Chapter Three

"All right, everyone, gloves on!"

There was a faint rustling as the students in the greenhouse put on their gloves. Professor Longbottom waited until he was sure all of his students were paying attention before he continued on with his lesson.

"Today we're going to be working with a very dangerous specimen, which is why we're taking these extra precautions."

Someone in the back of the room yawned. Not wanting to lose the fifth year Hufflepuffs' interest so soon, he hastily reached to the shelf beneath his desk and pulled out a ceramic pot. Neville heard a few gasps and sounds of awe as it came into view – its dark green vines flailed about, looking more like octopus tentacles than plant parts. Then, as if on cue, an insect flew too close to the plant and was snatched out of the air in the blink of an eye.

Neville smiled to himself as he heard one of his students say, "Wicked!"

"Does anyone know what this is called? Miss Sprout?"

"It's the Killer Tentaculus!"

"Very good! Five points to Hufflepuff." He poked the Tentaculus and the plant's tentacles flew out and ensnared his gloved finger. "It's called the "Killer" Tentaculus because although it's a plant, it's very much a predator. Now, be very careful and reach under your tables to retrieve your own pots...good."

There were now about a half dozen writhing Tentaculuses positioned in front of his students at their tables.

"The Tentaculus, or as it's more commonly called, The Killer Tentaculus, originates from Greece. Their diet consists mostly of insects, some small rodents, and the occasional unsuspecting student..."

Neville looked out over his class, expecting to see some smiles, but he noticed right away that everyone's eyes were downcast and the room had become unusually still. Even the Tentaculus had relinquished its grip on his finger. He swung his head back and forth, searching for the disturbance, but he was interrupted by a stiff ahem from behind him.

"Continue on with your lesson, Professor," said a bored-looking Malfoy.

Neville blinked. "Right..." He turned his attention to his students again. "Now...where was I?"

"Poor short-term memory," he heard Draco mutter. Neville swiveled around to see Malfoy scribbling down notes on a little hand-held scroll. Draco raised his eyebrows innocently at Neville's insulted expression. "You seem distracted today. Do you feel well, Longbottom? Maybe you shouldn't be teaching."

"I feel...fine," Neville replied, feeling somewhat less than fine, knowing that Draco Malfoy was standing directly behind him. "So, the Killer Tentaculus -"

"Excuse me, did I hear you just mention the Killer Tentaculus?"

"Yes, I did!" Neville snapped, annoyed with Draco's interruption. His cheeks reddened. "Yes, I did," he repeated more calmly. "What about it?"

Draco was staring at the plant with an expression of utter revulsion on his face. "Don't you think it's...well...dangerous?"

"Yes, I -"

"If you agree with me that it's dangerous, then why in Merlin's name are you showing it to a bunch of witless students?"

"We're wearing gloves."

"Gloves?" Malfoy smirked as Neville held up his hands. "I hope they've been enchanted properly, so everyone is protected from the Tentaculus venom. I hear it's quite deadly."

"Venom?" squeaked a girl. She pushed her chair away too hastily; in doing so, she shook the table and the Tentaculus resting on its surface tipped over and rolled into the lap of her lab partner. The other girl screamed as the Tentaculus's tentacles latched onto her neck. Letting out a yelp, she leapt out of her seat, struggling fiercely to get the killer plant off.

"Somebody help me!"

As she fought against the plant, the pot fell off its bottom and crashed to the floor. The Tentaculus, now free to move about, began to crawl up her neck until it sat on top of her head.

"Don't move, Bones!" cried Neville, hurrying over to the girl. He was too preoccupied to notice Draco write something else down on his scroll. "Don't move – I can remove it if you just keep still...!"

"HELP ME!!!" she shrieked, dancing erratically through the room, bumping into other students and tables, but thankfully not knocking any other Tentaculuses onto the floor.

"It won't hurt you if you stop moving!"

"I'll save you!" shouted a fifth year boy, taking aim with his wand.

"PERKINS, NO!" ordered Neville, but it was too late.

Red sparks fired out from the end of Perkins's wand, missing the plant, but striking Amelia's robes, setting them on fire.

"AHHHHHHH!"

