Disclaimer: Harry Potter and Company are wholly owned by J.K. Rowling et. al. I am making no profit from their work. No ferrets were harmed in the writing of this fic. The author takes no responsibility for any psyches harmed in the reading of this fic.
A\N – This is the result of a challenge by pstibbons over at Portkey.
The basic gist: Hermione gets two Harry's. One's from "the future," one's from the present, sixth year AU. It's a smidge crack-tastic, okay, it's very crack-tastic. Oddly enough after 11,000 odd words, I never found an appropriate place to drop in the quotes. Guess I'll leave that for further chapters.
Warning: There's a secondary relationship request in the challenge, SS/NT/RL. There's a possibility of slash there, as well as HarryxHarry slash (which is just...) but no matter how I decide to go, there won't be anything terribly explicit. No slash in this chapter, though, your delicate eyes are safe.
Characters are mockingly OOC exaggerations of HBP personality shifts until I deem otherwise.
June 25st, 2004 – Ministry of Magic
It all boiled down to that damn veil again. He shook his head, clearing away the cobwebs of grief that lingered just behind his eyes. 'Too damn much,' Harry thought, 'this life has been too damn much.' He sat on the obsidian pedestal and listened to the chorus of voices beckoning to him from behind the ethereal cloth. He felt his chest tighten when he heard her voice softly weeping in the chorus. Unwillingly, his mind ripped itself back three hours.
"HERMIONE!" Harry screamed as he ran forward, desperately fighting the chilling power flowing from the Quylopthic dementor. The creature had somehow broken free of the bindings that the Death Eater McKinsey placed on it and it happily began wreaking havoc in the ministry building. Harry raced down the magically lengthened hallway, barely avoiding the soulless bodies strewn across the floor. The sight of Hermione hanging limply in the creatures scabrous tentacles caused terror to lance through Harry's fog of tragic memories. "EXPECTO PATRONUM," he roared. A giant golden otter flew from the tip of his wand, slamming into the bloated beast. Distantly, he noted Hermione's own silver otter uselessly flailing against the dementor. Shrieking, the creature dropped Hermione and lashed its pseudopods against the attacking patronus. With the inevitability of time, the otter rent pieces from the dementor's flesh until it faded into the ether with a gibbering moan, releasing an untold number of shining silver spheres that vanished mournfully in the still hallway. Harry dashed to Hermione's side. He scooped her into his arms and screamed in rage and pain. Her once brilliant brown eyes were now flat puddles of mud.
Bringing himself back from the memories, Harry nodded once. 'There's no future left for me. Not anymore. Not even death holds promise. I've saved this world, it owes me. Who cares if I'm going the one who ends it?' Harry looked down at the small golden hourglass in his hand. 'Hermione made this. I guess its fitting.' He flung the trinket with maddened rage into the top of the portal, shattering it. As the sands flickered down in a cascading sheet coloring the veil with motes of power, the words "TEMPUS NIHILUM" tore from Harry's throat. Harry supposed he heard screams and rumbles, but his mind was filled with cascading power and brilliant lights as he flung himself into the prismatic wall.
June 25th, 1996 – Hogwarts, Headmaster's office.
Albus Dumbledore looked in the mirror placed to the side of his office. A tired, broken old man stared back at him. Even the soft warbling croon of his companion Fawkes couldn't ease the cumbersome guilt that stooped his shoulders. 'This must be what Churchill felt,' Dumbledore thought, 'when he wept in the emptied village. I have succeeded, the poor boy has finally lost hope. Miss. Granger's own hormonal stupidity will ensure that Harry won't find enough happiness to cling to life, but the bond he shares with his friends will ensure he will follow through until the final act. Oh Harry, my boy, such a dreadful thing to do to such a wonderful child. Such a terrible, terrible thing.'
Albus glanced at a small silvery do-dad whirling happily on a shelf beside his desk. Above it a small crystal sphere floated, filled with an aching purple light. He let out a shuddering sigh. 'He's broken. Now all that is needed is a fatherly touch and a snitch for the boy to follow. Once I lead him to the path, he will follow it until the end. Such faith and loyalty, such incredible potential. It breaks my heart that the boy must die. Damn you Tom, he will be your last victim.' A solitary tear wandered down his cheek.
The phoenix's warble transformed into a series of gagging hiccups. Albus looked up at his friend with great concern only to be blasted into the wall as the bird let loose a horrific multi-toned wail. The headmaster stared in stark horror as his beloved familiar burst into great gouts of sickly green and black flames while the wrenching screams of a thousand damned voices pulsed from the fire. With a shrill hiss the flames sucked into a singularity and all sound vanished. A cadaverous chick covered in obsidian scales emerged from Fawkes' ashes. The chick glanced at the headmaster and with a horrid screech and baleful glare vanished in a burst of green and black flame. He stared blankly at the twisted remains of his familiar's golden perch. 'My gods,' Albus thought, 'what just happened?'
June 25th 1996 – Diagon Alley
Harry smiled happily as he took in the undamaged buildings around him. Although the streets were fairly empty, and most people dashed quickly from destination to destination, Harry was unaffected by the clinging fear that gripped most around him. Whistling a jaunty little tune, he meandered over to Florish and Blott's to find a copy of The Daily Profit. Glancing at the date, his grin transformed into a great smile. 'I did it, I'm back. She's alive, hell, almost all of them are.' His face fell as he realized he was still too late to save Sirius. 'Damn. Can't have everything. Hermione's still got her soul, though, that's what matters. Well, that and time, the universe, and everything didn't spontaneously implode into a great Arithmetic equation. I think that's what Hermione said would happen if I used that spell. Well, I'm pretty sure it didn't, I don't feel particularly mathematical at the moment. I should look up Luna, I'm sure she'd know if I was a nasty bit of floating calculus. On the other hand, scratch that thought. I don't think I want to know. Alright, now what? I've managed to do the impossible. Great, nothing new there. So what do I do with myself now. It's not like I can walk up to the Ministry and just ask for a job. I mean, who's going to hire some strange mysterious and possibly dangerous schlub with no credentials and reliability. Seriously, who would be so stupid and desperate?' Harry's train of thought was broken by the chatter of two passing teenagers.
"Hey, who do you think is going to be our new DADA professor this year?"
"Dunno, mate, but it can't be any worse than Umbridge."
Harry broke out into mad cackles, throwing his head back with glee. He laughed uncontrollably, tears flowing freely, shoulders heaving. The pair of teenagers shared a frightened glance. One looked to the other and said, "A galleon says he's it." The second teen shook his head. "Sucker bet there, mate. Sucker bet."
June 25th 1996 – Hogwarts, Headmaster's office.
"Albus, I have no bloody clue what this means! The Dark Lord has said nothing!"
"Severus, please, you must find out what this means. This is more important than your petty dream to teach…" Albus was cut off by a knock at the door. "Yes? Enter!"
McGonagall swung open the door. "Albus, there is a man here to see you about the DADA position that still hasn't been filled."
Albus raised his eyebrows. "Really? How terribly convenient. By all means, send him in." His eyebrows rose higher as he took in the stranger. Dumbledore noticed that the stranger wasn't a tall man, barely cresting five foot seven, but he carried himself with a casual confidence that radiated authority. It wasn't the auror's robes that the stranger wore, even though they looked like they'd seen a few fights, and recently. It wasn't the stranger's hair, raven and disheveled. No, it was the intensity of the green eyes that looked straight through him behind steel wire-frame glasses that shocked Dumbledore the most. Such intense and familiar green eyes, eyes that carried grave and hidden burdens. The headmaster noticed that Severus, for some reason, immediately detested the man. He shrugged off his spy's emotional foibles and addressed the newcomer. "Welcome, welcome! We were just discussing our need for a new DADA professor. What is your name, young man?"
