Chapter 8 - Of Goal Posts and Owl Posts
The resonating sound of students gossiping and laughing throughout the castle was one of the sounds which Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore cherished the most. At the moment, he was seated at the Head table of the Great Hall as students continued their meal in not-so-silence. It was his morning routine to watch his pupils and savor the youth they exuded. It, in his own words, kept him young. His gaze lingered, however, on one particular student on the Hufflepuff table. The young man was seated alone and seemed to be devouring a sandwich of dubious origins, the house elves certainly hadn't made that sandwich.
Young Mister Potter was a mystery in himself. As he sat munching on his sandwich, Albus contemplated the accounts of his staff concerning the boy-who-lived.
'Just as asinine and as much of a ruffian as his Father.'
'Very eager to learn certain aspects but seems to be holding back. May be a result of his muggle upbringing? They were the worst sort of muggles I had ever seen, Albus! I knew we should not have left him there.'
'A happy child. Always laughing and smiling in my class. However, he seems to take great joy in standing next to me for some reason or the other. Either way, I'm glad he seems to inherit Lily's talent in my subject.'
So far, he was in average to above-average standing in all his classes but did not show any particular talent in any. James always excelled in Transfiguration, while Lily was easily above her peers in Charms and Potions. Sadly, his parents high standing with their class did not translate to their son. Albus contemplated holding a nature versus nurture debate with his most trusted staff to further his little musings.
There was one thing clear about the young Potter, however: he seemed to attract as much trouble as his Father ever had. Being targeted by the first year prank by the mysterious prankster was not Albus' ideal first meeting with the boy, alas he had no choice. After discerning that the child didn't seem any worse for wear, he sent him back to the Hufflepuff common room with pockets full of lemon drop candies.
Albus took one last long look at the boy-who-lived, then turned to Minerva in order to discuss if she found any potential transfiguration students she was thinking of taking as an apprentice from the seventh years that year.
Harry Potter, the boy being regarded so intensely by the headmaster only moments ago, was happily munching on that mornings oatmeal-bacon-toasty. He merely smiled at his fellow first year Hufflepuffs as they discussed that days Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match. They had gotten used to his silence, noticing he only spoke when spoken to and if he was in a particularly sociable mood. The only one who never failed in trying to get Harry to be more sociable was Wayne.
"Are you coming to the match, Harry?" Wayne asked him, while munching on his own oatmeal-bacon-toasty. Seeing Harry always eating one made him curious to its taste and now came to copying Harry's sandwich making methods at least once a week.
Harry munched on his sandwich thoughtfully for a minute before nodding. "Ought to be interesting. I haven't played many wizard games before. I've only ever played Exploding Snap."
Wayne grinned an oatmeal-y grin. "It'll be brilliant. There's a long standing Gryffindor-Slytherin rivalry, do you know? I heard Quidditch is the only way they let their frustrations out on each other!"
Cedric Diggory leaned towards them and added his two cents. "Even the professors participate. There's nothing like a Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match. The atmosphere is so tense, it'll seem a bit suffocating at first. But then it explodes into cheers and jeers during the match! Always something firsties should experience. It's the only match the entire student body catches, regardless of house."
Harry just nodded at them all. He wasn't playing so he did not feel the excitement that came over him when he was playing his Halloween frolics. He ate the final bite of his sandwich and stood.
"I'm just going to check on Hedwig. I haven't seen her for a week now."
"She still hasn't shown up? Where on earth did you send her to?" Wayne asked before taking a sip from his goblet.
"Maybe the people I had written to are taking their time to reply. I told her to wait for a response from at least one of them." Harry shrugged.
Cedric stood as well, "The match is going to start before lunch but you better head to the stands now. You can check up on her after. Finding good seats for this game is going to be a pain. You firsties better take the front seats, if you can manage. I can't promise that you won't be seated behind a tall fellow or two if you lollygag."
