He'd never seen that much blood before.

He hoped to never see that much blood again.

Harry's heart pounded in his chest as his legs carried him around a corridor, his feet slipping on the cold stone as the blood left on the bottoms of his shoes ruined any hope he had for traction. Clambering back to his feet, he cleared the intersection of the corridors and continued his frantic running, ducking his head as stone exploded from the wall to his side, just above his head.

He continued to run, weaving through the dark hallways and doing his best to avoid the explosions of rocky shrapnel from the spells being hurled in his direction. His chest was burning, and his leg hadn't avoided every piece of jagged rock from one of the blasts, it would seem. His breathing was labored, but he was running for his life and he knew it, so he knew that he didn't have much time for trivial things such as slowing down to catch a breath, or stopping to check on the piece of rock imbedded in his thigh. He'd been chased enough to know that stopping or slowing down was a bad idea. And he'd been chased enough as a child to know that you never, ever, look back at who's chasing you.

But Harry didn't need to look back. Because every time he dodged one of the spells aimed for him; every time there was an explosion of stone instead of flesh, each time a spell blasted a torch from the wall and sent ashes down a corridor, the man pursuing Harry would scream in increasing anger. It was a voice he knew well, and he could tell by the increasing volume of the literal howls of rage, that the man was either getting closer, or getting increasingly unhappy with the chase. Judging by the increase in the rate of spells fired at him, Harry could only hope it was one of the two, and not both.

As he turned another corner, once more considering the idea that he might be running in circles, Harry noticed a light coming from under one of the doors at the far end of the corridor. He couldn't fathom why anyone would be in a classroom at that late hour, but he was thankful for whatever night owl was working away.

Seeing the door looming in the distance, bright light streaming out from under and above the door as if highlighting its presence, Harry put all of the energy he had left into a final burst of speed toward it. The light illuminated the surroundings just enough for him to get an inkling of where he was, before he slammed into the door going full speed. The doorframe cracked under the impact, and he stumbled into the room just as both sides of the door exploded, sending a cloud of wood and stone shrapnel everywhere. Harry whirled around and tossed his arms up to keep as much of it as possible from his face, which was good strategy as he felt sings of rock and splinters banging into his forearms.

A displacement of the plume of dust and destroyed rock was Harry's only warning of the incoming spell. He was able to move enough that it wouldn't have hit him dead on, but it still would have possibly killed him were it not for Professor Flitwick pushing into the boy's legs, sending him stumbling to the side and out of the worst of the spell's path. Falling to the ground, Harry pulled his right arm up to him, staring at the glimpses of bone he was able to see between the gushing blood from the wound caused by the spell.

He knew the spell well. He had used it not long before. There had been a lot of blood then, as well.

Professor Flitwick had avoided taking the brunt of the spell after pushing Harry out of the way simply because of his small stature. The spell had passed over him, slamming into the back wall of the classroom. The small man drew his wand and held it at the ready, staring out of the broken doorway at the much taller man.

"Severus, what is the meaning of this?" Professor Flitwick's voice left no doubt of his anger at having a student in his classroom with an injury caused by a teacher. An injury that would have surely been fatal had the small teacher himself not been able to push Harry out of the way.

"This doesn't concern you, Filius. Send Potter out, or I will go in there and extract him." Snape's voice was tense, and he was panting. Between the chase through the castle, the spellcasting and his increasing anger, his body was likely exhausted.

"I think it most definitely concerns me when I have a bleeding student on the floor of my classroom. Make no mistake, you interrupted my study group with this attack."

Harry staggered to his feet, clutching his forearm to his body. His shirt was smeared in his own blood, and the blood from his arm began to seep through his fingers and fall onto the floor. His glasses had fallen off of his face at some point, and he was having trouble seeing much, be he did know that there had been quite a few students in the room with the small Charms professor before he barged in. One of those students rushed toward him and cast a spell that made his arm begin to tingle before it started to numb. He could feel the blood flow slow as Professor Flitwick and Snape continued to argue.

"He needs to answer for what he's done, Filius. I have had enough of him avoiding taking responsibility due to a biased staff shielding him. I will not allow him to be protected any longer. Move aside, or I will move you." Snape was shaking as he clutched his wand tighter in his hand, knowing that the former dueling champion turned Charms teacher would not yield.