"Ha…" Harry broke off into a quick cough to cover his mistake. 'Merlin! This is why I don't do undercover work,' he thought to himself before answering, "Sorry, Warbling Cockernickle in the throat." Harry ignored their confused looks. 'Man, I've spent way too much time with Luna down in the D.O.M.,' he thought, internally chuckling at his flimsy excuse. "Larry Cotter," he continued cheerfully, "pleased to meet you." Harry reached over to shake the headmaster's hand. 'Oh wow. Larry Cotter. Hermione'd be so proud,' he thought wryly, 'Yeah, the hat was right, Slytherin all the way.' Surprisingly, the headmaster didn't bat an eye at the pathetically transparent psuedonym.
"Well, Mr. Cotter," Dumbledore said congenially, "what qualifications do you have to teach such an important subject matter?"
"I'm your only applicant," Harry replied with a wink and a smile.
"Hmm, fine qualifications indeed." The headmaster smiled while his eyes twinkled merrily. "Still, I think you'll have to do better than that," he continued in a mock severe tone.
"Alright, how about this?" Harry asked before waving his wand in a complex series of gestures while sub-vocalizing Hindi. Severus gasped in shock and grabbed his left arm. Hand trembling, Snape slowly moved his left sleeve up his forearm. He almost fainted at the sight of nothing but pasty white flesh.
"How… how did you…" Snape stuttered.
"I'm just that good." Harry said, while thinking, 'Well, Hermione's just that good.' He smiled confidently at his old headmaster. "So, Headmaster Dumbledore, do I have the job?"
Albus nodded, jaw open, utterly flabbergasted.
Harry walked over and draped his arm over Snape's shoulder. He grinned happily at his new colleague. "Great! So, where's the professor's quarters? I'm kind of in-between flats at the moment."
June 26th, 1996 – Hogwarts
Harry whistled happily as he headed towards the headmasters office. Hopefully today he'd be able to prevent one tragedy while simultaneously taking care of another problem down the line. He meandered casually up to the gargoyle hiding his destination. "Um… Lemon drops? Blood pops? Ginger mice?" The gargoyle stared at him truculently. Harry glared, and slowly pulled out his wand. Staring straight at the gargoyle, he said, "I really hate this game. How about this, if you don't move your stony arse in three seconds, the password is going to be reducto." The gargoyle almost chipped a wing in its haste to move out of the way. "I thought so." Harry said.
Harry laughed to himself as he knocked on the office door. "I thought I told the gargoyle to not allow visitors," a mumbled voice griped from inside.
Harry grinned. "Sorry about that boss, old stony and I came to an agreement."
"I probably don't want to know," Albus' weary voice answered. "Well, come in then."
Harry opened the door and stepped into the office. He smiled as he noticed Dumbledore pacing his office. "Something bothering you, Albus?"
Dumbledore turned and favored Harry with a jaundiced eye. "Many things are bothering me Larry," he said, "many deep and troubling things. Perhaps you would like to shed some light on them?"
"Sure," Harry said with a grin, walking into the office and placing his arm around Albus' shoulder. He turned his head and said in a conspiratorial whisper, "But first you are going to have to promise me something."
"Oh?" Albus inquired with raised eyebrows, taken back by his new employee's odd mannerisms.
Harry moved in and whispered, "don't be an idiot and go after the Gaunt family ring." He stood back to admire his handiwork.
Albus stared at Harry, jaw flapping wildly. "How did you URK!" The headmaster's eyes widened in pain as his testicles noted the unwelcome presence of Harry's dragon-hide boot. Harry grinned at the headmaster's comically bugged-out eyes.
"Stupefy" Harry smile grew wider watching the headmaster fall prone. He reached down and plucked the Elder Wand from Dumbledore's limp grasp. "Hey there mate, it's been a long time, hasn't it." Harry felt the familiar pulse of magic caused by the wand's acceptance of a new master. Harry perched atop the headmaster's desk and pointed his new wand at Dumbledore. "Enervate."
Dumbledore woke with a groan.
"You know you deserved that, right Albus?" Harry quipped.
The headmaster glared at him, but didn't attempt to stand. "How can you say that, boy?"
Harry shook his head and clucked in disapproval. "Oh, I dunno, maybe this will refresh your mind: Harry Potter is a horcrux."
The headmaster stared at the newcomer, jaw flopping like a carp out of water.
Harry tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Also, let's not forget the Resurrection Stone. That one is important."
"How… how did you…" The headmasters stuttered for a bit, and then relaxed. "You can't do this. Ylendra's First Law of Time-travel prohibits time-line interference. I'm sorry son, whoever you are, but you must realize your actions won't matter."
Harry pursed his lips and looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling. "Hmmm… yes, that would be true, if in fact the future that I came from had not been rendered into a pan-dimensional arithmetic algorithm through a temporal-magical wave induction ritual occurring at an eternity breach," he said casually, as if discussing the Cannon's latest losing season. Well, perhaps as casually as any person not named Ron Weasley, that is.
Dumbledore gaped again. 'He seems to do that a lot lately,' Harry mused. "Are you mad?!" Albus exclaimed. "Do you have any idea what you have done, what you risked doing?"
Harry shook his head. "Nope," he answered cheerfully. "Never did understand what the hell she was talking about," he pondered ruefully before shrugging. "Doesn't matter, though; it worked."
"How can you be so sure?" Dumbledore asked severely.
Harry shrugged. "I'm not an abstract mathematical construct meandering through the deific ether." He paused thoughtfully before adding, "That and the universe didn't implode."
Albus nodded thoughtfully before shrugging. "Well, I suppose that would suffice." He turned back towards Harry, his usually grandfather smile back in place. "So, Mr. Cotter, what is your real name?"
It was Harry's turn to gape. He chuckled while shaking his head slowly. "Man, most wizards really do suck at logic, don't they?"
"Now is not the time for insults, Larry," Albus reprimanded.
"Albus," Harry chided, "if there is one thing I've learned in my lifetime; There's always time for insults." He paused dramatically. "Um… lemme think... Green eyes…. Messy black hair…. Curse scar on forehead…"
Dumbledore stared blankly.
Harry threw his hands up in disgust. "I give up!" He extended his hand in mock greetings. "Hello, I'm Harry Potter, the new DADA professor. Considering my qualifications, can I have a raise?" He asked with a jaunty grin.
For the first time in over a hundred and twenty-five years, the headmaster fainted. 'He took that surprisingly well,' Harry thought, twirling his new wand between his fingers. 'Now when he wakes up maybe he'll finally explain exactly what it is about Aberforth and goats.'
June 27th, 1996 – Dursley residence.
Harry stared out the window, wallowing in angst. 'Sirius…' he thought.
June 27th, 1996 – Granger residence.
Hermione glanced out the window, thinking about her two best friends. 'I wonder what Ron and Harry are doing right now? I bet Harry is just staring out the window, wallowing in angst, thinking about Sirius. Poor Harry, I hope his relatives are treating him better this summer than the last. I wonder what Ron's doing right now? Hmmm… I bet he's de-gnoming the garden… with his shirt off… droplets of sweat tricking down his back… glistening in the mid-day sun…'
July 14st, 1996 – Dursley residence.
Harry stared out the window, more than a little worried. It had been more than two weeks, and he hadn't received a single owl from anybody. 'I guess my friends learned their lesson at the Ministry. I guess they don't want to talk to me anymore. I can't blame them. Still, I miss them, any of them. Maybe Remus will yell at me for killing Sirius now. I better send him his letter.'
