Author's Note: Hi, people!

Just a couple quick warnings before you lose yourself in the world of Hogwarts:

1. This first chapter was really hard for me to write (it's mostly an intro piece, and I'm more of a drama and action writer, myself), so if you don't like it, please just be patient! I promise I'll upload the next chapter really soon if I get some good feedback, and that has more action in it. (and yes, I know, because I've already written it.)

2. This is an alternate sixth year, so I had to make up an OC (normally I despise OC's) as the new DADA teacher. I tried not to make her a Mary-Sue, but if she seems to be one, I promise there's a REASON that will be revealed in a couple chapters. Plus, she's not a major character, people. You can deal with it.

3. I am one of those girls who likes to torture the characters I love, so Lupin-lovers, be prepared. That is all I will say about that.

Enjoy and comment!

Disclaimer: I do not own anything that has to do with "Harry Potter". All the nice little wizards (and the not-so-nice ones) belong to J.K. Rowling.

1. Snowballs

The first snowfall of Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts was welcomed with great excitement by the student body; it was only ten o'clock on a Saturday morning, but a good part of the school was already out playing in the soft white fluff. Older students from each house could be seen teaching the younger kids how to skate on the frozen lake, and a few groups of boys were creating snowpeople, some of which clearly depicted Hogwarts professors (the most common being a tall snowman with a rather large, hooked nose; this particular creation always seemed to have its head cut off by the time it was done, to the great amusement of the ones who had built it.)

Harry himself was having a brutal snowball fight with Ron Weasley, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan, and Neville Longbottom while Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley watched from under a nearby tree. Hermione had taught them how to bewitch the snowballs so that they wouldn't stop flying through the air until they hit their target, and now the air around them was filled with snowballs going after anything that moved.

At one point, a snowball that Neville had bewitched went astray and flew too far from the fight. Looking for a target, it went speeding toward a pretty young woman with dark curls who was walking along one of the paths toward the school, casually reading a book: Professor Vedette Thoreau, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Poor Neville was about to call out to her, but there was no need. Thoreau simply lifted her free hand and caught the flying missile mere inches from the side of her head, crushing it and letting it drop to the ground behind her as she continued on her way.

The boys gaped; she hadn't even looked up from her book.

"Bloody hell! Did you see that?" Ron blurted, wide-eyed. Harry was staring, as well, and barely even flinched when a snowball pelted him in the back of the head.

"Yeah..." he said dully, blinking at the new professor's retreating back as she disappeared into the school.

From the very moment she had been introduced at the welcoming feast by a beaming Dumbledore, Harry had known there was something... different about Professor Thoreau. Maybe it was the way she spoke, with a fairly noticable French accent that betrayed her home country. Or maybe it was how she held herself with such graceful poise, even though she didn't appear to be any older than twenty, if that. Her striking violet eyes held wisdom far beyond her said age, and Harry wasn't sure if he quite trusted her.

Even so, the demonstration of her incredible falcon-shaped Patronus charm on the second day of class was enough to win the respect of the entire class, and ultimately the whole student body as they each got a chance to witness her talent.

But Harry still couldn't trust her; she was too mysterious, and this newest incident didn't help her in his eyes. No one had reflexes that fast; at least, no one normal.


Harry blinked and saw Hermione frowning at him. The rest of their group was slowly trouping across the grounds toward the castle, still talking excitedly about Thoreau's extraordinary catch.

"Right. Coming," he said, purposefully ignoring the inquisitive look Hermione was giving him. "It's got to be almost lunch, right? I'm starved."

"Yes, I think that's why everyone is heading inside. Harry, are you all right?" Hermione asked. Harry forced a smile, shoving all thoughts of Professor Thoreau to the back of his mind.

"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" he said casually, starting to walk toward the castle doors.

"Because you were just staring after Professor Thoreau with this really strange look on your face. It was as if you saw a ghost," she said, looking rather pale herself. Harry dropped his act, knowing fully well that it wouldn't fool Hermione.

"I just get a bad feeling from her, that's all. I'm sure it's nothing, Hermione. Don't worry about it," he said.

"I can't not worry about it. I've had the same feeling. It's strange, but it feels like she's hiding something from us, and I can't tell if it's a harmless secret or something we should be trying to figure out," she said, lowering her voice now that they were back inside and surrounded by the milling crowds of students pushing their way into the Great Hall.

