Harry Potter and the Foreign Magic
- Chapter 1 -
Disclaimer: Harry Potter in its entirety (meaning all characters, locations and plot) belongs to J. K. Rowling, Warner and other publishers. Since Warner is prohibiting the use of titles like "Harry Potter and …" I'm expressly telling you that the wording of the title is not mine, but I'm using it to keep the flair of the Harry Potter books alive. The idea for this fanfiction is my own, however, as are all the OCs. I borrowed the Veela idea from frizzy (I asked before she didn't want to permit others to use it, by the way.) and am eternally grateful to be able to write this story.
And last but not least: I'm making NO MONEY with this fic. I'm just a poor student. Everybody knows I'm not J. K. Rowling anyway, so who would publish me? Don't sue me please.
Warnings: In this story Sirius Black will be alive. I hate the fact that he's dead. I also need him for certain things so don't be affronted. I will try to keep my story not AU, but please kindly overlook if I sometimes have to bend the universe a bit …
I also strongly warn you about the huge amount of fluff and sweetness. I will try to put some angst into it (given that the 5th book was so gloomy), but I just love stories where Harry and Lucius are playing fairly nice.
The next thing is … THREESOME ALERT! Some might be squicked by it but I like the idea of Harry with two strong, beautiful men … So, don't like, don't read.
This is also Hermione/Snape. Beware. And I very much do Pansy-bashing. (Huh, I have a lot of warnings for this story, haven't I?)
A.N.: And last but not least the time line of this story will follow our darlings the last two school years. You will get a glimpse of Harry's life with the Dursleys, relationships, mooning, Veelas, and last, but not least, school.
LAST WARNING! This REALLY is a LONGTERM fiction which means it will be LONG and DETAILED. The SLASH will follow later. I like to build the plot. Also I'm not a fast writer and will most likely keep you waiting for the next update. This fic was on hiatus for two year or so. I only now get back into writing it after recovering from the trauma I developed after reading the 7th book. I was not amused. Hopefully you 'll stay tuned anyway. I think it is worth the wait ;-)
I hope very much that you'll enjoy this piece of writing and tell me what you think. :-)
When Harry arrived at King's Cross station he was not a happy camper. He was pissed at Malfoy for his stupid, childish behaviour and he couldn't bear his friends who were so awfully happy when Sirius had nearly died. That damned hex had hit him right in the chest, and he was lucky that he didn't fall into the arch with that cursed veil on it. Dumbledore told him how narrow Sirius' escape had been, and how strong his luck was.
Well, his godfather was still hidden in the hospital wing, recovering. Despite his hate for Bellatrix, Harry had to admit that the blasted woman was strong and dangerous. Sirius and Harry had a nice, long talk about everything, and Harry learned that there was a mirror in the package Sirius had given him; a mirror to talk with the person who possessed the mirror's twin, that is, Sirius.
Harry's own stupidity at not looking first at what Sirius had given him branded him deeply. Those mirrors would have been absolutely safe then to communicate with each other and to make sure Sirius was alright and not doing something stupid. But they would be absolutely safe now; and that nobody else than Ron and Hermione knew of them was an added bonus.
And that was what he planned to do all summer. Talk to his beloved godfather through the mirrors, while he pretended to ignore his relatives who most likely would make his summer holiday a living hell - again.
He was a little surprised to see the whole family waiting for him at the station. Even Aunt Petunia was there.
Harry grinned. He knew what would follow, and sure enough Moody and his other friends had a nice, little chat with the Dursleys. Well, if you could call Moody's outright threatening that. At least Harry now had something to hold on to. He could always alert Sirius if something was wrong, and then there were the rest of the Order. If he failed to write them they would show up. And knowing some of the younger members of the Order, Harry felt sure they would show up anyway.
So Harry said goodbye to his friends, promised to write a lot and keep in touch with the rest of them. Then he happily dragged his trunk (on which Remus had cast a Featherweight Spell that would wear off in a few hours' time) and followed his relatives out of the station.
Maybe this summer wouldn't be that bad …
"Boy! Come down here and cook breakfast for my precious Dudders!" Aunt Petunia screeched up the stairs.
Harry grumbled and cursed heartily under his breath as he shot up in bed. Oh joy, today was July the sixteenth, and it was Dudley's birthday.
I wonder how many presents he'll get this time, he thought, half bitter and half amused.
He rubbed the sleep from his bleary eyes and sat up. He had had a growth spurt as soon as he had set foot into the house, and he was seriously worrying over his once fitting, decent clothes. He was still too thin and a little bit smaller than average, but not by much. Besides, the Dursleys were giving him enough food now and allowed him out, despite Dumbledore's warning not to go too far.
His gangly legs swung over the mattress. Sometimes his joints were achy, but thankfully not today. Harry stretched, then hoisted himself up and muttered more profanities. If the smells were any indication, his aunt had already started making breakfast. Maybe she feared Dudley's wrath when his food wasn't ready when he came in.
Harry shuddered while he slipped his battered glasses on. Dudley had become even fatter after the diet had shown some success in the last summer. He was so obese now that his five chins completely covered the collar of his XXL shirts, and his stomach completely filled the fabric so it was skin tight. He wobbled everywhere, and the fat legs already formed an X under the obscene weight they had to carry every day. Obviously the boxing during his year at Smeltings hadn't helped his condition, and the nurse seemed to have given up on Dudley's diet. She only had sent a letter some days ago, stating that Dudley's weight was enough to cause heart failure if he didn't do anything to lose the fat immediately.
Well, she didn't need to bother herself with the warnings, for they were futile. Vernon encouraged his son in everything: the eating, the drinking, the hitting on women, and the "playing" with the children in the park. The list was endless.
Harry also had observed how Aunt Petunia's mouth would become very thin every time Vernon said something to spur his son on. Father and son looked more and more like pigs, and their behaviour wasn't any better. They ate what and where they wanted, went out when they wanted, left all the cleaning to Aunt Petunia and even asked her sometimes why this or that hadn't already been done.
Harry hadn't been in Number 4 Privet Drive very long; in fact just a little less than two weeks. But he already saw that Aunt Petunia was very unhappy with how things currently were. When she snapped at him to help her clean up he didn't argue. He just helped her silently and tried to console her with his presence, although he knew how little it would be appreciated.
Well, today was the day, and he was expected down in the kitchen to help make breakfast. He yawned, stretched while he walked to the door, and then went down the staircase. He didn't wash up or change; that could wait. Right now his aunt (for whom he felt a lot of compassion, actually) needed his help.
"Morning, Aunt Petunia," he said after entering the kitchen.
"Watch out for the toast and the bacon while I'm setting up the table," she said curtly. "And get the orange juice from the fridge."
Harry did as told. He surveyed the pile of presents, and then shook his head. Even Malfoy couldn't be that spoiled, and that was saying a lot. He put the juice carton on the table, then turned the bacon in the frying pan and then piled the toast from the toaster into the bread basket. He put four new slices of bread in and pushed the on-button.
"Make some more bacon, will you?" said Aunt Petunia.
She put a coffee pot next to the orange juice, and then placed a plate with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers between the sausages and the scrambled eggs. It was a futile attempt to tempt Dudley and Vernon to eat more healthily, but Harry thought it made the table brighter. It was always he who ate the vegetables.
He had just put new slices of bacon into the pan, when Aunt Petunia changed places with him again. There wasn't much left to do, so he tidied the table a bit more, and then sat down.
"Well? What are you waiting for?" she snapped. "Go shower and comb that hideous hair of yours!"
"Yes, Aunt Petunia," he said resignedly. So much for companionable silence.
He trudged up the stairs. Dudley was probably still sleeping, so he hurried and grabbed his shower things and went to the bathroom. He slammed the door extra loudly, and then locked it. Smirking he stepped into the shower stall and washed up. While rinsing the soap off he brushed his teeth. By now Dudley was pounding on the door.
"Let me in!" he demanded. "I gotta pee! And I want my presents! Move, freak!"
Harry smirked and took his time in drying himself up and combing his hair. He sighed. It was a lost cause, really. Then he came out, banging the door open with force. It slapped hard against Dudley's naked stomach, and Harry was almost thrown back by the rebound. They both smirked at each other.
"Happy birthday, Keiko," said Harry. Dudley wouldn't catch the reference to the real name of the whale from "Free Willy", but still the taunt satisfied Harry. "Looks like you've gathered new friends." He stared pointedly at Dudley's fat belly (he made a rather convincing Michelin Man, Harry thought, but with the proportions of a hippo), then disappeared into his room to dress.
Even in his room he could hear the wooden floor groan in protest when Dudley waddled into the bathroom. Harry shuddered once more, then dressed in huge navy blue shorts which he fastened with a rope around his slender waist, and a white, worn out T-shirt. It was three or four years old and was from the times when Dudley still fit into medium sized clothes. They were near to fitting Harry now.
Harry thought that he probably should look into the construction specifications of the house. There had to be a limit on how much a human could weigh to be able to live in a house like this. Maybe the floor would just give out one day and his whale of a cousin would crash into the kitchen …
He forced himself to not indulge in these morbid fantasies. Instead he braced himself for facing his family.
"There you are, freak," said Uncle Vernon as a greeting. He wasn't eating yet, merely reading the newspaper.
"Good morning to you, too," replied Harry sarcastically. He plopped down onto his seat – the oldest and shabbiest chair in the house – and scowled. It was too hot to cross his arms, otherwise he would have done that, too.
Ten minutes later Dudley came pounding down the stairs. He waltzed in and promptly sat down. With a disgusted sigh Harry started to fill his plate. That his fat cousin couldn't even do that himself. He didn't notice that his loud sigh covered Aunt Petunia's quieter one quite well.
A radio blared its music into the air, and sounds of two men pigging out could be heard. Aunt Petunia only sat there, mouth once more thin-lipped, and held a cup of tea. Harry ate as much as he could, himself. The difference was that he didn't shovel it in with bare hands like Dudley, and he made sure to eat the vegetables after seasoning them with salt and pepper.
And after breakfast the gifts followed. If it hadn't been so sad, Harry would have laughed. Vernon actually gave Dudley a subscription to a porn magazine, and he would pay for Dudley's driving licence. Besides that Dudley got clothes, new boxing gloves, shoes with iron caps, hair styling stuff … again, the list was endless.
Now Harry felt positively sick. Not only did Vernon allow Dudley to read smut magazines and degrade women even more, but he also encouraged his bullying with those shoes and those new clothes … a pompous and rather ridiculous (on Dudley, of course) mix of leather and pimp shirts.
He went back to the kitchen and silently started to help Aunt Petunia do the dishes. He sensed that she wanted to talk to someone desperately. But he wouldn't make up her mind for her. If she wanted to talk she had to come to him on her own.
After doing the dishes Aunt Petunia sent him out in the garden to weed her precious rose beds. It was too hot for him to keep the shirt on, so he discarded it and worked through the midday, sun burning down on his shoulders, back and arms. Vernon waddled a few times back and forth as if to decide to wash his car or leave it for tomorrow. He decided to do it now, as it seemed. He got his supplies and a bucket of water. Whistling he started to scrub his car.
Harry shook his head. It was too weird to see his uncle actually do something else besides sitting in front of the telly, eating chips and drinking beer.
At one o'clock Aunt Petunia called them for lunch.
"Not you, boy," snarled Vernon with a satisfied expression. "You'll finish this bed first, do you hear me?"
"Fine, Uncle Vernon," Harry said in a bored voice. He looked away from the offending man and continued to weed.
When he finally was finished he went to the bathroom and tried to get his hands clean. The soil was deeply imbedded in his skin, and the water became very muddy when he washed the soap off. Then Dudley chose that moment to make an appearance.
"Finished, cousin?" he sneered. "So sorry to tell you, but there's nothing left for you … Birthday made me hungry, you know?" He smirked and walked away.
Harry wondered if Dudley could even form full sentences anymore. Probably not. He stretched his tired joints and rolled his head to get the kinks out from the long squatting. Then he went to the kitchen.
"Are you done?" Aunt Petunia asked him.
Harry nodded. His aunt closed the kitchen door and then opened the fridge. She pulled out several containers and prepared a plate for Harry.
It looks like Dudley and Vernon didn't get everything, he thought, somewhat amused.
Aunt Petunia put the plate into the microwave and warmed the food up. Harry waited patiently, playing with his cutlery. It was quite nice of her to sneak some of the food aside. But he knew it was a small revenge on her husband and son for making her work like a slave.
She put the plate down in front of him. "Eat quickly. The windows need some cleaning."
Harry nodded and devoured his food. Working in the garden always made him hungrier than the other chores did.
Cleaning the windows wasn't that bad. It was hot, yes, and he was sweating like mad, too, but at least no one disturbed him while he was at it. When he did the windows on the front of the house he could see Vernon polishing his car, whistling even merrier than before. He just shook his head.
That evening he actually was allowed to watch the telly with Aunt Petunia. He was sprawled out on the couch and looked at the boring show, not thinking about anything. Then Aunt Petunia left, preparing tea.
Harry saw the remote control and was wondered if he could switch to another channel when Vernon came in. His fat face glowed in triumph; obviously his struggle with the car had been a success. Breathing loudly, Vernon let himself fall onto the couch next to Harry, and a bit too close for Harry's liking. The couch creaked and groaned ominously under his weight.
