Chapter 1: Magical Surprises
By: Tommy A. L. aka Phoenix
Disclaimer: I do not own anything of R. K. Rowling's work, or ideas copyrighted by others. My own ideas may be freely used by others, though I'd appreciate if footnote of my credit was given.
Summary: Apprenticeships are given to all the students of sixth and seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Board of Governors however aren't pleased with Harry, and therefore, along with Blaise Zabini (for other reasons), is placed in the care of Hagrid, hoping to hamper Harry's learning, and to be given a chance to oust the Care of Magical Creatures professor. Perhaps, though, they should have checked a little more about Hagrid's life, and that of Harry's. Because even fate isn't about to try and stop Harry from becoming the best; the best of them all!
A/N: The chapter has been upgraded since last time (last time being the official publishing yesterday) to fix a few grammar mistakes, and to make some subtle changes.
Darkness can be both a beautiful and a dangerous thing. It can hide the most dangerous of enemies, - yet it can also embrace you and comfort you in a way not even the loneliest of people can understand. This summer the darkness has been my friend; my comfort. The early summer mornings were spent sleeping; the evenings and night spent up and active. My friends never contacted me much this summer, with the exception of a letter telling me to behave, - and to let me know they were working on getting my out of here… here being the dull home of the Dursley family. My aunt and uncle, both of them quite the unpleasant people, have left me alone this summer; no chores, insults or shutting of the locks on my bedroom door, - all due to the threat of Mad-Eye Moody and his companions, Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley and Nymphadora Tonks.
I almost missed those things though, - at least the first week. With nothing to do, my evenings were spent with a book in my hands; never let it be said that Hermione Granger is bad influence; and my homework were quickly out of the way, the lack of it due to it having been a year of OWL's testing at Hogwarts. I know that if I had taken the OWL's after the first week of studying, my scores would probably had increased a lot; especially in potions. The later hours, between midnight and eight in the morning, were spent on more active and physical training. Jogging around the few blocks at Private Drive was a common occurrence for me, and the early morning hours were spent in a dojo two streets away, where I learned a little of the art Tai Chi.
The art was a blessing for me; the slow movements, meditations and martial training helping not only my physical fitness like reflexes, softness and muscles, but also calming my mind and increasing my concentration, further leading to my current skill in occlumency; the art of defending and controlling your own mind. Occlumency was not at all about clearing your mind; though it was the first step; but to build a fortress of defence the intruders would have to go through, - the defences of course being up to the student, and to sort the memories into different categories and subjects, making it easier to remember the information required.
All this of course sparked some of my anger towards my potion's professor. His incompetence was well known; at least to all but the headmaster, and had played a big part towards my lack of skill in the mind art. You'd think that a boy with the skill to resist the Imperius curse from Voldemort himself should be able to learn how to defend his mind, - which, according to Dumbledore's latest letter, I should.
I sighed. The rest of my summer was pretty much a blur. My Tai Chi lessons is something I can do on my own at Hogwarts, luckily, so I don't really worry much about that, but I'll miss the silent and comfortable darkness of my room; the only thing shining being the living flame of light coming from the candle at my bedside, and the satisfying feeling of absorbing the knowledge of the books in my hands. The book stores in Diagon Alley have been more than happy to bring me books on requests; mostly consisting of Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration. My interest in Transfiguration increased at the end of the fifth year, after watching Dumbledore's fight against the current Dark-Lord wannabe. Of course, practising magic is forbidden outside of school, but that did not stop me from practising wand movements, remembering the incantations, and using my creativity to imagine in what situations I can use the different types of spells. I also bought a couple of books on meditation, which again furthered my skill in occlumency, and a couple of other muggle books on 'How to Tame your Temper', 'Charisma; the art of speaking and leading' and a simple small book on how to motivate yourself. It's kind of amusing how much a pair of books can change my whole attitude and personality.