"Well, whatever it is, it's halfway through the school-year and she hasn't tried to kill me yet, so she can't be all bad," Harry joked lightly, trying to seem okay with the situation so that Hermione would let it go. She did (albeit reluctantly), and within the next minute they were taking their seats at the Gryffindor table beside Ron, stripping off their soaked jackets and gloves.

"What a first snow!" Ginny exclaimed, grinning broadly from across the table.

"Yeah, and what a snowball fight!" Dean said excitedly, still brushing snow from his dark hair.

"It's weird," Ron mused, glancing up at the Head Table as the teachers began to take their seats, "but I am really tempted to throw this fork at Professor Thoreau and see if she can catch it." Hermione didn't even blink as she quietly removed all the silverware from Ron's place setting, only half-smiling when he added, "I wasn't serious!"

Harry grinned and soon found himself lost in the mounds of steaming food that appeared on the platters before them, completely forgetting about his worries amidst the happy chatter of his friends.


The next week passed quickly, the teachers loading their students with homework and oftentimes running their classes past the dismissal.

"Maybe it's the full moon or something," Ron grumbled on Thursday night as he scratched another line off of his History of Magic essay. "What else could explain all this stupid work?"

"If you had done your Astronomy, Ronald, you would know that the full moon was last Thursday," Hermione said absently, her nose buried in a dusty old tome that - judging by the foreign symbols on the front cover - she was studying for her Runes class.

"Oh, shut it, Hermione. Just because you enjoy being up from dawn till dusk doing schoolwork doesn't mean the rest of us do," Ron muttered darkly. Hermione sniffed but didn't reply, and Harry could only be glad. He sighed and pushed the Transfiguration homework he had been attempting to concentrate on away from him, stretching and checking the clock above the fire.

The three of them were among the last Gryffindors still in the commonroom at this late hour, as was usually the case. It was half past eleven, and only two giggling third-year girls remained. Harry wondered what they could possibly be so excited about, but soon he realized what they were discussing.

"Hogsmeade!" he said suddenly, snapping his Transfiguration textbook shut. Ron jumped, cursing as he blotched ink on his essay for the umpteenth time that night. Hermione threw him a disapproving look, but turned to Harry, choosing not to start a fight.

"What about it?" she asked.

"Our second visit is on Saturday! I completely forgot until now," he said. Ron grinned.

"Great! Now at least we have something to look forward to to get us through tomorrow," he said excitedly, rolling up his History of Magic essay without another glance.

"Ron, that isn't nearly as long as Professor Binns said it should be!" Hermione said, obviously dismayed at him giving it up so soon. Ron made a face.

"Well, that's about all I have to say about those ruddy giant wars he was babbling about," he retorted. Hermione sighed.

"He was talking about the Wizards' Council of 1634 today. Our assignment was to write a paper on how it affected wizarding life today," she said. Ron paled visibly, and Hermione sighed again, closing her Runes book with finality. "Let me see it."

Ron handed it over gratefully, and the night continued with Hermione rewriting the majority of his paper and Harry reluctantly trying his hand at Transfiguration again.


The next afternoon was Potions, but no one could concentrate on the sleeping draught they were supposed to be brewing, even with Snape breathing down their necks.

"You seem to be even duller today than you usually are, Potter," the Potions master said coolly when Harry dropped his slimy frog's tongue for the fourth time. "And here I thought you couldn't get any lower." Harry felt his face get red as he bent to grab the tongue out from under the desk, but decided that a snide comeback wasn't worth spending a Hogsmeade day in detention with Snape. Besides, there were only five minutes left in class; soon he would be free to go.

"Oh, and Potter," Snape added suddenly, having been about to turn away.

"What?" Harry snapped a bit too nastily, unable to restrain himself.

"Temper. That's five points, I think," Snape said, smiling slightly. "The Headmaster wishes to speak with you once this period is done."


Luckily, the period ended soon. Harry, still seething, grabbed up his bag and strode out before Snape could make any more remarks; Ron flashed him a questioning look, but Harry just shook his head slightly and waved before making his way up to the gargoyle.

