A/N: Sorry for the lengthy delay. I've been plagued by writer's block and in the course of breaking free of it have recharted a fair amount of this story. Specifically that other Nazarick NPC's will be making appearances in Hogwarts over the course of the school year. Again sorry to everyone for the delay. Also I'm changing my once a week promise to once every two or so weeks since that's clearly a more realistic time window.
PrometheusTheXelNaga: S.P.E.W. may make an appearance over the course of this year from the NPC's but don't expect it to be Hermoine's original views on the subject.
Harry wasn't fully out of the Great Hall when Professor McGonagall caught up to him and passed him his schedule for classes. Muttering a quick thanks to his head of house he moved off to the side so that he would not be in anyone's way as he studied his schedule and worked on committing it to memory. Luckily or unluckily depending on how you looked at it his first class of the school year was History of Magic. Professor Binns proved to be just as monotonous as he had in previous years and ten minutes into the very first class half of the Gryffindor fifth years were in the process of falling asleep while their ghost teacher continued to drone on about the events of the Giant Wars. Mercifully it was only a single period and the students of the house of lions were freed from their confinement to head onto their next classes. It was as Harry was packing up his bags that he noticed that Aura who had been sitting two desks ahead of him the whole time had somehow managed to stay fully awake and not only that the blond girl had taken what looked like a full page of notes. Harry wasn't sure what to make of that given how few students, or as it was better understood, Hermione alone, managed to resist the sleep inducing drone of their ghost professor.
Still regardless of what had happened during and right before breakfast neither Aura nor Harry were friends, they were barely acquaintances for that matter though they were both members of the house of lions. As Harry along with Ron and Hermione left the class room Aura didn't join them instead walking along farther behind as the group of fifth year students left the classroom. It was around the time that they were crossing the castle's courtyard in the process of making their way from the History of Magic class to the Potions class being held in the dungeons as always that the group was ambushed.
The trio stopped, turned and looked to see Cho Chang standing there. Hermione took one look at her standing there looking at Harry before promptly moving on dragging Ron with her with a firm grip on his arm. Harry meanwhile was standing there in the center of the courtyard looking at Cho. The Ravenclaw was standing alone which Harry couldn't ever remember happening. Not once in his memory had she ever walked anywhere alone. And he was rather aware of that given how the previous year he'd tried asking her to be his date to the Yule Ball and had his confidence thwarted many times by the crowd of girls that were perpetually around the Ravenclaw girl.
Cho gave him a sort of timid smile, or at least he thought it looked timid but then he couldn't really think of his fellow seeker as being timid not given how physical she proved herself on the Quidditch pitch when she was chasing a snitch, and with it, victory.
"I see you got that stuff off, then?"
Harry firmly resisted the urge to grin in embarrassment at the memory of when they'd been on the train and she'd looked in on him and the others right after he'd been coated by an explosion of Stinksap.
"Yeah that stuff's gone. So did you have a good summer?"
He was immediately berating himself in hindsight as he realized that she had to have spent most of the summer dealing with the aftermath of Cedric's death. He didn't even know if she believed his claims that Voldemort was the one responsible for Cedric's death. For all he knew she could have decided Harry was the one responsible and who could blame her after all. Harry watched her expression as they stood there in silence and he unconsciously pulled his robes closer around him given how chilly the misty drizzle of rain was making everything. Eventually though Cho who was clearly lost in her own world gave a sort of sad smile.
"It was okay I guess. Cedric's death changed everything of course but I got through it."
Harry nodded in silent understanding knowing just exactly how right her words were. She gave a weak sort of smile at the nod.
"Anyways thanks for talking to me."
Harry gave her a firm nod at that.
"Anytime Cho. If you ever need to talk I'm here. And if Ced's death starts weighing you down we can compare nightmares."
He instantly wished he hadn't mentioned his nightmares but he'd wanted her to not know she was the only one dealing with death. Cho though wasn't looking at him strangely, or actually was but it was a surprised strange look.
"You have nightmares about him?"
Her words were quiet clearly out of surprise but strangely not horror or disgust. Clearly she hadn't expected even the thought let alone the words that Cedric's death was affecting Harry just as much as it did her. Finally after a long moment she gave a short but firm nod as if in understanding.
