The Potter Politics


Disclaimer:This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Raincoats Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to Harry Potter.


Chapter 4
Snape's Retaliation

The solution was a light pink. Harry breathed a sigh of relief. It had been close, his decision to dilute the Forgetfulness Solution was a brave one, but it seemed to have paid of spectacularly. He quickly took a glance at the question sheet of his first year final Potions exam that he'd attached to his work area. It required him to brew a Forgetfulness Potion whose effects would last for an hour at most.

A quick jab of his wand and a muttered Extinguishing Charm later the flame that was gently heating the potion had been snuffed out. He allowed the potion to cool off for a while and turned his attention back to the Boil Cure Potion. The grey coloured mixture was bubbling softly. Harry grabbed the powdered snake fangs and extinguished the fire lighting the potion and immediately started adding the snake fangs into the potion while continuously stirring the mixture.

The Boil Cure Potion turned a proper off-white colour and Harry re-lit the fire allowing the potion to properly mix with the new ingredient, all the time stirring the potion ever so gently. Harry understood now what mistake he'd made in his first ever Potions class. He'd added the powdered snake fangs at a single go before resorting to stir the potion, for that is what the step had demanded. This, however, did not allow the mixture to react properly with the new ingredient, causing the formation of granularity in the potion, instead of the fine texture that it should maintain. It was easily rectified by adding the powdered snake fangs in the potion while stirring it at the same time.

This wasn't the exact proper method and it did make the potion lose its potency marginally. However, the amount of safety guaranteed in this procedure was significantly higher than the proper way of increasing the temperature of the potion prior to adding the new element. It was well and good, if not for the fact that the solution at such a mid-level stage tended to react rather violently with powdered snake fangs if one couldn't estimate the proper temperature accurately, which was the reason after all that powdered snake fangs were added only after removing the potion vat from the fire.

None of the books mentioned it though; the only reason Harry knew was that he had asked Slughorn why the potion he'd brewed at the very first class had not been perfect.

He took a step back from the two vats of potion. The Forgetfulness Potion was cooling off and would require another few minutes of being in room temperature before being considered well enough for congestion. Potions that dealt with the intricacies of mind were always the hardest to make, but Harry had to admit he had done rather well with both the potions, both of which had been successfully brewed better than how he had done in the classroom. Slughorn would be proud.

Speaking of the professor, Harry looked up from his work table to look around for Slughorn. His Head of House was at the moment talking to a rather nervous Ravenclaw, Mandy Brocklehust or something. He didn't know the girl's exact name.

Harry took a quick glance around the large room. It wasn't their regular classroom but a special room reserved for exams. It made sense after all; their normal classroom would not fit all the first year students from different houses.

He stood on his tip-toes, slightly miffed that he wasn't tall enough to survey the classroom fully, and looked over to what his fellow classmates had made. Quickly espying the bushy haired Granger girl, who was industriously working over her potions, her mane growing wilder and bushier by the minute, Harry noticed that her Boil Cure Potion had been very similar to his, but he believed that his had achieved better consistency. But from the distance he could have very well been mistaken. Her Forgetfulness Potion had not fared better though, at least not better than his. It looked far too dark for the amount of potency that was requisite for the exam.

He glanced over to Zabini's potion, which was just beside his. Same condition, Harry noted. Blaise had managed a near perfect Boil Cure Potion, just like him but his Forgetfulness Potion was a bit too thick. The drinker was likely to forget his own name and not just the events of a one-hour period. Harry smirked; Zabini wouldn't be taking the prize that Professor Slughorn had promised the first years would be given to the student, who did the best on their final potions exam.

Harry flicked his eyes over the rest of his classmates. Most had managed a decent work in the both potions, though Longbottom's Forgetfulness Potion looked like a mess. He seemed to have managed a decent work in the Boil Cure Potion though. Harry thought the boy looked somewhat glad and considering his lack of ability with potions, he had to admit, the boy had every reason to be proud of getting his Boil Cure Potion correct.

It seemed to be the staple, most had gotten the Boil Cure Potion quite correctly; the Forgetfulness Potion though was brewed in varying degrees of competency among the various students.

Malfoy seemed to have done a decent job throughout with both the Potions, and was letting the Forgetfulness Potion time to cool. Draco took a step back and looked up, his eyes fell straight on Harry, Malfoy looked for a second before giving him an arrogant smile. Harry had no doubt that Malfoy believed that he'd get the best potion in.

We'll see about that.

It wasn't that Harry hated Malfoy or anything, they'd a fairly cordial relationship. Draco had even extended a hand of friendship early in the term. But perhaps it was Harry's exceedingly good relationship with Slughorn or his entry into the weekly Quidditch matches, they had noticeably cooled off. It was just that the arrogant twit reminded Harry very strongly of his cousin. Harry was quite sure though that Draco would take it as an offence if he ever told him of the comparison, what with his distaste of Muggles.

