Disclaimer: Anything you recognize from the books, I don't own.
Summary: After the defeat of Voldemort, Harry is tired. He is offered the chance to rest, relax, and have fun.by going back in time to 1977 and becoming his parents' Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. But things don't stay relaxing for very long.
Notes: ...Yes, I know I took forever with this. But it is finally here, and I will finish this fic, I promise. To make up for the month I was incredibly busy, this chapter's a bit longer than usual. No responses to reviewers this chapter, as I figured you'd rather have the chapter than the responses, but know that I appreciate every single one of you, and just thank you for taking the time to read. Enjoy!Chapter Eighteen
Professor Dumbledore was, without a doubt, the weirdest teacher James could ever remember having.
"You want us to what?" That was Severus Snape, and for perhaps the first time in his memory, James agreed with the sniveling git. Only mentally, of course-it wouldn't do to agree with him out loud.
"A picnic?" That was Anne Edgecoombe, Lily's friend. Her brown eyes were wide open in surprise. "In the Forbidden Forest?"
"That is what I said, Miss Edgecoombe," Dumbledore replied placidly, then beamed around at the class. "As this is a double period, we do have a great deal of time, and I've already gotten our supplies from the kitchens. Shall we go?"
No one moved. James looked around, and, seeing that no one else showed any signs of speaking up, cleared his throat and said, "Er, Professor? Precisely why are we going into the Forbidden Forest?"
"Because it will be a learning experience," Dumbledore said firmly.
"But it's full of monsters!" exclaimed one of the Slytherin boys. Dumbledore raised a silvery eyebrow.
"This is the NEWT Defense class, is it not?" he asked, and the boy flushed. Dumbledore smiled. "Well then, you should all be quite capable of dealing with anything in there, especially in such a large group." He stood up suddenly. "Off we go, then."
Unable to think of anything else to say, the class stood up and trudged out of the room, Dumbledore following them with a large picnic basket floating behind him. Once out of the castle, Dumbledore took the lead, as he was the only person who knew where they were going. James and Sirius exchanged a glance as the class went deeper into the Forest, past areas that they knew quite well. Finally Dumbledore stopped in a seemingly random clearing, though looking around, James could see that the trees were much thicker in this part of the woods than the outskirts he was used to.
Dumbledore calmly took a seat on the ground, and the picnic basket floated to a halt beside him. All the students just stood there as he took out a bright red-and-white checkered tablecloth, which started to unfold itself and uncover place settings for all students, each already set with tea and biscuits. Dumbledore picked up his cup and saucer and started sipping, then raised an eyebrow at his students. James and Sirius exchanged glances again, then shrugged simultaneously and dropped down onto the ground. The rest of the class soon followed.
After most had already finished their tea and biscuits, Snape sat back on his heels and said with a raised eyebrow, "I assume the reason you brought us out here was not for us to enjoy tea-time."
Dumbledore chuckled, seemingly amused at Snape's bluntness. "Correct, Mr Snape. My purpose in bringing you all out here was not entirely for tea-time, though it was most excellent tea and biscuits, don't you agree?" A few chuckled at this, and Dumbledore smiled. "But no, Mr Snape, I brought you out here because I thought it uniquely suited today's lesson. You are going to have a mock battle."
Anne blinked. "Er...Professor, why, exactly?"
Dumbledore looked at her soberly. "Because this is a NEWT-level defense course, Miss Edgecoombe. Once you leave this school, you will be beyond Hogwarts's protection, and some of you will find yourselves fighting in real battles. You must be prepared for that eventuality. It is my hope that this lesson will help you understand the unpredictability inherent in true battles, with so many people around. It is quite unlike the experience of dueling."
"But why did we have tea and biscuits first?" one of the Slytherins asked, and Dumbledore laughed.
"We can't have you battling on empty stomachs now, can we?" he asked with a smile. "These are not true battle conditions as of yet, where you may have to go without food for quite a long time. But this is merely an exercise, and so I thought you may satisfy the hunger of your belly before entering the fray."
