"First Day Back"
STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Oh, for Heaven's sake.
Just go read the other ones from the first two chapters, would you? I really
feel I am beginning to repeat myself with my Disclaimers.
"I feel AWFUL," Neville
moaned, turning on his side and curling up into a fetal position. Harry
and Ron sat by his bed, looking sympathetic.
"Maybe that anti-stomachache potion Madame Pomfrey gave you will start working soon," Harry suggested hopefully.
"Any time now would be wonderful!" Neville said fervently. There was a knock at the door.
"Come in," Ron called. The door opened, and Hermione walked in followed by the dark-haired seventh year Ravenclaw girl they'd seen in Snape's classroom earlier that day. Ron's eyebrows went up and he exchanged a look with Harry.
"This is Lady Cynthia Hathaway," Hermione said. The girl blushed.
"Please, just Cynthia. I never use my title."
"I went and sat at the Ravenclaw table during dinner tonight, and she and I had a long talk," Hermione continued. "She's from a Muggle family too. In fact, her father is an earl and she was down for West Heath before she was contacted by Hogwarts."
"West Heath," Harry mused. "Why does that sound familiar?"
"It's where Princess Diana went to school," Hermione told him.
"Oh," he said, exchanging another look with Ron. He saw that Ron had also sensed that Hermione was giving them all this information for a reason.
"Look," Cynthia said suddenly, "I don't go usually go around telling people here these things. There are a lot of people at this school who don't particularly like Muggles. I've been called a mudblood more times than I can count!"
"Well, you won't hear that from me," Hermione assured her. "I'm from a Muggle family too, you know."
"Yeah," said Ron, who was beginning to see where Hermione was going with all this. "And look at Harry here. He's possibly the most famous person in recent memory in the wizarding world, and HE was a Muggle, too!"
"That's right," Harry agreed. Cynthia peered at him shyly. Ever since her arrival at Hogwarts seven years ago, she'd heard all about The Boy Who Lived. After he'd entered school, she'd seen him from a distance many times. She'd seen him in the hallways, she'd watched him play Quidditch, and of course she'd watched him compete in the Triwizard Tournament. But she'd never actually exchanged two words with him. Her fellow seventh years who were from wizarding families had all grown up on the Harry Potter legend, and many of them were quite in awe of him. She supposed that she should be too. However, aside from the famous lightening bolt scar on his forehead, he looked like just another boy to her, and a rather ordinary-looking one at that.
"It's poor Neville here who's got troubles," Hermione was saying.
"I'm sorry," Cynthia said, "My mind wandered. What's happened to your friend?"
"Oh, poor Neville!" Harry said. "He's from one of the oldest and most prestigious wizarding families in England, and he just can't get a break from Professor Snape."
"Professor Snape?" Cynthia asked, looking surprised.
"Yeah," Ron said. "Snape… er, Professor Snape has it in for him because Neville just can't seem to master Potions."
"And we'd heard you're very skilled at Potions," Hermione added. "So we were hoping that perhaps you'd tutor him…?" Cynthia blinked.
"Tutor… why, of course I'd be happy to tutor him!" She leaned forward and patted Neville's hand. "Potion brewing isn't that difficult, Neville," she told him reassuringly. "Although," she said thoughtfully, "perhaps you'd do better to go to Professor Snape for help. He's a much better teacher than I and - "
"Are you kidding?" Neville interrupted, holding his stomach. "Snape's the one who did this to me." Cynthia looked astonished. "He knew my Joy Potion was no good but he made me drink it anyway. He said it would teach me a lesson." Cynthia's expression went from astonishment to anger.
"I can't believe he'd do something like that! That's no way to teach someone!" she exclaimed. Grimly, Harry and his friends filled Cynthia's ears with tales of Snape's abuse of Neville. When they'd finished, Cynthia was frowning. "Don't worry, Neville. I'll tutor you. And," she continued, her voice hardening with determination, "I'm going to have a word with Professor Snape."
Cynthia Hathaway stormed
through the halls of Hogwarts in search of Potions Master Snape. Unbeknownst
to her, she was being followed by four other students hiding under an Invisibility
"My stomach still isn't feeling that great," Neville whispered.
"Shhh!" Harry, Ron, and Hermione admonished. Cynthia reached the steps leading down to Snape's dungeon and took them two at a time, making it difficult for her followers to keep up with her, hampered as they were by the need to stay bunched together under the Cloak. When they caught up with her, she was banging a large iron doorknocker against a wooden door up the hallway from the Potions classroom.
"Must be Snape's quarters," Harry whispered.
"Shhh!" the others admonished. The door opened and Snape appeared, wearing a suspicious expression that changed to surprise when he saw Cynthia standing in the hall.
