Author's Note: I'm going back to writing short, but frequent chapters.  The quicker updates you get, and the less stressed out I get.  Kapeesh?

This chapter is dedicated to Sheron, who has been reviewing faithfully since Chapter 1.  Thank you very much!

defense against the

dark arts

Darkness.

It was warm, wherever he was, but the scent of burning wood assaulted his senses.  It was a nice scent, one could say, a relaxing and sort of pacifying sort of smell.

However, he had been through dreams like these too often to be comforted by his surroundings, the woods; and after a moment of blind terror in which he could do nothing but stare, he resignedly – reluctantly – to the point that he felt numb as he proceeded forward – followed the wood-burning smell.

When he reached his destination, he found a home in ruins – smoldered by flames, although he could still see faint embers in the wood.  Closing his eyes in a moment of silence for whoever had been inside the home – and their remaining family – he opened his eyes – now clear of turmoil and frighteningly cold, in quite a scarred fashion, he lifted his head and tilted it towards the gathering of trees, where he could hear the rustle of leaves and whispers carrying through the winds.

Walking – nearly dragging himself along, he stopped just outside the clearing, enough to hear what was being said.  He knew the face he would find, if he dared to peer into the clearing.  He knew the eyes he would find, staring through him.  And he also knew he still wasn't quite ready to face that just yet.

"Master," a voice said, a soft tenor.  "We have precious little time before the Ministry is overwhelmed – and won't be able to cover up these deaths."

"Good.  I do not like being ignored."

It was that voice: a hiss, deeply tinted with a cold malice that few could stand up to.

It continued.  "Fudge will soon bend to my will.  But…."  There was silence as someone walked around in the clearing.  A slow, decadent stroll.  "For my main concerns…  How is young Mr. Potter fairing?"

A young voice, familiar, this time, replied with a completely mechanical reply.  "My Lord – he is well the same as he was before.  Still disturbed by the events of the Third Task – he seems to have assumed the guilt for Diggory's death – and the Professors are keeping an absurdly close watch on him, and there are more staff members – hands of Dumbledore's, for extra security, I suppose."

The other voice seemed thoughtful as it hissed a reply back.  "The fool believes he can save the boy from me.  How…like Dumbledore, this is.  Keep your eyes open, Draco.  Your feed is important."

The sound of pacing continued, until a quavering voice asked, "Master, the Third Task – the Prior Incantatem – "

A hiss interrupted the man and the cold voice snapped, "The boy cannot use his wand to distract me again, Pettigrew.  But I cannot defeat him in battle yet.  I need Rah's Eye."

There was a dead silence among the gathered throng.

"The Eye of Rah?" one gasped.  "My – my Lord – then the myth is true?"

There was a pacing, and a curt reply of, "Of course, you fool.  I would not be wasting my time with it if it wasn't."

"W-what do you wish to use it for, my Lord?" asked the timid voice again.

Voldemort laughed.  "Once I have it, my first objective is to kill the boy.  Then the Order of Phoenix shall collapse – along with it, the Ministry of Magic – and the magical community is left to me!"

Harry snapped up in his bed, his hand flying to his scar so fast that it hit him hard enough to only add to the pain that was resounding through his skull.  Falling back onto his bed with a wrenched groan, he pulled a pillow to his face and buried himself in it.

Trying not to think about anything, trying not to feel the bile rising in the back of his throat, as he truly realized, again, that his world – although not very safe before, had become that much more deadly, he curled himself into a ball and breathed – in and out, in and out – until his breathing was calm again and he could only feel a mild throb in his scar.

Harry didn't move, though, just lay there, his mind wandering to random moments in his confrontation with Voldemort only months before.

Cedric is dead.

A profound sadness so deep hit Harry that he stopped breathing for a moment, stopped seeing anything but Cedric's blank, gray eyes staring upwards, and the mildly shocked expression painting the young – and dead – man's face.

Cedric is dead, his thoughts continued, because of me.

Suddenly, his mind showed him an image, bitter and cynical to no end, of other friends with the same blankness in their eyes, the same shocked expressions on their faces.

He felt a tremor – a shudder – run through him – as his thoughts – running so freely before – came to a sudden halt.

No.

His hands clenched themselves into fists, his jaw firmed, and the chill was replaced with a solid determination.

No.

He would not let that happen to his friends – his family – not while he was still around.  Fine.  Voldemort's going to weaken him?  Then he wouldn't leave any openings.

