As it turned out, Harry's first class in his sixth year would be Defense and Dark Arts and its new professor, Severus Snape, with the sixth year Slytherins. He stepped into the class, noticing Hermione sitting in the second row as he sidled into the middle of the classroom, right next to Neville.
Harry had turned hiding in a class to an art form. You didn't want to sit in the front, obviously, but you didn't want to sit in the back either. In his first few years, he learned that the professor would tend to call out people who tried to hide in the back.
You also had to be willing to volunteer for questions occasionally, but not in the first few weeks of classes. Week 4 was the optimal week to start answering questions, and answer about one per two weeks. That way, teachers wouldn't call you out very often, and Harry would be free to listen to the lecture and notate in peace.
The newest professor entered the room with a flourish of his pitch black cloak, while most of the students were chatting amongst themselves, and Harry was setting up his quill and parchment. No reason to get on a teacher's bad side so early into term.
The, rather greasy looking, Harry noticed, professor cleared his throat silencing the room immediately. He glared at them, as if the moment it had taken was too long.
"I have discovered," Professor Snape droned derisively, "that your education in the nature of the Dark Arts has been horrifyingly lacking. I fear for what will come about of the incompetence you have been taught, and we must unfortunately spend the first few weeks correcting your poor knowledge."
The class seemed to freeze at his words. Their Dark Arts education had been lacking? Surely that was ridiculous. If anything, Professor Carrow had been extra thorough in their Dark Arts teaching. The D&DA OWL had hardly asked a third of the Dark Arts information that they knew.
"Your idiotic professor had neglected to teach you about the true nature of casting Dark spells, compared to 'Light' spells" He dramatically looked around the classroom, meeting everyone's eyes. Would any of you like to prove yourself to be less of a fool than your previous educator?"
Out of the corner of eye, he watched Hermione twitch a little at the question, as if she wanted to answer, but didn't want to raise her hands. Then, Professor Snape snapped back to Hermione after he passed over the room.
"Miss Granger," he began, tasting the word on her tongue, as if it had been something slightly distasteful, "Are you aware of how Professor Carrow has erred in his teachings?"
She seemed to be taken aback by the question, her head jerking up as if she had forgotten that she was in the class at all.
"He, um, he never mentioned the need for intent behind Dark Arts spells, Professor?"
Professor Snape's face twisted into a split between a grimace and a grin, "Precisely, Miss Granger. Imagine that, a teenage girl more well read than her professors. Yes, Professor Carrow failed to express the requirement of intent behind such magicks. Miss Brown."
The aforementioned girl lowered her raised hand, asking her question, "But, don't we need intent for every spell?"
"An adequate, if simple question, Miss Brown." His eyes snapped back to glare directly at her, as he added, "However, if you had simply allowed me to continue speaking, I would have answered such an obvious question with my lecture. I am not some incompetent dunderhead."
Lavender withered slightly in her seat, and Harry took a glance at Neville, who was starting to pale a little himself.
The professor continued, starting up a pace, "When casting Dark spells, you must cast them with the intent behind the spell. I will provide an example synthesizing what you would normally be learning at this point. Can anyone tell me one of the three most powerful Dark curses? Yes, Mister Malfoy."
The blonde git lowered his hand confidently, speaking proudly, "The Cruciatus Curse."
"Indeed, five points to Slytherin," Harry scowled at the loose giving of points. He hardly cared about the House Cup, but if Professor Snape would be favoring Slytherins, that would be trouble for him.
Professor Snape continued to lecture in his monotone drawl, "The Cruciatus Curse is a curse that is designed to cause as much pain as possible. It causes pain greater than anything else discovered by wizards, but causes no physical wounds. There has never been a death from the Cruciatus Curse, which makes it all the more powerful and painful. It is commonly used in Auror interrogations due to this fact."
A squeak came from the Gryffindor side of the room, from one of the girls who had apparently never heard of the curse. Harry himself had discovered it looking through a book about the three powerful curses he had mentioned, reading into the Killing Curse. He wasn't proud to admit it, but he had a similar reaction when he first read about the common use of the Cruciatus.
