Chapter 5: The First Day
Ron and Harry walked to Professor Flitwick's Charms-class in silence, which suited Harry just fine. He really should have expected this, he thought and kicked himself for getting his hopes up. Of course parents would react when a known Death Eater sent a dark wizard-in-training to attend Hogwarts! He glanced at Ron, who was staring at the floor as they walked. Now that he thought about it, they had known each other for only a day. Ron had no reason to believe a word Harry said, and every reason to heed the warnings in his mother's letter.
The whispers from the other students died the instant they entered the classroom. Harry scowled at them, causing most to avoid his eyes and shift nervously. The only one who didn't seem affected by Harry's scowl was that irritating girl they had met on the Hogwarts Express. She watched him intently, like he was some kind of puzzle she was determinated to solve.
Harry marched past her and sat down at the front of the class, hoping that the old saying of 'out of sight, out of mind' would hold true. He was a bit surprised, though, when Ron resolutely sat down beside him. That made him feel a little better.
Professor Flitwick turned out to be the smallest adult Harry had ever seen. The ancient little wizard was actually shorter than Harry himself, and most of the teacher's face was hidden behind a shock of white hair.
"Good morning, everyone," he said cheerfully as he entered. "For those who don't know, I am Professor Flitwick, your teacher in Charms."
Flitwick took out his wand and gave it a swish, causing a dozen large books fly from a nearby shelf and land on the chair behind his desk. Then, with some effort, he managed to climb on top of the pile. The class snickered at the Professor's antics, and Harry couldn't help but smile a little, too.
The teacher didn't seem to take offence, for he grinned at the class. "I may be small of stature, but I still think I'll manage to drill the fundamentals of magic into your heads before the year is over," he said and fished a parchment out of his pocket. "Please make ready quills and parchments while I do the roll call. Brown, Lavender!"
There was a series of rustling noises as the students did as they were told. Harry started a little when Flitwick came to "Granger, Hermione!" and her response sounded almost directly in his ear.
He sent a glare over his shoulder at the girl, who was leaning across her desk to get a closer look at him.
Flitwick jumped in surprise when he came to Harry's name, which caused him to lose his balance and tumble down from the pile of books he stood on. The book-pile swayed dangerously for a moment, before it, too, fell off the chair and landed on top of him.
Harry stared at the desk which now hid the tiny Professor. Not the teachers, too! This was getting ridiculous.
However, Flitwick quickly got back on his feet. Although the desk was almost as tall as him, they could just see the top of his head moving behind it.
"Ahem. Right. No harm done," Flitwick assured them from behind his desk. The books suddenly leaped back up to the chair, and the Professor climbed atop on them again. He faced the class with a sheepish grin. "I was merely a bit surprised. You are the very image of your father, Mr Potter."
That remark brought a pleased smile to Harry's face, even after having heard it countless times from Sirius. The rest of the class chuckled, tension broken.
Flitwick spent the rest of the class outlining what they would learn this year, and Harry found somewhat to his surprise that he already knew most of the practical aspect. He didn't know some of the theory, though.
"…we won't start practicing simple levitation charms until Halloween, however," Flitwick finished right before the bell rang. "Homework is reading chapter one of the Standard Book of Spells."
As everyone got up and began filing out, Harry looked over at Ron. "Well, what do you think?"
"That professor is a funny little bloke, but I don't think we'll have many problems with this class," Ron said.
Ron and Harry shared a groan as they turned around to find Hermione Granger standing there, hands on hips and eyes narrowed.
"What?" Ron demanded in exasperation.
"You really shouldn't talk about a professor like that, behind his back. It's disrespectful!"
"And you really shouldn't listen in to private conversations," Harry snapped. "Come on, Ron."
They left the classroom, making their way back up the corridor. "Sodding bushy-haired nightmare," Ron growled. "Who does she think she is?"
Harry only grunted in reply. The whispers had resumed as soon as the class was over, and it was starting to grate on his nerves.
"That's him, beside the red-haired boy."
"But he's so small!"
"Did you see the scar?"
"His eyes are so cold!"
Harry started walking faster. "We've got Professor McGonagall in Transfiguration, next. I've heard she's strict, so let's get a move on."
McGonagall turned out to be strict. As soon as they had taken their seats she informed them that Transfiguration was the most complex magical art they'd learn on Hogwarts, and that any misbehaviour in her classes would be met with expulsion. After that she ordered them to copy the basic principles of transfiguration she wrote on the blackboard, before giving a practical demonstration by turning her desk into a pig and back again.
