Author's Corner: Busy couple of months. Very busy. I'm not going to bother to make excusses because really, you've heard them all before. I could say that I was abducted by aliens and made to slow dance or something, but that would be silly.
There have been some questions about Light, and well, unfortunately, as Light is around six right now, I can't say that we're going to be seeing much of him for some time. I'll add him as soon as I feel that his presence...makes sense. Also, remember, I'm not a Light fan, and while I'm not going to bash him, I will not...be kind...with his characterization. I'll write him just the way I've found him.
Rant Line: Evil Dumbledore. First, I don't like the man. I don't think he was right, and I was not impressed by the fact that he just happened to be hinted to have killed his sister (yeah, guys, he was) but at the same time, making him evilly manipulative for no reason takes all the interesting aspects out of this character. Really, in the HP universe, you don't really get people who are just 'good' or just 'evil'. That's what makes the whole thing interesting. Maybe it's the fact that I'm, frankly, a very pragmatic writer who doesn't get too attached to her characters, so I don't mind a character being morally ambiguous at times.
The Epitome of Eccentricity is a little busy at the moment, but when he's prepared, this chapter will be betaed by him.
Disclaimer: Pryotra owns no part of either franchise. She promises to put everyone in the right boxes when she's done playing.
Education is the period during which you are being instructed by somebody you do not know, about something you do not want to know.
The escape of Sirius Black had the ministry in a complete and total mess. Letters were flying everywhere, people were flooing in and out, everyone was being called off of their normal jobs, and nothing was even the slightest bit successful.
Azkaban had always been a symbol of complete and total security. In all of its centuries, it had never once been broken out of. Lucius personally thought that it was that which caused more panic than Black's actual escape. Nothing, including the Dark Lord's return would have caused so much of a blow to the public feeling of security. If Azkaban, which had stood in silent resolution against any and all lawbreakers, ranging from petty crimes to Dark Lords, could be breached, than nothing was truly stable.
To add insult to injury, the rest of Wizarding Europe, particularly France, was covertly snickering at England, offering some paltry assistance with barbed comments about how much they had depended on a medieval method for keeping order.
It was times like this that Lucius really wished he knew the particulars of how the rest of the world, other than Bulgaria and like countries (which tended to use execution), treated their criminals.
Lucius did have the thank Sirius for one thing though: it was thanks to his escape that Lucius had been able to get back some of his old position with the Ministry in the form of a very generous donation.
"Regrettable business last year," Fudge said as it looked at the number written down, "With the situation, it was an understandable mistake to make about Dumbledore. He is getting on in years...if it hadn't been for the rumors..."
Ah yes, the rumors. The reason for the trouble. It had been a stupid move to threaten the to put an ancestral curse on the Ravenswoods if they didn't sign, but Silas had been so stubborn... That with the rumors about the diary from Arthur Weasley were enough to have plenty of people, even those from respectable families, were avoiding contact with the Malfoys at the moment. It was best to appear at least neutral in these times.
"Has there been any news about Black?" Lucius asked as Fudge looked up.
"No, not really. The dementors are more angry than I've ever seen them before though," Fudge shuddered, "They're loyal and useful...but..."
"Of course," Lucius said, not too quickly.
"Mrs. Zabini reported a while ago that she assumed that she saw a man who matched Black's description near her manor, but it proved to be a false alarm. It's not to unexpected, the poor woman is in mourning again..."
Mrs. Zabini was...someone who Lucius always took care to avoid unless necessary. It wasn't that she wasn't from a respectable family, coming from somewhere around Egypt if he wasn't wrong. It was the fact that while she almost always married people with good families, most of them were even lower ranking Death Eaters, her husbands just kept dying for what seemed like no reason.
There was a load knock at the door and Mad Eye Moody hobbled in. For a moment, he and Lucius stared at one another, sizing each other up, then Moody walked past him and spoke to Fudge.
"We've got a lead from a Muggle woman who called the hotline a few days ago, Black was almost in Scotland. Takes bloody forever to get any news in this place," Moody growled, "Odd thing too, Black was usually more careful around Muggles. Azkaban's done a lot to him."
Moody won't know about it. Sirius had always tried to pretend that he didn't have a sadistic side to him, but he was a Black. Sirius was sending a message. He was telling someone that he was coming to Hogwarts, and nothing was going to stop him, and nothing could be done to keep him away.
He didn't care if he was caught after he was done either.
But who would be the person?
Lucius made his goodbyes and excused himself. Moody was still suspicious of him. Thankfully, he was suspicious of everyone, and at the moment, the Malfoy family needed to keep its head down. He'd sent a note to Draco about that already. 'Talk to Umbridge and keep yourself neutral' had been his exalt words.
Particularly since the Ministry was so sure that it was Potter who was the target. As if there had been no one else to hold a grudge against after the First War.
Something seemed wrong about that theory. Sirius wouldn't bother to send a message to someone who didn't know what it meant. So maybe...maybe he was going after someone else? But who?
Lucius Malfoy was a man who had kept his influence well, and one of the ways that he did was to admit when he didn't have the information to make the best move possible. Perhaps it was time to have a chat with Narcissa about just why she wondered about Sirius. If it was something he should now, he would make a move from there.
