Wow. So. This is awkward. Two years. Jeeeez. I am so very sorry. I'd say real life got in the way, but you're looking at the screen like *that*. You know how I mean. See! Hah! You're doing it right now. So I shall offer you no excuses and platitudes. Because that's what it'd be - excuses. And I shall simply say, instead, that I'm back. And I fully intend to see this story through to the end, long winded as it might be.
For those of you reading the Welcome series - no. Just, no. I reread it and cringed. A lot. I had a lot of fun writing it, but I've moved past it now, I'm afraid, and I shan't be starting it up again. Of Men and Monsters, however, I will continue. Because it's fun. And also because I need to keep up my literary skills (or lack thereof).
Anyway, to get this rebirth off to an energetic start I'm going to be using it as a warm up for NaNoWriMo that starts in a week. Which means you should get another two chapters before I mostly-disappear for another month.
Again, my sincerest apologies for abandoning you, my darling, darling readers/reviewers, and I hope that you welcome me back with open arms and not too many rotten tomatoes. Now, once more unto the breach, dear friends!
Disclaimer: Don't own it, never will, hell, I can't even take much credit for the plotline of this fic. Any and all mistakes are mine. Unfortunately.
NB: And we (finally) reach the end of the first year…
Chapter Seventeen: Of Grades and Grudges
Harry Potter was something of a legend. He was an icon, a hero, a saviour. For many he was a great friend. For a few he was a beloved family member. For some he was an irritation that their lives could have done without. It was almost funny how, when it came down to it, Harry Potter was what Dumbledore and Voldemort had in common.
Dumbledore had tried to weasel his way out of giving points to everyone, but the Hogwarts student body, led by a ferocious Harry Potter, was not to be pacified. In the anarchy that ensued, there was no way to regulate the points that 'deserved' to be given and the House Cup, for the first time ever, was declared a draw by all four Houses. Flitwick and Sprout were delighted by this. McGonagall was sternly amused, but Snape… well. He looked to be enraged, but whether he was or not was anyone's guess.
It had been a good evening. The eleven to eighteen year olds had all been high on adrenaline, rebellion sending fear and excitement coursing through them until the entire student body was hyper-active. The Hall was louder than usual, the food seemed to taste better, the company seemed to be better and the teachers seemed less stern. Their hero was among them and had made it so every house had won, not just his own.
But, like any high, the low that followed it arrived with a vengeance. The exam results were passed out the following morning as everyone was packing and preparing to leave. Harry's weren't that bad, though he could do with some improvement in Transfiguration. Stephen's, too, were more than acceptable. All three boys were faced with a bit of a shock, however, when Kevin opened his. Whilst he was excelling in a couple of his classes and above average in the rest, his Potion's mark was abysmal. Harry bit his lip when he saw the small, cold little 'T' next to his friend's grade column.
All three of the boys had known that Kevin was about as good at Potions as he was at flying - that is, not at all - but that he had done so poorly astonished them. Kevin was the quietest, the sharpest of the three of them, with a hard-earned intellect that he was constantly studying to improve. And that he had done so badly next to Stephen's 'A' and Harry's 'O' came as a shock to them all.
Harry, particularly, felt guilty about it. He had spent so much time worrying about other things, about trying to get some tiny compliment, or at the very least an acknowledgement of his skills, from Professor Snape, he hadn't even noticed that his friend was failing.
'Look, mate, next year I promise that I'll lend you a hand, give you some tutoring in it,' Harry promised.
'Thanks Harry, but you really don't need to-' Kevin started, staring intently at the tips of his shoes.
'No, no, I insist,' Harry interrupted.
'You - you don't understand,' Kevin stopped him. 'I - they - I… Professor Snape said that anyone who got a 'T' had to redo the work next year.'
Stephen and Harry gaped at him. 'He's holding you back a year?' Stephen exclaimed. 'That bastard! I won't let him! I refuse to let some soured old over-grown bat hold you back. You've done brilliantly in all your other subjects, so it has to be his fault that you're doing so badly. Him and his non-existent teaching skills.'
'Kevin,' Harry added quietly, once Stephen's rant seemed to be over. 'I'm sorry for not helping you more. Come round mine for a week or two over the holidays - both of you. We'll give you some hard-core tutoring in Potions and get Snape to let you retake. I swear I'll help you more next year.'
