A/N: Hello hello! I'm back and sorry for the wait. I've been busy with final exams (okay more like burnt out from staring at screens all day forever and ever), then with job searching in this pandemic (sos plz hire me thx), and tbh I've been feeling guilty writing HP fanfiction when I don't have a job yet. Real life comes at you quick I guess.

THANK YOU to everyone who favorited, followed, or reviewed. I love you all! You're the reason I've been able to keep writing.

Now, on to the next chapter:

It was a quiet morning in the Slytherin dormitories, where Harry had chosen to shower early in avoidance of his housemates. For the first time in days, his heart felt light, his stomach wasn't twisted in dread, and he had slept through the night. The idea of facing his roommates made him cringe, but time with the Marauders had been worth it and he only braced himself as he walked back in to the snake's den, fully dressed.

Snape lay on his bed reading a book, curtains pulled back, completely ready for the day to Harry's surprise. It was like 7AM. He glanced up through bushy eyebrows at Harry's entrance. His face was impassive but his black eyes gave Harry the creeps.

Mulciber had clearly just woken up, as he stood just outside the curtains rubbing his eyes. Lestrange was standing in his closet, his robes neatly pressed and hanging from the door. At the sight of Harry, both of their eyes turned cold. The tension was palpable. Harry feigned confidence and walked straight to his trunk to pull out his school bag.

"Have a nice night with the Gryffindors?" Lestrange said, his voice casual but with a steel edge.

Harry froze in front of his trunk, his back to his roommates, heart pounding. How did they know? If they told anyone—
Taking a deep breath, Harry turned to them. "We covered this yesterday. Where I go is none of your business."

Lestrange opened his mouth to reply but Harry didn't give him the chance. He walked out of the room as fast as he could, praying Lestrange was bluffing.

On the other side of the castle, the Marauders were off to a slow start. James had just returned from showering and stood by his bed, a towel wrapped around his waist and his black hair still wet. A few meters away, Remus stood hidden in his closet getting ready and Peter sat lazily on his bed in hippogriff print pajamas. Sirius was still a lump under his blankets. Suddenly his alarm went off for the fiftieth time. James glared at the ceiling at the obnoxious sound.

"Padfoot!" Remus growled. He grabbed a pillow from his bed and threw it at Sirius' head. It hit Sirius' back, but he only rolled over to hug it as his arm swung up to hit his clock on the head.

"M'up, 'm up," Sirius mumbled, face buried in the pillow.

"Liar." Remus retorted. James rolled his eyes at them as he walked to his closet to put on a shirt.

A few feet away, Peter slid off his bed and lifted the pack of butterbeers in the corner to reveal the box where they kept the Marauders Map. "I have a prank idea." He announced.

James glanced at him. "Yeah?"

Peter nodded. "I had a dream where shrimp were flying around the Great Hall and— wait. Where's the Map?"

Suddenly all eyes were on Peter (except Sirius, the sleeper).

"What do you mean, where's the Map." James said, frowning, a shirt in his hands. "It's in the box where it always is."

"No, it's not." Peter said, dropping the butterbeers loudly on the ground and showcasing the empty box.

James and Remus stared at it for a second in confusion. "Padfoot!" James called. "Where's the Map?" "'s in the box," Sirius mumbled from his bed.

"It's missing." James said.

Sirius sat up suddenly. "Missing—" He repeated, still half asleep. "It can't be missing, I put it there last night—" His eyes widened in shock and realization.

Remus' jaw dropped. "Last night—"

"The intruder!" Peter exclaimed, dropping the box.

"Someone broke in!" James growled.

The first class of the day for the 7th years was widely anticipated as the most exciting class of the year and Harry couldn't help but feel excited as he walked the long trek to Defense Against the Dark Arts. This was a subject he was comfortable in. This was a subject he was good at.

And not only that, but James, Lily, Sirius, and Remus were guaranteed to be there with him. Lestrange's face from this morning suddenly appeared in Harry's mind, but Harry stubbornly pushed it out. No Slytherin was going to ruin this for him, he repeated to himself. Finally approaching the DADA classroom, Harry spotted a gathering of people standing outside the door.

