Magnanimous Chapter 1: Beginning
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters and places belong to J.K.Rowling. Plot is mine.
With Thanks: To Orchid, my amazing beta, who's spent a lot of her time making suggestions and improvements. To all my friends at the Fiction Net forums, especially Jean, who started the whole thing off, and my Weasley Twin, Georgina. To all those people in real life who put up with my writer's insanity, and manage to call me 'friend' in spite of it. To all those who read and reviewed my other works and gave me the courage to go on.
Author's Note: Yes, after a very long summer of rest and relaxation (read: laziness) I'm back at the keyboard and back writing fanfiction! This is NOT a sequel to Fire and Ice/Darkness and Light, but an entirely new story of it's own. Of course, I hope that all my old readers will come to love this as much as they did my older fanfics!
I've started a writing diary, which can be found by going to my profile and looking under homepage. It may sound boring, but if you want to find out all the details about how fast I'm writing, as well as getting sneaky quotes from upcoming chapters, go check it out!
And I think that's all I need to say. Oh, this takes place after Book 5 and does contain spoilers.
'Now, as you all know from your homework assignment, today we are going to attempt production of the Animus Potion. Although,' Snape paused, casting his usual disdainful glance at Neville, 'I would not expect many of you to succeed.'
It was a normal Thursday morning for the sixth year Potions class. The Gryffindors and Slytherins were carefully seated on opposite sides of the room, as usual, shivering in the winter air and thinking longingly of a steaming hot lunch. The dungeons were the coldest part of the castle at any time of the year, and the students could see their smoke-white breath curl into mist in front of their faces.
Harry, Hermione and Ron were sitting as close to the back of the class as possible – under protest from Hermione, of course, but the boys had out-voted her. They began making notes as Snape proceeded to give a basic description of the potion in an impatient yet monotonous voice.
'Those of you who did your homework will recall that this potion is designed to improve mental agility and induce feelings of peace and cooperation in those who drink it. The active ingredients are the eggshells and fresh venom of a Runespoor-'
'What the hell's a Runespoor?' Ron whispered to Hermione, who sighed in exasperation.
'Didn't you do your homework?' she replied irritably, before reciting. 'A Runespoor is a magical species of serpent with three heads, originating in Africa, commonly reaching a length of six or seven feet. It is distinctive in its patterning of bright orange with black stripes. The writings of Parselmouths who have kept and conversed with these creatures show that…'
'Alright, alright, too much information!' Ron replied, yawning and scribbling "Two-headed snake" on his parchment. 'It's too early in the morning to absorb all that stuff, Hermione.'
'I said it had three heads, not two. Honestly, Ron.' Hermione sighed, crossing out the word 'Two' with a neat stroke and carefully scribing 'Three' in its place As an afterthought, she added, 'And it's never too early in the morning to learn.' before returning to her note taking and studiously ignoring Harry's grin at such a typical comment.
'As you should have learnt,' Snape was saying, 'it is extremely difficult to procure Runespoor eggs on the common market, owing to their immense value and the rarity of Runespoors. You are fortunate that I myself keep one of these creatures in my office for such potions as this, and therefore you will be able to benefit immensely from making this potion, which, I assure you, will be included in your OWLs examination in a few months. The venom I have here was extracted from the Runespoor shortly before breakfast…'
Without warning, a searing pain split through Harry's scar. He gasped, wincing and pressing a hand to his forehead. Ron and Hermione turned to him, their looks of mild puzzlement turning to wide-eyes fear as they saw where his hand was.
'What is it, Harry?' Hermione whispered, her voice afraid. 'It's not your scar? It's not… him…?'
'I don't know…' Harry shook his head, frowning and rubbing his forehead. 'It just started hurting.' The pain reminded him of the time he'd burnt himself on a saucepan, making fried eggs for the Dursleys. Dull, but achingly persistent.
'Tell Snape.' Ron said, turning pale. 'He's a member of the Order, he'll understand… if your scar's hurting, it means something's going on. Maybe you should go to Dumbledore…'
'It's alright, really. It's only hurting a bit… Not like when he was really close, or angry.' Harry insisted. Furiously, he willed the pain to go away. He didn't want yet another scene. 'It's just… I don't know. He's probably just passing by Hogwarts or something… or maybe it's just a headache, maybe I'm imagining it…'
Truthfully, he knew this was real. But the last time he'd felt something from Voldemort it had been a trick, a trap… and look what happened then…
'It's just a headache, I'm over reacting.' He replied, making himself drop his hand back to the table and pretend that nothing was the matter. His friends looked doubtful, and Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment Snape broke into their conversation.
'Anything I should know, Potter?' he asked, his dark eyes narrowed and his voice malicious. The summer had only served to make him hate Harry more, if such a thing were possible, and now loathing streamed off him in cold waves whenever he approached.
'Nothing, professor.' Harry replied firmly, by now quite exasperated. 'I have a headache. That's all.'
Snape glared once, a foul glare as though Harry were something filthy and low, and swept back to the front of the room. He spent as little time near Harry as possible, even at the cost of insulting him. Harry leant on the table, ignored the worried looks of his friends, and waited for his head to stop hurting.
