A new, and very rough new thing I put together attempting to get myself back into the swing of things. Still, I have a lot done for it, and I hope I can polish it up nicely. Please comment and criticize! .. Really, it's the whole purpose of me posting it. xP
Disclaimer: I do not have any claim to Harry Potter and am fully aware I am just playing in someone else's sandbox. (I feel no need to repeat this for any further chapters, this stands for all)
Summary: What if Harry overheard a discussion between Lockhart and Snape and realized who was teaching the dueling club? The result: He doesn't attend and decides to learn dueling and defense on his own! The result? A Harry Potter who doesn't take magic for granted and is newly determined to change the perceptions about him.
Approach the Steps
December 17, 1992 : 4:15pm
Harry Potter sighed as the Fat Lady closed behind him, ignoring her advice "to really get something warmer on". He was fine, dressed in one of the few outfits he owned that weren't school related or Dudley's rags, just a plain T-shirt and jeans. He didn't notice the cold and it was nice to wear something other than robes.
He grinned as he avoided Peeves, who was throwing water balloons down the staircase at innocent students. Well, maybe not innocent, but it was doubtful they appreciated it. Deciding to take a roundabout route, he took a passageway to one of the lesser used staircases (it was temperamental, and not trustworthy to take if it was class time) down to the third floor before stopping to reflect upon the third floor corridor of the previous year.
Harry signed, annoyed with himself at ruining his own mood. He wished he was with his friends, they always seemed to keep his mind off things, but Hermione left to check on the polyjuice potion and the check out some books from the library, and Ron was taking a nap. Apparently he ran afoul of one of his brother's creations and suddenly felt tired.
It didn't matter though, how long had it been since he had out by himself just to explore the ancient castle? Too long! With a renewed sense of optimism he thought about the dueling club tonight, thinking it would be a prefect distraction from this Chamber of Secrets mystery and maybe he could learn some new spells to protect himself.
The trio was excited; Hermione figured it had to be Flitwick teaching the class, he was said to be a dueling champion at some point. Suddenly, Harry's wanderings came to an end when he heard a person he would rather avoid. He ducked into a narrow space in the wall, some sort of alcove and grinned when it widened to accommodate him. Magical castles were cool.
His thoughts were drawn again when he heard Lockhart exclaim loudly. "Of course it was important to invite the younger years! I have knowledge that will turn even the youngest into a dueling champion." The defense teacher's boasting might have impressed some of those younger students, if he hadn't already turned out to be such a fraud.
The words filled Harry with dread however, 'Please don't tell me Lockhart is the one teaching it!' and his fears were doubled with the sneering voice of the resident potions master added, "I doubt that very likely."
He found himself push closer to the wall as the two professors passed his hiding spot. His last hope of maybe having someone he respected there was crushed when Lockhart babbled more about how the two of them were more than up to the task. Sagging against the wall, a deep feeling of disappointment filled him. Despite the childish of it, he was dreaming of learning something to put Malfoy in his place… that is, if the coward would show up to a challenge he had made.
As he made his way back up to Gryffindor tower, Harry suddenly regretted not wearing something warmer. The night seemed a lot less welcoming than before.
Gryffindor Common Room, 5:30pm
Harry was confused. "What do you mean you want to go anyway? This is Snape and Lockhart! The man who despises me for existing and another who vanished my arm!" He was starting to feel irritated at his friend, what was with girls and a pretty face?
Hermione shifted in her seat, but didn't back down. "You shouldn't speak of him like that; he's done a great many things, what is one mistake?" Seeing Harry was about to interrupt, she raised her voice and pushed on. "And Snape is said to be a very talented wizard as well, I'm sure we could learn a lot if we didn't get personal about it."
Harry was speechless, and turned to his other friend for help. Ron merely shrugged. "I don't care either way, yeah they are right gits, but it could be cool. Maybe they will let us duel!" Seeing Harry's expression Ron avoided his eyes.
It was odd, even if it wasn't anything big, Harry felt betrayed. This was one of the first times his friends failed to back him up on something. Frowning Harry pushed aside the hurt, it wasn't anything big. They could go and be tortured by the prancing wizard and greasy bat; he didn't want anything to do with that dueling club.
Deciding to put it behind them, he spoke up. "It's about time for dinner isn't it?" Despite his inner feelings, it was nice to see their expressions lighten up again. Hogwarts food really was the best.
After dinner Harry waved goodbye to his friends in the common room, ignoring Hermione's disproving stare. He was annoyed at the girl; he wasn't being childish, just realistic. Both situations in Potions and Defense proved he didn't learn anything from them. As he left to wander the castle again, he realized that while going to the dueling club would be a waste of time, who's to say he can't learn about it?
His path set to the library and wondered why he hadn't thought of it earlier. He always seemed to attract trouble, and Voldemort was still out there somewhere, he should learn how to protect himself. As Harry Potter, it is unlikely he wouldn't find trouble anyway. There was something or someone roaming the school petrifying things.
He avoided all the well traveled areas of the castle, not wanting to hear anything more about the dueling club and somehow he even managed to make it to the library quicker than the usual ways.