He ignored the outburst and continued to speak, "When casting the Curse, which we will not be doing in this class, you must truly desire to cause the excruciating pain of the curse to the recipient. An addition of enjoying the pain being given assists in the casting, but is nothing more than a crutch tons a talented witch or wizard.
"We will be exploring the more basic natures of Dark spells more as the year goes on, but for now we will discuss the remaining two curses of the three I mentioned. Mister Finnegan, what does the Killing Curse do?"
Seamus started a little at the direct call out, after volunteers has been asked for previously, but he recovered quickly, "Well, I imagine it prob'ly kills, aye?"
Professor Snape scowled at the Irish Gryffindor, "2 points from Gryffindor for cheek, but yes, it does in fact kill. However, it does more than that. It is the only known spell that is designed specifically to kill, and only kill. As I stated earlier, intent is required for Dark spells, and for the Killing Curse, you must truly desire with every gram of magic in your soul to kill the target, making it one of the hardest spells to cast."
He turned to the board, writing Avada Kedavra upon the blackboard, before turning back to the class, "If you were to cast this spell at your NEWT evaluations, you would be likely to get an E just for a successful cast and nothing else. I expect many of you to attempt this, but do remember," Professor Snape clapped his hand on his desk, making most of the class jump, "If you cast this, or any curse we discuss in this class, upon another student, or anything besides a plant or transfigured animal, you will be immediately expelled from Hogwarts."
He let the warning sink in for a moment before starting again, "Now then, with my daily obligation to keep you all alive completed, we may continue. As I stated earlier, the Killing Curse is designed to kill. In fact, it is the only curse in which death is guaranteed upon hitting its target."
Professor Snape turned to start directly at him, and Harry felt his face start to redden, knowing exactly where this line of teaching would go.
"However, in all of wizarding history, there has been precisely one exception to this rule, and he is sitting in this very class. Mister Potter, perhaps you'd be willing to shed some insight as to how others may survive the Killing Curse?" He finished off with a condescending sneer.
The whole class was now looking at him, and Harry unsuccessfully tried to fight down his flush. He gulped, trying his best to rack his brain for some kind of response, before words spilled out of him, inspired by the anger and frustration at knowing his mother's killer still walked the Earth.
"Well, I dunno, sir, but I'd think my mother did something, since she was the only other person able to cast magic there."
Professor Snape eyed him curiously, tilting his head a little at the response. A moment passed between teacher and student, Harry was probably the only one feeling the invisible pressure in the room at the moment, before the professor responded.
"Very well, five points from Gryffindor for cheek, but an acceptable answer nonetheless."
As the class continued on, Harry came to the conclusion that the question was some kind of test.
Now all he had to do was decided if he passed or failed.
Hermione briskly walked to Ancient Runes, her mind racing after what had happened in Dark Arts and Defense.
Professor Snape knew Legilimency.
Professor Snape knew wandless, silent Legilimency.
Professor Snape used wandless, silent Legilimency on her.
At the beginning of the class, as he had looked across the classroom, Hermione had been practicing her basic Occlumency shields to build the natural instinct of lifting them while doing intellectually challenging tasks. And, as Professor Snape's eyes met hers, she felt a little prod of, what she could only assume was, Legilimency in her mind.
Hermione was torn between pride at her thorough understanding of the theory of Occlumency allowing her to protect herself, and horror at the idea of a Professor being willing to read the minds of their students.
Because, regardless of her success today with the probe, she knew deep down that what Professor Snape had done at the beginning of the class was nothing more than a cursory glance, and that he could probably tear through her weak shielding like parchment.
The idea of someone going through her mind made bile rise in her throat as she resisted to vomit all over the 4th floor hallway.
She took her customary seat in the second row of the classroom as Professor Babbling fiddled around with runic tools in her bag, taking out certain implements that would be introduced for their sixth year. Most likely the prelude to what would be expected on their NEWTs, the replication of common runes, and, if they were looking to get an O (which she obviously was), the construction of their own small runic arrays.
The chair next to her slid back with a little squeak, as Ron plopped down into the seat next to her, greeting her with a quiet, "Hermione".
"Ron," she greeted back, "You're still available to meet in the library after dinner, correct?"