Harry took out his quill and parchment, and wrote a simple letter.
I'm not fine.
'I guess that should start the conversation,' Harry thought. He rolled up the parchment, sealed and addressed it to Remus, and then tied it to Hedwig's leg. "Take this to Remus, girl," Harry said, handing the snowy owl a treat. He opened his window and let his only friend in the house fly off. 'Well, for better or worse, at least I'll have some company. Silence from the Dursley's is nice and all, but really I could use somebody to talk to.'
July 14th, 1996 – Order headquarters.
Remus worriedly looked at Dumbledore. "So, now we have to search Merlin-knows-where for some locket that Dung pawned off?" Albus nodded sadly. "Look, what about Harry?" Remus pointed to Hedwig. "I'm worried about him, his letters have been rather brief and it's not like him. After losing Sirius…"
Dumbledore gave Remus a grandfatherly smile. "Don't worry about Harry. You take care of finding the locket, and I'll make sure the boy is alright."
Remus favored Dumbledore with a dubious expression.
Albus returned Remus' expression with his own stern look. "Remus, finding the locket is of the utmost importance. I'll make certain Harry is well looked after."
Remus reluctantly nodded. "Okay, Albus, I trust you. I'll go find that locket."
Albus gave Remus a grandfatherly smile as the lycanthrope flooed away. He looked at Hedwig. "Well girl, I'll take that letter." With a flourish he untied the scroll from the offered limb. "Return to Harry girl, I'll read this when I return to my office." Hedwig hooted at him imperiously, and flew out the open window. Albus returned to the Headmaster's office through the floo. Before he had a chance to brush off the last ember, Cornelius Fudge's head appeared in the fireplace.
Setting the scroll down on his desk, Albus turned and addressed the Minister. "Cornelius, how good to see you," Dumbledore said warmly.
Behind him, the scroll rolled away from its precarious position on the headmaster's desk and fell into a rubbish bin located beside the desk. Neither Albus nor Fudge heard the soft contented belch as the bin digested the unread missive.
July 17th, 1996 – Dursley residence.
Harry stared out the window, rather upset. Remus hadn't replied back, and nobody else had sent him anything. For a moment, he was tempted to use magic, just to make sure that the Ministry was still around. He quickly dismissed the idea as tragically stupid. 'Alright,' he thought, 'maybe if I don't send anything for a few days...'
July 31st, 1996 – Order Headquarters.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny were having a grand old time at Grimmauld Place. Unbeknownst to the teens, the twins' newest inventions, Inebriating Inkpots and Vapid Vapors, were merrily spewing hundred-proof vapors throughout the grungy mansion. Even the painting of Mrs. Black had gone from screaming obscenities about mudbloods and blood traitors to singing bawdy tavern songs from the 1800's and extolling the virtues of a properly wielded wand. All of the adults, even Molly Weasley, had vanished on some super secret mission the night before, and hadn't returned yet. The teens, aided and abetted by inhaleable hooch, busied themselves with raiding the wine-closet and further stirring up mischief. Even staid Hermione mischievously misspelled a word or two on her Arithmancy homework. The teens were having a grand time indeed, excepting for a niggling notion that they were forgetting something important. The feeling vanished once the twins figured out how to open the liquor cabinet.
To Ginny's great dismay, Ron quickly lost everything in Strip Poker. Hermione huffed and chided them with a slurred lecture, but she certainly didn't look away.
July 31st, 1996 – Dursley residence.
'Happy bloody birthday to me,' Harry thought. 'It's almost midnight, and nothing. I guess I really buggered everything up.' A stray tear escaped his eye only to be ferociously rubbed away. 'Sod this, if I don't hear anything by tomorrow, I'm taking the Knight Bus and finding out. I know I was wrong, I know I'm a horrible person, but I really need some company. Maybe Molly will yell at me or something. Merlin knows I deserve it.'
August 1st, 1996 – Privet Drive.
'Shouldn't they have taken the boy by now?' Moody thought to himself grumpily. 'Bugger. Orders are orders. Keep 'em there, keep 'em in the house no matter what. Keep 'em safe. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!' Dissatisfied but loyal, Moody let his magic eye scan the surroundings. 'Don't worry Albus; I'll keep the lad behind those wards.'
August 1st, 1996 – Dursley residence.
Harry crept carefully out of the house as soon as his relatives went to bed. Sneaking down the stairs, careful to skip the ones that squeaked, he cautiously made his way out to the door. 'Here goes nothing.' Covering himself with his invisibility cloak, Harry carefully slunk out of the back door and made his way down Privet drive. Halfway down the street, Harry noticed a flash of red and everything went black.
August 2nd, 1996 – Dursley residence.
Harry woke up in his bed with a splitting headache. Blearily, he recognized his room as the memories returned. 'Well, I guess that means it wasn't a Death Eater attack. Stunned and caged without even a "How do you do." I guess this means that Dumbledore hates me too. I shouldn't be surprised. Everybody else does.' Harry shut his eyes, feeling numbness fill him.
Vaguely, he had the notion to try his hand at poetry.
Or cut himself, just so he could feel.
Or dress up in tight black girl-pants and a fishnet shirt, wear eyeliner, and maybe get a piercing or two.
He slapped himself, hard.
Day before classes start, 1996 – Hogwarts express
Harry sat in the train compartment staring blankly out the window. He was also wallowing in angst. Nobody picked him up. His relatives dropped him off at the platform and left without a word. Nobody had spoken to him for the entire summer. He looked around, but he couldn't see the Weasley family. Shrugging dejectedly, Harry slumped onto the train and tried to find a compartment. He quickly located his friends by their screaming voices. Harry slunk in and took a seat without either of the pair noticing or greeting him. For the entire ride he sat with Ron and Hermione were arguing loudly beside him, the Unresolved Sexual Tension warring against Harry's Wall of Gloom like Crabbe and Goyle slap-fighting in the woods.
Some time before Ron and Hermione left for prefect duties, Luna Lovegood had stopped by the compartment; however, after assessing the sheer magnitude of the infantile emotions emanating from the door she passed by without comment. On her way to see Ginny she ran in to Malfoy, proceeding to taunt him in such an outlandish and convoluted way that Draco spent the rest of the train ride muddling about trying to figure out if he should be offended, insulted, haughty or if she'd invited Crabbe, Goyle and himself for a four-some.
Harry found himself alone in the compartment after his friends left for the prefects meeting. He couldn't even bring himself to smirk as he heard the argument continue down the hallway unabated. With only the noises of the train riding over the tracks, Harry broke.
Not once had they acknowledged his presence.
Nobody would talk to him.
Dumbledore hated him.
He was prophesied to die at the hands of a mad-man.
He was an empty shell, cast against the hard, unfeeling ground by cruel fate.
Hedwig and Crookshanks stared at Harry in abject horror. They could tell he was dangerously close to writing poetry, or worse, song lyrics. A collective shudder ruffled feathers and fur.
First Day of Classes, 1996 – Hogwarts Great Hall
Harry sat slumped at the table, marinating in self-pity. To his right was his best friend Hermione, to his left Neville. Hermione was currently huffing herself into a nice row with his best mate Ron. Ron was happily goading Hermione into greater and greater huffs from his position across the table. Neville was contemplating whether angst, in high enough concentrations, could take a liquid form, and if poking Harry hard enough with a fork would produce gouts of said liquid. He stared at the fork. It beckoned him, begging him into taking action. He tried to come up with a practical use for the liquid angst. As far as he could tell, in his limited experience, angst was a form of ephemeral bullshit. Ergo, the liquid angst a punctured Harry would leak could serve as an excellent form of fertilizer, if one did not mind dreary plants. Neville ran through his knowledge of Herbology, trying to come up with plants that could gain additional properties by becoming dreary. He was surprised out of his contemplations when the headmaster began his announcements.