Harry looked back at Professor Slughorn who seemed to be done with the Ravenclaws and was now starting with Hufflepuffs. Ernie MacMillan did not look very confident as the professor seemed to be asking him questions. His wringing hands and the nervous face told Harry that the viva-voce was not going too well.

Harry shook his head and looked back at his potion. The Forgetfulness Potion was done. He carefully dipped a phial into the vat of solution and filled it with the potion. Harry neatly labelled it with his name, year and house to be submitted to the professor.

Harry turned his attention back to the Boil Cure Potion. He had done a good job overall, it was near perfect. He stirred the now cold potion a few more times, to ensure an equivalent consistency before following the same steps and neatly bottling it.

He was done. Harry had to admit, much of his exponentially increasing skill in Potions was in due to no small effort by his Head of House. The professor was always generous with his help. And Harry tried his best to utilise them to his utmost capability. They allowed him to subvert the traditional instructions that the course books followed with subtle changes that allowed for better and sometimes quicker results. They didn't always work the best and few mishaps and an accidentally blown cauldron after, Harry took to showing Slughorn his modified list of instructions before actually trying it out himself. Slughorn actually insisted that Harry did this, as apparently potion incidents could be rather dangerous. Harry did feel at first that it was a bit wrong that he was getting some extra help with his subject, but he quickly allayed his fears when he came to learn that most pure-blood students had had some sort of magical tuition before they entered Hogwarts. And that it was hardly uncommon for Heads of Houses to give extra help to their students, particularly the Muggle-born's. And Harry even if he wasn't a Muggle-born, he was still Muggle raised.

He put the potion vial down and sat back on the short round stool that had been provided for each the students forgoing the benches that Harry was used to in regular class, waiting for the professor to be done with the other students before his turn for the quiz.

Overall, Harry reflected his final year exams had gone extremely well and he was hoping to secure the top marks in Potions. He only had the Defence and Transfiguration practical left and he was sure enough to do well in them. He was somewhat apprehensive about the Defence exam and had approached a Slytherin senior, Adrian Pucey for information on exactly what the practical's entailed. His answer had put Harry's fear to rest. All Snape ever asked in the exams were demonstrations for the hexes and jinxes that they had learned in class. And given the inordinate amount of time he had spent practicing them, Harry was sure that he'd easily clear the exam.

"Impressive Harry, most impressive."

His professor's sudden voice startled Harry.

Harry turned around and looked at his Head of House who was looking at the potions carefully. Slughorn waddled slightly closer to the vats, peering into the potions. He took a small ladle from Harry's table and put it deep into the Forgetfulness Solution and stirred the potion very gently. He then took out the ladle filled with potion before carefully pouring down the potion back into the vat, all the time watching the contours of the potion with a sharp eye.

Harry assumed that the professor was checking the consistency of the potion.

"Very Good, Mr. Potter. The potion is almost near perfect but I am most surprised that you were able to determine the concentration that would be requisite for an hour period. Explain the process that you followed."

Harry began to recite the instructions that he had employed.

"You diluted it?" Slughorn interrupted Harry, when he mentioned that he'd lowered the potency with dilution. "Why in the name of Merlin would you do that?"

"Well, sir, I was supposed to brew a Forgetfulness Potion that acted by removing an hour of the drinker's memory. What I'd produced at first was likely to remove his entire day's. I thought lowering the potency would be the best."

"Dilution is not done for Memory Potions, Harry. They're made in such a manner that you get the requisite concentration right from the start."

"Well sir, I wasn't able make the correct estimate for the amount of ingredient it would require for the proper concentration."

"Describe how you diluted the potion?"

"I added some Jobberknoll feathers in a potion vat and distilled it, after which I added the essence into the forgetfulness potion."

"That was a very brave move", said Slughorn slowly, "I was half-expecting you to put the potion to simmer and just add water to it get the required colour."

"Of course not, sir, directly adding water would simply counter the already present dilute nitric acid in it, making it too dull to act properly for a Forgetfulness potion. By distilling the feathers I was able to counter the influence and get a forgetfulness solution that was within the required limit of potency."

Slughorn smiled. "A most unconventional technique. You're quite correct. Given that you were able to do it properly, essence of the Jobberknoll 'sfeathers would definitely counter the forgetfulness potion's actions. Jobberknoll feathers, of course, as you already know are used for memory retention draughts."

"Your potion would be quite unstable though given the conflicting ingredients, but it would act within the necessary time frame, yes," continued Slughorn.

"Well, that'd be all, Harry. Just put the potion vials on my desk."

Slughorn made a scratch on the paper that he was carrying around in his clipboard.

Harry assumed that it was probably his scores.