Professor Flitwick looked back at the students he had been tutoring and all but barked orders at them, his voice coming out clipped and authoritative. "All of you, move into the corner onto the couch and keep out of the way of the spells. Su, see what you can do about that wound. Terry, keep everyone shielded just in case." And with those words, the small man straightened his shoulders, gripped his wand, and marched out of the door. "Then you will simply have to move me, Severus. Though I promise you, I shall not be moved easily."

Harry felt himself being magically lifted and moved, and the world swam back into focus as his glasses were slid back on his face. Dark eyes watched him, and given the blue and bronze tie around her neck, he could only assume it was Padma Patil looking back at him. Her eyes were glistening but she tried to flash him a smile, which didn't work well but he appreciated the gesture. She disappeared from his field of vision, though he heard her conjure a pillow and place it under his head.

"Bollocks…what kind of spell is this? It's refusing to respond to the mending spells that I've been taught. Nothing is working!" A soft, though panicked, voice said from his side. He turned his head and saw a dark-haired girl pulling at her hair in frustration. "It's not responding to any of my spells, and I haven't learned how to conjure medical gauze yet. I…I don't know what to do." It was clear to Harry that the girl, who had to be Su Li, was beating herself up about her inability to treat him.

"Cloth." Su's head darted up and stared at Harry, clearly confused by what he meant when he spoke. "When I was younger, I'd use old shirts to wrap up injuries." Sitting up, Harry's eyes darted around before landing on the pillow Padma had conjured. The girl had conjured up a pillow reminiscent of the ones used in the Hospital Wing, so it was wrapped in a crisp white pillowcase. Pulling it off, he held it out to Su with his good arm.

"Harry, it won't last very long because it's conjured…" Padma interjected, but even as she was saying it, she had taken the pillowcase and began casting Severing Charms on it, making long strips of cloth.

"It doesn't need to, Padma. Just needs to last long enough for the Professor to give us the all clear to get him to the Hospital Wing." Harry looked up to who had just spoken to find Terry Boot standing to the side of the couch, his eyes alert and his wand out. He glanced down and nodded at Harry, before going back to looking toward the door. "What was that all about, Harry? We knew Snape didn't particularly like you, but none of us could have expected that he'd attack you. Training drill?"

"I sure in the bloody hell hope not! What kind of drill do you know of that almost kills one of the people in it, Terry?" Padma stood and moved around to sit on one side of Harry as Su moved to sit on the other side next to his injured arm. Su wrapped the arm quickly, applying sticking charms to the bandages after the first layer.

"No, it wasn't any training drill…" Harry's voice failed him as he remembered Snape's face as he observed Harry kneeling over a dying Draco Malfoy. "There…there was so much blood." Snape shoving Harry out of the way to check Draco's pulse had allowed Harry to get toward the door, and had been the head start that likely saved the boy's life. Snape had started sending curses at Harry not seconds after finding no evidence of life in the blonde Slytherin boy, and it was only the distance created by Snape's shove that allowed Harry to get out of the way. From there, the shock had disappeared in the face of fear.

"He's in shock." Su stated matter-of-factly, before she stood and helped Padma lay Harry back down on the couch. Harry realized that he had never heard Su Li's before her recent bout of speech, and could only wonder if it was because of her silence, or his lack of noticing. She had on a winter cloak that was much too big for her short frame, and her short dark hair moved with her, showing glimpses of her neck between her hair and the neck of the cloak.

She walked toward the door with her wand held to her side, but before she could get too far, Terry moved and wrapped her up in his arms and pulled her back. His voice was soft as he spoke to her, but in what seemed to be an artificial silence to the room, Harry could hear him. "The Professor told us to stay back, the spells they are throwing around are probably pretty dangerous. I don't want you getting hurt."

"But what if he's hurt?" Her voice was shaky and her fear was evident to Harry, someone who had never heard her speak before.

"You know how skilled he is. And you know he'd never forgive himself if you got hurt in collateral damage. You know I'd never forgive myself. He told me to protect everyone." Su nodded and turned into Terry's embrace and let him walk her back to the corner.

There was an uncomfortable silence, before Terry spoke again in an offhanded manner. "Battle's picking up. More and more spells getting tossed around." Padma nodded and Harry sat up so he could see the flashes of light that had increased in both intensity and frequency since he was given his glasses back. "Amazing to see how rapidly the both of them can throw out spells nonverbally. I couldn't keep up that pace verbalizing all of my spells, but they do it without a word. I hope one day I can be nearly as good as the Professor is now, never mind how good he was while in the Circuit…"

Terry's voice caught as Professor Flitwick's voice rang out for the first time since he had left the room. "Severus, no!"