"…yadda yadda yadda, etcetera, etcetera, yackity-schmackity. For the first years that translates into: Forbidden Forest bad, for reason see name. Filch is cranky, for reason see Weasley Wizarding Wheezes. Now, in finest Hogwarts tradition, I introduce the new Defense Against Dark Arts instructor, Professor Larry Cotter."
Neville stared at the man as he walked into the great hall, vaguely waving at the students. His eyes widened in recognition. 'Blimey, he looks like Harry, well minus the existential angst and general aura of gloom.'
"Additionally, I would like to introduce our returning professor, Horace Slughorn! Since our esteemed previous potions professor has decided to take a short sabbatical to pursue some very important research, Professor Slughorn will take over teaching potions." Dumbledore waited until the riotous cheering from the Gryffindor table subsided. "Professor Snape is still the head of the Syltherin house, although Slytherin students should feel free to approach Professor Slughorn for any assistance if Professor Snape is unavailable."
Ron noticed that his friend didn't participate in the riotous celebration going on at the Gryffindor table. He stared quizzically, trying to decipher Harry's mood. In the truest Ron fashion, he decided to cheer his friend up.
"Bloody Hell mate, ya look like shite. You gonna start writing poetry or sumthin' on us now?" Ron asked, snapping his fingers in front of Harry's face.
"Ronald Weasley!" Hermione chided.
"Wot? Look, I understand Harry's had a rough time of it and all, but he's gone all mopey on us." Ron shook his head in mock despair. "Harry, buddy, you're never gonna get birds if you just sit there all down and stuff."
"Ronald! How can you say that?" Hermione asked, eyes flashing.
Ron poked a finger in the air in Harry's general direction. "Why don't we test out this hypo-toe-these-is…"
"Hypothesis, Ronald!" Hermione interjected.
"Whatever." Ron replied. He leaned back and pointed vaguely at the head table. "Alright, so, take our new DADA professor. Aside from the fact that he's most likely going to try and kill Harry, is an incompetent buffoon, or a Ministry stooge, he seems pretty confident and assertive, right?" Ron waved his hand in Mr. Cotter's general direction.
She nodded. "Yes, I will agree with your assessment Ron."
Ron grinned, merrily working towards his point. "Good, now, would you or would you not say that he's the kind of fellow a bird would fancy then?"
Hermione's browed furrowed in thought as she worried her lower lip. "Well, yes. I mean, he is quite attractive." She nodded emphatically. "Incredibly handsome, even. Now that you mention it, I believe he's quite a bit better looking than Lockhart." Hermione cheeks tinged a faint pink.
Ron noticed her expression. "Hey! Hey now! Don't be going all googley eye on the new professor!" Ron reprimanded fervently. "He's evil, evil I tell you!" Satisfied that Hermione was no longer gushing about the new professor, Ron continued his dialogue. "Now, take a gander at our slumping friend here."
"Ronald!" Hermione spat.
"Hermione, really, lookit'em. Do you think he's attractive right now? Would you say he's fanciable?" Ron asked.
"…well, um no… I mean…not really, but…" Hermione dithered, unable to look Harry in the eyes.
"Exactly!" Ron said smugly, overjoyed that he managed to win an argument with Hermione. "You see mate, even our desperate and man-proof bookworm buddy doesn't find you in any way appealing."
"Ronald Bilius Weasley!" Hermione screeched, "What did you just call me?!"
Neville swore he could see the liquid angst begin to puddle under the table. Fearing for the sanctity of his dinner, he burst out, "Ron, shut the hell up! What in the bloody hell is wrong with you? Merlin Ron, when did you start channeling Malfoy?"
Ron looked at Neville cluelessly. "Wot? I'm just having a row here with Hermione like I always do." Ron blinked a few times before smacking himself on the forehead. "Oi! You're right! Thanks Neville." Neville let out a sigh of relief. Ron turned to Hermione with a contrite look. "Hermione, I didn't mean anything by calling you desperate, you know that right?" He gave her a tentative grin.
Hermione huffed a bit, but seemed content with Ron's non-apology.
Neville groaned. 'Are those two blind or malicious? I mean, with Ron it could go either way but Hermione? Is she book smart and people stupid or is she pure evil. Ah bugger, I think Harry's angst is splattering on my food now.' He tentatively took a bite of his dinner. 'Yup, tastes like bitter tears and ashes. Damn it, somebody has got to do something about Harry, or I'm going to have to eat with the bloody Slytherins.' Neville abandoned his food to sit next to Ginny. His plate sat behind like a forlorn watcher, growing cold in a cruel and lonely world.
On the other side of the great hall the Slytherin table was surprisingly silent. Draco still couldn't figure out how to take Luna up on her offer without having anything 'gay' happen. He continued working on his diagrams, but a stray schlong always seemed to wind up someplace it shouldn't.
Night before classes start, 1996 - Slytherin Common Room
Snape strode over to where Draco was feverishly working on yet another diagram. "Draco," Snape asked softly, "is there something on your mind? You know you can ask me anything."
Draco absently nodded. "Professor, is there any way a bloke can have a four-some with a chick and two other blokes without anything gay happening?"
Snape raised an eyebrow. "No."
"That's what I was afraid of." Draco sighed before returning to his drawings.
Snape put his hand comfortingly on Draco's shoulder. "You know, your mother and I are close friends from our Hogwarts years. If you ever need to talk to me about anything," he looked at Draco meaningfully, "and I mean about anything, come to my office." Snape gazed off wistfully. "I remember what it was like being young, and curious about things."
Draco paled once the implications of the potion professor's words dribbled into his mind. He promptly paled as unwanted images flashed into his mind's eye. Turning green he wrenched himself out of his chair and heaved towards the bathrooms shouting, "OkaythankyouI'vegottogonowhorp!"
Snape nodded absently, a wistful grin on his face.
Night before classes start, 1996 - Gryphindor Boys Dormitory
Harry lay sleeplessly on his bed. His mind meandered listlessly in a truely Hemmingway-esque nature: He was going to die. Alone. In the rain.
Under his bed, the dust bunnies chugged Jonestown Kool-Aid.
Neville whimpered, fearing for his sanity. If this kept up much longer, he was worried that even Ron's disgustingly bright orange Chuddley Cannons posters would fade into morose gray. 'What I wouldn't give,' Neville thought, 'for the snarling snapping time-bomb Harry of last year. Bollocks, I thought for sure Hermione'd have shagged him or something, but it looks like she's got her knickers wet for Ron. Now that she's made up her mind, or some shite like that, she's just ignoring Harry,' Neville mentally grumbled. 'Worse, Harry knows it.' He eyed the dreary drapes drooping dismally down around Harry's bed. 'Maybe I can get re-sorted into Hufflepuff.'
Night before classes start, 1996 – Headmasters office
Albus Dumbledore paced restlessly back and forth across his office. Something was eating at him, something he'd missed, and for the life of him he couldn't remember it. He froze as he heard soft muggle music. Curiously, he walked about trying to find the source, until his eyes fell upon a small crystal sphere floating listlessly above a silver doodad. The sphere was filled with a syrupy maudlin black, and The Cure wailed softly from its depths.
"Ah bugger," Dumbledore groaned, "I forgot about Harry! Well, simple enough I suppose. Dobby!"
The house elf appeared with a pop. "Yes?"
Albus opened up a desk draw and drew out a battered Potions textbook. "Replace Harry's Potions text with this one. It will aide him greatly."