"If he was killed like you said last year. Then I guess that makes sense."
And with that she turned and quickly headed off leaving Harry alone in the center of the courtyard mentally beating himself up for ever having mentioned the dreams turn nightmares he had without fail every night. It was only the sound of the classes bell that jolted Harry from his stillness and he turned quickly hurrying on his way down into the dungeons. Luckily Harry was able to make it in time and he joined the queue of students lined up outside the potions classroom joining Hermione and Ron. Ron seemed about to say something but Hermione firmly planted a foot into his instep which diverted Ron's attention from Harry to Hermione as he hopped on one foot in pain. As his two best friends argue Ron seemed like he was about ready to explode when suddenly there was a short blond blur moving to the side that brushed into Ron knocking him over onto the floor triggering a round of laughter from the Slytherin fifth year students all at the front of the line who laughed at Ron's misfortune with typical Slytherin grace.
Ron was just climbing to his feat and looking at the short Aura who was standing in the middle of the line next to the silver haired girl who marked the start of the Slytherin part of the line. Ron whirled on Aura grabbing her shoulder and turning her and causing her to jostle the silver haired girl as well and Harry could swear that Hermione looked like she wanted to mentally slap herself in frustration of Ron's tact or lack thereof.
"Oi. Watch where you're going shorty!"
Harry knew Ron well enough that as obtuse as he normally was regarding most social aspects he generally wasn't a cruel person. Just sometimes quick to anger over slights. Aura's mismatched green and blue eyes looked up at Ron while behind her the eyes of the silver haired girl along with some of the Slytherins that were still paying attention to Ron were watching him. Aura for her part didn't look like she was about to apologize and it came as no surprise.
"You were the one that hopped out you should have looked where you were going!"
Ron looked about to retaliate when the door to the potions classroom opened with a bang and everyone's eyes turned to the front where the previous class of potions students were filing out. Once the last of the seventh year potion students passed each other, and Aura waved at her twin as Mare was leaving. Then all the students then quickly filed in and took their seats. Harry could have sworn that right as he walked in Snape, who wasn't looking at the students filing in but instead down the corridor at the ones who had just left, had a very weird expression on his face for the briefest of moments before it was replaced with his usual perpetual scowl.
The door to the classroom closed after the last of the Gryffindors entered and instantly the class settled into quiet attentiveness that had long been trained in them when it came to this class and particularly this teacher. Harry listened along with all the others as Snape laid out how critical this year would be with the O.W.L. exams they would all be taking at the end of the school year and could well determine what they would be pursuing in the form of careers. Once his little lecture on the importance of the coming was ended he revealed the potion they would be learning for the day with the instructions already written on a blackboard at the front of the class.
"You all have until the end of the class to make an acceptable attempt at the Draught of Peace. The instructions are on the blackboard, the ingredients are in the store cupboard. Begin."
He flicked his wand at the mentioned cupboard and it opened for the students to take what they needed. Harry found the following half an hour to be quite stressful as Snape moved among them and each of them were making their own individual potions for the day. Though it turned out luck was with him as on two separate occasions Aura, who he was sharing a workstation with, caught his hand right as he was about to skip over a step by accident. In the end Hermione had a potion that Snape could clearly find nothing wrong to criticize with, and strangely enough so did Aura who Harry noticed cut up ingredients more perfectly than any he had ever seen before and seemed to have no trouble following instructions for the potion. His own potion was thankfully in the passable range though it wasn't at the same level as the two girls. Others such as Ron and Neville were both having trouble but they weren't the only ones as Goyle's potion ended up setting his robes on fire for a brief period before Malfoy had time to use an Augmenti spell to douse the flames on his gorilla like minion. Class ended when they all produced a sample of their potion for Snape to grade and he handed out the homework for the next class in the form of an essay on Moonstone.
Class had been no better or worse than previous years though inwardly Harry had the feeling that if Aura hadn't held him back from accidently skipping steps in the instructions it could have been far worse. And so Harry, Ron, and Hermione headed off to the Great Hall to eat lunch and were accompanied by Aura. Hermione couldn't resist in asking the blond girl how she did so well since it was one of the few times in memory that anyone had done as well as Hermoine.