"Hathaway," he said in an odd voice. "What brings you down here tonight?"
"I've been asked to tutor a student in Potions, Professor Snape," she told him.
"Have you?" Snape asked softly, looking rather pleased. He hesitated for a moment, then opened the door more widely. "Would you like to come in for a moment?" he asked, sounding almost shy. "We can discuss it much more comfortably sitting in front of the fire than standing out here in the hall."
"He's asking her in!" Hermione whispered gleefully.
"Shhh!" the others admonished. They crept up behind her so they could follow her into Snape's inner sanctum. It was dark and creepy, much like the man himself. There were large, overstuffed chairs in front of a fireplace that contained a dully sputtering little fire.
"Won't you sit down?" Snape invited, pulling the door shut.
"Oh no, we're trapped!" Neville whispered.
"Shhh!" the others admonished. Cynthia sat down in one of the chairs next to the fire. Snape just stood there staring at her for a moment as though he was unable to believe his good fortune. Suddenly remembering himself, he hurried over and took the chair across from her.
"It's Neville Longbottom," she said without preamble. Snape frowned.
"Longbottom," he snorted. "He's hopeless. He's nearly a squib, if you ask me."
"Well, I don't know how you expect him to do any better if you torture and terrorize the poor child!" she suddenly flared. Snape looked surprised. "Really, Professor Snape, I'd thought better of you! You've always been so kind and understanding when I've needed your help. But now I hear you made Longbottom drink a Joy Potion you knew was brewed incorrectly just to teach him a lesson! What lesson was he supposed to learn from that, anyway?" Snape looked abashed.
"You're right," he said quietly. "I used very poor judgement."
"Did I hear him right?" Harry whispered in disbelief.
"Shhh!" the others admonished. Cynthia was eyeing Snape critically.
"Look," she finally said. "I know you're an excellent teacher. You've taught me so much! I have so much faith in your abilities that I believe you could help Longbottom become an expert at potion brewing. But not by terrorizing the poor boy. If only you were as patient with him as you have been with me, I bet he'd do much better in class." A new idea suddenly formed in her mind. "Look," she said, leaning forward in her chair. "We could make Longbottom our project. Between the two of us, I bet we could get him up to snuff in no time at all! What do you say, Professor Snape?" The expression on Snape's face was somewhere between that of a man who's just learned that he's won the lottery and a man who's just learned that his head is going to be cut off. After a long moment, he spoke.
"We would… work together on this?" Snape asked, his tone carefully neutral.
"Of course!" she exclaimed. "I'll tutor him. All I ask is that you stop tormenting the poor kid in class. He's frightened enough of you already as it is." Harry and his companions could read the question in Snape's eyes as clearly as if he'd leaned out of the Divination classroom windows and shouted it to the world: Do I frighten her too? But Cynthia appeared oblivious.
"I'd be more than happy to help you make Longbottom into a competent potion brewer," he finally said. "In fact, I'd be willing to allow you to use the Potions classroom to tutor him. You can use it as often as you like - as long as I'm present as well, of course. School policy, you understand," he added hastily.
"Of course," she replied.
"School policy my - " Ron whispered.
"Shhh!" the others admonished. Cynthia stood, beaming happily.
"Well," she said, "I'd better get back to Ravenclaw. My friends will be wondering what's happened to me."
"Oh…yes, of course," Snape said, jumping to his feet to escort her to the door. Harry and his companions had to move quickly to follow them.
"I knew you wouldn't disappoint me, Professor Snape!" Cynthia told him, her hand on the doorknob. "You're the absolute BEST!" She grabbed his hand and squeezed it just as she'd done in the hallway outside the Potions classroom earlier that day. "We can talk about this more after class tomorrow," she told him, her eyes twinkling with happiness.
"Yes," he said softly. "I'll… I'll see you then." He watched her hurry up the hallway towards the steps leading to the first floor. Sighing heavily, he turned and went back into his quarters, shutting the door behind him.
"He's got it bad," Harry observed in a whisper as they left the dungeons.
"I know - can you believe it?" Ron asked. They headed for the Gryffindor tower.
"I never would have thought he had it in him," Neville agreed. They reached the painting of the Fat Lady.
"Bog water," Hermione muttered, and the painting swung aside to admit them. Looking around to be sure no one was watching, the gang shed the Invisibility Cloak with relief.
"I still can't believe it," Ron was saying gleefully. "Snape's hot for - "
"Look at the time!" Hermione interrupted, glancing at her watch. "We've got ten minutes to deliver our essays to Professor Lupin." She gave the others disapproving looks. "I hope you've all finished yours!"