With the beating of his heart somewhat slowing down, Harry gently picked up his potion vials and submitted them on the teachers desk before going back to his work place and packing in his potion making kit.

O

"Shit, nobody said that you'd to make two potions together."

"Yeah, it was pretty difficult."

"Did you remember all the ingredients for the Forgetfulness one?"

"I think I missed one."

Harry quietly cut through the throng of students slowly moving out of the large examination room and went straight to his 'puff friends who had gathered around outside.

"Oh! Here comes Harry," Susan said brightly when she saw him moving towards them.

"How did it go?" Harry asked immediately.

"Terrible," said Hannah, her normally cheerful face completely morose.

Justin simply shook his head in misery.

"I got the Boil Cure to work and answered his viva. Though am not sure if I gave correct answers," Susan said, "I'm sure I'll pass, but grades aren't going to be good. Auntie won't happy; she said I'd to get good marks in all my exams."

Harry nodded and said, "Don't worry, most people did not get the Forgetfulness solution correctly and I'm sure you gave the correct answers. You'll definitely clear it with good marks."

Susan smiled brightly at Harry's reassurance.

"What about you Ernie?"

"What d'you care? I'm sure you did great being Slughorn's wonder boy and what not."

Harry was slightly flabbergasted. "What!"

"Take that back," said Hannah angrily.

"Shut up Ernie!" Justin retorted to Ernie's vitriol. "Just because you didn't do too well doesn't mean Harry shouldn't be doing well either."

Ernie scoffed at them and turned around walking away from them.

"What's his problem?" Harry asked, still rather taken-aback at Ernie's sudden burst of anger.

"He wants to get into Slug club," said Justin.

"Whatever for?" queried Harry.

"Summerby, he is a—" Justin began.

"I know Summerby, we play Quidditch together," said Harry. "What about him?"

"Well, he was just talking in the common the room the other day, about how he'd to get in to Slug club, because y'know if you've any ambition, if you want to be counted as being someone than you've to get in. Well, Ernie just took it too seriously thinking he wouldn't be able to do anything if he can't even get into a club. And you know how competitive he is."

"I wish he could take my place. I really don't want to go to those stupid meets. Nobody even talks to me. I'm the only 'puff first year, y'know. But auntie says it's important that I meet other people and get to know them. Well, hard to know if they won't even bother talking to me," Susan grouched.

"Why won't they talk to you?" Hannah asked surprised.

"I'm just a first year. Nobody bothers with a first year."

"Hey! I talk to you and I'm first year too," Harry spoke up.

"Yeah you do, but you're always so busy with the professor."

"You know, Ernie is just being stupid. It wasn't even that he did that bad in his exam. I mean he definitely did better than me. Only thing he got wrong was his viva," Hannah assured Harry.

"Ernie wanted to impress Slughorn. He was peeved that he wasn't able to," Justin piped up.

"Why is he so hard-arsed about everything?" queried Harry, somewhat miffed at Ernie's attitude.

"Ernie's family is a bit, ah …" Susan began looking some-what uncomfortable.

"What!"

"It's a long story. And not really my place to say."

Harry shrugged. "If you say so." Harry didn't really care what Ernie thought about him.

"And the thing is my exam really didn't go that well. Slughorn said my Forgetfulness potion was too unstable," explained Harry.

"Why did he have to put two potions together?" Hannah asked.

"Probably checking our concentration," Harry answered. "Say, where is Tony."

"Oh! He went straight for the library. Its transfiguration tomorrow and he had to revise."

"Speaking of which, we need to do the same. I really need to go over the models again."

"Let's get something to eat first."

The two girls quickly agreed to get lunch too and the four first years made their way to the Great Hall.

O

Harry took a deep breath and released it shortly. He took another, held it for a moment and let it go. Transfiguration was all about controlling your mind, lest he allow some tertiary thoughts to disturb his magic and ruin his transfiguration.

Harry sat in front of Professor McGonagall, for his final year Transfiguration test. The exam had not started too good, what with him mixing up models for organic and non-organic transmutation. He'd been able to answer the rest of the simple viva-voce, but he knew well enough that the models carried good marks with them, and him not getting that right was not doing him any favour.

However, the practical's were what mattered the most. If he could get it right, then he was sure that he'd pass with good marks.

In front of him was a small glass ball, a silver spoon and a chalk piece.

He was supposed to transfigure the glass orb into a golden snitch. Not a functional one, McGonagall had said, but one that looked and felt like a real one.

That was where the problem laid. Harry had never done such kind of transfiguration before; sure he'd practiced what he had been taught in the classroom many a times. He knew how to transfigure a match stick into a needle and re-transfigure it, he knew how to do transfigure a spoon into a peacock quill and reverse it. But none of the transfigurations that were asked of him had been taught in class.

