Well, I'm back for a sequel. Those of you who have just happened to stumble upon my story, can I convince you to read or at least scan over quickly my first Harry Potter story, A Time and Place to Grow? Otherwise you might feel a bit lost.
I am introducing at least two original characters, but I don't think they're Mary Sues. And they most certainly could have shown up at Hogwarts. I'm only taking into account certain events from book six, very much doing whatever I want.
Probably will include some form of Corporal Punishment since my first story had it. But not until later chapters. What else?
Oh, don't own or make any money. Just like getting the reviews.
So tell me what you think, and what you might like to see.
The ride from London to Hogwarts seemed to pass in a matter of minutes. Harry had been sure he would be bored without Ron or Hermione to talk to, as they were sitting with the other Perfects or monitoring students. But alone in the compartment with Neville, he and Harry chatted about the summer and the classes they wanted to take. Harry wisely said nothing about Potions, and Neville didn't bring it up so they eased by that landmine with no difficulty.
They were about halfway to the school when Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out the toy snitch Snape had given him. Neville took an interest in it immediately.
"A bit like my Remembrall," he noted, peering at the little ball. "What does it do?"
Harry almost tossed it in the air to show Neville, but he stopped himself just in time. What would happen if the snitch zoomed around in the train compartment and got loose and they were running down the train halls, trying to catch it? Yeah, Snape would really like that; his newly adopted son could not make it through a whole train ride without causing trouble.
So Harry told Neville what it did, careful not to throw the toy up in the air, even a few inches.
Towards the end of the trip, Neville asked awkwardly, "Er – um, about this past year . . ."
"What about it?" Harry asked, leaning towards the window, trying to catch a glimpse of Hogwarts as they rounded the last bend.
"About – you know, Sirius," Neville whispered the name.
"Oh," Harry looked back at him and paused for only a second. "That's all right. I'm good now."
"Really?" Neville did not look convinced.
"Yeah," Harry nodded, "let's just say I got some – uh, counseling over the summer."
"Counseling?" Neville repeated uncertainly.
"Yeah, but not the Muggle kind," Harry laughed shortly, thinking what Snape would say if he heard he had been compared to a Muggle psychologist. "I'll be fine, really. I actually feel better this year than last. So don't worry."
Neville did not look quite convinced, but he changed the subject to what he hoped to study in Herbology and began naming off the plants he wanted to study. A few minutes later, Harry changed into his robes. Snape had made him wear his school uniform on the train, so all he had to do was pull his robes over his head. Neville went to change in the lavatory, and when he came back, Harry had to stifle a laugh.
"I know," Neville lamented, looking down at his robes. "They're too short. But my grandmother didn't have time to take me to get some more, so I'm wearing last year's. They're at least six inches too short, and my trousers show my socks. You think anyone will notice?"
Harry did not best to keep a straight face though his lips were twitching. "No, I don't think anyone will notice." And as long as the "anyone" didn't have eyes, they wouldn't notice.
The train pulled into the station, and Harry watched as the passageway was jammed with students trying to get off. He leaned back in his own seat and glanced out the window. Across the huge, black lake, he could see the castle looming, its windows shining with light.
"Aren't you getting off?" Neville asked anxiously, looking at the other students.
"We got time," Harry shrugged. "You know, they got to get those first years in the boats and that always takes forever. Let them get through, and they we'll go."
"Not true," said a soft voice.
Harry glanced to the glass door where the window had been slid down. Luna Lovegood stood in front of the door, looking down at Harry and Neville with her usual floaty expression.
"Hi, Luna," Neville said, and Harry nodded his greeting.
"You don't want to see the Thestrals," Luna remarked, blinking slowly. "You saw them last year because of Cedric. And you'll see them now because of Sirius Black. Or maybe because of Cedric still. It really doesn't matter."
"Luna!" Neville hissed, abandoning his normal awkwardness to glare at her quite sternly.
Harry had not even been thinking about the Thestrals, but he supposed she made sense. He had not liked them last year, and he had not even known what they were then.