By now the rest of the Hufflepuffs were out of their seats, crowding around Neville and their poor classmate in a loose circle.

"Aguamenti!" Water shot from Neville's wand, extinguishing the flames. The rising smoke wafted up onto the Tentaculus, dazing it, and its flailing tentacles slowed down. "Accio Tentaculus!"

The plant was ripped off of the girl's head and into Neville's arms, where he expertly handled it and calmed it down with a whispered spell.

"Professor! Amy needs to go to the Hospital Wing!"

Neville coughed on the smoke and nodded, gesturing them out. Not just one or two Hufflepuffs left – they all exited the greenhouse, supporting Amelia and saying encouraging words to her. When the room was nearly empty, Neville glanced over at the doors and saw Draco standing there, writing down one last thing in his notes. Malfoy met his gaze and chuckled as he left.

oOo

Puffy clouds slid across the ceiling in the Great Hall. Students and professors alike hurried in and out, coming to and from their afternoon classes. Above all of the chattering, a few owls swooped in through the open windows, delivering late letters and parcels. James shuffled glumly up to the Gryffindor table and took a seat far away from anyone else. He wasn't in the mood for company right now.

A silver dish with a sandwich appeared in front of him, but he pushed it away, and it disappeared with a soft pop. He imagined that some house-elf beneath the school was scratching its head in confusion at seeing the untouched food.

He sighed – his appetite wasn't what was bothering him.

Up near the front of the Great Hall he watched as Professor Granger sat down at her usual place at the teacher's table with her lunch. Shewas the reason why he was feeling so down this afternoon.

Well, to be fair, it wasn't her that had put him into such a gloomy mood; it had been Draco Malfoy. James felt terrible that he'd gotten her in trouble. Now he'd put Professor Granger into a position where she could potentially lose her job...

He didn't want that! Professor Granger might have been strict and tough, yes, but his dad had always said wonderful things about her before...

He was starting to regret that he'd turned away that sandwich now. James glanced at his wristwatch and groaned – it was time for his next class already! He stood up and jogged out of the Great Hall.

oOo

Harry Potter sighed in relief. He'd just watched over all of his third year students fight off a Boggart during his two morning classes and now he was feeling completely drained. One of the Boggarts had turned into a Cornish Pixie and it had caused quite a disaster, destroying things in his classroom and also embarrassing the particular student who had called it. It had taken Harry twenty minutes to clean up the mess and restore order to his students, by which time the class had ended. Now, both he and his stomach couldn't wait to sit down in the Great Hall and get something to eat.

As he walked down the aisle to get to the teacher's table, he saw his son breeze past him without even muttering a simple hello. Harry shook his head in disapproval and continued on his way up, wondering what trouble James was getting into this time.

He sat down away from Hermione, who was engrossed in a copy of the latest Transfigurations publication and didn't see him approach. Harry wasn't much in the mood to talk to her; even though she'd been behaving quite normally around him, he still didn't feel very comfortable in her presence. There was something about the way she spoke to him, glanced at him, that made him feel like her outward normal appearance was just an act – and that at any moment she was going to try and do something stupid again.

Harry was a man who'd been through plenty of tough situations in his life, yet that didn't mean he particularly enjoyed experiencing them all. Having an affair with his former best friend was on the bottom of his list of Things To Do.

As he relaxed in his seat and a warm meal was summoned before him, Hedwig flew by and dropped a copy of the Daily Prophet on his head. He unfolded the paper and read the headline:

CHUDLEY CANNONS SIGN DAVIES

Is the championship in sight with the acquisition of this all-star Chaser from Glasgow? Read on to see what fans, players, and coaches have to say!

And then below that there was a small, insignificant-looking paragraph which read:

500 Galleon Reward

Obliviator Arnold Peasegood of the Ministry of Magic has been reported missing. He was last seen leaving the Ministry at around 8 PM on Thursday evening. His family has offered a reward of 200 Galleons for anyone who has any information regarding this matter.

Harry frowned and read the article again. Something wasn't right. He carefully examined it a third time and shook his head in frustration. The seemingly innocent lack of details bothered him, yet he couldn't put his finger on exactly why the article had him on edge.

Arnold Peasegood? he thought to himself. Never heard of him...