The house elf clapped happily. "Dobby is happy to do this. Dobby thinks Harry Potter is the greatest wizard ever!" The elf took the book and disappeared with a pop.
"Well, that takes care of that. I wonder if there's anything else I'm forgetting." Dumbledore shrugged. "Oh well, no helping it I suppose. Hmmm… that music is kind of catchy."
First day of class, 1996 – Potions dungeon
Harry sat dejectedly next to Neville, Hermione having abandoned her normal seat next to him to sit at the front of the classroom. She'd gotten into another fight with Ron that morning in the common room, and the pair was so involved that they hadn't even noticed Harry's company. The only person more shocked than Snape that Neville actually made an O on his potions OWL was Neville, meaning that there were more Gryffindors in the room than expected, including Lavender, Seamus and Dean. Hermione growled her displeasure when she discovered that Lavender managed to squeak into the class, but Ron hadn't. She didn't bother congratulating Harry, of course, just leapt straight into a row with Ron over his lack of good study habits. His gloom deepened at the memory. Harry shrugged and grunted when Neville stammered out an apology and moved away, having decided that it was probably safer to sit next to the Slytherins.
Slughorn jovially trundled into the classroom, happily introducing himself and the curriculum. Every time he tried to ask Harry a question, or include him in the conversation, Harry just looked up at his professor like a kicked puppy. Disconcerted, Slughorn let Hermione answer every question, absentmindedly awarding points. Finally, the professor decided that Harry was most likely not a morning person, and announced the first assignment/contest.
"Today, we're going to brew the Emotentia, I mean, Amortentia potion!" He clapped his hands excitedly. "As a special treat, the student who brews the best potion will win a prize, a very rare and precious potion that I've just finished brewing. I expect only the best, especially out of young Mr. Potter. Lily was a wonderfully talented potions mistress, and I expect that Harry here's picked up her talent!" Hermione fumed while Harry slunk further into his chair.
Reluctantly, Harry pulled out his potions textbook. He blinked as he noticed that his copy was worn and tattered. He sympathized. Flipping through the text, he found the potion, and began gathering the necessary ingredients. As he prepared his brew, he noticed there were additional and supplementary instructions scribbled in the margins. Shrugging, Harry decided to take the textbooks advice, noting that the oddly flowing handwriting allowed him to skip several obnoxious steps as well as helping him use less expensive ingredients.
Harry was so engrossed in his work that he didn't notice Hermione's glares until she hissed in his ear, "Harry! What do you think you are doing? That's not the right way to brew the potion!" Harry glanced up to see Hermione glowering down at him. She crossed her arms under her breasts, turned her head and sniffed.
Neville blinked, fighting back the sudden and overwhelming urge to slap Hermione's head clean off her shoulders. 'Where did the urge to bitch-slap the uppity bint come from? Why did I think of Hermione as an uppity bint? What is a bitch-slap? Um… alright Neville, calm down, focus on the potion. So the next ingredient is a Wheel of Thyme?'
Harry stared at her blankly, having fought off the same reaction as Neville. "The instructions are right here, Hermione," Harry said quietly, showing her the text.
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "That's not the proper way to do it! You're going to cost us points if it doesn't turn out right. I mean, how can you trust anybody who would defile a book!" She stomped back to her potion. Harry shrugged and continued to follow the instructions in the margin. He finished brewing his potion in half the time the instructions suggested, and began bottling up a sample for the instructor. He noticed Hermione glaring at him, fuming that he'd apparently managed to brew a perfect potion, and in half the time.
Professor Slughorn trundled over, beaming. "Harry my boy, that has to be the best potion I've seen since your mother was a student." He clapped Harry on the shoulder and walked back to his desk. "I certainly can see who the best student in my class is! Go ahead and bring the sample here, and take the rest of the period off."
Harry felt Hermione's glower on his back as he brought the sample to the professor's desk. He turned and looked at Hermione. Her eyes were dangerously narrow, and her lips were pressed into a fine line. He looked down at the floor and closed his eyes. Horace reached out for the bottle. Harry looked back up at Hermione's infuriated glare, opened his hand and dropped it on the floor, shattering it. The smell of salt, ashes, and dead roses filled the air. He looked back down at his feet. "I guess I lose," he muttered as he walked back to his cauldron. He vanished the rest of the potion, gathered his books, and walked out of the class, ignoring the stares of the students and teacher.
Malfoy opened his mouth to comment, but Seamus beat him to the punch. "Oi, Harry, what'd you do that for? There goes your only hope for a date!"
The classroom burst into laughter, and as Harry closed the door behind him he thought heard Hermione choking with held-back laughter as she half-heartedly reprimanded Seamus. He walked to his next class, DADA, ignoring everything around him. Once he reached the room, he slumped down near the door and waited until the period began. He rested his forehead on his knees, not even twitching when Peeves showed up and started loudly taunting him.
"Potter's a Rotter! Potter's a Rotter!" The obnoxious poltergeist chanted. Harry didn't even twitch. Peeves narrowed his eyes. "Harry's a Fairy! Harry's a Fairy!" Peeves screamed. Harry still didn't twitch. Peeves grumbled in frustration, then its eyes lit up as it figured out what to do next.
"Potter Pity-Pool Party!" The poltergeist repeated happily over and over at the top of its 'lungs' while hurling water balloons at Harry. The door to the classroom opened, allowing the exiting first-years an excellent view of Harry standing completely drenched, looking like a kicked puppy hit with a fire-hose. Peeves laughter mingled with the youthful giggles. Harry sloshed into the now-empty classroom and tried to dry out his books. He'd try to dry himself off, but Peeves decided that the game was entirely too much fun to abandon and followed him into the classroom.
"Whee! Potter Pity-Pool Party in the DADA Room!" Peeves' cheers greeted the incoming sixth-year students while he pelted his new favorite target with water-balloons. Drenched, cold and miserable, Harry tried to ignore the laughter. Finally tired of the joke, Peeves flew into the ceiling just before Hermione stormed into the classroom headed straight for Harry.
She flung her bag into the seat next to him, and then turned to glare straight at him. "Honestly Harry," she hissed, "what were you thinking?"
Harry met her glare with dead eyes. "I thought," Harry said in emotionless tones, "I making you happy."
"Happy," Hermione shrieked. She flushed when she noticed her classmates staring at her. She glared at them, and suddenly her fellow students found better things to look at. She refocused her attentions on Harry. "Why do you think I would be happy with you intentionally failing your first assignment?" She hissed dangerously.
"Because you told me I was cheating," Harry replied. "Your potion was perfect, you'll win for sure."
Hermione glowered at him. "That's not the point!"
"Then what is? I finally make a perfect potion, and you hate me. I decide that you are right about the text, and you hate me." Harry shut his eyes. "Why don't you just go back to flirting with Ron and ignore my existence, like you have all summer."
"Harry… but I…" Hermione said, taking an unconscious step back.
Harry picked up his books and sloshed over to the Slytherin side of the classroom. Shocking the entire class, he plopped down next to Malfoy. Draco turned his head towards Harry and hissed, "what the hell do you think you're doing, Potter?"
Harry shrugged. "Draco, tell me how you really feel."
"You're a useless mongrel crybaby who is going to die horribly at the hands of the Dark Lord," Draco answered in a contemptuous whisper. "You better watch your back, Potter, now that your pet mudblood and the weasel aren't there."
Harry nodded. "See? No confusion. I hate you, you hate me, we're both quite happy with that." Draco blinked a few times, confused by Harry's new attitude. Harry glanced over at the parchment in front of Draco, looked to the front of the classroom, and then snapped his gaze back to the parchment.