It seemed rather abandoned, but that just worked in his favor, there would be fewer distractions. It didn't take long for the area he chose for himself to appear rather cluttered as he browsed through books for a place to start. First he read parts about professional dueling and while that's what the club was intended for; Harry realized that what he really sought for was to protect himself.
The night wore on with the second year immersed in a book about unconventional dueling and the battles that Aurors usually found themselves in. Feeling that by the time Madam Pince told him that he library was closing, an odd sense of satisfaction that he hadn't felt in a long time.
He wanted to know more about what they were talking about, learn some of these spells. Even though he was only in his second year of schooling, he found the list of things in those books that he hadn't even heard about alarming. 'Maybe Hermione would know?' But he pushed down that instinct. By the time he returned to the common room, to his friend's expectant faces, he decided that he wanted to do this himself. He didn't tell them about what he was working on, just that he was exploring the castle, and didn't even feel the need to gloat when Ron told him how much of a disaster the club was.
Apparently Snape paired Malfoy and Ron up and instead of sticking with the usual spells, Malfoy summoned a huge snake. A Hufflepuff ended up being hospitalized due to Lockhart's idiocy. When Hermione left, they discussed on whether or not the idiot had actually graduated or not, but decided he must have, but probably with only a few A's.
Further on into the night, as he stared up at his canopy, he realized he had started to take magic for granted when his attention drew back to that point. Hadn't he typically got "A's" on assignments? His practical portions were high, yes but… he felt disappointed. Harry couldn't help but feel he had fallen short of his promise to be the best wizard he could when he found friends. 'I guess I didn't feel like I needed to prove myself anymore.' He had acceptance, but… so many just saw the Boy-Who-Lived, and even Ron assumed he didn't have to try hard at all, he was rich and famous.
That thought swirled in his mind before the exhaustion of the day caught up to him, and his last thought before succumbing was that he would prove that he wasn't anything like Lockhart… that he was more than a famous face.
December 21, 1992
The winter break was a blessing for Harry. Things became heated after Justin Finch-Fletchly was attacked, along with Nearly Headless Nick. Somehow a rumor got started that he was actively searching for a way to close the chamber. His new interest in studying fueled this rumor more and all of a sudden people were coming up to him in awe and asking to help. After many denials the boy eventually took to just asking them to study harder and be aware at all times, as that was really all he knew to do at the time.
It was with this pressure that led Harry to hiding in abandoned classrooms (mostly on the 3rd floor, as many were still wary of it due to last years events) practicing spells. His annoyance with the situation was eased when he realized how many new spells he had learned. Of course, they weren't really amazing, and many he wished to cast just didn't work, but he was proud of his accomplishment. He even learned a fourth year spell, the Banishing charm, although he found that many higher curricular spells were just above ability to learn on his own. The little "tricks" of the spell weren't always displayed well in the book diagrams.
Now that things had calmed down, he had come out of hiding and spent time filling in the holes in his knowledge. It seemed the more he learned about certain things, the more they intertwined with other types of magic. He discovered that many of the theory sections he skipped over in his textbooks gave a very thorough background into the terms and concepts he was so confused by. Soon he found himself back in the common room for the first time in days, rereading his schoolbooks.
Of course, these changes didn't go unnoticed to his friends. Hermione, of course, was ecstatic about his new interest and constantly wanted to compare what he had found. Harry acted cool towards her for a few days, but knew that being called childish didn't really give him a reason to act like it, and gratefully accepted the help. The library organization was a lot different from muggle libraries; it saved a lot of time wandering through the shelves.
Ron however, was another matter. At first he was interested in learning dueling for real, but spending hours of the day in the library really didn't appeal to him. He ended up joining Harry's spell practices occasionally, but spent more time hanging out in the common room with his siblings. They thought little of their time apart, and joined each other for a chess or game every night.
Things went along that way calmly until Christmas, where after enjoying their day, Hermione dragged them to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom to verify whether or not Malfoy was the one doing this. Hermione took it upon herself to get the hairs much earlier, due to her other two friends running off places all the time. Harry felt rather bad about this, but before he could apologize a vial of the foul smelling potion was shoved into his hand.
Ron, who looked disgusted at the potion, whined, "Do we really have to drink this?"
Hermione just sent him a look, and Harry decided to count down. "Okay, on one- Three, Two, One." And they downed the potion as one, all trying desperately not to throw it up due to the taste.
Harry immediately knew something was wrong and a glance at Hermione's wide eyes she was feeling the same. Hermione ran towards the stall, and Harry to the sink. Because of the uncomfortable feeling of his stomach emptying, and the pain of the transformation, it wasn't until Ron said "Blimey." that he noticed what happened.
"You're a cat-person!" A wide-eyed Goyle look-a-like whispered.
At this he looked down at his hands…paws and rushed to the mirror. He was horrified at the mutant person in the mirror, he had cat ears on his head, a tail on his back and his face was covered in black and white stripes. The rest of his body was in a similar predicament.