She then gave them each their match to turn into a needle. However, the class soon found that transfiguration was apparently a lot more difficult than it looked like.
Harry glanced around at students muttering incantations without much success. The matches stubbornly remained matches. Ron frowned heavily and prodded his match with his wand, but quickly stopped when it began to smoke. Harry looked down at his own match and came to a decision.
"Muto spiculs," Harry said, performing the correct wand-movement – except that he added a flick at the end, which dissipated the magical energy rather than focusing it into a spell.
"Muto spiculs," Harry repeated, deliberately repeating mistake. "Muto spiculs"
McGonagall came past, stopping as Harry's sixth or seventh attempt failed. Her lips thinned and she shot him a sharp, disapproving glance before moving on.
At the end of the class, Harry felt he had done the right thing. The only student who had managed to change their match at all was Granger, which came as no surprise to Harry. Ron scowled at her as he rose, grumbling something that sounded like: "Sodding know-it-all."
"Mr Potter, remain behind for a moment," McGonagall suddenly said.
Ron looked questioningly at Harry, who shrugged in return. "See you in the Great Hall," he said quietly.
McGonagall waited until the rest of the class had filed out and closed the door, before saying anything. "I'd like an explanation for your actions today, thank you."
Harry blinked and gave her a very intelligent-sounding: "Huh?"
The professor gave him a hard look. "Don't play the fool with me, Mr Potter. In my thirty-five years as a teacher I've seen students fail to do a spell due to one of three reasons; imprecise wand-movements, incorrect pronouncement of the incantation or inadequate concentration. You, on the other hand, added a totally unnecessary wand-movement. In other words; you deliberately sabotaged your own attempt to complete the lesson. Now I'd like an explanation of why."
Harry grimaced and fought an urge to slap his forehead. How could he have forgotten Sirius' warning about how sharp Professor McGonagall was?
"I have already received some tutoring by Sirius," Harry explained. "With my reputation I figured being good at magic would only make things worse."
McGonagall's face seemed to soften a bit. "I understand your reasoning, Mr Potter, but I don't agree with it. While I am sympathetic to your problems, you are here to learn – regardless of how much tutoring you have received. I will expect you to do your absolute best from now on – in all of your classes. Is that understood?"
"Yes, professor," Harry sighed.
Lunch was just being served by the time Harry reached the Great Hall, and Ron had already loaded up his plate. He wasn't so engrossed that he didn't wave Harry over, however.
"So, what did McGonagall want?" Ron asked, as Harry sat down wearily.
"Oh… she just wanted me to try harder from now on," he said, rubbing his eyes. Ron looked questioningly, but thankfully didn't ask further.
Harry had known his first year on Hogwarts would be difficult, with Sirius still on the run from the Ministry, and himself rumoured to be the next Dark Lord. Still, he hadn't expected it to be quite this bad.
He looked around the Great Hall, noting the wide-eyed stares and hushed whispers. It's only the first day, he reminded himself. It should blow over, once I've been here a few weeks.
Harry was jolted out of his musings by a sudden flash of fire, just inches in front of his nose. A letter fell down on his plate out of empty air, accompanied by a scarlet feather.
"What on Earth was that?" Ron exclaimed, just as surprised as Harry.
Harry opened the letter and read, with Ron looking over his shoulder:
My apologies for interrupting your lunch so sudden, but I am afraid I require your presence in my office as soon as possible. My office can be found in the corridor to your left on the second floor. The entrance is hidden behind the stone gargoyle, and the password is 'lemon drop'.
Ron looked impressed. "You've been invited to the headmaster's office! Wonder what he wants?"
Harry grabbed a slice of toast and rose. "No idea. But I suppose I'll have to find out."
"You know," Ron said with a funny grin, "being called in on the carpet twice by your head of house and once by the headmaster on the first day of school has to be some sort of record. Even Fred and George never managed that."
"Shut up," Harry called over his shoulder good-naturedly, as he walked away.
The corridor Dumbledore had indicated did indeed have a particularly ugly gargoyle. After glancing on the letter again, Harry told it 'Lemon drop', feeling a bit stupid. The gargoyle leaped aside, and the wall behind it split to reveal a spiral stone staircase that moved like a Muggle escalator. Eating the last of his toast, he rode the staircase up to a polished oak door. He knocked twice, telling himself that nothing too bad could be waiting for him on the other side, judging by the tone of the letter.
The door swung open by magical means, and the first Harry saw was Dumbledore sitting behind a massive, claw-footed desk. In one of the chairs obviously intended for the headmaster's visitors, sat a portly little man in a pinstriped suit and with a lime green bowler hat in his lap.