"Give me the remote control, boy," wheezed Vernon. Harry gave it to him, and Vernon switched through the channels. "That's all so boring," muttered Vernon. "Why does Petunia have to watch such rubbish?" He settled for a sports channel – an outlook at destruction derby, actually - and leaned back. The couch creaked even louder in protest.
Aunt Petunia came in. Her expression was once more sour, and she banged the tray with the tea set down.
"Set the table, Harry," she said. "And then go get Dudley."
Relieved, Harry left the couch and the gross, moist body heat coming from Vernon and set the table. After that he sprinted from the room and up the stairs.
He didn't bother to go down again. He was happy to lock himself in his room and work a little on his homework. He would call Sirius later and talk with him.
Later that evening Vernon went out with Dudley, leaving his wife and Harry alone in the house. His annoying bragging could be heard upstairs; Harry, who was still in his room, rolled his eyes at Uncle Vernon's stupidity. His transfiguration essay was almost finished and he wanted to complete it tonight. He just searched for some more tidbits to polish his essay up, and that was why he was currently talking with Sirius.
"So do you think if I pronounce the "Aen" a little bit stronger my iguana would turn a darker shade of violet?" Harry asked.
"Positive," Sirius' voice came back from the mirror surface. "Ask Remus if you don't believe me."
"He's right," said the Werewolf, chuckling. He was currently in the infirmary at Hogwarts, recovering from the last full moon that had been three days ago. "I remember that lesson with McGonagall well."
"Okay then," said Harry. He jotted a note down. "Do you think you will be up and about on my birthday, Siri?"
"Yeah. Poppy'll give me my clean bill of health in a few days, so don't worry. Remus and I are coming, so you better be prepared." He grinned impishly.
Harry smiled delightedly. Finally they had found a way to disguise Sirius in his Animagus form. It wasn't that hard, actually. Remus would simply cast some colour changing and concealing charms on Padfoot and no one would get suspicious. This would be his first birthday where he wasn't alone! He was so happy about that.
"Well Harry, we, uh, need some rest," said Sirius suddenly, blushing a little. "Sleep well, and you know, you can call at any time …"
Harry just smirked and bid them good night.
How blind do they think I am, he thought.
He scribbled a few more sentences down, then nodded in satisfaction, and put his essay away. Now that he actually had time to DO his homework in the daylight it was almost fun. Well, maybe with the exception of Potions, and Divination.
He didn't really know why he kept that subject, but he thought it could be fun to record all of Trelawney's death predictions. And it would certainly give him time for some naps. Not that he stayed awake for long in her drug hole of a classroom.
The raven haired wizard called it a night a little while later and went to bed. He was tired, and the thought of Dudley coming home sometime during the night, booming up to his room and bustling around deliberately loudly … no, he would take what little sleep was granted tonight, thank you very much.
Groaning, he buried his face in the pillow, and soon sleep claimed him. Fortunately he was out like a light and therefore didn't wake when Dudley and Vernon came home from their spree.
The next visitor Harry got was Tonks, who was disguised as Arabella Figg. She winked at him, and then dragged him off, saying that she needed help with her precious cats. Harry had to struggle to keep his laughter silent.
They went into the park. Tonks immediately transformed into a hot, long legged blond woman and shed the hideous clothes Mrs Figg preferred to wear. Under them she wore a very short, very red dress. Harry whistled.
"That sure looks great, Tonks," he said appreciatively. In fact, he had to suppress the urge to trail his fingers along her seemingly endless thigh.
"Thanks. Maybe I'll get a flirt today. Those stuck up fools in Diagon Alley wouldn't recognise beauty if it jumped them in the face and clawed their eyes out." She huffed. "Well, is everything okay at the Dursleys'?"
"Yeah, it's okay." Harry told Tonks about his fat cousin and uncle and of how his aunt was becoming unhappier every passing day. As he talked they went to the swings and sat down. "They're just so … disgusting," said Harry at last. "I don't understand why my aunt doesn't leave. It would be so simple."
"Or so you say. But that decision is up to your aunt," said Tonks, shrugging. "Just watch out, okay? If something bothers you, write to the Order. We want to protect you from them, so if they make you work too much, or don't give you enough to eat, let me know. I'll be glad to hex their arses off."
Harry chuckled. "The work is okay. I help my aunt because she needs it. Besides, I would go mad if I was cooped up in my room all summer." He looked at her. "And now tell me, is there something new about Voldemort?"
Tonks' brow furrowed. She bit her lip and then looked him straight in the eyes. "Well, no," she said slowly. "He's keeping a low profile. No one knows where he currently is and what he's planning. Snape's been trying to get information, but he was only summoned once in the holidays so far, and Voldemort didn't say anything important."
"Do you think he suspects him?"
"I don't know," she said and shrugged. "It would be bad if he did."
Harry sighed. "It's just our luck that he's the only spy in the Inner Circle for us. How did he manage to go back there, by the way?"
Tonks grimaced. "You really don't want to know, Harry."
That night Harry flopped around in his bed and couldn't sleep. He pondered their situation. If Voldemort really suspected Snape to be a spy, then they wouldn't just lose a source for information but also a very skilled Potions Master and a teacher.
Harry still hated Snape, and he thought that he would never stop hating the man, but he respected him nonetheless. The things Snape did to serve Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix were a lot more than what most of other people would do. Snape had practically given up his own life for the cause. He was teaching brats at Hogwarts, and in his free time he tried to bring down a Dark Lord.
He snorted. Damn the man for his ability to wring some respect from Harry, even in the throes of deepest hate.
At least it was only one more week until he could celebrate his birthday with Sirius and Remus. The bubble of happiness inside his body continued to grow, and not even Vernon's new, strange behaviour could lessen that.
"So, ah, are some of your freakish friends coming for your birthday?" Dudley asked timidly on the evening before Harry's birthday.
The Gryffindor shrugged casually. "Maybe."
"What do you mean, maybe? Yes or no?" hissed Dudley, and then wheezed as if he had run a very long time.
Vernon stared at Harry. "They better not come into my house!" he demanded. "I won't tolerate even more of that w-w-strange people!" He angrily slammed down his newspaper. "I don't even know why your aunt lets you live here, after everything that has happened to Dudley!"
Aunt Petunia pursed her lips and said nothing.
"The word is wizard, Uncle Vernon," said Harry, rolling his eyes in exasperation. "And if they want to come into your house, I'm not the one to stop them. You know, I still can't do magic out of school. You'll have to shoot them if you really don't want them here. But do you think it will help? I wouldn't be so sure about that, since they're a couple on the run. Remus is my second godfather and a werewolf, and Sirius Black … well, I already told you about him."
"A-a werewolf?!" shrieked Dudley. "Dad! That beast will tear us apart!"
Vernon's face became deadly pale, and he clutched his paper so hard his knuckles became white. "They-they won't do anything freakish, right? Right?"
"Not if you don't provoke them," said Harry in a bored voice. "You know, treat me well and everything is peachy." He grinned. "Well, I'm off to bed. Goodnight to you." His grin formed into a smirk. "And sweet dreams … if you get some sleep tonight, that is."
He happily skipped upstairs and jumped on his bed. Sirius had told him that he and Remus would come by at eleven, so he could take a short nap now and be up the rest of the night. He slid under the thin blanket, set his alarm for half past ten and dozed off.
When his clock blared Harry jumped up, grabbed his things and went to take a short shower. It was still rather hot, even at night. Harry thought that this summer easily rivalled the last. Dudley's room was silent, and downstairs he could hear the babbling of the television. His family was still awake it seemed – and most likely anxiously awaiting the arrival of the two wizards.
Harry laughed to himself and quickly hopped in the shower. He just washed the sweat down, then dried himself and put on the only decent clothes he possessed: a black shirt and faded jeans.
It was ten past eleven when the doorbell rang. Harry decided to let Uncle Vernon answer the door. But he waited at the top stairs and looked down.
Grumbling, Vernon went to open the door. And really, there stood one Remus Lupin, clothed in a white, long sleeved shirt and brown trousers. On a leash he held the biggest, sandy-haired, shaggy dog Vernon had ever seen.
"Good evening," said Remus politely. He too had put a disguise on. His greying hair was currently dyed dark brown, and his chin was covered with stubble. It looked rather endearing, Harry thought.
Vernon gaped like a fish, then stepped aside and yelled: "Boy! Your freaking friends are here! Come down this instant or else–"
"What or else?" Remus asked softly. He fingered his wand casually, Padfoot growled and Vernon paled to the roots of his hair.
Harry grinned and jumped down the stairs. "Remus!" he yelled happily. "I'm so glad you could make it!" He hugged him hard and then started to pet the viciously growling dog. "Come in."
Remus and the huge dog stepped into the house. Dudley peered into the hallway, clearly expecting two men.
"What, this is your murderous godfather?" he sneered, pointing at the dog. "A dog? Man, I knew you were weird, but that weird?"
"Who's a dog?" Harry asked, feigning confusion. He smirked when Sirius transformed back into his human self. "That's Sirius Black, my godfather."
Sirius sneered at the Dursleys, then turned to Harry and crushed him in a bear hug.
"Awww, Harry, I missed you so much!" He ruffled the black, unruly hair affectionately. "I would gladly take you in, these Muggles are going to make me puke one of these days." His cool gaze fell on Dudley and Uncle Vernon. "Or maybe I'll just hex them to shreds."
Uncle Vernon paled even more and stepped back hastily. "Er, well, good night," he mumbled. He retreated quickly and slammed the door of the living room shut.
"Let's go upstairs," said Harry happily. "At least we're alone there."
They went into Harry's room and locked the door. Sirius surveyed the pathetically furnished room, and his face was set in a determined line. "If I could I would take you away from here this instant," he said tightly. "You deserve so much more."
Harry took his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'm fine. As long as every one is safe, it's okay. And I have everything I need, really."
Remus smiled in understanding. "Moody's little lecture helped, then. Good." He gestured toward the old bed. "Let's sit down and have a snack. Siri and I brought something."
Both black haired wizards nodded. Remus enlarged a package and set the food on the floor. Sirius transfigured some tattered clothes into pillows, and the three of them settled down. Harry was almost smothered by the care Sirius bestowed upon him. He was fed grapes, strawberries, even sandwiches and of course lots of sweets. Remus just watched them and chuckled.
"Siri, he can eat alone, you know?"
"And? I missed feeding him when he was a baby, and now I'm catching up."
Harry coughed and looked affronted. "So now you think I'm a baby?"
"My baby," grinned Sirius. "And I'll coddle you all I can!" He held another chocolate chip up and Harry snapped after it.
Remus laughed loudly and held his sides as he watched how Harry and Sirius get into a tussle over the chocolate.
Soon the clock struck midnight, and Harry was engulfed in two loving hugs. A merry, "Happy birthday, Harry!" rang in his ears. Just in that moment he was sure he had never felt so happy.
"I didn't know if you'd need a new racing broom," said Sirius excitedly. "So I thought I leave it to you. I was torn between the new Firebolt Deluxe and a complete new set of clothes for you."
Harry just stared at his godfather. "Are you mad?" he asked incredulously. "How can you even consider spending so much money on me?"
"Because I can and I want to," said Sirius simply. "Look Harry, I really have more money than I could ever spend. Just say what you want and you'll get it."
Harry sank back in defeat. He didn't even have to think about it, which was a humiliating testament to the Dursleys' neglience. "You know what? I want to go shopping. I really need new clothes." He grinned a bit crookedly. "Besides, I can beat Malfoy with every broom, Firebolt or no."
"Great!" exclaimed Sirius. "I'll ask Dumbledore as soon as possible so we can take you out." He cuddled Harry again. ,,Awww, it will be so much fun, visiting London and shopping all day."
Harry tried unsuccessfully to hide his horrified expression, but Remus and Sirius' good-natured laughing made up for the short moment of shock.
Then Remus fished a parcel out of his pocket and presented it shyly to Harry. "Here is my present. I hope you like it."
"That wasn't necessary, Remus, really," said Harry, touched. Upon his insistence he took it and started to unwrap it. When he had opened the lid of the carton he gasped. "Remy, that's not what I think it is, is it?"
The werewolf smiled. "Oh, I think you have the right impression."
Harry put out the items in the box, smiling like mad. There was a vial of truth serum, powder of a unicorn horn, black ink, pixy dust, the juices of several plants, a special quill, and much more.
"I can draw my own map now," sighed Harry happily. "Your old map is slowly falling apart anyway. We should find a way to preserve the parchment if you want to keep it." He even found a little homemade booklet about how to draw a map with the items.
He was positively beaming, and then, only a few minutes later, the owls of his friends started to soar through the open window. The first one was Hermes, the new family owl of the Grangers. It landed on Harry's bed and hobbled until it stood finally still. Harry freed it from the parcel and the letter, then sent it to Hedwig's cage for a bit of water and some owl treats. Just a few seconds later Errol and Pig both stumbled onto the floor, hooting and twittering loudly. They had to carry the usual big Weasley package.
He opened Hermione's gift first. Sure enough: it was a book.
"Animagus Transformation by J. D. S. Crawford," read Harry excitedly. "Wow, now I can try to become an Animagus like you! 'Mione knows exactly what I want. I love that girl!" He then proceeded to open her letter.
Happy birthday, young man! One only becomes sixteen once! With that birthday some of your hidden powers will awaken, and other surprises are also waiting for you … I really don't want to tell you too much and spoil your fun, so I just hope you like your present. Maybe we can learn how to become Animagi together?
