun on his face and the crisp air in his nostrils, before making his way back down the stairs.
His hand reached for the door handle, before it was pushed from the other side, and he had to bring his hands up to block it, while whoever was on the other side shuffled in.
"Sorry, sorry, I'm so sor-", he saw who he had just hit with the door, "-ry"
Stepping back, Harry brushed his hands off, "It's fine, I'm fine, don't-", he looked up, swallowing, "Alexander"
His twin nodded in greeting, "Hadrian", he looked around the room, "sending a letter?"
"No", he responded, his voice laced with sarcasm, "I thought this would be a nice spot to practice my Herbology skills"
The Gryffindor wizard grimaced slightly, "I suppose that was a bit of a stupid question wasn't it? Anyone I know?"
"The Malfoy family actually, it was my response to their Yule Ball invitation"
"Ah", Alex took a deep breath, "Mum told me that she was inviting you over to the house for Christmas. Are you coming? I mean, I know that you don't really like me, it's just that…"
"It's just that what?"
"I'd like you to be there", he hesitated for a moment, before pushing on, "and I know Mum and Dad would like to meet you"
"Then they shouldn't have left me with those muggles when I was a boy", Harry's voice turned harsh and cold, spitting out the world 'muggles', as though it was the most disgusting thing he could think of, and Alex looked gobsmacked at the outburst of his normally, completely in-control twin, while Harry took a few deep breaths as his body shook, visibly determined to calm himself down, "and you will have to extend apologies on my behalf, as I have decided to remain at Hogwarts over the coming holiday break"
"Oh, okay then", Alex look slightly downcast, and Harry felt a pang of something as the other boy offered him a small smile, "I'll see you around Hadrian"
He nodded in farewell, stepping around his brother to reach the owlery door, pausing at the threshold, "And Alexander?"
"Congratulations on your win the other week, you, err… you flew very well"
And with that, Harry was gone, leaving his Gryffindor counterpart behind, gaping at his rapidly retreating form.
Unsure of exactly why he had said that, regardless of whether or not he thought it to be true, Harry headed back down the staircase, walking past the fourth floor, including the library where he had left Daphne earlier, after their impromptu letter-writing session, and headed back towards the ground floor.
He was still stumped on the question he'd had since Halloween, and there weren't many books in the library that mentioned it. He'd considered asking Professor Snape, but that would no doubt come with a price tag attached - a favour that he would owe the other man at a later date.
He was aware that he now owed Daphne a favour for her help that morning, but that would be easy enough to repay back, all she had to do was ask for his help with one of their homework assignments or something of that ilk, but he knew Professor Snape would be more demanding, and he just wasn't keen of the idea of owing two different people at the same time.
His thoughts turned to Professor Flitwick as he passed the second floor, but he had already tried talking to the Charms Master after class a few weeks ago, and while he had offered a little in the way of an answer, he had admitted that he didn't know much about the subject, and that all of the parts he did know were related to him personally. While he had tried to help him, he just hadn't wanted to disclose that kind of personal information to him, for which he knew he couldn't begrudge the diminutive professor.
His thoughts continued to wander, while his feet continued making their way down the stairs, reaching the landing for the first floor when he finally looked up, seeing the guiding sign for the Hospital Wing staring at him in bold bright red lettering.
The Hospital Wing!
The thought struck with the force of a bolt of lightning, much like the one that adorned his forehead, and he felt the urge to slap himself for being so slow on the uptake - when he actually had had the problem, where was it that Professor Flitwick insisted that Professor Snape take him to?
The Hospital Wing.
Feeling emboldened by his own discovery, he walked through the empty corridor, and pushed open the huge double doors that led to the school's treatment area. He stepped into the empty room, devoid of any students, which Harry supposed was a good thing.
It didn't take Madame Pomfrey long to appear, stepping out of her office as though summoned by his entrance, which again, he supposed, was a possibility.
"Mister Potter, what are you doing here?" Her eyes widened in alarm, "Have you been feeling unwell? Do you need a check-up? Perhaps a full-body-"
"No Madame Pomfrey, nothing like that", he shook his head softly, "I just wanted to talk to you, I was just wondering if I could ask you some questions about what happened to me at Halloween"
"Oh", she smiled down at him softly, "well of course you can Mister Potter, that's exactly what I'm here for after all. Please come, let's step into my office"
He followed her into the small office space set aside for her, where there were four walls, three of them lined with shelves, and the fourth held the door, as well as large windows, allowing her to see out into the room.