"Oh, uh, yeah, should be," he replied, obviously having forgotten about their meeting, at least in that moment. It hardly mattered to Hermione, so long as he was there.
Professor Babbling began her class soon after, introducing each one of the runic tools that they would be required to use in the year, as well as basic exercises to demonstrate their usage.
Despite the fact that the lesson was an exciting introduction to the practical aspects of Runes that she had been looking forward to for since 3rd year, she could hardly pay her full attention to the class. All that was on her mind was Occlumency, Legilimency and Professor Snape.
"Hermione?" A voice next to her, Ron's, broke her internal breakdown.
"Yes?" She responded with forced calm, and she was proud to note that she had managed to respond without signs of startling.
"I was asking if you got any plans for how to do the example Babbling gave us."
Hermione blinked at her neighbor, and looked at the board to see a fairly simple runic symbol up on the board, a demiguise. Right, Professor Babbling wanted them to try to carve the symbol into a block of wood to test their abilities with the tools.
"I know how to do them if you're not sure…" Ron offered after a moment's pause, "I mean-"
"Thank you, Ron," Hermione cut off abruptly, "But I'm sure that I can figure it out."
And with that, she turned back to her square of wood, presumably floated to all the students' desks by Professor Babbling, and got to work.
And she pointedly did not think about Professor Snape for the rest of the class.
Mondays were the best
Ron sighed comfortably as he walked down the steps from Ravenclaw Tower down to the Great Hall for dinner. Runes was his only class on Mondays, since he was only taking 5 classes now, Runes, DA&D, Charms, Potions and Arithmancy, his schedule was far more open. After the late start to the day, Ron was able to spend the remaining of his day playing chess against his enchanted chess set, his Christmas gift the previous year.
The little bugger started getting good from all the games he'd played on it. He'd probably start losing some games soon.
His delightful stroll to the promised land of a Hogwarts meal (only slightly the lesser to his own mum's cooking), was ruined by a shout of "RON" and someone grabbing his arm and pulling him into the empty classroom he'd just passed by.
As soon as his bearings readjusted, he saw his sister, Ginny staring at him, her arms crossed across her chest and her face twisted in an angry expression he didn't know why he was receiving.
No, there wasn't anything that she would be mad at him about. He hadn't done anything to her in the last week. What in the bloody hell was she doing?
"What in the bloody hell are you doing?"
Ron blinked as Ginny took the words right out of his mouth. "...What?" He asked eloquently.
"I heard that apparently you're consorting with Hermione Granger of all people? Parvati said that Padma had said that Granger called you 'Ron' and you called her 'Hermione'."
"Yeah, funny enough that's my name and hers too," he scowled at her, and made a move to leave the room before she slide stepped in front of him to block his exit.
Ron sighed, accepting his fate of Ginny giving her poor replica of Mum's interrogation, "What are you so mad about? All I did was sit next to her in class."
"I heard that you were far more friendly with that mental bint than just sitting next to her."
"She's not mental."
"Malfoy spent a whole weekend in the infirmary last year. I just want you to be safe."
Ron rolled his eyes, crossing his own arms across his chest, "Yeah, and it's Malfoy, prick probably deserved it."
Ginny stepped closer, her voice rising, "She brutalized him! She cut him up like a butcher! Draco 'I know all the Dark curses in my family's library' Malfoy," she exclaimed with a shockingly good impression of Malfoy's sneering voice, "You shouldn't be hanging around someone who does that!"
"So?" He asked, an eyebrow raised, "She's the top in our year, she'd be a good study partner. Harry too."
"Potter? He's doing something other than hide away with Longbottom for once?" She narrowed her eyes, before scoffing and giving one last parting shot, "Whatever, it's not my skin she'll be wearing like a coat. No wonder you're the only Weasley not to get into Gryffindor." And with that, she turned on her heel and slipped out of the classroom before Ron could respond.
"Bitch," Ron muttered, as he took a deep breath. Scowling, he left the room, and headed down to the Great Hall.
Now his mood was bloody ruined.
By the time Harry arrived at the library, he found Hermione already sitting at a table, flipping through a book.
