Disclaimer:the Harry Potter world belongs to J. K. Rowling. I only borrowed her characters to play with them a bit.
A/N:Originally I was planning on writing only a 4-5 chapter long love story but as I proceeded with the fic I just couldn't make myself finish it. Finally I wrote a story about the whole seventh year of Harry and the gang – and not only about love, but about dark secrets, conspiracy, vengeance and – of course - VOLDEMORT. Truth be told I didn't intend to include the Dark Lord at first, but then I realised that a Harry Potter story was no real Harry Potter story without Voldemort messing around, so eventually I made HIS aims become the centre of the fic – though they'll remain hidden for a while. Basically this is still a love story, but much more than that: a great magical journey. I hope you'll like it – I terribly enjoyed writing it.
Please, don't get mad at me because of my poor choice of language – my native language is Hungarian, so I cannot write in such a distinguished style as you do.
I'd like to say thanks to two people:
- to my beta reader, (V)elissa, who corrected my grammatical mistakes (I gave you a lot to do, didn't I?)
- to my dear HP fan mother who came up with some useful pieces of advice (complaining all along that I should have written this story in Hungarian so that she'd understand it more easily.) Thanks for having been such a willing victim, mom! You're great!
Feedback (nice reviews and constructive criticism) is welcome, but flames and howlers will be directly forwarded to my country dragon, the Hungarian Horntail!
THE GREATEST SCANDAL OF HOGWARTS HISTORY
An extraordinary Potions class
It was a warm and sunny November day, which was strange, since November in Great Britain never used to be warm and sunny. This day must have been an exception.
The birds were singing a delighted concert in the trees, as if wanting to thank God for having given them such a beautiful day before winter came.
Everyone in the whole country was sure that this was a special day…even pupils of Hogwarts were sure that 6th November was no ordinary day, though they couldn't explain why. There was something in the air – a feeling that strange things were about to happen. No one had any idea what to expect, whether the imminent events were bad or good, but no one really cared. They were just happy to have an opportunity to walk around the gardens, sit down and enjoy the warm sunshine - and of course - to play Quidditch without the rain and wind constantly soaking and buffeting them.
Harry Potter was in a much better mood than he had been during the previous one and half month. He had every reason to feel happy: all circumstances for playing his favourite game were given: nice weather, modern broomsticks and a terrific team. Two years earlier – in his fifth year at Hogwarts – he became the captain of the Gryffindor team and since then they had always managed to beat the damned Slytherins. Beating that team had always been a delight for Harry, but now that Draco had become the captain of the Slytherins, (and a prefect, too) beating them made Harry even happier. Way too happy.
* * * * *
After lunch he, Ron and Hermione had Charms class. Then Hermione went to the library – what a surprise – and the two boys had to attend a very boring Divination class with Professor Trelawney.
Strangely this year the old professor hadn't told Harry any predictions about the terrible torments and dire death he was about to suffer – not yet, anyway. But all is not lost that is delayed…
As Ron was trying to figure out what the heck that pink butterfly eating a banana in his magic crystal could mean, Trelawney spoke up: "Next week our class will be cancelled because I will have a terrible headache. For the next lesson – in two weeks - I want you all to write an essay. Mr. Weasley, the title of yours has to be 'How I will remove my freckles in exactly three years from now', Ms. Patil, yours is 'What tragedies will my breaking a mirror cause?', Mr. Potter, your title is 'How will He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named kill me'. Good work to everyone, class dismissed."
As the students left the room, Sybill called after Harry: "Potter, please, stay, I'd like to have some words with you."
"I'll wait for you outside." Ron told Harry and closed the door behind him.
"Yes, Professor?" Harry turned to Trelawney. "What would you like to talk to me about?"
"I had a vision, Potter. Last night. It was about you." the professor declared in a low voice.
"Did Voldemort kill me in that vision?" Harry looked amused, especially when he saw Sybill shudder from the name 'Voldemort'. "Why do I have to write an essay on that if you already know how it'll happen?"
Trelawney didn't react upon his sarcasm. "The Saturn is in an ominous constellation with Pluto, depicting a deadly formation before Pisces. It means nothing good."
"How do you know that the bad constellation is about me?" Harry asked. "Oh, well, never mind. All bad signs are about me, aren't they?"