All four of the students in the room turned their heads toward the door as one, and watched as a disheveled, panting and obviously worse for wear Severus Snape ran into the room, his left arm hanging limply at his side. His dark eyes darted around, before they landed on Harry and he raised his wand. "You won't get away with this, Potter. I will make sure of it!"

For his part, Harry began acting as soon as Snape had turned to face him. Holding his wand as best he could in his injured and bandaged arm, he used his left arm to push Padma behind him. Terry was still holding Su, and Harry was glad that they were out of the way enough that they would, hopefully, not be hit by any crossfire.

A shield shimmered up around Harry, and he looked over to see both Terry and Su holding their wands, the magical trails from their wands into the shield were swirling and spiraling around each other. It was a form of tandem shielding, and they were projecting the shield solely in front of Harry. This left them unshielded, but keeping him well protected from quite a few powerful spells. However, judging by the look of extreme rage on Snape's face, he had no intention of petrifying and binding Harry. This was proven as he began to incant the Killing Curse.

Padma gasped and Harry moved to slash his wand, hoping that he would be able to get off his spell in time to interrupt Snape's spell. And failing to do that, then he hoped he would be able to complete the cast in enough time to still be able to dodge the Unforgivable.

Just as Snape was finishing his casting, and as Harry had started to move to the side, his spell still unfinished as well, the diminutive Charms professor reappeared and made his presence known, powerfully.

The door that Harry had previously bowled over in his attempt to escape Snape went from lying just inside the doorway, to careening at frightening speed toward Snape. The Banishing Charm from the half-goblin teacher was powerful, amazingly so. In the fraction of a second that the block of wood took to slam into the enraged Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, it had picked up enough speed to actually lift the man from his feet and carry him along into the far wall. The impact with the stone wall snapped his spine, and the force with which the door sandwiched him against the wall, ruptured most of the organs in his lower torso.

The severity of his injuries made no difference, however, because the force of impact from his head slamming into the wall had been devastating. The stone had no give, and the back of Severus Snape's head had all but exploded, painting blood, pieces of skull and bits of brain in all directions along the wall of the Charms classroom.

Filius Flitwick walked slowly into the room, his wand dangling from his small fingers and almost scraping the floor of his classroom. His body would shake every few moments, but outside of his beard being noticeably lopsided due to one side being clipped just a bit below his chin, he showed few physical signs that he had actually been in a magical battle that ended up being fatal for one of the participants.

Terry rushed forward and held a hushed conversation with his Head of House before running out of the doorway and down the corridor. Su moved over to the dead professor to check on his body, cataloguing his injuries on a sheet of parchment while appearing incredibly sickened by the destroyed man's head.

Across the room, Padma seemed torn between rushing to her Head of House, and staying and watching Harry. Harry, for his part, appeared in utter shock. Not long before, Severus Snape had been chasing him through the hallways of the school, firing spells and attempting to kill him. The man's destroyed head laid not many feet away from him, and it was a chilling image for the boy. He didn't know how he got there, but he found himself sat back down on the couch with his head in his hands, and the next time he looked up, the room was filled with staff members and Aurors.

Professor McGonagall had been standing guard over him, and no one was allowed to approach to question him without having the Scottish teacher affix them with her glare and turn her wand on them. Madame Pomfrey was kneeled in front of Professor Flitwick. The latter, for his part, sat on a tall stool and stared vacantly at the wall that Snape had impacted, which had been cleaned of any evidence of the man's impact.

The matronly nurse tapped the small man on his knee and seemed to whisper to him. Professor Flitwick looked up and over toward Harry, before he hopped off of the stool and waved his wand in an offhanded gesture, causing the stool to disappear from existence. The two walked over to Harry, stopping for a moment in front of Harry's Head of House. The woman knelt down and spoke in hushed tones with the small Charms professor, before wrapping the man in a tight hug. He hugged her back, his small arms grasping almost desperately at her as his body shook.

"Get it out, Fil." Professor McGonagall said in a surprisingly gentle voice. Professor Flitwick, for his part, remained in her arms for only a short time. As he moved away from her, the two teachers locked eyes for a long moment before Flitwick smiled, straightened his back, and walked toward Harry. The small man joined Harry on the couch and they sat together in silence for a long moment.