"'Lo, Hermione," he greeted, slipping into a chair. Hermione responded with some affirmative sound, not bothering to look up from her book. He closed his eyes and waited for Ron to arrive, so they could begin.
He didn't show up for another 5 minutes.
"Sorry I'm late," Ron mumbled, "Stupid staircase changed on me going up."
Hermione closed her book with a small thunk, "It's alright, I was just finishing up a chapter anyways." She clapped her hands together softly, "So, given that this is the first meeting of S.P.A.M"
"Wait, what?" Ron snorted, leaning his chair back a little, "We're calling ourselves spam?"
Harry suppressed a chortle himself, the acronym, presumably, was just such an unfortunate name. Did she not notice that she spelt out spam?
"It stands for Society for Promotion of Ambitious Mutuality, thank you very much," Hermione responded, scowling with her eyes narrowed at the redhead, "I thought it was a perfectly descriptive name for our group."
"I don't see why we really need to name ourselves," Harry admitted, "Just seems a bit excessive to me,"
Hermione's scowl deepend, "Fine, then, we won't name ourselves." She turned to Ron, glaring in a remarkably impressive impression of the new DA&D professor, and demanded "Since you're the one with the most work probably done, let's start with you. What are you trying to make right now."
Ron scowled back at her, before reaching into his bag, and pulling out a small, crimson bound book. He traced some strange pattern with his finger on the front, presumably a password, as he spoke in a semi-hostile tone, "I don't have anything that I like right now, but I was working on a self-polishing wand holster over the summer."
He flipped the notebook to a certain page, before placing it on the table and sliding it to where Harry and Hermione could lean over the table and see it.
The page was a fairly unorganized note sheet of different possible methods of implementing the idea, but Harry had to admit some of the ideas were fairly impressive, particularly the one rough sketched runic array.
Or, so he assumed; he'd never been very good at Runes.
But still, a self-polishing wand holster? He glanced up from the book, eyebrow raised in Ron's direction. Ron flushed at the attention.
Hermione made a move to flip the page and see what was else he had written, but Ron snatched the notebook away before she could, giving a scowl of his own, "Yeah, well, I said I didn't have any good ideas on the train. What about either of you?"
Harry shrugged, sitting back to his chair, "It's not like I can do much but practice dueling. Can't do much investigative work at Hogwarts. Not like there's a NEWT for Advanced Mother Killer Hunting."
Ron scoffed at him, crossing his arms across his chest, "Why the hell did you even agree to this then, if you didn't have anything to do?"
"Honestly," Harry admitted, "didn't have much to do, what with Neville being stuck on prefect duties last year. We'd normally just duel or study, and I got bored last year. I was seeing if you guys would be good training."
"Reeaaally," Ron drawled, "You were bored. I showed you my invention book because you were bored?" He glanced over at Hermione, who was watching the exchange with pursed lips, "And how 'bout you?"
Hermione sniffed haughtily, "Well, I was looking to make connections with two people who had ambitions beyond squeaking out the last inch of an essay for Charms and who was taking who to Madame Puddifoot's, but I see you two are just as immature as the rest of our year."
"Oh, we're the ones who are immature?" Ron demanded, his voice rising, "Excuse me, Miss High Road, I'm sorry we can't all be as perfect as you."
A loud, drawn out shush from Madame Pince froze the trio, reminding them that, even if it was the first day and they were the only ones there, they were still in the library.
Ron broke the silence with an audible exhale, muttering, "Whatever, this was a dumb idea. Bloody Slytherin would've just stolen the first good idea I had, anyways," as he threw his back over his shoulder and stormed out of the library.
Harry lazily eyed Hermione, who was slowly growing more red with anger. He decided that he wanted none of that, and got up himself.
"Well, as lovely as this is, I would much rather be dueling a training dummy, so I'll take my leave here. Have a nice life, Hermione."
And he left Hermione Granger, alone in the library, fuming.
AN: Well, I planned to do NaNoWriMo...that's what I get for trying to write 50,000 words in a month that I'm working two part time jobs, taking 17 credits and preparing for a choral concert lol. Big shoutout to Pahan for beta-ing and helping me to tighten up plot holes and shape up future plot lines.