'Really guys, don't worry about it,' Kevin insisted, shrinking away from them. 'It's not your fault - it's mine. I should have… tried harder, been cleverer, worked more - something.'
'Don't be stupid, Kev. It's not your fault. It's Snape's -' Stephen started, but was cut short.
'But that's the whole problem, isn't it?' Kevin burst out. 'Poor little bastard boy Kevin, too stupid to even pass his end of year exams. I guess I'll just go find a hole or something and hope that the worms, at least, aren't as stupid as I am.' With that, he turned and fled the room, his result sheet crumpled and ripped, lying despondently on his bed as an all-too-real reminder to Stephen and Harry of the fight that had just happened.
'What was that about?' Stephen asked, his insecurity hidden behind an entirely pureblood mask of disdain and superiority.
Harry sighed and pushed his glasses further up his nose, so he could pinch the bridge of it. 'I dunno, Steve, but unless you lose the attitude, you'll never know.'
Stephen's shoulders fell, mask vanished as rapidly as it appeared and the twelve year old pulled his knees up to his chest, hugging them tightly. 'I'm sorry,' he murmured.
'Don't be,' Harry replied quickly. 'It's not your fault. I think Kevin was just more upset by his Potions mark than he let on - he really has worked really hard this year. You couldn't have known that he'd react so badly.'
'Bullshit,' Stephen muttered. 'I called him "stupid", Harry, this mess is my fault. I could kick myself.'
Harry shot him a queer look. 'Don't beat yourself up,' was all he said, not denying that what Stephen said was the truth. 'I'm going to go find him. Stay here.'
'Don't forget we have to be packed by nine tonight!' Stephen called out as Harry left.
It took the black-haired boy just over half an hour to find his friend. It was only because Harry knew Kevin so well that it didn't take twice that time - Hogwarts was a massive, complex palace of twisting corridors, dead ends and secret passageways and over the past school year Kevin had learnt it's ins an outs better than any other First Year. However, he still had his favourite places, just like everyone else, and it was these spots that Harry checked first.
He found Kevin eventually, curled up in one of the many sub-rooms off a disused class room near the Gryffindor tower.
'Leave me alone,' Kevin said when he heard his friend enter. 'I don't want or need your pity.'
'Good.' Harry said, startling, Kevin into looking up at him. 'Because you don't bloody well have it.'
Kevin winced and turned away from him, leaning his head back against the stone wall it had been resting against before. 'Then why are you here? To gloat some more over stupid Kevin's stupid grades?'
'I don't pity you because, God damn it if you don't have the best grades out of all of us! You may have sucked some serious ass in Potions, but look at the rest of your grades, you got pretty much straight 'O's and the ones that aren't are 'E's.'
The smaller boy turned his face further away, but not far enough that Harry didn't see the tears that fell from Kevin's eyes and streaked down his cheeks. 'But I failed Potions. You didn't fail at anything, nor did Steve.'
'Snape's a shit teacher, Kev. No one's going to blame you for failing. Everyone knows that you work your butt off doing your best. If Snape can't even be bothered to give you the extra tutoring you need, then quit his class.'
Kevin's head snapped up again at that. 'Quit?' he whispered.
Harry stuttered for a moment, never intending to give that advice to his friend but, the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. 'Yeah, why not? Apply to start one of the more advanced subjects early and drop Potions. It's unconventional, but it's clear that you're never going to be any good at Potions, and you're clever enough to pick up another subject.'
'O-okay,' Kevin stuttered back, then grinned tentatively back at Harry. 'Could I still come to your house over the holidays?'
'Of course,' Harry responded, beaming at his friend, and jumping forward to give his friend a bear hug, not noticing the slight flinch that Kevin gave before he relaxed and returned the hug.
The boys returned to their dorm room shortly afterwards, but neither Stephen nor Kevin seemed willing to breach the sudden silence that sprung up between them. For a while Harry suffered playing the middle-man, but his temper was short and he was tired. It had been a long, stressful week, and an even longer, more stressful year and he was really looking forward to being able to go home and relax. Long before curfew arrived, Harry had closed the drapes around his bed, cutting off the other boys and settled down with a book.