James saw Remus and Lily exchange dubious looks, but he himself was looking forward to this mock battle. "Professor, what are the rules?" he asked, and Dumbledore smiled at him.
"They're very simple, Mr Potter," he said. "No use of Unforgivables, as you all are still students rather than trained Aurors, and remain within the boundaries. The boundaries will be marked."
"How will they be marked, Professor?" one of the Slytherins asked, but Dumbledore smiled enigmatically and didn't answer. James didn't take that as a good sign. He hoped it wasn't too bad...Dumbledore was known for his eccentricity, after all.
"Ah, and one more thing," Dumbledore said, beaming around at them. "You shall be divided into groups for this exercise; groups which I shall be picking. So stand up and we'll get ready to begin!"
Several minutes later, James found himself with Sirius, Anne Edgecoombe and her friend Karen Marchbanks, two Slytherin girls, and Snape. Lily, Remus, and Peter were with the other group, and for the first time, James was starting to feel apprehensive about this lesson. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sirius and Snape glaring at each other, and briefly wondered what Dumbledore had been thinking, putting those two on the same team. And then having to fight against Remus, Lily and Peter wasn't going to be fun, he knew. He hoped that everyone would get out of this lesson what Dumbledore hoped they would, or it could be a disaster.
When everyone had themselves sorted into teams, Dumbledore stood in front of them. "Remember, the only rules are that no Unforgivables may be used, and that you must stay within the boundary. I shall alert you when the battle is over. The only objectives are to retain use of your functions as well as fighting your enemy, so keep those in mind. Are there any questions?" Dumbledore looked around, but no one raised their hand or spoke up. He nodded slightly, raised his wand, and brought it down with a swirl of golden sparks. "Begin!"
Immediately James and Sirius melted into the forest on one side, and saw Remus and Peter doing the same with Lily on the other. He and Sirius moved farther away from the clearing with their wands out, nearly back to back as they looked around them, alert for signs of anyone on the opposing team. A twig snapping made James whirl around, his wand at the ready, but it was only Karen, who immediately moved off with Anne, her face slightly red. James rolled his eyes-even he could be quieter than that. But then, he'd had more practice than these girls had, with his monthly excursions into the forest.
A red light off in the distance made him whirl again, and he mentally berated himself for his jumpiness. He caught Sirius's eye and pointed his chin towards the area the light had come from, strangely reluctant to say anything aloud. But Sirius understood him, as he usually did, and they moved off together with the silence that practice gave them.
A bush rustled behind them, and this time it was Sirius who spun around, leaving Jamse to keep an eye on their front, content in his knowledge that Sirius would watch his back. But then he heard a very familiar voice cry, "Stupefy!" behind him and watched red light sail past his ear, and couldn't resist turning around to see where Peter was.
He turned around just in time to see Sirius send the Stunning curse straight back at Peter, who ducked behind the same bush he had jostled earlier. Then James heard another sound behind him and turned again, this time to face Lily with Remus moving cautiously at her back. He hesitated for a moment, not wanting to hex her, but she took the matter out of his hands as she sent a Dizzy Jinx winging straight at him. He was about to dive out of the way when he realized that if he did that, he'd be letting the curse hit Sirius straight in the back. In a split-second decision, he stood his ground and let the jinx hit him, and immediately had to sit down as waves of dizziness flooded his head and his legs felt like they were going to collapse under him.
He hit the back of Sirius's leg as he sat, and Sirius fired off one more Stunner at the bush before spinning around. He quickly saw James sitting on the ground, holding his head in his hands, and fired off a curse at Lily, who dodged it with ease. Sirius grabbed James by the collar of his robes and began to bodily haul him backwards, still firing off curses at Remus and Lily pursued. Peter, at least, appeared to have been Stunned, for he didn't move from the bush.