Ron spent some weeks in Romania, courtesy of the twins. He was really excited to meet Charlie and his boyfriend since they see each other so little. He also told me that he'll visit Bill in Egypt for a week, too. Fred and George are going, too. I wonder why … I swear, those two are even more money-oriented than the Malfoys! I'm so envious. I wish I could visit Egypt, too, but my parents didn't get vacation time, so I'm stuck mail-ordering books with Amazon and per owl. Sometimes I really hate it being Muggle born.
I hope you celebrate with Snuffles and Moony so you're not alone on this special day. I wish I could have come.
Again happy birthday.
"What a lovely girl," grinned Sirius. "That's a good book. James and I needed years to become Animagi, but I hope you'll get it right sooner."
Harry nodded. "Yeah. This year we also start our Apparating class, so that we can get our licence next year. I hope it is like flying. I don't want to be stuck using the Floo network or portkeys."
Remus chuckled. "Don't worry. Both James and Lily were very good at Apparating. It's to be expected that you'll get it really quickly."
Harry grimaced, then he set Hermione's gift and letter aside to open the one from the Weasleys. Errol and Pig both hobbled gratefully to a bowl with water on the floor. Harry had put it there in foresight. Next to it were some more owl treats so the birds could rest.
He opened the package. He got the usual from Molly Weasley, cake and sweets. Fred and George had supplied him with the newest inventions of their shop, and Ron had squeezed a pair of new, improved Quidditch gloves in. Harry grinned and took the letter.
We hope everything is all right with you. Tonks said you were fine, but we still don't trust these Muggles. Maybe you know already that I have been in Romania for a few weeks, to visit my brother Charlie. The Quidditch gloves are a present from Viktor Krum, if you can believe it. He is in correspondence with Charlie's boyfriend and found out when your birthday was. So he gave me the newest gloves on the market for you. I asked him to let the whole Bulgarian team sign them, and he did. So, happy birthday, mate! Seamus and Dean will be so jealous, I know it. (Please envision me with a fat grin now.)
By the way, Ginny made the cake, so better watch out – OW! She hit me! Well, people are not supposed to read other people's letters.
Er, right. I'll give you my real present later. I feared it could get lost, in case the owls are intercepted, you know.
Well, have a happy sixteenth birthday! Tell me if you're feeling something!
Harry was confused. "Say, Siri, is the sixteenth birthday really such a magical thing as everyone seems to think? Both Ron and 'Mione wrote something like that."
"Oh, yes. The sixteenth birthday usually is the time when some of your hidden powers awaken. In older families it is celebrated like, I don't know, a marriage or something. It means that the child is becoming an adult. At sixteen you can sign contracts, move out from home and even marry if your parents or guardians are fine with it. But you can't vote and are not allowed to use your magic out of school." Sirius smiled widely. ,,I hope you're not planning on marrying yet, Harry."
"I thought seventeen was the magical age." Harry gnawed on his lower lip, ignoring Sirius teasing.
"It is," Remus reassured him. "Then you're fully responsible for your actions. You're free to do as you please. You can marry on your own, open a shop, everything an adult can do."
"So it is a gradual development?" Harry asked. "I mean, the magic revealing itself? One step with sixteen and the next with seventeen?" He frowned. "What if I won't get stronger? I don't feel like it."
"Well, you can't expect it to happen immediately," laughed Sirius. "Just wait a little. You'll know when something changes. Sometimes drastic things happen, and usually it's great fun."
"Fun? If I blow things up? And what if Dumbledore overestimated me? What if I'm not strong enough to fight Voldemort?" Harry was close to a panic.
"Harry," soothed Sirius, "You're one of the strongest kids I've ever seen, really. You'll be fine."
Harry wanted to say something, but then two new owls flew into the room. The first one carried his Hogwarts letter, the other was unfamiliar. He opened the Hogwarts letter first and eagerly started to read it.
We're glad to inform you that you'll be attending the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for your sixth year. On the following pages will be a list of required supplies.
In your sixth year every pupil has to partake in the Apparating classes. Furthermore you are permitted to attend the following NEWT classes: Charms, Transfiguration, Herbology, Potions, Defence against the Dark Arts, Divination; Care of Magical Creatures.
Please keep in mind that your Potions grade was barely sufficient for you to be admitted into the advanced course. Work hard and try to get along with Professor Snape.
Furthermore we're glad to announce you as the new Prefect of Gryffindor. Mr Weasley informed us that he'd rather see you with the badge. Congratulations, Harry. You've been our first choice, anyway. Now show us that you can handle the responsibility. You are now an official candidate for the Head Boy position.
You've also been named captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. The tryouts will take place sometime in September. Be sure to prepare yourself for them in time.
Harry, the whole staff congratulates you on your sixteenth birthday. It is a special day for you, and we all wish you the best. Be diligent and on your guard.
Severus Snape (I was forced to sign, brat, so don't think that I like you all of a sudden. The whole fiasco in the Ministry of Magic is still your fault, and I expect you to be punctual when we resume those blasted Occlumency lessons. I really have better things to do than to decode your clumsy messages and chase you through Great Britain just because the Dark Lord decides to send you bad dreams.)
P. S.: Oh, and Harry, your things will be bought by a professor for you. To do so we need your measurements as soon as possible. I'm sure someone will help you with it. Now just enjoy the sight of your Prefect's badge and the company of loved ones. Please greet Snuffles and Moony from me.
For a few moments Harry had to process all this. Prefect. Quidditch captain. Apparating classes. It seemed so much suddenly, so many things to do during the new school year.
After steadying his runaway thoughts, Harry noticed that there was another sheet of parchment. Harry took it, scanned it, and then whooped loudly.
"Here are my OWLs!" he said excitedly. "And I got quite a few! I passed in Transfiguration, Charms, Herbology, History of Magic and, what the heck? Divination? How the hell is this possible?" He stared at his letter, and then shook his head. "I also passed Care of Magical Creatures and, surprisingly enough, Potions. But I don't think I'll be in Advanced Potions. I didn't get an O."
He looked thoughtful for a moment, thinking about Dumbledore's strange comment about the Advanced Potions class. He couldn't mean it, could he? Sirius and Remus both watched him.
"How did you pass DADA?" Sirius asked anxiously. "That Umbridge woman was a total moron; it would be unfair if your grades suffered because of her."
"Siri, I trained the DA. We knew all the important spells, and everybody did just fine." Harry grinned. "I'm actually thankful that these were the owls, so she didn't get to test us."
"Well?" prompted Remus. "Then how did you pass?"
"Why, with flying colours, of course!"
Unsurprisingly half of their year bollixed the Astronomy exam up. Harry was not too concerned about that – his godfather still loved him. Plus, it gave him the perfect excuse to drop that class.
"Wow, Harry, seven OWLs. That's good! And you're Prefect now!" said Sirius excitedly.
Harry grinned and shook the badge from the envelope. "I can't believe it," he said proudly. "That I would become Prefect after all the trouble. I mean, it used to be Ron's duty and I actually was glad I didn't have to do it."
"Your parents would have been very proud," whispered Remus.
Sirius nodded vigorously, too moved for words. He embraced Harry and squeezed him heartily. Finally Harry regained his wits and untied the letter and a parcel from the other owl. It blinked and fluttered over to the bowl where Pig and Errol sat.
"Ah, it is from Luna!" exclaimed Harry. "Let's see what that crazy girl is giving me."
He smiled fondly and remembered how he had asked Luna to help retrieve her things. She was odd at times, but a good witch and an even better friend. It was she who had helped Harry out of the biggest depression when he had blamed himself over and over for the struggle at the Ministry and all the chaos that had ensued.
In the package was a book about ancient defence magic, quite a thoughtful gift from someone as quirky as Luna. But he appreciated it all the same. He opened it, and saw a photo of some strange, small creature. Since it was a wizarding photo the creature hopped up and down and bared its tiny teeth.
Curiously Harry opened the letter and started to read.
well, I heard from Ginny that it is your sixteenth birthday, and I thought I could send you a little something. My mother used to collect old books for fun, but Dad and I have cleaned up a bit and decided to throw the old stuff out. She was a bit weird if you know what I mean. I kept this one though. You seemed to like this topic and I think it's related to DADA, so yeah. Have fun with it.
Anyway, our trip to Sweden and Norwich has brought some new insights into the life and habits of Bargandles. That's the little thing on the photo. It looks really weird, but they're no worse than pixies, or so they told us. Dad suspects the translator spell was wrong, though. Those Bargandles are much lighter than the common pixies. You can read the report in the new copy of the Quibbler.
I'll see you at school.
Remus took the book from Harry's lap and read the title. He gasped.
"Merlin, that girl is absolutely crazy!" he yelled. "This is one of twelve copies of the "Darkest Book against Dark Arts"! How can she give it away just like that? There are wizards out there who would do literally everything to get one!"
Harry snickered. "She is a bit weird, but I suppose I can make better use of it than she anyway. She's weird, but not stupid." He set the book and letter aside, and then frowned. He took his Hogwarts letter again and scanned the list of names. "By the way, who's Morgan Blackadder?"
Sirius groaned. "She's the new DADA teacher, I take it?"
"Oh Morgana, if so you're really in for something. She's a complete dolt," added Remus. "Don't bother to pay attention in her classes. Better learn it all by yourself."
Harry's frown deepened. "How do you know?"
"I watched her once when she tried to ban Garden Gnomes with tokens made of garlic and sage. It was pathetic."
"She's an unsuccessful Wiccan," explained Sirius. "She wants to connect to the Earth, but she has no talents whatsoever. A bit like Trelawney, if you ask me."
"Oh joy," muttered Harry. "It seems as if the DA would have its revival sooner than expected. Not that I mind." He stretched. "Why can't Dumbledore hire someone who's competent? You were the only good teacher we have ever had Remus."
"Why, thank you." Remus grinned and started to take some more food out of his basket. "But enough of all that talk about school and teachers. It's your birthday! I believe we brought cake for this special occasion, Siri. Come, help me."
Sirius jumped up and padded over. He took the huge chocolate cake and a knife and proceeded to cut it into slices. When he was done Remus put candles in the soft mousse and lit them with a flick of his wand.
"Make a wish, Harry," both Sirius and Remus said.
Harry closed his eyes and concentrated. Then he blew as hard and long as he could. His godfathers clapped and whistled. Sirius gave Harry a huge piece of cake and let him eat it all.
"I don't care if you get sick! This is the day, Harry! You're becoming a man!" he argued when Harry complained about feeling full. It was very funny, even if the drinking of Butterbeer got a little bit out of hand.
But then the night became early morning and Remus and Sirius had to go. Their goodbyes were happy, and Harry promised to mirror call as soon as he woke up. Sighing, he watched his two godfathers vanish in the shadows. He then went back upstairs. His room was occupied by five owls. Harry purred at them and stroked feathers here and there. Pig was finally too tired to twitter any longer. Instead he formed a tiny, feathery ball and slept. Hedwig came back from her nightly hunt and landed on Harry's arm.
"Is that okay, girl?" he asked softly. "They're just staying this night for some rest."
Hedwig hooted softly and flew up into her cage. Hermes started a bit and then made room for the snowy white owl.
Harry smiled at his presents, glad that he had been able to celebrate with his two godfathers. He set all the things on his nightstand. He would write the thank you notes tomorrow. He wondered shortly why Hagrid hadn't sent a little something as usual. He hadn't made him mad, had he?
Sighing, he slipped into his bed and quickly fell into a nice, restful sleep.
Hagrid's present came a few days later. The short note just told Harry that he had been on an errand for Dumbledore. Harry was relieved. It would have been enough to just get a note, and now he knew that Hagrid wasn't angry at him for something. The present wasn't important to him.
He gingerly opened the package, but this time it was a harmless book. Amazed, Harry read the title. Summons of the Wild by Wiglinda Wind. He read the index, and his eyebrows shot under his fringe. Obviously this book described the ways on how someone could summon wild beasts for his use.
It might prove very useful in the future, Harry thought. A huge wave of gratitude washed through him, and he was determined to thank his friend properly.
The rest of the holidays were relatively boring. Every two or three days Order members came by and chatted with him (and scared the Dursleys a bit) or even helped him with his homework. He talked with Sirius and Remus who were on an errand together, and he wrote letters to his friends.
Remus had copied his finished essays for him, seeing that he couldn't do magic out of school. He sent Hermione the copies and asked her for her opinion. A few days later he got them back – to his great pleasure with very little red on them. Hermione was glad that Harry had dedicated some time to his school work, unlike Ron who had spent the summer mostly with practice for Quidditch when he had been in Romania and at home at the Burrow. Her only comfort was that Ginny was equally determined. She wanted to try out for the chaser position and had practised hard for that.
Harry also read the Daily Prophet carefully. Now that Fudge, that moron, had admitted that Voldemort was back, the pages were full of news about the Death Eaters and various raids.
But Voldemort himself stayed in his hideout, not making an appearance. As much as Harry would like to think that he was nursing his pride and wounds, he knew better. Harry had dreamed very little in these past weeks, and he knew this was not a good sign.
The first proof that something definitely was not right was Lucius Malfoy's legal escape from Azkaban. The man had once more snaked his way out of trouble and was now free to do whatever he pleased. Harry had cursed a good half an hour after he had read that. It played hell with his meditation practices. Hermione had given him a helpful book, and after he had overcome his initial anger he had practised in every minute he could spare.
