Chapter 1: And A Gust Of Wind Blows Through

Ridiculous! he thought. How dare she—that toad—call him a liar!

Harry kicked over a bucket in the abandoned classroom he had run off to, spilling some dark liquid all over the floor. He cursed and jumped on a desk to get out of the way. His eyes landed on the scroll next to him. Glaring, he picked it up and threw it in a crumpled mass on the tar-like mass below. The scroll hissed and went up in smoke.

Umbridge had told him to take the scroll to McGonagall, but he couldn't be bothered. After the way his first defense class went, he couldn't face anyone.

He was too furious. Too humiliated.

After calling attention to the fact that Voldemort was, indeed, back, Harry had been sworn off and degraded by Dolores Umbridge, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He didn't know he could hate someone as much as he hated her. Not even the Dursleys. Not even, he believed, Voldemort, at the moment.

Breathing deeply, Harry brought his hands up to his face, wiping away the tears of frustration beginning to form.

And then a knock came from the doorway.

Harry jumped, and turned to see who had intruded in on him.

It was a boy: he was older than Harry, though not by much. Perhaps a sixth or seventh year. He wore no tie, so Harry couldn't tell to what house he belonged. He had kind, handsome features. His slightly stubbled chin jutted out a bit and his eyes were soft. He had one of his furry eyebrows raised.

"Aren't you supposed to be in class?" the stranger asked.

"I could ask the same of you," Harry said. He was suddenly self-conscious of the puffy, stinging way his eyes felt. And then there was the bucket of slowly hardening gunk on the floor. How must he look?

"I'm not a student here," the stranger said. He grinned at the mess and then looked up at Harry. "Did you do this?"

Sheepishly, Harry nodded. "It was an accident."

"Yeah, well, you're lucky it didn't get on you. That stuff is nasty."

"What do you know about it?" Carefully, Harry slipped off the desk, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked around the substance. He was now only a few feet away from the other boy.

"Well, I know it could burn your shoes right off your feet. It's an intense cleaning solution—called Scourgifaserum—and it's meant to wash off magical curses and substances stuck with spells. Definitely not something to be tampered with."

"Then what is it doing in an abandoned classroom?"

"I put it here under the assumption no one would come in and mess with it." He looked at Harry wryly. "Obviously I was wrong."

"Yeah, well I don't fancy the idea of putting a potentially deadly potion in a school's classroom—unlocked, might I add—is one of the smartest ones," Harry said, shoving past the stranger. He didn't like him much.

Much to Harry's dismay, the stranger fell into step with Harry as he walked down the corridor. "Aren't you going to clean that up?" Harry asked.

The stranger chuckled. "I wasn't the one that knocked over the bucket, was I?"

"But you're the reason the bucket was there in the first place."

"Fair point," the stranger agreed. He then shrugged. "Ah, well, I'll just get it later. I think the question, now, is why aren't you in class?"

"Free period," Harry grunted, not wanting to divulge his reasons to the annoying man, who, now that Harry saw him closer up, looked to be in his early twenties.

"I doubt that."

"Yeah, well I don't care what you doubt because I'm leaving." And with that, Harry ducked under a tapestry that was a shortcut to Gryffindor Tower.

Unfortunately, the stranger followed. "If it's because of that Umbridge lady, I could help you out."

Harry stopped suspiciously to look at the man. "What do you mean?"

The stranger grinned. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "I really don't have time to play games with a loony, so stop with the cryptic remarks or I'll be on my way."

Before Harry could continue on, the stranger stepped in his path and held Harry at an arm's length. "Okay, okay. No need to be so grouchy," the stranger said, letting go of Harry's arms. "First off, I have a poor history with that woman, and I'd like some revenge. She took something from me that I've been trying to get back for a long time. A long, long time."

The stranger's expression darkened. "She knows where it is, and, in order for me to get it back, it will take some skill and persuasion. I can't do it alone, though." The stranger leaned back against the corridor wall, and Harry watched him warily as the stranger picked at his nails casually.

"I've been searching for the ideal person to help me with this task for a while. In the process, Umbridge will get fired and most likely sent to Azkaban for the rest of her life. You see, what Umbridge took was something invaluable of mine. There is no way to replace it except take it back. The Ministry will not treat her kindly after she is exposed, even if she is Senior Undersecretary to the Minister. The public will butcher any sympathy she may obtain from people with positions of worth."

Harry carefully considered what the stranger said. It seemed too good to be true. Getting Umbridge fired after the way she treated Harry? A miracle if there ever was one. "Before I agree to anything, I'd like to know who you are."

The stranger smiled devilishly. "You can call me Gus. This is my true form, but I'll be in disguise at this school when I'm not with you. Let's see if you can find me. In the meantime, you can contact me via owl. I'll set up the next meeting place through a letter, and we can discuss my. . . tactics of dealing with a woman of such low caliber. You in?"

Harry nodded in hesitant ascent. He would play this scheme by ear. The man was a bit sketchy.

The stranger turned to walk out of the tapestry, but, just before he left, he turned. "Oh, and Harry? Keep your eyes open for any jewelry Umbridge may be wearing. You'll be in closer proximity with her over the next few days than I will, although I expect that to change soon. Ta!"

And the stranger—Gus—left.

It was only until Harry was back in the common room that he realized he had never actually told Gus his name.

A/N: Lend me your reviews, and I you my ears. ;)