Chapter 23. Whispers in Magic

The library would have been quiet to everyone else but to Zahra's sensitive ears it was not so. Sometimes she imagined she could hear the dust particles in the air brushing against each other, creating a buzzing hum thatreverberated through her head. She would imagine her not too noticeably pointed ears twitching under the volumes of black hair but that was just her imagination too. She would feel the magic of the castle brush against her, lick her bare ankles and caress her cheeks.

That wasn't her imagination.

She had never imagined there could be so much magic concentrated in one place but Hogwarts had proved her wrong. But, she supposed, when hundreds of spells are cast daily in the same area for a thousand years, the concentration of magic builds very high.

So, no place in Hogwarts really was quiet to her ears. The magic hummed, travelled the corridors and surrounded the residents of the castle daily. Having been here for three days, she was not even close to getting used to the atmosphere. And she was alone again, in a manner of speaking.

Draco Malfoy had taken to following her and the obnoxious child got on her last nerve. If not for the promises she had given to Caelum, the child would have already borne the consequences of his actions but so far Zahra had simply flicked her hair and glared – not that it had made much difference. The only place she seemed to find respite was the library because the strict librarian did not allow conversations in the vicinity of her desk.

"May I sit here?"

She opened her mouth to spit out a harsh retort but just before the biting words could leave her lips, the tone, sound and quality of the voice registered and she curiously peered over her shoulder to see Harry standing behind her.

Dark circles still hung low beneath his eyes but at least the green was more prominent than it had been a few days ago and he seemed to hold himself with more confidence. Zahra mentally heaved a relieved sigh but on the outside nonchalantly turned back to the Astronomy book open before her.

"If you must."

She and Harry had lived together for long enough to understand the underlying messages in tones and what Zahra had really told the boy was something along the lines of "finally, I've been waiting".

Harry walked around the table and climbed on the chair opposite of her. He did pull out some homework but instead of opening a book or starting any of his essays, he kept on staring at her until Zahra could no longer keep up the nonchalance and looked up with a sneer on her face.

In truth, her purple eyes were shining with the same merriment Harry's were.

"You're Professor Black's daughter, right?"

Harry managed to honestly sound curious and Zahra cast a look around them. Pince was away, hunting for students or something but she did notice a couple of older students staring in their direction.

"And you're Harry Potter. So?"

Harry couldn't manage a blush on command but he did manage to look bashful. "Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I have Potions tomorrow and I was just wondering if you could give me any pointers or something for his class?"

It was almost word for word like one of their rehearsals for and Zahra knew immediately what she was meant to say. So she put on a calculating look and lifted a brow. "And if I could, what would you give me?"

Harry looked pensive and Zahra had to smother a smile. Of all the mortals, she was glad she could share her existence with two of the most powerful and interesting men that would doubtlessly shape the world in their wake. And both of them adored her just as much as she did them.

"Allies?" Harry asked, putting an unsure note in his voice.

"It seems to me you need me more than I need you." This wasn't rehearsed but Zahra was confident in Harry's abilities to pick the right lines – it was a game that had to be played perfectly or the students listening in on them would grow suspicious.

"Maybe I'm the only one that doesn't need something from you."

Zahra blinked and she almost laughed out loud. Harry really was an intriguing mortal and some of her amusement must have shown through cause the boy grinned and relaxed in his seat.

"Perhaps," Zahra acquiesced just for the appearances' sake, then plunged ahead. "I haven't seen much of him in the past few days but I'm pretty sure he is starting you on theory. He's been practically pulling his hair out at how Professor Snape has… handled that side of Potions."

She could see the confusion and sighed. There was something about the way that Caelum handled Severus Snape that had her puzzled. The few times the mage had mentioned the man, there had been something different about his voice. So far, she had not read too much into it but Caelum was never afraid to show his true feelings towards people that couldn't outright – or at all – challenge him. And Zahra did not see how one surly Potions Master could do that.

"Apparently Professor Snape taught his classes one potion at a time, never explaining the ingredient handling techniques in detail or offering them extra texts on ingredient interaction. He did not explain how to improve on the recipe so that the potion would be perfect and not just adequate. Caelum does not approve of that. In his opinion the man did not teach them to create potions – as the end-result of an Art should be viewed – but just had them mass-produce them. He did not teach them to brew potions but to simply follow a recipe."