The stagnant silence of tense, uncertain emotions stayed between Harry's friends for all of the train ride home the following day, broken only by stiff goodbyes when each of the boys went separate ways. Harry stifled the need to scream at both of them and fell gratefully into Remus' arms.
'You alright there, cub?' Remus asked, full of concern.
'Take me away from this insanity. I want a big cup of hot chocolate and a Monty Python Movie.'
Remus didn't push any further, though he could see the obvious stress that Harry was under. He couldn't understand it - Harry had rebounded wonderfully well after his run-in with Quirrell and then the Headmaster - it was strange that Harry was now bowing to some unseen pressure.
'Calm down, Dad, it's nothing terrible. Just… Kevin's Potion Grade caused a bit of a fight. You know how it is. People talk before they think and boundaries get crossed… I dunno. Kev and Steve aren't speaking at the moment, basically. Try playing the middle man for an entire day's train ride with no reprieve. I almost wished Snape'd walk in so I'd have someone to talk to. And Merlin knows how much of a conversationalist Snape is.'
Remus let out a light snort of amusement, then coughed to try and cover it, though not before he saw his cub's grin. 'Trust me, I've been there, done that. Your Dad and Pads were best mates, and you must know that the better friends you are with someone the bigger the fall out. And they were very good friends.'
'Funny how the "creature" among the humans is the peacekeeper,' Harry blurted, then realised what he'd said and rapidly began to backtrack. 'Aw, jeez, I didn't mean like that, I just meant that, you know, your reputation - well, not your reputation, but you know-'
'Relax kiddo,' Remus said, ruffling Harry's hair, then wrapping his arm about Harry's shoulders and tugging him to his side. 'I know what you mean.' For a brief moment, he allowed a shadow of the werewolf through, his teeth lengthening and sharpening just a little and his golden eyes turning almost yellow in colour.
Harry grinned roguishly back, making his Dad chuckle warmly and revert back to his normal appearance. 'Now, oh child of mine, I do believe you have an explanation to give?' he asked, eyebrow raised as he led Harry towards the boundary.
The eleven year old shrugged, only partly to get rid of the arm still around his shoulder. 'Not here. It's a story best told when there aren't any innocent bystanders around. And where Siri is so you worry more about his reaction than your own.'
'You know you're making it sound worse and worse, right?' Remus asked lightly, though there was a depth of concern in his tone.
Harry shrugged again. 'I guess,' was all he would say on the matter. 'I'm just going to run and say goodbye to the others,' he added, before racing off.
Remus sighed and shook his head at his son's antics. As transparent as a window, that one, and he knew well enough where the skill had come from. Sirius, too, could be spotted a mile off when he got himself into trouble. Although Remus rather suspected that it wasn't Harry that was the root of the trouble this time. From the way that he'd been talking in the Hospital Wing either someone had done something that shouldn't get back to Dumbledore, or Dumbledore himself had been lying. For the sake of old beliefs Remus hoped it was the former.
Harry re-emerged from throught the smoke looking more scruffy than when he disappeared and grinning a little ruefully.
'Alright?' Remus asked, placing a hand back on Harry's shoulder.
'Yep. It's been a long year," Harry replied. 'Let's go home.'
Harry was right of course. It didn't make Remus feel any better when, half an hour after Harry had finished explaining why he'd spent three days in hospital from injuries Dumbledore had given him rather than Voldemort, he realised that he'd spent those thirty minutes trying to rationalise to an irate Sirius. Harry had left as soon as the story was done, a cowardly route to take, perhaps, but Harry wasn't a Gryffindor and Remus couldn't blame him for not wanting to have to deal with Sirius.
The animagus was furious. He'd spent the first five minutes making abortive movements to throw something or punch something until that had settled down into a lot of yelling and storming up and down the living room floor with Remus desperately trying to talk him out of leaving then and there. Punching Dumbledore in the face would be satisfying for all of five minutes, Remus rationalised, before the Aurors got there and Sirius found himself thrown into the prison cell that had been waiting for ten years with his name on it.
'I can't believe that doddery old fool!' Sirius yelled after a long stream of more volatile insults and finally collapsing into an armchair. 'I just about forgive leaving Harry with the Dursleys - the old man probably didn't know how bad they'd be - I can even, just about, forgive him for still believing me guilty of my best friend's murder. He did think that I was the secret keeper. But this last year… this last year has been ridiculous. That's Harry that he's playing God with, and I won't have it, not with my little prongslet!'
