Before you lot tear me to shreds, I've got a speech. It's very nice (I hope), so I'd appreciate it if you waited until after reading it to destroy me for not posting.
I'm not going to lie, I was relatively burnt out with this fic. As I've mentioned countless times, it was nothing more than an experiment, and I no longer felt the need to continue with it. However, a few members of my discord recently gave me the motivation to at least look back at it, if only to see what I'd created. Their support helped me look back at this, and I'm somewhat surprised to say that I finally feel the spark again.
There were (and are) a few complications with continuing this fic. Chief among them is how it connects with my other fic, A Flaw in Fate. I am extremely passionate about my other fic. Since several of my planned plot points in this fic are similar to the ones in that, I had decided to postpone this fic. Since then, I have made significant headway with my other fic, and am now more capable of moving forward with this fic. Granted, I need to make a few modifications to the plot and timeline, but things seem like they can finally move forward in a way I'm happy with.
I think a big part of getting back into this was my Discord. Many people there motivated me to continue writing, and they inspired me to continue forward, too. They're the reason I got of my ass long enough to write this, and they, along with many of you, are the reason I'll continue to write. If you want to join the discord too, the link's in my profile. For some people it doesn't work; if that's the case for you too, feel free to PM me for help. On the discord you can talk to me and a bunch of others about fics, theories, and yes, you can remind me to put out another chapter. As I said, I still need to work out a new plot that I'm fully happy with (that doesn't interfere with the plot of my other fic), but once I have, I hope to begin posting much, much more often. You can use the discord to keep track of my progress, too. It'd mean the world to me if you joined.
There you have it. A masterpiece, if you ask me.
Read, review, or don't. You can also check out my other story, A Flaw in Fate - the first year is already completely published, and new chapters are posted every Saturday.
Also, the second half of this chapter was written about a year after the first half (long hiatus, I know). I like to think my writing has severely improved over this time period. Have fun trying to guess where that cut off is. Hopefully it isn't too obvious, but at the same time, hopefully it is.
Thank you all for supporting me, having faith in me, and so on! And on the bright (or maybe not so bright side), you'll probably have to re-read a good portion of this to even remember where we are. My bad . . .
Chapter 32: The Slytherin Quartet
Harry made his way towards the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom with Susan by his side, the two of them quietly speculating on how Umbridge would ruin Harry's favourite subject.
The one good thing about the class was that it was the last one of the day. After this, Harry would head off to the Chamber of Secrets, and, more importantly, would be able to see Fleur. It was how the both of them ended each school day - something Harry was eternally grateful for.
Still, that was an hour and a half from now, and Harry knew all too well how slowly time could pass by.
"What's wrong?" questioned Susan shyly from his side.
Harry had, somewhat surprisingly, formed something of a friendship with the crimson haired Hufflepuff over the last few days. She was a bit shy, and somewhat confident in herself, but was also very friendly and amicable. That, along with the fact that she and Harry shared the majority of their classes made her Harry's best (and only) friend as of yet.
"Umbridge, I suppose." said Harry with annoyance, "I'm worried about what she's going to teach us."
"She works for Fudge." supplied Harry, "No matter how you spin that, it isn't good news. I'm just wondering if she's only going to teach us what Fudge wants us to learn, or if she just isn't going to teach us at all."
"Probably somewhere in the middle." whispered Susan, "Just enough that she can't get called out for it, but not enough for us to properly be trained."
Harry stopped moving, turning to face Susan.
"Auntie says that Fudge thinks Dumbledore is trying to oppose him." she revealed, "He thinks Dumbledore's training students for some sort of army."
Harry shook his head, continuing his walk towards the defense classroom.
"Fudge is more daft than I thought." said Harry, "Dumbledore can be a bit manipulative at times, sure, but he wouldn't recruit children. He's too saintly for that."
"That's what auntie said." said Susan, nodding her head.
Five minutes later, the pair had finally made their way into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. They sat together near the back of the classroom, waiting quietly as the rest of the students slowly made their way to their seats.