"Are you alright?"

The silence returned for a moment, before Professor Flitwick's laughter rang out, and Harry found himself joining in, in spite of the somber mood. The Aurors glanced over in confusion, before shaking their head and going back to the quiet discussion. Professor Flitwick patted Harry on the knee before turning on the couch to face the boy. "Sorry about that, Mr. Potter. It is just so much like the descriptions of you that I have heard from my house. Even with you sat there injured, the first words out of your mouth are in inquiry into my wellbeing." The return of the man's jovial smile was a welcomed sight for Harry, who found himself smiling as well.

"Well, I must say that I am doing much better after that bout of laughter." He met Harry's eyes and smiled comfortingly. "I must ask, however, how you are doing? I mean, seeing someone die right in front of you, albeit someone looking to take your own life, has to be difficult. I am aware of the fact that this isn't exactly something new for you, but seeing it in such a…bloody way, has to be traumatic. Especially having that person end up being a man you've known for all of these years."

Harry was silent for a long moment, before he looked away from the teacher. "Two."

"Excuse me?" Professor Flitwick leaned forward, motioning his hand for Professor McGonagall to come near. "Could you repeat what you just said?"

Harry stared off to the side for a long moment before he turned and looked over toward Professor Flitwick. He started for a moment upon seeing his Head of House now kneeling next to the Charms professor, but he squared his shoulders and spoke. "Two." He was silent again, but before his teachers could speak again, he was speaking again, rambling in stilted, fragmented sentences. "Draco Malfoy is…he's in the second floor. Girl's lavatory."

Madam Pomfrey gasped, and Professor McGonagall caught eyes with the woman for a long, loaded look. Madam Pomfrey rushed from the room after stopping and speaking quickly with the Aurors, a pair of the Aurors rushing after her. Harry, for his part, hadn't stopped speaking long enough to notice. "I…I can't much remember what happened. But he tried to use The Cruciatus Curse on me, and I acted." Harry looked down, staring at his shirt before pulling at it, as if it touching him was causing him pain. "Blood…So much blood. He. He stopped breathing. And then Snape came in. He checked him…There was just so much blood. I slipped trying to move. Fell in it. Then…"

Harry stopped talking again for a moment before standing up. "He cried. It was weird. And then he was cursing." Harry lifted up his shirt, the expected pink tint to his chest from the blood seeping through his shirt was apparent. However, there was a line of dark red blood dragging down his side. "He hit me, barely. Chased me through the halls." Harry wiped at his eyes with his shirt, before realizing that he was simply smearing blood over his face.

"Harry, you can cry, it's alright…" Harry's Head of House stood and moved to stand with him, but he stopped her with his gaze. She was shocked at how utterly devoid of sorrow his eyes were, shocked enough that her breath caught.

"I'm not crying, Professor. I have a terribly bloody headache though." There was uncomfortable silence, before Harry sat back down, sighing heavily. "I can't make myself cry over it. But I don't like it. I don't like the idea of killing another student. But he attacked first."

One of the Aurors who had run off with Madam Pomfrey stood in the doorway, seemingly unsure of what to do. His superior, who had been standing by just within listening distance, moved toward him and they spoke in hushed tones. The man walked over and stood in front of Harry, his shadow ominously cast over the boy.

"Mister Potter, if I might have a few minutes of your time, I have some questions I'd like you to answer for me." Harry looked up and observed the man. He had a gruff voice and a scraggly beard, with sunken-in eyes. Something about him rubbed Harry the wrong way, and his dislike of the man was cemented when the Auror eyed the two teachers.

The professors, for their part, refused to be banished. "As Harry's Head of House, as well as the Deputy Headmistress of this school, I'd actually prefer it if you would wait until we've finished speaking to him."

"Lead Auror Johnson, ma'am. And I am on a tight schedule, and don't have much time to stand around waiting for Mister Potter to decide what story to settle on for this. We have two dead bodies in one night, and him at the site of both deaths." The man shifted his stance, before looking directly at Harry. Harry looked right back, refusing to quail at the sight of the sickly looking man.

It would seem that his dissent was contagious, as, first McGonagall and Flitwick refused to move as well. "Well, Mister Johnson, it would seem that we won't be leaving. So if you have something to ask Mister Potter, I would suggest that you begin your questions now, as it is past curfew and he needs to get his rest."