"Mars is very bright tonight." she replied in a dreamy tone.
Harry slapped his forehead. *No, not that again!* "Uh, do you mean that I'm going to turn into a centaur? Gee, too bad…"
"No centaur, Mr. Potter." Sybill shook her head. "Saturn's constellation with Pluto in front of Pisces indicates a birth."
"Um, who should I send a best-wishes card? Who is gonna have a baby?" he grinned, being sure that Trelawney was out of her mind again – as usual.
The professor didn't answer, though. She only smiled. A bitter smile it was.
"I can't tell you any more. I only wanted to advise you to be prepared for strange things will happen… dark things."
*Sure, dark.* he smirked. "I'll keep my eyes open, Professor. Promise." he nodded and was happy to be free from this crazy hag.
* * * * *
"Wow, what a nice title she picked for you." Ron frowned as they walked down the corridor. "I hope you don't take her seriously."
Harry shrugged. "She's just a silly old rook and I never cared about her predictions, you know that." he decided not to tell Ron anything about Sybill's vision. It wasn't rational, anyway.
"Almost never." Ron reminded him. "Once, after your exam at the end of the third year, you were in firm belief that she actually had a REAL vision. And, if my memory serves me well, she really managed to foretell that Scabbers, uh, Wormtail, would rejoin You-Know-Who, and You-Know-Who would be resurrected." he jumped as Mrs. Norris crossed their way. "That damned cat, I almost tripped over her!" Ron shouted. "And she managed to get away again! Oh, Harry, if only I had an opportunity to kick her!"
"Who did you want to kick?" a very angry voice of Argus Filch cut in from behind them.
The boys exchanged a quick glance, then Ron yelled: "Run!"
"Come back you no-good swindlers!" the caretaker shouted after them. "I'll get you, I'll get you, I swear, and you'll regret that you ever took the Hogwarts Express! Come back, you…"
But the two boys soon got out of earshot, chortling and calling Argus names that would have made Hermione scowl at them like Percy.
Her arms packed with heavy books, Hermione came out of the library, giving Harry and Ron a questioning look as they ran down the stairs, still chuckling. "What's so funny, guys? I would also like to laugh."
"Nothing… nothing…" Ron giggled, imagining Filch getting apoplectic with rage then tripping over his own cat.
"Harry?" the girl turned away from Ron, clearly waiting for an explanation from the other boy.
"Uh, Herm, well…" Harry also burst out laughing. "Sorry, I… can't… tell…"
Hermione shook her head in disbelief. "You boys are so childish." she said with disgust. "Are you two ever going to grow up?"
"Hey, Herm, it's not us being childish, but you being too strict." Ron commented. "Relax a bit!"
"Relax? Are you crazy?" she retorted. "We are going to have our final exams this school year, and you want me to relax? You know there's nothing more important for me than my studies and as a prefect I have to set an example for the others."
"Ron is right, Hermi." Harry advised. "We still have seven months before the exams, and you're already studying for them."
"That's because I don't want to fail. If you want to repeat this year and give Malfoy another opportunity to laugh at you, then do so. But I'm going to study." she declared and left the boys in front of the library.
"This girl could do with a good kiss, I'm telling you." Ron said. "It would help her forget a bit about those silly books."
"And you'd be the brave knight who'll devote his life to the noble mission of making her relax, I presume?"
"Well…" Ron blushed. "Um, why not?"
Harry grinned at him. "Yeah, why not?"
"Have you ever kissed a girl? I mean, on the lips?"
Now it was Harry's turn to turn red.
"That means a yes." Ron stated.
"And? What if it does?" Harry shrugged.
"Who was it?"
"Who was who?"
"The girl you kissed."
"Non of your business." Harry replied, clearly avoiding Ron's glance.
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Wow. The great Harry Potter has been keeping a secret from his best friend. That must be a serious one, pal."
"Listen, Ron, please, don't get mad at me, but I… cannot tell you."
"Oh, Harry, don't tell me that it was Pansy Parkinson!" the red headed boy shouted. "Please! Not her! Not her!"
"Who the hell told you that it was Pansy?" Harry started to feel embarrassed. "Of course it wasn't her. I'd never kiss a slimy Slytherin."
"What a relief!" Ron sighed. "C'mon, we've got to go to Potions."
Harry gave out a voice that sounded like gagging.
