A/N: To begin with, I would like to sincerely apologize for the long, long delay. I have been experiencing some health problems that caused this six month gap, and also forced me to take a semester off from school for medical purposes, but fortunately, I am doing better. Just a month before school starts back up again, so I should take advantage of it. :D In the mean time, just give the plot bunnies a little time to work their magic, and hopefully I'll be on my way to regular updates again.
Many thanks to my readers and reviewers who have stuck with this story despite the appearance of being abandoned.
Snape, Tabbycat1220, cherrypi393, 1986, J.L.M Potter, Don't Riddle The Riddler, Dreams-of-Mine, cleofine_cat, sanystyle, Isabelle Eir, Jisa, DuShuZhi, bergsdeswolf, Xenia Marvolo, adenoide, Kairu117, Whillenwolf, loveshbhp, naplin, leo03, rarestlove27, Katsy17, Cross - The Damned Alchemist, Secret world, risi, fayriel, passionfornight, Rainbow Music, Anne399, rnl1993, Paon, AEthelinda, Silly, Gondegoogoo, Jens2, reason vs. rhyme, krista-shadow, Miso Muchi, ItsJustMe, Pygmy Puff of Doom, Sin Piedad, elwing59, bluefynx, iamtherealmaverick, Lyall of the Rose, Rainbow Music, Shae, shadowofmyself435, Mnemosyne, Ichihime, RebeccaSeverusSnape, Ren, and stars00006.
Cookies and icecream to everyone for their patience.
Special thanks to Pellegrina and Terminally Ambivalent for their thoughtful reviews, and to passionfornight and Vine Verrine for the slight poke to remind me that the story existed.
(1) I've tried to take your input to heart - Orion will not be "dumbed down" by any means, but I suppose I have been making things a bit too easy for him... *cackles evilly* In all honesty, though, he is smarter and has more common sense than the Harry of Rowling's books ever had. I don't expect him to go on a screaming rampage (see book five) or go running into things wildly. He's a Slytherin, not a Gryffindor. In regards to the different POV's, I will try to mix it up a little, but keep the focus on Orion.
(2) Questions regarding the Goblet of Fire and Triwizard Tournament are being postponed for the moment...
Chapter 8 – Classes and Clashes
Orion extended his arms toward the ceiling as he stretched after two hours worth of studying in the library. Really, for all the time he spent there, he felt more like a Ravenclaw than a Slytherin. He snorted quietly at the thought – most of his housemates would agree wholeheartedly with the statement as well (in fact, some might even beg another house to take him, if they could lower themselves to begging in the first place).
It wasn't as if they bullied him – almost the opposite in fact. (It was an unspoken house rule that there was no internal squabbling in the serpent house.) Orion was unacknowledged, ignored, and generally viewed as a particularly dull pattern of wallpaper – a rather redundant way of stating that they simply treated him as though he didn't exist. It was mildly irritating that his attempts at conversation were completely ignored, but he would definitely prefer it to the beatings and chasing of the Foul Four's "Hairy Hunting".
While he may not have been completely aware of why exactly he had been placed in Slytherin or what exactly he had done to warrant such behavior, he had made one very steadfast friend.
Lucy Prichard, as a Ravenclaw, seemed to ignore the house prejudices that plagued him and any of his clumsy attempts at friendship with the Gryffindors. It also helped that he needed some tutoring in transfiguration and herbology.
As Orion collected his books and parchment into his bag, he recalled the conversation he had had with Lucy during their second week of classes…
They had just exited the greenhouses when Lucy practically burst from finally being able to say what had been nagging her through the majority of the class. In her typical rambling style, she began, "Orion – to be quite frank, you are the greatest conundrum and walking contradiction that I have ever faced. One minute you're astounding the class and our professors with brilliant insight or wand work, and then the next moment you're displaying a lack of knowledge that would be obvious to a second year!"