"How'd you do so well on that potion? You must be a prodigy at potions if Snape didn't have anything to criticize you over."
Ron and Harry both unused to having someone do as well as Hermione were both listening in as well but were a little surprised by Aura's answer.
"Not really. Potions are just memorization. Dem... Professor Demiurge made sure we knew our stuff before we came."
Hermione was a little surprised since while there was indeed memorization involved with a potion like the one they'd just been working on the timing of the ingrediants and steps were so specific it was shocking she'd done so well.
"Wait so you've done that potion before?"
Hermione had to ask as she'd worked out from Aura's words that her teacher, a Professor Demiurge had seen to it that she and the other transfers had learned the potion. Aura gave a nod in response confirming that she had indeed made the potion before.
"Oh yeah. He wouldn't let us come here until we had everything we'd be handling memorized and mastered so that we wouldn't have any issues in our classes."
This caught a look of surprise from the others as no one not even Hermione went into a school year knowing all the assignments by heart.
"But you only got sorted when you got here. How could you know in advance..."
Hermione's eyes widened after a moment of stunned silence to the point she even stopped walking now standing in the middle of the courtyard where before Harry and Cho had stood talking her wide eyes fixed on Aura.
"You don't mean that he taught you every single potion do you?!"
Aura just gave a nod.
"Yeah It's just memorization after all. Do something enough times and it sticks. We were all sent here for a reason. None of us would bring disgrace to Nazarick's name."
Hermione was stunned along with Harry as they considered the implications and even Ron was staring open mouthed having realized what the two girls were talking about. The trio were left standing there as the darkening grey skies continued to drizzle rain down on them as they stood stock still in the open courtyard staring at Aura's retreating form. It took them a few more moments of being wet to snap out of it and Ron spoke for the group as they started off.
"She can't have been serious about memorizing all the potions. That'd be bloody mental. Who does that?"
They caught up to her again in the Great Hall where the students were coming in, in groups of twos and threes for their midday meal. Harry could see that once again the Nazarick Transfers were sitting at the table of snakes although he did notice Mare give him a timid wave as he entered the Great Hall. This caused more than a few eyes to turn to Harry for reasons he didn't understand but he did notice that they were without exception all seventh year students just like Mare. He gave the blond a wave back but moved to join Hermione and Ron at the Gryffindor table like always. He was taking a plate of food when the trio were joined by Fred and George.
"Hello little brother."
"Hello Harry, Hermione."
"Notice anything odd about our new fellow students?"
"Or should we say have you noticed anything that is normal instead?"
As the twins talked back and forth the golden trio looked over across the way at the table of the house of snakes where the four transfer students were still sitting. Ron went first of course speaking off first.
"Does anyone besides me find it a bit mental that someone would make them learn every potion for the year?"
Hermione sighed and corrected Ron to the admittedly reasonable flaw in his thoughts from what he had absorbed of their conversation with Aura.
"She wasn't saying that she was taught every potion for this year. She meant she was taught every potion from all seven years before she came."
Ron silently gaped at Hermione while Fred and George grinned like a pair of cheshire cats.
"Oh was that all?"
"Seems a bit tame doesn't it brother of mine?"
"It does indeed brother of mine. Do you think we should tell them? Or let them find out from the others who were there."
"It would be funny to see them not believe the truth."
"But then seeing how hard to believe that truth is does that seem fair."
Harry of course was focused on the twins and interrupted them before they could continue talking in their weird ways.
"Why what was so strange that you saw?"
George and Fred shared a look for the space of three seconds before leaning closer as if sharing a secret and their voices dropped in volume as well.
"We're sure that the news will be all over the castle by night anyways."
"And if it hasn't then it will be by tomorrow at breakfast without a doubt."
"But we just had a charms class with Flitwick and saw that golden haired boy Mare."
Ron frowned on cue that his older brothers were calling Mare a boy and both Hermione and Harry, accompanied of course by Ron all leaned in unison to the side to see around the two twins to look for a moment and Mare before leaning back in to listen to George and Fred.
"And we saw the strangest thing."