Remus sighed and lowered his head back to his hands. 'And what, precisely, are you going to do about it, Sirius? There's nothing you can do. As much as it hurts me to say this, but it's Harry's fight from now on. He'll come to us for help, and we'll do our best, but neither of us is in a position where we can demand anything of the Ministry.'
'It's not fair," Sirius grumbled. 'You're just as human as the rest of us all but one day of the month and I never did anything wrong!'
It wasn't his fault he laughed at that, really it wasn't. Some of the things Sirius came up with were just brilliant beyond words, that was all. 'Siri, love, you've done more wrong than most Hogwarts students combined!'
'I've never killed anyone.'
'You almost have,' Remus pointed out as an uncomfortable reminder. 'And I'm not human, you have to remember that.'
'You are though!' Sirius argued back. 'One night a month, you're not, but the rest of the time you are just like the rest of us - better, even, because you're such a good person!'
Remus shook his head. 'I'm not. I'm a werewolf all the time Siri, it's not something that I switch on and off. I haven't been human since I was four years old and I'll never be human again.'
Sirius huffed and rolled his shoulders agitatedly, but didn't say anything else.
'I love you, you know,' Remus told him softly, perching on the arm of his chair and leaning across to massage the other man's shoulders. 'When you stand up for me, or Harry, or something you believe in - it means a lot. Even if you're coming at it from the wrong angle or have missed the point entirely. I love that you still have a voice, that you're not afraid to stand up and say what you feel.'
'What use is a voice if it can't be heard?' Sirius complained, trying to remain stiff and unyielding but failing utterly beneath Remus' hands.
Remus glanced up to the doorway, to check that Harry wasn't still listening in and, deaming it safe, slid down into Sirius' lap. 'I can hear you,' he murmured, kissing him softly. 'I can hear you defend me. And that's all that matters.'
And Sirius couldn't help but smile underneath his lips and wrap his arms around Remus' waist. 'You're a very distracting man, Remus Lupin,' he told him seriously, between kisses.
'Werewolf,' Remus corrected with an indulgent smile.
Sirius hmmed in appreciation and tugged Remus' shirt free of his trousers. 'My werewolf,' he agreed.
At the feel of Sirius' hands sliding down his back under his shirt and into his pants and trousers Remus let out a low sigh. 'Can't do this here,' he reminded.
'Sure we can,' Sirius said with a cocky grin, squeezing his arse cheeks and tugging their hips closer.
'Harry,' Remus reminded, laughing when Sirius' hands disappeared from his body.
'Moony,' the other man whined. 'Why'd you have to go and say things like that?'
Remus stood up, grabbing hold of Sirius and pulling him upright too. 'Come on then, up to the bedroom.'
Sirius shook his head mournfully, following Remus up the stairs like a naughty boy being sent to his room without supper. 'I never thought I'd become so domestic,' he complained. 'I miss the days of shagging in whatever room we wanted, whenever we wanted.'
It was wilful neglect on Remus' part, not reminding Sirius that those particular days had consisted of the last school year and the few short months before the end of the war. All the time in between they'd had Harry in the house to care for. And, whilst on occasion it hadn't stopped them, the embarrassing stuttering of their ward the following day was an experience they always tried to avoid. But Remus can, perhaps, be forgiven this oversight since it really didn't take that long to reach the master bedroom.
AN: Not the greatest come back ever, but it was an awkward point in the story. And hey, I gave you Sirius/Remus slash. I know you guys are reading it for the 'Snupin' later on, but we must make do with what we have until we get there, yes? And before you get any perverted ideas (probably too late) Harry is scruffier after saying goodbye to his friends because he got attacked by the Weasley twins. I just cut that scene cos it didn't quite fit.
Now, I shall leave you with no promise other than there will be a next chapter. Wish me luck ;)
PS Not to advertise another author much, but if you're a fan of Harry Potter crossovers (specifically Star Trek or Tin Man) check out TheDullYellowEye. S/he has done the impossible and written a believable StarTrekXHarryPotter. And s/he's even managed to get in a little light Kirk/Spock and Harry/Bones (!). Much love 3. Check out my fav authors/stories if you're interested.