"Welcome, Mr Potter," Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eyes. He conjured up a second chair with a wave of his hand. "Please, be seated."
Harry walked across the room and sat down, taking note of the paintings of what he assumed were former headmasters and headmistresses, as well as several delicate-looking silver instruments standing on a number of spidery tables. He also noticed a large bird with a beautiful red and gold plumage, sitting on a perch. Harry suddenly realized who must – somehow - have delivered Dumbledore's letter.
"Mr Potter; allow me to introduce Cornelius Fudge, our Minister of Magic," Dumbledore said, gesturing toward the man. "Cornelius, this is Harry Potter."
Fudge rose from his chair with a fatherly smile and offered a hand. "A pleasure to finally meet you, Mr Potter."
"And likewise, sir," Harry said, shaking Fudge's hand. He carefully kept his voice and face neutral, but inwardly his mind was spinning. What on Earth was the Minister of Magic doing here? Was he putting pressure on Dumbledore to have Harry removed from Hogwarts?
"I know you have classes, soon, but Minister Fudge had some questions for you," Dumbledore said, smiling disarmingly, "and I thought it best to get it out of the way."
"Yes, indeed," Fudge said, as they both sat down. "I was elated when I heard you had appeared here at Hogwarts – many of us feared you had been lost forever. How on Earth did you escape from a powerful wizard like Sirius Black?"
"Escape?" Harry said, cocking a brow. "I didn't escape, sir. Sirius sent me here."
Fudge blinked. "Sent you?" He looked from Harry to Dumbledore and back again, as if looking for directions. "But- why would he suddenly decide to let you go, after keeping you for ten years?"
"Because, as a responsible godfather, he wishes me to acquire a proper education," Harry said. "When the school-year ends, I of course intend to return to Sirius."
"Return?" Fudge blurted in disbelief, and spun toward Dumbledore. "Albus, talk some sense into the boy!"
However, Dumbledore just spread his hands. "But what would you have me to say, Cornelius? If Mr Potter wishes to return to his godfather, there's very little I as headmaster can do to stop him."
Fudge gaped at the old wizard for a moment, but then he seemed to draw himself up. "Now see here, Albus! We can't let the boy return to a deranged killer, just like that!"
"Sirius is not a deranged killer!" Harry snapped, clenching his fists in anger.
Fudge ignored him completely, which only served to infuriate Harry more.
Calm. Must stay calm.
"There must be something we can do," Fudge said pleadingly, wringing the bowler hat between his hands. "Do you have any idea how much bad press it would generate, if the boy just vanished now that he's finally been found? Perhaps we could somehow remove him from Hogwarts, or-"
"Mr Potter has done nothing that warrants expulsion from this school," Dumbledore cut in before Harry could say anything. "Furthermore, he hasn't broken any laws and he is a minor in any case. The only way to remove him from Hogwarts would be with permission from his legal guardian; Mr Black."
Fudge's eyes bulged dangerously. "You got to be joking!" he spluttered. "Are you telling me I need Sirius Black's permission to protect the boy from Sirius Black?"
"Yes, exactly," Dumbledore said brightly, and seemed pleased that Fudge had grasped the point so quickly.
"But- But- Black can't possibly be Potter's legal guardian! He's a criminal!"
"Is he, now?" Dumbledore smiled.
Fudge rose from his chair, throwing the bowler to the ground in frustration. "Don't play games, Albus. Of course he is a criminal! The trial in the Wizengamot showed clearly-" He suddenly stopped himself, and a look of dawning horror came across his face.
"Oh, Merlin," he breathed. "There wasn't a trial… this was back when Crouch was Head of Magical Law Enforcement, wasn't it?"
"Quite," Dumbledore said, becoming graver as Fudge slowly sank back into his seat. "While Mr Crouch's clearly illegal decree still remains, I doubt the Wizengamot will follow it – as it should be. And as long as Mr Black isn't found guilty, he remains Mr Potter's legal guardian."
Fudge seemed to deflate for a moment, but then suddenly brightened. "Wait! Black is still a wanted man, right? We can't have a man trying to evade the law as legal guardian for a child, can we? We'll try his case before a tribunal, and ask to transfer the guardianship to someone else!"
Harry grew alarmed by that statement, and even more so when Dumbledore nodded his head.