There were two groups, easily distinguishable by the red and green scarves, with James standing at the helm of one and Lestrange heading the other. James' arms were folded, his stance confrontational, and his Gryffindor scarf casually wrapped around his neck in a clear show of alliance. To his side stood Sirius, whose shiny dark hair fell to his shoulders and was a lot prettier than the irritated expression on his face; Remus, whose face was relatively neutral but whose shoulders were tense; and Peter, who glared fiercely at the Slytherins in an open show of defiance that felt very hypocritical to Harry. Harry spotted Lily near James, her auburn hair making her easy to spot, standing next to a few more Gryffindors, lips pursed and hips tilted in irritation.

Facing them down were Lestrange, whose perfectly ironed robes, combed hair, and cool and collected demeanor only pissed Harry off at this point; Avery, whose blonde hair fell into his eyes as he tried to glare and lift his chin at the same time; Mulciber, who noticed Harry walking towards them and made sure to flex; and Snape, with his wrinkled robes, dark eyes, and lips so pinched they could be white. A few other Slytherins stood with them, students Harry hadn't yet met, but Harry kept his eyes on James and Lestrange as he came into earshot. He decided to approach from the back and stand in the middle of the two groups. Here at least, he had a good view, he thought wryly. "No need to be so rude." Lestrange was saying, talking to James. "I was going to ask how your summers were? Not as good as ours, I know." "Well we didn't plunder and kill people, if that's what you're asking." James returned coolly. Harry smirked a little at that, but the Slytherins didn't look ruffled. Lily glanced at James, her expression unreadable.
"Careful, big accusations there." Lestrange said, cocking his head. "We didn't do anything of the sort. We actually worked for the same company. Right, Avery?" Lestrange turned to Avery who smirked. "Oh, please. Doing what?" Sirus said. Avery's smirked deepened and he locked eyes with Sirius. "Pest control." The Slytherins' amused looks deepened as the Gryffindors rippled with reactions. James reached for his wand, Sirius glared, Remus stared in distaste, Peter stepped forward, and Lily leveled the Slytherins with a glare.

"You're disgusting." She said, staring at all of them but her gaze landing on Lestrange.

Lestrange stepped toward her and Harry reached for his wand— but they were interrupted by the arrival of an older man, tall and strangely built for his age, with dark silvering hair and a presence that demanded attention. Everyone turned to look their direction and, upon seeing Harry, Lestrange's eyes narrowed. Harry met his gaze evenly, daring him to do something about it.

No one said anything as the man, probably the Defense Professor, Harry assumed, glanced at the Slytherins, then the Gryffindors, clearly taking in the scene.

"Well? What are you waiting for?" He said, his baritone voice reverberating around the hallway. "Into class, everyone!" He swept them with a disapproving gaze before walking through the center of the two groups and continuing into the classroom. No one moved as he entered, though James and Lestrange eyed each other in distaste, neither wanting to be the first to back down. Remus, always the voice of reason, stepped into the aisle created by the two groups.

"He's right. Let's go." Remus said. Sirius reluctantly followed stepped forward to follow him.
"You'd better listen to your pet." Snape sneered, folding his arms. Remus paused in the doorway and clenched his jaw, choosing not to react. Sirius on the other hand, whipped around to face Snape. "Never say that again!" Sirius threatened, stepping forward, wand out, all subtleties forgotten. "Or what?" Snape said, for the first time stepping forward. Lestrange, Mulciber, and Avery watched on, eyes glittering in amusement. "You'll set your pathetic dog on me again?"

Remus' ears began to turn red and Sirius' jaw dropped. James looked furious and Peter shook his head. Most other students looked lost, but Snape was getting dangerously close and their reactions were giving Remus' secret away. Harry glanced at Snape. Did he know? Harry suddenly remembered why Remus had left in Harry's third year and realized he would not let that happen again.

Stepping forward so he was front and center, Harry spoke. "It's time for class." His presence was strangely familiar in a crowd so used to James Potter, his voice commanding and his eye contact penetrating. But most Gryffindors took one look at his Slytherin robe and scoffed. Lestrange and his sidekicks glared at him, but a few Slytherins looked uncertain after Harry's performance against Lestrange last night.