"But you better come on," Luna said airily. "Because Professor Snape told the older Prefects to search the entire train to make sure no one was left behind."
Harry leapt to his feet. "Well, I guess we better go then." He stuffed the snitch in his pocket and headed for the door.
The three of them fought other students to get down the stairs, and everyone was milling about the station platform in the usual state of confusion and dismay. Older students were trying to talk to each other and find out which carriage they should ride in. Younger students were already missing their parents, and Harry saw one little boy who had his face buried in his hands to keep from crying. At one, Harry wanted to go to the small fellow and tell him that everything would be all right and maybe get to him to talk so he wouldn't feel so alone, but there were about fifty students in the way, and Harry could only watch sympathetically.
Then Hagrid stepped forward and began booming out for "First years! First years, right this way, an' don't upset the Thestrals, lovely creatures, don't ya know?"
The little boy disappeared, and Harry stepped back to wait his turn to get onto the carriage. Luna was talking about something to Neville, and Neville tried to pay attention as he struggled to keep hold of his toad. Trevor had slept for most of the trip, but he came awake fully on the platform, trying to squirm free. Harry didn't really understand why the toad always wanted to escape. Hedwig never wanted to get away from Harry; she seemed upset that he didn't visit her more often and often pecked him once to show her disapproval at his long absences. Maybe toads were different than owls, at least in regards to loyalty to their humans.
Most of the students had climbed into the huge carriages, and Harry was just stepping towards the last one when he saw Draco.
With Crabbe and Goyle at his side and a whole train of Slytherins behind him, Draco strutted almost to a middle carriage before he noticed Harry. He stopped still, and they just looked at each other. Harry could see Draco's face tingeing red and Harry felt sure his own was a bit pink, but he forced himself to glower at the other boy. Draco shot him an equally fierce stare, and his whole expression said, "Just wait, Potter." Then Draco got into the carriage.
Crabbe and Goyle glanced at each other, not sure exactly who Draco had seen. Harry wondered if they were near-sighted as well as thick before he felt Luna tug his arm to get into the last carriage.
It began to rain as the carriages rumbled towards the castle. Harry thought about the first years in the boat. Why did the first years have to go in the boat to begin with? They were probably tired and hungry and homesick. Why make them nervous on the water and cold and now wet, too? Maybe he should talk to Dumbledore . . .
Harry broke into a grin as he realized what he had just thought. He was going to start telling Dumbledore how to run his school? Oh, Snape would just love that. Harry could just imagine Snape's face if Harry marched into Dumbledore's private study and announced, "I've got a idea about how this school should be run, and we're going to do things my way, starting with the way we get to Hogwarts." Snape would go ballistic.
"You seem happy," Luna noted, gazing over Harry's face.
"I am," he told her, schooling his face into a neutral expression. "I'm regularly happy."
"No, something happened to you over the summer," she decided. "Something hard and maybe sad, but something good in the end. You've changed."
"No, I haven't," he told her, looking away.
"You're very different," she sighed and settling back into her seat. "You either fell in love-"
Harry scoffed, making incredulous noise in the back of his throat.
"– Or you went on a great adventure through high mountains –" she continued dreamily.
"You're cracked," he muttered.
"– Or you found someone to take care of you," she gazed out the window into the darkening sky.
Harry started slightly, unnerved at her insight. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, but he could not keep his voice level and calm.
She looked back at him. "Don't you?"
He shifted, wishing he could get away from her knowing eyes. "Can't this thing move any faster?" he muttered. "Slowest Thestrals in all of England probably."
The entrance hall was crowded with luggage and students trying to get into the Great Hall. Harry didn't understand why they put the trunks and bags and crates there in the front hall when the stuff was going up to the dormitories straight away. He realized as he followed Neville and Luna into the Great Hall and sat down that there was a lot about Hogwarts he didn't understand. Perhaps he wanted to make sense of everything when probably a lot of what was done at Hogwarts was time-honored tradition.