"Strangest things brother you say it as if there was only one thing peculiar we saw."
"Quite right brother. Strangest things. Well as we were saying Flitwick was starting class for all his N.E.W.T. students."
"And that blond boy over yonder behind us was with us."
"We had no more than taken out our wands and Flitwick was instructing us on a new spell since it was the start of the year."
"And Mare over there raises it perfectly and casts it."
"Without a single word on what the spell did, or how to cast it."
"All Ol' Flitwick managed to get out was the spell's name."
"Now you might think that wasn't nothing much."
"After all the boy could have just studied during the summer."
"But each and every time Flitwick named a spell."
"That little kid cast each of them perfectly. Not even with an incantation."
"End result being that dear Ravenclaw is up a hundred house points for it."
"And Flitwick held him back to question him on just how he knew all the spells in advance."
"We lingered a little before being told to go."
"And heard the mention of a Professor Demiurge."
"Now you three wouldn't happen to have heard something similar down in your potions class with old Snape himself now did you?"
By the end of this all three Gryffindor fifth years were experiencing a strong feeling of deja vu as they thought of how just like Aura seemed perfectly prepared for the classes that the blond boy sitting with the snakes seemed to be. Hermione fastest of thought mentioned an impossible thought.
"You don't think that this Professor Demiurge taught them every single class do you? What would be the point of even coming to Hogwarts if they already knew everything they were going to be taught?"
Ron and Harry were both deep in thought while the twins were both grinning like Cheshire cats once more at the revelation that at least half, and quite possibly all of the transfer students were in a school that they had no reason to be in.
"Anyways we're on our way. Classes to attend."
"And pranks to be planned. Keep an ear to the air and your heads down."
"This year is likely to be stranger than most."
The trio watched the twins get up and leave from the table and all three of them couldn't help but silently agree that the school year was likely to be stranger than most. Following lunch Ron and Harry made their way up to Professor Trelawney's classroom at the top of the North tower while Hermione went on her way to her Ancient Runes class. Harry was a little surprised to find Aura also in the divination class along with him and his best mate. But then this was the fifth year elective period so he supposed it made sense although he would be surprised more later on when he found she also had Care of Magical Creatures same as him. Unfortunately Divination was not a class he excelled in. And Twellany's nature did not help as no more had class started than she immediately was in her typical behavior with her her usual misty dreamy voice.
"Welcome back students. As you all are aware I have been following your fortunes and I knew you would all return safely to me once more. To our one new arrival who has come to us from both afar and nearby welcome. Here this year we will be focus on divining the future through analyzing your dreams. On each of your tables you will notice a copy of The Dream Oracle. Dreams are very important to discerning the future and regardless of the fact that each individual who is blessed with an opened inner eye has no need for petty things such as certificates and and examinations let alone grades. Our Headmaster does like your progress recorded. So each of you will be required to sit an examination for your O.W.L. at the end of the year and he would like you prepared for the more unimportant facts and stats of this field for when you sit. Now please each of you pair up with a book and follow the instructions in the book using your most recent dreams. Carry on."
Harry quickly found himself becoming bored by the class and pondered why for the eight hundred and fifty-third time, he had been keeping careful track of the number over the years, that he had not followed Hermione out when she had quit the class in their third year. The boys quickly settled into their age old habit of passing the class. Making up every increasingly ridiculous dreams involving a horrific and untimely death. Luckily the class was not a double period and soon the Gryffindor students were released from the classroom and were on their way to a class that in previous years had been one of Harry's favorites though now as he made his way into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom he did so with more than a touch of hesitance knowing that Minister Fudge's lackey, Umbridge, was teaching the class. And looking at the blackboard as he took a seat he couldn't help but feel a chill settle over him as he looked over the head of Aura in front of him at the blackboard where it read.
Defense against the Dark Arts
A Return to Basic Principles
"Well good afternoon."
Umbridge's voice greeted them from where she stood at the front of the class. Once again wearing that fluffy pink cardigan over her robes. A few of the class mumbled a reply but she seemed rather surprisingly put out by the enthusiastic response.
"Tut, tut. That won't do, now, will it? I should like you, please, to reply 'Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge.' One more time, please. Good afternoon class!"
