(A/N: Eh... what's up doc? runs and hides behind a bullet/anything proof shield until the lovely, wonderful readers are finished reading)

Disclaimer: I'm a poor college kid. If I owned Harry Potter, I would be rich and my initials would be JKR, or at least WB. So yeah, I'm neither

Chapter 23: Birds Bad, Coffee Good

Fawkes was sure he was in hell; his head was pounding, his throat was fuzzy, and hot, fiery pain rushed through his body like the tides of the sea. He also heard some evil laughter, most likely from the devil and his associates.

When he finally got around to opening his eyes, he and his brain agreed. He wasn't in hell. It was far, far worse than that.

"Hey, Sleeping Beauty is awake!" Fawkes shuddered as the voice, overly-loud in his head, sent fresh waves of pain down to his body. He groaned as the chatter picked up.

Hedwig would have been smirking evilly right now if she were human, Fawkes decided. The glint in her eyes would have made Harry proud. "WHAT'S A MATTER, FAWKES?" The owl mentally shouted, and looked gleefully as Fawkes made a pitiful noise and curled into an egg-fetal position.

Fawkes fought through the pain and aching muscles to glare at the white owl. "If you could please stop shouting, and stop the Owlery from spinning, I would be grateful." His voice was almost a whisper.

The sight of the poor, pitiful Phoenix lying on the floor of the Owlery started an internal battle within the white owl. Almost sighing, Hedwig gestured with her wing, and immediately the owls behind her quieted. Those who had been flying in circles to further confuse and disorientate the Phoenix quickly found perches. None of them wanted to miss the show that was about to start.

"Why," Hedwig began quietly and dangerously, "would you ever decide to place yourself in a position that would endanger my Master and his friends?"

Fawkes looked up, startled. He was about to reply, when Hedwig cut him off again. "I, for one, am glad that Master is a shifter, and could do what he needed to do in order to get him and his friends to the platform in time. We still don't know what effect alcohol has on firebirds, and that alone made the situation dangerous. If you had flamed in your inebriated state, you might have killed Master, or any of his friends." Her mind voice was quietly furious.

The Phoenix slowly stood, testing his weight. "I'm sorry," Fawkes began, head down, voice full of repentance. "I just wanted to… to forget the humiliation I put upon myself. I didn't think of the possible consequences. I just didn't think at all."

Hedwig flew from her perch, and landed next to the Phoenix, where tears were starting to well. Giving into uprising maternal instincts, she wrapped a comforting wing around his head, and gently preened his feathers. "There, there, it will be all right. Master has punished you, and you know now that alcohol is not the solution. You won't do it again, will you?" Fawkes shook his head, sniffling as much as a bird could. Hedwig continued this type of comforting talk, until Fawkes looked better. "Now, you might want to get yourself cleaned up. You're still covered in tar, and pink chicken feathers, and that duct tape must be getting rather itchy."

Fawkes looked at himself, and realized he was in much the same shape as he was the night before.

Daguur was a very laid-back goblin. Unfortunately for him, that was considered to be almost a disability among the goblin community. His personality also disqualified him from one of the only jobs a goblin could have; a Gringotts banker. Since all goblins were required to have jobs, Daguur's family and others in the community struggled to find him a job where his character would not be a liability.

Gringotts finally found him a job as an Assistant Birdkeeper, where Daguur was very happy to look over the owls, hawks, and other birds that Gringotts kept to message their clients. Later, after realizing that Daguur was doing a very good job, the head goblins at Gringotts promoted him to Head Birdkeeper, and let the old Head off of his punishment to go back to banking. Both goblins were pleased with the move.

Shaking his head from his thoughts, Daguur made his way to the letter pile to check to see if anything needed to be sent off promptly. In addition to making sure the birds were healthy and well cared for, the Head Birdkeeper was also responsible for making sure the urgent letters were sent off with the fastest birds.

The goblin picked up a letter that was marked high-priority, and noted the name with a hint of surprise. Contrary to popular human belief, goblins were cognizant of the happenings in the wizarding world. Harry Potter was well-known among the non-humans of the world, and Daguur had heard whispers that the Beast Council was very interested in the young human. The goblin was normally not interested in the affairs of humans, or their Gringotts accounts, but these whispers intrigued Daguur, and so it was with quiet curiosity that he wondered what business Gringotts had with Harry Potter.

Daguur headed towards the faster avians, and made to put the letter onto one of the fastest owls Gringotts had. He was very surprised when the owl took one look at both him and the letter, and screeched in defiance. Somewhat annoyed by this turn of events, the Head Birdkeeper backed away, and tried to put the letter on another owl. It, too, refused.