Luckily, Harry had an ally. "He's right." Lily said, stepping into the center with him but not meeting his eyes. "Let's go." She spun on her heel and walked straight into the classroom, not looking back. A few Gryffindors followed her and James looked irritated as he glared at Lestrange and reluctantly followed his girlfriend. As he walked through the door, James shot Harry a look before he disappeared into the classroom.

Harry was now alone with the Slytherins. He stared at their hostile faces but only gestured to the door. The Defense professor walked to the door and reminded them class was starting, so they had no choice but to obey Harry. Avery and Snape walked first, ignoring Harry and putting on their best behavior. Mulciber hesitated before walking in, followed by Lestrange, who didn't bother to hide his glare as he followed the others inside. Harry entered last, all eyes on him as he walked into a classroom.

The Defense classroom was spacious, with all sorts of dark objects, chests, and books dotting the perimeter. A werewolf taxidermy watched them from the front corner and Harry looked to Remus in concern before he looked away. Harry wasn't supposed to know anything. But still, the werewolf's beaded eyes reflected the light in a way that looked alive and its teeth were the size of Harry's hand from tip to wrist.

"Take a seat, please, Mr.—? The Professor said, watching Harry from the head of the room.

"Fletcher." Harry replied, realizing he was the only one still standing and spotting a chair flanking two Ravenclaws and a Hufflepuff — relatively neutral territory

The Professor only stared at Harry in return, letting the silence build as Harry took a seat. The shuffle of Harry's movements echoed around the classroom and Harry began to feel slightly irritated. After what seemed like a lifetime, the Professor cleared his throat, ready to begin.

"The world is changing." He announced to the room. "Defense Against the Dark Arts is no longer about merely passing exams." A few students perked up (including James, Harry noticed).

"What you learn here may save your life." The Professor continued. "What you neglect to learn here may cost you your family's." The man paused. Harry glanced at Lily, whose eyes were wide as she watched the Professor. When he looked back, the man was staring at him. His eyes were piercing, the kind that appears to stare through students' souls, and Harry shifted uncomfortably under its weight.

"My name is Professor McKinnon," The man continued, his mouth forming every word in the way of someone who knows what he is saying is very important, "the former Principal Auror to the Minister of Magic. I am here as a favor to my old friend Albus Dumbledore. Here to teach you, the next generation, how to defend against the Ultimate Evil — the Dark Arts."

Professor McKinnon clasped his hands together. "Today, we will begin with an assessment of your skills. This is to assist me in planning our lessons for the year. There is advanced material here, so you will not know everything, but I encourage you to give it your best effort. Now. Let's divide into pairs. Stand next to your partner as I read your names aloud."

McKinnon twirled his wand and a scroll appeared, one end bobbing towards the floor. "Abbot and Avery." He called out. Abbot, a bronze-haired Ravenclaw to Harry's left, reluctantly glanced at Avery before he stood.

"Black and DeLopez." McKinnon called out next. Sirius glanced at James before casually standing to join a pretty, dark-haired Gryffindor girl.

"Potter and Elliot." McKinnon said. Still leaning back casually in his chair, James glanced over at a stout Hufflepuff who was standing to meet him. The Hufflepuff, realizing James wasn't going to move, begrudgingly walked over.

McKinnon continued in kind until, by the end of the list, Lily had been paired with Remus (to their apparent relief), Peter had been paired with a Ravenclaw, and all names had been called except for two.

"Fletcher and Lestrange." McKinnon finished.

Harry reluctantly glanced at Lestrange. The Slytherin seemed relaxed as he sat straight in his chair. He gave Harry a look that was too pleased for Harry's liking, his lips twisted up in a smirk. Harry glanced up at the ceiling as he stood to join his new partner. He and Lestrange now stood in the center of the classroom, paired students flanking them on either side, filling the classroom. To Harry's far right, James and the Hufflepuff stood next to Sirius and the girl, with Remus and Lily standing obediently on the other side.

"—a really talented Auror," Harry heard James say in a low voice. Beside him, Sirius nodded. The Hufflepuff pretended not to listen to James, though Sirius' partner had no such tact. "Apparently he singlehandedly sent fifteen Death Eaters to Azkaban." James continued.

"Hell yeah," Sirius replied twirling his wand.