It was clear from how the Slytherin students behaved that most of them were nearly drooling in anticipation for Potions class to begin. Lawliet had sat by himself this time, but Granger had sat with him. Ron and Harry paired themselves off.
This was as good a time as any to implement his plan.
"I've been thinking about Umbridge," he said, causing Granger to turn to look up from her book at him. She looked a little put out at having been interrupted, but Lawliet only cared so much.
"What about Umbridge?" she asked.
"About how it would be possible to cause her to lose some kind of influence over the students, or to cause her to have to retire," Lawliet said, "I am unfamiliar with the laws, but there may be something that could help us make her...uncomfortable."
"You're...serious?" Granger asked, "You'd help me research for something that might help?"
"And you aren't going to use this as an excuse to get out of homework?"
"Why would I make myself do more work to get out of homework?"
Lawliet didn't get the answer to that question as the door to the dungeon (was there a reason for the dungeon or was this some kind of intimidation?) opened and the man walked in. He was tall, thin, wearing the black robes that seemed to be standard and had a particularly sour look on his face as he was glaring at the students.
He was also a murderer.
Lawliet had been allowed to see some of the files on the teachers, so while he knew about such things as McGonagall having never taking on her dead husband's last name, he also knew that this man, Severus Snape (the names they came up with, though with 'Lawliet', he supposed that was slightly outside his judgment) had once been a member of the terrorist group styled the Death Eaters. As such, he had murdered, tortured and raped freely before turning spy right at the end of the war (convenient) and managed to avoid going to prison. He had the record for the most complaints of unfair treatment, yet Dumbledore refused to even consider dismissing the man.
Lawliet found this odd.
"I see you have all returned for another...fun filled year," Snape said, looking at the students, well, really the Gryffindors, with obvious dislike, "I doubt that there will be any changes from the records that each of you have already set."
For a moment, his eyes lingered on Harry. Oh, yes, that had been in the file as well. Snape loved to harass Harry because he didn't like Harry's dead father. Lawliet didn't really see just how bullying the son of your dead enemy did anything to hurt said dead enemy, but Snape wasn't the most logical person in the world.
Then Snape's eyes fell on Lawliet. Black on black. Lawliet had the impression of staring down some kind of predator. There was a ninty-two percent chance that Snape was debating with himself about whether or not Lawliet would be easy to break down psychologically. It also had an odd feeling that he was trying to read Lawliet's mind.
They continued staring at one another for a few moments, when an unpleasant smile appeared on his face.
"Wallace, I believe that you should be given the chance to make your own potion, rather than have Miss Granger give all the instructions to you as you go. Therefore, Granger you'll be working with Greengrass. Wallace, sit with Zabini."
Granger and Lawliet looked at one another and then Granger sighed.
"Gook luck," she said, as a thin faced girl with long blonde hair, green eyes and a frown walked over to them. She and Granger both gave the other a look of dislike and sat in a way that allowed them both to see as little of one another as possible.
There was a failed project. (Eighty percent. Foolish.)
Lawliet recognized Zabini as the one who had looked surprised at the pixies. At the moment he was looking at him with a more or less level look, and didn't speak as he sat down.
"You'll find the ingredients for the Shrinking Solution on the board," Snape said, looking around. "I hope that you'll have been keeping up with your reading this summer, as I have neglected to mention some of the other instructions."
There was snicker from Malfoy, and Lawliet noticed him smirking at Longbottom, who looked like he would have liked to have died right there.
"Look," Zabini said, scowling slightly at him, "I want a good grade. You want a good grade. You do the busy work on the board, and I'll do the real work."
Lawliet debated with himself about the befits and the detriments of telling Zabini that if he continued stirring the thing so quickly, he would over mix the hellebore.
While it would definitely give Lawliet something to smirk over, it would probably make the whole thing more difficult. Also, what did Lawliet care about grades, and why did he wish to give Snape the satisfaction of a conflict that he was so obviously setting up?
Ah, the joys of interaction.
Harry hoped that the most interesting thing to happen in the class would be Justin and Snape's staring match at the beginning of the class and how he and Hermione were forced to have different partners. Snape never wasted a moment to torment the Gryffindors, and he wasn't going to allow some kid who sat weird to be an exception.
Still, Harry had other things to worry about than Justin, his and Ron's Shrinking Solution was somehow curdling into a think ball and nothing that he or Ron were doing was helping. For a moment, he dearly wished that Hermione was there to at least give them something of a hint, but she was busy with Greengrass, and their potion didn't seem to be going well, judging from the hissed argument going on.
Harry distinctly heard something along the lines of 'my family's been making this potion for generations' and 'well, your family's been making this potion wrong for generations'.
Snape was just about to pass by their pitiful excuse for a potion when he stopped by Neville's potion (Neville was never allowed to be paired with anyone. Snape said it was for safety. Harry thought it was to humiliate him.) and dipped his spoon in to take a closer look. Harry could see the problem immediately. Instead the the green that even his potion was, Neville's had turned a bright neon-
"Orange, Longbottom? Did you truly manage to make this potion orange?" Snape asked.
Neville allowed himself a small squeak.