Once there, Harry realized that he had no idea what the password was. He was about to rattle off as many wizarding candies as he could think of when the gargoyle suddenly leapt aside, revealing the winding staircase behind it. Harry blinked.

"Er... thanks," he said to the gargoyle unsurely, and was about to step onto the stairs when he heard someone else coming down in a great hurry. He jumped out of the way just as Professor McGonagall emerged from the stairwell, looking rather flustered.

"Oh, Potter, good, good! The Headmaster will see you now," she said hastily, ushering him onto the staircase. Harry couldn't really refuse, and just as he was about to turn and ask her if she was all right, the stairway began rotating, carrying him up to Dumbledore's office. The last thing he saw was McGonagall shaking her head and pinching the bridge of her nose as she walked away, looking distressed.

Suddenly wary, Harry knocked quietly on the Headmaster's door.

"You may come in, Harry," came the reply from inside, and Harry entered silently, nodding respectfully to Fawkes, who sang a low note in return.

Dumbledore was sitting behind the desk, his hands folded before him, looking resplendent in dark violet robes. He had a smile on his face, but it did not reach his eyes as he gestured for Harry to sit in the chair before him.

"Harry. I'm sure you are wondering why I wanted to see you today," he began.

"Yes, sir," Harry replied quietly, seating himself on the edge of the provided chair. Dumbledore chuckled a bit at the boy's nervousness.

"You needn't worry; you aren't in trouble." Harry relaxed back into the chair with an obvious effort, but Dumbledore seemed satisfied as he continued: "Professor Snape has gotten new information for us about Lord Voldemort and his plans. I have already informed Professor McGonagall of the changes, and now I think it's time for you to know." Harry nodded but said nothing, regarding the Headmaster carefully. Dumbledore paused and took a deep breath, as though steeling himself for something extremely difficult.

"Lord Voldemort has - for the moment - put aside his quest to kill you, Harry," he said. Harry's eyes widened.

"But why -"

Dumbledore held up a hand to stem any questions.

"Not now. Please allow me to finish." Here he paused again to make sure Harry wouldn't interrupt, then nodded in satisfaction. "Thank you. Like I said, Voldemort is no longer trying to kill you. Instead, according to the two Death Eaters who spoke with Professor Snape the day before yesterday, he has turned his attention to gaining more followers. To do this, he must first gain trust among the species who are naturally enemies of wizards. These include - as you already know - the dementors, giants, and most werewolves and vampires.

"Now Harry, the Order has two emissaries who speak with those on the border - one for the werewolves and one for the vampires. Professor Snape has just informed me that Voldemort has his eye out for these two members of the Order, one of which is Remus Lupin."

"So... is Lupin in danger?" Harry asked, frowning. Dumbledore sighed.

"Yes, and no. Remus has not spoken with any werewolves for quite some time now, so Voldemort may not know he is the one attempting to persuade them to our cause. I'm sure he has suspicions, but no solid proof as of yet," the Headmaster said with a tight smile. Harry bit his lip thoughtfully, sitting forward in his chair again. So if Voldemort was after Lupin... then wouldn't he be after the vampire emissary, as well?

"And the one speaking with the vampires? Who is he?" he asked finally. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled over his half-moon glasses.

"That is confidential information. I'm afraid I can't disclose their name, even to you. Not yet," he added mischeviously, the smile finally back on his bearded face. Harry's brow furrowed, but he did not argue.

"Now," Dumbledore said, rising to his feet gracefully," I believe it is almost time for dinner, and we are going to be late." Harry rose as well, still brimming with questions that he instead had to swallow.

Just as he was about to exit the office, however, Dumbledore called to him.

"Oh, and one more thing." Harry paused, hand poised to push the door open, and turned to face the Headmaster again. "Don't worry too much. If anything happens, you will be one of the first to know." Harry nodded, bid goodnight to Dumbledore, and hurried down to the Great Hall.

As he ate his dinner, his mind reeled with this new information. He had a feeling he would be thinking about it too much to sleep very well tonight, so out of consideration for his friends, he decided not to tell them; at least, not yet.

After all, they had the whole next day together, in Hogsmeade.

Author's Note: Hope that wasn't too painful for you guys. If you leave nice comments, I'll update really fast! (Oh, and please. No flames. There's really no need.)

Thanks for reading!