"Of course we've finished, Hermione," Harry said reasonably. "Professor Lupin gave us an hour and a half to write one page of parchment, remember? I finished it with time to spare."
"I wonder why he did that," Neville mused. "Gave us all that time, I mean."
"I don't know," Ron replied. "But right now we've only got ten minutes to turn them in, so we'd better get moving!"
Clutching their essays,
Harry and his friends hurried towards the quarters Professor Lupin shared
with his wife. When they finally arrived, they encountered a crowd of their
classmates milling around outside.
"What's going on?" Harry asked no one in particular.
"I don't think anyone's home," Patil told them. Malfoy snorted.
"How inconsiderate," he sneered. "After making us do all that work and have it ready by tonight, he's not even around to collect it."
"Nonsense," Hermione said. "Professor Lupin isn't forgetful, and he certainly isn't ill-mannered."
"Not like some people I could mention," Ron muttered. Harry moved towards the door and knocked sharply.
"Hello!" he called. "Anyone home?" He knocked again. "Hmm," he said. He tried the knob, which was unlocked. The door swung open. "Hello?" Harry called again. He looked around at his classmates, shrugged, and stepped inside. The rest of the class followed slowly, allowing Harry to remain in the lead. In stark contrast to Snape's quarters, the Lupins' apartment was warm and cozy. The furniture looked invitingly comfortable. A cheerful, warm fire blazed in the hearth. There was a hallway off the living room, and they could hear Muggle music coming from a room somewhere in the back.
"Someone must be here," Hermione whispered, indicating the faint music with a gesture.
"Professor Lupin?" Harry called. "We're here with our essays."
"Let's just leave them and go," Malfoy said impatiently.
"We can't just leave," Ron told him. "Something might have happened to them, or - " He broke off in mid-sentence as he spotted something that made his heart skip a beat. Hermione followed his gaze and gasped aloud.
"Oh my God…" she whispered. Gradually, the rest of the class spotted what had transfixed Ron and Hermione… except for Neville
"Hey," he said brightly, oblivious to his the fact that his classmates were all staring out the window, paralyzed by fear. "I didn't know the Lupins had a dog."
"Neville," Hermione whispered without turning around, not WANTING to turn around and see...
"Here, pooch!" Neville was saying. "C'mere, boy!"
"Neville," Hermione said.
"There's a good pooch!" Neville said.
"NEVILLE!" Hermione shouted.
"There's no need to yell," he said, turning around. "I'm standing right here you know and…" He suddenly realized that all of his classmates were staring out the window. "Oh," Neville said, sounding oddly bemused. "What a lovely full moon!" Then his eyes rolled up in his head and he fainted dead away. Slowly, as one, the class turned to look at the werewolf. He sat in the hallway right outside the living room, staring at the class with Professor Lupin's blue-on-blue eyes.
"Oh my God," Ron said, backing away.
"Crabbe's just wet himself!" one of the Slytherins exclaimed.
"Here!" Malfoy said, holding up a piece of parchment. His voice shook with terror. "Here's my damn essay!" He threw it on the floor and beat a hasty retreat, closely followed by most of the Slytherins and quite a few Gryffindors as well. The werewolf put his head to one side. Harry could have sworn he looked disappointed. The remaining students exchanged apprehensive glances. Finally, Harry spoke.
"Uh… Professor Lupin… we have our essays… I guess…. er… I guess you still want them?" The werewolf regarded him for a moment, then stood and calmly walked across the room to stand directly in front of the apartment door. He laid his ears back growled menacingly. Everyone took a step back.
"Oh wait a minute, I get it!" Hermione exclaimed suddenly. "This is a practical lesson!" She reached for her wand and pointed it at the werewolf, but Ron was quicker on the draw.
"Impedimenta!" he exclaimed. The werewolf put its head to one side, looking bemused. Ron looked chagrinned.
"You can't use the Impediment Curse on a werewolf!" Hermione scolded. "Really, Ron, you should've done more reading at the library this afternoon!" She turned back to the werewolf and found that he was now directly in front of her. Before she could do anything, he was up on his hind legs, his massive front paws on her shoulders.
"HERMIONE!" Ron yelled, pointing his wand at the werewolf again. "Impedimenta, dammit!" Nothing happened. The werewolf toppled Hermione over backwards, pinned her under his weight and licked her face rather sloppily.
"Professor Lupin," Hermione giggled. "Stop it!" She waved her wand around rather ineffectually. "Stop it! That tickles!" The other students milled around, uncertain what to do.
"Densaugeo!" someone shouted, pointing a wand at the werewolf.
"You idiot! Do you really want his teeth to get bigger? Thank God you missed!" Harry drew his wand and pointed it at the werewolf.