Harry made sure to look away when Seamus entered the room, his eyes instead landing upon those of a familiar blonde Slytherin. Daphne Greengrass sat at the opposite end of the room, watching him with vague interest. They held each other's gaze for a moment before Daphne looked away, choosing instead to speak with the brunette that sat to her right.
Professor Umbridge stood at the front of the classroom all the while, adorned in a fluffy pink cardigan. She eyed Harry for a moment, her eyes flickering to Susan as well before she finally shifted her gaze to the door.
Harry turned his gaze to the blackboard that stood beside Umbridge, allowing his eyes to quickly run over the words neatly etched upon it.
Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.
Learning to recognize situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.
Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.'
"It was the second one." Harry whispered to Susan, "She just isn't teaching us at all."
Susan's eyes widened slightly as she redirected her gaze to the board. She read over the words carefully before paling slightly, her grip around her wand tensing.
"Good evening class!" chanted Professor Umbridge moments later, once all of the students had taken their seats.
"Good evening." muttered a few students seated nearest Professor Umbridge.
"Now, now, that won't do." said Professor Umbridge sweetly, "When I say 'Good evening class', I would like you to reply with 'Good evening Professor Umbridge'. Let's try again, shall we? Good evening class!"
"Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge," they chanted back at her.
"See, that wasn't too difficult, was it?" said Professor Umbridge sweetly. "Wands away and quills out, if you will, as well as your copy of 'Defensive Magical Theory' by William Slinkhard."
Harry and Susan exchanged looks, gently tucking their wands back into their robes. The majority of their peers allowed a bit more of their annoyance to be shown, however. It was clear to anyone that none of the students believed the upcoming class would be of interest. It was expected, after all; they had never had an interesting class that didn't involve their wands.
"Now," began Professor Umbridge as she moved to pace between their desks, "We shall begin our Ministry approved lesson, which I am sure you will all enjoy. It is, after all, going to be your first lesson during which you shall not have to fear for your life. None of your previous teachers - with the possible exception of Professor Quirrel, who did at least restrict his teaching to age-appropriate material - would have been approved by the Ministry."
Professor Umbridge paused, turning on her heel before making her way back to the front of the classroom.
"You are to copy the notes written upon the board before reading chapter one of your textbooks." Professor Umbridge told them, "There will be no need to talk. You may begin."
The scratching of quills permeated through the room as Professor Umbridge made her way back to her seat. Harry was sure her eyes landed upon him momentarily as she sat down. Harry quickly jotted down their assigned notes before turning to page five of their books.
"This is rubbish." muttered Harry several minutes later.
The book, indeed, was a rather poor excuse for a textbook. Harry would willingly admit that he had never been one to learn much from their books, but this book seemed to be more interested in killing them with boredom than actually teaching them.
The contents (aside from being monotone to a degree that even Professor Binns would have been proud of) were a mediocre description of Defense Against the Dark Arts at best. The two spells the chapter had gone over were extremely basic, as was the theory provided for them.
A sharp poke drew Harry from his thoughts. He turned to Susan before turning to face whatever it was that she was pointing at.
It appeared as though Hermione agreed with his opinions, and then some. Her textbook lay unopened upon her desk, her hand held high in the air. It was blatantly obvious that Professor Umbridge had spotted her hand, though the woman's eyes appeared to be forcefully glued to the papers on the table before her.
The students, however, seemed to find Hermione's actions far more entertaining that their textbooks (which truthfully was not saying much). The majority of them had long since abandoned any and all attempts at reading, and were not watching Hermione with surprise and curiosity.
"Do you have a question about the chapter, Miss Granger?" asked Professor Umbridge in a faux-sweet voice once it had become obvious that she could not ignore the girl for much longer.
"No, not the chapter, but -"
"Well, my dear, it is the chapter that we are reading at the moment." interrupted Professor Umbridge, "If there is anything else of importance, it can wait until the end of class."