Now, when the summer is finally at its end, I actually feel more like a Slytherin; more cunning and sly, and perhaps ambitious, if taking care of Voldemort and living my life counts. My emotions is no longer viewable at my face; my concentration is far beyond what I had ever hoped to manage; my occlumency skill more than enough to stop ol' Voldywarts from attacking my mind, - and best of all, I am far from depressed.
My meditations, also in Tai Chi, had been mostly consisting of happy thoughts. Thoughts that made me appreciate the innocent expression children have when they're young; appreciating the songs the birds sing in the early mornings; the bark of the neighbourhood dogs and the mewing of the cats.
It felt like harmony.
Anger rarely entered my mind, - and when it did, only to give me a warning that 'this-I-do-not-like.' It also helped me to deal with my godfather's death, which had lingered on my mind for a long time. I know, for sure, that one day I will bring Tom Marvolo Riddle in front of his maker, to be judged.
And may he burn in hell for all I care.
My physical fitness will probably make the students at Hogwarts jealous, I know. I'm not the naïve little child anymore that can't look at what is in front of his eyes. My body is toned and nice, and I can actually make my muscles ripple through it if I want to. My legs are soft enough to actually be able to kick my own face when I'm standing straight.
I'm certainly proud of my work and accomplishments this summer.
Right now I'm standing in the Dursley's garden, waiting for my 'minders' to come and pick me up. Dumbledore sent me my stuff from Diagon Alley early, so I have had no chances to visit the strange wizard-street. It's the first of September today, and almost eight o'clock; this must have been the first summer since I started at Hogwarts that I've spent my whole summer at the Dursleys. – And Dumbledore had promised to get me out of here earlier. Not that I really would have wanted to, with my training and all that, but even a one-day-trip would have been nice away from the Dursleys and their 'perfect' neighbourhood. And I plan on letting the old man know that.
I have forgiven the old man for his mistakes, - for that is exactly what they were; mistakes. Everyone makes them, and I would be no better if I demanded forgiveness for something I did, if I can't give it in the first place. – I've never been fond of hypocrites… (eh-hem-Fudge-eh-hem). But neither do I want the old man to have control of my life. He is the Headmaster of Hogwarts, leader of the Order of the Phoenix, but not my father, nor my guardian. That too I plan on telling him.
"Harry!" An old, but familiar voice greeted me. I turned around, smiling slightly at the sight before me. Dumbledore walking towards me in a neon-green suit, attracting more attention than the neighbours once blue dog (courtesy of Harry's accidental magic when he was little). Behind him was Moody, his wooden leg a clear giveaway. I chuckled; - I simply could not help it. Those two are probably the most eccentric people I've ever met.
"Good morning Headmaster." I replied, my amusement still noticeable by the slight sparkle in my eyes, which obviously took the two men slightly back. I nodded towards Moody, to show him my greetings, before turning towards the old man again.
"You look good, Harry. How have you been?" I could actually feel the genuine feelings of the question coming from the headmaster, which quickly stopped me from telling him of. Perhaps I shall give him another chance?
"Quite well. My summer has been… knowledgeable; not to say revealing." I answered, while shooting Moody a look of amusement as he studied me. My new build, coupled with new clothes (all black, dark green or dark blue) and contact lenses, made me seem like a new person.
"It certainly looks that way, Potter. Now Dumbledore, don't just stand there, give him the news!" Moody said, his last words obviously directed towards the headmaster. News? I thought, wondering what could unsettle the old auror like this.
"Ah, yes. I'm afraid the news can be both good and bad, young Harry. This year at Hogwarts, the sixth and seventh year students will be paired of with a teacher; a teacher they will spend their evenings and free hours with, like an apprenticeship. They will not join in with the normal classes, but study by themselves or by instructions from their head. The teachers will have the task to impair their knowledge into the students assigned them, and to turn them into valuable people for the impending future. The good news is that you will also be included… the bad… well, the Board of Governors was the one to assign the students to the teachers, Harry, and at this I could do nothing." Here the headmaster gave me an envelope.