In retrospect, Harry supposed it wasn't that big of a surprise, they were after all not going to do the same transfiguration in exam that they'd done in class multiple times but given something new to test their skill and understanding of the subject. And it wasn't supposed to be all that difficult, Harry told himself. Technically, the transmutation of a base material was same despite disparity in pre-transfigured and the transfigured object.

As such, it shouldn't matter at all whether he was transfiguring a silver needle into a match stick or a silver spoon into a wooden knife; as long as the underline element was same they were essentially doing the same magic just moulding the material differently. McGonagall had deliberated on it enough in her classes for him to become it second nature. He was, however, still nervous.

Harry took another deep breath, and slowly exhaled it. McGonagall was patient, she had not asked him to hurry up and that there were other students waiting outside waiting for their turn. She had told him to take his time and do it properly.

Harry gave slight shake of his mind, to clear his mind. It was not easy to focus his mind to a singularity. If he told himself, he wouldn't think of anything else other than the glass ball in front of him, his mind would automatically conjure up images and thoughts disturbing the serene mental state that he was supposed to achieve.

Harry looked at the glass ball intently, looking at its contours, the way it broke the light of the torches as it fell on its surfaces. He picked it up from the bench once feeling its weight, allowing it roll over his palm, feeling its smoothness, its traction.

Once he was sure that he knew the glass ball as well as he could, he closed his eyes and tried to imagine the glass ball in the void of his mind, floating in a vast expanse of darkness lit from within exactly as the ball itself had broken the light when he had looked at it a few moments earlier.

Harry lifted his wand and with an elegant fluid motion, he waved his wand over the crystal ball, his eyes still closed as he imagined within the vista of his mind the glass ball mutating. The colours jumbled up together and became harder until the red and yellow of the glow of the ball had changed into solid golden; the texture became more firm and unyielding losing the slipperiness previously it possessed and allowing more friction. Two small cracks appeared in the glass ball on either side of it, before they gently unfolded to give the impression of wings. The wings itself mutated from crystal glass to solid golden, even as indentions became more prominent.

Harry finally opened his eyes; in front of him lay the snitch that he'd crafted. It, however, wasn't the exact piece of his envisage. The snitch was too shiny, the colour not quite golden but a glowing yellow, the indentions uneven and the texture not quite uniform. And Harry could tell that the weight would be off without even picking it up, he had forgotten about the making the crystal ball more compact. And worst of all the wings had not even been transfigured. Sure, there were wings as there is supposed to be on a snitch, but they were still made of crystal glass; granted the colour of the glass had changed into yellow, but they were still glass and not the same material as the rest of the snitch.

Harry gave a tiny sigh and looked up at McGonagall sitting opposite him.

She gave him a curt nod and said, "Continue, Mr. Potter."

Harry nodded and looked at the silver spoon that he was supposed to transfigure into a knife. He followed the same procedure that he had for the snitch, but vigilantly so. He was not going to make another mistake.

As he waved his wand over the spoon, he willed the image he'd formed in his mind of the silver spoon to melt slowly, transforming, as it slowly progressed. A wooden hilt appeared with the molten silver attached to it, which started to morph into a thin doubly-edged blade. Harry concentrated within himself to make sure that the wooden hilt was strong with a proper grip and that the attached knife had a sharpened edge to it, truly believing within himself that the spoon kept in front of him was also changing its form just as the image was morphing in his mind.

He gently opened his eyes and saw that the erstwhile piece of spoon was now a wickedly sharp looking knife, with a wooden hilt and a fine double edged silver blade.

He allowed himself a small smile; the transfiguration had gone much better than the previous one.

He looked up at the professor in front of him and she nodded towards him slightly and said, "Very good, Mr. Potter, the next one if you can."

Harry turned his attention to small piece of chalk in front of him. Professor McGonagall had explained to him that it was for bonus marks, if he got it wrong which was likely there would be no negative grading.

His task was supposed to transfigure the chalk piece given to him into a live caterpillar. Difficult task when all he knew about non-living to living transfiguration was a few classes on the topic held at the end of the spring term just to give them a heads up on what they would learn the next year.

He closed his eyes once again, concentrated on the image of the chalk, as he flicked his wand over it; Harry imagined it changing form, the colour becoming darker, contortions developing on its body, legs sprouting underneath it.

And with a final burst of concentration, he imagined it filled with life, wiling the transfigured chalk to react the same to his imagination.

As Harry gradually opened his eyes, he looked down upon the erstwhile chalk piece.

Harry frowned, if the thing in front of him was supposed to be caterpillar, it was unlike any caterpillar he had ever seen.

The thing looked more like a string of goo, a bit too thick and a bit too long. And it was most definitely not alive, as he'd willed it to be.

Harry sighed; he'd given it his best shot. And suddenly the thing (whatever it was) stirred. Harry watched with wide eyes, as the so-called caterpillar tentatively raised what could be mistakenly called a leg. It crawled forward slightly before stilling again.