Harry sighed and waited for Wayne to stand. The rest of the Hufflepuffs grabbed their last bites and all stood, hoping to all get at least semi-decent seats.
One thing that made Harry happy with all the Quidditch talk was that everyone seemed to forget about the mysterious defeat of the Trespassing Troll from Halloween. The story that the three Gryffindors were telling was that Hermione Granger had gone after the Troll and the Weasley-Finnigan duo went after her. All three had agreed that they had been knocked out at some point and awoke with the Troll with his head 'resting' on a broken toilet. Gryffindor lost a total of five points for that, and Snape had been crabbier than usual since the incident.
With the rest of the Hufflepuff first years, and one fourth year, trailing behind him, he headed towards the Quidditch stands at the Hufflepuff section. Luckily, they were able to get seats at the third row. The second years seemingly sent a volunteer to grab bits of toast while the rest skipped breakfast had taken the first two rows of the stands.
Harry couldn't help but find himself getting a bit more excited than he thought he would be. The tense atmosphere was indeed palpable and the Hufflepuff stands were situated right between the Gryffindor and Slytherin ones, placing them at the ideal hearing range for cheers and jeers of both sides towards each other.
Many of the students, except for the Gryffindors and Slytherins, brought books or homework with them. It seemed that early attendance was a must, however the hour long wait was time otherwise wasted. Harry tried to look around at the sky to spot a particular snowy owl in the hopes that maybe she was finally flying home.
"I just don't get this! How are we supposed to change a needle back into a match? I had trouble making it want to stay a needle in the first place!" Wayne muttered miserably as he continued to read the required chapter for Transfiguration.
"It's not more of undoing the change, but of causing another one. McGonagall knows when you just cast a finite at transfigured objects. This is kind of like practice in layering more than one spell on an object. See, if you do the second transfiguration right, a you cast a finite at it, it turns back to a needle first. A second finite will give you the original match." Cedric explained.
Harry turned his eyes away from the sky and focused on the discussion between his two housemates. Layering spells was one thing he hadn't really heard of before. He had done multiple charms on various objects and persons but layering them to be one full enchantment seemed fascinating.
"But why layer? What's the point of layering of spells?" Wayne asked.
Cedric scratched his head a bit before answering. "Well, some spells are magnified in the presence of another spell. Take the broomsticks. Notice the cushioning charm on the seat? It would be only half as effective without the hovering potion and speed charms on the broom. It's a nasty bit of Arithmancy to figure out all the numbers to it, that's why new brooms take about a year or two to create. Got to go through all the numbers, test it, then release it to the public. Also why homemade brooms are rare."
Only one word really mattered to little Harry in Cedric's entire drabble.
"Arithmancy can create and predict the effects of spells and potions in relation to each other?" Harry asked Cedric, his eyes gleaming a bit more madly.
Cedric almost jumped a foot in the air when Harry spoke. He hadn't realized that Harry was listening.
"Yes, and Ancient Runes can help in the creation of trigger words for spell creation too. The power of language over magic is apparently quite significant. A possible reason why some spells are in latin, gaelic, or other. I even heard of some spells being tested in plain English having either enhanced or reduced effects."
Harry remembered skimming through both subjects during his few weeks of Magic Cram at the Dursleys. These subjects were about to take a large chunk of his study time if all the ideal rule-breaking exploits were to come into fruition.
Cedric mussed up Harry's already messy hair when he saw the maniacal twinkle in the younger boy's eyes. "You have to wait until third year to study those though. I suggest choosing them for your electives if you're still interested then. I do warn you, they both hold the highest drop out rates of all the electives. Only the really brainy fellows stay on there or just take one and an easier elective."
Harry absent-mindedly nodded. He was already thinking of all the possible layering and connecting and creating of spells he could do. None of the books he had bought on either subject had said a word about them being compatible as well as complementary to each other. The fact that this union of two subjects could also predict and guide the effect of magic in ways he could finally quantify... well, his curious and excitable brain could not wait to return to the dormitory in order to further his knowledge on both subjects.