Tomorrow – the second day of the first term – it would begin.

***

Ron, Hermione, and – surprisingly – Ginny were some of the first few up in the morning.  Without the exchange of so much as a single word, the three filed out of Gryffindor Tower to the Great Hall, where a few professors were seated at the staff table, and even less students were seated at the house tables.

They sat, waiting, until Hermione cleared her throat and said, "Harry should be here soon."

"Already came and left," a voice said wistfully from behind.  It was Professor McGonagall.

"Already?" Ginny echoed.

"Crack of dawn," McGonagall replied, looking a bit worried.  "Had a few slices of toast and left right away."

Hermione, Ginny, and Ron exchanged glances with each other, and McGonagall must have caught it, because, looking away, she said in a surprisingly tender voice, "Watch out for him.  He's going through something really hard right now – and he needs your support.  You look out for him, you three…."

She looked up at them, only for a moment, before turning and walking out of the Great Hall, her heeled shoes clicking on the floor and her dark robes flowing behind her.

***

Harry walked down the hall, a bit aways from Draco, clutching his Defense Against the Dark Arts books, and wondering vaguely who this years professor would be and what dark secret they were hiding.  He hadn't found out yet, as he hadn't gone to breakfast in time to see many people awake; only McGonagall, Sinistra, and Flitwick.  He didn't want to be around the students right then; he didn't know why, but he just didn't.

He and Draco had Defense with the Ravenclaws, and although it was his best subject, Harry was a bit intimidated of them.  As students, the Ravenclaws were – above and beyond.

He glanced at Draco, cool and calm as ever, and Harry wished for a change that Draco wasn't usually so composed.

They entered the classroom, and although they were on time, many Ravenclaws looked over in their seats, some looking scandalized that anyone had come later than the rest of them.  Many glared at Draco, but none spoke to either of the two.

They wordlessly found two empty seats, and sat, giving each other the merest glance (well, Draco glared) before turning back to look at the front of the room.

A few minutes later, all of the Ravenclaws' quiet whispering silenced, when the door opened slightly and a figure slipped through, shutting the door again from behind.

Harry gave a short, silent gasp as the figure walked to the desk, her robes flowing behind her.

"Hello, class."  She began speaking haltingly after seating herself in her seat and turning to them, a rather serious expression on her face.  "My name is Arabella Figg – my older brother is Albus Dumbledore, I am a retired Auror, and I will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher this year."  After a moments pause as she interpreted the wary looks that her students were giving her, she added, "Rest assured – I by no means am a servant of Lord Voldemort."

She stopped to watch as everyone clinched; save for Harry, who had his eyes fixed on her.  Arabella's jaw firmed.

"Voldemort," she repeated slowly.  "You will all have to get used to that name.  I will not tolerate any of this 'You-Know-Who' or 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named' nonsense in my classroom.  Nothing has ever come from fearing a name.

"This year, you will be learning some serious defense – and a bit offense.  In light of Voldemort's return, you will all need to know how to defend yourself as much as possible.  You will be taught hexes, curses, a variety of stunning and disarming spells, and shielding.  There will be many assignments through the year – every class period.  I expect cooperation on all sides of the classroom, at all times.  Understood?"

Everyone nodded.

Arabella nodded curtly in satisfaction..  She lifted her gaze.  "To truly defned yourselfes from the Dark Arts, you all must understand what exactly that is.  The Dark Arts are not merely some jinxes or curses.  They go deeper, much further that than.  Can anyone explain how this works"

No one raised their hand.  No one – besides harry – knew what the Dark Arts truly was, except that it was bad and used by bad wizards to accomplish bad things.  Sighing deeply to himself, Harry told himself that doing this would help his classmates.  The simple difference of realizing what they were dealing with could make all the difference. 

And it wasn't as if he himself hadn't thought about it enough.

He raised his hand.

Arabella, looking a bit dubious but nonetheless gratified, said softly, "Mr. Potter?"

Harry put his hand down and spoke, trying to ignore the fact that everyone was listening to him and he felt as if he was in a tight space again.  "There is no simple spell that can do certain tasks that are beyond the usual – or natural – scope of magic.  The Dark Arts usually go past this scope, to do thinks and accomplish tasks that light magic can't, or any light magic user wouldn't really want.  The Dark Arts, although surpassing these set natural boundaries, also has a detrimental side.  By accomplishing what the user wants, it also takes a bit from the caster of the spell.  It takes powerful magic.  Here, he paused, before starting again, collecting his thoughts.  "The more power that is used, the more dark spells are cast – the more the dark nature of the spell – the unnatural aspects of the spell – eat at the caster's soul.  They, in time, become as twisted as the magic they use."