Harry glanced back at Lestrange, whose eyes were on him. Although his face was impassive, Harry could see the edge in Lestrange's eyes. The Slytherin stood in dueling stance, his wand gripped tightly with his right hand.

"Like the Gryffindors, do you?" Lestrange said in a low voice, eyes fixated on Harry.

"I prefer people who don't attack me." Harry said lightly. Lestrange's grip tightened until his knuckles turned white.

"Now." Professor McKinnon called out from the head of the room. "Your objective is simple. Duel. If you get disarmed, you are out and your partner will be re-paired. The last man standing will win—" The Professor twirled his wand dramatically, conjuring— "A gift certificate for twenty galleons to Zonko's Gift Shop."

James perked up and he grinned at Sirius, Remus, and Peter as whispers echoed around the room. Lily remained silent, twirling her hair with one hand, holding her wand in the other.

"Feel free to use any spells you see fit." McKinnon announced. "Standard dueling rules apply. On my mark!"

Harry backed away until he was the proper distance from Lestrange, never taking his eyes off his opponent. Lestrange shifted to find his center of balance and, locking eyes with Harry, spun his wand in between his fingers. This was a dream come true for Lestrange, Harry guessed. An opportunity to reclaim his throne after his humiliation yesterday.

"Get set." McKinnon continued.

Harry steadied his breath, contemplating how to play this.

"Go!"

The air was immediately filled with young voices casting spells such as "expelliarmus!" and "stupefy!", with "protegos" following a beat later. Lestrange attacked almost immediately.

"Confringo!" He growled. Harry's eyes widened. Lestrange wasn't messing around— the blasting curse made objects explode and could cause serious damage if it landed. A red beam of light emerged from Lestrange's wand and shot, full speed, towards Harry. Knowing he couldn't dodge because the spell would just hit someone behind him, Harry cast a protego just in time. His perfect shield shimmered into place as the red light crashed into it with enough force to jolt Harry backwards a few steps. He wasn't even able to glance over to see how his parents were doing as Lestrange began to barrage him with attacks.

"Impediamenta!" Lestrange cast. The spell flew at Harry but Harry sidestepped, letting it fly into the wall.

"Incarcerus!" Lestrange muttered. Harry dodged again. In the corner of his eye, he saw James land a stupefy on the Hufflepufff.

Harry gave Lestrange a dark look and twirled his wand. "Expelliarmus!" Harry cast. The spell flew at Lestrange, but the Slytherin sidestepped it dramatically, in imitation of Harry's move last night.

"Come, now, Fletcher." Lestrange taunted, stepping forward. "I know you can do better than that."

"Stupefy!" Lestrange yelled, the bolt of energy hurtling towards Harry.

"Protego." Harry said, a perfect shield appearing as a perfect bubble around him, letting the spell evaporate. Again, a perfect recreation from last night— only this time Lestrange knew Harry could have cast it nonverbally, and didn't. Anger glittered in the Slytherin's eyes. Harry was going easy on him— and Lestrange knew it.

Harry kept his knees bent, ready to move. He couldn't fully duel Lestrange here. It would make a scene.

"Petrificus Totalus! Stupefy! Confrigo!" Lestrange growled, casting three spells in succession. Harry shielded the first, dodged the second, and rolled out of the way of the third, watching in horror as the blasting spell nearly collided with a Ravenclaw girl behind them. McKinnon was preoccupied showing some Gryffindor how to properly shield and, having missed the entire encounter, there was no one there to stop Lestrange from seriously hurting someone. Harry rolled onto his feet some ways away and turned to Lestrange furiously.

"Watch it!" He exclaimed at Lestrange. The Slytherin advanced on him furiously and Harry cursed. McKinnon was still too far away and there were too many students around.

"Petrificus Totalus!" Lestrange cast, the spell shooting towards Harry. Harry stepped to the right, letting it zoom past his ear. The boy behind him wasn't that lucky. It hit him straight in the back, causing her to straighten like a board and crash to the ground. McKinnon finally looked over and raised his wand to levitate her to the side of the room. He gestured to her partner that she was out.