She took another large breath before continuing, "For example, in potions you had Professor Snape – Snape! Of all people – practically offering you a coveted apprenticeship and he hasn't ever offered any of his pupils the opportunity before despite being a grade 1 potions master. Perhaps the potions guild is pushing him to do so? But anyway, where was I… Oh yes, and then today you didn't even know how to properly handle a mandrake. A mandrake."
She shook her head slowly to emphasize her disbelief. Orion wished furiously for the comforting weight of Ringo on his shoulder, but his blackbird had taken to pestering the school owls or lazing about in the Slytherin dorms. Just as long as he didn't knick any more "shiny stuff" – it had been hell in a bucket to try and replace the stolen items to their original owners before they noticed their property had been stolen.
"So," Lucy asked Orion, "do you have an explanation or some sort of twin doppelganger that you've been switching places with?" He opened his mouth to speak before she butt in again, "And no lies or weak excuses like you gave Professor Sprout back there about using a localized silencing spell – I never saw you lift your wand once during the lesson."
Orion sighed, was this what all 'friends' were like? It was nice to know that someone cared or at least pretended to, but it irked him that someone could see through him so easily – Slytherin cunning indeed, more likely Ravenclaw. Hopefully a half-truth would satisfy. At least he fit that description of a Slytherin: suspicious of ulterior motives until all possible angles had been analyzed.
"I had a bit of a haphazard education – everything I've studied in theory extensively, but not everything so much in the practical aspects." He swallowed before continuing, "My textbooks prior to Hogwarts were also slightly… outdated."
Lucy looked pensive as she listened to his explanation. "How are you doing in all your classes?"
"It's a bit early to say since today only finishes our second week of classes, but potions has always been my favorite subject, and for whatever reason, I seem to have an innate knock for DADA – despite Moody thinking I'm a junior deatheater or something. Charms is going okay, not great, but okay, while runes goes hand in hand with the arithmancy and I think Professor Babbling will brow beat me into passing her class," Orion grinned while slightly shrugging his shoulders. "Transfiguration I've dealt with almost exclusively in theory and it isn't going as smoothly as I had hoped," which was the understatement of the century. Due to his unusual study of the subject, he had mixed results – some of his unconventional methods worked better than what was taught in class while others (most) failed spectacularly.
Earlier that day, in fact, Professor McGonagall had pulled him aside and said that he had two more weeks to shape his act up or he would be forced to drop the class. If only transfiguration had continued on in the same fashion it had the first day, when he had held his own. "As for herbology… let's just say that today was my first time experience with magical flora outside of theory and reading since our classes so far have been lectures." They were nearing the castle doors from the long hike from the greenhouses, and Orion braced himself for the inevitable explosion.
Lucy stopped in her tracks as though she had heard incorrectly. "Never?" she asked faintly before narrowing her eyes and saying, "You do realize that as an adult mandrake, that plant you so carelessly handled earlier could have killed you?" Orion gave a tentative nod before she continued, "You must be near suicidal – of all the foolish and boneheaded things to do – Gargh! Men!"
She threw her hands up in the air before starting rapidly toward the castle. As they reached the stone steps, she pivoted toward him and began speaking again in a short, clipped tone, "As head girl – yes I'm head girl, Orion, no need to look so astonished – I'm taking it upon myself to tutor you in transfiguration. I should also be able to find someone to help you in herbology so that you don't die of sheer stupidity. I'm assuming you can pass your other classes without any life threatening acts?"
Orion gave a wary nod, and at his skeptical look (nothing in life was free), Lucy sighed and gave a slight smile. "I don't suppose you would believe me that I was doing this so as to begin a friendship while also fulfilling my role as head girl? Thought not. If it will make you feel better, one of my sixth year friends is in a severe need of tutoring in potions. I have no idea how he managed an 'Outstanding' in the first place to get into the class, but Professor Snape has been ripping him apart for his 'dunderhead maneuvers' and he is beginning to lose his sights on becoming an auror. If he weren't a Hufflepuff, I would have suspected that he'd used Felix Felicis…"
A trade he could understand and he gave an affirmative reply before parting ways and heading to the Slytherin common room.