Harry looked up smilingly at Professor McGonagall's usual strict face, who was looking inquisitively at the creature.

"Not a bad first attempt, Mr. Potter," she said after a moment. The professor looked up at Harry and asked enquiringly, "If I were to hazard a guess, you willed the caterpillar to filled with life."

"Err … yes, ma'am," Harry said. "But only after I had properly transfigured the chalk into the caterpillar, I don't understand why the structure of post-transfiguration was so off."

The professor nodded and asked, "Mr. Potter, what have I said about non-living to living transfigurations."

"Just that there is no such thing as non-living to living transfiguration. It's a misnomer, magic can't give life."

"Quite correct, Mr. Potter, as such, do you see your mistake? You attempted to make the caterpillar living, which is impossible."

"But if I failed, then why is it alive," said Harry, before shaking his head, "…, why is it moving?"

"You must have taken in to consideration what effects a living being has, such as locomotion and the magic attempted to mimic those. However, your attempt to fill the chalk with life was futile and erroneous and thus distorting the structure that you'd formed for the caterpillar," the professor explained.

"That'd be all. Mr. Potter. If you could kindly send in Miss Parkinson after you."

Harry got you up from his chair and mumbled a small thank you, before quietly shuffling out of the classroom.

O

"What're the deficiencies of a common Trip Jinx?"

"It'll only work if the person is in motion, that is to say, if someone is walking or running. The jinx is futile if the person is standing still."

"Right, right," said Harry, as he shuffled through his text-book of defensive magical theory.

"Of course, I'm right," replied Nott, lying prone in his four poster bed and lazily casting jinxes at the ceiling.

"If you're so sure then why have me test you?" asked Harry, a little irritated.

Nott shrugged. Harry put down the book in disgust.

"I'm bored," he said morosely.

Terence was busy with his NEWT's which were yet to start and he had no time for Harry. His 'puff friends from the study club were busy studying for defence and Harry, who'd been so nervous and worried for the defence practical could find nothing to do the day before the exam but sit and get bored.

Nott stopped his spell practice against the ceiling and spoke up, "I've an idea."

Harry turned to look at Nott with a monotonous gaze and asked lazily, "What?"

Nott rolled out of the bed and stood up with his usual mischievous smile adorning his face, looking directly at Harry.

"What?" asked Harry again, this time with the slightest inflection of excitement.

"Let's do some real defence practice," said Nott, even as he casually tossed a dirty off-white spell towards Harry.

Harry's eyes widened at the sudden attack and he fumbled on the bed. Grabbing on to the pillow, he lobbed it towards Nott and leapt off the bed in a tumble of sheets, pillows and books, while looking frantically around for his wand.

He located it on top of his bedside drawer and quickly snatched it off, hiding behind the four-poster bed.

Harry rapidly crawled around the bed and peaked by its side to find Nott squinting and vigorously rubbing his eyes as cotton flakes littered around his body and hung in the air, lazily floating to the ground. Harry gave a small smile as he realised that the pillow that he'd hurled must've borne the impact of the spell, disintegrating into a shower of cotton flakes.

He rolled out of the cover of the bed and sent two bludgeoning spells careening towards Nott. They stuck the reedy boy in his chest and stomach staggering him to the ground.

Nott, even though he couldn't see properly, and was lying on the ground injured from the impact of the bludgeoning curses, was exceptionally swift in his reply and took Harry completely by surprise. He gave a violent wave of his wand and Harry found himself dragged off his feet and into the air, flying parallel to the ground.

A cry of pain tore through Harry's throat when the flight came to an end and he crashed his back against the corner of someone's bed.

With guttural groan, he attempted to stand up using the bed as a crutch. Harry had barely stood on his feet, when he heard Nott cry out something. Harry looked up to see Nott standing on his feet, his eyes clear, moments before something slammed into his chin with enough force to throw Harry off his feet and on top of the bed behind him.

Harry gave a cry of frustration at being so easily out-duelled. He heard Nott spell something once again and reactively spun his own wand and conjured the Shield Charm.

He felt something hit the shield, the slight vibrations of the impact shaking his arm. A few mere moments later he heard Nott coughing wildly. Harry lifted his head and saw Nott on his knees, heaving the contents of stomach. A retching jinx, Harry recognised from Terence; it was however the first time he was seeing it in action. He curled his nose in disgust, feeling quiet glad that he had chosen the right moment and the right curse to block.

Gingerly, Harry sat up on the bed, his back protesting. Knowing well enough from Terence that the jinx did not last long, Harry threw a bruising hex towards Nott and leapt off the four-poster bed himself and took a position behind it.

Nott had barely finished his jinx induced vomit and had just looked up when the bruising hex hit him in the left eye, throwing his head back. Harry laughed when he saw Nott's eye and the area around it had turned into a round sickle-sized black spot.