I opened it slowly, wondering what could be so bad about this. Would I be paired of with Snape? Surely not! And even so, the headmaster never considered that to be a bad deal before, with both potions and occlumency lessons.
The sixth and seventh year students this year will be paired of with the following;
Prof. Snape: Draco Malfoy, Seamus Finnigan, Greggory Goyle, Susan Bones…
Prof. McGonagall: Hermione Jane Granger, Dean Thomas, Hanna Abbot…
Prof. Sprout: Neville Longbottom, Parvati Patil, Lavender Brown…
Prof. Shacklebolt: Ronald Bilius Weasley, Pansy Parkinson, Vincent Crabbe…
Prof. Hagrid: Harry Potter, Blaise Zabini.
There were the seventh years too, but I ignored them in favour for those I knew, with the exception to notice that Cho Chang had been placed with Ravenclaw's Head of House, Professor Flitwick.None however had been placed with Dumbledore. A note at the bottom stated that the students not placed anywhere were apprenticed to Prof. Grubbly-Plank, Sinastra, Binns, Trelawney and Vector together. (Apparently because these ones didn't have enough 'teacher-experience', or to simply make it easier for the board to sort the students).
At the end of the year, or during, depending on the subject, there will be the following competitions:
Potions: Construct your own potion(s), - ingredients and notes shall be included.
Transfiguration: Either animagus training or animated duelling. Choice up to the student
Defence Against the Dark Arts: Duelling Tournament
History of Magic: Paper Test or a project of past wizarding conflicts to be read in front of the school. Choice up to the student
Herbology: Practical making of a greenhouse, choice of plants, and demonstrations on how to care for them.
Care of Magical Creatures: Must show a vast knowledge towards different creatures both paper and practical tests.
Divination: Show your inner eye.
Arithmacy: Divination with numbers, and/or spell construction.
Ancient Runes: Write the whole years amount of homework in a chosen language of runes (preferably either Greek, Norse, Ancient Egyptian, or if possible, The Elven Script) in your ancient runes class.
Astronomy: Complete the whole Universe Chart of planets, - with a detailed description of each planet.
No students can partake in more than four of the different subjects, but may choose more than one task (for example both animagus training and animated duelling) in each class.
The winning parties of each class will be secured a job within the subject for five years after leaving Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with an added outstanding in the class' NEWT. The best student(s) will also have the honour of an apprenticeship with Headmaster Albus Dumbledore for up to five years, depending on the student(s)'s choice of subject.
"They paired me with… Hagrid! No offence, but the man never even got past his OWL's, - how in the world is he supposed to teach us, and help us, when it comes to each subject?" I asked, confused.
"That, I think, was the point. Neither you nor Mr. Zabini is much liked by the board, - you for more obvious reasons, and they want Hagrid out of the castle. This way, they can try and make sure that you and Blaise have the worst grades, and also 'prove' to the public that Hagrid is a bad teacher. And I myself is forbidden to interfere with your teacher's duties, - even though I probably will end up doing so." Dumbledore said, - followed by a huge sigh.
So they think they can handicap me, heh? And oust Hagrid? My determination have never been bigger then right now, nor my want to prove myself.
"Do not worry, sir. I know what to do." I said, my eyes taking on an evil glint.
"I know exactly what to do…"
I never noticed Mad-Eye's smirk at my words, or Dumbledore's twinkling eyes of pride. The wizarding world wouldn't know what hit them…
The trip to King's Cross, which was done by muggle-taxi, was spent discussing what my training would partake, and how we could pass by the laws of how the other teachers were forbidden to help me (Dumbledore said that the Governors meant that an apprenticeship was about learning from ONE man or woman, not several, when Dumbledore had asked).
"Well, neither Moody, or for example, Bill Weasley, are teachers. Couldn't they help me? – And Blaise of course." I asked, almost smirking at the surprise on his two companion's faces.