Orion snapped out of his thoughts as he replaced the last of the library books to its respective shelf. Lucy had held true in the weeks that followed – she had held numerous sessions so that he wouldn't be kicked out of transfiguration. During the biweekly meetings, they had easily determined Orion's main problem. While he knew the wand work and incantations like the back of his hand (which was why charms wasn't posing a problem), he just couldn't seem to visualize the end product of his transfiguration. (1) Seeing as he was six years behind in practical work, Orion wasn't very surprised at this outcome. Frustrated, yes; surprised, no.
In addition to the tutoring she had promised from herself, Lucy had also arranged for a seventh year Gryffindor, Angelina Johnson to help him in herbology so that he wouldn't be "eaten or worse". (2) If it weren't essential for work in potions, Orion would have written off the class just so that he wouldn't be strangled by some rather friendly Devil's Snare.
The biggest surprise in the entire situation was Orion's tutoring of the Hufflepuff, Cedric Diggory. While he enjoyed Lucy's company and viewed her as a friend, their friendship mainly revolved around schoolwork and other intellectual topics. (Occasionally she fell into the role of mother hen by saying he needed to eat more or get outside, etc., but he would never tell her that to her face.)
Orion had been a complete nerve wreck prior to working with Cedric, but surprisingly enough; the laid back sixth year was easy to get along with…
Orion shifted from foot to foot while once again going over the notes he had written in Riddle's sixth potions text. It was going to be a disaster – or worse, Professor Snape would withdraw his tentative apprenticeship offer.
Just thinking of him made Orion glance up at the potions master hunched over a stack of essays and liberally using red ink to write scathing comments. When asking for use of the potions lab for tutoring, the usually blank or scowling face had stretched thin lips into a slight smirk before saying, "I think you would be more successful in slaying a basilisk than in imparting knowledge to the dunderhead, but by all means – your efforts could not make Mr. Diggory's work any worse."
While he wasn't exactly sure why slaying a basilisk would be especially difficult (particularly when one could simply talk to it or ask it to leave – perhaps if the serpent had a good personality or was doing no harm then it may be difficult emotionally to slay such a beast…), Orion was in no hurry to fail in the task set before him.
He was so intent on analyzing what a person could actually do with a basilisk after slaying it (potions, potions, and more potions), that he missed the golden-brown head that poked into the classroom then quickly retreated at the sight of the black figure at the desk. "Come in Mr. Diggory, while you may have all day to play games like hide 'n go seek, I do not," Snape said without looking up from his papers.
Orion's head spun towards the doorway just in time to see the Hufflepuff setting his bag on the table adjacent to his. "Cedric Diggory," the teen said while sticking out his hand.
"Orion Thatcher," he said in reply while tentatively taking the outstretched hand.
"So, I talked to Lucy, and she had said you were absolutely brill' in potions, but I thought I should warn you in advance – I barely managed an O on my owl which was probably more due to memorization than anything… Right now my practical work has been called 'dismal at best'," a soft snort sounded from the corner, "Just so you know what you're in for."
Orion relaxed marginally (it seemed that Cedric was just as nervous about the whole thing as he was, since his future depended on a potions NEWT) and began explaining the procedure and properties for the Draught of the Living Dead…
After the first few tutoring sessions, Professor Snape had no longer felt in necessary to supervise, which allowed Cedric to relax and consequently for his work to improve dramatically. Through teaching Cedric the potions, Orion also learned a lot on how to produce the potions with the typical ingredients. It was like an extended experiment because Orion was able to compare how his concoctions compared in strength and effectiveness to the original potion's recipe. The already cramped margins gained new insight and notes, such as that the Sopophorous bean should be crushed with the dull edge of a silver knife to get more juice from it.
All things considered, his education at Hogwarts was going reasonably smoothly. Orion nodded to Madam Pince as he exited the library and headed down the corridor. With the tutoring he was passing all of his classes and despite the cold shoulder from the Slytherin house, he had two more friends than he had in his entire childhood. (Ringo excluded, of course. He would never be able to replace his avian friend.)