Harry nodded with understanding. They had both had to sit through Caelum's never-ending lectures on Magical Theory and one rule the man seemed to live by was that with magic there were no set rules. Magic was energy and that energy responded to their wishes and emotions and should be viewed as a temperamental friend who had its own quirks. Setting rules and tying it down – that was simply man trying to control something that was greater than him.

Taking magic for granted was not allowed in the Black household. But so many others did.

"Thanks for the warning." Harry smiled at her, his eyes finally gaining their unique emerald colouring in full as he completely relaxed in the knowledge he was in safe company. "May I ask what you are working on?"

Zahra in turn grimaced and glared at the text in front of her. "Trying to learn the names for the stars in English. We had Astronomy on Tuesday." She thought it was pointless. The stars did not care what name she called them though Professor Sinistra did.

Harry nodded again in understanding and concentrated on his own text and work. A comfortable silence fell over them and even Zahra relaxed, silently swearing to get back at whoever had hurt Harry when he had been alone.

It was Thursday that Caelum announced the revision sessions for everyone from fifth year and up on Saturday. It sent the school buzzing but Zahra's eyes were drawn to the way Snape glared at her Caelum. The man had a dark air about him and it was clear for anyone watching that he definitely did not like the implications his teachings were not enough.

The most curious thing however was that Caelum did not react.

In the months that Zahra had spent in the company of her wizards, she had come to realize that Caelum relied on masks upon masks to get him through life. She knew it had something to do with the life he had led before in another world and that the man was trying to save Harry from the worst of it. But it was not in his nature to simply ignore a clear threat – as minimal as it was – unless he had another plan at play.

Why would he bother with a surly teacher that had nothing but a little magic and small talent in potions going for him?

It wasn't enough to confront Caelum yet – and Zahra recognized the man's right to a few secrets. All she could do was to keep an eye on the situation and ensure her wizards' safety at all cost. She did not trust anyone in Hogwarts but she understood the necessity of mastering wand magics now that she in effect was a witch.

Now if only she could find a way to make Draco Malfoy disappear.


He had honestly forgotten how loud Hogwarts could be. There were people everywhere and the noise levels rose from the soft murmur of portraits and hum of magic to the cacophony of the Great Hall at dinner times. It was a familiar noise, one he had lived around for most of his life but in the last few months he had grown used to only having two people and a few creatures around him.

Friday mornings had usually started with him preparing the breakfast in silence until everyone else woke up. Here, the only silence he had was inside his rooms. Still, he would not miss this morning if he could help it.

Operation Seduce Severus – stage two.

Caelum was halfway through his cup of tea and had just about finished with his scone when the mail arrived. Without warning the cacophony of chipper school children was drowned by the beating of soft wings as hundreds of owls shot into the Great Hall and dove for their respective recipients. His eyes tracked Hedwig as she went to greet Harry but his attention was drawn away as a distinctive grey owl with his wings tipped in silver wove through the air towards the staff table.

His eyes connected with the amber ones momentarily but he was ignored and the owl gracefully landed in front of the Potions Master and stood proudly on one foot while offering the letter tied to his other foot towards the surprised man. Still, only Caelum would have recognized the brief emotion for what it was – staff just did not receive personal mail in front of students. It was delivered to their rooms, passing through house elf hands and waiting for them in the morning.

Still, there was no hesitation as the man gripped the letter and folded it open. A fresh blue flower fell on the table and the Potions Master stared at it in surprise before finally turning his eyes to the letter.

From behind his tea cup, Caelum followed the brief flashes of emotion that flittered across the man's normally stoic face. He knew what the letter said; he had written it after all. At the moment the words would be repeated over and over as Severus analysed them.

To one Severus Snape,

There are many words I would like to say to you but at this stage I will refrain. Simply know that you have aroused my interest and I wish to arouse yours. I find you to be a fascinating man, worthy of respect and attention. It is my intent to show you I can see beneath the surface of your cold mask but also to reassure you that secrets are my specialty.

Today is simply an introduction, a prelude of what is to follow. Though I know it to be in vain, I warn you not to waste time in trying to solve the mystery of my person just yet. I have gone to great lengths to hide any clues of my identity and any time spent on searching would be time wasted.