Suddenly a force hit Harry in the chest, and he was sent flying into the wall. He hit the wall, his back crashing into a painting, before falling and landing hard on his stomach. His wand rolled away to his left. A little dazed, Harry looked up through his eyebrows as a very smug Lestrange advanced on him, having hit Harry with a knockback jinx. Harry glared at Lestrange furiously. This wasn't over. As McKinnon turned to them to declare Harry out of the race, Harry suddenly rolled to his left, dodging a spell from Lestrange, and grabbed his wand as he summersaulted to his feet. He spun around to face Lestrange, back in the game, as Professor McKinnon clapped a few times.

"Excellent, Mr. Fletcher— you're still in." He announced. Lestrange, having thought he won, turned back to Harry, furious that he couldn't disarm an opponent who wasn't even fighting back. Suddenly he paused and smirked at Harry, twirling his wand and casting a spell.

"Impediamenta!" He growled, sending the spell towards Harry. Harry got ready to block, but the spell missed, instead landing on Lily Evans and sending her flying towards the wall. She hit the baseboards with a load boom, landing flat on the floor.

"Professor McKinnon!" James exclaimed in outrage as he ran to his girlfriend. She sat up gingerly and began to rub her head.

McKinnon shook his head. "This is an important lesson, everybody! Watch the crossfire! All spells are equally deadly, whether they come from your opponent or not."

Lestrange locked eyes with Harry. "Mudblood bitch." He said quietly, out of the Professor's earshot. Harry's temper soared.

"Don't call her that." Harry growled.

"Serves her right." Lestrange continued. "And don't get me started Black, the blood traitor. He'll get what's coming to him."

An image of Sirius falling through the veil flashed through Harry's mind. His heart tightened and he turned to Lestrange in rage. This had to end.

"Reducto!" Harry cast, the beam of energy flying at Lestrange, who blocked it. "Stupefy!" Harry cast next. "Rictusempra, expelliarmus, stupefy!" Harry growled. The spells flew at Lestrange in rapid succession, who blocked every single spell to Harry's chagrin. The commotion got everyone's attention. Suddenly Harry and Lestrange were the last pair standing.

"Bombarda!" Harry growled. The spell shot towards Lestrange, who dove out of the way.

"Oppugno!" Lestrange cast at the rug. Suddenly it rose to attack Harry. The students in the room gasped. Harry stumbled as the room moved out from under him.

"Stupefy!" Harry cast at the rug, effectively countering it. The rug fell, lifeless, back to the floor. "Flipendo!" The spell shot towards Lestrange and hit him, but didn't do a lot of damage. Lestrange stumbled backwards to the wall, but while he lost his balance Harry twirled his wand.

"Talentallegra!" Harry called. The blue light surged and hit Lestrange straight in the chest. The usually composed Slytherin's legs began to twitch and dance without his control. The class began to giggle until a few seconds later, Lestrange managedto cast a Finite Incantatem on his legs, stopping the dancing, none the worse for wear, but pride stinging with embarrassment.

"Confringo!" Lestrange yelled. "Confringo, congfringo!" McKinnon frowned as three blasting curses flew at Harry, one flying to where Harry was standing and the others headed towards Harry's right and left. Harry braced himself and channeled his full power into his shield.

"Protego!" He yelled, now demonstrating his perfect shield for everyone to see. Most students shields could hardly withstand an expelliarmus. Harry's, however, shielded him from three full intensity blasting curses. A few students exclaimed in amazement, but Harry didn't have time to look.

"Malum perdere!" Lestrange growled. Several people recognized the spell at the same time. McKinnon reached for his wand, James' jaw dropped, and Harry's eyes widened in shock. McKinnon wasn't fast enough to save Harry, however, and Harry knew it. This was a borderline dark curse, mean to cause searing blisters to the unlucky soul who got hit. It wasn't dark— but it was getting there, and it was incredibly dangerous to cast in a closed room. It couldn't be blocked by Protego and its radius was too large to sidestep— there was only one counter curse, as Shacklebolt had been sure to point out to Harry during training. What was it, Harry racked his brain, as the spell hurtled towards him—

Harry braced himself and instinctively began to cast. "Clypeus!" He said, pushing white light from his wand just as the blue spell came hurtling at him. The blue and white light collided on impact, and Harry felt the energy come rushing at him. He pushed back, easily overwhelming Lestrange who had not expected the counter curse. The spell sent Harry flying back, but the brunt of the energy redirected at Lestrange and, even as Harry was in the air about to hit the wall, he knew this was bad.