Orion would have made it back to the common room without incident had he not heard a commotion in the courtyard coupled with the telltale jeering that accompanied a Slytherin–Gryffindor skirmish.
He slid his wand from his pocket and crept toward the scene. In the near Slytherin free area, a group of fourth year Gryffindors had cornered Draco Malfoy, who was being dangled by his feet and about to have his trousers removed.
Orion did not doubt that Malfoy had provoked the group of four into acting against him (sometimes the arrogant blonde irritated him too with his muttered "mudblood"s), but the ganging up brought unpleasant memories of bullying and beatings to the forefront of his mind. As it was, Orion was surprised that Malfoy had been caught without his two bodyguard shadows. Determined, he strengthened his grip on his wand before striding into the courtyard, his unknown Gryffindor heritage taking the spotlight.
"If you would be so kind as to set Malfoy back on his feet, I would be much obliged."
Hazel eyes met his, "You're that new transfer student – another slimy Slytherin. Who knew that the dark house had the slightest hint of loyalty?" A redhead snickered while nudging the boy beside him.
"While your insults need significant work, you should endeavor to improve it at a later time – preferably after you've set Malfoy down."
The blonde hit the ground with a painful thud. Orion kept his eyes focused on the four, although it seemed he really only needed to worry about three, because the bushy haired girl was pointedly ignoring the scene by reading a thick book under a tree. A quick rudimentary diagnostic spell showed that Malfoy was fine, if slightly bruised. As it turned out, he was already sitting up and watching the scene with calculating grey eyes.
"You have no idea who we are, do you?" an arrogant voice intoned. At Orion's mocking raised eyebrow, the boy continued, "I am Neville Longbottom," he paused for emphasis and upon receiving no significant reaction, continued, "The Boy-Who-Lived."
The ginger-haired adolescent was turning a bright red out of restrained anger, "He's the one who defeated your oh so great dark lord, You-Know-Who – and I'm his best friend Ron Weasley," he sneered while puffing out his chest in bravado, before casting a stinging hex. Orion leisurely cast a simple defensive shield to deflect the spell before expectantly turning to the raven-haired female.
"Since you're either intentionally obtuse or just plain thick for not hearing of us, the second generation Marauders; that," she gave a careless wave to the girl buried in her reading, "is Hermione Granger, and I am Harriet Potter."
She brushed a wayward strand of familiar messy black hair from hazel eyes, "All things considered, it was very inconvenient of you to interrupt us right now. See, my godfather had given us this wicked new spell to try out, and you stopped us mid-trial. Ah well, I'm sure Sirius has more suggestions for putting Slytherins back in their place…"
Harriet twirled her wand in one hand while looking thoughtfully at Orion, "And you must be the bastard child of some deatheater. No one else would stick up for this pond scum unless they were dumb and dumber… Your attempt to disguise it was admirable, but being sorted into Slytherin kind of blew your chances. Such a shame, but then again, nobody familiar with muggle culture would name a blackbird after Ringo Starr – I mean, how much did he actually do to contribute to the music and songwriting?" (3)
Orion closed his eyes and attempted not to react to the obvious taunt. His eyes snapped back open with the tell-tale crackle of offensive magic, and unconsciously responded with a high-defense shield that would reflect the curse back on its castor (it would reflect low to medium level curses, but merely block depending on the type of high level curse). A shriek of pain reached his ears right before the gravelly voice of Mad-eyed Moody, "Knew I was right when I said you were plotting to kill the Boy-Who-Lived."
Hesitant to raise his wand against a professor, Orion was defenseless against the spell that hit him. In the space of a second, the world tilted and grew significantly larger. When he opened his mouth to voice his protests and explanations, all that was emitted was a high-pitched chirp.
"Interesting that the spell transfigured you into a bird of prey – I should have thought a ferret more likely."