Your never-ending curiosity – though usually so well hidden and supressed – is one of your most endearing traits.

Until next time,


The flower was a Bachelor Button, a tiny flower coloured in different shades of blue that symbolized single status, delicacy and hope in love. More than the words on the paper, the flower would confirm some of his true intentions. And Caelum saw clearly the wizard's widened dark eyes flash back to the flower when the dots connected. He was just in time returning his eyes to survey the students as Severus cast a suspicious glance around him.

Caelum hid his smirk behind his cup of tea. The letter was as honest as he could make it but no matter what he did, it still screamed arrogance. Any sort of secret letter send in this manner did – and his especially as he knew Severus. The man would simply assume it to be arrogance of a stranger but neither did Caelum want to start his courting off with a lie.

He knew that simply coming out and declaring his intentions would not work. Severus was a suspicious man by nature and nothing was going to change that. Add to that the many differences that Caelum had observed between this version and his Sev, and he knew he had to tread as though walking on egg shells. There were also some things that he could not compromise – the hair and the complexion first of all. He was not vain but neither would he enjoy coming away with potion stained fingers every time he touched Severus' hair.

But those were worries for the future. This was merely the second step on a long, long road.

He was not the only one to take notice of the unusual delivery at the staff table, and even observed Dumbledore lean over in his chair to take a better look. All of course from the corner of his eye as he was seemingly focused on the students. That was until his actual focus did swift there.

Something was different in the way the students looked at Harry. Caelum's eyes flew along the rows of students and he did not like what he saw. Diverted gazes, hands on wands, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle… Even as accomplished in the art of deception the Slytherin house prided itself to be, they were but children and Caelum knew how to read the signs of danger.

And apparently the first warning was not enough. There was going to be another attack.

He trusted Harry to be capable of handling himself but there was no telling how many would be against him. Surprise was always a factor and Harry could not be expected to search every corner for signs of danger – not when he was eleven years old and staying in Hogwarts. The castle was supposed to be a home for him even if it was not the same place from Caelum's memories. The level of danger he was sensing from the Slytherins was unacceptable and the wizard knew he would have to take action.

Last time the older students had not expected Harry to be able to fight back. They were going to hurt him and make him understand that as a first year he was helpless – and Caelum did not even want to think about how much that might have affected Harry who had lived over nine years being helpless against his relatives and had only in his time with Caelum started to believe in himself. But instead Harry had fought back and shown the students that he just might be able to carry the burden that was the legend of Harry Potter – and he would do it as a Slytherin.

Briefly the mage considered casting his magic now but under Dumbledore's watchful eyes, as distracted as the old fool appeared to be, that would be a bad move – and not nearly as powerful as what he could come up with in the privacy of his rooms. With swish of his wand the remnants of his breakfast Vanished, leaving gleaming tableware behind and not a second later he was gone from the table.

Just in case someone decided to be smart, he made his way back to his rooms that were warded to high hell and back. While his main focus areas in training had been Potions and Battle Magics, he did not have his Mastery in Dark Arts for nothing. The title itself was broad and way too generic for what the actual magic entailed but perhaps the easy way to explain it would be to say it included all magics aimed to simply harm with a bunch of ritual and sacrificial magic thrown into the mix. The line got murky with those because the blood wards at Privet Drive were a prime example of sacrificial magic but also such obsolete magic that it had never been outlawed as Dark. Add to that it was based on a willing sacrifice and aided in the defeat of a Dark Lord, it would never happen now.

Perhaps the most convoluted of these magics was Necromancy. It included both rising inferi, communing with the dead and creating and summoning beings from other planes of existence – Hell most notably. He wanted a guardian for Harry but one that spent most of the time in spirit form and stayed invisible to all eyes but those of Necromancers. Unfortunately most of these kinds of demonic beings tended to be symbiotic in nature but Harry had magic to spare and the small drain would only help his magical core grow in long term.

Perhaps he was a fool for doing this in the castle but this was the first time in his life that he felt the need to protect someone weaker than himself. Severus had been older and more experienced even if Caelum had had magic in abundance. Harry looked up to him and followed his example and he would be damned if he let those conceited brats in Slytherin harm his son.