"Longbottom...I believe you own a toad..." Snape started, he had the look of someone just happening on a brilliant idea.
Neville nodded once.
"Well, we'll have to see just what your..new potion does on a living subject," Snape's smirk turned feral. "You have fifteen minutes to change that potion before we use it on your toad. No one is to help you. If you fail, it is very likely that your toad will be poisoned..."
Neville nodded. His eyes were wide and his hands were shaking as Snape turned away. Harry saw him look around briefly, and then looked behind him to wear Hermione sat.
"Help me," he hissed to her.
Greengrass looked like she was going to open her mouth but Harry heard Hermione hiss, "Fine do it your stupid traditional way."
The two glared at one another for a moment, but then Greengrass turned away and started to work on the potion, ignoring as Neville started to stir feverishly while Hermione muttered under her breath. He seemed to be the only person to have noticed.
Well, almost the only person.
Justin was watching too. Zabini was leaning over their potion, while he watched Neville stirring. He seemed to be considering something, but with Justin, it was hard to tell.
"Freaky guy," Ron muttered under his breath, "Let's hope that he doesn't tell Snape."
It seemed that Snape was more interested in making Neville's life miserable then in looking at everyone's potions, since he told them all to empty out their caldrons without so much as bothering to look at any of them.
"That foul, evil, greasy..." Ron muttered under his breath as he helped Harry clean the cauldron.
Harry looked over at the still stirring Neville and noticed that Justin had stalked over to them.
"Is this behavior usual?" he asked.
"Yeah," Ron said. He was still a little sore about the fact that Nero had scared Scabbers off, but his hatred of Snape overcame any irritation that he still felt for the boy, "He's got it out for Neville, and everyone knows that he completely favors the Slytherins."
"And no one has complained?" Justin asked. His eyes were very wide.
"Wouldn't do any good. If anything, he would probably make life worst for the person who whined about him."
Before Justin could say anything else, Snape swept past them.
"Everyone gather round," he called, standing over Neville's, now green potion, "If Longbottom has managed to make the potion right, his toad will be reverted into a tadpole, if he has not, as I'm certain is the case, the toad will likely be poisoned."
The Slytherins moved in first, most looking excited, but Zabini looked bored and Greengrass just looked sour. After them, the Gryffindors came, all looking worried, faintly sick, or (in the case of Justin) blank.
After a hard look from Snape, Neville realinquished Trevor. Trevor tried to hop away, but Snape held him fast, forcing the animal to drink from the ladle containing Neville's now green potion. For a while, the class held its breath, and then with a faint pop, Trevor the Tadpole started was wiggling in Snape's hands.
There was a collective sigh of relief from the Gryffindors.
"...Five points from Gryffindor..." Snape said softly as he took out and antidote, "I told you not to help him Miss Granger."
As he stalked away, Harry found himself turning over to Justin, and for the first time, his eyes weren't blank, or empty. There were very dark and had a kind of malice in them.
Professor Lupin was a very, very interesting person. Lawliet decided this the moment that he turned gum into a projectile weapon against the physical manifestation of all the negative feelings of what would, essentially be, every single student who had ever entered into the school.
Lupin had come into the class, asked them to follow him to a practical lesson and proceeded to lead the way. Judging from the looks that Weasley and Harry were given one another, this was something unusual. Which meant that, for a shabby looking teacher such as himself, it was a good move. The conversation with Peeves the Poltergeist (Lawliet had read about those before, usually they were invisible in studies. Did the presence of magic cause the power of the poltergeist to increase?) showed a strange kind of familiarity between the two, but Lupin definitely had the upper hand.
There was a moment where Lawliet saw something like an honest smile appear on the man's face as the poltergeist vanished that showed that this move had not been completely planned out, but still taken advantage of. So far of all the teacher, Lupin was the one who showed the most...cunning and thus was the most interesting.
It was too bad he was hiding something that was bad for his health. Lawliet wasn't sure what it was, but no one looked like that at roughly early thirties. Either drugs or some magical thing that Lawliet had never heard about. Since it wasn't likely threatening (forty percent, Dumbledore didn't seem to be the kind of person to allow something of that nature, despite what he thought of the man's judgement. Not unless there was a very good reason to overlook it.) Lawliet didn't really see a reason to snoop.
He had been friends with Black though.
That much was obvious. For one thing, it was in the file. For another, it was just common sense to have someone close by who might be able to anticipate Black's next move.
As they entered the teacher's lounge, Lawliet was surprised to see Snape there. He hadn't seen him as a person who socialized often with the rest of the staff, but when he faced the class, Lawliet understood. He wasn't here for the relaxation. He was here for confrontation.
"I'm sorry, Severus, but I reserved this room for my class," Lupin said, an attempt at a smile on his face.
Snape looked him over and the smile faltered. The look he gave was one of such utter hatred, that Lawliet raised an eyebrow.
Snape made a grunting nose and brushed past Lupin on the way out of the room. Then he stopped without looking behind him.
"I feel that it is my duty to warn you, since I doubt that anyone else would, that this class contains Neville Longbottom. I wouldn't advise you to ask him to do anything complicated unless of course Miss Granger is behind him hissing instructions in his ear."