Lead Auror Johnson was far from pleased at his treatment and the perceived disrespect he was receiving. He became even more upset when, as he prepared himself to begin his questioning, two forms walked through the door.

"You can go, Johnson. We'll take it from here."

The rage on Johnson's face was intense, as he watched Kingsley and Tonks walk in and relieve him from his case. He cursed under his breath as he walked away from Harry, muttering inappropriate and rude things. He was still muttering when he tried to shoulder past the two new arrivals, and whatever he said did not sit well with Kingsley, who grabbed the man by the front of his robe and pressed him against the wall.

"Would you like to repeat that, Johnson?"

"N…No, sir." The sallow man stammered. His wand had slipped from up his sleeve into his hand, and he was gripping it tightly. "Now if you would please unhand me, instead of behaving like a brute in front of these witnesses, I can go about my day." Kingsley released him, and brushed off the man's shoulders.

"Carry on then, Johnson. And mind the words you speak." Everyone in the room was aware of the threat in Shacklebolt's words. Kingsley walked over toward the group congregated around the conjured couch in the corner of the room, while Tonks stood guard at the doorway. They were quiet for a while before Kingsley conjured himself a simple chair, and sat across from Harry.

"I'm sorry about that display. It has been a long night for me, and I rushed here specifically to make sure that he had nothing to do with questioning you. He and I have some…past issues, and I didn't mean to expose you all to that." The man leaned forward and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers. Sitting back, he put on a reassuring smile, and looked directly at Harry.

"I'm sure you are getting somewhat tired of repeating this story today, Harry, as I have no doubt that you've already been asked to recount what happened…but I have to ask you to tell your story, just one more time." Harry sighed and placed his head in his hands for a moment, brushing his hair back and unintentionally wiping at some of the blood that he had dabbed onto his face from his shirt.

"I'd just been following him…"


Filius Flitwick sat on the conjured couch in his classroom, staring at the empty doorframe. The Aurors had left around midnight, and Minerva McGonagall had left to get some rest around three in the morning. It was rounding the corner toward six in the morning, and the small man found himself seated on the couch next to an equally unmoving Harry Potter.

Filius was initially surprised at how stoic the boy had come off, initially. He had heard stories of things Harry had seen and done in his years at Hogwarts, and could only assume he was somewhat jaded to death. That assumption had survived until the boy's Head of House had left, when Harry sighed and put his head into his hands, and stared at the floor, unmoving, for quite some time. The silence persisted for quite a few hours.

Filius was therefore understandably surprised when, without warning, Harry stood and moved toward the wall that the professor had been killed against. He reached out his hand toward the wall before pulling it away as if realizing the wall was made of fire.

"You're taking this fairly well, Professor."

Filius looked down for a moment, before hopping down off of the couch and walking over to stand next to Harry, both looking at the cleaned stone wall. "As morbid as it may sound, Mister Potter, you do end up getting used to these kinds of things." Harry looked down to the professor and raised an eyebrow. He was greeted with a relatively grim smile, as the man continued to speak. "The Dueling Circuit is… it is a grim place. No matter how many rules and regulations you put on competition, death or serious injury are never very far away. If you stay in competition long enough, it's only a matter of time before you end up seeing someone's life ended."

Filius sighed and looked down toward the floor. "It never does get easier. Especially when you realize that, sometimes, it's also unavoidable."

Harry was quiet, considering the man's words. "I suppose it is, Professor." Filius patted Harry on the knee, before walking away from the wall and back to the couch. Hopping up to sit onto it again, he called out to Harry, motioning for him to come as well. Harry gives a long look at the wall before moving toward the couch and sitting back down. "So you've seen quite a few people die then, Professor? I had no idea that the Dueling Circuit was so dangerous."

"Indeed it is, Harry." Filius took a deep breath, and then looked at Harry. "I tend to keep stories of the Circuit to myself, it's not the type of thing I tend to like to share with my students. Some of my Ravenclaws know from passing anecdotes, but… something tells me that you'll be able to handle the information."

Harry settled back, crossing his legs and looking to the small man.

"Dueling is… Dueling isn't something one can just stumble into. It isn't a sport in the sense that Quidditch is, there are no teams, there are no sponsorships or arenas where multitudes of fans go to observe the matches and cheer for their favorite participant. Before I go any further, I want you to know that, because nothing I'm going to tell you intends to glorify the Dueling Circuit." Harry nodded, somewhat shocked at the vehemence his professor was showing in his apparent disdain for combative magic.