* * * * *
The Potion class was no better than all the others before – Snape decided to teach them a very tricky attraction-potion. Not that he'd ever use it – he didn't want anyone to like him, and didn't like anyone either. Well, maybe Draco, but he really was the only student he liked a bit. His less-favourite students were Harry and Neville. He hated Harry for being the son of his old enemy, James Potter – and he despised Neville for being so clumsy and making potions go wrong all the time.
This lesson was really no different from the others: Snape praised Draco for being the first to be ready with his potion, gave Harry and Ron disgusted looks, told Hermione that she was an unbearable smart-aleck and grumbled at Neville when he put four toad legs into his potion instead of three, making it explode with a loud bang, soaking some pupils with sticky green slime. Draco, who stood the closest to Neville's cauldron, began to scream as a branch full of pink flowers started to grow out of his left ear. Crabbe and Goyle couldn't help laughing, but when Draco gave them a 'I'm-gonna-transform-you-two-into-blast-ended-skrewts'-stare, they stopped chortling.
"Crabbe, take him up to Madame Pomfrey." Snape instructed. "And hurry back!"
Crabbe helped Draco get to the hospital wing, where Madame Pomfrey sawed the branch out of Malfoy's ear.
"Aren't you glad to have had an opportunity to see Mr. Malfoy like that, Potter?" Snape turned to Harry, who tried to hide his amusement by looking seriously occupied with stirring the khaki juice in his cauldron.
"I asked you something, Potter!" Snape raised his voice.
Harry looked up, bewildered. "Sorry, professor. I guess I was too occupied with working on my potion."
"So, you wanted it to be perfect, didn't you, Potter?" Snape sneered. "Then maybe we should try it on you."
"On me?" Harry blanched.
"Yeeees, on youuuuu." the professor replied with a wicked grin. "You drink it, then close your eyes until the little stars blurring your vision disappear, then open your eyes, and you'll be extremely attracted to the first being you catch a glimpse of. It's so simple."
"That's cruel." Parvati whispered to Lavender, who nodded. "But I hope it'll be me he sees for the first time."
"No, it's me he has to see!" Lavender whispered back, and they both started to giggle.
*Girls!* Ron sighed, not hearing what they were talking about, but having a good idea of what it might have been.
"Drink the potion, Potter." Snape instructed.
Harry felt a lump form in his throat. He won't be able to swallow that goo, he kept telling himself.
"Now!" the professor shouted, "Or I'll take fifty points from Gryffindor. Consider it, Potter."
Harry took a small glass, filled it with the khaki juice and brought it to his mouth, his right hand trembling.
"Watch out, Potter, you are spilling the whole potion on the floor!" Snape grumbled.
Harry decided that he wouldn't give Snape the pleasure of taking fifty points from his house, so he swallowed the fluid in one gulp.
In the next instant, his eyes were forced to shut, and millions of little stars started to attack him from all directions. They hit him then bounced back from him, gradually disappearing. He was too much in a trance to hear the door creak as Crabbe entered. He felt incredibly dizzy and couldn't sustain his weight, so he fell.
He didn't move for at least two minutes, waiting for the last star to disappear, then slowly opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was a pair of yellowish eyes. He blinked, trying to get a clearer picture of the world around him – or rather of those beautiful yellow eyes.
He sat up, rubbed his eyes - one of the little stars must have stolen his glasses – and realised that the creature he saw was non other than Mrs. Norris.
"Pussy-cat!" he yelled and scooped up the animal, grabbing her so close that she almost suffocated. "Cute little one, kitty, kitty, kitty…" he cooed to the horror-stricken cat who had never been petted like this by anyone – not even by her owner, Filch.
"He's gone crazy." Lavender muttered.
"Not crazy, just crazy in love with the cat." Parvati explained. "I just don't understand how that fur-ball got into here."
"Crabbe opened the door shortly after Harry drank the potion." Hermione said matter-of-factly. She tried to remain cool and indifferent, but her pale complexion revealed how upset she was.
"Little catty, I love you, catty." Harry kept stroking the unfortunate animal, cradling her in his arms. "Wanna drink some milk, sweet catty?"
Ron, Neville and the others didn't know what to say. The scene would have been particularly funny, had it not been about Harry. Even the Slytherins forgot to laugh.