James really wished Sirius had left him there to Lily's mercy, because being dragged along a bumpy forest floor while incredibly dizzy was not something he wanted to repeat. His teeth smashed against each other when Sirius accidentally banged him against a root, and he started waving his hand in random directions, hoping that somehow he'd hit Sirius's arm to get his attention. He finally snagged a sleeve, and figured that was close enough.
"Sirius," he said, as soon as Sirius looked down at him. "This isn't helping. Just let me recover by myself and go on."
Sirius looked doubtful. "You sure...?" he asked.
James nodded, then immediately wished he hadn't. "Yes. Just go, I'm not much of a target right now."
Sirius still looked dubious, but James flapped his arms at him, and with one last backward glance, took off. James closed his eyes and sat back against a tree trunk, willing the dizziness to pass, and not trusting himself with a wand until it did. With his aim as it was now, it was as likely he'd hit the tree or the ground as anything he was aiming for.
After a few minutes, he felt the cloud in his head begin to disperse, and reluctantly roused himself up off the floor before moving off in the direction Sirius had gone, hoping to catch up before Sirius got himself into anything too deeply. He had a feeling that's what happened.
His premonition had been right, as he found out several moments later. He hadn't actually seen Sirius yet, but he was sure that the yelling could be heard for at least a mile around, and Snape's replies were just as heated. He couldn't hear exactly what they were saying, and they generally tended to lose coherency when they increased in volume. James broke into a run, deciding that the strange feeling in his head would have to take second place to whatever argument Sirius and Snape were having.
About a minute later, he skidded back into the clearing they had started from. Dumbledore was nowhere to be found, but Sirius and Snape were standing at an edge, yelling and waving their arms, red-faced and breathing hard. James swiftly curbed the urge to just walk up to them and kick both of them, as that wouldn't solve anything, and had to lean against another tree trunk as his vision greyed a bit and he had to close his eyes.
But before James had gathered his energy a second time to try and break it up, two voices cried, "Stupefy!" in unison, and the shouting immediately cut off as two bodies hit the soft grass. James opened his eyes to see Remus and Lily walk into the clearing, their wands held out in front of them. Remus had a carefully blank look on his face, one which James knew from experience meant that he was angry. James was suddenly very glad that he was not Sirius right then.
"Enervate," Remus said quietly, and both Sirius and Snape sat up, rubbing their heads where they had hit the ground. Remus stood over both of them, his arms crossed, and simply looked at them. James wasn't surprised to see Sirius look away-he never liked invoking Remus's anger-but he was surprised to see Snape flush slightly. James raised an eyebrow. This could be interesting...
"I hope the two of you realize how absolutely stupid you were being," Remus said mildly, as if discussing the weather, and both boys flinched. "Making enough noise to mask our arrival, and probably over some idiotic thing, too." His voice hadn't wavered from its conversational tone. Sirius was bright red, and Snape was looking away. Now the surprising thing was that Snape was letting Remus lecture him-he would have come in with a werewolf retort by now, but...ah. Lily was there. Snape must have actually been keeping his promise not to let anyone know that Remus was a werewolf. How surprising.
Remus raised his eyebrow at them. "Well?" he asked gently. "Why were you two yelling like that?" James was irresistibly reminded of why Dumbledore had insisted Remus remain a prefect when James himself made Head Boy. He still had the lecturing-the-first-years voice down pat.
Neither Sirius nor Snape said anything, but Remus just looked at them, until finally Snape muttered, "He ran into me."
Remus stared. "That's it?" he asked. "Sirius ran into you, so you started a yelling match fit to wake up the whole forest?" James thought that it did sound rather ignominious, put that way.
"It was his fault!" Snape said hotly, momentarily forgetting his embarrassment, but a look from Remus silenced him.
"And I'm sure it was an accident," he said firmly. "Wasn't it, Sirius?" He looked expectantly at Sirius until Sirius nodded, still looking shamefaced. "Well then," he clasped his hands together in front of him, "since it was an accident, neither of you will mind apologizing, will you?"