Despite the lack of nightmares or visions, Harry had tried to do Eastern meditation to clear his mind and calm down, just as Snape had ordered him to. It was a slow process to learn it all on his own, but Harry was determined to master it. He didn't want to become a victim of Voldemort's plotting again.
Vernon's behaviour was becoming stranger and stranger still. Whenever Harry worked outside the house, Vernon would come by for some dubious reason and do something useless. Slowly it was beginning to grate on Harry's nerves, and he felt an uncertain uneasiness whenever his uncle was around.
Fortunately the two male Dursleys went out very often so he didn't need to ponder too much about it. Besides, Aunt Petunia always called him away when Vernon was too close for his liking, anyway.
September the first came with a huge BANG. Uncle Vernon insisted on taking Harry to the station early, so early in fact that it seemed sure that neither wanted to accompany him. Of course both his wife and his son looked at him as if he was crazy. The teapot had fallen from Dudley's fat hands and crashed on the tiles. Harry's left eyebrow flew up and he eyed his uncle disbelievingly. It was his hobby to get Harry into trouble, after all.
"But darling, you wanted to go to the zoo this morning," argued Vernon when Petunia wouldn't stop nagging him. "And the earlier I bring him to that line 9¾ the earlier I'm back here." He stroked his moustache in which a piece of egg was dangerously quivering.
Aunt Petunia was not satisfied. "Who knows what you're doing in London. I will come with you. Dudders is invited to the Polkisses anyway." She pursed her lips in her typical don't-mess-with-me-expression and crossed her arms. "And I think I'd rather visit Harrods than go to the zoo."
Uncle Vernon faltered. "If you say so, darling."
Harry shook his head. This behaviour was really strange. He shrugged it off and ate the last of his breakfast, and then he hoisted his trunk and Hedwig's cage into the car. Vernon morosely slumped into the driver's seat, which made the whole car sway and the frame creak. Aunt Petunia sat next to him. Her lips were still pursed.
"Do you have your ticket?" she snapped in the vague direction of the backseat.
"Yes, Aunt Petunia. It was delivered by owl a few days ago," replied Harry steadily.
"Good," she said unflinchingly whereas Uncle Vernon held his breath in terror.
The drive passed in silence. As soon as they had found a parking lot, Uncle Vernon kicked Harry out and went to get a cart for him. It was yet another strange thing; usually he wouldn't even lift a finger to help his nephew. Aunt Petunia stared at Harry as soon as Uncle Vernon was out of sight, and then sighed. Then she did something that no one had ever done to him in this family. She embraced him briefly.
"Take care," she said curtly. "I want you back in one piece. Do you think you can manage that?"
"I'll do my best," joked Harry, unsure of what to think. Aunt Petunia's grip on his shoulders was tight, almost, as if she wanted to say that she would miss him.
Uncle Vernon came back, grunting and wheezing, destroying this brief moment of familiarity between them.
"Boy! Load your trunk already, we haven't got all day!"
Harry sighed. He hoisted his trunk on the cart and placed Hedwig's empty cage on top of it. Vernon didn't even leave him time to say some kind of goodbye to them. He dragged Aunt Petunia back to the car, got in and drove off.
Shaking his head, Harry started to push his cart inside of the station. He was early, but he couldn't care less. This way he could get a compartment for Ron, Ginny, Neville and Luna. Hermione and he had the Prefect meeting first, but they would join their friends later.
Harry carted his belongings to the gate between the lines nine and ten and passed through the hidden passage.
He started. He had been a little early, but half past nine was obviously very early in the wizarding world. He shrugged. He pushed his cart to one of the wagons and opened the door. A conductor came and helped him with the luggage. Then he checked his ticket and bid him a good day.
So Harry was left wandering the Muggle part of the station. He bought himself a coke with his remaining Muggle money and sipped it slowly. Hermione would have a fit if she saw this. Harry grinned. But she wasn't here and he could enjoy the coke to the fullest. Considering his poor life with his relatives and the closed off life in Hogwarts where no one would ever give them coke it seemed almost decadent to have it now, and to relish it so much. It was exhilariating to feel just … normal.
Being normal included wearing normal clothes for once. Thankfully someone from Hogwarts had sent him a robe from his new stash which he could put on during the train ride, and Sirius had sent him a first aid kit of Muggle clothes.
Now he wore some stylish baggy jeans, belted low around his hips, and a white, tight fitting t-shirt with long sleeves. He had pulled the sleeves up, however. It was still fairly warm and he didn't feel the desire to sweat in his new clothes. His skin had turned rather dark during his work outside. He had no idea how handsome he looked, but then again, he didn't particularly care. Since that dating-disaster with Cho he had no wish for a repeat performance. Girls were just too complicated.
After twenty minutes of loitering in the main hall of the station he walked back through the barrier and plopped down on a bench.
But he wasn't alone for long. Soft steps and the clinking of a cart let him perk up. A short look at his wristwatch showed that it was still very early, only quarter past ten. Curiously he turned to look who was so early.
"The Malfoys," he muttered and rolled his eyes. "Just my luck." He snorted and leaned back. Father and son were coming in his direction, eyeing him distastefully.
"My, my, if this isn't Saint Potter," drawled Draco Malfoy's cold voice. "Where's your fan club, scarhead?"
"Please, Draco, your manners," said Lucius Malfoy disapprovingly. His voice held a warning tone which wasn't lost on either Draco or Harry.
The elder Malfoy stood in front of Harry and looked at him with his hard, grey eyes.
"What a pleasure to meet you again, Mr Potter," he sneered. "No doubt you didn't expect to see me again so soon."
"Oh, but I did," replied Harry casually. He didn't even bother to pull his wand. "Money can solve every problem, after all."
Lucius leaned a bit closer, his eyes held a decidedly seductive look. A cruel little smile played around the aristocratic lips while his nostrils flared the tiniest bit.
In a moment of passing insanity Harry decided that Lord Malfoy easily outshone his Lady in the looks department, especially with those ever changing eyes and facial expressions. He was pretty sure that Malfoy senior didn't mean to have them, but Harry had become very good at reading people, and subtle signs were easily caught by him.
"How right you are, Mr Potter. And how good for me that our current Minister is a complete moron. Greedy, plump and easy to … deceive." The last word was breathed out in a tone close to wonderment. Draco eyed his father suspiciously, but Lucius Malfoy straightened up, the face businesslike. "Come, Draco. People who're not even standing when spoken to are inferior to us. Let's get you a good compartment."
The two blondes marched off, Draco throwing a last, haughty look over his shoulder. Harry was annoyed. Trust Lucius Malfoy to worm his way out of prison with his money. It wasn't fair. But what was that about deceiving Ministers? Or did he mean something else?
He did some quick thinking. Last year Malfoy had seen Sirius in dog form, and Draco had said something about his godfather dogging around. He knew that it had been Siri in disguise. Maybe this was another hint at some scheme of Voldemort. A hint … deceiving … maybe another fake DADA teacher? No, that was old. Harry didn't believe that. Voldemort had tried it twice and it had failed both times. Maybe Malfoy simply had thought of something else and was distracted. Maybe his tone of voice had meant nothing. He would tell Hermione and Ron, though.
Quarter to eleven the place suddenly was alive and buzzing. Wizards and witches, mostly pupils at Hogwarts, were milling around, laughing and joking.
Harry had occupied his chosen compartment and waited for his friends. He looked out of the open train window, casually leaning on the small wooden sill. He watched the other pupils say goodbye to their parents or talking to friends and siblings.
The Patil sisters entered his wagon and seated themselves in a compartment to his right. Dean and Seamus came in, too, and greeted Harry loudly. They clapped him on his back and wished him well for his birthday.
Minutes later twin yells of, "Harry!" reached his ears, and he left the wagon, grinning from ear to ear. He hugged Hermione and Ron, and then helped them to put the luggage into the nets.
"Hey Ron," said Harry. "I hope you don't mind that I'm Prefect now."
"Nah," replied Ron, still grinning. "I wanted you to have it. I said to McGonagall that you were better for it anyway, and you know that they just gave it to me to spare you from stress. It was true, I asked Dumbledore. To be honest, I'm glad it's over. I'm not a rule-junky like our 'Mione."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He then clapped Ron on the back. "You know what? Let's trade. I become Prefect and you become Quidditch captain. You're much better in strategy anyways."
Ron's face lit up. "Really? That would be great!" He did a little victory dance. "Yeah, that's all I ever wanted: My own Quidditch team!"
"Look who needs to be grounded," muttered Hermione good-naturedly.
Harry turned away to snicker and looked Cho Chang right in the eyes.
"Hi," she said softly.
"Hi," replied Harry slowly.
"How was your summer, Harry?" She blushed a bit and pushed a strand of her long, shiny black hair behind her ear.
"Quite good. And yours?"
"Quite good, too. I thought a lot about … about us."
Ron and Hermione stiffened when she said that.
"And what did you think?" Harry asked a tad bit coldly. He was prepared for the worst – for tears.
Cho looked up, and then sighed. "I – I can't. Not now. Can we talk later?"
"Why not now?" Harry asked coolly. Then he saw Marietta who was tugging insistently on Cho's blouse. "Oh, I see. Well, I suppose we can talk later. Bye." He turned back to Ron and Hermione. He could hear a sob and rolled his eyes. Why did that girl always have to cry?!
"They're gone," said Hermione quietly. "Really Harry, couldn't you have been at least a bit nicer?"
"Why?" he asked stubbornly. "It was her who ended it, and frankly, I'm tired. I can't stand it to see her cry all the time."
Ron nodded in compassion. Hermione just clucked her tongue. Ginny and Luna came up to them and Harry greeted the two girls with hugs. Luna's pale blue eyes looked at Harry dreamily, and she smiled contentedly.
Hermione ushered them all into the compartment. Not even two minutes later Neville stumbled in, Trevor tightly pressed against his chest.
"Hey Neville, what happened?" Ron asked, obviously torn between mirth and concern.
"I ran into Malfoy," panted Neville. "They wanted to hex Trevor, but I could dodge them."
"I swear, this year Malfoy will get it so hard–," swore Ron angrily. But then he suddenly perked up. "But Neville, you can fend for yourself now, right? Ha! I want to see that! Malfoy won't know what hit him!"
Neville smiled shyly and positively glowed at the praise Ron bestowed upon him. He was still as clumsy as ever on a broom, and he still blew all of his potions up, but he was one hell of a fighter if he wanted to be, and the DA last year had really helped to promote, develop, and heighten his strengths and abilities.
He freed his mimbulus mimbletonia from a bag and placed it on his lap. It had grown a lot during the summer, and the soft noises it made when being stroked were more languishing than ever.
"Harry, I want the DA again," said Hermione suddenly. "It won't be as exclusive but I really think we need it. Umbridge might not come back, but Voldemort is still out there."
Ron nodded, bravely suppressing his flinch. "I'm in for it, mate. And Neville, you too?"
Neville nodded. "And Luna? Ginny?"
Both girls nodded.
"I think Seamus and Dean are in as well," pondered Ron.
The conductor blew his whistle and the doors of the train closed. The six occupants of the compartment rushed to the window and waved to the Weasleys or their respective other parents.
"Well, we've got to go to the Prefect meeting," announced Hermione. She pinned her badge on her sleeveless top. Harry did the same, then they both grinned at their friends and left.
On their way to the first wagon Harry became nervous. "What do we do at a Prefect meeting?" he asked.
"We talk about our duties and stuff. Just sit there and listen, I'll take notes." She glared at him. "I hope you're a good replacement for Ron."
"Hey, now that I have the chance to become Head Boy, I'll try my best," said Harry indignantly.
"Speaking of whom, he and the Head Girl are giving us our directions. At least pretend to listen, and maybe you'll learn a bit already."
Harry wanted to protest, but then the cocky twinkle in Hermione's eyes told him that she was only joking.
They passed several Aurors on their way. Finally Hermione pulled a compartment door open and entered. Harry groaned. Just great. Now he was cooped up with Malfoy and Parkinson for god knew how long, and that on the very first day.
Well, it couldn't be helped, obviously. He swallowed his apprehension and entered as well. Hannah Abbott, Ernie Macmillan, Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil all greeted him warmly, only Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson glared at him.
"Please take a seat," said the Head Girl impatiently.
Under their feet they could feel the train vibrate; it started to move; the engine huffed and coughed, and then the pipe whistled shrilly. Harry and Hermione sat down next to the Hufflepuff Prefects.
The Head Girl started her speech, and Harry noticed that he had a longer attention span than Malfoy, who looked almost instantly bored. Pansy clung to his arm, and Malfoy tried discreetly to unwind himself from her death grip. Harry quietly pointed it out to Hermione, and she actually looked scornful.
"That cow," she muttered. "That she isn't disgusted by her own mirror image! If I didn't hate him so much I would almost feel sorry for Malfoy."
The meeting was mostly uneventful. Harry learned how to behave as a Prefect and what his main duties were. The most important change, however, was that Prefects now were allowed to take or give house points and hand out detention if need be. Apparently Dumbledore thought it necessary to bring a bit more order into Hogwarts this year. Hermione, who had had a whole year of practice, promised to show him his way around. After one hour the Head Boy and Girl dismissed them. Malfoy used the opportunity and pushed Pansy away.
"What's the matter, Malfoy?" Harry asked, smirking. "You look ill."