Lestrange was hit with his own spell plus energy from Harry's, and Harry could hear was Lestrange's howl of pain as his body erupted in painful burns. Harry landed on the ground with a force that knocked the wind out of him and he lay on the floor, panting for a moment, as the room went dead silent.

Harry closed his eyes in dread for a moment, before rolling onto all fours and coming to his knees. Although Lestrange had been the one to cast the spell, all the class could see was Harry kneeling, unscathed, and Lestrange twisted on the ground, his skin red and blistering. Every student in the classroom stared at Harry, in horror. But the people that hurt the most were the people Harry loved the most. Sirius blatantly glared at Harry, Remus' eyes were guarded, and James stood, arms folded, eyes veiled in blatant disgust. Harry met Lily's expressive green eyes and tried desperately to read what was there. Fear, uncertainty, and confusion. He tried desperately to convey that this was a misunderstanding, but McKinnon stepped forward and Harry had to look away.

"That's enough." McKinnon said darkly, the only one in the room who fully understood what had happened besides Lestrange and Harry. "Fletcher, on your feet. Mulciber, take Lestrange to the hospital wing." Harry stood shakily as Mulciber stepped forward to help Lestrange. Harry forced his face to stay impassive as Mulciber knelt and gave Lestrange a hand. Lestrange, unable to move due to the painful burns all over his body, cried out in pain as he stood.

"This was your spell, Mr. Lestrange." Professor McKinnon said in response to Lestrange's show, not feeling too sorry for Lestrange. "I hope you remember that." The two began the slow journey to the hospital wing, with every student in the class watching them silently, not daring to move.

"Mr. Fletcher." Professor McKinnon turned to Harry, who remained still and unmoving on the other side of the room. "You should not have known that counter-curse. But count yourself lucky that you did." Professor McKinnon reached into his pocket and pulled out the Zonko's gift certificate. He tossed it to Harry, aiding it with magic so it didn't just fall to the ground, and Harry caught it deftly with his right hand.

McKinnon met Harry's eyes darkly and when he spoke, his voice was tainted with sarcasm. "Congratulations. You won the prize. Class dismissed." He supported his dismissal with a wave of his hands, walking to his desk to collect his things. For a moment, no one else moved, the silence intimidating everyone into stillness. But after a few seconds, students began to whisper. A few blatantly stared at Harry, where others were less subtle. James turned to whisper to Sirius, before walking over to wrap his harms around Lily, who was still a little shaky from hitting the wall earlier.

For the first time since Harry had arrived in 1977, he didn't dare approach the Gryffindors. He grudgingly walked back to the desk where his bag lay, abandoned, on the floor. The Gryffindors grouped together on the other side of the classroom, far from Harry's earshot. Unfortunately, Harry had to pass Mulciber, Wilkes, Avery, and Snape to get to his things. The four were standing tightly together, muttering in dark voices. Harry nearly rolled his eyes. It was a horrible attempt to be subtle.

"The imbecile," He heard Snape mutter in a low voice. "That's a fully fledged dark curse. McKinnon has to know-"

"It's not like he can prove anything—" Mulciber growled back, defending Lestrange.

"He doesn't need to prove anything, he's an auror—" Avery said in annoyance.

As Harry got closer, all four boys went silent. Harry only gave them a look. "Don't worry." He said quietly. Mulciber gave him a weird look, Snape looked suspicious, and the others looked confused, but Harry chose to ignore them, continuing: "That curse is only borderline dark. The Ministry doesn't like it because they think it's a gateway curse, but they can't arrest him for it."

All four boys looked at Harry like they couldn't decide if he was a snake or a dandelion.

"How do you know that?" Mulciber demanded.

Harry, arriving at his desk, picked up his bag and swung it over his shoulder. He looked back to Mucliber, but knew any answer he gave was going to make him sound sketchier than he was. Harry only shrugged as he turned around and walked away.

Mulciber, shocked, only stared after Harry in confusion. Avery and Wilkes had no idea what to say, and Snape, mind spinning at a million miles an hour, was filing this information away.

Harry Fletcher was not what he seemed.

A/N: Next chapter: Get ready for some Harry James DRAMA ;) It's about to get real.