An hour later, Daguur's easy personality had vanished, and was replaced with extreme irritability. None of the near seven hundred birds in the Gringotts aviary would take the letter addressed to Harry Potter. At a loss for what to do, Daguur spoke to the birds at large.

"Why won't you take this letter? Why won't any of you take this thrice-cursed letter?" Daguur nearly shouted at the birds. His tone caused some of his assistants to look at him in shock; Daguur never raised his voice at anyone. The birds seemed to also stare at the otherwise laid-back goblin.

When the birds, obviously, didn't answer, Daguur looked at the letter, trying to find out what was wrong with it. Outwardly, the letter was normally addressed, to Harry Potter at Hogwarts, marked high-priority to those who knew what to look for. From his goblin standpoint, there was nothing wrong about the letter, not even the charm to make sure that the letter was delivered to the proper recipient.

Meanwhile, the birds were talking about the letter. "How can that goblin be so oblivious as to why we won't deliver it? We will not deliver charmed letters to the Council's chosen!" The first owl stated firmly. The others in the aviary murmured their agreement.

"The Council's chosen, huh?" The birds quieted at the voice, which sounded dark and mysterious. Daguur, noticing the sudden silence, looked to see what was happening. "Sounds interesting. I'll take the letter."

The darkness which was always present at the top of the aviary detached itself. Feathered forms scattered to the far edges of the room, and both birds and goblin watched in semi-awe, semi-terror, as a large, dark form landed on one of the bigger perches. Even with the extra room, many birds had to take flight in order to avoid being crushed.

Daguur and many of his feathered companions looked on as the form straightened. The lights in the aviary revealed a large, birdlike form, with feathered wings clasped at its side. If it were not for the dark feathers and curved ebony beak, Daguur would have thought it was a dragon. He blinked when the bird's talons reached out, and gently plucked the letter from his fingers. "Ah… that goes to Harry Potter." Daguur nearly whispered.

The huge avian blinked his golden eyes, seemingly amused. Suddenly, he disappeared with the letter. Daguur stood in shock at the whole series of events silently, and decided to inform his superiors about the letter and its carrier. He hurried out of the Gringotts Aviary, followed by his assistants.

"What was that?" One of the younger owls managed to ask a few minutes after the huge bird had disappeared.

An aged barn owl answered him. "That, I believe, was a Roc. I did not even know that one even existed. They were once a part of the Beast Council, but they were barred from membership."

"What did they do to get barred from the Council?" Another curious youngster asked, with a hint of shock that any magical creature had managed to upset the Council that much.

The elder owl bowed his head, and let out a breath of air. "I'm not entirely sure, but I believe that once, very long ago, the Rocs managed to bury alive every Council elder twenty feet underground, just for fun. No one was hurt, but the prank caused the elders to rethink the Rocs' membership. By the time the Council was ready to forgive, the Rocs had vanished, and so the banishment from the Council stood."

"…" The aviary was silent after that revelation.

When he opened his eyes, Harry knew there was no point in trying to get some more sleep. A quick peek through the curtains of his bed revealed that the sun had yet to rise. He sighed resignedly, and then quietly made his way out of bed.

Harry felt a foreboding as he pulled on his clothes. Something was on the way toward him. An image appeared in his head of a huge black shape in the vague shape of a bird flying through the sky. The teen shook his head, and the vision disappeared. What was that? Harry thought to himself. Maybe it was a Council power, Harry mused. Whatever it was, it was slightly creepy.

A stray thought crossed Harry's mind, and he shuddered at the sheer horror of it. Trelawney would most certainly seek him out if she ever got wind of this. Then and there, Harry made a vow to never, ever let mention of this new "power" escape from his lips. Even if a big black bird started to attack and gnaw on his bones… Harry went down to the Common Room to keep himself amused by how far would do to never let Trelawney hear of this, his imagination starting to run wild.

The Pack made their way to breakfast in the morning, grumbling. Unfortunately, their inner clocks, used to waking up early in the Chamber of Secrets, had yet to be reset. Since it was still too early for breakfast to even be served, Harry and the others had done some light training in the Gryffindor Common Room to pass the time. After their meditation and light warm-up exercises, the four were ready to greet the day and not snap at everyone who even blinked wrong. Still, they would not be okay until they had had their daily cups of coffee. Over the summer, the Pack had quickly gotten addicted to the American drink, and now it was not a nice sight to see them without it.

Before the new Marauders could reach their table, and the pot of coffee placed oh-so-invitingly in their regular spots by thoughtful house elves, they were intercepted.


Harry averted his gaze from the steaming coffee pot on the Gryffindor table to stare irritably at the dark-haired Slytherin that had stepped in front of him.

"Um… who are you again?" Harry asked confused. "Why are you not Malfoy, why are you bothering me at all and more importantly, why are you in my way?"