Nott did not give too much credence to his black eye and swiftly got on his feet. He stood in his spot, one eye closed and darkened, and his left hand massaging his chest that must have been borne the impact of the retching jinx, his other arm clutching his wand tightly, pointed straight toward Harry.

Harry, on the other hand, stood awkwardly, a yard or two away from Nott, trying to find a position that would ease the pain in his back, his left arm rubbing his chin that had felt one of Nott's curses. While his right-arm was crossed against his chest ready to throw the Shield Charm at a moment's notice.

They both looked at each other willing the other one to give up their plans. The staring went on for a while before Nott suddenly whipped his wand and sent a spell towards Harry, who chose not block the spell but duck behind the bed and immediately strafed out by its side casting a rapid flurry of bludgeoners at where he'd previously seen Nott to be, only to witness Nott standing on top of one of the bed's, even as he cast his retaliatory spells on Harry.

Harry'd to dive sideways into the ground to avoid the spell but he couldn't avoid the injury the hard tiled flooring made against his chest and arms. Harry spun on the ground and rolled a bit to come to rest once again behind a bed, finding momentary respite from Nott's incessant curses.

O

"You're pretty good, Potter," said Nott over his shoulder, as he rummaged through his trunk.

"Speak for yourself," Harry said, as he sat cross-legged on the floor beside Nott, checking up on the many scratches that he had endured during the impromptu duel.

"I should go to the infirmary," said Harry after a while, gingerly poking his chin with his index finger and stifling the cry of the pain the twitch produced.

Nott didn't reply for a while, before turning back and handing him a small wooden box.

Harry took it curiously, before asking, "What's it?"

Nott opened the box in Harry's hand to reveal a bunch of potions and ointments.

"No need to go to the infirmary for something as insignificant as that," Nott said pointing to Harry's chin.

He picked out a small container of yellow jelly from the veritable contents of potions from the box. "Just apply this where it hurts," Nott said, before taking a generous swipe of the yellow substance himself with his two finders and began applying it on his black eye.

Harry picked the container and smelled the ointment slightly before snatching it away from his face. It smelled like rotten eggs that had half decomposed. With trepidation, and following Nott's cue, he applied it over his jaw. He felt an intense cooling sensation followed immediately by sharp stinging.

Harry took in a deep breath as feel dozen small tiny pin pricks assault his chin, which subsided a moment later. He released his breath that he found himself involuntarily holding and gradually poked his injury once again. He smiled when found that the swelling had gone and the injury no longer throbbed painfully as it did moments before. Harry knew without looking at a mirror that his chin had healed. He quickly proceeded to rub the ointment on his beaten torso.

"Where did you get this?" asked Harry looking at the bottle of the ointment but still holding it away from his olfactory senses. He'd healed almost all of his injuries in a matter of minutes. Something like this would have made his life so much easier with Dudley.

"Bought it," Nott said, now casually reclining on a bed, his own scuffles healed.

"Where from?" asked Harry curiously.

Nott looked from his throne of cushions that he'd carefully arranged around in the bed. "The apothecary, Potter, in Diagon Alley. They sell all sorts of this stuff. That," he continued, pointing to the wooden cask that he had handed him earlier, "is a basic medic-aid kit. I thought all the first years carry one around."

"Whatever for," asked Harry inquiringly. He thought it was useful to have this stuff around. But did not see the point of having what appeared to be a wizarding first-aid box for every first year.

Nott frowned at him and then said after a fashion, "It's bothersome to go to Madam Pomfrey everytime some senior thinks that you're good test target for a new jinx that they've learned."

"They do that," asked Harry surprised. Most of the seniors that Harry himself had met had been nothing but courteous and very friendly.

Nott smiled shaking his head. "Well, I suppose you're the Boy-Who-Lived and every one would just leave you alone. But for the rest of us commoners, getting hit with an occasional hex or stray jinx is not that uncommon. I mean, just the other day Adrian Pucey, a third year fellow, thought I'd be a good target for this new jinx that he'd found in the library. It had me growing this weird, large, pulsating boils all over my shins." Nott finished shaking his head in disgust.

"But Professor Slughorn –" began Harry.

"Not everyone is Slughorn's golden boy," Nott said, cutting him mid-sentence. Harry found himself rather disliking that nick-name that some seemed to call him with. "And anyway," continued Nott, "it's not that bad. It teaches you to get out of the way of unfriendly spells and what can happen if you get hit with one and helps build character."

"How does getting hexed helps build character?"

"I dunno. That's what one of the fourth years told me after he hit me with an itching jinx."

Harry was rather surprised to learn all this. He had never faced any such treatment from the seniors, most of them had been nothing been generous to him. His brawl with Diggory had been a singular incident and not a norm. He resolved to talk to Terrence about it, when he could find the Head Boy, given how busy he was with his exam prep.