At this, Sirius and Snape stared at him, and James did too. Then a new voice entered the clearing, saying, "I agree with Mr Lupin that an apology is in order." James, Sirius, and Snape all looked around to see Dumbledore and the rest of the students watching them with curiosity and the other side of the clearing. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled as he explained, "We heard all the shouting and came to investigate." Sirius and Snape reddened again, but under the watchful eyes of the Headmaster, muttered an apology. Dumbledore smiled at Remus and walked into the clearing. James did too, and thankfully sat down in the grass with the rest of the students.
"So," Dumbledore said once they were all seated, "what have you all learned from this?"
"Battles are messy," Karen volunteered. "They don't have the coordination a duel does, and everybody seems to be running around, not knowing what to do, a lot."
Dumbledore smiled at her. "Good, Miss Marchbanks," he praised, and Karen dimpled. He looked around at the rest of them. "Battles are messy. They are uncoordinated, and often orders are forgotten for spur-of-the-moment decisions. That is one of their dangers. Any other observations?"
"Silence is your ally," Remus said dryly, looking directly at Snape and Sirius, who flushed again. "It lets you sneak up on your enemies."
"Yes, I think we've had ample demonstration of that," Dumbledore agreed. "Any more?"
The rest of the class started sharing observations, but James held back, starting to feel dizzy again. That had been some Jinx...he grinned inwardly. He wouldn't have expected anything else from his Lily.
But before he knew it, he was being tugged upwards by both arms, and blinked to see Sirius's worried face in front of him.
"I knew I shouldn't have left you back there," Sirius fretted. "Lily's jinx was apparently stronger than you thought, huh? Well, let's just get you to the hospital wing."
James shook his head. "I don't need to go to the hospital wing!" he snapped. "I'm just dizzy, it'll wear off..."
"If it's stayed around this long, it might stay around longer," Remus cut in. "The hospital wing really is probably the best place for you now."
"It will go away sooner or later, you know," James said mulishly, but Remus and Sirius just looked at each other, and by mutual consent started hauling his arms so that he was forced to start walking with them. James shook them off, muttering, "I can walk myself, you wankers..."
Peter frowned at him. "Then walk yourself straight to the hospital wing," he ordered. James, now a bit bemused at even unassuming Peter ordering to go, started walking on his own back to the castle. The rest of the class seemed to have already left, but thankfully they soon got into parts of the forest they were familiar with, and it didn't take them long at all to break free of the trees and reach the entrance.
Once inside, James required a bit more prodding, but finally his friends started dragging him again, and he agreed to walk there on his own. But they still walked with him, "in case he fainted," they assured him. James wasn't sure whether he was assured or not.
Once at the hospital wing doors, he required another push to get inside, but Madam Pomfrey immediately came bustling out of her office, frowning when she saw the four of them. "What have you lot done now?" she asked tartly.
"James got himself hit with a Dizzy Jinx in Defense today," Sirius explained, and Madam Pomfrey clucked her tongue. "It was maybe half an hour ago, and it hasn't worn off yet. We're not sure if we trust him to come to Potions with us."
"I should think not," Madam Pomfrey said, grabbing James's arm and depositing him onto a bed. "It must have been an extraordinarily strong charm, to have lasted as long as it is. Well dear, you just stay here until the dizziness is all gone, and then you can run back to class."
James sat on the bed and just glared at his so-called friends, who grinned back at him. "I'm fine," he declared, but Madam Pomfrey wasn't listening, instead going back into her office.
"You should know by now that she'll never listen to a patient's self-diagnosis," a voice said dryly, and James looked a few beds down to see Professor Patterson smiling at him. "She's like a train, running over anyone who tries to get in her way."
"I heard that, Professor!" Madam Pomfrey called from her office, and Patterson chuckled.
"So, a Dizzy Jinx, was it?" he asked with interest. "What did Dumbledore do to you today?"
"Staged a mock battle," James grumbled. "Anything went except for Unforgivables and we had to stay inside the boundary. Hmmm..." he thought suddenly. "I wonder what happened to those who nearly got out."