Malfoy turned around. "How would you know, scarface? Did you get new glasses for a change?" He stalked away, and Pansy ran after him, calling his name.
"Harry, you are a Prefect now," Hermione reprimanded him. "You can't just tease him because he can't take points from you."
"Oh, but I think he can," said Anthony Goldstein confidently.
"And I think Anthony's right," smiled Padma brightly. She watched as the Head Boy and Girl went out. Then she leaned a bit closer. "Hey, Harry. Will you revive the DA? I mean, it was pretty good training, got my highest OWL in DADA." She smiled crookedly. "You're a really good teacher, and after my mom told me that that Blackadder woman is a Wiccan … you have to teach us, Harry! Or we will fail our exams for sure!"
"Real Wiccans are good witches and wizards," said Hermione dryly. "But they actually need the will and a bit of a gift to connect with Earth and work spells with the power. It's another form of magic, different from ours, but very strong."
"Well, yes," said Padma sheepishly, "anyhow, that Blackadder is said to be a fraud. We need you, Harry. Besides, your classes could save our lives one day."
Anthony nodded. Together with Zacharias Smith he had been the biggest sceptic, but after the first few hexes and jinxes they had been convinced of Harry's skills and supported him fully.
"Let's see if she's really a fraud or competent enough," decided Harry. "But I promise, if she's below the Lockhart standard I'll teach you immediately. Do you still have your fake galleons?"
The four other Prefects smiled in relief. Hermione looked out in the gangway and yelled at some second years to go back into their compartments.
Harry said goodbye to the other Prefects and shooed Hermione back into their compartment. Luna was already reading the newest edition of the Quibbler with Ginny looking over her shoulder. Ron and Neville played wizarding chess, and Ron actually was sweating because Neville had unknowingly positioned his figures in a near-check.
"Hello, we're back," said Hermione brightly. She plopped down next to Ron who sat across from Neville while Harry took the empty seat at the window.
"Oh, look," Ginny said suddenly. She pried the Quibbler from Luna's weakly protesting hands and turned it around. "Blackadder is even in the Quibbler. Why's that, Luna?"
The dirty blond haired girl shrugged. "My dad went to school with her. He says she's not as good a Wiccan as my mom used to be. She's a moron, he says."
"Your mother was a Wiccan?" Hermione asked curiously.
"Well, yes," said Luna, warming up at the sudden attention she got. "But she experimented with both kinds of magic, and that's how she died eventually. I told Harry about it."
All eyes landed on Harry.
"She just told me that her mother blew herself up while experimenting," he said defensively. "I didn't know she was a Wiccan. What's a Wiccan, by the way?"
"The Muggle Wicca cult was founded in the eighteenth century," explained Hermione. "It's a religion based on the worshipping of Earth and its gifts and powers. In the Muggle world the Wicca cult is more spiritual; it's supposed to help finding their way in life. In the wizarding world, however," her tone became ominous, "the true Wicca cult is hundreds of years old. It probably comes from the Celtic pagan magic rites which were used to calm the gods and thank them and Mother Earth for their gifts. The wizards and witches who practise Wicca today have a deep bond to Earth and deeply respect all living beings, the plants, the animals, the humans. But they also cherish the water, the fire, the air and the earth. They consider themselves part of a cosmos and thus live in harmony with Earth. If they can use the Magic, the power of a Wiccan can be tremendously strong. If a Wiccan is fully connected to Earth he or she can use all the powers that reside in Earth."
"But that would mean a Wiccan can destroy our planet if she wanted it," said Ginny, biting her lower lip.
"He or she could," agreed Hermione, nodding her head. "But Wiccans live in harmony and therefore do not wish to destroy the planet they're living on."
"My mom was fairly good," said Luna dreamily. "She used to sit in the garden and talk with the plants. Sometimes I watched her for hours, and I could feel the Magic around her." Her pale eyes locked once more on Harry's face. "I'm like my mother. I want to use the same powers. My mother probably would have sent me to a Wiccan coven to build my powers and my connections, but my dad insisted that I go to Hogwarts."
Hermione nodded. Her brown eyes showed sympathy for the girl who had lost one parent in a rather cruel way. "Your dad was right, you know. In order to live in the wizarding world you need at least a basic knowledge of the bound Magic. That's the magic within ourselves. Wiccans are forced to learn both kinds of magic … I see now why the Sorting Hat put you into Ravenclaw."
The rest of the train ride passed peacefully, with the exception of Malfoy's visit. But seeing that every single occupant in their compartment was a DA member he quickly thought about what he wanted to say and disappeared. He didn't even get around to insulting Ron, and that was a first.
Later Dean and Seamus joined them, together with Parvati Patil. It soon became crowded in their compartment, and Hermione ended sitting in Ron's lap, Ginny in Dean's lap (who was still her boyfriend; and they seemed to like each other a lot, if the kissing was any indication) and a giddy Parvati claimed Harry's lap. The rest were content with their seats and waded through the mountains of sweets Ron, Ginny, Harry and Neville had bought.
They talked about their OWLs and their expectations for the new year. Harry, for one, fully expected Snape to hate him more than ever. But he was prepared. He hated the man more than ever, too, so they were even in that regard.
When the topic changed to Apparating and eventually to Animagus Transfiguration, Harry, Ron and Hermione closed up. They wanted to learn how to become Animagi alone. During the summer holidays they had written letters back and forth, making plans for that. It was something they didn't want to share with their classmates. It was sentimental, especially for Harry.
Finally the train slowed down and came to a halt at Hogsmeade station. Pupils streamed out of the train, Aurors watched out suspiciously, and Hagrid's booming voice called for the first years. Harry quickly went up to him and without further ado hugged him hard.
"'Ey, 'Arry!" crowed Hagrid. "So nice ter see yer, 'lil fella! How'd yer find my present, eh?"
"Fabulous!" beamed Harry. "I'll try that, maybe even train that together with the others. Thank you so much!"
"Thought yer could need that," said Hagrid abashedly.
"Thanks, Hagrid," Harry said again. "I'll see you later, okay? Prefect duties, you know …" Harry grinned up to him, and his bright green eyes sparkled. He then turned around and fought his way through a sea of tiny first years. Hermione was already waiting for him, and together they shooed the dawdling boys and girls into the carriages.
The sight of the Thestrals didn't shock Harry as much as they used to. He was even brave enough to pet the one that stood in front of his carriage, and after a moment Luna joined him calmly. He secretly thought about whether it would be possible to summon one of these in a situation of dire need.
He was brought out of his pondering by Hermione who called him into the carriage. When they arrived at the castle gates that led onto the Hogwarts grounds Harry had the feeling that something would change. He couldn't place it, but it was there. He absently stared into Luna's misty eyes, only to be shaken awake by Ron when they arrived at the front doors of the castle.
For the first time Harry didn't sprint into the Great Hall with the others. He waited patiently, put some order into the mass of students, and greeted his friends and acquaintances as he went. Hermione watched him, satisfied, but frowned when her eyes fell on the two Slytherin Prefects. Malfoy and Pansy just stood there and talked. Harry pretended not to care but he strained to hear what they were saying.
To his disappointment it was only bickering between girlfriend and boyfriend. Harry tuned it out as soon as he heard the quarrel. He really had better things to do than thinking about Malfoy's love life. He shuddered. A love life with Pansy was very low on thelist of things he wanted to think about indeed.
He and the other Prefects pushed the last pupils into the castle. Through open doors the swarm of children and young adults filed into the Great Hall. The house tables filled as their respective occupants sat down. The Ravenclaw Prefects told the others that they would guard the door until the first years were through. Gratefully Harry and Hermione joined Ron, Seamus and Dean who had saved them seats.
A few minutes later McGonagall came in. Since the attack last summer she had to rely on a walking stick, but she was as energetic, strict and snappish as ever, and no one dared to cross her path. It was no secret that she was in an extremely foul mood concerning the Ministry, and if she had her way with Fudge, the man would have gone to dig his grave long ago.
The scared first years trotted behind McGonagall. The curious and amused glances from the older students didn't help them much. Some were shaking like leafs. Harry smiled at them encouragingly while Hermione was busy talking to Parvati. Ron stared at some of the kids with a glazed over expression. Maybe he was already thinking about Quidditch strategies against the Slytherin team.
McGonagall got the stool and the hat and placed it in front of the teacher's table. Everyone quieted down, until it was eerily silent in the Great Hall. Then, suddenly, the Sorting Hat sprang to life.
Harry and Hermione listened intently to the new song, but other than new, dire warnings about the unity within, the hat told them nothing new. Harry was a bit disappointed, and in Hermione's face he could see that she felt the same. Then he glanced over to the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw Prefects, and all four nodded shortly. Harry smiled briefly. Maybe he had more allies than he had thought.
The Slytherins, however, looked miffed. Harry could clearly see how their minds worked. On the one side they hated the Gryffindors and wanted to give them big trouble, but on the other hand they knew that this was not a game. If they joined Voldemort they would be servants to a Mudblooded maniac, and they knew it. They would never be free again, and that was very much against the beliefs of every real Slytherin. But the power seemed alluring, despite all the doubts.
The Gryffindor sighed. McGonagall started to read out the names of the first years, and one after one they were sorted into the houses. Gryffindor got thirteen new students, Hufflepuff eight, Ravenclaw nine and Slytherin only six. It seemed that in the upcoming war parents had either brought up their children to be against the Dark Lord or sent them to another school. The small number of Slytherins seemed to prove that.
Harry looked at the Slytherin table. Malfoy watched his new house mates solemnly, Crabbe and Goyle sitting stupidly next to him. Pansy scowled from her seat next to Goyle. Blaise Zabini sat next to Crabbe and seemed utterly unconcerned.
When the noise had died down, Dumbledore stood up. "Dear students, welcome to Hogwarts, be it for your first year, your last year or a year in between." He smiled faintly at the snickering students, but then his face became serious.
"We all heard the song of the Sorting Hat, and again it warned us to stay united. The Dark Forces are stronger than ever, Voldemort is gaining power and followers. Hogwarts is the last defence we have, and you children are the ones to decide if we fight the evilness Voldemort bestows upon us or surrender to it."
His light blue eyes behind the half moon shaped glasses surveyed the four tables. "Surrender would mean death and despair. It would mean that we and our loved ones will have no future."
The old, worn face showed a gentleness towards the students that no one had ever seen from him on such an occasion. "It is your decision to make, and I hope you'll choose the side that can protect a bright future, your freedom, and your pride."
The Hall was silent for a few moments, and then Hermione started to clap determinedly. Harry followed suit, Dean, Seamus, Ginny and Neville started too, then the Hufflepuff table erupted into applause, and Luna, Anthony and Padma led the Ravenclaw table on. Soon the Great Hall was filled with applause and cheers. Only the Slytherins were silent, although a few looked deeply troubled.
Dumbledore smiled, and slowly the cheers and the clapping ebbed away.
"I also want to introduce you to your new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Morgan Blackadder."
The applause for her was slow and doubtful. No one believed that she would make it through the year – no Professor had done that before. Not even Professor Lupin who had been really good but unfortunately was a werewolf.
Luckily Umbridge had been fired from the Ministry of Magic because the OWL examiners and the board of governors had discovered that she had seriously sabotaged the DADA classes. With Voldemort on the run they wanted the children to be prepared as well as possible. Fudge had been reprimanded in public to his undying embarrassment.
"Firenze will teach the Divination classes together with Professor Trelawney," said Dumbledore merrily, "And some of you will be glad to have their Care of Magical Creatures teacher back." The Gryffindors cheered at that. "Well, now I've talked long enough. Dig in!"
"Damn right about that," Ron mumbled and looked wistfully at the empty golden plates on the table.
With a loud whooshing sound the house tables filled within seconds with the most delicious food. Scrambled eggs, sausages, roasted chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, fish and chips, pudding and cakes were piled up, and the ravenous students grabbed everything they could reach with their hands and wolfed it down.
After the feast and some last words from Dumbledore, Harry and Hermione led the first years to the Gryffindor tower, telling them about the tricky stairs and the moving portraits.
"Now pay attention," Hermione told the first years. "You need a password to get in. The password changes every week. The current password is 'Aeris Domestica'."
The Fat Lady swung aside, and the gaping first years scrambled through the portrait hole. The older Gryffindors followed.
"Please take a seat," said Harry. "Our head of house, Professor McGonagall, will be here shortly."
While they waited, Angelina came to Harry and Ron.
"Hey!" she said merrily. "I heard you're a Prefect now, Harry. Good job! Dumbledore finally came to his senses!"
"Hey!" said Ron indignantly.
"Come on, Weasley," said Angelina playfully. "You weren't meant to be Prefect and you bloody well know it. Besides," her eyes darted to the left and right, "I gave the position as captain of the team up to study in peace. Merlin knows I'll need it." She clapped Ron on the back heartily. "And I wanted to ask if you could do the job anyway. I know that McGonagall wants Harry, but you're way better in tactics. So, will you?"
"You need to ask?" yelled Ron. He jumped Angelina and hugged her. "Of course I accept."
Hermione elbowed him. McGonagall had finally arrived and was about to start her speech. They fell silent and listened to her crisp words about responsibility, points, the house cup and classes. She seemed tired and left soon, but not without drilling Ron for the upcoming Quidditch season first.
"Funny, isn't it?" she said, "Every captain of Gryffindor has been a keeper so far. I hope you'll not disappoint me, Mr Weasley."