Longbottom, who was quickly gaining something almost like pity in Lawliet's mind, looked at the floor with his face red and Granger looked away with her eyes narrowed.
"I'll keep that in mind, Severus," Lupin said, cheerfully, and effectively brushing him off.
Oh, yes there was a history. One that Lupin would like to either forget or overlook, but was more than willing to maintain a kind of pseudo-obliviousness in order to keep a fight from breaking out. While it seemed the Snape was the one who felt like he had been wronged, there was a caution in the actions of Lupin that hinted that Snape was just as capable of being the aggressor.
So far, it seemed like this was the greatest thing to investigate.
"Why was he even there?" Granger muttered as after she'd answer a question (sounding rather like she'd just regurgitated some text) Lupin began to discuss Boggarts, which sounded rather interesting as they could chance their shape depending on what a person was most afraid of.
"Because he wished for further revenge against you and Longbottom for not allowing him to get his way," Lawliet said, more interested in the lecture. (So, did the existence of Boggarts mean that, at some level, all children had a degree of magic? After all, even a normal child could sense the presence of something under a bed or in a closet. He had always, even when suffering from the same thing counted it as nothing. Perhaps this was something that should be looked into as well.)
Granger scowled but looked ahead and Lawliet watched with interest as the Boggart version of Snape was suddenly forced into crossdressing. He liked the hat.
"Alright, everyone," Lupin called over the class. "We're going to stop a moment. Take this time to figure out the thing that you're scared the most of. Then, try to find a way to make it somehow funny. Then you'll need to get in line, and you can all have a go at the Boggart."
The class was looking at one another in a kind of excited way as they looked from one to another or others closed their eyes.
Lawliet could distinctly hear Weasley muttering something about legs.
But...what was he afraid of?
As he stood their, chewing on his thumb, nothing seemed to come up. He wasn't overly afraid to die. That would be stupid in his line of work. He had seen some of the most brutal means of killing so gore didn't bother him much anymore. The magical world was odd, and no doubt had dangers, but there was nothing that really stood out to him. Nothing was coming.
"Alright, everyone, line up!" Lupin called.
He wasn't ready.
Remus Lupin knew perfectly well that he was in a precarious position. He hadn't really needed Dumbledore to tell him that. He was also a possible threat to Dumbledore, since, really, Hogwart's reputation for choosing teachers wasn't the highest in the world at the moment. With the having a teacher attempt to steal the Philosopher's stone (the news that he had also been semi-possessed wasn't widely known) and another one simply being incompetent, the last thing Hogwarts needed was for people to hear that Dumbledore had hired a werewolf to teach their children. Still, Dumbledore hadn't known who else he could trust, and even though he'd refused in the past, Remus hadn't been able to bring himself to do so this time.
Not when Sirius was after Harry.
Sometimes, it still had an unreal quality to it. As if he was going to wake up one day to find that it had all be some kind of bizarre, Death Eater inspired nightmare. Sirius would never really betray them, and James and Lily couldn't possibly die so young. But it was real. Since with the fact that Harry's family was already...leery of magic, and the last thing that Harry needed was for a werewolf to be visiting him on occasion, he hadn't even seen Harry before this.
He looked so much like James that it sometimes hurt. Though he was quieter, and where James had surrounded himself with friends and admirers even outside his closest friends, Harry seemed content with only a small group. It was like neither of his parents, and, selfishly, Remus was glad. He wouldn't have known what to do if he'd seen the Marauders Version Two. His heart might not have been able to take it.
Still, no matter what, he wouldn't allow Harry to take on the Boggart. The last thing that the class needed, particularly those like Miss Brown, would be to see Voldemort appear in the class room. Particularly a Voldemort blown up by the stories people told about him. Even if he had to show off his moon, it would be better that way.
Besides, at least Harry had the image of Severus wearing Mrs. Longbottom's rather distinctive clothing to make him feel better. James would have been jealous.
As Ron Weasley's spider disappeared, Remus watched as the last of the group come forwards. Miss Granger, who had already answered a question, Harry, and a boy named Justin Wallace who looked as if he needed to be forced out into the sun and a good nap. He also looked at the now legless spider in that blank way that students usually had when they had no idea what they were supposed to do.
Did he not know what he a most afraid of?
"Here," Remus said, stepping forwards as Harry began to make a move.
With a crack, the Boggart changed into a small orb like moon with no clouds around it. Doing a good job of looking like a floating crystal ball. That was the problem with Boggarts. They didn't realize that while the thing might represent something terrifying, but they weren't smart enough to realize that the thing itself wasn't particularly frightening.
"Ridiculus," Lupin said calmly, "Finish him off Neville!"
Maybe it wasn't kind to poor Severus, but it would help Neville, who seemed to have a self-esteem problem, and...well...
There was a brief glimpse of the crossdressing Snape before the Boggart suddenly retreated into the wardrobe. Showing a good deal more sense than most of them did.
"Well," Remus said with a smile at the class. "That's all for today. Please take your bags with you!"
Harry looked like he would have liked to stay, but Ron was already ushering him out followed by Hermione, the two talking quickly. Neville walked out with a good deal more spring in his step than earlier. Actually, the one who stayed was Justin.