Orion felt the world spin and felt slightly sick as his new sharp vision show the ground come closer then farther away. It seemed that he was being bounced, of all things. Vaguely he registered Malfoy slinking off in a hurry, but the center of his attention was the fanatical grin accompanied by a darting tongue and the laughing of students as a crowd gathered.
The red-head, Ron Weasley, nudged the now non-screaming Neville Longbottom, "Hermione said that he's a kestrel – the smallest raptor species… Think it's because he's a bird brain or because he's a spineless follower of You-Know-Who?"
Longbottom responded jeeringly, "Nah, I think that in being some big, bad predator that he's trying to compensate for something… Although being a small raptor wouldn't really change anything, now, would it."
The crowd laughed, and Orion began mentally listing potion ingredients and their properties to distract himself from the quickly growing nausea and the pain of being dangled from one leg.
Suddenly, he was unceremoniously dropped to the ground and vaguely recalled researching avian biology when hearing a solid crunch. Birds had a skeletal structure of hollow bones supported by internal struts and trusses for strength. While normally strong enough to endure the normal usage of flight and gliding, being released from such a height in a free fall would not bear well. Orion connected this with the sharp pain in his left arm, as the world righted itself and became the correct size.
After rolling over and bringing back up his dinner, Orion became aware of raised voices. "…Way to punish a student, I'm sure the Headmaster told you that. If Mr. Malfoy's account is to be believed, Mr. Thatcher acted in self-defense while you reacted in an unprovoked attack." Snape's voice grew quiet as he continued, "Now, is there the slightest chance of such an incident repeating itself, or am I going to have to go to the board of governors to rectify the situation?"
"I don't know why Dumbledore hired you – once a deatheater, always a deatheater. I'll report to him regarding this incident, a pure miscommunication, you must realize. You will have to forgive me for constant vigilance – we wouldn't want anything to happen to Mr. Longbottom, now would we?"
Snape and Moody met in a fierce glare before the retired auror retreated from the courtyard. Orion watched as Snape cleared the area of students in seconds while simultaneously relieving Gryffindor of 100 points and doling out a month's worth of detentions with Filch to the self-named "second generation Marauders".
When the last student disappeared around a corner, Orion struggled to his feet while cradling his arm to the best of his ability. He was so busy cataloging which potions he already had brewed for a broken arm and dislocated hip that he failed to notice his potions professor's scrutinizing stare. He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he had already, in fact, limped halfway across the courtyard before he registered the, "Mr. Thatcher."
From the irritated tone, it was not the first time Snape had said his name. "Yes, Professor?"
"I would recommend the hospital wing to treat that."
Before fully thinking out the ramifications of such a response, Orion had already replied, "I should be able to handle it, sir. By my calculations, my arm is only broken in two, possibly three locations – and quite easily fixed."
"Oh?" Snape said raising an eyebrow. Like a cat about to pounce on his prey, he continued, "Since it is, after all 'only' broken in two, possibly three places, I suppose we'll just have to drop by my office and pick up a few vials of potions before we discuss your lack of self-preservation in addition to why you neglected to mention your dislocated hip, various bruises, and mild concussion. Or, if you would prefer not, then I will just have to withdraw the apprenticeship offer because safety is always an issue in potions, and unless you are in peak mental, and thus, physical condition, mistakes are made more often and prove to be fatal. Now which will it be, Mr. Thatcher?"
Orion gave a weak laugh before gesturing for Snape to lead the way.
(1) In my version of the Harry Potter universe, the person attempting to transfigure an object from A to B has to be able to clearly visualize the end product and how the initial item is going to get there. That would be why a first year is taught how to transfigure a match into a needle – they are similar in size and shape and it is easy to picture how one changes to the other. I hope that was clear enough. :)
(2) Yeah, I know Angelina isn't a seventh year, but for this, it doesn't really make much of a difference.
(3) Thanks to reason vs. rhyme for suggesting that I insult Ringo the blackbird at some point.
Please Review! (Constructive criticism and opinions are always welcome. :) )