"I've got a question about the notes on the board." said Hermione, her voice determined, "I thought it might be better to ask now, to ensure that all of us understand
Professor Umbridge's eyes narrowed ever so slightly.
"Is that so, Miss Granger."
"You see, there isn't anything about using magic written on the board." noted Hermione, "I just don't understand how we can learn magic without using magic."
"Using magic?" questioned Professor Umbridge with a giggle, "Miss Granger, why would there ever be a need to use magic in my classroom -"
But by now, many of the other students seemed to have understood what Hermione was saying.
"We aren't going to be using magic?" Padma Patil shrieked with disbelief, her eyes wide, "How are we to study for our O.W.L's if we've never used the spells we're to be tested on?"
"As long as you understand the theory, there is no reason -" tried Professor Umbridge, though barely anyone seemed to have heard her. Most of the students had their hands raised now - the only exceptions being Harry, Susan, a few of the Slytherins and the Ravenclaws (all of whom appeared to be a few seconds away from hysterics).
"Are you actually telling us that the first time we'll be using the spells will be during our exams?" questioned Pavarti incredulously.
"As I have previously said, as long as you understand the theory -"
"There's more to magic than theory, we need to have used it!" complained Dean.
Professor Umbridge turned to him angrily.
"The will be five points from Gryffindor, Mr. -"
"Mr. Thomas. Now, I can assure you all that knowing the theory will be satisfactory." said Professor Umbridge with poorly concealed anger, "The course, after all, was created by a number of witches and wizards from the Board of Governors, all of whom are far more knowledgeable in such things than a group of teenagers."
"You mean the ones who tried to get that Hippogriff executed because Malfoy was being a prat?" questioned Justin Finch-Fletchley.
"SILENCE!" screeched Professor Umbridge from the front of the classroom.
The class quieted at once. Professor Umbridge, breathing heavily, stepped out from behind her desk, moving to pace between their tables once more.
"It is to my knowledge that, to this day, none of you have ever had a satisfactory Defense Against the Dark Arts class." began Professor Umbridge, "As such, I do not expect you to recognize a satisfactory course upon seeing one.
"I do, however," continued Umbridge, "expect you to be respectful during the class. It appears as though your previous teachers have allowed you to get away with far more than they should have. That is to be amended.
"While on the subject of your previous teachers, I am well aware of the issues each of them presented." said Professor Umbridge, "Quirrel, it seems, was somewhat competent. He did not teach the class anything besides what it is strictly to be taught, so to speak.
"Unfortunately," continued Professor Umbridge, turning to face Harry, "he did not manage to live through his term, and is therefore incapable of teaching. Besides, his stutter likely would have been a problem.
"Lockhart and Moody both have several negative reports on their lessons sent into the ministry." noted Professor Umbridge, "The latter would likely have been fired, had it not been for the fact that he was only here to teach for a year. As for Lockhart, he seems to have had a nasty little accident as well."
Professor Umbridge very obviously glared at Harry once more. It took everything Harry had not to curse her.
"As for Lupin," Umbridge finished, "well, the man seems to have taught many things that were not approved by the ministry. Even if he hadn't, I am sure he would be fired on account of being a dangerous half-breed."
Harry's palm curled into a fist beneath his desk. The conversation was becoming far too similar to the one he had shared with Seamus many nights ago.
The fact that it was Umbridge speaking did not help in the slightest.
Breathe. Pull up your Occlumency and breathe.
"You will all be glad to hear that such a thing will no longer be something to worry about." Professor Umrbidge informed them smugly, "The Wizengamot is working to pass laws that will prohibit half-breeds or magical creatures from so much as holding a wand."
"You did what?" questioned Harry angrily as his Occlumency came crumbling down.
The eyes of everyone in the room (including Professor Umbridge) fell upon Harry. Many of the Gryffindors were wide eyed; it was clear that they had not forgotten the events that occurred on the first evening back from the summer break.