"Mr. Wallace, is there something you need?" Remus asked, hoping that he wasn't going to start asking why he hadn't been allow to fight the Boggart.
"Professor, is it possible for me to see the Boggart?" Justin asked in a monotone voice that was almost as unnerving as his stare, "I was unable to think of what I was most afraid of...so I wished to see."
For a moment, Remus considered it. He supposed, if Justin panicked, then he could step in and deal with the moon again. He was lucky to have such a...well...inoffensive problem.
"I don't see why not. Hopefully, the Boggart's up for another go," Remus smiled. It faltered a little at Justin's unchanging stare.
Turning around, Remus unlatched the wardrobe again, and as Justin stepped up a sudden sickening scent filled the air. Remus stared in a kind of surprised horror at what was lying before Justin. It wasn't a monster. It wasn't even a person.
It was a corpse.
It was wearing some kind of school uniform, and seemed small. Maybe a child. At least, what he could see through the fire that surrounded it. It gave off a horrible smell that Remus's very sensitive nose was picking so much of that it was making him feel light headed. He almost didn't notice the door open a little as Hermione looked in with wide eyes. She and Remus looked at one another, and then she closed the door.
"Oh," Justin said, staring down at it, in a kind of far away voice. "So that's it. I'm sorry professor, but I can't make it funny."
"I..." Remus put out one hand, gripped Justin by the shoulder and steered him back, stepping in front of him. "That's fine."
The Boggart, now a moon again, was easy to put back, and before Remus had a chance to say anything, the boy was already more or less shuffling towards the door, hands in his pockets. For a moment Remus considered going after him, but stopped.
At thirteen, Remus doubted that he would have wanted comfort from a complete stranger.
Harry wasn't sure just how he'd gotten roped into this by Harmione, but he was surprised to see Justin there with them, with a sucker in his mouth, holding a book between his thumb and forefinger and turning the pages gingerly.
They were all in a secluded part of the library, close to the Restricted Section. Not that Harry wished to attempt to see anything there.
"Er...so what are we doing?" Ron finally asked, looking around at the other three.
"We're looking for something to make Umbridge stop what she's doing," Hermione said as if it was completely obvious. "There must be something in here that can help us!"
"Er...what's she doing?" Harry asked.
They couldn't exactly get her in trouble for taking over a lesson could they? While Harry didn't like her, it was hard not to dislike her, he didn't think she'd done anything actually wrong. It just felt like everything she said to Hagrid was rude.
"She's trying to take Hagrid's position!" Hermione said. "There must be something in the library about how we can keep her from doing it. Maybe even a case where it happened before at Hogwarts!"
"Well, yeah, but, Hermione," Ron said, "We can't get her sacked just because she's pushy in her lessons. That's something that Hagrid would have to do, and if he's not going to do it to the old toad well..."
"It's likely that the founders of the school were unwilling to allow the government, such as it was, to interfere in how the school was run," Justin said, looking up from his book, "While there is nothing wrong with her taking the lesson, there might be something wrong with the fact that she's an official first and a teacher second."
"But there's never been something like that happen before," Ron protested. "The Minstry's never really tried to interfere. People would remember if it had. After all, Hogwarts is the best magic school in the world."
"Really?" Justin asked, looking up for the first time, "Who made that assessment?"
Harry wasn't sure if it was an innocent question or he was implying something. There was nothing wrong with Hogwarts. How could a school be better than it? Actually, Harry hadn't really thought much about other magic schools before Justin had turned up, but really, everyone knew that Hogwarts was the best school, but...the Ministry was doing something...
"But the Ministries forcing the Dementors," Harry said. He decided to ignore Justin's last comment, just because he really didn't know better. Hermione would probably correct him anyways. "I don't know. Maybe we can find something to get rid of them and Umbridge, but won't the teachers have already tried?"
"Maybe, but we have longer than they do," Hermione said, " After all, they only had a few weeks at most, and if we stary looking through everything there, we might find something her that they might have missed or overlooked. It's at least possible. I wonder if I can ask Binns..."
Harry blinked. Professor Binns was their only ghost teacher. He had apparently fallen asleep in the teachers' lounge one day and got up to teach class and left his body behind him. His lectures were so boring that he made even the most bloody actions of the middle ages uninteresting. The only time he'd even somewhat been interesting was when Hermione had gotten him to talk about the Chamber of Secrets last year, and he didn't think that was going to happen again.
"Binns'll probably just ignore you like he wanted to with the Chamber thing," Ron sighed,"I wish we had a good History of Magic teacher."
"I wish Hermione would let us play gobstones. Binns wouldn't notice," Harry muttered.
"Of course not!" Hermione said, "Just because the class is boring doesn't mean that you can just skive off! One day you might need to know some of the things he talks about!"
"But I can never remember anything!" Ron hissed.
"I don't believe that the professor has anything to do with whether or not Umbridge's connection to the Ministry can be used to our advantage," Justin pointed out, "It doesn't sound as if he can be used to gain information easily."
Ron narrowed his eyes at him.
"Why is it that you just made me feel like this is...wrong," he said at last.
"Because you're not used to politics," Justin looked back at the book he had been reading.
Harry and Ron looked at one another and shrugged.