Hermione, who was finally done throwing up appeared shyly out of her stall. Her mutation was a bit different; she looked more cat-like. The three friends stared at each other for several minutes before breaking out in laughter. Ron was rolling around on the floor, and Harry and Hermione's tails were swishing back and for with their hands around their stomach.
"Hermione, I think we might have a problem." Harry said with a big grin.
"Hospital Wing?" Hermione responded, with a similar grin on her cat-like face, taking comfort in the similar predicament of her friend.
"Hospital Wing." He glanced at Ron, who was finally done laughing. "But, let's wait an hour and hope it turns us back. Until then! I say we practice dueling!"
They hardly noticed the passing of time as they practiced their stunning spell on the stall doors. An awful sensation made its way through Harry and Hermione as the hour passed, like their insides were moving about, but they didn't turn back. Turning to their now red-haired friend they shared a disappointed look. "I guess I'll head back to the common room, I don't think there will be enough room under the cloak if I go with you guys." Ron said, and his friends nodded in agreement.
Harry and Hermione spent the trip up to the hospital wing in conversation of what they could tell the matron. They didn't know of anything they could do to explain this away and eventually figured they would have to tell the truth to get turned back to normal. It's not like they had to tell the whole truth, anyway.
Hogwarts Hospital Wing, 8:05 pm
It took a good ten minutes for Madame Pomphrey to ask them what caused this. Obviously the healer was used to lies from the students who didn't want to have trouble, usually took an "act, ask questions later" stance. "How did you end up like this?" Her narrowed eyes made Harry think twice about what to say.
It was Hermione that spoke up instead. "Can you keep it in confidence?" To both of their surprise the woman looked offended by the statement briefly before looking faintly annoyed.
"Of course! It is against the Healer Oath to do otherwise!" Taking in their startled glances, she muttered something about the state of education today, before continuing. "I cannot divulge any of the information I find out without yours or your guardian's permission."
Both Harry and Hermione were lightened by this fact, neither of their guardians were in any position to ask the matron what happened or even to know to inquire. Still it took a few minutes for the two to agree to fess up. For Harry it was because he was lost in though about how useful that "Healer's Oath" could be to him, while Hermione just didn't like admitting to have broken the rules.
Still, one of them had to speak up, and Hermione broke first. "It was a… polyjuice mistake." Hermione quickly continued when Madam Pomphrey's eyes narrowed and her lips thinned. "We were testing it out to see if it worked, but we must have gotten cat hairs instead of human…"
Pomphrey spent a minute sending the two searching looks before nodding. "I'm glad you told the truth. You could've been in here for quite a while if I went with my original impression." Before moving to her office the elderly witch pointed to two beds and left to gather the potions she needed.
Once the office door swung close the two students shared looks of relief before closing the privacy screens on their beds. It would be just what they needed for someone to walk in and seen them like they are. With in a few minutes they were bored, however, and resorted to opening the screen a crack to look at each other.
"So Harry… What electives do you want to take next year?" Hermione questioned, figuring school subjects were safe to discuss in the hospital wing. Plus she was a tad-bit uncomfortable at being a cat person, no matter who was sharing her company.
Harry blinked, his cat-eyes seeming unusually large with his glasses off, his vision was mostly corrected by the transformation. "We get to choose new electives?"
Hermione's ears moved back, and her teeth showed a little in annoyance. "You and Ron spend far too much time playing around." Still, she couldn't remain mad at the boy for long, especially when he looked so cute as a cat-boy. "Yes, there are Arithmacy, Ancient Runes, Muggle Studies, Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. I find they are all so fascinating sounding, don't you?"
Harry looked more overwhelmed than excited, and despite the fact he didn't ask the girl to explain each one in detail, he shot her a grateful smile when she did so. "I'm not sure, what are you choosing?"
"All of them." Hermione never looked more right for her current form when she made that statement. There isn't much to be said about Hermione Granger that doesn't involve pride in her work and accomplishments with a healthy thirst for learning.
Harry on the other hand looked very ill-at ease, and more so when he heard that. "All of them! How will that fit in a schedule?" And further thinking about it when Hermione declined to answer, "And why take Muggle Studies?"
The girl huffed, "To learn more about how wizards see the muggle world. I can't counter their errors when I don't know what they are. And don't you worry Harry, I discussed it with McGonagall already and she said that it was possible."
Harry frowned, also very intrigued by Hermione's lesson, and wondered just how "possible" that could be when their time was already tight with current lessons and homework. Still everything but Muggle Studies sounded really useful or just interesting! Especially arithmacy, the beginning of spell crafting, it sounded like hard work but it would be worth it he thought to make his own spells.
Most of the things he learned in his books for defense were designed for already known spells, it would be hard to put a shield up or counter a spell when you didn't know what was coming for you! He grinned.
Ancient Runes also played a small part in spell design, but it was more interested in the fact they were needed for Cursebreaking and warding. Wasn't Ron's brother a cursebreaker? That's sounded cool!
The two excitedly discussed the subjects until Pomphrey returned with a whole tray of potions and promised them several very uncomfortable days. It was only two potions in that Harry agreed with her. Thankfully, the Healer made sure to dose them with a sleeping potion or else it would've been a very long night for the two of them.