Magic began to pool in his hands. If light could be dark, this was what it would look like, swirling without abandon and with potential for great destruction. Parseltongue slipped through Caelum's lips, directing the magic; giving it form. He kept up the constant litany of words of power, guiding the magic towards completion.

"Blood givesss life, blood bleedsss life, life isss in form and your form comesss from blood."

The wizard grabbed the ceremonial dagger from the wall and sliced his palm open through the magic. The pressure built in the room, ancient magic gathering around him. It coalesced into the shape in his hand, giving life to energy. The glow of magic faded away and what was left was something new but also something that would protect.

It was reptilian in form, with a dozen small clawed legs sticking from the sides of the soft belly. The general colour was Dark green and the head was reminiscent of a snake's, only with a very blunt nose and two sharp-pointed ears sticking from the top.

Two slits rang along its back and as Caelum watched, the skin shifted and two leathery wings erupted from the incisions just as the legs disappeared into similar pockets that now only showed as a dozen tiny slits along the sides of the creature's underside.

"Welcome," Caelum hissed. The creature snapped to attention and its body tightened around his hands, some other seeking a way past his shields.

"You are here to protect my young. You may bond with him in exchange of protecting him from dangersss."

The blunt head tilted to the side. "And he will feed thisss one?"



With the ease that came from handling snakes for years, Caelum transferred the creature on his shoulders and left his rooms once more. He had double Potions with first year Gryffindors and Slytherins next. It would be… interesting to see Harry and Draco in a class setting. As far as the man knew, the two had kept their distance which hinted at Draco having been warned off. What game was Lucius playing? Would the blond be so bold if he knew any action against Harry was an offence to Caelum, or was the mage overestimating his value to Lucius?

The issue was worth some thought.

But currently he was subtly casting diversion wards on the creature resting around his shoulders. While your average wizard or witch could have no hope of seeing the being he had created from his blood and magic and layered in diversion and invisibility wards, it was possible that one or two in the student pool had some latent ability in Mage sight. Dumbledore certainly could sense the creature though only Caelum as its Creator, and later Harry as its Bonded, could see the physical form of the being. However, they might be able to sense the otherness that would cling to Harry's aura.

But the fact remained that he could not be there to protect Harry every moment of the day, nor could he hand Syl to Harry. Not only would the snake kill anyone that threatened Harry, he himself would be in danger. One lucky spell and Syl might be dead. It wasn't a risk that Caelum was willing to take.

The quiet chatter of students greeted his ears as he neared the classroom in the dungeons. He paused by the door, adjusting the creature around his shoulders and going through a mental shift from a worried father to a classroom teacher, before entering.

The children had pretty much divided themselves by houses with Harry right in the back row all alone. The Gryffindors sat to Caelum's right and Slytherins on the left. All quieted down when Caelum took his place in front of the classroom.

"Welcome to Potions. My name is Caelum Black and I will be your teacher for the next year. I understand that you were already started on potions under Professor Snape's guidance – however, my approach to potions is a bit different." He smiled, noting the curiosity that shone even through the Slytherins' disdain. He met Draco's eyes and his cousin pinched his lips together. A quick scan of his thoughts told Caelum of a conflict between siding with his Godfather and respecting Caelum for his power. He seemed to decide to keep his head down.

"Can someone tell me what is the essence of potions?" Caelum asked without further prelude, moving his thoughts to the lesson at hand though he did waste another thought on Lucius Malfoy. Not that he could do anything about it now.

The children stared at each other for a while and even Hermione – Miss Granger, he should say – seemed to be momentarily stumped but still raised her hand in a moment. "Yes, Miss Granger?"

"To heal and affect the human body through various creams, liquids and pastes."

Even she sounded like she was asking about it, more than answering his question, and Caelum felt oddly proud at stumping the supposedly brightest witch of her generation. Even if she was currently eleven.

"In a way, I suppose, but I'm looking for something more scientific." Silence greeted his words. "Potions is the study of magical and non-magical ingredients and their interactions when exposed to outside forces; such as heat, movement and magic." He turned to the board and drew three circles intersecting each other in the middle.

"You can generally label the ingredients in three areas; flora-based, fauna-based and minerals and metals – that's plant, animal and stone and metal for those of you that don't know Latin."