The Slytherin's eyes blinked. "I'm surprised you don't know and hate all your Slytherin year mates. The name's Nott."

Shade looked at his friends behind him, and shrugged. "Not what?"

"Huh?" Nott joined the quartet in looking confused.

"You said the name's not. What is the name not?" Harry asked, trying to be patient.

The entire left side of Nott's face looked as if it had developed a permanent twitch. "I said my name is Nott, Theodore Nott, Potter."

"I know your name isn't Potter, because that's my surname. I wouldn't know that your name isn't Theodore, because I don't know you, and you won't tell me your name. If you don't want to tell me, that's okay, but could you at least get out of my way? See, there's coffee waiting for me." Harry explained very slowly, as if to a small child.

This time, Harry could swear he saw a wave of spasming go through the Slytherin's body. "The name is in-oh-tee-tee, Potter."

Harry blinked. "Ennoteetee? That's a weird name. Or were you trying to spell 'naughty'? I don't swing that way, Ennoteetee. You also really suck at spelling."

Theodore opened his mouth, but stopped before speaking. His face grew slowly redder, until he looked rather like a tomato. His jaw rushed to meet the rest of his face with a snap, and the four Gryffindors could hear a muffled scream pass through his closed lips.

The Slytherin took a moment to gain his composure, and waited until his rapid breathing was under control. Finally, he spoke. "I give up. Enjoy your bloody coffee." He walked away, a shudder in every step.

Shade blinked, then shrugged. He led the way to the coffee, and all was silence as they breathed in the aroma. Ginny, the less addicted of the quartet, poured out the hot liquid, making sure Harry got his cup first. As just witnessed, a Shadowfang without his morning coffee was not a pleasant thing to see.

It was only after Harry was nursing his second cup, a scant minute later that he seemed to wake up. "Good morning! How is everyone this morning?"

Ginny sighed resignedly as she poured her first cup of coffee. "Do you even remember what happened just a few minutes ago, Shade?"

Harry looked up, confused. "Something happened a few minutes ago?" Ginny sighed again.

Ron looked at Hermione. "We need to see about getting him some coffee before he meets any living, breathing thing."

Hermione just nodded as the both of them finished their first cup of coffee. The pair watched as Ginny poured Harry his third cup, and a few seconds later, his fourth.

After Harry's fifth cup of coffee, he slowed down. By then the Great Hall was filled, both with students and chatter. Those who had seen Harry's confrontation with Nott spread the story, so by the end of breakfast, everyone knew to never get in the way between Harry and his coffee.

"You awake now, Shade?" Ron asked his friend.

Harry nodded. "Nothing like five cups of coffee to get you going in the morning!" His friends looked at him, amazed at how cheerful he sounded. Then, they looked at Harry's jumbo mug, about three times the size of a normal mug, and shook their heads.

"Anyway, you ready for the first day of classes?" Hermione asked her friends as she ate her breakfast.

Ron nodded slightly, while Ginny beamed, and Harry smiled as he happily sipped at his half-full cup.

All of a sudden, the entirety of the Gryffindor table's plates, goblets, and silverware jumped up and started to run around the Great Hall. Students all around gaped at the sight. The dishes ran around for a bit longer, and then started to congregate in the corner of the Great Hall.

The Gryffindors stared at each other for a second, and then charged after their food. Their food ran away.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione walked up to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom to find their Gryffindor and Slytherin yearmates waiting outside the door. Several heads turned to watch their approach. Draco Malfoy sneered, but was very wary of Harry's gaze.

"What's going on?" Harry asked casually, looking towards the Gryffindor section. Malfoy opened his mouth to no doubt make a sarcastic reply, but wilted under Harry's quick glare. He remembered well the pain and humiliation caused by Harry on the train. None of the other Slytherins wanted to answer Gryffindor's Golden Boy, especially one named Theodore Nott. Even though Harry looked much more genial with coffee than he did without, the dark-haired Slytherin did not want to risk it.

"The door won't open." Seamus gestured towards the classroom door. "I don't think the teacher's here. What did Dumbledore say the name was, again?"

Hermione frowned. "He didn't." She replied, mentally reviewing what, exactly, Dumbledore had said about this mysterious new teacher. The Headmaster hadn't said much at breakfast. Of course, after Ron's introductory prank, there wasn't much interest in the DADA Professor. It took the better part of thirty minutes for the teachers to figure out how to stop the charm on the Gryffindor plates. Coincidentally, the teachers were able to bring down the dancing dishes at about the same time the Gryffindors' endurance was lagging. Everyone wanted to know who this "Swiftpaw" was, and why his writing was such a bright, neon blue color. Hermione fought off her grin at her thoughts.