"I said," repeated Umbridge smugly, "that the Wizengamot is working on passing laws to prohibit half-breeds and magical creatures, such as Werewolves, Hags, Vampires and Veelas from so much as carrying a wand."
Harry could feel the angry beating of his heart within his chest. He could feel the anger of the magic that flooded his veins, begging - no, pleading to be unleashed upon the woman in question.
Breathe. Occlumency, come on now.
Harry took a deep breath, allowing himself to clear his mind of everything except for the words of the vile woman that stood before him.
"You do realise, of course," said Harry calmly, "that if you were bitten by a werewolf, you would be considered a half-breed as well. Would you then willingly hand over your wand?"
The class was deathly silent. No one spoke a word, their eyes wide as they watched Harry, who sat before Professor Umbridge with a calm facade hiding the rage he felt.
"That will be ten points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter -"
"For what, exactly?"
"For rudeness towards your teacher." said Professor Umbridge sweetly, "Now, as I was saying, your previous teachers were all poorly suited for a responsibility as great as preparing the next generation for the future. This year, we will be learning about the theory behind Defensive magic, as well as when to use it. I assure you, the when will likely never come. There is nothing to concern yourself with."
"'The when will likely never come'?" repeated Harry in true exasperation, "What do you mean, 'The when will likely never come'?"
"I mean, Mr. Potter," began Professor Umbridge in a determinedly sweet tone, "That unless one is attacked by a half-breed or magical creature, as I mentioned before, there is nothing for them to worry -"
"There isn't anything wrong with half-breeds and magical creatures!" yelled Harry angrily, his seemingly poor Occlumency slipping away for a second time, "There's a Dark Lord out there, and you're going on about half-breeds and creatures -"
"QUIET!" screeched Professor Umbridge, her expression wild. She took a deep breath before turning to face the class, all of whom were watching Harry and Umbridge with emotions ranging from fear to awe.
"You have all been told that a certain Dark Lord has returned to life." said Umbridge, her voice deathly quiet, "This is a lie -"
"So how, exactly, did Cedric die?" Harry nearly yelled, his blood practically boiling. He had not felt so angry in years, not since he had heard Aunt Marge speaking about his parents.
"Fifty points from Gryffindor!" yelled Umbridge before breathing deeply once more, "His death was a tragic accident -"
"No, it wasn't." interrupted Harry stubbornly, "He was murdered by Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew -"
"Detention, Mr. Potter!" yelled Professor Umbridge, seething as Harry angrily shut his mouth.
"As I was saying," repeated Professor Umbridge, speaking loudly over Harry's voice, "The death of Cedric Diggory was a tragic accident. We suspect foul play, and have already discovered Mr. Crouch to have been under the Imperius Curse. We are investigating those who were in the maze. We are well aware that a number of half-breeds and creatures were present, and will -"
Thin, warped pieces of wood splintered off. Harry shoved what remained of his desk aside, twitching beneath the prickling feeling of his magic. It encompassed him, pressing against his bare skin like ice.
Ignore her. She isn't worth it.
His lips straightened into a thin, tight line as his emerald eyes washed over Professor Umbridge. There was a tear in her pink cardigan - a shard of wood had gotten her, no doubt - and her cheeks were flushed red. Small, stubby fingers reached for her wand, her expression furious.
Fleur's worth it, though.
"Mr. Potter," Umbridge's whisper leapt across the room with the stealth of a particularly angry cat, "Mr. Potter -"
Harry spun around, throwing his bag over his shoulder and stalking out of sight.
Half-breeds. How fucking dare she.
Yells rang through the hall as he walked, becoming quieter with every step he took. Harry felt the ground shift uncomfortably beneath his heel. Small, subtle cracks lined the floor behind him, crumbling beneath the weight of his ire.
A dark wooden sign hung at the end of the corridor. Harry carefully eyed the path beneath it as he came closer. His reflection stared back at him, wavering as the water flickered. Harry slowly creaked open the door to his side. Water gushed from the taps opposite him, but no one said a thing.