"Homorphus," he said quietly. A beam of blue light shot out of the end of his wand, enveloping the werewolf in a bright blue haze. When the light subsided, Professor Lupin lay sprawled on top of Hermione, who was still giggling.
"What a picture THAT would make," Ron said, indicating Lupin and Hermione. Embarrassed, Lupin rolled off of her to lie on his back on the floor. He looked weak and exhausted. Amanda suddenly appeared in the hallway.
"Wow," she said quietly, gazing at her prematurely transformed husband in shock.
"'Wow' is not the first word that springs to mind," Professor Lupin groaned, putting a hand over his eyes. Hermione sat up, wiping her face with her hands and eyeing Lupin in disbelief.
"I… I did it!" Harry exclaimed, as though he'd just realized what had happened. Lupin gave a short laugh.
"You certainly did," he agreed. "I knew someone would try it, but I didn't think anyone would be able to pull it off," he confessed.
"Are you all right?" Amanda asked. She went over to kneel on the floor beside him and took one of his hands in hers.
"I've felt better!" he told her.
"How was it?" Harry asked. "I mean, maybe I can do it again for you next month…"
"Thank you, Harry, but I don't think that's an experience I'd care to repeat," Lupin said ruefully.
"Did it hurt?" one of the Slytherins asked curiously.
"Ten times more than a regular transformation," Lupin replied. "It was… unpleasant." Amanda and Hermione helped him stand and guided him over to the sofa, where he collapsed, looking drained. Amanda sat down beside him and took his hand again.
"You should go see Madame Pomfrey," Amanda told him. He gave her a weak smile.
"I'll be fine, Amanda."
"Now I see why you made sure Malfoy didn't bring his anti-werewolf weaponry to school with him!" Harry said.
"He would have been too chicken to use it," Ron snorted. "Did you see him run?" Lupin smiled faintly, his eyes closed.
"You know, Hermione," Lupin said. "If I'd been another werewolf, you'd have been dead." He opened his eyes and regarded the rest of the class steadily. "You'd have all been dead."
"Except Harry," Ron pointed out.
"No," Harry disagreed. "He's right. I was only able to do the Homorphus Charm because I wasn't afraid. I knew Professor Lupin wouldn't hurt us. Hermione could have done the charm too if... er... she hadn't been distracted." A few students giggled.
"So what have we learned tonight, class?" Lupin asked.
"If you see a werewolf, run like hell!" Ron said. Everyone laughed
"All right," Lupin agreed, smiling. "What else?"
"The Impediment Curse doesn't work on werewolves," Hermione said, giving Ron a significant look, which he pretended not to see.
"Growing teeth on werewolves probably isn't a good idea," someone else said. Lupin laughed weakly.
"All right, kids," Amanda said, standing. "I think it's time for this party to come to an end."
"Yeah, we should let him get some rest," Hermione agreed.
"Yeah," Harry said. "Oh, uh, here's my essay," he said belatedly, holding out a piece of parchment to Amanda. She took it, smiling. Ron and Hermione came forward with their assignments. As the other students began giving their parchments to Amanda, Lupin spoke.
"There's a new assignment," he said without opening his eyes. Everyone groaned. "I want a parchment on how you'll behave differently if you're ever confronted with a werewolf again. There will be no class tomorrow, so it's due lhe day after that. Oh yes, and fifty points to Gryffindor for Harry's use of the Homorphus Charm, and five points from the houses of each person who ran away."
"There goes our fifty points," Ron muttered.
"Longbottom fainted," one of the Slytherins pointed out, gesturing at his unconscious form sprawled behind a chair. "Gryffindor should lose extra points for that." But no one was paying attention.
"I hope you feel better soon," Hermione told Lupin.
"Yeah, me too," Harry agreed.
"Yeah…you take care of yourself," Ron added. A few other students expressed their good wishes before leaving. Amanda walked over to the sofa and stood over Remus, shaking her head.
"Well, Mister 'They Need Practical Experience In Coping With A Real Live Werewolf'," she said. "I think we'd better get you in bed."
"Sounds wonderful," Remus said without opening his eyes.
"Can you walk?" she asked. He nodded silently. "Come on," she said, helping him up. "Hang on a minute," she told him. "Look." She pointed at the window. He turned to see the full moon hanging in the night sky.
"Haven't seen THAT with human eyes for awhile," he murmured. She smiled at him. Smiling back, he put an arm around her. They walked out of the living room, with Remus leaning heavily on Amanda. As they left, Remus muttered a spell to extinguish the lights. For a few moments, all was quiet in the Lupin apartment. And then -
"Guys?" Neville Longbottom's voice said in the darkness of the living room. "What happened? Where IS everybody? Hello? Anyone…?"