"Well, I can't, - I'm back in auror duties for a while, - but young William is the best curse-breaker in England, and the only one to so-far have a Master-degree in Ancient Egyptic Wards. – And even though Albus here might as well be just as knowledgeable, some of the wards young William has encountered were one-of-a-kind. He could teach you a lot." Moody said, clearly impressed at my choice of 'help'. Dumbledore was nodding in agreement, his eyes beginning to twinkle again.
"And, if I may say so, Hagrid can go a long way when it comes to helping you with Magical Creatures. He is also, though only known by me, well taught in Transfiguration. Never did find out how he did it, but I believe that our half-giant may very-well be an animagus – which I'm sure he'll be willing to teach you and Blaise." Dumbledore said.
"What is his form?" I asked, the curiosity getting the best of me.
"Ah, that would be telling!" Dumbledore replied, his twinkling eyes going into overdrive again. "And if I may, I know someone that may teach you a bit about potions…"
Scrunch that, his eyes were practically gleaming.
"And that is…?"
"Why, my friend Nicholas of course!"
My own thoughts finished the name.
Nicholas Flamel, - the last known maker of the Sorcerer's Stone.
King's cross was a mess. Kids were running all over, parents behind them, trying to get to their compartments. Whole packs of families, probably muggleborn, were gathered to say goodbye to their loved ones, and I could see several purebloods formally splitting themselves from their own. The chorus of 'byes' were almost overwhelming. Ron and his brothers had probably already boarded the train, as I could see Mrs. Weasley leaving the platform behind me. The few 'once' emerald green flowerbeds lining one of the walls to the train station were parched and yellowing due to not being watered, and the train itself had started to loose its once bright red colour, and the silvery colour of the underlying metal was showing through. If they're so frantic about always using magic and not muggle-machines then they could at least have spelled the paint not to dry and flack away. I thought, frowning slightly at the view of the train.
I boarded, my trunk hovering silently behind due to a spell of Dumbledore's, and started to look for a compartment for myself. I was in no mood to meet up with any of the Weasleys right now; a bit miffed at their lack of letters this summer. I found a compartment back in the last wagon, which was used for the prefect's meeting last year, and made myself comfortable. Everything in the compartment was either dark brown or green, which fitted my mood nicely. Logging Hedwig's empty cage on one of the mounted spaces above me; Hedwig currently occupying my right shoulder, I sat down and brought up a book, with the golden letters "A guide to animated duelling, by Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore" written nicely on it, in the Headmaster's usually nice script. Dumbledore had first planned on publishing his text this year, but had told me personally that he thought it'd do him better if few learned the art before the war was over – Harry being one of the few.
Not looking up from the book, I sent a couple of newly-learned locking spells at the compartment door, relieved that the underage ban stopped working from the Hogwarts Express. Just in time too, - several shakings on the door told me that someone was trying to enter it, - trying being the word. The window on the door gave me a nice sight of the intruders though; Draco Malfoy, along with his two goons, was standing outside red faced and annoyed; their usual habit of annoying the wizarding world's saviour put on hold. I could hear several unlocking spells being thrown at the door, among them the classical 'Alohomora,' and smiled. None of them would work. I had basically melted the lock with my spell, and none but the specific counter curse could open the door now, with the possible exception of blowing up the door. Doing that, though, would bring all the occupants of the train here, something I doubted the young Malfoy would want to do. I smirked at the stuck-up brat, and settled back down with my book, and shot a silencing charm on the door. Opening my bag, I pulled out a thermos with hot chocolate, filled myself a cup, and relaxed. My good mood was coming back.
Life is good.
I was shaken out of my thoughts about how one transfigured an animal out of stone several hours later by a red faced Ron and Hermione at the door. They must obviously have been standing there a while, probably trying unlocking spells like Malfoy, and my own silencing spell stopping them from being heard.
I sighed. Why now?