"That's all well and good," Wayne interjected, "but how does that help me cast a multiple transfiguration on this bloody match-needle-match watchamacallit?"
Cedric laughed and started the explain the process once again, going painstakingly slow for each step of the process as he demonstrated for Wayne. Harry, however, was already in his own dream world, calculations the like of which Cedric would not be able to make heads or tails of, already going through his enlivened encephalon.
Of course, what good would a good ol' theory be if it was not tested? Being quite vertically challenged helped him escape the crowd, muttering to Wayne and Cedric he was heading to the loo, and finding a dark corner where he once again wished himself invisible.
Now, if anyone knew of any of little Harry's walking excursions and the results of these.. small side-trips, they would have automatically turned around and missed the most anticipated Hogwarts Quidditch game of the year. Harry decided to take a walk around the pitch and the stands, phasing through troublesome walls and flying up stairs to conserve time. After all, it wouldn't do for him to be found missing for too long.
He walked back towards his seat with a large smile on his face and a skip to his step.
Wayne merely rose an eyebrow at him, "a good trip to the loo, then?"
Harry's grin widened, "Especially good."
Wayne's expression was between one of disgust and amusement.
"It's about to begin." Cedric told them.
Perfect timing, it seemed, since fourteen blurred people flew into the Quidditch Pitch and Lee Jordan from Gryffindor started to commentate. The screams and cheers of the supporters would easily drown out the voice of the third year Gryffindor, Harry assumed he either had a microphone or a charm that amplified the volume of his voice.
"Welcome all to the very first game of Quidditch at Hogwarts this season! And what an opening match, Noble Gryffindors versus Slimy Slytherins!"
"Jordan!" Harry heard Professor McGonagall shout.
The two teams landed, lining up before Madame Hooch. She said something too softly for the audience to hear and then forced the two captains to shake hands. To Harry, it seemed that both were trying to break the other Captains' hand. He made a mental note to either figure out a way to easily break a person's hand bones or never become a Quidditch captain during his Hogwarts career.
Madam Hooch blew her whistle and at once, she and the fourteen players took to the sky.
"And they're off! The Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor - what an excellent Chaser that girl is, rather attractive too -"
"JORDAN!" Professor McGonagall once again said in her warning tone.
"Sorry, Professor." Jordan didn't sound sorry at all. "And she's really belting along up there, a neat pass to Alicia Spinnet, a good find of Oliver Wood's, last year only a reserve - back to Johnson and - no, the Slytherins have taken the Quaffle, Slytherin Captain Marcus Flint gains the Quaffle and off he goes - Flint flying like an eagle up there - he's going to sc- no, stopped by an excellent move by Gryffindor Keeper Wood and the Gryffindors take the Quaffle - that's chaser Katie Bell of Gryffindor there, nice dive around Flint, off up the field and - OUCH - that must have hurt, hit in the back of the head by a Bludger - Quaffle taken by the Slytherins - that's Adrian Pucey speeding off toward the goal posts, but he's blocked by a second Bludger - sent his way by Fred or George Weasley, can't tell which - nice play by the Gryffindor beater, anyway, and Johnson back in possession of the Quaffle, a clear field ahead and off she goes - she's really flying - dodges a speeding Bludger - the goal posts are ahead - come on, now, Angelina - Keeper Bletchley dives - misses - GRYFFINDORS SCORE!"
Gryffindor supporters erupted into cheers, while the sea of green booed and howled at the point won by the red and gold team. Harry couldn't help but notice that the more palpable the tension, the more his layers of spells went unnoticed. He had expected at least a few to be discovered, after all this was his first try! Ah well, utter ignorance sometimes gives birth to utter chaos.