"Um…" Harry said as he tried to scoot away from the blond boy-toy, "Maybe I better… uh… sit over here… by Bulstrode. Um… look… Draco… that whole 'watch my back' thing… uh… I'm really not that way. Er… not that there's anything wrong with it… I mean, I'm cool… it's your choice… um… but uh… you know… I'm really not that way…" He stood up, and as fast as he could, backed away from Draco. His back impacted a large manly chest, and felt something firm poke his buttock. "Don't move, Potter!" He heard Goyle grunt.
"RAPE!" Harry screamed, flinging himself over the desk and away from his assailant. Goyle stared dumbly, wand in hand. Harry noted with great relief it was the wooden one. He stood up, and shuffled back towards the Gryffindors, never taking his eyes off of Draco and cohort. Nervously, he planted his rear into the relatively protective hard wooden seat next to Hermione.
Draco looked down at the parchment in front of him. He blinked as he realized he'd accidentally grabbed his 'special plans.' He hastily stuffed the pages into his bag. He looked up at the wide eyes of his classmates. "What are you staring at?" He snapped, cheeks redder than Ron's hair.
"Nothing!" The class replied, in unison, busily pretending that they hadn't seen anything. Draco calmed down, until he heard the whispered comments of his classmates.
"… fancies Harry?"
"… well, I guess all of that taunting could be construed as unresolved sexual tension…"
"…bloody hell, mate, he's been insulting me and my family since…"
"… that's so hot…"
"… dunno Ron, seems to me… both better watch our backs…"
"…better not… dark hallway… if I even think I smell Crisco I'll hex that ferret…"
"… -estly Ron! Are you that insecure in your own sexuality…"
"… what about Harry... secure in his sexuality…"
"… I'd pay good galleons… see that…"
"…Oh Ron… already know… gay…"
"OI!" Harry shouted, drawing the attention of the classroom. "What do you mean you already know I'm-" Harry's shout was cut off by the doors of the DADA classroom banging open. All eyes focus on Professor Cotter stride into the classroom sneering at the students, black robes billowing dramatically behind him.
"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of Defense Against Dark Arts," he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper. "As there is lots of foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is work. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the satisfying crunch a Death Eater's skull makes when hit with a reductor, the delicate power of patroni that leap from happy memories, bitch-slapping the dementors, ensnaring the senses... I can teach you how to battle flame, beat arse, even deliver death—if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."
The room was silent, every student gaping in shock at Cotter's entrance. He smirked, and then made a reasonable imitation of a cricket's chirp.
Somebody snickered. The floodgate opened, and the room filled with the laughter and cheers, even from the Slytherin side. Professor Cotter bowed theatrically. The cheers continued. He held up his hand for silence, and waited until the class settled. He looked over the class, grinning. "Hello, my name is Larry Cotter, and I'm a Defense Against Dark Arts Professor." He waited for the reply. The students stared at him expectantly. "Right, absolutely no culture in this lot." He shrugged and continued, "I want you to know that I am not an incompetent idiot, a ministry stooge, a Death Eater, possessed or polyjuiced, and while I have been called a Dark Beast by an ex-girlfriend, that is her opinion, not fact. Does that cover the last five years or so?"
"Oi, what about trying to kill Harry Potter?" Seamus asked jokingly.
Cotter looked up as if in deep thought. "I can't guarantee a yes or no on that one." Hermione gasped. Harry didn't twitch. Cotter chuckled. "No, I have no intention or desire to kill Harry Potter." Ron laughed at Hermione's blush. Harry still hadn't twitched. "Moving right along. Now, as some of you may know, the Ministry has finally removed their pointy heads from their collective arses and admitted that Fnord Scrotumwart," he smack his hand to his forehead when somebody screamed. "Oh come the bloody hell on! You can't be scared of a name like Scrotumwart!"
"Oi! I find scrotum warts incredibly frightening, thank you very much!" Dean shouted back. Cotter chuckled along with the rest of the class.
"I see your point." Cotter paused and stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Very well, I'm forced by your base cowardice," he said with a grin, "to imitate the esteemed Cornelius Fudge. No, not that way, Malfoy, put your money-pouch away." A few of the Gryffindor students sniggered. Cotter glared at them. "You'll learn soon enough about tax-time once you get jobs, stop laughing." The Slytherins chucked at the Gryffindor's expense. "Back to the topic: Now that Lord Thingy," he paused to let more snickers die down, as well as the offended hissing from the Slytherin students, "has returned…" He spun and stared straight at the Slytherins. "That. Is. Enough! I thought Salazaar's teachings included at least the tiniest amount of cunning to go along with your ambitions." His voice lowered in a deadly manner. "Allow me to make this perfectly clear. If I hear the word 'mudblood' used to refer to a muggle-born, any hint that you feel Lord Thingy is worth following, or any threats to another student or their families health because of that snake-faced maggot's teachings I will deduct four-hundred points from your House, and give you a month's detention with Filch. He's been whining about cleaning the toilets and mucking out Hagrid's pens again, and I believe that all the professors should chip in to make his life easier. This is an institution of learning, and I will NOT tolerate ignorance bandied about in these hallowed halls. And let me inform you, if I find out that any of you has taken that bastard's mark, I will personally deliver you to Azkaban, if not a shallow grave! Is that understood?" He stared at the Slytherin students, before turning to look at all of the other students in his class.
"Well?" He repeated, forcefully.
"Yes, Professor Cotter," he heard the Gryffindor students reply.
The professor glared at the sullen Slytherin. "One point each from every student who did not answer a simple yes or no question. Next time it will be ten. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Professor Cottor," the class echoed much louder.
He smiled. "Good! Now that we've taken care of that nasty bit of business, quills away and wands out!" He grinned at the renewed excitement of the students, but the grin faltered as he noted that his younger self listlessly drew his wand. 'Now that's not right,' Cotter thought, 'I don't recall being nearly so down.' He filed the concern away for later. "Today we're going to learn our first NEWT level incantation. I've heard from my associates that some of you are already quite familiar with the patronus charm. Considering that our dear Ministry is retarded enough to use dementors as prison guards, I think it's in everybody's best interest to know how to cast this spell. Now, as I said, I've heard some of you have already learned the spell. That is quite the accomplishment for students fresh out of their OWL year. For five house points a piece, I'd like to see everybody who can cast a patronus demonstrate the spell. Who wants to go first?" He smiled at Hermione's enthusiastic hand waving, as well as Ron's, Neville's, and other members of the DA. "Mr. Weasley, you first!"
Ron stood up. "Expecto Patronum!" A sliver terrier flew out of his wand, and ran yapping around the room.
"A corporeal patronus! Most adults can't manage that one, a sign of a great wizard indeed!" Ron flushed with pride. "Ten points to Gryffindor!" Cotter said cheerfully. Ron's fellow Gryffindors cheered and patted him affectionately on the back. Even Harry managed a faint smile.
"Funny how the weasel has a ratting dog!" Malfoy whispered loud enough for the class to hear. The Slytherins snickered while Ron turned red.
"Thank you for volunteering to be next, Mr. Malfoy!" Cotter said.
Draco sneered and cockily drew his wand. "If the weasel can do it, I can. Expecto Patronum!" Draco's wand made a loud farting noise. The Gryffindors laughed at Draco's humiliation.
"Perhaps you should be more careful when insulting your betters, Draco," Dean taunted. Draco hissed in response.