Harry smiled a little. Probably hanging around Snape all summer made him think in a strictly rational frame of mind, noticing things he had never noticed before. Was this how it felt to be in Snape's mind? Did Snape see all the goings and doings at Hogwarts and think it could be done better? After all, Snape was complaining about having careless children in his class and the rules not being enforced and –
"Huh?" Harry looked up to see Hermione and Ron sitting across from him.
She smiled sweetly, her eyes warm and friendly. "Where were you?" she teased. "I've been talking to you, but you just sitting there with that glazed-over look on your face."
"That's how everyone gets when they listen to you," Ron muttered as he played with the edge of the table, running his finger back and forth.
"I heard that," Hermione snapped.
"Well, I said it loud," Ron retorted.
Harry tried to look interested in what they were saying though he couldn't figure out why they were fighting already. The meal hadn't even come yet. Maybe they were hungry.
"Greetings," Dumbledore stood up and looked over all of them.
Harry relaxed as he watched Dumbledore give the welcome to all the students. Something about Dumbledore always calmed Harry, something about the quiet power radiating from the man. It was a different feeling from being around Snape – Snape made Harry feel wanted, eager to please, active, and ready to help. Dumbledore made him feel calm and peaceful. Both feelings were nice, and Harry would have readily replied that he liked the Dumbledore feeling better except that he kind of liked the Snape feeling now a little more. It was nice to have someone accept you whatever you did, but it felt even better to have someone hold you accountable and be proud when you got something right.
"What are you smiling about?" Ron demanded in a hushed whisper. "He's talking about Professor Sprout being nearly eaten by her new plants."
"Oh, sorry," Harry immediately looked serious.
While Dumbledore continued, Harry looked at the teachers' table. Sprout was up there, looking a bit worn and pale alone with McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick and other teachers, but no Snape. Harry glanced around the room, wondering if Snape might be somewhere else in the room. He was nowhere to be seen.
"Let us start with the sorting," Dumbledore motioned towards the Sorting Hat.
The room fell very quiet as the Hat began to recite a very long poem.
Harry could barely sit still. He wanted to find Snape, not listen to some piece of clothing ramble on about reading people's thoughts. If the meal would just start, Harry could shovel down some food and then go look for Snape.
The Hat kept talking, and Harry could barely stop himself from rolling his eyes. The Hat had never been one of his favorite things at Hogwarts – it had almost placed him in Slytherin, a fact now which Harry thought wouldn't have been so bad considering his adopted father belonged there, but the Hat had been so annoyingly arrogant. "Oh, look at me!. I'm a magical hat, and I know where everyone belongs better than they do." Stupid Hat!
The dumb poem finally ended, and everyone clapped except Ron and Hermione. They were staring at Harry intently.
"What?" he asked, uncomfortable to have them looking like that.
"Why were you making faces while the Hat was reciting?" Ron asked slowly.
"Are you all right, Harry?" Hermione inquired, her voice gentle.
"Sure," Harry shrugged off their concern. "It's just – ruddy Hat, you know?"
Ron looked back to the front where the sorting had begun, and Hermione gave Harry one last searching look before glancing away.
Harry didn't understand why he felt so restless. Usually, he enjoyed this part of the first supper, seeing everyone and getting back into old ways of things, but now he felt frantic to go find Snape.
The sorting seemed to drag out forever, each student inching their way up front and sitting on the stool much longer than they needed to in order to decide which house they should go into. The Hat was getting slower every year – time to replace it with something faster, like a glove that didn't talk or a neck tie or a broomstick. Yeah, a broomstick – you could take a ride, whizzing around the tall room of the Great Hall and it would decide which House to sort you into by the way you flew. Oh, but first years didn't know how to fly. Still, it would have been fun to watch.
Harry suddenly caught sight of the little boy he had seen crying. The boy got up on the stool, and McGonagall put the Hat on his head. The boy seemed awfully small for his age, brown hair around a pale face and blue eyes that looked overwhelmed by everyone watching him.
The Hat, in its usual fashion, took too long to decide before calling out "Slytherin!"