He shrugged, pushing his worries and Arnold Peasegood off to the side as he noticed Neville sidle over towards him.

"Neville," he greeted pleasantly. Noting his friend's worn appearance, he asked, "Having a bad day, eh?"

"Yes. It could be going better." Neville sighed. "I had my evaluation this morning."

"Oh? How did that go?"

"It was horrible, Harry."

"It couldn't have been that bad -"

"I think I lost my job."

Harry stared at Neville, finally seeing that he was being very serious and that there were dark bags hanging beneath his eyes. At length he finally said,"What makes you say that?"

"You remember Malfoy and how he was in school," came the reply, bitter and resentful. "The git hasn't changed a bit." Neville smiled weakly. "If you know Malfoy, then you can probably guess how my evaluation went. I can't stand the bloke, Harry. If only he weren't so rich..."

"...then there'd be someone else just as horrible as him holding his title," finished Harry, "but only not as rich."

"Why didn't you get a job at the Ministry?" Neville suddenly wondered. "You could have been the new Minister, after Fudge went missing all those years ago."

Harry sighed. "The Ministry seems to attract some power hungry people these days. I don't know if I want to get involved in all of that. I'm no good at politics, and I don't really like them anyway."

"I s'pose I can see where you're coming from, then. Still, though, it's a shame that instead of you running the Ministry, we've got that toad -"

"Insulting the Minister?"

Both Harry and Neville tensed up immediately as Draco – as he was doing quite often nowadays – appeared out of thin air beside them, wearing a killer's grin.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" inquired Harry.

"I'm merely observing what seems to be a perfidious discussion between the two of you."

"Perfidious? What in Merlin's name are you on about?" challenged Neville, frowning.

"Perfidious. It means treacherous. Like a traitor." The former Slytherin rolled his eyes. "Just a moment ago you were saying how horrible our current Minister is and that Potter ought to be Minister instead. Sounds like treason to me."

"That's not what I said -"

"You don't want to upset the wrong people, Longbottom. Try being a little more careful with what you say and do around here," Draco continued on, cutting him off. "Especially after your less than impressive performance in class this morning."

Neville gulped. On his friend's behalf, Harry interjected, "I think you'd best be moving on, Malfoy."

The other man sneered and then walked away from the High Table. Harry and Neville traded uncertain looks before finishing their meals in silence.

oOo

An ancient clock on the wall told Lily it was nearing midnight. It felt to her as if the long arm was steadily speeding up, like it was racing to beat its shorter companion to the number twelve at the top of the face. But she knew that wouldn't happen – her mind was only entertaining such notions because she was so tired.

Lily's thoughts were feeling a bit muddled tonight as she mulled over two things in her head: James and Severus.

They were both so aggravating!

Neither one of them could bother to leave her alone for very long, and if they did, it was only because they were too busy fighting each other over her. Wouldn't the boys ever learn? Black eyes and bloody noses didn't impress her.

She stretched her arms out and looked around the almost deserted common room. There were still a few other Gryffindors from different years relaxing in chairs or hunched over books, but thankfully there was no James. She saw Albus, the Head Boy, return quietly through the portrait hole, finished with his rounds. He waved at Lily and shot her a genial smile, which she returned easily. It was such a shame that the two boys who liked her couldn't show a little more maturity or restraint like Albus. Was it really so difficult to behave a little?

She cracked a wry grin to herself. It's a shame Albus isn't better looking... He's always got that gross chin stubble! Like that boy's ever going to grow a beard.

With a self-amused snort and a shake of her head, she pushed the thought out of her head. No... Besides – he's completely taken with that other seventh year girl. What's her name...Melissa? Mindy? Min...?

"Mind if I join you?"

Lily jumped in her seat as she peered up at the last person she'd wanted to see tonight. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at James. "You know, I was just going to bed -"

"No you weren't," he said dully. "You were sitting here by the window, looking like you needed some company."

"What do you want, James?" she asked in a weary voice. "I really am tired."

"I just want to talk."

"Talk? That's it?" Lily scoffed. "That must be a first for the great James Evans, King of Hogwarts and Everything Else – the only thing I ever see you doing is tormenting Severus."