'As this potion is extremely dangerous and difficult to make,' Snape snapped, regaining the classes' attention immediately, 'I shall be assigning you all partners. Now…' his eyes roamed the dingy room. 'Miss Granger with Miss Bulstrode…' he said silkily, smirking at the look on Hermione's face.
Glumly, Hermione went to join Millicent Bulstrode, who was sitting on the very back row and looked like she'd just swallowed a toad. The boys gave Hermione sympathetic looks, but they knew they would probably receive similarly horrible partners. Harry's 'headache' had put Snape in a fouler mood than usual.
'Mr. Longbottom with Mr. Crabbe… Mr. Weasley with Mr. Goyle…'
Ron gave Harry a regretful grimace and started grabbing his things. Harry sighed to himself, and waited for his turn. In the whole of the grey dungeon there was not one smile, as everyone was being paired with someone they hated. Some of the more malicious Slytherins were smirking, however. This was all fun to them.
'Mr. Potter…' Harry looked up, resigned to his fate. For a fleeting instant, Snape's eyes held an evil glint: it was a face Harry could imagine him wearing when he had been a Death Eater. 'Mr. Potter with Mr. Malfoy.'
Harry sighed quietly, massaged his forehead and quickly made himself stop as soon as he realised what he was doing. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Malfoy smirk, pick up his things, and swagger over to join him at the long table.
'Is Potty's head hurting then?' Malfoy asked, smirking and running his eyes over Harry's scar. 'Does poor ickle Potty want to go see the nursie?'
'Shut up, Malfoy.' Harry snapped, glowering. He rested his aching head in his hands and hoped it didn't look too suspicious. His scar began to throb, a dull, hate-filled, sickening throb. Malfoy smirked in reply and began methodically arranging his things on the table. Quill on the left, inkpot above it, parchment in front of him…
Watching irritably, Harry frowned. Something was… strange. Malfoy looked even paler than usual, his skin almost appearing to glow in the dim light of the dungeon, and he didn't seem to have his usual cruel, self-assured arrogance about him. On the contrary, Harry thought as Malfoy glanced at his scar again, he looked… scared.
Scared? Harry snorted and told himself he was being ridiculous. Malfoy was never scared. Well, accept from the time they'd come across Quirrel in the forest in first year… but then there had actually been something to fear. There was nothing of that sort here…
But still… There was something in the way he was moving, something in the way he was acting… He couldn't put his finger on it, but something…
Since when did you give a damn about Malfoy? he asked himself. He was probably delusional, or something. Maybe he really was ill… or reading too much into things. Possibly Malfoy was ill. Even oh-so-perfect-worshipful Malfoys were prone to the common cold, he reminded himself…
And then, for the second time in as many minutes, he jumped.
'I'm telling you, Alpha, we should have gone the other way. You're leading us deeper into the school, you idiot.'
'Yes, because the only way out is from deeper into the school. You do want to be free, don't you?'
Voices. Distant voices, but clearly audible. Harry blinked, sitting up and frowning.
'Freedom, freedom, freedom. To smell the sweet air, to go where we please, no place in all the world where we cannot make our presence known.'
This was a third voice, fainter than the others with a singsong tone. Harry's frown deepened, and he cast a sweeping glance around the class. No one else seemed to have heard them.
'Uh. Malfoy?' Harry asked. 'Can you hear voices?'
Malfoy turned to him with a derisory frown. 'Well, yes Potter. There are people around us talking, and I have a perfectly functional set of ears. Bit thicker than usual today, Potter. Spent too much time around the Weasel?'
Normally Harry would have hexed him for such an insult, but he was too preoccupied by the problem of the voices.
'Yes, yes, Beta.' said the first voice. 'We'll be free soon enough… now, to get to the nearest exit…'
'No, I mean other voices…' Harry said. 'There's three of them… they're talking about getting out of the school… escaping, or something…'
The look on Malfoy's face was comical, his translucent features lit with malicious glee. 'You're hearing voices now?' he asked incredulously. 'Well, I always knew you were potty, Potter. At last you admit it.'
Harry shook his head. 'I guess… maybe I'm ill or something…' he said, but without any assurance.
'Something I've known for four years, Potter.' Malfoy drawled, giving a smirk that somehow lacked its malice.
'Shut up, Malfoy, I'm serious.'
'So am I.'
Harry groaned and banged his head against the table. He listened carefully, but thankfully, the voices seemed to have gone for the time being.
'We go in here. I taste fresh air.'
'Idiot. There's human voices coming from that direction.'
'So? They're children's voices. We can just scare them off. No problem, Gamma.'
Harry sat bolt upright. 'They're coming in here.' He said urgently. 'Whoever they are, they're coming in here.'
Malfoy gave him another look. 'Potter, could you please ignore the little voices in your head and start doing some work? That Jarvey hair needs adding to the venom, and then you need to watch it to make sure it doesn't explode…'
He was cut off by the sound of shattering glass, and Pansy Parkinson screaming.