"Well, if we're looking for things with Hogwarts and the Ministry, maybe we should look at what the original founders put down," Hermione said thoughtfully, "I'm sure there must be something in the original laws. I remember Hogwarts: A History mentioning something once..."
"Was there a Ministry?" Harry asked. He'd been under the vague impression that the Ministry was a new thing.
"Er...kind of," Ron said, "I heard that that the Wizengamut used to be a big meeting between heads of families and...stuff. They changed it after a while, but...some of the old families still keep most of their influence."
For a moment, all Harry and Hermione could do was stare at him. Even Justin looked back up to fix his black eyes on the redhead.
"Percy mentioned it once," Ron said, his ears turning red.
"So, then there should be something about it, right?" Harry said, "It doesn't matter if it was old families or the normal Ministry anymore does it?"
"I'll have to reread Hogwarts: A History," Hermione said. Harry noticed that she sounded pleased with the whole thing.
"I suppose I'll research the government and school interactions in the past," Justin said, "I believe that there are some Educational Decrees or something to that effect that might be useful."
"By the way, Justin," Harry said, looking at him curiously, "Why are you helping? You don't really know Hagrid."
Justin blinked at him slowly.
"I like fair things," he said at last. "The actions of the Assistant Professor are grossly unjust and seem to have some form of bigotry behind them. I dislike it, so I will help in making her either leave or be forced to obey the laws."
Harry supposed that that was good enough. Particularly since, for the first time since he'd seen Justin, he seemed to have a kind of life in his eyes. That wasn't creepy. Actually, as a kind smile appeared on his face, he looked like a normal, if kind of shy, kid.
Besides, it distracted him from the gnawing feeling in his stomach that had started when Lupin hadn't let him tackle the Boggart.
Lupin probably thought that he was 'delicate' or something like that. Since it was him and Justin, Harry supposed that Lupin was worried that they'd faint or something again.
He just knew that somehow, Malfoy was going to get wind of this and use it to his advantage.
"Er...so what do we do?" Ron asked suddenly. "I could ask Percy some things. He tends to know a lot about the Ministry these days. He's taking his NEWTs this year, and he wants a job with the Ministry so..."
"That might be a good idea," Hermione said, "Maybe he'll know if things have changed from how the Ministry and Hogwarts related."
"Er..." Harry said. There was nothing that he could think of to do, "I'll...do research..."
Then he realized that Justin had already volunteered. He opened his mouth to say never mind, but everyone seemed satisfied.
And was it just him...or did the way that Justin was crouched seem...smug.
By the time that a few days had passed, Sirius almost felt like himself.
The dreams were fading and slowly being replaced with memories. Not jumbled up, confused impressions that had first plagued him, but actual happy moments in his life. Meeting James, being allowed to stay with his family, the first time he rode a motorbike, everything was coming back to him. Soon, he'd probably start getting more of his power back.
He also couldn't have been in a better position. Mopsy was completely insane, but she knew how to take care of dogs. She had to. There were about ten strays that came and went from her house, and four or five that stuck around. The dog wasn't the best at numbers, and Sirius honestly didn't care. He blended in perfectly.
And he needed that. It was only when he'd been suddenly being presented with food that he realized that he was starving. Really, he'd been living off of sheer determination more than anything else. If he lived, he'd have to find a way to thank Mopsy.
The dementors had appeared just the night before, gliding around, sniffing for him, but they ignored him with all the other growling dogs. It had been wonderful. The only problem was the Mopsy wasn't too keen on allowing him to go off on his own.
"Oh, no you don't," Mopsy said, as Sirius looked longingly at the gate, wishing that he could turn into his human form just for a moment, "I know my handsome ones. The moment that you get a whiff of freedom, you'll be gone in a flash. Then what will become of you? I'll worry myself sick!"
Sirius suppressed a doggy sigh and allowed himself to be hugged and petted by the woman. He wasn't sure if he was imagining it, but the other dogs seemed to be relieved that it wasn't them. He'd have to sneak out in the middle of the night then. The other dogs were used to his scent now, and even if it did change, chances were that they'd ignore it. After all, he needed to get a good look around the Hogsmead, make sure that nothing to big had changed, and plan things out.
It was getting close to Halloween. Harry and the other students would be at the feast, leaving Wormtail alone in the tower. With any luck, he could stab the filthy traitor and leave the corpse for Dumbledore to find. Wormtail would be in a panic around this time anyways. After all, he'd have been paying attention. He'd have been getting Sirius's messages, and, as anyone close to Wormtail knew, he never thought well when he was panicking.
So, Sirius would sit and plan, and remember another Halloween that had taken place twelve years ago in Godric's Hollow. That, coupled with the knowledge that his best friend's son was in danger of the same thing happening, would give him the strength to act.
The news of Snape wearing Neville's grandmother's clothing spread like wildfire, and for a while, Snape seemed to have trouble teaching a class without the students either avoiding his eyes, giggling or looking vaguely horrified. Naturally, he was even more cutting to Neville than usual, and some of the looks that he sent to Lupin were...even more hateful than the ones that we usually sent to Harry. If that was even possible.