"No, Professor," Ron said in delight. "We're not the lions for nothing."
Angelina, Katie and Alicia joined them. "We're playing chasers in the important games," Katie said.
"Against Slytherin," elaborated Alicia, "but we want you to try new chasers out. And beaters! That Jack Sloper seriously has to be replaced. What about Thomas and Finnigan? They're always hanging out together. And your sister is quite good at chasing."
"The tryouts are being held on September the thirteenth. I expect you to scout fairly and to the best of your knowledge," said McGonagall. She took her walking stick and turned to leave. "I'll post the announcement on the board. Good evening."
"Good evening, Professor," said the group.
Ron immediately went to Ginny and asked her if she would try out for the chaser position. Parvati claimed that she wanted to be chaser, too. Ron had hope for their team. Parvati had a quick wit and could curse very convincingly when she wanted to. Colin announced that he wanted to try out, too, together with Dennis.
"What about you, 'Mione?" Harry asked. "Do you want to try out for chaser, too?"
"Am I tired of my life already?" she snapped. "Think about it, Harry. My flying lessons were pitiful at their best. No, I'll let you have all the fun and put your pieces back together later. And now go talk to the others, I can see they're just about dying to get a word with you." Hermione smirked and snuck away unnoticed, while Harry saw himself confronted with his house mates.
All evening long students approached Harry and asked him whether he wanted to continue the DA or not. A lot of these students had followed the newspapers avidly and were more concerned than ever. Harry talked to them, promising nothing yet, but if he was honest with himself he almost didn't have any other choice. He had liked teaching, and he was glad that his friends believed him now.
Tuesday was their first day of classes, and McGonagall gave them their timetables for the year when they sat down at the Gryffindor table for breakfast.
"Oh no," moaned Ron. "Look what we've got today. History of Magic, Divination, a double hour Potions and a double hour Transfiguration. Couldn't they have that mixed up at least? One boring and one tiring lesson next to each other?"
Hermione clucked. "You are taking Divination. I still have Arithmancy instead, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm in Advanced Potions which will be much more difficult. So kindly stop moaning. And look, we only have our Apparating class next Monday. Pity, I'm really looking forward to it."
Harry stared at his timetable in shock, ignoring her comment. "Oh no! Dumbledore really had Snape take me in to his Advanced Potions class!" he hissed to Hermione. "I don't want to go there! I would be perfectly fine in the normal classes!"
Hermione frowned. "You got Acceptable in your OWL, didn't you? Well, yes, that's certainly not enough for the advanced classes. I think you should speak with Dumbledore."
"Yeah. I'll go now, maybe he's groggy enough to answer my questions." Harry grimly got up and stalked away.
Luckily Dumbledore was just about to enter the Great Hall, so Harry could ask him without alarming half of the school. After a few words he nodded and went back to his friends.
"And? What was his reasoning?" muttered Hermione.
"Later," said Harry. "I'm starving, and I know I'll need my strength for Binns."
Hermione huffed but didn't say anything. The Advanced Potions class wasn't until the next day. Ron and the other Gryffindor sixth years boys and girls would have a free period then, just like Harry and Hermione who had theirs today during the normal Potions class. He arranged a meeting with Hermione in the library. He realised that this would be the perfect possibility to tell her all about Lucius Malfoy's strange words.
History of Magic was as boring as ever, and both Harry and Ron instantly dozed off. Hermione couldn't even be mad at them for she was sleepy herself. History right after breakfast was unbearable.
After that Harry and Ron dragged their feet to Divination. They were still in a stupor, so they didn't even realize that they apparently had Divination together with some Slytherins this year. Only a few students from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had wanted to take that class further on the NEWT level.
"Potter, are you just bored or did somebody drug you?" taunted Malfoy when they climbed up the last stairs to the north tower, wheezing and panting and with half drooped eyelids.
"The drugging will come shortly," Harry shot back smartly. "And I'd appreciate it if you'd stop asking stupid questions."
His friends snickered and Malfoy turned away, muttering angrily. Pansy glared at Harry. Then the silvery ladder slid down and the students started to climb up into the classroom.
Harry hadn't been lying when he said that the drugging would follow later. Trelawney was burning some herbs in her incense censers, and the smoke wafted through the whole classroom. Desperate for air, Ron and Harry chose a table next to a window, and Ron tried to pry the jammed window open a bit. He succeeded eventually, and both sighed in relief when the smoke started to seep out. Fortunately for them Trelawney was too occupied to see them, but Lavender shot them both a dirty look.
Malfoy managed to shake Pansy off and partnered with Blaise. Pansy grumbled and took a seat next to Millicent who looked as sceptical as Hermione and clearly had something better to do with her time.
"Welcome back to school, my dears," said Trelawney in a misty voice when everyone was seated. "You all know that this year shall be used to prepare you for your NEWT exams. And I'm honoured to see you all in my advanced class, proper and healthy." Her huge eyes landed on Harry. "Mr Potter here passed his OWL exam with an outstanding, just as I've seen it with my Inner Eye …"
"And how, pray tell, did wonderful Potter do that?" cut Malfoy in scornfully.
"Mr Potter predicted for Madam Marchbanks some very interesting things," Trelawney said mistily. "He said she would meet a dark, soggy stranger … And she MET a dark, soggy stranger. He tried to sell her some cauldrons. Yes, very insightful. She couldn't have been more surprised, I can assure you."
Harry thought with a sinking feeling that he had mixed her heart and life line up and told her that she must have died the Tuesday before or some such rubbish. How could THAT lead to an Outstanding?
"Furthermore," said Trelawney's wafting voice, "his prediction of her death was quite right as she had to learn. Mr Potter told her that she already must be dead, and indeed, Madam Marchbanks was approached by the driver of the Knight Bus. He apologised for almost hitting her the other Tuesday … It was a very close escape for her … Well, needless to say that he got an Outstanding …"
Whispers broke out between the students. Ron snickered so hard he had to stuff his fist into his mouth, and Malfoy glared at Harry with his most disgusted expression.
"You are really lucky, mate," sniggered Ron quietly. "But I can't say I did badly, myself. My examiner met his twin later … that's how I got my Above Average."
Harry chuckled and quickly looked away from Trelawney who gazed at him adoringly.
"This year we will revise hand reading, crystal ball gazing and the reading of tea leafs, the fire omen, dream reading and the bird innards."
"Eurgh!" Pansy said loudly. "Why do we have to dig in bird innards? That's disgusting!"
A mean smile flittered briefly over Trelawney's face. "Well, Ms Parkinson, those innards hold your future … your dreams, your fears, your wishes and your failures … Don't underestimate the art of divination … Now, everyone, open your books to page five and start reading your partner's hand lines."
Harry liked hand reading, despite his dislike for the subject or the teacher. There were lines, there were pictures in the book, and he could very clearly see what his lines looked like. So he grabbed Ron's hand, put a piece of parchment and a quill next to it and started to draw the hand. When he was finished Ron took his hand away and both started looking for the results.
"Oh look, Ron, your life line is very long and sturdy. That means you'll live a very long and healthy life. And here, in the middle, are some smaller lines. That means you'll have some children."
Ron grimaced. "I don't think I want children soon."
Harry laughed and continued to predict Ron's fate. Professor Trelawney glided over to them and looked for a while, but for once Harry didn't mess things up, and she was satisfied. When it was Ron's turn she sat down.
"May I?" she asked, and every student stopped dead in their tracks and looked at them. Some in glee, others in apprehension.
"Oooh, I see," said Trelawney softly. "Well, Mr Potter … It seems your awakening powers have made quite a change in your life … Your life line is very long, but there are intruding lines … Things will change, and not for the better … Your heart line is split … You will never find your true love because your heart is unsure … You have been hurt in the past. And here's your head line. You've got a very strong will, Mr Potter, but it will not save you from the new shadows that are following you …" She breathed out evenly and then stood up gracefully and with tinkering bracelets and necklaces.
"Well, at least she didn't predict my death this time," said Harry loudly enough for everyone to hear.
Malfoy smirked. "You've been hurt, Potter? I didn't even think you were able to get a girl to like you."
Pansy laughed cruelly. "Yeah, Chang doesn't like you anymore. She must be blind to let you even near, let alone kiss you–"
Harry shrugged seemingly careless, but he was positively fuming inside. "If I had a girlfriend like yours Malfoy, I would give everything to be single again."
Malfoy blanched. "She's not my–"
Pansy clucked her tongue disapprovingly and clung to his arm. "But Dracy! Of course we're together! There's no point denying it."
Ron and Seamus broke down laughing hysterically, and Harry, Neville and Dean weren't far behind. Even Blaise's lips twitched a little.
"Are you done with your task?" snapped Professor Trelawney, a lot less misty and windy. "I expect a three feet long essay on what you've found out about your partner! Prove every statement you make!"
The whole class groaned but at least Professor Trelawney dismissed them early. She claimed she was too irritated by their spiritual straying to bear their presence any longer – Harry thought she had a headache and wanted to nurse it.
Harry's next two periods were free. He left Ron who was moaning about his class with Snape and met Hermione at the entrance of the library. They quickly searched out for a table and looked for eventual eavesdroppers.
Hermione put some books and parchment on the table but didn't open anything.
"I have to talk to you about something," said Harry in a hushed voice. "I couldn't tell you yesterday, but I think it is important."
Hermione nodded, grabbed her wand, and cast a clever silencing bubble around their table. "You can tell me everything," she said, pleased with herself.
Harry smiled gratefully. "Well you see, yesterday I was early at King's Cross, and I met Malfoy and his father there."
"What? Did he try anything?" demanded Hermione.
"No, no," Harry reassured her quickly. "But he said something rather strange to me. It sounded suspiciously like a hint … or a warning."
"What did he say exactly?" She leaned over her books, and her brown eyes glowed with curiosity and excitement.
"Well, he told me that he bought his way out of Azkaban, and that Voldemort is lucky to have Fudge where he is, because he's greedy, plump and easy to deceive." Harry frowned. "But his intonation was funny. He emphasized the 'deceive', and I wondered if he wanted to hint at something."
"Yeah, he did that before, didn't he?" said Hermione, frowning even more. "Ron's father told me that you had a run-in with Malfoy in the Ministry of Magic last year. That he said some rather funny things to you. Something about finding your way out of trouble like a snake or some such rubbish." She snorted. "They're not very subtle, now are they?"
"Aren't you worried?" Harry asked carefully. "I mean, maybe he wanted to gloat about some great plan …"
"And maybe he wanted to say nothing with it," Hermione finished his sentence. "Yes, Harry, I believe it is reason to worry. I'll keep it in mind. But maybe he was just distracted. You know how much people like him love to hear themselves talk."
Harry sighed in disappointment. "I hoped you'd have some sort of inspiration …"
"I'm afraid not," said Hermione regretfully. "But maybe we'll find another piece of the puzzle later." She watched him closely. "And now tell me what Dumbledore said about your schedule."
"Oh, right." Harry straightened in his seat. "He said I am to take part in the advanced class to prepare for later." Hermione knew that he meant the real life and the upcoming battles with Death Eaters, not school. "And I'm free from the NEWT, but if I improve considerably Snape will let me in for real."
"That was thoughtful of him," said Hermione. Relief showed in her voice, and Harry was not surprised. "But promise me you'll work for Potions. Professor Snape can't afford to waste his time on you. I want to learn these things …" She looked sheepish for a moment, but Harry understood and wasn't mad.
"I promise, 'Mione. Maybe you can help me understand that blasted subject. Every time Snape is hovering over me I can't produce a decent potion."
"Sad but true," she admitted. "Now, while we are already here we can do something useful."
Harry nodded. "I thought we could have a look at the first chapter in the Transfiguration book."
"That's my Harry."
Studying with Hermione and without Ron wasn't as stressful as with both of them together, Harry discovered. Ron would always try to distract himself from school work whereas Hermione kept focused and tagged Harry along. After they had read the chapter they searched an empty classroom and tried the spells. Hermione managed to turn her book into a ticking clock and back, and Harry managed to do it not much later.
"It's really a matter of spelling and wand movement," said Hermione when they walked to the Transfiguration classroom after lunch. "You saw Dean in our first year. Of course your magic has to work, but in order for it to flow properly you just have to speak the words clearly and move the wand properly."
Harry admitted that she had a point. He was quite impatient and just waved his wand somehow – his strong magic mostly compensated his lack of wrist movement -, but now, after a lesson in proper wand handling he could almost feel how it got better and better. If he kept this kind of training up he would be much better in his practical tests than before.
McGonagall explained to them how she planned to revise the things they had learned and some additional stuff, then, in the second hour, they actually proceeded to the first chapter of the book, and Harry was glad that he could do the spell right. That earned him and Hermione five points each for Gryffindor. Parvati and Seamus weren't bad either, but Ron was in a foul mood after his double Potions class and somehow managed to set his table on fire.
After Transfigurations Harry, Hermione and Ron felt tired so they went back into the common room. Harry found some of the last Chocolate Frogs. They nibbled on them and waited for their strength to return.
"Why does McGonagall have to give us homework on the very first day?" ranted Ron.
Hermione sighed. "Honestly, Ron. This is school, live with it."
Harry tuned their bickering out and took a closer look at his timetable. On Monday, that would have been yesterday, he had Charms, Herbology, DADA and Care for Magical Creatures. Well, that wasn't too bad. He liked Charms, he could see Hagrid in the afternoon and he would see Professor Blackadder in the classroom. Herbology was not his favourite subject, but Professor Sprout was nice enough and the plants weren't boring.