He looked back, noting only Harry, Granger and a couple of odd students were taking his words down. "That's pretty much going to be the basis of the exam in five weeks that's going to determine whether or not you brew another potion in your life or just watch your classmates do it. So why aren't you copying it?"

A flurry of parchment, ink and quills met his announcement and he spent the next two hours talking them through the most basic of ingredients, starting with the Boil-Cure Potion they had been attempting last week. He also gave them an essay on the different tools at the disposal of a potioneer, and what they were used for to complete for the next class, which was a week from today.

Harry's eyes constantly flickered between his and the creature around Caelum's shoulders. They were of the same blood, of course, so any being made of their blood was visible for both of them. But even Harry couldn't make out the details through the wards Caelum had put on the thing.

Their eyes met and Caelum slipped into Harry's mind, sensing the invitation. Stay after class. Drop your books or something.

He slipped out quickly but not before sending a wave of love at his adoptive son whose shoulders almost slumped in response to the emotion. As soon as the bell rang, the eleven year olds scrambled out of the door, chattering excitedly. Probably not about his lesson as theory was never the funniest part but at least they'd know what they were doing when he finally let them start brewing.

He made sure everyone else had gone and left Harry behind before coming closer. And before the raven haired teen could make a move, he picked him up and hugged him, just because he could, and after a moment of hesitation Harry latched around him like a four-limbed octopus.

Caelum let him stay like that for a moment but time was against them and he soon put the reluctant boy back down. "We don't have much time, Harry. This here is… someone I called to protect you." He coached the reptilian creature off his shoulders and onto Harry's where it settled happily, immediately creating a symbiotic bond with the boy. Harry's green eyes grew wide when he finally saw the creature fully.

"The Slytherins are up to something and I need you to be on your toes. I know it's not how you imagined Hogwarts but you just have to show them that they can't push you around.

"Admittedly some of them are inbred so their intelligence is definitely in question so you might have to do this a couple of times but even the most stupid of them will eventually learn to leave you alone."

Harry was quiet for a moment, examining his new guardian. This time his shoulders did slump but not out of relief. "Thanks. It's just… I was hoping I'd make some friends here. Nothing like you and Zahra!" he quickly backtracked. "But just someone I could do my homework with or… or play Exploding Snap with."

A part of Caelum's heart soared at the proof that Harry trusted him enough to admit this. Just a couple of months ago he would have been far too afraid of losing his family if he ever admitted that he wished for someone else's company but now he could admit that sometimes he needed someone his own age around. It was most definitely understandable; Caelum being who he was and Zahra's past as a genie didn't really make them the most normal of people to be around.

"You will", the Mage replied and smiled down at the hesitant boy. "You just need to find the right people. It takes courage to step out of the crowd and Slytherin's not really known for that, right?"

Harry took a fortifying breath. "I guess." He shouldered his bag and was almost out of the door before turning. "Thanks for Karma!"

Caelum blinked at his ward's sudden exit and grinned at Harry's wit.

Karma was definitely going to come and bite the Slytherins in the arse. Among some other places.


Caelum had stayed away from the Slytherin dorms even though his parentive instincts screamed at him to go and protect his son that night but he'd held strong. Harry had been self-sufficient long before he'd arrived in the world and he definitely wasn't going to turn him into someone like Malfoy that expected their father to deal with all their problems. Sure, having more advanced students target him was nothing to laugh at but Harry had been trained to deal with things that most adult wizards and witches never imagined facing. With Karma now at his side, Caelum had confidence in Harry.

As he should have.

He arrived at breakfast in time for once and was immediately subjected to the Matron's rant about illegal pets and stubborn Slytherins who doubled her workload by not admitting whose snake had bit them. A bezoar had fixed most of the poisonings but some of the students clearly had animal scratches on them and some might have been knife marks if Madam Pomfrey didn't know better!

Caelum kept his façade calm as he listened to the litany of complaints while oddly proud of Harry on the inside. He reflected on how many parents would actually be proud when hearing their son had been in a fight and sent half a dozen older students to the Hospital Wing. Then again, as long as Harry never started the fight without a good reason, he could live with that. If he ever did… well, they would have to sit down for a fatherly talk.