Two of the walls were lined with various books and scrolls, but the wall directly behind the small table Madam Pomfrey had set up to use as her desk, was piled high with potions, which were all labelled, though Harry couldn't read any of them from where he was sat. The far corner also housed a small staircase, which led to the extra patients' area, housed above them.
"Well then Mister Potter", she sat down on her desk chair, inviting him to sit opposite her with a wave of her hand, "I should start by telling you that, as with anytime you decide to come here, anything that is said in here is strictly confidential, and will only ever be known to you and me, now", she paused long enough to smile gently at him, "what is it exactly that you would you like to know?"
"I was wondering if you could tell me exactly what happened to me at Halloween. I tried asking Professor Flitwick, but he said he didn't know much, and the books in the library didn't tell me much either"
"Well they wouldn't", looking at his confused face, she elaborated further, "books centred on healing detail the various ways in which a body may become injured; this often includes detailed explanations on the various dark curses and objects that can be used to cause the injuries. It is because of this, that while they describe all of the good ways in which a body can be healed, most of the actually useful books are stored in the Restricted Section"
"'Oh' indeed, Mister Potter, however I can explain some of the basics of it to you. What do you know of our ability to measure magic? In fact, tell me, do you know why we start schooling at eleven years old and why, in the Wizarding World, we become adults at seventeen, instead of the former sixteen, or the muggles' current eighteen?"
"No, Madame Pomfrey, I don't"
"No, well not very many people ever bother to learn", she shook her head softly, "very well then, magic, as I'm sure you're well aware of, surrounds us all, it surrounds everything and anything that exists, and even the least gifted witches and wizards are able to manipulate the magic in their environment to achieve a desired, or undesired, result, but in order to do that, magic has to be able to flow through them in a great capacity. Are you with me so far?"
"Yes Madame Pomfrey"
"Good. Now, all magical beings have what we refer to as a magical core, the size of which varies from person to person. Now, this is not a physical thing within yourself, some extra space, but rather refers your body's own ability to process the magic surrounding it. At the time you are born, your core capacity is registered and noted down; anyone who scores less than two thousand Myrddins is declared to be a squib, if they are born to magical parents, or simply a muggle if they are not"
"What's a Myrddin?"
"That is a good question Mister Potter. Now, there are two major measurements here that you should be aware of - the first of which is the Myrddin. One Myrddin, is what we define to be one unit of magical power; these 'units' are what flow through us, 'filling' our magical cores if you will. To explain it in basic terms, it is the unit of measurement for the amount of magic a cell of your body can contain", seeing his eyes glaze over slightly, she decided to focus on her overall point, rather than trying to explain advanced medicine, "anyway, this is what allow us to cast our spells, use our potions and the maximum number of Myrddins we can hold in our own cores is what makes up our core size, and determines our Myrddin Count; the rate at which are able to allow our bodies to refill our stored magic is what makes up a Morgana, or it may also be called a Fay, and our Morgana Rate or Fay Rate is measured by how quickly one can replenish their Myrddin Count from depletion to maximum; as such, we give the Fay Rate as either a ratio, or a number against one minute. Do you understand me so far?"
"I think so"
"Okay then. Now on Halloween, by lifting that troll's club you expended more magic than your body ever had before, doing so caused a great stress on your body's magic reserves, nearly completely depleting your magical core, which in turn drained you physically. The reason I insisted that you rest, is so that while you were sleeping, your body was expending less energy, and therefore it could focus on assisting in the refill of your core, slightly speeding up the recovery process"
"Oh, okay then"
"Now, back to the idea of schooling. The reason we start at eleven, is that eleven years old is roughly the time that our cores start to fluctuate and grow, slowly expanding at a yearly rate of roughly two to one, which basically means that from ages eleven to seventeen, your core roughly doubles in size every year. Eventually it settles, and you become an adult magician. A naturally weaker witch or wizard will start off with a count of, let's say the minimum, so around two thousand Myrddins, at the end of their first year it will be around four thousand, at the end of their second year it will be eight thousand and so on and so forth, until they graduate, when their count will have been upped to around two hundred and fifty-six thousand, which is a generally low score for an adult, but not unacceptable. A much more naturally gifted witch or wizard for example, may start their schooling with a Myrddin Rating of, let's say a very strong five thousand, and therefore finish with a count of around six hundred and forty thousand, which is an extremely impressive number. Do you understand me?"
"Yes Madame Pomfrey", he sat there for a moment, nodding to himself under the bemused eye of the school's matron, before he opened his mouth again, "Madame Pomfrey, is it, that is I mean, could I…."