There was a silence following this explanation.  All the Ravenclaw students were staring at Harry – and he could see a mix of fear, curiosity, and suspicion on their faces.

But Arabella was speaking again.  "Mr. Potter has given an excellent explanation for this.  Thirty points to Gryffindor."

As Arabella continued to explain Harry's explanation to the Ravenclaws more thoroughly, Draco hissed to Harry, "You just basically told everyone what we learned from Lupin during our training lesson."

"That's generally what you do with information you learn," Harry hissed back, irritated.  He took out a half-full roll of parchment, and after thinking of a moment, began to add things to it.

Bored, Draco looked over at what Harry was doing.  "Won't Figg get annoyed that you're not paying attention?"

Harry glanced up at Draco, a wry lift to his features.  "If you hadn't been too busy plotting revengle, you may have head Sirius telling us that he had talked to all of our professors – and unless they say we have to pay attention, we can work on the rest of our studies.  We have a huge head start on all our classes, and they've been skipping the lessons that aren't of much use, although they expect us to learn it through the classes.

"Basically, anything we don't know through our private lessons, we have to pay attention to in class?"

Harry shrugged and nodded.  'Pretty much."

Then why can't you just say so, Potter?"  Draco leaned back into his seat, disgruntled.  "And how the heck would you know what I was thinking last night?"

\Harry rolled his eyes, continuing to write as he did so.  'It wasn't that hard, Malfoy.  You glared at me the entire time and if the expression on your face wasn't anything to go by, your attitude when you spoke was.  Not to mention your twitching eye."

Draco looked back at Harry peevishly, but didn't say anything else.  He didn't take out his assignment, however, and although not paying any mind to Professor Figg, looked around the classroom a bit, his thoughts inscrutable.

So, Draco thought, his eyes landing on a quill on Figg's desk.  Potter's not as prudent as I thought.  He resisted the urge to sneer at the quill, save he give anything else away to Harry.  Very smart, actually.  I completely didn't expect him to be perceptive, of all things.  I'll have to be extra careful.  For Draco already had his prank planned.

Yesterday had been the Hufflepuff's turn for a prank, on the very first day of the prank war, and today was the Ravenclaw's turn.  Draco mildly wondered what Terry Boot would have up his sleeve for either him, Potter, or that Justin Finch-Fletchley – or maybe even all three.  He racked his brain for any memory of Boot…and found absolutely nothing.

Sighing to himself and hoping that the Ravenclaws, with the little time given, would be unable to master energy enough for a prank, would let their turn pass like the Hufflepuffs had, Draco turned his attention back to Figg.  Harry had put his essay away.

"Your assignment for today is to write on what you believe is the Dark Arts, in your own words – whether you believe it's too extreme or that some spells should be given more chances.  Two rolls of parchment.  Class dismissed."

As all the Ravenclaws stood to leave, Professor Figg approached Harry and Draco.

"How are your lessons going?" she asked them lightly.  There was a familiar twinkle in her blue eyes.  'Sirius seems to be training you up very well.  He's controlling your schedules, is he not?"

Harry nodded.  "Professor Lupin has been teaching us on the Dark Arts and its capabilities, so we're a bit ahead."

Professor Figg smiled.  "I'm sure, dear.  I hope your summer went well?"

Draco gave her a pointed look, drawing a chuckle from her.  "Yes, yes, no need to answer that one…" she trailed off.  Eyes glancing at the clock upon the wall, she said, "You might want to get going.  Alastor won't be pleased if you're late."

dark arts

end

A/N: Thanks for the patience on all of your parts, I really appreciate it.  I've had some major family problems crop up, and it took a bit for me to get over it and get going.

This chapter wasn't really that short, now that I look at it.  10 pages!  Oh well.  The updates will be much more frequent, now that I'm getting out of the habit of writing very long chapters.  The plot is all set out and this fic is rolling!

Oh, and I want to make a comment.  Some reviewers have asked why I've made Harry so stupid in the last chapter.  May I point out that it's Draco's viewpoint I was going from there?  In his opinion, Harry's a bit dim.  That does not mean in any way that he actually is.

As always, please review, and tell me whether you want to be on the mailing list (leave your e-mail address)!

~ Jedi Cosmos ~