He also did his best to avoid the glares Severus was sending him. Obviously the man took offence to the remedial lessons Caelum had ordered everyone in fifth year and higher to take part that afternoon but even Caelum's hopes for their future together weren't enough for him to turn a blind eye to a gap in students' education. He had been a Deputy Headmaster and had dealt with grading and requests for references from alumni constantly in his role so he simply couldn't bend his convictions on this.

And this Severus had some serious problems being a Potions teacher – there was no getting away with that. The mage briefly wondered what could have caused that change but figured he might never know. Some of the changes between the realities were massive while other barely noticeable. And he'd changed things even more by coming to Hogwarts with Zahra in tow.

Speaking of his daughter, she was happily sitting next to Harry at the Slytherin table and almost preening under the glares some of the students were sending the pair. Caelum made a note to ask if she involved herself in the fight as well this time around but it would have to wait until after this afternoon's remedial session.

Speaking off…

"All set for this afternoon, Professor Black?" Dumbledore asked over McGonagall and Vector's heads and even the rest of the staff was paying attention now. Caelum was uncertain when one of the Hogwarts professors had actually done something like this. The way Defence had been taught the last few decades, it should have been a yearly occurrence.

He answered without hesitation: "Of course. I wouldn't have organized this if I didn't have a full lecture planned and ready to go."

In fact he had a bit more than that planned but he didn't intend to ask permission – apologise, yes, if necessary. He doubted Dumbledore had time to sit through a remedial lecture when he had no idea when the man had even had time to brew a potion recently… as in the last few decades.

"Excellent. I'm sure the students will enjoy a study break on such a wonderful Saturday."

The sun was shining, chasing the autumn's chill away with warmth and Caelum did feel kind of bad that he was stealing one of the last lovely days for his lecture but at the same time he had set himself up as the unshaken Professor Black who wasn't above using his family connections to get his students to pay attention to him. He did briefly wonder what kind of message it would send if he was to cancel today and order them outside to enjoy the sunshine.

They'd start calling him Professor Loony, probably.

Especially after the dozen or so students that he'd already turned away, trying to get themselves excused of the remedial session. He didn't care if the Ravenclaws thought themselves above remedial Potions or that the Slytherins tried to use their Outstanding grades as excuses. He was pretty sure no one had had hands on experience with Potions outside of the Hospital Wing and whatever home remedies they'd used before and he was going to fix that.

He didn't bother to hide the slightly devious smirk that rose on his lips and his fellow professors and some students certainly did take notice.

That afternoon it seemed that most of Hogwarts student population had shown up in the Great Hall even though the session was mandatory for fifths year and up only. Caelum had set up a podium where the Staff Table normally was and the House Tables had been transfigured into long rows of tables that sat facing the podium instead of forcing the students to crane their necks when looking at him. He also had a various selection of animals in cages, a table filled with vials and a board with him on the podium.

As the clock struck two, he cleared his throat and, failing that, released a bang from his wand while simultaneously casting a voice-carrying charm to make sure everyone could hear him.

"Good to see so many of you take your studies seriously," he started his talk. Caelum spied Harry and Zahra on the third row, Karma lazily draped over Harry's shoulders and resisted the urge to wink at them. Strangely this reminded him more of war sessions where he had to outline a mission sometimes before hundreds of people rather than a teaching session. Though he'd held some of those during the wars as well.

He mentally pushed the memories away and continued: "You are here because I realized you have been taught Potions in a completely different way than I have been and I would like to change your perspective towards the subject. I understand many of you think this is completely unnecessary and think that your… stellar grades should excuse you from spending a lovely Saturday inside but that is not the case.

"I can guarantee you that this lecture will not only help you raise your grade but also make your NEWTs and OWLs that much easier, especially for the written part. So, I am going to start us off with a simple demonstration."

He noticed the students glancing at each other warily but was also happy to see they weren't talking over him. Potions demonstrations were not that common, after all.

"This here is Piggy," he announced, bringing out a small baby pig out of its cage. "All the animals here are conjured and I have left them without pain receptors so do not panic now." Saying that he cast three near simultaneous Cutting Curses on the animal's side. Blood started immediately dripping from the wounds but the pig didn't even react. There were some screams and curses among the students.

"Like I said Piggy here cannot feel any pain.

"Here we have three identical wounds and I am going to douse them with three of the same potion. Can anyone tell me what this is?"

He raised three almost identical bottles to the light. "Yes, Miss Clearwater?"