Flood the bathroom and run off. How thoughtful, Myrtle.
The sink split apart, making way for him. Harry didn't bother to summon any stairs, instead clambering straight through the hole. The ground disappeared from beneath him, and he quickly jetted down the aged, grimy pipe.
Bones cracked beneath him as he got to his feet. The dirt vanished from his robes as he waved his hand, and a path cleared before him, leading to the main hall. Harry followed it, pushing himself up the steps and into the long, dark chamber.
A narrow stone pathway separated him from the bust of Slytherin. On either side sat a vast pool, filled to the brim with seemingly restless water. Stone serpent effigies lined either side of the hall, their eyes lit up by emerald flames. Harry took them all in, shivering as another wave of angry magic washed over him.
"I'm going to destroy her." Harry whispered to himself, fingers tracing the side of his face, "I'm going to fucking destroy her -"
Lightning flew from his skin, crashing against the side of the hall. Slabs of ancient stone fell into the two pools, and dust covered the chamber. Harry roared angrily, coughing as the dirt entered his lungs. He watched as it faded away, the room slowly returning to view.
"It isn't pleasant, seeing you like this." a soft, quiet voice echoed from behind him, "I hate seeing you so upset."
Harry turned. Long, silvery hair flashed before his eyes, accompanied by soft fair skin and sharp blue eyes. Fleur carefully made her way towards him. Her hands reached towards his face, her thumbs sliding across his cheeks. She gently pressed her lips against his, their foreheads pressing together as she leaned in.
"You're early." Harry murmured, holding her closer.
"Hedwig brought me." Fleur brushed her lip against the edge of his jaw, closing her eyes, "She must've thought something was wrong. I had a feeling, too."
Fleur pulled away from him. Soft, dainty fingers ran through his hair, and her eyes gazed expectantly into his.
Not anymore, now that you're here.
"I said to simmer your beetles, not burn them to ash." sneered Snape, peering over Neville's potion, "Another zero, Mr. Longbottom. I wish I could say I wasn't surprised . . ."
Harry frowned, forcing his gaze back to the cauldron before him. He lowered a vial into it, watching as a dull silvery liquid quickly filled it to the brim.
Not perfect, but definitely not a zero.
Harry capped the glass, tapping its side with his wand before making his way to Snape's table. He carefully placed the solution beside Malfoy's before straightening up, unrolling the sleeves of his robes.
This way Malfoy can't screw with my potion without risking his.
"It isn't fair." murmured Susan as he returned, her eyes still latched to Neville's sad, unmoving form, "If Snape left him alone, he might not even be half bad. He's good at Herbology, he should be good at this too."
Harry slowly nodded, tucking his wand into the pocket of his robes.
"But we both know that isn't going to happen." he murmured, tracing Susan's gaze, "There's about as much of a chance of Snape leaving Neville alone as there is of Voldemort leaving me be."
Susan winced, a vial of her own nearly slipping from her grasp.
"Speaking of - well, speaking of - of him," Susan began, her voice a pitch too high, "Umbridge really wasn't happy about what you were saying about him."
"What, that he returned?"
Susan nodded. Harry shrugged, waving his wand over his cauldron. What remained of his solution slowly disappeared.
"I was telling the truth." he said simply.
And I'm not too pleased with what she's said, either.
"I know that, but she doesn't care." whispered Susan, "She tried to put you in detention for a month after you stormed out -"
"I heard about that." Harry glanced up, shoving his cauldron off the table, "McGonagall mentioned it. She wasn't very happy with what I did to that desk."
"She canceled your detentions though, didn't she?"
Harry remembered the woman standing before him, her lips forced into a thin, straight line and her arms crossed in disapproval.
"Yeah, she did." admitted Harry, "She said she wouldn't do it again."
The cauldron slid into his charmed trunk, and he paused, his eyebrows scrunched together in confusion.
"How'd you know about that?" he asked curiously. Susan leaned closer, lowering her voice.