"Enough! Next!" Cotter interrupted. Hermione stepped forward and cast her patronus, smiling happily as a silver otter flitted playfully around the room. Cotter felt his eyes moisten and his throat tighten. He never thought he'd see that again. He blinked back the tears and coughed away the tightness. "Excellent Ms. Granger, ten more points to Gryffindor!" Hermione gave him a cute curtsey, and instinctively winked back at her. She blushed a light pink. 'Ah crap. Gotta watch myself, can't do things like that,' Cotter thought ruefully, 'Here's hoping nobody else noticed. Note to self: Do NOT let the students see my patronus, there'll be no stopping the rumor-mill.' He smiled and cycled through the rest of the students, watching each of the members of the DA and, to his surprise, a few Slytherins manage at least a silver mist on their first attempt.
Professor Cotter and Hermione wore identical frowns when they noticed Prongs hadn't made his appearance. Hermione nudged Harry. "Harry, why haven't you cast your patronus yet?" She asked in a quiet voice. "I mean, you were the one who taught us."
Cotter blinked. 'Not good. Not good at all,' he thought, 'I've got to talk to… um… myself very soon. Between Hermione acting like a twit, Ron acting like a shite, and Dumbledore acting like… well… Dumbledore things have gotten absolutely buggered.' He straightened up. "Excellent. For those of you who weren't able to at least create a mist, I want you to read up on the patronus charm. I want those of you who can cast the spell to help your fellow students learn. You homework is twelve inches on the history, weaknesses, and powers of dementors. Mr. Potter, please stay after class. The rest of you are dismissed!" Hermione gave Harry one last concerned look as she left the classroom. Even Ron looked a bit worried for his friend.
Ron turned to Hermione as the pair left the classroom. "What do you think is wrong with Harry?" He asked her. Hermione shook her head, looking both confused and worried.
Neville growled, a deep feral noise fueled by seething frustration. "Oh that is IT! You two can not be that bloody stupid," he growled, grabbing Ron's robes and Hermione's hand, dragging them out of the classroom. "We're going to have a talk, right bloody now, about your buggered-up priorities!" Shocked at Neville's uncharacteristic aggressiveness, the pair followed mutely behind. Once all of the students left the classroom, Cotter waved a hand, closing the classroom doors. He waved a hand at Harry. "Stay seated for a bit." Without waiting for Harry's response, Cotter walked to his desk and withdrew a bottle of Ogden's Finest. With a swish of his wand, he conjured two glasses.
Harry blinked in confusion as his professor filled one glass half-way, and the other to the brim. With a flick of his wand, the DADA professor summoned a chair next to the deck. "Come on over, Mr. Potter, and take a seat."
Harry stood up and took the offered chair. Cotter slid the full glass over to Harry. "Sir?" He asked.
"O plus," Cotter said, "highest DADA OWL score in years. Ran you own subversive organization, resulting in the downfall of one incredibly ugly toad-woman. Extra credit for producing a corporeal patronus. Rumored to have first cast the spell at thirteen, as well as producing a corporeal patronus at the same age. And now, in my class, at sixteen, you can't, can you."
Harry glumly nodded.
"Can't dredge up the happy memory needed?" Cotter asked softly, sympathetically. Harry nodded. Cotter waved his hand at the glass. "Some people," Cotter said with a snort, "say this is a bad way to deal with things. Personally, I think they're bugger-all stupid. Drink up." Harry took a small sip, and choked. Cotter shook his head and chuckled. "Yeah, bad idea. Like this." The professor cocked his head back and slammed the half-glass worth of fire-whiskey down. He let out a slow breath in satisfaction.
Harry shrugged and followed his teacher's example, slamming back the entire glass in one go. He started coughing, pounding his chest. Cotter grinned. "Burns, don't it?" Harry gargled out in agreement. Cotter refilled both glasses. "I think what you need right now is a few of my happy memories." Cotter reached into a desk draw and pulled out a small rune-inscribed bowl. "You know what this is?" Cotter asked.
"A pensieve?" Harry asked.
Cotter grinned down at him. "Close. It doesn't really have a name yet, and just between you and me it's a bit of a misappropriation from the D.o.M., but they'll never miss it. It projects memories, so you don't have to dive in. It's a bit like muggle T.V., only no sound. Which is a shame, but I've got a spell that will provide a little background music." Harry nodded. Cotter pulled out a vial containing an oddly twisted silver thread. "This is a little memory mix-and-match of some interrogations I conducted in Azkaban a bit back. I think you'll find it particularly entertaining." Cotter poured the vial into the pensieve, and then tapped the bowl with his wand. A three-dimensional white cube hovered about a foot above the bowl. Cotter swished his wand again, and Harry heard the jubilant sounds of the classic Circus Song fill the air. The cube slowly turned clear, and then displayed a pair of aurors, led by his professor, in a dark stone hallway, opening cell door. Harry's eyes widened when he recognized that the prisoner was no other than Dhalov. He smiled joyfully as he watched Cotter rear back and kick the man in the nuts three times, leaving the Death Eater whimpering on the dungeon floor, clutching his testicles. The image flickered to the same three aurors opening another cell. This cell was occupied by Lucius Malfoy, who received the same treatment. Harry chuckled as the pale man became paler. Another flicker, another cell, another Death Eater from the D.o.M. debacle. The music timed perfectly with the crotch crushing, manhood mangled at a perfect tempo. Next came a series of close ups, with their defiant expressions rapidly changing into bug-eyed masks of pain. By the time an hour had passed, the two had polished off half the bottle, watched the memory loop at least four times, and were clutching their sides, ribs aching from laughter.
Professor Cotter thumped Harry's back in a friendly manner. "Ah damn I love that one." Harry nodded in agreement, coughing. Cotter chuckled. "Now that we've gotten the male bonding out of the way, why don't you tell me what's really wrong."
Harry's face fell, and contorted into a mask of pain. As his instructor intended, the fire-whiskey loosened Harry enough to let him voice his problems. "Everybody hates me!" He blurted out drunkenly, "I killed Sirius and now Dumbledore and Ron and Dean and even Hermione won't even talk to me! It's like last year only worse!" Cotter hissed in surprise and drew the younger version of himself into a comforting hug. "I'm going to die and everybody knows it and I'm glad their safe but I'm so damn lonely and even Hermione doesn't want to be around me anymore because she's decided Ron's more important even though she never did before because it's all my fault she got hurt and Sirius died and…" Cotter rocked Harry gently; waiting until he stopped babbling drunkenly into his robs. 'I swear to Merlin I'm going to kick that manipulative old bastard in the nuts a few more times tonight. The shite-faced arse-sucking bastard forgot about Harry, and didn't remove his douche-bag mental jiggering from any of our friends! Morgana's tits, the old coot didn't even remember to have Molly "slip-up" about her use of love potions, and that damn fool idea never got implanted in the girl's noggin. End result? One seriously buggered-up boy.'
For the rest of the day, Cotter let his younger self slur out a drunken synopsis of his life, proud that even at sixteen and utterly pissed, he still had the brains to edit out the sensitive bits. Nobody disturbed the pair due to Cotter's expertly placed 'Nothing to See Here, Move Along' auror wards. As the hours passed, he fed Harry more booze, supplementing it with snacks and dinner provided courtesy of the house elves, and simply listened to his younger self vent about his cocked-up life; until finally near midnight Harry passed out from the ingested alcohol and purged emotions. Wordlessly, Cotter disillusioned and levitated Harry up to the Gryffindor dorms, where he silently cast an anti-hangover charm and tucked his younger self into bed. "Miss you, 'ermione," he heard Harry mumble.
'Don't worry kid,' Cotter vowed to himself, 'we'll do better this time around. You won't lose her like I did.' He blinked back a few tears. 'She'll never be mine, but if I play my cards right maybe you'll get the chance I never had.'