He shifted uncomfortably on his feet and turned his gaze to the floor. "I don't mean to."

"No, of course you don't," she replied sarcastically, letting her anger with him out. "Severus is the one who provokes you all the time. Poor little you – you don't have any choice but to curse, hex, and make his life even more miserable than it already is whenever you can!"

"He's not perfect either."

"Oh, and so that means you are?" Lily glared at him. "James Potter, I put up with you every day, and I'm not in the mood to do so right now. Good night."

"Wait!"

"Good night, Potter."

He put a hand on her shoulder. "Please, just stay here with me."

Lily spun around. There was a frosty tone to her voice as she announced in a voice loud enough for everyone in the common room to hear, "James Potter, take your hand off of me right now!"

Immediately it seemed as if every single Gryffindor stopped what he or she was doing and stared at them. A few of the younger kids wore expressions of amusement while the older ones who knew James and Lily tried to pretend as if they weren't listening.

Without another word, Lily stomped up the steps to the girls' dormitories.

Although James felt incredibly embarrassed at the moment, he clenched his teeth together in frustration.

"What's the matter with her?" he growled under his breath.

oOo

Morning arrived and James reluctantly left the comfort and warmth of his bed to begin preparing for the day. As he marched down to the common room, his curiosity was piqued as he saw a bunch of other students cluttered around a sign on the wall.

"What's going on?"

Nobody heard him, everyone was talking so loudly.

In his impatience to read the sign, he shoved aside Peter Pettigrew, who shot him a dirty look that went unnoticed by James. Squinting his sleepy eyes, he read:

Educational Decree No. 1

Draco Malfoy has been instated as High Inquisitor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"High Inquisitor? What's that?" he overheard somebody say. "Remus, do you know?"

"No. I'm not sure what this is about. I'll have to ask Potter," answered Remus, scratching his head. Then, catching James's eye, he amended, "Professor Potter, I mean."

A few kids looked over at James, and he felt a momentary flash of annoyance with the reminder that he was no longer a prefect. Turning his back on them, he solemnly walked through the portrait hole.

While walking down to the Great Hall, James repeated the words High Inquisitor under his breath again and again, stretching his brain to try and figure out what it was about them that made him feel so uneasy...

oOo

At breakfast in the Great Hall, James had expected the student population to be discussing Educational Decree Number 1, but to his surprise, nobody seemed to really care.

When he questioned a passing Ravenclaw about the news, the girl shrugged and said, "It's inconsequential, isn't it?"

"Er, yeah," he responded. "Inconsequential."

"Professor Lovegood was a Ravenclaw," the girl went on, a hint of pride in her voice. "I'm confident that she'll deal with the situation appropriately."

He walked over to the Gryffindor table in a daze, wondering if everyone was really that unconcerned about it.

James scanned the High Table, looking for his dad, wanting to ask him about the High Inquisitor, but he stopped as he saw Draco Malfoy seated in the middle. The other professors up there had given him a wide berth, clustering around both ends of the table, talking amongst themselves. Dimly James noticed that Luna wasn't present, but then he spotted his dad and he hurried up to go and talk to him.

"Dad!" he called out.

His father was deep in conversation with Neville, and he glanced up at his son as he approached.

"Hey, James," he sighed.

"Dad, what's going on? Why is he sitting over there?"

"Didn't you see the sign? They're hanging in all of the common rooms. You should know about Educational Decree Number One."

"Yes, I do know that, but -"

"Then what did you want to know?"

James held back from rolling his eyes. "Why? Why does Hogwarts have a High Inquisitor now?"

Sensing his son's growing impatience, Harry calmly said, "Because the Ministry feels that this school is in need of...a helping hand."

"A helping hand? What's that mean?"

Harry hesitated before replying, "It means that the Ministry is interfering here."

"Interfering?" James blinked. "Well, do something about it, dad! Write to the Minister, or maybe put an article in the Daily Prophet about it, or..."

Neville chuckled. He shot a sidelong glance at Harry as he said, "I thought you were the one who had a vendetta against Malfoy?"

Harry frowned at his son. "Why are you so angry? If Malfoy hears you talking like this you'll get into even more trouble, and believe me, if that happens he'll be the least of your worries."