"I believe that's the Essence of Dittany, Professor."

"You are right, five points to Ravenclaw. However, notice the slight discoloration between vials? I will now demonstrate."

Caelum levitated all three vials and simultaneously dumped them over the three slashes. The wound on the right was almost immediately healed without a scar while the left one took almost a minute to reach that point and the middle wound still had a long vertical line after three minutes.

"Can someone tell me why three of the same potion made from a single plant had such drastic differences in the healing process?"

Caelum looked around the hall and saw that, if nothing else, his unorthodox methods had captured his audience's attention. Which had been the point, after all. Hundreds of students stared at him, probably wondering if he was a little insane and the atmosphere in the Great Hall was losing its normal relaxed air. This was a lesson after all.

A Hufflepuff answered: "They were handled differently, sir?"

"That is correct, and five points to you too, Mister Diggory." Caelum tapped his wand on the board and lines upon lines of writing appeared with big enough font that even the backrow could see it. "Not many of you necessarily realize it but if you want to work in any medical profession you must have a NEWT in Potions. Same goes for Aurors, Hitwizards and various Ministry official jobs. If you want to work with fashion, many of the fabrics your robes are made of are processed with Potions to make them more durable among other things. Also in law you have to know your way around truth potions and memories.

"These are just a few of professions that use Potions daily. And without understanding the ingredient interaction, you can only memorize recipes and hope you don't miss a step, because if you do… you're screwed. That is what today's lecture is about." His words send a wave of nervous tittering through the students but he paid it no mind.

"Whether you chop or dice or squish your ingredients has a huge impact on any potion and I am here to pound this into your skulls. What you see on the board is Kermouth's Table on ingredient interaction. It lists the ways the most commonly used fauna and flora interact with each other in a potion regardless of the ingredient preparation. We will skip minerals and metals thought I expect you to study them independently.

"At the end of the lecture, there will be a twenty question quiz that every student above fifth year must pass if they want to brew another potion. So pay attention."

Caelum took a deep breath, steeled himself for the students' protests and really started his lecture. It wasn't perfect but it would have to do for now. There would undoubtedly be students who didn't pass and he fully intended to let them resit the quiz in their next lesson or the one after. He wasn't a total dictator but he also firmly believed that no student was a lost cause and he certainly didn't want to bar a student from his classroom because they weren't taught properly. Not to mention it was extremely gratifying to see the students' eyes lit up when they understood what he was teaching. Caelum made sure to reference as many of the potions in their curriculum as possible and in the three hour lecture managed to cover thirty of the most commonly used flora and fauna. He was actually hopeful when it came to the quiz scores.

They were finished at half past five and Caelum could feel the strain of the lecture. He had hundreds of tests to grade and sort by year and house but thankfully he knew a nifty spell for the latter. And multiple choice questionnaires were always the easiest to grade – not that he chose to use them for that reason.

When the other professors appeared for dinner, Caelum had cleared the hall and reorganized the House tables in their places which had sent some of the students scrambling. Zahra had come by to congratulate him as well and dragged Harry over to "introduce them". Caelum appreciated the effort the once-genie was going through for him and Harry.

And when Severus wasn't actually glaring at him anymore but looked more pensive than anything – of course you had to know the man personally to notice the difference – Caelum couldn't help but smile into his glass of pumpkin juice. Trust the paranoid man to have listened in on his lecture and it seemed the mage might have impressed him.

Even Dumbledore couldn't take away Caelum's feeling of accomplishment with his inane chatter.

"Oh, Professor Black, you might not know this but we always gather on Sunday evenings for a meeting in the staff room. To recap the last week and go over any overlapping subjects for the next week, you might say?"

Caelum blinked at Flitwick who had been kind enough to notify him about yet another change between realities. His staff meetings had always been on Fridays to give the staff the whole weekend off for free time and grading.

"I'll be there," the wizard promised.

A/N: So a couple years have passed. I could give you a litany of excuses but the main one was that RL and especially uni got in the way of writing. This chapter was a result of an out of nowhere inspiration so I cannot promise when the next update arrives but I still intend to someday finish this story. There might also be some mistakes as I only skimmed the last few chapters so point them out if you see anything glaringly obvious. Thanks for your patience and loyalty over the years and sorry for not making any bigger promises.