"Enough is enough!" Hermione shouted at last, turning to the teacher who wasn't even trying to hide his victorious smile. "Professor, this time you've overstepped the mark! Make an antidote right now!"
"Are you threatening me, Ms. Granger?" Snape asked, his smile fading a bit.
"Yes, I am!" she yelled at the professor. "And if you don't, I'll go and tell Professor Dumbledore that you are making fools of your students during your class! And I'll tell him that you browbeat Harry into doing this! I'll tell him that you blackmailed poor Harry! Now, will you make a counter potion or should I go to the headmaster?"
"Very clever, Ms. Granger." Snape gritted his teeth. He hated it when his students were smarter than him.
"Go to sleep, go to sleep, close you big yellow eyes, la-la-la-la, la-la-la…" Harry sang a lullaby to the poor kitty, who seemed to be very nervous.
"Stop that, pal, please!" Ron begged his friend, but Harry didn't pay attention to him; he was very occupied with trying to lull Mrs. Norris into sleep. He was convinced that the poor kitty was in bad shape and needed some caring. He had no idea that it was exactly HIS caring that made the unfortunate cat get into such a bad shape.
* * * * *
Half an hour later the students left Snape's room, discussing the events that had just taken place. Some of the Slytherins started to laugh and pointed their fingers at Harry, who was still quite dazed and had no idea what happened to him. Ron and Hermione supported him to the portrait of the Fat Lady.
"Oh, my, Harry, son, you look terrible!" the Fat Lady clasped her hands. "What happened to him?" she asked from the other two.
"Snape." Hermione and Ron replied in chorus.
The Fat Lady just nodded, totally aware that 'Snape' meant nothing good – especially not for Harry Potter.
"Skunk skull." Ron said, and the portrait hole opened. He and Hermione somehow managed to drag Harry into the room.
"I just hope that people won't be speaking about this too much." the girl said. "It would be very unpleasant for Harry."
"Well, they surely can't have got to know it yet." Ron replied. "Anyway, I don't think that the Gryffindors from our class would want to make a fun of him. But I can't say the same for the Slytherins. I fear that tomorrow the whole school will be laughing at Harry."
"Poor Harry." Hermione sighed. "He doesn't deserve it."
"Snape has never been just with him. You know how much he hates him."
"Who… hates… who?" Harry mumbled, not being able to comprehend their words.
"No one." Hermione answered. "C'mon, Harry, let's get you into bed."
"Nooo… promised… Hagrid…" the boy muttered, but as his friends tossed him onto his bed, where he fell asleep immediately.
"What was he saying?" the girl wondered.
"He promised to visit Hagrid tonight." Ron said. "Hagrid wants to show him something… interesting."
"Interesting?" she raised an eyebrow. "It depends on your point of view what you regard as interesting. The skrewts didn't belong to things I'd call interesting."
"Same here." a voice came from their back. It was Neville, holding Harry's glasses. "I found this on the floor of the dungeon when I was cleaning it up."
"Oh, Snape made you scrub the whole dungeon, didn't he?" Ron asked.
"Yeah, he did." Longbottom replied. "Look at my hands: they're red and sore! Oh, I hate that guy so much!"
"Me too!" declared Ron and Hermione in unison, and even the dozing Harry added something like: 'You have no idea how much.'
* * * * *
Shortly after they made sure that Harry was in a deep slumber, the three of them decided to play some exploding snap in the common room. As they got there, they immediately realised that people were discussing something in groups of threes and fours.
"Oh, no." Hermione sighed. "They already know it. They won't leave Harry in peace, that's for sure!"
"Had I not been Harry's best friend, I also wouldn't leave him in peace." Ron smirked.
"But Ron!" the girl shouted indignantly. "How could you…?"
"I said I'd do so if I weren't his best friend." Ron reminded her. "Anyway, you have to admit that it was pretty funny: Harry enamoured with a cat! It was nearly as funny as Draco, the bouncing ferret."
Neville nodded his agreement.
Hermione gave both boys a despising look and joined Lavender and Parvati who were eagerly talking about something with two sixth-years.
"…and how did it happen?" Lavender asked Susan Cunningham.
*If it is Lavender who asks and not Susan, then they can't be talking about Harry's case.* Hermione told herself.
"Hi, Herm, have you heard the news?" Parvati asked her.