That didn't matter though, since Professor Lupin was easily the most popular DADA teacher that the school had had in quite some time. Even Draco Malfoy, for all his comments on how badly dressed the man was, only got a lukewarm interest from the other Slytherins, and Hermione once mentioned that she'd heard from Ginny who'd heard it from a Ravenclaw named Luna Lovegood that some of the Slytherin girls, including Pansy Parkingson were planning among themselves about how to send him some fancy robes anonymously
But, in Harry's mind, there were other problems.
"First Hogsmead weakend..." Ron said, looking at the flyer that had just appeared in the Gryffindor common room, "You reckon you can ask MacGonagall to sign your form?"
"I've already asked her," Harry said miserably, "It was all I could do you keep her from taking me off the Quidditch team thanks to Sirius Black."
Oliver Wood, his Quidditch captain, would have had an apoplectic fit. Though she sounded like she was announcing someone's death at the time, so it hadn't been that hard to convince her.
"Maybe Dean can forge your uncle's signature then..." Ron said thoughtfully.
"I told her that he hadn't signed. She'll probably think it's odd if it arrives. After all, the Dursley's never actually send me anything," Harry sighed. The only person in their year who wasn't going was Justin, and Justin was honestly so disconcerting that Harry didn't know how he was going to spend an afternoon with him.
Ron was glowering.
"Why'd you tell her?" he muttered. "Well, Hermione and I'll bring you as much as we can. If that helps"
Harry nodded and sighed. He supposed that it was stupid to want to go to the town when there was a mass murderer after him, but he really, really wanted to. He'd seen Diagon Alley, but the idea of a town where everything was magical sounded really amazing. Not just the candy or the history, but just the fact that people used magic day to day and it was as usual as electricity.
"I suppose that it will only be the two of us than," Justin said, appearing behind them.
"Don't do that!" he said angrily.
Justin just blinked at him, and took out a green hard candy from his pocket.
"I bet you wish you were going to Honeydukes," Ron said, smirking at him slightly.
"It does sound interesting," Justin nodded. "Though some of the things described to me do not sound like candy."
"Like what?" Ron asked.
Ron shuddered, "Fred gave me one of those once. It burnt a hole right through my tongue. I remember Mom smacking him upside the head with a rolling pin..."
Justin started chewing on his thumb.
"And that was it?" he asked.
"And your brother...did not get into anymore trouble than that?" he asked at last.
"Nah," Ron said, he looked a little annoyed at the memory. "Besides, Mum fixed my tongue right up, so it wasn't a problem. I wonder if I could get him to take Cockroach Cluster...George once mentioned to me that they kind of looked like peanuts..."
"I see," Justin said slowly, walking away.
Ron watched him go.
"You know, he's a creepy one, but I don't think he found that story funny. He's the first," he said thoughtfully. "Maybe it's because Muggles take so long to heal. Didn't you say that they can't fix things up quickly?"
"Er...sometimes Muggles can't fix things at all," Harry said.
"Glad I'm a Wizard," he muttered. "Hermione once tried to explain what her parents did for a living. You know, I think they're torturers, and Hermione hasn't realized it."
"Yeah. I don't think Justin much likes it though," Harry said, watching as Justin took a crouch in a chair and stared to paw through a book.
"Whats there not to like?" Ron asked.
Harry shrugged. He didn't know, but...well...it wasn't like he'd had left much behind him. Maybe Justin had a family or something who hadn't been thrilled about his going to magic school. Or maybe they had but he hadn't. He'd never heard of someone declining Hogwarts, but maybe there were some Muggleborns who didn't like it much.
Well, they could go back when they were done anyways.
Harry had never much paid attention to careers and further schooling. When he was with the Dursleys, it was pretty clear they were only sending him to school because they had to, and the idea of university or anything like that was...almost funny. Maybe it was different for Justin.
Harry decided not to worry about it.
Lucius wasn't sure just how he was going to ask Narcissa about Sirius. She had seemed to emotional a few days ago, and he was worried that she would just get upset again. Finally, he decided to bring it up one evening over dinner.
The problem was bringing it up to her.
Dinner was served in the large dining room, complete with the portraits of both of their families looking down on them and conversing with one another. Usually, Lucius enjoyed the formalities, but tonight, he would have given a great deal for all the portraits to be visiting someone and for the two of them to be very close to one another so that he could tell just what she was feeling about the conversation.
Lucius ate in silence and answered halfheartedly to any attempts at conversation that Narcissa made.
"Are things going so badly for us that you cannot break your thoughts away from your work for one instant?" Narcissa asked, she was sitting very straight and a slight sneer was in her voice.
"No," Lucius said, "We're doing as well as we can with Mad Eye sniffing around for any of our involvement with Black's escape."
Narcissa looked away.
"Does he really think that we're involved?" she asked.
"Apparently, he thinks that all old families, despite their personal views, are always united," Lucius said.
"But, I noticed something odd," Lucius plowed ahead, "Black's behavior...seems to be too deliberate. He was being seen at very certain places, and always getting closer to Hogwards. Moody thinks that this is Azkaban's influence, but I believe that this is a message. He's telling someone that he's coming."
Narcissa took a drink from her wine goblet and looked at her food.