A wave of my hand with a mumbled Finite Incantem and Sorce Unlock got rid of the silencing charm and restored the lock on the door. A second later the compartment door opened.
"HARRY POTTER! What in the world do you think you are doing, young man! We come here to visit you and you have the small mind to lock us out!" Hermione shouted, her tirade obviously carefully planned outside the door from the moment she found it locked. To my amusement, she was practically blowing steam. Ron looked like he agreed, but intruded on Hermione's speech, much to her frustration.
"Harry! I've been placed with Shacklebolt during our apprenticeship! Isn't that cool! He's going to be the defence teacher this year, even though the sixth and seventh years don't have the normal classes. And look at this…" Ron was trying to show me some kind of suit, - reminding me a lot of the Karate Gi's that some of the martial arts students had wore (Karate lessons had been after those on Tai Chi, twice a week, and while Harry had chosen to go to them, he had quit after a month).
A mumbled 'that's nice' from Hermione come from behind Ron, before she pushed herself forward again to continue her tirade.
During all this I simply concentrated on my book and was soon lost in it again; every now and then sipping from my cup of chocolate.
"… and remember that to next time. Is that understood?" Hermione said, her words closing up. I looked up at her confused, having not cached a single word since the start.
"Huh?" My obvious confusion had her steaming red again.
"Didn't you hear a word of what I said?"
"No. Now, sit down and shut up! The door was locked because Malfoy was here trying to get in, so save your breath." I said, annoyed at being interrupted from my book, again.
Hermione was gaping like a fish, and Ron didn't know whether or not to laugh or to stand up in her defence. He himself wanted to brag about being chosen by the black auror, his future Karate lessons (and about those lessons he'd had this summer when the auror had been visiting), and to talk about everything he would learn that year, and complain about not being able to play Quidditch due to their apprenticeship. He gave up though, when he saw that I was completely engrossed in his book again.
I left the compartment with a sigh; my trunk still flowing silently behind and my bag adorning my left shoulder. Hedwig had gone towards the Owlery, and Ron and Hermione were trying to keep up with me, Ron still dreaming about the coming year and Hermione still fuming.
I saw Blaise Zabini climb into one of the closest school carriages, and quickly followed, not bothering to listen to the complaints coming from the two stalking gryffindors behind me. Blaise was the only one sitting in the carriage, and I gave him a nod before settling down across from him, much to the slytherin's confusion. Ron and Hermione however, didn't want to enter a carriage with a Slytherin.
"Come on, Harry. He is a stinking slytherin! There are empty carriages all over here!" Ron said, his temper flaring, barely restraining himself from shouting more insults towards the slytherin in question.
"Thanks, but no thanks. I'm comfortable where I am." I replied, pulling out my book again. Hermione frowned, but pulled Ron towards one of the other carriages, ignoring Ron's complaints and suggestions of how they could pull me out of here.
"That was… illuminating." Blaise said, raising an eyebrow towards me. I looked up at him, giving him a small soft smile (to his confusion), and said;
"They've annoyed me the whole trip to Hogwarts; - I wanted some peace and decent company." I replied, my amusement shining at the slytherin's open mouth.
"Besides, we're supposed to study together this year, so I thought we could just as well start the cooperation early. After all, we'll be having one of the most exhausting years yet.
"How so?" Blaise asked, but I could sense his some-what agreement.
"Because I'm going to teach you what I know to have you up the same standards, then we're going to learn a little more advanced magic from Hagrid and Ron's brother, Bill. Not to say, we may have a visit from a renowned alchemist also." I'm sure my eyes sparkled at this time.
"… and who is this alchemist?" Blaise finally uttered, after three minutes of silence.
"Why, Nicholas Flamel of course!"
I feel like Dumbledore right now… I thought, and silently snickered at the thought.
We spent the rest of the trip up to the castle in silence; I reading my book, and Blaise contemplating my words.
Maybe this year won't so bad after all…