The entire class looked towards the source of the noise. Pansy had her hands clapped over her mouth, her vial of venom shattered on the floor, staring wide-eyed at the door. A huge serpent, black and orange with three heads, was slithering through it, its three glistening pairs of eyes scanning the dungeon warily.
'Told you this was a bad idea.' said the head on the furthest right, before surveying the room with a critical eye and opening its mouth wide, baring long, sharp fangs, and hissing.
There was pandemonium. Everyone other than Harry and Malfoy scrambled to get to the back of the class, as far away from the snake as possible.
'Well, looks like we solved the voices problem.' Malfoy said coolly, apparently unfazed by the huge Runespoor. 'What a pity, Potter. You aren't schizophrenic after all. And I was going to have such fun spreading that around.' He considered this. 'Maybe I will spread it around anyway.'
Harry blinked. 'Did you fail to notice the fact that there's this huge snake with very big fangs sitting in the middle of the floor hissing at us?'
'My father used to keep one.' He replied. 'They aren't vicious. It's only trying to scare us.'
While this conversation had been going on, Snape had drawn out his wand from a drawer in the desk, and was now carefully advancing upon the Runespoor. 'Stupefy!' he intoned, but the serpent, as quick as lightening, dodged the spell, which ricocheted off the wall and zoomed over the classes' heads. The two outermost heads turned their attention to Snape now, hissing violently. The middle head, however, acted differently.
'We will fight for our freedom!' It declared. 'We will fight to the death, if need be, and care not how many we massacre in our bid for the golden glory of freedom! No more walls shall be ours, no more bars, no more chains to bind our bodies and souls in captivity. My brothers, we fight for freedom!'
It would have been an impressive speech if the second head hadn't been writhing like a madman, flinging itself about in over-dramatic gestures and sending its soprano voice from the deepest tones it could reach to the highest in an instant. As it was, it was rather comical, and all Harry could do not to laugh.
Malfoy looked at him as though he were a madman. 'I don't see what's so funny. Our Potions teacher's about to get his leg bitten off.' He remarked, arching an eyebrow. 'However amusing you may find that, I don't think it's a good idea. Some of us actually like him, besides which, it'd be messy. I'd suggest that you talk to it.'
'You're a Parselmouth, aren't you?' Malfoy pointed out. 'Tell it not to bite him.'
'I don't think it will listen to me… That middle head's ranting on about freedom and massacring people.' Harry frowned. Snape made another attempt to stun the Runespoor, which missed again and grazed the sleeve of Neville's robes.
'And you laughed at that?' Malfoy asked incredulously. 'You should become a Death Eater if you think that stuff's funny, Potter.' Strangely, his voice faltered on the last sentence.
'It was the way it was talking. Over-dramatic.' Harry replied irritably, before looking back at the Runespoor and sighing.
'Leave him alone.' He hissed.
The serpent turned towards Harry at this interruption, and the first and third heads appeared to consider this. The second head had launched into a reedy and rather off key battle song.
'Why?' asked the first head. 'He's the one who imprisoned us…'
'Well, it's still not right to bite him…' Harry replied uncertainly. 'Can't you just escape without hurting him?'
The second head broke off the song to declare, 'We fight for Honour and Freedom! We fight to the death! It is far better to die a free serpent than live forever as a prisoner!'
'I apologise for Beta,' said the third head, 'he's always like this. I think he's on drugs, if you ask me…'
'Eh… alright.' Harry replied, flummoxed by the odd conversation. 'But you could kind of… escape without revenge…'
'That would sacrifice our honour!' The second head, presumably Beta, replied. It raised itself up, broke into the chorus of its battle hymn, and then the whole snake keeled over and slumped on the ground. Snape had used Harry's distraction to hit the Runespoor with a Stunning spell.
Snape cast an irritable look around the class. 'There is no need to cower at the back like a bunch of frightened two year olds.' He snapped. 'Runespoors, as you should have read, are not vicious and will not attack unless provoked.'
No one was brave enough to point out that the third head had almost bitten his leg off.
'Miss Parkinson, get back over here and clean up that venom. Be careful when you do so as you may cut yourself on that glass and get venom into the wound. I suggest wearing gloves. The rest of you, get back to your work.' He levitated the snake with a quick, 'Mobilicorpus' and turned to take it back to its cage.
As he was about to go, however, he turned back to Malfoy and Harry. 'Five points to Slytherin, Mr. Malfoy, for not losing your head in a crisis.'
Harry got a dark glare. He hadn't expected anything else.
Latin: For those who've not read my other stories: I tend to use liberal amounts of Latin for spells e.t.c. This chapter had only one Latin reference – the Animus Potion. 'Animus' is a peculiar word, which can translate as mind, heart, soul, spirit, essence… you get the idea. Strangely enough, it's also part of the root of the title, Magnanimous. The other word in the root of the title is magnus, meaning great or large. So it means, basically, greathearted. For a more descriptive definition, refer to a dictionary.
Oh, and the Runespoor isn't just something I made up from nowhere. Its in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the Comic Relief book from a few years back. Though I've never seen anyone use one, more's the pity… they have great potential. Which I intend to exploit :)
That's it for this chapter. Next chapter: things begin to get interesting…