"Sirius..." Narcissa started. "You must understand, I was only close to Sirius when we were children. Once I went to school, I considered myself too old for most of the games my cousins played, and I didn't pay all that much attention to Sirius when he came to school. I just saw him as going through a mildly rebellious phase...but I know this... You told me that the Ministry thinks that Sirius is after the Potter boy, but...Sirius wouldn't be going through this effort for him."
"I've thought the same," Lucius admitted, "Even if Sirius were trying to bring the Dark Lord back by killing the boy, he wouldn't be theatrical about it. There was nothing in it for him...Do you think that he's after Severus?"
Lucius remembered that Severus and Black had had something of a history of hatred for one another. It was hard to tell where it really started. It just seemed that Black couldn't stand the sight of Severus.
Narcissa looked thoughtful.
"Perhaps," she said, taking a dainty bite of her pheasant, "but I'm not sure. I don't think that Sirius would have a reason to pursue the man like this. Do you think that he believed that Severus was a traitor?"
Lucius nodded. That was possible. After all, if he remembered right, it was Severus who had convinced the Dark Lord to go after the Potters that night. Lucius didn't really know why the Potters had to be attacked, and he'd never really asked questions about it. Perhaps Sirius believed that Severus had done this knowing it would lead the the death of the Dark Lord. Or perhaps Sirius, despite changing his loyalties, had cared for his old friend and blamed Severus for convincing the Dark Lord to attack them. Lucius had always wondered if it had been because of the pranks that those four played on him that had spurred that.
Perhaps Sirius believed the same thing, and had no interesting whatsoever in Harry Potter.
At any rate, he needed to speak to Severus about it during the Christmas holidays. Sending an owl would be risky and despite all of Dumbledore's idealistic ramblings about how he trusted Severus, he kept a close watch the man's activities around the school. Dumbledore hadn't completely forgotten just why Severus had been the Dark Lord's closest aid.
Well, Dumbledore kept a close watch on everyone's actions around the school, Lucius corrected himself.
Perhaps he'd be able to take a trip to Hogsmead and run into Severus there.
"Lucius," Narcissa said, "I heard from Octavia Bulstrode that Dumbledore has hired Remus Lupin. I remember that he was one of Sirius's school friends. He was also a suspected spy for the Dark Lord."
Lucius blinked. He had forgotten that. So there were two likely targets who would have been close enough to Black to warrant the psychological attack that he was using.
"Draco told us that there was a Hogsmead Weekend coming up, and I right?" Lucius said, swirling the wine in his goblet thoughtfully, "I'm going to pay Severus a visit."
Remus, Peter and Sirius couldn't help but stare. James just scowled at them.
"You know, I think we've discovered how legends are born," Sirius said thoughtfully, tossing his hair and smirking James.
James eyes narrowed further.
Remus coughed a little, "I guess the Ancient Greek Muggles really did know what they were talking about," he said, and was immediately engulfed in another coughing fit.
"Wow." was all that Peter managed to say.
"You think Lily will like it?" Sirius asked James."
"Oh, will you shut up," James said, taking a few unsteady steps forwards, "I'm not the one who started growling at Bone's cat yesterday."
James took another few steps forwards and nearly overbalanced, the deer's hind feet really weren't good for supporting a human torso.
"You think we should take a picture of the 'mysterious satyr' and sent it to one of those Muggle newspapers that publishes tribe like three headed chickens giving birth to women?" Sirius asked.
"Actually, he'd been a fawn," Remus pointed out and ignored Sirius's shrug.
"I hate all of you," James muttered. He promised himself to spend hours in the prefect's bath practicing just so that he could show them up the next time they practiced their Animagi.
So that's it for the chapter. I really...can't think of anything more that wouldn't be going into the next one. As I said above, sorry for the long wait. I've been a little distracted by my attempts to review some of the books that I've read and I didn't like. Rather like the crew at TGWTG. Hope you've enjoyed the chapter, and hopefully, I'll have the next ones out sooner.
L and Snape: I honestly can't see L as the type who would be all that sympathetic of Snape and his...many...many issues. L likes fair things. Snape is not fair, and L is not overly a sympathetic person to begin with. So, there's not going to be a lot of bonding between the two. Tolerance, maybe. But no real liking. Both are a little bit too strong in personality to have that.
The Toad Thing: I thought that this should be added in, because I'm going to try to give a fair picture of Snape. While he did do some decent things, he also did some pretty scummy ones. No, I'm not going to blow him out of proportion, but I am not going to stick him in the Leather Pants either.
Peeves: Honestly, he interests me, simply because of what he is. I might actually have him playing a little more of a roll in this than he played in the book simply because of some things I've read about poltergeists. Since he doesn't actively attempt to harm the students, he's not like some of the cases I've read about.
Wizengamut: I'm guessing that the Wizengamut came from the Witengamut, which was a meeting of the local Saxon Lords to decide things prior to the Norman invasion. William wasn't overly interested in. Chances are it would have just been the most powerful families who met, so I'm going to run with that idea. I'm not going to have a lot about 'Lord' Potter and I really, really don't like the whole 'Dark' families and 'Light' families since there was never a Light side even mentioned in the books. It seems unnecessary in this story.