"Do you wish for me to test you?"
"Yes Madame Pomfrey", he said as he nodded, trying not to appear too eager, but something in her smile told him that he wasn't being too successful.
"Very well then" she stood up from her desk, searching her shelves behind her for two small vials, before plonking them down in front of him, "now, if we were doing this as a child, then we could just record it, however I'm told, and as you may be aware, as a child you were once declared a squib, which means that at one point you had a Myrddin count of less than two thousand, though be assured that you need more than that to earn a place here. Drinking that blue vial will fill your core back up to its maximum, though I will tell you that it is extremely addictive, and this better be the only time that you take it within the next year", she gave him a stern look as he she handed it to him, and with a second look, he was drank it, while she pulled a glossy black quill from her shelves, stabbing it into the palm of his hand, ignoring his slight gasp of pain, before healing the tiny cut with a wave of her wand and placing it over a blank sheet of parchment.
He swallowed the blue liquid, surprised by the sweet taste, and his face must've given something away, because she rolled her eyes at him, before handing him the small black vial.
"Now, in just a moment, I want you to drink that when you feel full, and this quill", she tapped the black one she had just put down on the desk, the tip blood red, "will record your Myrddin score and Fay rate"
It took a few moments, until he felt a contentedness spreading out from his stomach, and not wasting anytime, he popped the cork off of the black vial and swallowed it in one gulp, grimacing at its taste, much to the amusement of the school's healer.
"If a high number is a strong Myrddin score, then what makes a strong Fay rate?"
"Another excellent question Mister Potter. Your Fay rate is made up of two numbers, and it is generally always given in a ratio to one, such as ten to one, twenty to one, et cetera. The one stands for one minute, and the first number is the amount of Myrddins your core can replenish in that minute"
"So a rate of ten to one simply means that one will regain ten Myrddins every minute?"
"Exactly Mister Potter", she explained as the quill stopped scratching, underlining two things before settling down on the desk, and she picked up the parchment to look at it, "oh my…"
"What is it Madame Pomfrey? Is everything alright?"
"Yes Mister Potter, it's just…"
"What is it Madame Pomfrey?"
"You have a Fay rate of twenty to one, which is incredibly high for your age - the numbers I said were just for example. That is quite rare to see in someone so young"
"And my, and my Myrddin count?"
"Mister Potter… your Myrddin… it's well… it's over nine thousand"
Ten minutes after he had left the Hospital Wing, the different numbers he'd been given were still rattling around his head, leaving him reeling as he walked past the students milling about the entry way and the Great Hall, walking through the giant doors that separated the castle from the grounds, and heading for where he had sat with his fellow First Years the other day. Apparently, some of them had been sitting there all year, and it had already become known as 'their' spot.
He settled his back against the tree, looking over the lake as the chilling breeze swept across him, but he was too stubborn to bother going to gather a thicker cloak, instead, he simply sat there, allowing his thoughts to mull over his mind.
A little less than five hundred minutes for me to be able to completely replenish my core… or simply a little over eight hours, when it should take me at least a day - especially with a core my size…
Wow… that's just impressive…
He didn't know how long he sat there for, but eventually the skin on his hands began to turn a pale blue colour, and his fingers began to shake, so he stood up, brushing off imaginary dust from his robes, before heading back into the castle.
A quick, "Tempus", check told him that it was almost time for lunch but not quite yet, so he decided to head back to his room first, where he could warm up slightly before it was time to eat.
Passing through the mostly empty Entrance Hall, he descended into the dungeons, walking the now-familiar route back to the wall the hid the Slytherin common room, pausing only to offer the password, "Fluxweed", before heading straight down the stairs and to the First Year common room.
He had barely stepped through the doors when Blaise bounded up to him, looking concerned, "Merlin Harry, where've you been?"
"Outside", he offered as a response, "I was thinking. Why?"
"Take a look in a mirror", his friend looked him up and down in concerned, "you've gone pale and, well, kinda blue", Blaise looked uncomfortable looking at him, "in certain places. What was so important that you had to go outside just to think about it?"
"I'm fine", was all he offered in response, ignoring Blaise's question and mouthing of 'okay', as they both took seats by the fire, and he immediately felt the effects of it warming him, tingling as the blood flow returned to his hands and nose, which he realised, using the mirror Blaise had provided him from a pocket inside of his robes, was now the same shade of pale blue as his hands.
The two of them sat together in a companionable silence, waiting until it was time for lunch, before they left the common room together, arriving at the Great Hall, and choosing seats next to Millicent and Morag, who were just finishing their meals.