He left the Gryffindor tower and made his way back to the professor's quarters. He walked into his room, closed the door, and then leaned his head up against the wall. "I love you Hermione…" he whispered softly into the night.
September 1996 - Gryffindor Girls' Dormitory
Hermione grumbled and glowered over her textbooks. Not only had she gotten reamed out over her treatment of Harry by Neville of all people, two minutes later Ron started a row that got the two of them so pissed off that even the Slytherins stayed away from them. Worse yet, that… BOY… had the audacity to go flitting off to flirt with Lavender right in the middle, leaving her stewing in her juices, until he had the nerve to hop right back into it like he'd never stopped shouting! It got so bad at dinner the Head Girl politely told the both of them to either calm down or get a broom closet! She'd never been so humiliated. It wasn't until she'd reached the Common Room that she realized she hadn't seen Harry all day, but when she was about to ask Ron if he'd seen him around damned Lavender and Parvati dragged her off to a corner to gossip about the new DADA professor, of all things! It seems that they caught the wink he'd tossed her way, and now they want to know the dirt. Worse yet, Ron overheard them talking, and he flew off the handle about how she was a scarlet woman and a teacher's pet. Finally, she'd finally hexed the lips off of his face, stomped up to her dorm, threw herself into bed before she realized that she hadn't read the next weeks assignments yet, and she still had no idea where Harry'd run off too. She stuffed her face into her pillows and screamed.
"Hermione, if you're going to do that while thinking about our new DADA teacher, would you be a dear and Silencio the curtains first," Lavender chimed up in a saccharine voice. Hermione threw open the curtains and glared at her giggling dorm-mates. She noticed Ginny was snickering along with them.
"Oh grow up!" Hermione snapped. She looked at her red-headed friend. "Ginny, not you too?" Hermione asked.
Ginny shrugged. "Hey, if you want to two-time my dear detested brother, that's your choice, but don't expect that I won't eat up the delicious gossip." Ginny giggled. "Honestly Hermione, a professor!" She said in a mock-imitation huff.
Hermione glared at her 'friend.' "Honestly Ginny, not a professor!" She shot back. "There's nothing there!" She paused, before spitting out, "and what do you mean two-timing your brother! There's nothing going on between me and that prat!"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Hermione, please, you've been… advertising…" Ginny pointed at Hermione's breasts, "your feelings all day." Hermione covered her chest unconsciously and flushed. "Look, honey, the DADA prof's a dish. I mean compared to the rest of the men around here?" Ginny gave a little shiver. "He's absolutely yummy, and people saw him make 'eyes' at you. Go for it! You're only young once, and you are young you know, something I think you forgot around the age of six." Ginny stuck her tongue out at Hermione, taking the edge off of her words.
Hermione shook her head in wild denial. "Ginny! I'd never do someone… I mean something so improper!" She swallowed at her own Freudian slip.
Lavender snickered. "Oh ho! Seems like somebody really does want to be teacher's pet… or is that petted by teacher?" The girls giggled.
"Argh!" Hermione threw her curtain closed and silencio'd away the giggling of her dorm-mates. She glared at her texts, grumbling about over-hormonal twits and their silly ideas.
Not that her own hormones listened to her, as a rather intriguing dream that night proved, a dream featuring a handsome older man with green eyes giving her private lessons.
September 1996 – Malfoy Manor
The funny thing about Fate is the fact that she really doesn't mind when mortals give her the slip. Actually, she rather enjoys the friendly competition she has with Free Will. So, when the actions of a certain raven-haired punching bag of hers utterly buggered up one of her favorite sadistic plans, Fate found herself cackling with glee at the challenge presented to her. Twisting a few threads here and there, she decided to level the playing field a bit, and let a free-floating half-soul find its way back home.
Voldemort's eyes flew open as he felt a surge of power flow through his veins. Oddly, he felt strangely calm and detached, at least compared to the day before. He took a quick inventory of his memories, and felt burning shame over his mindset for the last forty years. 'When did I start believing the blood-purity garbage that I used to gather power and wealth?' Voldemort pondered. He spent the next few hours ruminating over his choices and plots over the decades, wincing at his almost megalomaniacal actions and overly complex plots. He mulled over his life, trying to place exactly when and where he'd lost his ability to carefully and coldly manipulate events to his favor. He felt icy shards in his gullet as he found two sets of memories, each during the same time. One was his restless soul cursing his failure as he hid in Albania. The other was of a scrawny young boy, Potter, confronting him in the Chamber of Secrets, slaying his basilisk, and then destroying his ability to reform by stabbing the diary, his home.
"No!" Voldemort hissed out, "It can't be…" His glowing red eyes narrowed. Had he made the same fatal flaw that plagued all the other creators of horcruxes through the ages? He knew that his other horcruxes used only a tiny fragment of his soul, and barely possessed a sentience of their own. 'For the diary to hold memories…' Voldemort laughed out loud at his stupidity. 'I must have let control slip in my exaltation over my victory,' he thought, chuckling dryly at the folly of youth, 'Half a soul, no wonder I fell to the same madness as my predecessors. The half must have finally rejoined with the whole. I did not think that possible, the only way it could have kept a semblance of cohesion was if another… no… it could not be… Potter…'
Deciding that the need for more information outweighed the consequences of ejection, Voldemort once again focused his will on the link between the boy and himself. He'd thought that the shared blood was the reason, but now he knew better. Using the same mental techniques he'd created to minimize the damage to his soul while crafting his other horcruxes, he entered into a deep meditative trance, focusing on the disparate pieces of his core.
He felt rather disgusted at the ease in which he slipped into Potter's mind. 'So the old fool decided that the boy didn't have to fear my intrusion, or was there something else?' Voldemort focused on the boy's memories after their confrontation. He almost lost control in his shock as the old man gave Harry the full prophecy, not even a week after their confrontation. He could not believe that the grandfatherly Dumbledore would be so callous and unkind to his golden child. 'Wait… neither can live while the other survives… then how am I…' His red eyes widened at the revelation as his consciousness snapped back to his own body. 'Of course! I am not truly alive, merely a soul in an alchemically crafted shell. So, the prophecy holds true. Before I can reclaim a truly living form, the boy must die… but perhaps that isn't the best…'
Voldemort carefully considered his options, coldly weighing the different paths, creating and discarding plots around each possible outcome, using the new information about Albus' true nature in his favor. 'So, the old fool knows that the Potter boy is a horcrux of mine, which means that he must know of my other horcruxes. I know the diary is destroyed. I must consolidate the others; determine if they have also been destroyed. No matter, with the absorption of the first and my refinement of the process, I can always craft others.' He smiled wickedly, certain and calm in his actions for the first time in decades.
'After all, what is a mere hundred and fifty?' Voldemort thought wickedly.
Wormtail shivered in fear at the sound of his master's horrible laughter echoing throughout the manor. He huddled closer to the fireplace, once again wondering why he'd betrayed his only friends fifteen years ago.
September 1996 - Hooligan's Football Pub, Dublin
"Cor blimey! Wot 'e 'loody 'ell do ya tink dat is?" One bald-headed football thug asked his mate, pointing at the cadaverous chitinous bird perched on a bar stool. The other hooligan shrugged. "Dunno... mebbe a parrot?"
Fawkes let out a horrific dissonant squawk at the insult. Shaking its head, it rummaged its beak around its wing "feathers".
"Eh, mate, yah tink it's preen'n or summach?" The thug asked his buddy, confused at the bird's behavior. They stared as Fawkes' head emerged, a fag dangling from its beak. Fawkes winked at the dumbfounded thugs, lifted a clawed foot, let a single talon burst into sickly green flames and lit the cig, puffing away with relish.
"Bloody HELL!" The thugs exclaimed.