"That's a possibility, but let's not be hasty. Mr Potter is after all safe and sound here at Hogwarts, which is widely regarded as one of the safest places in the wizarding world. Further, Mr Potter has been scheduled to attend Hogwarts this year ever since he was born. Consider the outcry if the famous Boy Who Lived was removed from school and denied an education."
Fudge looked uncomfortable. "Well, I suppose there's truth in that, but- Albus, I have received numerous floo-calls and letters from concerned parents this morning – surely you must have, too?"
"That I have." Dumbledore's eyes grew hard, and his voice – while quiet – was harder still. "But as Headmaster I am responsible for the wellbeing of all the students here. I will not let Mr Potter's education suffer because of what someone think may happen."
"All right, all right," Fudge quickly surrendered. "Unless some sort of serious incident occurs, I won't have him removed once we sort out the question of guardianship. That, at least, is merely a formality."
Harry unclenched his jaw and sternly reminded himself that Sirius loosing the guardianship had always been a possibility. They had talked it over, and concluded that there was nothing to be done; Harry had to go to Hogwarts.
It won't change anything, Harry thought. I'll still return home, no matter what Fudge says. Besides, we can sort it all out, once I find a way to prove Sirius innocent.
Still, it took a massive effort not to snarl at the old geezer when he put the fatherly smile back on again.
"So, Harry," Fudge said pleasantly. "How have you been the last ten years? A lot of people have been very worried for you."
"I've been perfectly fine, sir," Harry said flatly. "I haven't been starved or beaten, and Sirius hasn't taught me the Dark Arts."
"Er, right." Fudge's smile faltered a bit at the reply. "So Black has never injured you in any way?"
"Never." Actually, Sirius had given him the occasional bruise when sparring or duelling, but Harry felt mentioning that would only muddy the waters.
"Okay… so how does Black punish you if you do anything wrong?"
Harry shrugged. "Scold me, ground me or take away my broom for a month." The latter was surprisingly effective; Harry usually started showing withdrawal symptoms after a week.
Fudge gave his head a tiny shake. He looked like a man who had been told that two contradictorily statements were both true.
"Has he taught you magic?" Fudge tried. "Curses, hexes and such?"
"Yes, he has shown me quite a few," Harry admitted.
"But nothing that isn't on the Hogwarts circum," Harry added, taking great pleasure in watching Fudge's shoulders sink in disappointment.
"Albus, have you checked him for the Imperious Curse?" Fudge asked, frowning in irritation.
"Of course," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling. "I did it wandlessly the first time we met. Mr Potter is not under the influence of neither the Imperious Curse nor any other mind-altering charms or spells."
Fudge dragged a hand through his thinning hair. "But none of this makes any sense! Why would Black threat the destroyer of his master like a son, unless-"
"Unless Sirius Black is innocent," Dumbledore said quietly.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous!" Fudge scoffed. "I worked in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes back when Black killed Pettigrew and all those Muggles; I was one of the first to arrive on the scene. It was like walking into a nightmare; dead bodies everywhere, screaming Muggles - and Black were standing there laughing!"
Harry bit his tongue to keep himself from making a rather sharp comment. The Ministry had spent ten years chasing Sirius, and weren't going to stop just because of the testimony of an eleven year old. Instead, he allowed himself to daydream about using the fool of a Minister in place of his golem for a few moments.
"…so believe me when I say that I know what I'm talking about, Albus!" Fudge blustered, winding down from his rant.
"As you say, Cornelius," Dumbledore said. "However, can we agree that removing Mr Potter from Hogwarts would be highly counter-productive?"
"I suppose so," Fudge agreed with a disgruntled look at Harry. "I had expected you to be a bit more cooperative, Mr Potter. Then again, I suppose being exposed to Sirius Black for ten years would warp you view of the truth."
Harry's right hand twitched in the direction of his wand before he stopped himself. Planting a blasting curse between the Minister's eyes would also be highly counter-productive. Fudge didn't notice, though. He had put the bowler back on his head and shaken hands with Dumbledore. The Headmaster, perhaps sensing that violence was imminent, showed Fudge out as quickly as politeness allowed.
As soon as the door closed, Harry took a deep breath and let it out explosively. "Pompous, arrogant, sodding old-" He belatedly remembered that he wasn't alone and interrupted the sentence with a cough. "Pardon the language, sir."
"Quite alright," Dumbledore said as he reseated himself. "Minister Fudge can be a tad difficult to deal with, once he has his mind set in a particular direction. But please remember that he isn't a bad man. He just isn't very good at accepting rebuttals to what he 'know' is the truth."
"But you believe me," Harry said, half-pleadingly.