While Blaise set about putting together a plate full of bitesize snacks, Harry poured himself a goblet of pumpkin juice, before doing the same for Blaise, who offered a muffled, "Thanks"
The girls lingered as they ate, the four of them discussing their chances of retaining the Quidditch Cup for the eighth consecutive year despite having already suffered a loss to Gryffindor.
"-Potter's obviously the best seeker-"
"But you're forgetting Ravenclaw's defence-"
"-and Hufflepuff's seeker-"
"-and they're playing each other next week-"
"-yeah, last game of the year-"
"-but the lions have the most well-rounded-"
"Fine, fine", Blaise threw his hands up in defeat, "our chances don't look good", he sent a betrayed, glance at Harry, who smirked, seeing as he hadn't agreed with him once so far, "but we still have a shot at winning the cup"
"Yes", Harry conceded, before smirking again, "and in the meantime, the broomsticks may learn to fly themselves, but I wouldn't put any money on it happening"
"Just you wait", he straightened up in his seat, "we'll win the cup, you'll all see - we'll win it"
"Uh huh, now if we decide that we all agree with him, will the kind gentleman in the silver and green robes agree to shut up and let me eat my midday meal in piece?"
Blaise smiled at him, "Why yes, the handsome gentleman will"
"Then we agree", he silenced the other two with a look, "now let me eat - I'm hungry"
The three of them spoke at once, while Harry made a start on the extra-large bowl of soup he'd gathered, ignoring them giggling as the liquid mass of carrots began to make its way down his throat.
Christmas approached Hogwarts quickly, Hufflepuff beat Ravenclaw by a score of 310 to 270, and one morning in December they all awoke to find the Black Lake completely frozen over, while the grounds were covered completely by a foot of snow and patches of solid ice.
Harry made a quick trip to the library, copying the spell pages for the bluebell fire and a handful of warming charms for use in different situations, dedicating some of his spare time to beginning to master them, while also finishing the book Professor Snape had lent him on duelling, leaving it behind on his desk after one of their Potions lessons.
Happy with the way he had progressed, now having a thorough understanding of what would be expected from him in a real duel, as well as having noted down several different useful tactics and duelling styles he wanted to learn more about later, he checked out a library book on some basic to intermediate level jinxes, though nothing too advanced just yet, as well as one on the spell swatting defence method that Percy and Lucan had mentioned to him weeks ago.
Writing three inches of his homework about it was one thing, actually being able to pull it off successfully was another entirely.
Armed with his books and a head full of theoretical knowledge, which he was feeling more than ready to use, all Harry needed was a place to practice.
His first venture into the Slytherin training rooms had been a particularly trying experience for him, but as with everything in Slytherin House, he had to admit that the set-up was almost completely flawless.
There was a single, full-size duelling platform running across the length of the room, (which Blaise had informed him was the standard international size), and on either side of it were two smaller ones, leaving four smaller platforms which could be used for practicing and when it came to practicing, there were two options available.
Option number one was to have an actual opponent to duel against, but Harry didn't have that option, especially as he wanted to keep his training a secret for as long as possible.
The second option was to use one of the several smaller rooms set off to the sides, which were simply made up of solid stone walls, ceiling and floors and a single door, which couldn't be opened from the outside after the room's occupants had locked it from the inside.
He chose one of the individual rooms, the only other occupant of which was the target dummy that came with it, and locked himself inside. Choosing his list of spells to learn was fairly easy - he spent one afternoon sat by the lake, a jar of colour-changing bluebell flames burning alongside him, keeping him warm while he enjoyed looking out over the snowy landscape and frozen lake - with Hagrid's Hut looking like something that would be used as a cake decoration when it was covered in snow, as he wrote out all of the jinxes he wanted to learn, sorting them by how useful he thought they would be, and how difficult they would be to cast.
His first spell was going to learn was 'Flipendo', which was also known as the knockback jinx.
It was an easy one, from nearly the very front of the spellbook, and was a jinx that was designed to knock his opponents back anywhere from twelve inches to three feet, depending on the strength of the caster, and he had a feeling that he would definitely be able to manage the full three feet once he had the spell mastered.
Making sure that there was room behind his training dummy, he made sure to have the right wand movement, which was a sharp forward snapping motion towards the target, he began.
A bright orange orb of magic left the tip of his wand, careening down the length of the small room, before striking the dummy at the side of its shoulder, sending it spinning back by a good foot and a half before stopping when the effects of the jinx wore out, before moving back and resetting itself to its default position.