The comment seemed to be the signal for conversation to start. As the chatter in the corridor grew louder, the door to the DADA classroom opened slowly. The sixth years stilled as they peered into the open doorway.

Harry's hackles rose, and he felt as if something inside him was screaming "Danger!" When the students started to slowly enter the classroom, his arms shot out to grab on to Ron and Hermione's.

"Shade, what are you doing?" Ron hissed. Beside him, Hermione made a small sound of agreement.

"Swiftpaw, are we idiots?" The redhead cringed at the irritated tone of his Alpha. He felt, rather than saw, Dots take a step back as well. Apparently five and a half jumbo cups of coffee still weren't enough for their leader.

Shade relaxed marginally, and released his friends' arms. "Swift, Dots, please use the common sense that God gave you. A door just opened to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. The classroom, please note, where most of the professors teaching have tried to kill me. Our classmates have entered, and I cannot see movement in the door, nor do I hear any noise in there."

Ron and Hermione paused in shock, their senses catching up to them. Harry was right.

"What do we do, Shade?" Dots asked.

Harry's mind raced, and came up with a quick plan. "Wands out." He drew his own, and watched as his friends did as well. "We go in, together. There is probably a charm on the door that does not let out sight or sound, so close your eyes as we go in, and make sure your hearing is muted. Those senses will not be the most accurate, so rely on your feelings most of all. Dots, go in and aim low. Swift, you're mid-range. Aim to stun or disarm only! If fire is returned, use spells that can easily be reversed. We don't want to send anyone to the Hospital Wing on the first day of classes."

His friends marveled at the commands their friend had just snapped out. Ron and Hermione knew that Harry was a good Alpha, but this just reaffirmed their opinion.

Harry smiled at their determined nods, and walked to just where the doorway began. "Shields up, and close your eyes. Remember, use your instincts. Ready?" Turning his head towards the direction of the doorway, he felt two shields snap up behind him, and raised his own. He took one last deep breath, and leapt through the doorway.

The bright light beat against their eyelids, and the trio was infinitely glad they'd closed their eyes. Inside, there was also a cacophony of noise, some of which made it past their muting charm on their ears. The charms were very strong, though, and they only heard whispers of what promised to be very loud noises.

Harry felt a spell impact his shield and bounce harmlessly off. His wand whipped around to cast a stunner, but his target had already moved. So, he did the next best thing.

"Nox! Silencio!" Instantly, there was darkness and silence. Harry cautiously opened his eyes, scanning the darkened room. Seeing nothing, Harry started to tap his foot on the floor. Of course, there was no sound, but that wasn't Harry's intention. His two Pack-mates sent back acknowledgment the same way; through the vibrations on the floor.

Harry calmed his breathing, and counted the cadence in his head. He knew, instinctively, that his two friends were breathing to the same rhythm. Even though they could not hear their leader, Ron and Hermione had spent many hours in meditation with Harry. Breathing, even acting together, was second nature by now. As one, the three raised their wands.

A moment later, the lights to the room turned on. Harry found his wand aimed straight at his attacker's head. Ron's wand was pointing at the stomach, and Hermione's had a glowing line reaching out to ensnare the feet.

Out of the corners of his eyes, Harry saw the knocked-out forms of his classmates slumped against the walls. He outright grinned when he saw Draco Malfoy lying over his bodyguards, Crabs and Boils… err… Crabbe and Goyle in what could have been a very compromising position if Draco's head were at a different angle. Actually… either way it was a picture perfect scene for blackmail. Too bad Harry didn't have a camera with him.

Shade turned his head toward his opponent, and realized that a mask was covering the figure's face. He sighed, and cast his counter-spell, waking the prone form. Brown eyes opened, and stared at the wand inches from its face. There was movement from behind the mask that suggested to Harry that the figure was smiling.

"So, mind taking off that mask and telling us who you are, Professor?" Harry asked casually, having deduced that their attacker must be the new Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Um... been a while, huh? sigh Well, I've been attending college, my job has reached the level where I'm being called in whenever they need me, and some of my co-workers are deciding to cause trouble. So yeah, pretty much life is so-so right now. My muse deserted me for a while, so that's what took so long.

I actually had a lot of this chapter written a while ago, but one part didn't sit quite right with me, and I didn't really want to post it. So, I waited, and waited, until a plot bunny bit me. So, I took out the offending part, and put in the "Nott's name is Nott, is it not?" scene ;-) I had fun writing it, and I self-beta'd the chapter. Sorry it took so long...

About the next update... it'll happen when my muse decides to come out of hiding. I'm going to try and go get my muse and arrest it for going AWOL, but hey, I'll take what I can get. As for now, check my Yahoo!Group. The link is in my profile.

'Til next update!

Ceres K.