At that, Remus winced. "It started making a sound like a foghorn," he said. "It kept increasing in volume until I turned back. It was a rather effective deterrent, though." James made a face. Now he was glad he hadn't hit the boundary.
"When are you coming back, Professor?" Peter asked. Patterson smiled.
"The train," he jerked his chin in the direction of Madam Pomfrey's office, "said she'd let me back to class on Monday, and I'll be sure to hold her to her word. So that should be your only class with the Headmaster, as it's Thursday right now."
"So what did happen?" Sirius asked. "All Dumbledore told us was that you were in a duel in Hogsmeade. Why were you in a duel in Hogsmeade? And since I know that you're powerful, how was it only a few Death Eaters nearly got the best of you?" At that, James shot Sirius a look; that had been a rather rude question, but Sirius hadn't seemed to notice.
Patterson winced. "Never underestimate your opponents," he told them. "Especially not when under the influence of alcohol." Sirius grinned, but inclined his head, waiting for the rest of his questions to be answered.
Patterson looked lost in thought for a moment, and seemed to be debating whether to tell him. But if he was, it was a short debate, because he was soon beckoning them closer. James transferred himself to the bed right next to Patterson's, and the others arranged themselves around those two beds.
"Hagrid and I found some Death Eaters in the Hog's Head," he said quietly. "Mind that you four don't let this get around, as the Headmaster obviously doesn't want it known. But what I found them talking about concerns at least two of you intimately, so I felt you had a right to know."
James felt a trickle of fear run down his spine. "Two of us?" he asked, then, affecting a casualness that he didn't feel, went on. "Which two?"
Patterson looked at him soberly. "You and Sirius, James," he said, and James closed his eyes and the affirmation of what he feared. "I believe it has something to do with the plot you came to me about several months ago."
Sirius, who had been looking resigned since Patterson said his name, looked sharply at James. "You told him about that?" he asked, disapproval tingeing his voice. James scowled.
"Of course I did," he replied. "I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want to see what your mother has in store for you! Or for me, for that matter! Professor Patterson is the person most equipped to deal with it, and I thought telling him might help!"
"I think it did," Patterson said gravely, and the two Gryffindors turned their attention back to him. "With James's information, I was able to at least recognize what they were talking about, even if I don't quite know what to do with it. We also still have those Death Eaters in custody, so that should help somewhat."
"So what did you hear about?" Sirius asked, at least seeming to have forgiven James for now. James breathed a small sigh of relief and leaned closer as Patterson frowned.
"I know they were talking about trying to recruit me." he said slowly, "but they decided not to because I was probably a Muggle-born. They said that your mother gave them the creeps," at that, a small smile crossed Sirius's face, "but that she was going to be given control over your "training" once they got you back, and soon you'd be as obedient as your cousin Bella." At that, the smile disappeared, and James felt chilled. Training? I don't like the sound of that...
"Was there anything else?" Remus asked quickly. James glanced at his friend, and saw in Remus's eyes the same fear and worry he knew were clouding his own. "Anything about what they would be doing to implement this plan?"
Patterson frowned again. "There was," he said. "Something about.about.oh bloody hell," he swore suddenly. "I've lost it!"
James suddenly felt deflated, and leaned back against the pillows on his bed. What a turn of luck, that Patterson had overheard the Death Eaters' plans and was unable to remember them. He sighed.
The five of them stayed there in silence for awhile, none apparently knowing what to say. After a few minutes, Madam Pomfrey bustled out of her office again, and while she frowned to see James in a different bed, she soon checked him and pronounced him free to go. But he couldn't even muster up enthusiasm for being out of the hated hospital wing. A glance at Sirius walking along beside him on the way down to the dungeons for Potions showed his hair obscuring his face, so James had no idea what his almost-brother was thinking. So James scuffed his shoe against the stone floor, and wished desperately for some way to help get him and Sirius out of this mess they had unknowingly been dragged into.