"What news? Did Draco turn into a blooming tree?"
"Nay." Lavender giggled, "Though it'd be fun, wouldn't it, girls?"
"Sure." Susan laughed too. "But we were talking about Ginny."
"Why? What's happened to her?" Hermione asked.
"She fainted during Transfiguration." Parvati answered. "McGonagall turned a book into a scorpion, and everyone jumped on the desks to be safe from it. Everyone, but Ginny, since she lost consciousness when she saw the scorpion."
"And? Why is this such big news?" Hermione wondered. "Scorpions are really scary. I can understand her predicament."
"Sure, because you don't know what we know… er, what Susan knows." Lavender grinned. "There's something weird about Ginny."
"Yeah. She's been sick for the last two weeks." Susan said. "I wasn't supposed to tell it to anyone, but after she fainted, it became common-knowledge. Now everyone is guessing what the problem with her is."
"And you know it?" Hermione asked the girls.
"I don't know. Nor does Parvati." Lavender shrugged. "Susan just wouldn't tell us." her voice sounded disappointed. "She is such an evil witch! She's aware that we're all dying to know, but she's keeping it from us!"
"I just hope that it isn't something serious, or Rita Skeeter will surely know about it, and tomorrow everyone will be reading the total opposite of the truth in the Daily Prophet."
"She'd better write about Ginny's mysterious illness rather than about Harry's case, though." Lavender commented.
"True." Parvati nodded.
"Harry's case?" Susan looked confused. "What happened to Harry?"
"Nothing." Hermione, Lavender and Parvati replied in unison.
"Nothing?" Susan frowned.
"Nothing you won't know about by this time tomorrow." Lavender said. "Poor Harry."
"Yeah. Especially if Rita writes an editorial about it… in her usual endearing style." Hermione sighed.
"Exactly. By the way, Herm, why did you let her go after you caught her and put her into that bottle? The wizard world would be better off without her."
"That's true." Hermione admitted. "But I don't have the right to encroach on anyone's freedom… not for a long time, anyway."
"That's a pity." Parvati pouted. "Rita would have looked cool in a bug collection… between a butterfly and a dragon-fly."
"But she still wouldn't look as good as Draco as a ferret." Ron cut in.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "That's his mania: Draco as a bouncing ferret."
"But Draco as a blooming tree must also be terrific, don't you think?" Parvati added.
"Only if some wood-worms would move into him." Ron replied, and all of them started to laugh.
* * * * *
Soon everyone went down to have dinner. The Rawenclaws and Hufflepuffs didn't seem to have heard about either Harry's or Ginny's case. Some Slytherins were whispering and chuckling, though; but when they met Draco's stern look, their smiles faded from their faces. Draco wasn't sure whether they were laughing at him or at Harry.
* * * * *
McGonagall wasn't present at dinner. She went to Madame Pomfrey to find out what Ginny's problem was.
As she entered the infirmary, she caught a glimpse of a very upset Madame Pomfrey, who was nervously pacing the room, her lips moving. She was clearly talking to herself.
"Poppy, are you all right?" McGonagall asked. "You look nervous. What happened?"
"Come, Minerva, let's go into my room. She mustn't hear us." she pointed at the still sleeping Ginny and led McGonagall into the adjoining chamber and closed the door.
"For all wizards and witches, Poppy, I've never seen you like this!" Minerva stated. "What's gotten into you?"
"Not into me. Into Ginny Weasley." the other woman said.
"What is with her? Have you examined her?" Pomfrey nodded. "And???"
"I've made a little research after I examined her." Pomfrey's voice was trembling. "I looked into several books, Hogwarts, a History included, but I couldn't find another case like this in the thousand year history of the school. Terrible… so terrible… what a scandal… how are we going to deal with this?"
"Poppy." McGonagall cut in. "I still don't have the slightest idea what you are talking about. Is Ginny's illness contagious? Is she to be separated from the other students? Does she need extra herbs that can only be found in South-America?"
Pomfrey shook her head.
"Then? What is it? Fire away!"
"Ginny Weasley… well… she's… she's…"
"She is… going to have a baby."
A/N 2: I hope I managed to wake your interest – this is only the beginning - it will get much more exciting later on, I promise! Chapter two will be up soon, revealing the paternity of Ginny's child, almost giving poor McGonagall a heart attack.