After over three hours of constant practice, it was almost time for dinner, and Harry had, to a certain degree of his understanding, already mastered the spell - there had been no mistakes made with his casting, pronunciation or power for at least the last half hour, probably for much longer, he admitted to himself, which meant that while his spell casting was fine, he still had one problem.
His aim was terrible.
Firing spells at a target that was a distance away, even if it wasn't too far away from him, was much more difficult than firing at a target that was sat on a desk directly in front of him.
Some of his spells had struck the very centre, pushing it all the way back, but some of his other attempts, such as his last one, had only managed to clip it, which ended up with a smaller pushback.
Some of his other spells had missed completely.
A quick "Tempus", told him that he would have to work on his aim later, seeing that it was time for their last meal of the day.
He ignored the stares of a few of the older members of their House as he exited the training room, while they wondered what use a First Year would have for it.
He returned to his bedroom, putting his notes away, promising himself that he would look for ways to improve his aim later, before taking a quick trip to the bathroom to freshen up.
It wouldn't do to not look his best in public.
As Christmas drew even closer and December came closer to an end, they were administered in-class tests to gauge their progress. Once they were out of the way, their lessons wound down in difficulty, with some of the Professors giving up on teaching completely, letting their students relax. Professor Flitwick was the most laid-back as he allowed his class to play games, not pushing anyone to learn with the exception of Harry, who had now mastered his control of 'Incendio', and was still pushing him to learn more charms, so they had started with 'Aguamenti'. It was the water conjuring charms, the direct opposite of 'Incendio', and it was apparently much more advanced than anything he had attempted before, so much so that Professor Flitwick had promised to award him an extra twenty points for his house if he managed to master it before the end of the Easter Break.
Transfiguration and Potions were the only two lessons that continued full-force until the twentieth of December, pushing their students learning forwards, with their final lessons being especially challenging; Potions in particular, as Professor Snape decided that the final Friday would be the ideal day to test what his students had learnt during their first term.
The Gryffindor students groaned, scowling at the Potions Master, while he went around the room, handing out his test papers, docking them five points for Weasley muttering how unfair it was for them to have a test, while their Slytherin counterparts were smart enough to stay silent on the matter.
It didn't hurt them that the Sixth Year prefects had told him he did it every Christmas, with every new batch of First Years.
Only Hermione seemed pleased, and that was only somewhat marginally, by the idea that her knowledge would be tested before she went home for the holidays.
In complete silence, half of all the school's First Years sat an impromptu test, which lasted right up until the lunch bell, Professor Snape allowing them to leave one at a time, only after he had collected their test papers, dismissing them row by row.
Starting with the green and silver side of the room.
Once all of his snakes had been dismissed, starting with Malfoy and ending with Harry, he moved on and began dismissing the Gryfffindor students, who were much more anxious to leave, starting with Sophie and Fay, he started at the back of his classroom, weaving his way to the front, where Alex was sat next to Neville.
Running his eyes over the two of them, he picked up Neville's paper first, scanning over it, before dismissing the boy with a curt jerk of his head. As the pudgy boy darted from the room in fear of the Potions Master, the man in question picked up Alexander's answer paper, reading though it much more slowly than he had anyone else's, drawing it out for what he could, in what was the very last class they would have that year.
Determined not to cost Gryffindor any more points in Potions than he already had that year, Alex settled for glaring at the hook-nosed professor, who simply continued to read with an infuriating smirk on his face.
Finally, after what felt like forever, he nodded his head, letting him leave the dungeon behind, happy that he wouldn't have to see the greasy git again until after Christmas. He wasted no time in escaping the room, slipping out into the corridor and rushing to catch up with Ron and Hermione.
He'd be able to see Hermione on the train tomorrow, they'd already agreed to share a compartment on the journey back, but Ron would be staying at Hogwarts for the holidays, as his parents were taking little Ginny to Romania, to visit his older brother Charlie, who was over there working with dragons.
Ron would no doubt want to spend his first Saturday morning without any lessons coming after the weekend, sleeping in as late as possible, even if he had promised Hermione that he would look for references to Nicholas Flamel in the school's massive library, while Alex would do the same in his family's private one, neither boy would be doing it on their first weekend off.
Hermione had spent the last week scouring through text after tome of information, determined to find something - anything - that would at least give them a lead on finding out just who Nicholas Flamel was, but so far, all they had was nothing.
But whoever he was, he had to be important. Of that, Alexander was sure.