"I do," Dumbledore said with a faint smile. "On that note, do you have any means of contacting Sirius? I'd like to discuss a few matters with him, including the possible loss of your guardianship."
Harry bit his lip. "Not really. We thought it best not to have as little contact as possible, but he did say he would visit Remus Lupin before Christmas."
"Excellent. I believe Remus would be most interested in talking to Sirius," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling. "Now off you go. As eventful as this day has been, I believe you still have a class in Defence of the Dark Arts before it is over."
Unfortunately, Defence of the Dark Arts turned out to be a complete joke. Professor Quirrell occasionally stuttered so badly they had problems understanding what he was saying. After he finally managed to spit out the year's lesson plan, he began giving them a general overview of what, exactly, the Dark Arts were.
"The D-Dark Arts are a te-terrrible business, and I h-hope you ne-never have to d-deal with them. A-as for w-w-what they are, well, they are m-magic that have - have," Quirrell paused and seemed to steel himself for what he would say next, "magic that h-have no other p-p-purpose tha- than to inflict p-p-pain or to do-dominate another being."
Here he stopped for a full two minutes, looking frightened out of his senses over the mere fact that such magic existed.
"In any c-case, it is my job to t-teach you how to d-defend yourselves against such c-c-curses and hexes," he gulped and adjusted the ridiculous turban he wore. "Please open your b-books at page five."
Quirrell proceeded to give them a stuttering overview of the history of the Dark Arts. "Homework is to r-read pages six to eleven before tomorrow," he finished "R-remember I will be ch-checking."
The lesson ended when the bell sounded and Quirrell let out a girlish shriek of fear.
"That was pathetic!" Ron closed The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection with a look of disgust. "I thought Quirrell would at least teach us a shield charm or something. Would be right handy next time the Fred and George try to prank me."
Harry finished arranging his notes by subject. "Keep it down, Ron. Madam Pince is looking our way." They were sitting in the Hogwarts Library, and the school's librarian had a reputation for being strict. "I'll be back in a moment."
He rose and headed over to the section on wizarding law. Ten minutes later he staggered back to the table he and Ron shared, putting down five or six massive tomes with a sigh of relief.
Ron looked at the pile wide-eyed. "I thought we had already finished all the homework. Did I miss something?"
"No, this is an extra project of mine," Harry said, as he sank down in the chair. He chuckled at Ron's horrified expression. "It's for a good cause."
Ron got up and walked around the table to take a better look at the books. "Wizarding Law - Volume 6," he read in bewilderment. "Wizengamot Court Procedures and Regulations, Important Historical Court Trials, The Death Eater Investigations - what on Earth are you doing?"
"Sirius," Harry said simply, reaching into his book-bag and taking out a folder with the title 'Operation Innocent Godfather.' He opened it, revealing notes and newspaper clippings, one of which proclaimed:
Death Eater Sirius Black kidnaps the Boy-Who-Lived
"I gave myself a little promise a while ago," Harry said quietly. "That I would prove Sirius innocent before I graduated, no matter what."
"You can do that?" Ron asked uncertainly. "I mean, there were dozens of witnesses who said Sirius Black blew up Pettigrew."
"And that's the problem," Harry sighed, fingering the clippings. "As far as I know, the only way to prove Sirius did nothing of the sort would be to produce a very much alive Pettigrew," he said, frowning. "And if he is hiding as a rat, it will be almost impossible to find him."
"What does he look like as a rat?" Ron asked.
"Just a common grey rat," Harry said, shrugging. "Probably missing a toe from his front paw, since he cut off his finger."
"M-missing a toe?" Ron stuttered, going pale.
Harry looked up. "Yes?"
Ron looked like he was going to be sick. "Oh, my God – Scabbers!"
In a forest, near the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, a common grey rat with a missing toe raced through the undergrowth. Had it been capable of speech, it would have alternated between lamenting its bad luck and sobbing in deepest self-pity.
Why, oh, why did this have to happen to poor Peter Pettigrew? Sirius would have told Harry about Peter's animagus-form, and Harry might mention it to Ron Weasley. If he did, there didn't take much brainpower to put two and two together and come up with a rat named Scabbers.
So now poor Peter had to leave the comfortable wizarding home he and lived in for ten years as a rat, and find somewhere else to go.
Poor, poor Peter Pettigrew!
Author's Notes: Look, new chapter! And it only took me half a year to complete it! (dodges rotten tomatoes) Keep an eye out – next chapter should be ready in only a couple years! (dodges more rotten tomatoes)