The class was surprised but disciplined enough to respond as she wanted at which Harry, Ron and Hermione, as well as Aura ahead of him all replied back along with the rest of their students with a reply of. And at the reply Umbridge smiled sweetly
"Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge."
"There now. That wasn't too difficult, was it? Wands away and quills out, please."
The class and Harry alike exchanged gloomy looks. Harry had never had a lesson where the words 'wands away' had been followed by any lesson that he had considered memorable no matter how much some classes might have had information worth remembering at the uttering of those words.
"Well now, your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn't it? The constant changing of teachers, many of whom do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, has unfortunately resulted in your being far below the standard we would expect to see in your O.W.L. year. You will be pleased to know, however, that these problems are now to be rectified. We will be following a carefully structured, theory-centered, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic this year. Copy down the following, please."
She then tapped the blackboard at the front with her wand once and the chalk message that had been on the board faded and was replaced by:
1. Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.
2. Learning to recognize situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.
3. Placing the ruse of defensive magic in a context for practical use.
Harry along with the rest of the class copied down the aims of the course onto their parchment with their quils while Umbridge looked on with a smile plastered onto her face. Before finally looking up when he had finished the same as all the other students in the class. When most of the students were watching her Umbridge spoke again continuing.
"Has everybody got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory?"
Umbridge got the same half hearted response that she had gotten when greating the class a minute before which caused her smile to tighten slightly.
"I think we'll try that again. When I ask you a question, I would like you to reply 'Yes, Professor Umbridge," or 'No, Professor Umbridge.' So, has everyone got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory?"
The class's response was much stronger this time and Umbridge's smile returned to full.
"Good. I should like you to turn to page five and read chapter one, 'Basics for Beginners.' There will be no need to talk."
Umbridge left the blackboard and moved to her desk where she took a seat her eyes sharply watching the class that began to read. Harry opened his book obediantly and began to read but found the material to be incredibly dull and was not alone as Ron and others all were having difficulty with the material. It was several minutes in that he noticed Hermoine at his side hadn't opened her book and was sitting silently with her hand raised in the air and very clearly staring at Umbridge. Umbridge though didn't call on Hermoine though it was impossible for her to have missed the raised hand given how she was watching the class with the attention of a raptor. Her own personal resemblance to a toad aside her gaze was sharp and there was no way she could have so clearly missed Hermoine's raised hand. It wasn't more than a few minutes more that more than half the class were no longer reading their books either but were silently looking back and forth slowly between Hermoine and Umbridge wondering when the teacher would finally address the growing situation. Umbridge was clearly counting the number of students paying attention as when half the class had stopped reading she stood clearing her throat.
"Hem, Hem, Yes Ms. Granger? Do you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?"
Umbridge was clearly pretending she had only just noticed Hermoine though that couldn't possibly have been true the way her gaze had been lingering on her for more than a minute now. Hermoine lowered her hand and shook her head.
"Not about the chapter, no."
Umbridge smiled sweetly though the smile didn't reach her eyes as she studied Hermione.
"Well we are reading just now. If you have other queries we can discuss them at the end of class."
Before Umbridge could direct the rest of the class to continue however Hermione continued.
"I have a question about the aims of this course."
Umbridge was silent for a moment as she studied Hermione before finally speaking.
"Well Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read them through carefully."
Hermoine though wasn't so quickly dismissed as she replied quite bluntly.
"Well I don't. There's nothing written up there about using defensive spells."
Most of the students turned their heads to review the three course aims on the blackboard while Umbridge looked like she was choosing her words on how to reply to Hermione quite carefully.
"Using defensive spells? Why, I can't imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren't expecting to be attacked during class?"
Ron finally decided to weigh in at that point with his own two knuts not bothering to even put up his hand but rather simply blurting out the protest of:
"We're not going to use magic?"
Umbridge bestowed a glare for the first time on Ron as he so very clearly broke the social rules she was imposing on the class.
"Students raise their hands when they wish to speak in my class, Mr. Weasley."
Harry and Hermoine both raised their hands together at that while Ron quieted back down for the moment. Harry could see Umbridge's gaze on him but she turned to Hermione.