"I..." James struggled to find an answer. "Well, you've always talked about him before and how much of a git he is."

"You're right," Harry conceded, nodding. "But I had no idea you hated him so much." He stared at James, his emerald gaze piercing and disarming. "Is there something that you're not telling me?"

"No."

"James." The word had been spoken flatly, but there was a tone of 'Come on, I know there's something else going on.'

"Nothing, dad! Just leave me alone!"

"You're the one who came up to me -"

"Just leave me alone," James repeated, frowning. He blew out an exasperated breath and strode away, leaving no more room for conversation.

oOo

Monday, despite being the first day of Draco Malfoy's tenure as High Inquisitor, ended without even so much of a hiccup. Although Malfoy was quite visible prowling about the hallways intimidating students, there were no grand announcements from he or Luna about what he was really doing at Hogwarts. When evening arrived, there wasn't a single conversation in the Gryffindor common room about Malfoy.

James was upset that nobody else seemed to be upset – shouldn't everyone else be outraged by Malfoy being a High Inquisitor? He was just angry about it; plus he was also angry about so much more in his life too, but there wasn't anyone he could talk to who would understand him...

Just as he'd done last night, James waited until Lily stepped through the portrait hole. But Lily, upon spotting James, made a beeline for the stairs up the girls' dormitories and he never got a chance to talk to her. The other Gryffindors in his year, Remus, Peter, Frank, and the reclusive Sirius Black, all avoided him, so he sat all by himself, feeling quite alone in the crowded room.

He sat slumped in an armchair by the fire, his favorite seat in the room. He'd been forced to push a first year off the seat, but he didn't care. James wasn't noble like his father – he could live with himself for being less than perfect. It was as he sat there, staring into the whispering flames that he took notice of a young girl, seated in the chair opposite him.

She must have been a first or a second year, she was so small, yet James was disturbed by the troubled expression she wore. Her face was a blank mask, framed by dark, straight hair. He could almost see the fire reflected in her vacant eyes, she was staring into the fire so intently. As he watched, she rested her chin on top of her palm and sighed; aside from that she remained almost completely still.

"Stop staring at me," she said suddenly, catching him off guard.

James blinked and turned his gaze back towards the fire. "I'm sorry."

"You should be." He stole another glance at her, and she finally made eye contact with him. "I mean it, just go away."

"What's your problem?" he retorted defensively.

"Nothing, now go away."

"Nothing? Oh, so you're just rude all the time, then?" James knew he was being obnoxious and immature – but there was something that felt good about trying to spread around his bad mood.

She bit her lip and then sank deeper into her seat. "It's my uncle. He's missing. Now go away."

"Your uncle...?"

"Uncle Arnie." She sighed. "Can you please go away now? I've only asked you a million times, and I'd really, really, really like to be left alone."

Then you could go up to your dormitory...! Yet, at seeing the hopeless shadow on the young girl's face, James held back from saying it out loud.

"Oh." He barely knew this girl, and he was horrible at consoling people, yet she didn't seem like she was searching for pity... Lost for words to say, he simply repeated, "Oh."

"Yeah."

"I guess I'll go away now, then."

"Yes, please."

Feeling even more miserable than he'd felt before their short conversation, he shuffled off to the dormitories for a restless night of sleep.

oOo

Equally disturbed at that same moment in time was his father, Harry. He paced tirelessly around his office, pausing to gaze out the window. His office was located just below the Gryffindor common room in the tower, so he usually had a spectacular view – but not tonight. The clouds that had been present all day were still lingering in the sky, blotting out the moonlight and covering the grounds in darkness.

Harry fidgeted with his glasses, blowing on each lens and polishing them with his robes.

All he was doing was wasting time.

He could have been grading papers. He could have been writing lesson plans for his advanced seventh year class. He could have been drifting through the endless corridors of the castle – but he wasn't.

His mind was thinking about why the Ministry would put Malfoy at Hogwarts. He wasn't there to watch them, was he? No, that couldn't have been it – the happenings at Hogwarts weren't really a secret. Then why...?

There was one person he always used to be able to confide in when he got into this kind of mood. She was kind, clever, and understanding – and he had married her, so long ago, in a glorious high of young love, in the happy, happy times that had followed the war.