By now Ron was gloating about the fact that both Harry and Hermione had Advanced Potions first thing tomorrow morning. He had two free periods and could sleep in. Harry seriously envied him, but then he looked further and discovered that his Friday would end after four classes whereas Ron had to go to Potions for another period.
Later, in the common room of the Gryffindor tower, Ron, Hermione and Harry were working on their homework for Transfiguration. Harry and Hermione had it finished already, but Ron was ranting about the injustice of it all.
"It really is Snape's fault! If he weren't so damn insufferable and grouchy and unfair I probably would make a halfway decent potion. But no! He has to pair me with Neville of all people, and then he was yelling just because the cauldron exploded!" He took a deep breath and continued. "It was so damn unfair! We lost thirty points, but when Crabbe's table melted he merely said he should watch out better the next time!" He threw his quill down and splattered his parchment with black ink. "I can't concentrate. I want to strangle someone!"
Harry's stomach seemed to fill with ice. "Lovely," he said wryly. "I just can imagine that our double period tomorrow will be a picnic in the park …"
Hermione looked at him in sympathy. "Well, at least the class is considerably smaller, and he will have no excuse to accuse you if Malfoy has done something."
"I just hope so," muttered Harry. The feeling of dread became only stronger.
Later in the evening Harry dragged Hermione away from her books. Ron was currently slaughtering Seamus at wizarding chess. He sighed and braced himself.
"Uh, 'Mione? Can I ask you something?"
Her eyes gleamed knowingly, but she simply nodded and urged him on.
"Well, do you think you could tutor me in Potions? I mean, I really want to survive that class, and I still have to learn Occlumency with Snape …"
"Yes. I'll help you." She had that cat-in-the-cream-look on her face, and Harry could imagine her, licking imaginary cream from the corners of her mouth. "I really appreciate it that you're finally taking your studies seriously."
Harry groaned inwardly. But it was too late now. He wouldn't get out of this unharmed. Better play along, he thought.
"We can start right away," said Hermione graciously. "I was done with Arithmancy anyway." She took her Potions volume and opened it at a random page. "Now, we all know that Snape loves to ask you questions to which you don't know the answers. I suggest you just start to learn random ingredients of random potions. That should be enough."
"Yeah," snorted Harry bitterly. "Maybe we should take the most complicated potion that we won't even brew in class. That would be appropriate."
Hermione looked at him strangely but then complied with a shrug. "Okay. That would be the Forever Hairless potion. It has to be applied on the skin selected to be free of any hair. The ingredients are …"
The next morning Harry was in a grumpy mood when he came down for breakfast. Neville had snored even louder than usual, that blasted cactus had made noises all night long, and on top of that his head had been so full with memorized potions ingredients that he just hadn't been able to fall asleep. None of his usual relaxing and meditation techniques had helped; therefore it had been impossible for him to clear his mind. Not that he would have had any quality sleep without Voldemort sending him a little image or two.
Hermione eyed him warily. His house mates avoided him; Harry in this mood was dangerous. Ron skipped into the Great Hall and happily chirped his morning greetings in every direction. He then sat down next to Harry and started to shovel his breakfast into his mouth.
"I hope you choke on it, Ron Weasley," said Harry darkly, staring at his best friend.
Ron only laughed and ate faster. The other sixth year students looked at Harry with compassion. They all understood why he had to go to Advanced Potions, but they knew that Hermione was the only one from Gryffindor smart enough to be legally accepted there. They all could go back to bed and take another hour of sleep while Harry and Hermione were tortured by Snape.
Hermione finished her breakfast remarkably unconcerned, but Harry couldn't get his scrambled eggs past the lump in his throat. He gave it up and waited for his friend to finish. Malfoy smirked at him over the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables. Harry resisted the urge to hex him.
Feeling even more grouchy he followed Hermione out of the Great Hall and down into the dungeons. They marched past their old classroom. There were already some students waiting in the hallway. Harry saw Ernie Macmillan and Hannah Abbott, both waved at him, and Luna had made it into Snape's advanced class, too. She stared dreamily at nothing. Then Terry Boot arrived, and shortly after him Malfoy and Zabini.
Harry noticed that Hermione had been right. This small class was almost … cosy. Only eight students – Snape must have danced in joy. He figured with even more dread that he must be the only incompetent moron in that exclusive circle. Now he felt even worse about it. The ice in his stomach spread to his lungs and farther upwards.
Snape then came down the hallway and opened the door. His cold, black eyes caught Harry's gaze for a second, and his lips curled in a malicious sneer.
They filed into the classroom. It wasn't gloomy and dank by any means. The room was well lit and tidy. There were only four large tables, and Harry immediately knew that they would work in pairs. Snape stalked up to the black board and looked at his pupils.
"Very well," he said softly. "Now I have the honour to teach the … elite of your year in the fine art of potions. You all were deemed competent enough to deal with the advanced level, and I'm warning you now. This is the last chance you'll get. If you want to get out, go now." No one moved. "Lovely," uttered Snape wryly. "Then I'll teach you the more complicated potions and draughts and prepare you for your NEWT exam."
Harry shuffled a bit around. The room looked almost comfortable, but he dreaded the moment when Snape decided to pick on him.
"Now, as I hope you all can see, there are only four tables for the lot of you. That implies partner work, don't you think?" He sneered. "And I already had the pleasure to pair you up. I'll call your names now and show you your table. Lovegood, Malfoy." He pointed to the first row, at the left table. "Granger, Boot." Hermione and Terry were placed to the right of Malfoy and Luna. "Abbott, Macmillan." Hannah and Ernie sat behind Malfoy and Luna. That left the table behind Hermione and Terry for Harry and Blaise.
Harry trudged to the table and chose the right seat which was closer to the door. Blaise smirked.
"I really pity you, Potter." He put his bag down and lowered his voice. "We all know that you had not the grade to be here. But for both our sakes, I propose a truce. Let's keep our quarrels out of this class."
"Okay," said Harry. The relief must have shown on his face because Blaise smiled suddenly and crookedly.
"To be honest," he whispered, "I just scraped through with a lot of dumb luck. Let's make the best out of this."
Harry nodded. He arranged parchment, quill and ink on his desk, placed his book and his ingredients and then looked up again.
Snape was surveying his little class with narrowed eyes.
"Now," he growled. "In this classroom I won't tolerate impudent behaviour. If someone decides to play pranks with ingredients," he looked pointedly at Draco, "then there will be hell to pay. A lot of the potions we are going to brew are highly volatile. If someone makes trouble they will be immediately dismissed from this class and won't take their NEWT. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Sir," they answered.
"I also highly recommend that you read the instructions carefully and double check what you're doing," now his eyes unmistakeably landed on Harry, "And also check that everything is as it should be." His eyes landed on Luna who hummed very softly and played with a lock of her long, dirty blond hair. "I also want you to come prepared to classes. I will give a short quiz every lesson. I expect you to work hard. This is not the usual low standard nonsense I'm forced to teach the imbeciles who're too dumb to know the right ingredients when they're written on the board in front of them. This is the real stuff and I expect you to come here with the right amount of awe and respect."
Blaise snickered softly. "He's so dramatic," he whispered. "I bet he practices his speeches in front of a mirror."
Harry cleared his throat. Snape's head shot around, and the dark eyes burned into Harry's.
"Potter. Tell me one ingredient of the Forever Hairless potion."
Hermione winced, Harry noticed with cynical amusement.
"Fire snail juice, Sir," said Harry.
Snape froze and stared at him. "And how much of the mistletoe flour must be added?"
"Three pinches, Sir," said Harry stiffly.
The dark eyes burned even more, but then Snape looked away and at the others.
"You see that even someone as untalented as Potter is able to come prepared. I want this kind of preparation. Two points for Gryffindor, Potter."
Malfoy and Hermione gasped. That definitely was a first. With a grim feeling of satisfaction Harry concluded that Snape must have been serious when he had said there wouldn't be crudeness and pettiness in this class.
Malfoy turned and scowled at him, but Blaise had an expression of wonderment and bemusement on his pretty face in which sky blue eyes sparkled mischievously, framed by long, dark brown hair floating down over his shoulders. Harry thought he would have made a good friend if he had been sent to Slytherin instead of Gryffindor.
"Cool, Potter," he said simply.
All in all, Harry mused after the two periods, Advanced Potions could have been worse. Snape hadn't been nice by any means, but he had been fair, and that was a vast improvement in Harry's opinion. Today they had just talked about the goals in this course, and what they could expect in the NEWT exam.
On Friday they would prepare their first potion. Snape had told them to leave all their ingredients and other supplies in the room. It was theirs exclusively for the next two years, and the wards would protect them from theft and damage. Their homework was to look up the potion they would brew and write a foot long essay about its uses, advantages, possible disadvantages, history and development.
During the break Harry was approached by Dennis Creevey who told him in colourful words that Professor Blackadder wasn't worthy to be a teacher and that Harry should start preparing his first class really soon.
Hermione was amused, but unfortunately they had no time to talk about it. They had to go to Green House two where Professor Sprout already waited. Ron came to Hermione and Harry and asked about their first class with Snape. When he heard about the two points Harry had gotten he nearly fainted, but then he assumed that Snape had to be ill and dropped the topic.
The next two periods were oddly relaxing. It was time to squeeze the Bubotuber pus from the peas of the respective plant. It didn't require thinking, and the time until lunch passed quickly. Professor Sprout even spared them the usual welcome-back quiz – the Bubotuber pus was more important, it seemed.
Lunch was somewhat stretched and sticky. Harry and Ron ate without energy. They checked their hand readings one last time and decided that they really had done good work (which even Hermione admitted). Neville mumbled the whole time because he desperately tried to correct a mistake he had made at interpreting the head line of Lavender Brown. He had wanted to say that she was easy to satisfy, not that she was stubborn as a mule and would most likely never marry.
Harry was already outlining the first meeting with the DA. He thought about what he wanted to tell them and where they could start. He really should ask Hermione later to list all the topics they had had and where he could delve deeper.
Seamus and Dean took seats across from Harry, Ron and Hermione.
"Hey guys," said Dean cheerily. "Guess what."
"We have the perfect idea, the perfect present for our beloved teachers!" said Seamus and took a goblet. He poured himself pumpkin juice.
"Why would we give them a present?" Ron asked with his mouth full. Hermione snorted in disgust.
"Well, Lavender, Parvati and we thought that we could give them something special, personal for the new year." Seamus leaned over the table and lowered in voice conspiringly. "We want to read their hands! And then give them their results at New Year's Eve."
"Sounds like fun," said Harry. "But how do we get the lines of their hands?"
"We have it all planned out," said Dean proudly. "Colin and Dennis are taking pictures, pretending they want to make a collage or a puzzle or something like that. Then we read the lines, write a text and give it to the respective hand owners."
Hermione frowned. "And who will read all the lines? Surely not you two?"
"Well, that's how you come in," grinned Seamus. Hermione rolled her eyes, but he dutifully ignored her. "Harry is quite good at this, and maybe you could slip in one hand or two, too, Hermione …"
"Me? I don't even take this class!" she shrieked.
Dean decided to elaborate a bit for the sake of their ears. "No one dares to read Snape's lines. We thought, if someone can do it, then it is you, even if you don't take the class. All you really need is the book, anyway."
"Why don't you want to read his hands?" she asked suspiciously.
Dean and Seamus squirmed. "Uuh, you see, he can be … vicious at times, and if he sees that someone competent did his reading then he wouldn't rip off our heads, at least …"
"Oh, you need a scapegoat for your prank," said Hermione icily. "But fine, I'll do it. It interests me."
Dean and Seamus slumped as the tension left their bodies.
"Harry? Would you read Hagrid's and Dumbledore's hands?" Dean asked.
"Yeah, why not." Harry shrugged. "But I hope Colin and Dennis don't mix the photos up."
"I think it's hard to mistake Hagrid's hands for anyone else's," Ron pointed out.
Then it was time to march to the north tower and to another class with Trelawney and the Slytherins.
"A double period!" groaned Ron. "Why us? And why as the last subject?"
Harry grinned. At least it wouldn't get boring when Ron continued to complain. Dean, Seamus, Lavender and Parvati tagged behind them. Neville had gotten lost somewhere between the second corridor and the start of the staircase up the north tower, but no one bothered to search him. They were late as it was, and Trelawney was used to Neville's tardiness, anyway.
The Slytherins were already seated when the bunch of Gryffindors climbed through the hatch. The silent sneering and scowling didn't intimidate anyone. It mildly amused Harry, mildly annoyed Ron, mildly interested Dean and mildly irked Seamus. The girls didn't even bother.
Trelawney swooped down on them and collected their homework. She announced that the double period today would be spent with reading other students' hands, not the partner from the last time. With a slightly irritated voice she explained that some students wouldn't treat the topic seriously. She paired up Harry with Millicent who sneered down on him, Ron with Zabini and Neville, who just came in, wheezing like a horse, with Malfoy of all people.
"Don't touch me, Longbottom," Harry could hear him say, "your stupidity could be contagious for all we know."
Harry grabbed Millicent's hand roughly and started to examine it. Triumphantly he discovered that hands indeed told a lot about their owners.