"Slytherin in possession - Chaser Pucey ducks two Bludgers, two Weasleys, and Chaser Bell, and speeds toward the - wait a moment - was that the Snitch?"
A flash of gold went past Adrian Pucey's ear and the Slytherin Chaser dropped the Quaffle in shock. The Gryffindor and Slytherin seekers, who at that point were very sparsely involved in the game so far, raced after it. While the crowd was murmuring and kept their eyes glued on the two seekers, a pair of emerald green orbs widened.
Growing up with the Dursleys, Harry was given very few worldly possessions. He still maintained that the best gift he had ever received, not counting Hedwig, was a used clothes hanger from a few Christmas' back. It was made of silver wire and bent in a number of ways, but Harry cared not for its shape. After his younger self had bent it into a roughly circle shape, he attached it to the light bulb inside his cupboard and watched as it caught the light in a number of fascinating ways. He would stare at it shine for hours on end, making his eyes hurt but would engross him so entirely that he did not care.
Unfortunately, an effect of such attention to a shiny, silver and yellow object had made Harry very susceptible to wanting to not only catch but to have all objects of this making. He now had one in his trunk, the first he had caught in his life, and that euphoria had distracted him from the other Snitches Madam Hooch had presented that day at Flying class. However, he was not in immediate possession of a Snitch and the Snitch that was flying around the pitch started to look very... enticing to Harry.
He looked around, making sure no one was paying him any attention, and promptly made himself extremely small. He was the size of an ant, and he levitated over to where the Snitch was playing tag with the two seekers. He conjured a length of rope and quickly tied each end to the base of each wing. Finding a comfortable grove on the tiny, well large to him, ball, he started to ride it. He directed its flight by using all the instructions he had found in a book concerning horseback riding. In his delight, it obeyed his orders.
No words could describe the utter bewilderment of the entire school, including its Professors, on the flight pattern and apparent attitude of the school Snitch that day. It led the Seekers on a merry goose chase, often making impossible twists and turns around the players themselves. Captain Wood of Gryffindor even had to complain that the snitch going in and out of his third hoop was very distracting, especially since the two seekers would keep on accidentally hitting him with their broom ends.
Harry couldn't help himself and was shouting in glee when his layered charms finally started to go off. All fourteen players and Madam Hooch stopped their game and watched as the four stands began to noticeably shiver. The wood started to shake and the Professors were beginning to try and evacuate the students. As soon as it started, however, the shaking stopped and suddenly about twenty students wands started erupting into whichever color they supported.
Surprisingly, a few red and gold sparks were found amidst the green and silver of the Slytherin stands. Hufflepuff mostly spouted red and gold, while Ravenclaw had a curious mix of all four colors. Gryffindors were united in their red and gold sparks and even got excited over it. The pitch itself became one large fireworks show, as the goal posts started to blow out what seemed to be red and gold bubbles at the Gryffindor end, with silver and green bubbles at the Slytherin end.
Amidst all the chaos, little blades of grass also rocketed off the pitch and exploded in little leaves and soil particles about thirty feet into the air. The debris from these grass rockets suddenly turning into more colored bubbles and would float up and away. All the people on broomsticks flew higher as to not be hit by any of the grass rockets, all the while avoiding the colored bubbles.
Throughout all this, Professor McGonagall's eyes gleamed. She noticed that each student whose wand had sent of colored sparks were first transfigured into firework sticks then into plain wand-shaped wooden sticks, with the charms cancelling out very quickly. Once the plain stick disappeared, the firework sticks would shoot off the sparks, then be transfigured back into the students wand. This would all occur in the span of a mere second. But her sharp eyes caught the very miniscule delay in the unravelling of spell layers. Whoever had pulled this off, she would first scream at for testing volatile magic on fellow students wands, then deduct so many points that his/her house would never see a positive point mark until their grandchildren went to Hogwarts, make them write lines to within an inch of his/her life, before finally signing an mentorship contract with her. She smiled at her own wand that had undergone the layering of charms of the prankster, and had to mentally tip her hat off to that students who had the guts, and the brains to back it up, to transfigure the Hogwarts Transfiguration Mistress' wand.