"When I began Dueling, I was only a few years out of Hogwarts. I still had my first wand, I still felt most comfortable in the school robes, and I honestly thought of a life of battling with my magic as something to be considered... glamorous, I suppose the word would be. I can admit now, that I also had quite a chip on my shoulder. I had a point to prove, and I felt that magic would be how I proved that point. If someone wished to speak ill of me, they would do it at their own peril, and those who whispered about the strange-looking small boy, would do so whilst looking over their shoulders.

"Dueling seemed perfect. But I can honestly say, getting into the Circuit was the worst mistake I have made in my life." The man's voice quivered for a moment, before he sat his wand across his lap and folded his hands together over it. "The first time I saw a man die, ripped apart by a hail of summoned spikes of ice, I was sick all over myself. When I resorted to using the same spell not a month later and severely injured my opponent, I didn't think twice as I was carried off of the platform."

Filius stopped speaking for a long moment, looking down at his wand. "I don't mean to make this sound like some disgusting blood-sport, fought for nothing more than to end lives. It's not that. Buried under a lot of blood, there is a certain level of nobility to it. It's simply who's the best. For a long time, I was the best.

"When I left the Circuit, I never wanted to see another Duel in my life."

"Really? Well, that would explain why they didn't ask you to teach the Dueling Club in my second year, and instead had Lockhart and…" Harry trailed off and looked over at the wall, before nodding his head toward the wall and muttering, "him."

"Quite true, Harry." Filius rubbed his forehead with his palm, and then smiled. "I learned a lot of powerful magic on the Circuit. But I am most thankful that I learned important lessons about magic itself on the Circuit." Harry looked at Flitwick, his eyebrows raised and his eyes bloodshot behind his glasses. "It was in my last days on the Circuit, that I decided I wanted to teach. Teaching magic…real magic, the way that it interacts with people, with the world, with other magic, it is just so… invigorating! Getting to teach, and all the while, learn something new every day… the prospect just drew me here."

Harry smiled, noting the tone in the man's voice all but screaming out the "but" that was lingering there. And as soon as Filius opened his mouth, he confirmed Harry's expectation. "But the years have grown repetitive." As soon as he spoke, he seemed to be shocked at what he said, and turned toward Harry. "I don't mean to say that teaching is not a joy, I assure you…" He stopped speaking as he saw Harry simply smile at him and nod, as if to ensure the man that he understood. Filius sighed and looked up at the ceiling. "This is not teaching. It is instructing. I tell students what to do, if they do it, they get good marks, if they don't do it, they get bad marks. There is no learning. I just want to teach again."

The man turned to Harry, who wore a pensive look. "I am sorry to vent at you, Harry."

Harry continued to look bothered by something, but waved off the man's apology, "It is fine, Professor. It's not that, it's just…" Harry trailed off and looked off in the distance. "I understand." Filius motioned for Harry to continue, but he instead shook his head. "I should be heading off to bed, sir."

Filius looked long and hard at Harry. He could tell that something was bothering the boy, but he didn't want to pry. I understand. I would like you to know that you can always come and talk to me, or Minerva, should you wish to." Harry stood and walked, trance-like, from the room, his eyes on the ground. Filius sighed and hopped down from the couch, crossing the room and staring down the hallway. Harry was headed toward his dorm room, when he stopped and stood by a wall, observing a hole in the stone. He stood near it and compared it to his height, and realized that, had the spell hit him, it would have blown a good-sized hole into his head.

Filius conjured a new door and placed it into place, before turning toward his classroom and letting out a loud, heavy sigh. He had killed a man for the first time in a long time. He had hoped to never do so again. But as he had stared out of his classroom at the boy who he had rescued, he knew that he would never be able to rationalize it as the wrong decision.

Brandishing his wand, Filius looked at it for a long moment, before weaving it in a complicated motion, ending in a direct slash toward the ground. There was a heavy thump, as everything that had been in the room seemed to hop and slam into the ground again, many pieces of furniture in completely different locations without appearing to have moved. Desks sat lined up facing the front of the room, Filius' heavy desk returned to its position in the front of the room.