"You are short tempered and mean," he told her in a bored voice. "Furthermore I don't see a split in your heart line, meaning that you're not able to feel romantic feelings towards anyone. You're headstrong and you will make something out of your life, but you will remain lonely if you don't change your attitude."
Trelawney watched him, again. She took a good look of Millicent's hand, and then nodded. "You're really talented in this, Mr Potter," she said approvingly. And you, Ms Bulstrode, should listen to good advice when it's given to you."
Millicent looked as if she wanted to punch both Harry and Professor Trelawney hard in the face.
"It's my turn, Potter," she snapped. "Hand, now."
Harry stretched out his hand slowly. Millicent grabbed it and yanked it towards the lamp.
"You have a long life line, Potter," she said gruffly. "I suppose this means you'll live long." She sneered. "Contradicts somehow with Trelawney's earlier predictions, doesn't it?"
Harry actually laughed at this.
"Well, there are three lines coming into your life line." She scowled. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Influences from the outside," offered Harry. "Trelawney said someone or something would influence my life strongly."
"The one at your thumb must be the Dark Lord, then," she concluded. And the other two?"
"If I only knew," said Harry dryly.
Millicent ignored him and continued to scrutinise his hand. "Your heart line is faint in the beginning and thickens at some point. I guess this means you'll learn how to love, and someone will love you very much."
Harry nodded and snatched his hand back. Malfoy was nearly hitting Neville. Harry caught bits and pieces and grinned. Obviously Malfoy would be inflamed with love at some point and "do everything for his love". He obviously had very strong heart and life lines, and Neville told him that he would have at least one child, if not more.
Pansy worked together with Lavender, and both had overcome their initial dislike of each other and gossiped about boys and hair. Crabbe sat together with Parvati who told him sternly that his life line was nothing to be afraid of. He still had some very nice things to do in his life before he died. Apparently that was in a few years. Harry had no trouble to believe that. If the boy became a Death Eater then it was likely for him to be killed by Aurors.
The class was over soon. Trelawney made them take notes of the hand reading chapter in their book and announced a test for the next week. Harry and Ron hurried to go back to the Gryffindor Tower. The fumes in that classroom always made them drowsy, and both were thirsty.
Hermione almost ran into them as she descended from another stair, and together they strode to the common room.
That evening Harry sat together with his two best friends and perused his old DADA notes. Every single teacher, with the glorious exception of one Remus Lupin, had been a moron. Quirrel had pretended to be too afraid of his own shadow while truly carrying the Dark Lord on the back of his head. Lockhart had been a useless fraud, Moody had been a Death Eater in disguise (although his curriculum had been quite interesting, Hermione insisted), and judging Blackadder by what his housemates told him about her, she wasn't any better.
So Harry scribbled down every dark creature and every curse, jinx and hex he could find and considered important. Hermione had already agreed to teach the theoretical part of the curriculum, and Harry would lead the practice. Ron had occupied himself with listing down all the charms they had learned from Professor Flitwick. Both Hermione and Harry thought it a good idea to practice charms, too. They could blend it all together, but DADA was most important at the moment.
They also wondered if they should inform the other houses that they were practicing DADA without the teacher, who was obviously incompetent, or if they should keep their secret circle.
Harry wanted it to be HIS circle, but he knew that the other students needed to learn as well. Maybe … he was a Prefect … He had an idea.
"Do you think it's enough to inform the other students that they are on their own with DADA?" he asked sheepishly.
Her smile broadened. "Oh, yes. I think it should suffice to copy our curriculum and hang it on the black board … We can't teach seven years from all houses, Harry. And Dumbledore would think the same. We even can inform the other Prefects …"
Harry smiled back. "Wonderful. Now, do you think we should divide our DADA curriculum? I mean, the first years shouldn't experiment with Petrificus totalus."
Ron groaned. "You're too generous! This way I could learn everything, too, but 'Mione never lets me simply look at her curriculum."
But Hermione didn't hear him. She was already busy scribbling lesson plans for the first years, second years and the others.
Much later, after curfew, Harry pinned the plans on the notice board. Then he took out his fake galleon with his left hand, his wand with his right hand and announced the date and time of the first meeting.
On Thursday morning the Gryffindors were excited. They would have Professor Blackadder for the first time. Breakfast went by loudly and Seamus and Neville speculated wildly about how Blackadder would design her curriculum. Then the Gryffindors marched up to Lockhart's old classroom and took their seats.
Morgan Blackadder already sat behind her desk and smiled benignly at her students. Lavender closed the door, and then everybody became silent.
"Good morning students, I'm Morgan Blackadder, and I'm your DADA teacher this year. I was told by Professor Dumbledore that we have to revise the lessons from the last five years and deepen the knowledge, but I also want to introduce you to the finer arts of defence against dark magic. Nature has so much to give, and everything is in a balance. I want to show you how this balance works and how we can use the powers of nature to protect ourselves and others." She smiled like a lazy cat.
Harry thought that she was quite attractive. A bit like Professor Sinistra. Professor Blackadder had long, dark brown hair and brown eyes. Her cloak was forest green, and her cloak pin had the form of an oak leaf.
"Now, I heard that you learned how to defend yourselves against Grindylows, Kappas, Boggarts and other creatures of the dark. That's good. Open your books and read the first chapter. I expect you to know then how to fight a Garden Gnome with the magic of our surroundings."
A groan wafted through the room, and Harry could see where that was leading. He sighed and mentally pictured the first DA meeting. Hermione elbowed him shortly in the ribs and smiled faintly.
The textbook was utterly ridiculous. It stated that the witch or wizard just had to plant sage and garlic and the Garden Gnomes would vanish on their own. Ron snorted during the silence when everybody was reading and pointed out that in his garden the gnomes would simply rip out the offending plants. That earned him a reprimand from Professor Blackadder and a fifteen minutes long lecture about how the humans had to learn to respect their neighbours. Then the class went back to reading, but not for long. After another fifteen minutes Harry became impatient.
He thrust his hand in the air. Blackadder motioned him to speak.
"Professor, are we practicing in your lessons?"
The other students murmured in agreement. No one wanted a year like the last where they couldn't even practice the spells they were learning. Umbridge's class had been a farce, and Harry was really angry about that waste of their time.
"Of course! Trust me, I'm nothing like Dolores Umbridge, Mr …"
Seamus raised his hand.
"Yes?" Blackadder looked dreamily at the Irish boy.
"Are we using our wands in your class?"
Blackadder seemed to think about that for a moment. "No. I decided to teach you the ways of non-violent defence. Now, in the next period you will reread and sum up the chapter you've read now and hand the summary to me."
The bell rang, and the students filed out for a short break. Harry was troubled, Hermione furious and Ron didn't know if he should laugh or cry about so much incompetence.
"I don't know what to make of her," admitted Harry. "Alternative methods would be interesting, but I really trust my wand more than my fluidum," he joked.
Hermione snorted. "That woman is impossible. I'm really looking forward to our meeting on Saturday."
"That was awful," agreed Seamus. "When do we start with the DA, Harry?"
"Do you have the fake galleons?" Harry asked in defeat.
"Yup. So you let us know already?"
"Yeah. It will be this Saturday afternoon, so be prepared, okay?"
Seamus and Dean nodded.
The bell rang again and they marched back. Hermione slammed a sheet of parchment on her desk and started scribbling, barely looking at her book. Ron next to Harry gnawed on his quill and frowned. Sighing Harry decided to read the blasted chapter so he wouldn't get into trouble on the first day with the new teacher.
Charms, however, were fun. Flitwick revised the summoning charm with them, and pillows, Trevor and pens floated through the classroom. This time Professor Flitwick was in safe distance from Neville. But the boy had that fierce, determined expression again and concentrated hard. He was actually doing very well. Dean had blown up his spell once more when he tried to summon his book bag.
"See?" said Hermione smugly. She swished her wand, and an ink bottle soared straight into her hand. "He held his wand in a totally wrong angle."
Harry shrugged. "As long as he doesn't blow me up I can live with it. We've seen that Blackadder isn't a very good teacher. We can drill in the right wand movements at the DA meetings." Behind Hermione's back Ron had trouble summoning his pillow.
Hermione smiled. "Ginny is very keen on continuing. Even Zacharias Smith is coming again. He said he dislikes Blackadder more than you, so it would be worth the trouble."
Harry sniffed. "He's such a considerate, nice person, don't you think? Accio Trevor." Trevor croaked and flew into Harry's outstretched hand. "I think I'll get it right in the NEWT exam."
"I think you're right," said Hermione approvingly.
After Charms they suffered a particularly boring lesson of History of Magic, but fortunately the snore fest was interrupted by the lunch break. Hermione quickly ran and spoke to the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw Prefects. She handed them the lesson plans, and the faces of the other four DA members instantly brightened. Harry was happy to see that he was not the only one with a wish for privacy.
He and Ron already sat at the Gryffindor table and were eating when Hermione came back.
"I think," she said in a low voice, "that it is only fair to give our plans to the Slytherins as well. I don't care if they rip them to shreds, but it will soothe my conscience. Will you do it, Harry? I swear, if I see that cow Parkinson one more time today I will hex her into next week."
"What's wrong, 'Mione?" Ron asked.
"Oh, she just thought it funny to trip me on my way into the Hall. I swear, I will break her pug nose if she ever touches me again!" Fuming she put some fish onto her plate and started to eat.
Harry and Ron grinned behind their hands and looked away.
The second period of History of Magic was pure agony. All students thought that this could be very well a free period. Binns' droning about some Werewolf rebellions could have interested Harry, not just because of Remus, but the high, monotonous voice of the ghost could make the most bloody war as boring as the recipe of a pepper up potion.
Finally the bell rang, they had two feet about the rebellions to write, but other than that they were very happy.
Harry, Ron and Hermione went to their common room and put their books away.
"I'm going to see Zabini," announced Harry. "Maybe he wants to come, too."
"Zabini?" repeated Ron. "Why him?"
Harry shrugged. "He isn't as stuck up as Malfoy or Parkinson."
"Go ahead then," said Ron. He turned to Hermione. "Do you mind helping me with that wretched History homework? I mean, yeah, Werewolves, but it was just so boring, and the books aren't any better!"
"You can just tell me what Binns told us today and I promise I'll take notes! You'll make it sound like a war, won't you? I will like it if you tell me about it!"
Hermione smirked. "Alright then. Be prepared for some slaughtering."
Harry almost doubled over in silent laughter when Dean, Seamus and Neville sidled up with Ron and made puppy dog eyes at Hermione. But she looked actually rather pleased to have such an eager audience.
Humming Harry left the Gryffindor territory and strolled around the castle. He searched first in the library and in the Great Hall before he travelled further down into the dungeons. He knew where the entrance to the Slytherin common room was, but he hoped he didn't need to go there.
Of course he ran into Snape, it was just his luck.
"What do you want here, Potter?" Snape snarled. The black eyes searched for some evidence for trouble. And, upon finding none, Snape raised an eyebrow. "Well?
"I'm looking for Zabini," said Harry truthfully.
"And why, Mr Potter? Surely not to pull some prank, I hope."
"No, Sir," said Harry. "I just wanted to give him something … Prefect duties and the like."
"Mr Zabini is not a Prefect," Snape pointed out, and the eyebrow rose even higher.
"I know. But I don't want to talk to Malfoy. And before you ask, he is a stuck up prick who wouldn't listen."
"Make that five points from Gryffindor, Potter," said Snape coolly, pushing a strand of greasy hair aside. "And Mr Zabini is on the Quidditch field."
"Thanks," said Harry quickly and turned on his heel. He fully intended to leave as quickly as humanly possible, but Snape beat him to it.
"Potter," the silky, cold voice called out softly. "I'll see you tomorrow night in my office. At eight o'clock sharp. Don't forget your wand. And at least attempt to practice and clear your mind."
"Yes, Sir," said Harry stiffly. "Was that all?"
"You may go," said Snape in a superior tone.
Harry left, feeling dread pumping up through his veins. His heartbeat was unnaturally fast, and he refused to acknowledge that it was probably fear that thrummed through him.
At least he found Blaise on the field. The Slytherin saw him and landed as Harry waved. His eyes glowed with curiosity, and Harry nervously noticed that his team colleagues watched them like hawks.
"It is rather inconvenient that you're practicing," said Harry, watching the other players from the corner of his eyes. "I could come back later."
"Nonsense. What is it?"
"Hermione, Ron and I worked out a curriculum for DADA. We thought you might be interested."
Blaise looked at him, clearly surprised. "Why are you coming to me of all people?"
"Look," said Harry, losing the little bit of confidence he had had. "Malfoy and I are like cats and dogs. We just don't mix. You're at least human. Will you give him that, please?" He thrust the stack of papers at Blaise.
"Why did you work out a curriculum for DADA?" Blaise asked, scanning the list.
Harry noticed how much the cerulean eyes twinkled in the sunlight. He quickly shook the thought away.
"That Blackadder isn't very good," said Harry, trying to sound nonchalant. "We just want to ensure that the students keep up with their studies. A whole year has OWL exams and Blackadder is doing nothing to teach them. And Hermione is getting a fit when I mention the NEWT candidates."
Blaise chuckled. "I can imagine. Well, Potter, you and your little friends obviously put a lot of work into this. I'll talk with Draco." He smiled. "Thanks."
Harry just waved it off and turned to go. "I'll pretend that you'd have done the same for us."
Blaise's laughter followed him as he climbed up back to the castle.
End of chapter 1