"Yes, Miss Granger? You wanted to ask something else?"
Hermoine lowere her hand with a fierce nod.
"Yes. Surely the whole point of Defense Against the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?"
Umbridge immediately smiled a little wider as she replied in a falsely sweet voice.
"Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Granger? If not then I'm afraid you are not qualified to decide what the 'whole point' of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new program of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way..."
Harry had enough at that point and couldn't resist the urge to blurt out.
"What use is that? If we're going to be attacked it won't be in a..."
Umbridge's smile quickly vanished as he interrupted her and she didn't let him finish as she forcefully interrupted him with the same falsely sweet voice as she had used with Hermione.
"Hand Mr. Potter."
Harry quickly thrust his fist into the air but Umbridge was turning away not letting him dictate the flow of the conversation in her class instead turning to one of Harry's fellow Gryffindors.
"Mr. Thomas, what is your question?"
Dean quickly lowered his hand and spoke.
"Well, its's like Harry said, isn't it?" said Dean. "If we're going to be attacked, it won't be risk-free..."
Umbridge sensing another course of conversation she did not want quickly squashed him talking over him.
"I repeat, do you expect to be attacked during my classes?"
Dean shook his head.
"I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run in this school."
And now everyone was convinced how she was lying given everyone noticed how false the smile now on her face was.
"But you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class, very irresponsible indeed, not to mention extremely dangerous half-breeds."
She laughed a cruel evil laugh even as Dean tried to defend Professor Lupin who had taught them in their third year despite the fact that the man had been a werewolf as there was no doubt at all in the minds of the lions sitting at their desks just who exactly Umbridge was talking about.
"If you mean Professor Lupin he was the best we ever..."
Umbridge's smile by this point was becoming very forced and it was at this point that directly in front of him Aura who's hand had been down for the entirety of the class finally rose to join the forest of raised hands in the air.
"HAND! Mr. Thomas! As I was saying, you have been introduced to spells that have been complex, inappropriate to your age group, and potentially lethal. You have been frightened into believing you will meet a Dark attack every day. Yes Mr. Fiora."
Clearly Umbridge like many others had somehow mistaken Aura for a boy though given how much younger and how androgynous appeared it was perhaps understandable, that or perhaps the professor's clearly irritated mood was interfering from a mind that had clearly memorized the names of all the students in her classes given how she had clearly known the names of each student she had addressed without needing to look at a seating chart or roster as she did so.
"Thank you Professor Umbridge."
Aura said as she lowered her hand not bothering for some reason to correct the professor's incorrect assumption about her gender.
"I would just like to point out that magical creatures and the half-breeds you have mentioned are quite a threat to ordinary humans."
At this most of the class was quite surprised and in shock that a student was apparently taking the side of the rather annoyingly frustrating teacher.
"Many magical creatures and races have natural immunity to weaker spells and possess spell like abilities of their own and this does not even account for if they learn magic themselves. When a human, regardless of magic use or not is pitted against a magical creature the outcome often ends in the favor of the creature or magical race. Therefore would not this class be better spent teaching how to defend against such since this is the very point of a this class as I understand it? Or would it be better that human magic users remain defenseless against non human magic users?"
The class was silent and every eye turned from Aura to Umbridge and her smile looked incredibly forced while her eyes were narrowed looking closely Harry could see that Umbridge's lips at the corner of her mouth were starting to twitch and everyone sat silent. Harry was intently watching Umbridge though he couldn't help but notice that Mare's green and blue eyes were clearly locked onto the ministry appointed professor and engaged in a staring match. Finally after the better part of a minute Umbridge looked over the rest of the class staring at her and donning her falsely sweet smile once more and letting the anger fade from her voice addressed them all.
"Mr. Fiora has raised excellent points regarding the danger represented by non humans and half breeds. You would all do well to listen to her and with that we will continue reading for the rest of the period. I will not be answering any more questions for the rest of the class." With that Umbridge whirled about and moved back to her desk where she produced a piece of parchment and a quill and began writing something leaving the rest of the class wondering just what had happened as all eyes were on Aura who had turned her attention back to her book and was reading in silence with the faintest of smiles on her face.