"Umbridge was furious you got off." she whispered, "She and McGonagall had a shouting match outside the Great Hall about it yesterday. Most of the school heard."
Harry nodded, moving the trunk by his feet up to the table's surface.
That's why I didn't hear it. I was with Fleur.
Eyes prickled against the side of his skull. Harry glanced up. Icy eyes watched him from across the room, accompanied by fair skin and long, braided blonde hair.
Harry waited, but the girl didn't look away. Her lips slowly parted; Harry could barely make out the few words she mouthed.
Stay after class. Talk.
Harry frowned. He quietly finished packing up his stuff, watching as Snape strode out from behind his desk and stood before them all.
"If you've finished your solutions, place a sample by my desk. If not, vanish your cauldrons - save me the time I'd waste by grading them."
The class shuffled around, many of them reaching for their bags. A small throng of students crowded around the doorway, making their way out the room in groups of twos or threes.
"Should we go?"
Harry shook his head, turning to face Susan.
"You go. I need to speak to Snape about something - I'll catch up with you on the way to the Great Hall."
Susan nodded slowly, sparing him a sympathetic glance before making her way through the door and out of sight. Harry turned around, his eyes landing on none other than Daphne Greengrass. Three others stood by her side - Harry recognized them all.
Tracey Davis. Theodore Nott. Blaise Zabini.
He edged closer to them, his fingers curled beneath the sleeves of his robes.
Just a thought. Just think it, and they can't do a thing.
"We're not trying to hurt you, if that's what you're thinking." said Daphne, reaching for the bag by her table, "We just wanted to talk."
Harry glanced across the room. Professor Snape was watching them from behind his desk, his trademark sneer having vanished entirely. His brow furrowed as his dark eyes combed them, the ends of his lips curving downwards.
"Fine." he agreed quietly, "But outside. Not here."
Daphne nodded, and the quartet followed him out the door and through the corridor. Harry felt Snape's eyes boring into the back of his neck, but nothing pressed against his mind - no probes, no foriegn thoughts; nothing that wasn't his.
The cold air of the dungeons warmed slightly as they climbed a flight of stairs. A golden-orange glow bathed them as they stood beneath the light of the torches. Harry turned, facing the Slytherins.
"What is it?"
Daphne frowned, pursing her lips, but she slowly began to speak.
"I'm sure you know who our parents are."
"I've got a good guess." Harry admitted.
"Your guess is probably right." Daphne straightened up, tucking a strand of blonde hair beneath her ears, "They're all connected to him in one way or another."
Harry paused. His eyes bore into Daphne's, quickly flickering across the three that accompanied her.
"Why are you telling me this?" he muttered seriously, "What's the point?"
"The point," said Daphne, "is that we aren't them. We're our own people, with our own thoughts and beliefs. We don't want to die whilst chained to someone else's. In fact, we'd prefer we didn't have to die at all."
"And you think you'll die if you stay where you're at." Harry surmised.
Daphne said nothing, her lips impossibly straight.
"We want to live." Harry turned to the girl who had spoken - Tracey Davis, the brown-haired girl stood just to Daphne's side, "We can't with them, not when we don't agree with a word they say. They'll call us traitors, kill us, and then call it a day."
"You haven't gotten to the point of all this." Harry reminded them, "Why are you here? What do you want?"
"We're what you want." Daphne's lips parted, words softly escape them, "Intel, if you will -"
"I can figure out what I need to know about Voldemort on my own -"
"I'm not talking about Voldemort." said Daphne cooly, her eyes narrowing, "I'm talking about the smaller things. Tidbits of information that seem trivial, but when combined together mean so much more. Things you can't find out on your own."
Harry paused. His eyes linked to Daphne's again, and his lips curved downwards.
"He won't be happy if he hears about this."
"He won't care." whispered Daphne certainly, "We're not telling you anything significant, are we?"
Just the tidbits. Things that together mean so much more.
"Fine." Harry raised a hand, "It's a deal."
Daphne's hand pressed against his, and they parted ways.