The Slytherins clapped, but the little boy got off the stool and went to the Slytherin table with his shoulders hunched over and his eyes on the floor. Once he got to the table, Harry saw him sit at the corner and try to look invisible by sitting low and keeping his head. No one seemed to talk to him.
"Sad," Hermione mused as the next child went up towards the Hat.
"What's sad?" Harry asked.
"That little boy," Hermione nodded towards the Slytherin table. "He sat all alone on the train. I tried to talk to him, but he kept shaking his head and wouldn't say anything."
Harry wanted to ask his name, but then the sorting was over, and Dumbledore stood up.
"You all must be wondering about the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," he commented, then smiled gently when most of the students nodded eagerly. "Our new teacher will be none other," and he paused for dramatic effect, "than Professor Snape."
A gasp rose from the students that soon swelled into avid conversation. Harry sat stone-still, wishing he could close his ears off and not hear what they were saying.
"This is awful," Ron said to Hermione. "Snape as the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. We're dead."
"I don't know," Hermione shook her head doubtfully. "What can Dumbledore be thinking? Professor Snape is just – just wrong!"
Harry felt his cheeks growing hot, and he couldn't help glaring at his two best friends. A lot they knew – Snape was right all along – teenagers had no sense of good manners.
"Oh, no," Neville whispered, nearly paralyzed.
"What?" Harry demanded crossly.
"I've signed up for Defense Against the Dark Arts," Neville squeaked. "Dropped Potions, but not Defense Against the Dark Arts. I'm dead – I'm just . . . dead."
"You are not," Harry snapped.
"Harry, it's all right," Hermione reached across the table to put her hand over Harry's. "We'll figure this out."
"Nothing to figure," Harry jerked his hand back. "You all don't understand Snape – he's not –"
"And please give a warm welcome to our new Potions teacher, Madame Moretta."
A tall, angular woman with dark hair and flashing green eyes walked up to the front. She was dressed in a long dress of deep red that clung to her slim body in just the right places, making her waist tiny and her hips sway as she walked. The neckline of her dress was cut in a V that went down almost too low, but was saved by a large silver brooch shaped like a dragon that covered the point of the V. She went to stand beside Dumbledore and turned to face them all.
"Good evening," she smiled, a smile that could be stern or cold, even cruel, but also pleased and eager. She was not a temptress per say, but she wasn't a normal teacher either. "I'm glad to meet you all," she continued in a voice that that vibrated with strength and confidence. "I look forward to working with you in groups and individually in class. Your headmaster has been kind enough to assign me to the Gryffindor for the first half of the fall term, but I promise I will spend time in the other three houses later on in the school year to assist in advising and learning outside of class time. Thank you."
She nodded her head forward in an almost-regal nod.
"Thank you, Madame Moretta," Dumbledore said. He began clapping his hands together and gave the students a look that said to applaud as well.
Harry didn't mind clapping, and everyone else did as well, but something about Madame Moretta stunned them. Harry wasn't sure what is was exactly – maybe after having Snape as a potions master this woman seemed so . . . different.
"Well," Ron leaned across the table, "she's . . . different."
"Yeah, different," Neville agreed.
Harry could only nod his agreement.
"You boys are disgusting," Hermione said in a very annoyed voice. "You should be worried what kind of teacher she will be. Professor Snape had his faults, to be sure –"
"Yeah, a right foul sodding git," Ron snorted. Harry glowered at him.
"But we learned a lot," Hermione persisted. "And I'm Snape will be – interesting in the other class as well. Oh, here's the food. Let's eat."
After the meal, during which Snape did not make an appearance, Harry headed out of the Great Hall, determined to go to the dungeons to look for him, if he had to.
"Where are you going?" Hermione inquired. "We need to go to the Gryffindor Common Room. It's late."
"Oh, you go on," Harry waved her away. "I'll be up in a little while."
"Harry, no!" Hermione caught his hand before he could pull away. "You are not going exploring the first night back. Everyone is confused and trying to settle in, and no teacher will have patience with you tonight if you caught wandering around."
"Yeah, another night," Ron said, stepping up on his other side.