Harry shook his head, after years of getting chased and beaten by Dudley and his group of thugs he believed it was time for him to get some slack.

O

It was with haunting trepidation that Harry set foot in the defence classroom. It was time for his final defence exam and despite all the preparation and hard work that he had put in for this particular exam he couldn't help but feel the nervous palpitations of his heart.

Harry strode inside the classroom trying to act more confident than he truly felt. The doors banged shut the moment he crossed the threshold startling him and ruining his impassive face of confidence.

Breathing slightly heavier than normal he approached Snape, who had not even bothered to look up from his desk where he sat shuffling through a sheaf of parchments.

Harry was about to pull the chair in front of the teacher's desk and sit down, when Snape finally spoke up.

"I did not ask you to sit, Potter," said Snape, his dark eyes boring into Harry, who tentatively pulled his hand back.

Snape stood up in a swift move pushing his own chair back. Harry reflexively took a step back.

This was not how he had anticipated his defence practical's to start. And as a reflex he reaffirmed his grip on his wand stuffed in his pocket.

"Tell me, Potter," Snape asked after a while, "How would you defend against a dark wizard? A person bent on attacking you? You, after all seem to be an expert on the subject, do you not?"

"Describe to me the process that you'd employ to defend yourself against unfriendly spells?" Snape asked vehemently, his eyes glowing with a sudden dementedness, even as he strode around the table towards Harry.

Harry found himself moving back to his Professors advance, his wand pulled out of the confines of his robes almost as a subconscious gesture.

"I ... I, eh ..." stuttered Harry.

"Answer me, Potter," demanded Snape, his tall stature looming over Harry.

"I'd block the unfriendly spells and retaliate appropriately," answered Harry in a single breath, looking up into Snape's sallow face, that burned with a rage that Harry had only once seen before on the professor.

"I see," said Snape and took a single step back. Harry had to breathe a sigh of relief and loosed his death grip on his wand as Snape moved away from him.

"Well, in that case, demonstrate, Potter," asked Snape shortly.

Harry who was using his cloak's sleeve to wipe the sudden beads of perspiration that'd mysteriously appeared on his forehead stopped short.

"Sir?" asked Harry confused.

"I asked you to demonstrate your technique, Potter," said Snape and with a sudden gesture, and Harry was sure that the professor had conjured it; Snape had his wand gripped in his palm and pointed straight towards Harry's heart.

"Demonstrate Potter," Snape demanded once again.

Harry reacting to the developments lifted his own wand in a cross guard against his chest ready to cast any spell that might be required. Snape's own wand erupted in a shower of red sparks and Harry just as he'd anticipated moved to cast the Shield Charm and was taken aback with shock when he found his arm in a iron-cast stuck to his chest and unable to move.

Snape's jinx splashed against his chest and threw him back a couple of feet. Harry slipped on the flooring and unable to maintain his position fell flat on his bottom.

A knockback jinx, Harry deduced from the feel of it and realising that his hands were now free – and having no idea how they had gotten themselves stuck and unstuck on purpose – rolled on the ground to avoid any further incoming spells from Snape, just as he had done in his duel with Nott. He stopped in his second roll and quickly as he could lifted his wand. He hadn't completed the first syllable of the bludgeoning hex when he felt as if someone had grabbed his ankles and hurled him with miraculous strength straight towards the heavens.

His barely-completed-spell turned into a rushing scream as his body went flying towards the ceiling and came within a hair's breadth of impacting against the tiled ceiling before he was yanked downward and went spinning down towards the floor. Just as he was about to smash himself head first into the floor, with a sudden jerk his body came to a halt. He found himself floating about a feet off the ground.

And even before he could get a bearing of his self and assess the situation that he'd unexpectedly found himself to be in, the magic holding him floating abruptly cut off and he slammed into the ground.

Harry attempted to once again throw a curse, but before he could he even pull his wand out in front of him, he found himself yanked up, this time by hair, he barely got to see his professor leaning against the desk, his wand casually pointed towards him before he found himself cart-wheeling backwards in an odd jumble of limbs, robes and flying cloak.

His body slammed hard against the wall; however, the pain that one would expect from such a fast and forceful impact was missing. And instead Harry bounced off the wall diagonally into the ground and zoomed up into straight the ceiling.

He kept bouncing around for a while, his rotund body, magically forced, kept zigzagging from the walls, the floor and even the ceiling.

When he came to a rest, Harry found his head spinning faster than a top, his limbs askew and glasses hung limply from one of his ears. It took him a minute to finally understand that he was no longer moving and that his body was lying on the cold ground. With a blearing headache, he fixed his glasses and carefully got to his feet to find Snape waiting for him.