Other than the mysterious prankster striking once again, it was a very strange game in such that the Snitch also altogether disappeared an hour into the game. Harry merely smirked as he, now normal sized, felt the little thing rest comfortably in his pocket. He always wanted a horse. And maybe his other Snitch was getting lonely. He teleported it to his trunk in the exact sock he kept his other Snitch in.
Madam Hooch finally called the game to a halt after five hours, gave the team ten minutes to rest, and retrieved another Snitch. Scrying spells for the original Snitch had told her that it was no longer on the pitch. After another three gruelling hours, the game finally ended with 670-530 with Gryffindor catching the Snitch and securing the win. All fourteen players were then admitted in the Hospital Wing, diagnosed with exhaustion.
As promised, after the game, Harry went straight to the Owlery. Whistling a merry tune as he went, he spotted a rat scurrying down the corridor he was in. Shrugging his shoulders, he skipped the rest of his way up to meet Hedwig.
"Finally!" he smiled when he spotted her taking a drink from a water basin at the far side of the Owlery.
He went straight towards her and petted her.
"There's a good girl! Did you have trouble finding them? I thought they would just be in the castle. They must have some spells to make it so you can't deliver them letter addressed to The Marauders during breakfast. What took them so long to reply? What do they look like?" Harry excitedly asked the snowy owl, while grabbing a few owl treats from a nearby forgotten owl treat bag.
Hedwig, as her answer, merely crooked her head to the side.
"Yes, well. One day I hope to create a spell to understand animal thought and speech, I'll have you know." he told her, while feeding her a few treats.
She gulped down the treats then extended her leg towards him. Only one letter was attached to it, and Harry's heart raced at the sight. The first thing he noticed was that it had used the same parchment as the one he had sent. His letter being at the back of the reply. He quickly unfolded the parchment and began to read.
Unfortunately, the Marauders have disbanded. I am only one-fourth of the group but am sure I speak for us all in saying that we are glad that the tradition of rule breaking at Hogwarts holds true in all generations.
I am open to future correspondence and might even assist in a prank or two.
It was unsigned.
Harry turned towards Hedwig, who was once again drinking from the water basin.
"Was the person you delivered this to in Hogwarts like I said?" he asked her.
She gave an affirmative hoot.
"Did you send all four? It's a pity they disbanded.. But it is strange that only one replied. Maybe they're all having a row of sorts.", he mumbled more to himself than to his pet owl.
Hedwig once again merely crooked her head to the side as a reply.
Harry pocketed the letter and petted Hedwig once again.
"Are you tired? Or are you up for a bit of... recreational flying?" he asked her with a grin.
She stretched her wings in reply.
It was on that day that Harry learned two things: Owl feathers were infinitely more comfortable than gold plating, and living creatures, particularly owls, flew with more enthusiasm than any broom or snitch can try to emulate.
As the grass leaned towards the direction the wind was blowing, the land was as quiet as ever. Few visited this place, and fewer stayed for longer than a few minutes. Some say the place was haunted, but all agreed that its atmosphere was eerie and melancholic.
Amidst the depressing nature of the land, a single snowy owl landed on one of the graves. It dropped off a letter in front of one of the many headstones. After waiting a while, almost as if it was saying a silent prayer, it flew off and disappeared into the sky.
On the headstone was written, James Potter 27 March 1960 - 31 October 1981 and Lily Potter 30 January 1960 - 31 October 1981. Below both names and subsequent dates were the words, 'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.'
On the grass directly in front of the headstone, the lone letter remained. It was not to be touched until the groundskeeper would eventually bin it with other debris after a heavy downpour a few days later. At the front, written in the hand of a happy and carefree child, the letter was addressed to 'My heroes'.