They began walking towards the stairs, and Harry knew he couldn't get away. For him to leave them, he would have to tell them what had happened over the whole summer, and he wasn't ready, not just yet. Maybe after they had time to settle in, once school got underway, then he would tell them.
They all sat in the Gryffindor Common Room for the rest of the evening, talking as the candles burned low. As it got later, Hermione started herding students off to bed, starting with the first years. By the time she started on the third years, Harry's own eyes were drooping, and he got up on his own accord and mumbled "'Night."
"Don't go yet," Ron objected. "She isn't your mother."
"No, but I'm tired. See you in the morning, Hermione."
"'Night, Harry," Hermione smiled. "I'm glad we're all back."
The sixth year boys' dormitory looked just as Harry remembered – four-poster beds with maroon curtains. Neville was on his hands and knees, trying to coax Trevor to come out of one of the beds.
Harry changed into pajamas and got into bed as the other boys meandered in, still talking and laughing. Harry yawned as he lay down, slipping his hand under his pillow as he curled up on his side. Though he could not hear it, he could feel the pocketwatch in his hand under the pillow, the ticking beating out a steady rhythm. He could hear the other fellows talking, but he didn't care as he drifted off to sleep.
"Oh, no," Ron complained as he sat down to breakfast the next morning.
"What?" Harry asked around a mouthful of eggs. Breakfast was the most informal meal at Hogwarts; students could show up whenever they wanted for an hour, and teachers wandered in and out as well. Harry kept an eye on the teachers' table, but he had not seen Snape yet. Didn't the man ever eat? Or did he have food delivered to the dungeons? That was nice – snitching food on the side so he didn't have to eat in the Great Hall and see his adopted son.
"We have Defense Against the Dark Arts first thing this morning," Ron groaned as he began reaching for toast and jam. "Snape for our first class – brilliant start to the year."
Hermione, usually the one person to find some good in teachers, said nothing as she spooned porridge onto her plate.
Yeah, Harry decided as he ate, definitely not the time to talk to them about getting adopted by the much loathed professor. After all, he did still want his friends to be alive and breathing after he told them.
After waiting impatient for them to finish breakfast (Honestly, did Hermione have to take such small bites, and when did Ron start eating so much?), they headed for Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry wanted to run ahead and get to the classroom to see if he could catch Snape before class, but once again he couldn't think of a reason to head for class early. So, he slowed his pace to the crawl that Ron and Hermione set as they talked or rather argued about something to do with what Hermione wanted to study for next year.
Except for wanting to get to class, Harry enjoyed walking with them. It was nice how they fell back into their usual relationship so quickly, almost as if they had never been apart. Maybe that was the test of a great friendship – picking up as if they had never left off, always ready to share concerns and talk and just hang out –
"You're mental!" Ron nearly shouted. "All this over-obsessing about school!"
"You know nothing about the proper way to do things," Hermione retorted. "You just want to laze about and whine like a child."
"I am not a child," Ron growled.
"Then stop acting like one!"
"We're here," Harry interrupted, jerking his head towards the door of the classroom. He didn't think it would look too good to arrive with his best friends arguing.
"Where are you going, mate?" Ron hissed as they entered the classroom.
"To sit," Harry pointed to the desks.
"Up front?" Ron gave his a look of disbelief.
Harry shuffled, uncomfortably. "Yeah, we sit up front and – and then we can see if Snape is turning evil or getting pulled towards the dark side."
"Good plan," Ron nodded as they took the front desk on the right.
Harry waited nervously as the desks behind them began to fill. Harry looked around the class – would Snape miss his first class?
"Do you have to do that?" Ron asked bluntly.
"What?" Harry glanced at him.
"You're tapping your shoe against the leg of the desk," Ron pointed out. "A little annoying."
"Ron, he's just nervous," Hermione said, straightening up her copybook and quill pen on the space in front of her. "Professor Snape hasn't exactly been –"
"Shh," Ron warned. "Here he comes."
Harry looked up at Snape came through the doorway and shut the door behind him.