The world tittered on its axis and Harry found it hard to maintain his footing on solid ground. He heard Snape speak as if from a distance yet loud at the same time.

"Perhaps it was too much to hope for your brain to comprehend simple instructions," Harry's blood boiled at that and the anger brought clarity through the blinding headache, rumbling stomach and tittering legs. Harry lifted his wand in a flurry of motion and as fast as he could cast the bludgeoning hex. He was shocked though when he found his hand moved to extreme right just as he completed his spell. Harry did not understand – he hadn't seen the professor cast a spell – how his hand could've moved away just like that.

Snape did not bother to stop and said, "I shall suitably dumb down for you then, you're to defend yourself by any and whatever means that your meagre mind can conjure up."

There was no warning for it; the spell came fast and sure. Harry despite expecting it, despite knowing that he'd have to shield himself found himself floundering against the rapidity of the attack.

He had barely pulled his wand in front of him and the Shield Charm's incantation was halfway through his lips, when the vortex of a violet jet passed through his belly. Harry gave a violent gurgle and sunk down to his knees. He felt his intestines twist into a knot, tauten up leaving him unable to vocalize the intense pain that passed through him. A moment and he virtually felt his belly unwinding.

He laid the there on the ground, curled like a foetus tears drops flowing through his eyes with a pulsating stomach ache unlike any he'd ever had before.

"Pathetic," Snape's voice spoke up.

A moment of quiet and Harry could not help but cry, his body was shaking and he felt his stomach cramping with an intense agony.

"Let me remind you, Potter that you're here for your defence practicals and I've seen nothing that resembles closely to a passing grade. If you continue like this, you'd surely fail."

"So defend yourself," Snape boomed.

Harry blindly lifted his wand and cast the shield charm even before Snape had finished talking.

A pale magnetic strand of twisting helical wires came floating towards him and passed cleanly though his shield as if it was not even there and stuck him in his collar bones. He felt them puncture a bloodless hole and embed themselves in his body.

A painful shriek left Harry that turned into a fit of rabid cough as the strand began to untwist within him and move towards his arm, crawling as if a pair of snakes had entered his blood stream.

His hands vibrated as the invisible stands now inside his arms gripped the muscles of his biceps in a vice like grip.

Harry lost all control of his arms and felt only the intense pressure of the strands present in the epidermis of his skin.

"Worthless, Potter," said Snape, "and you tout yourself to be the defeater of the Dark Lord. You cannot even defend yourself. You're nothing. You're alive only because someone far more skilled, far more capable than you died ... died to save you. On your own Potter you're nothing."

With a sudden jerk Harry found himself hanging upside down. His lopsided glasses gave him a bleary view of the professor still casually leaning against his desk.

"You'll fail this paper, Potter, for you've no shred of talent. I, for one am not blind by your claims to misgotten fame."

With an intensity that Harry did not knew he possessed and sparked by his want, his desire to free himself, Harry lifted his wand, still encased within his palms.

His arms had long since given up on him and the pressure of the strands on his biceps was ever present. Unable to feel the presence of his limbs, Harry gave a gargantuan scream and hurled his shoulders to the side, the momentum carrying his arms upwards.

He guessed more than he actually saw when his wand was in line with the professor and he screamed, pouring every fibre of his being into the spell, he cast, "Stupefy!"

A flash of red answered his call and a bolt of crimson went careening towards Snape.

Unexpected and caught completely unawares, the stunner impacted against his chest and lifted him bodily over the desk and crashed into the chair behind him.

The moment the spell had hit Snape, the magic holding him up let loose and he crashed into the ground with his neck.

Harry screamed as the impact hammered his skull. Within his arms the strands of magic gripping his biceps snapped and vanished from his body.

Harry did not remain lying on the ground, he twisted around came to a halt on his knees and blindly, without caring if they even hit his target, sent a half-a-dozen bludgeoning curses streaming around.

He did not stop, even when Snape shouted for him to, all the spells that he had learned, all the jinxes that Terence had taught him came bursting out if his wand.

"Enough!"

And Harry felt a sudden explosion tear through the room. The shockwave whiplashed him hard enough for him to stop casting and open his eyes.

The room was in disarray. And Snape was standing behind his desk no longer sneering. His pallor had turned grey as if suddenly taken ill. He was otherwise alright though. His hairs looked to be rather haphazard and a black shiner adorned his forehead, a bruising hex thought Harry, and the cloak on his left shoulder was somewhat smoking and he'd no idea what might have caused that.

"Enough." Snape repeated. "You may leave now."

Harry did not move as if not understanding the command. He remained where he was, crouching on the ground.

"Leave Potter. Now!" Snape screamed.

Harry finally broke through his haze. He got up and ran for the door expecting Snape to cast spells as soon as he turned his back. No spells came though and he left the classroom.


A.N: Next update A Story of Hallows and Horcruxes.