Should he talk to her? Shouldn't he talk to her?

Without thinking about it, he took two paces and was at his fireplace; a heartbeat later he had tossed the Floo powder into the ever-burning flames and said, "The Burrow."

Harry poked his head through and looked out onto a dark, deserted living room.

"Hello? Anyone? Ginny?"

He nearly jumped as a bundle on the couch shifted and came to life, saying, "Wha...Harry?"

"Ginny!" he exclaimed. "You scared me!"

"Oh, it was my fault," she replied nonchalantly, yawning and stretching her arms out. Harry's eyes were just beginning to adjust to the darkness and he was able to make out her petite silhouette.

"Why are you sleeping down here?"

"I...just...felt like the...couch would be more comfortable tonight," she responded slowly. "You know, I'm closer to the kitchen down here..."

"Right, right." Harry shook his head, not really concerned with her sleeping habits. "I need to ask you something."

"Anything," she breathed.

"I've been worrying over something all day and I really wanted to see what you thought about it."

"Yes?" she responded, a hint of hopefulness in her voice.

"Malfoy is the new High Inquisitor at Hogwarts."

"Oh, Malfoy..." Her voice became flat. "Malfoy?" Ginny blinked. "High Inquisitor? What are you talking about?"

"He's at the school, evaluating all of the professors and making all of my students uncomfortable -"

"Of course. This is Malfoy we're talking about."

"- and I think he's just the beginning of more bad things." When Ginny didn't say anything, Harry continued, "Neville says he's lost his job. I wouldn't doubt it, if Malfoy has as much power as he says he does. But what I'm worried about more than Neville is Luna."

"Luna? What's she got to do with this?"

"I think Malfoy wants her job."

"No! He would ruin Hogwarts!"

"Exactly." Harry's face became grim. "I'm going to visit the Ministry tomorrow, talk to the old folks like Kingsley, see if I can't get Malfoy out of the school."

"Are you...are you sure you want to go...back there?"

He hesitated before answering, "I have to."

"Harry," Ginny started, giving him a concerned look. "I'll go with you."

"No." At seeing the hurt expression on her face, he added, "I mean, you don't have to."

"I would like to," she whispered, pleading silently with her eyes.

"Ginny..." He let out a deep breath. "I can't see you...not now."

"Why not?"

There was solid steel underscoring her words. Harry was taken aback at her quiet intensity, and he gazed into her eyes. She stared right back at him, not giving up an inch in their silent battle of will.

"Okay," he said, relenting.

"Okay? That's it? That's all you have to say?"

"Have you changed your mind about wanting to come with me?" he countered.

"No, I -"

"Everything's set, then. I'll drop by tomorrow morning for you."

"Okay."

"Good night, Ginny."

"Good night, Harry."


Hello to the four or five people who are still reading this! I apologize for the long wait between this chapter and the last - and I can't promise that the next chapter will come any sooner, although I can say that the next chapter will definitely come...at some point in the future. I've invested too much time in this story to simply abandon it.

For anyone who is still confused about the premise (I'll admit, it's kind of a weird premise anyway), basically what you are seeing are all of the characters from the books jumbled around and placed into different roles. So I have Harry Potter being James Potter's dad instead of the other way around; Albus Dumbledore is a student, not the Headmaster, etc. I'm doing my best to keep people in character as best I can, but I think that there are times where I suffer from "All Of Your Characters Talk Like You Do Disease!" (R), so hopefully it's not too noticeable for y'all. There's a reason these chapters take so long - I'm pretty picky with my writing.

So I'm well aware that not much action has happened yet in the story, and I will fix that with the next chapter. Maybe Draco will get mad at the students and say, "Tonight we DINE IN HELL!" or something else cool like, "Harry, I'm your father." Out of curiosity, what do you think should happen, my four or five (or none) faithful readers?

Anyway, I'll close this unusually long author's note with the usual request for reviews. Let me know what you think, even if it's just "lol" or "u suck" or "FREE VIAGRA PILLS AT INAPPROPRIATE WEBSITE!" All reviews short and long are always appreciated.

Thanks!

Ryan

VacantSkies