The small man walked over to the far side of the room and stood in front of the large wall covered in bookshelves. Slashing his wand, books from all over the wall slipped from their positions, a seemingly random series of books floated across the room. There were heavy tomes, paperback research printings, decades-old and long outdated magical theory books and new novels among the procession of bobbing and bouncing books, but they all piled up atop each other in such a way as to make something akin to a stairway of books behind the large oak desk that sat in the front of the room.

From atop the pile of books, he looked out over his empty classroom and sighed.


Albus Dumbledore had learned many things in his many years of life. One of those things was the belief that, if one expects the world to surprise them constantly, they are actually very rarely surprised. It was the way Albus routinely lived his life. With each turn down the corridor late at night, he would expect Peeves to spring out, singing terribly out of tune songs from half a century prior. So, when Peeves decided to do just that, Albus would nod, and occasionally sing along for half a verse – only so the poor Poltergeist didn't feel unappreciated, he reasoned. Because that was the way he lived, Albus found that he was very rarely shocked by things. That was until the end of the first day of classes after the untimely demise of Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy.

Albus walked into his office from a visit to the kitchens to find the chair opposite his desk occupied. "Filius?"

"Hello, Albus." The small man said. His posture was slumped, his eyes downcast and locked on his hands, which sat folded in his lap.

Shaking off the foreign feel of surprise, the wizened, bearded Headmaster hustled over to sit at his desk to speak with his friend. "Is something the matter?" Both Albus and Filius knew that the question was asked more because it was the normal thing to do, than because an answer was expected. The fact that something was wrong was obvious. "If this is about Severus, then by all means–"

"I apologize for my interruption, Albus, but I must say this before I lose my nerve." At the small man's words, Albus Dumbledore raised one eyebrow before removing his glasses. He placed them gently down on the desktop, folded his hands in front of his face, and leaned forward to show his old friend that he was listening. "Albus… Well, this is about Severus."

"As I suspected."

"No, not really." Filius responded. Albus quirked the corner of his mouth at the phrase the man had used. Padma Patil did have quite the dry, sarcastic wit to her, and it seemed that Filius wasn't simply teaching his students, but learning from them as well. "See… Well…" Filius took a deep breath and lifted his head, looking directly at Albus from across the large oak desk. "I wish to resign as Charms Professor for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

The words were formal and heavy, and they tumbled out of Filius' mouth and landed in the space between them. The proclamation sat there – immobile – leaving utter silence in its wake.

"Excuse me, but I do not quite understand…"

"It is as I said it. I no longer wish to… instruct Charms anymore." Filius responded. He spoke the word "instructed" with a venom that almost set Albus back, having been far removed from seeing the fresh-from-the-Circuit Filius that had been hired many decades before who had been so filled with vitriol and vigor.

"Is there any way I can convince you otherwise?"

"No, Albus. My mind is made up." Filius hopped down from the chair and turned to leave the office. "This has been a long time coming, and the events of the other night were simply the final straw, as it were. Instruction is just not in me anymore." There was a finality to the tone in Filius' voice that told Albus that he had nothing to gain by continuing to try to dissuade the man, and could lose a good friend if he persisted. Filius had truly decided.

"I see." Albus steepled his fingers and sucked in a slow breath. "I shall begin looking for a new Charms Professor at the beginning of the summer holiday, then."

"I would hope you'd begin far sooner than that, Albus." Dumbledore looked up as this comment in confusion. "I intend to leave the Charms classroom for the last time tomorrow."

Panic lanced through Albus, panic and confusion. He had so many questions, and knew that he didn't have the time to ask any of them. The school was already stretched thin, and he didn't think he would be able to get an interim Charms Professor on such short notice. It was all he could do to find time to keep up with the regular maintenance, considering his duty as interim Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor.

Looking to his friend, who had maintained the slumped posture even after getting to his feet and beginning the slow walk toward the door, Albus felt his confusion fade in place of deep, sorrowful worry for his friend. He and Filius had been good colleagues, and he respected the smaller man a great deal. He couldn't help but note how Filius' slow pace seemed almost funeral-procession-like. With a deep sigh, Albus called out after the man he had worked beside for decades, "Is there anything else I can do for you, Filius? Anything I can offer you? A cup of tea, perhaps."

Filius stopped, but didn't turn around. He was quiet for a moment before his back straightened and he spoke, his back still to Albus. "There is one thing you can get for me, Albus."

"What is that, old friend?"

"The Defense Against the Dark Arts position."