Care of Magical Creatures

Hermione Granger was a witch on a mission. She had been having the worst day of her life. And she hadn't been having a very good year so far either.

Adjusting to her new school had not been easy. She had been disappointed when rather than being impressed by her magical knowledge, many of the students and staff of Hogwarts reacted no better than her old school did. She honestly couldn't see why people reacted negatively to her efforts to achieve her full potential. If they wanted to waste their potential that was their issue, but why did they look down on her for trying to fulfil hers?

Today had been the worst. Her mother's letter that morning hinted at pulling her from Hogwarts to send her to her parents' alma mater of St. Agnes School for Ladies and Gentlemen. Her mother was still stunned by the revelation her daughter was a witch and was concerned about Hermione's future career without a university degree. Then after breakfast that senseless oaf Ronald Weasley was made her partner working on the Levitation Charm. Honestly, the boy must be more than a bit slow not being able to cast such a simple spell. He had no cause to snap at her for merely trying to assist him. But it was his comments after class was over that was the final breaking point.

It didn't help that the person Ronald Weasley was complaining about her to was Harry Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived seemed rather quiet but confident in himself. He didn't use his fame but still seemed quite popular. He appeared to do well in class but not to the point he attracted the professors' attention or gain many points. Professor Snape seemed to hate Harry Potter but since their second class had left the boy alone aside from a few verbal barbs. In fact he seemed to wince every time he so much as looked at Harry Potter. It was very odd.

Logically, she knew it was pointless to spend the whole day crying in the girls bathroom all day. She actually missed all of her classes! But that final rejection hurt too much. Several girls had come in during the day. The Patil sisters came in with her other roommate Lavender and another girl from Ravenclaw. They tried to get her to come to lunch but she just couldn't go.

Eventually, her stomach reminded her that she hadn't eaten since breakfast. She was probably late for dinner but she was sure she could find something to eat. After washing her face one last time, Hermione opened the door to leave the bathroom.

And immediately wished she hadn't.

Stomping down the hall towards her was a huge humanoid creature she recognized from her books as an adult male mountain troll! What was that thing doing in Hogwarts?

Hermione heard someone scream. It was only when the troll fixed its eyes on her that she realized she was the one screaming. The hideous creature made a snarling noise before raising its club and charging forward.

The troll smashed through the door with a ferocious roar. Its club quickly turned the nearby stalls into so much kindling. It accidently smashed one of the toilets sending out a spray of water that hit it directly in the face. The enraged troll just started smashing everything in sight including two more of the toilets. Water was now spraying everywhere. The just made the creature angrier. Hermione huddled down against the wall in her drenched school robes praying the troll didn't notice her.

That was when the boys arrived. She couldn't see that huddled in her robe but she could hear them. Ron started yelling at the troll and then suddenly Harry was there pulling at her arm, telling her to get up; to run.

Hermione found her muscles wouldn't move. She could only stand there in shock watching Ronald Weasly jump about waving his arms and yelling. Was that boy trying to get smashed to a pulp?

Suddenly, Hermione found herself effortlessly lifted off the ground and thrown over Harry Potter's shoulder. The Boy-Who-Lived sprinted past the troll and out the door and into the hall. Harry quickly set her down and turned back towards the bathroom. Hermione could see the troll was now between him and the door. The idiot had distracted the troll but cut off his only escape!

"Damn it!" Harry growled. For a moment he looked undecided before muttering, "To hell with it." Before Hermione could ask, the famous boy had ripped of his school robe and shirt while kicking off his trainers and tossing his glasses aside. Hermione started to protest when Harry charged forward. And as he charged, he started to change.

It was no longer Harry Potter that re-entered the bathroom. He didn't look like one of the werewolves she had seen illustrated in her books. He was bigger and furrier for one and moved way too gracefully for another. Werewolves were feral creatures. Yet it was obvious that a human mind guided the creature as it (insanely) leapt onto the troll's back.

This was something outside her books. What was going on here?

-I-

Just before the entrance to the Gryffindor tower was an old classroom Hermione had used before for private study time. She grabbed both boys and dragged them into the room. She pushed them inside, closing the door behind her.

Fixing a glare on the Boy-Who-Lived, Hermione demanded, "Now, what was that? And don't tell me that was normal in the magical world! …"

"I'll say it wasn't," interjected a still-shocked Ron. Hermione just kept going as if he hadn't said anything.

"I've read about animagi and werewolves and that was neither! I just lied to a teacher! I have a right to know what is going on!"

Harry frowned at bit and leaned back against a desk. He took off his glasses and glared at her. Hermione recoiled from the unbridled power in his gaze.

"A right to know?" he repeated softly; the undertones of a growl present. "What happened is we just saved your life. Does it really matter how?"

Hermione's demanding pose collapsed. He was right. He had just saved her life. The look in the boy's eyes made a part of her want to run.

"Please?" she pleaded. "I just want to know. I won't tell anyone."

"Me too," Ron added. "I won't tell, mate."

Harry seemed to consider them for a moment before putting his glasses back on. They seemed to diminish the power in his gaze somehow. "Ron knows something about werewolves in the wizarding world. You've probably read about them too. The problem is I am not really a werewolf."

Hermione nodded, her mind engaged. "You changed during the day, it's not a full moon, and your human side stayed in control. Also your form looked different than the werewolves in the books."

Harry gave a wary smile at Hermione's run down. "Something like that," he agreed.

"I was bitten by something a couple of years ago. I guess you could say I got all feverish and next thing I know is it is five days later and I can change into the Beast. Er, that's what I call it. Plus my normal form grew and became a lot stronger. My senses improved in human form too. I used to be almost blind without my glasses. Now I have better than 20/20 vision."

"Why the glasses then, mate, if you don't need 'em?" Ron asked.

Harry took off the glassed and looked at them again. The raw power that made Hermione scared before was back even without the angry glare. She noticed Ron took a step back at the sight. After a second, Harry put his glasses back on.

"These are actually weak sunglasses but the lenses are polarized. The tinting cuts down on the shine from my eyes and the polarization seems to remove the whatever it is that freaks people out. I've tried other glasses but without the polarization people still freak out." A smile quickly crossed Harry's face. "It is great for crowd control though."

"Huh?"

"Never mind, Ron. Anyway, I researched everything I could find in the non-magical world on werewolves and lycanthropy. Then this summer I looked into what the magical world knew about them. But I am closer to a Hollywood version of a werewolf than what the magical world knows."

Harry paused to look first at Ron then Hermione. Hermione could tell he was considering what to say.

"One of the first things I learned from the books is how werewolves are treated in the magical world. I really don't want to become a public freak show." Harry paused a second before wry adding, "At least more of a freak show then the Boy-Who-Lived already is."

Ron slowly nodded with a serious thinking expression that surprised Hermione. In a quiet voice, he said, "My dad works for the Ministry. They don't even see werewolves as human anymore. They are handled by the same department that handles hippogriffs and giants. One of the Aurors was bitten last year. They immediately fired him and said he couldn't have his pension as that was only for humans. His wife left him and took his kids. I heard Dad tell Mum she had their memories changed so they don't remember him anymore. Dad was furious when he heard. They were mates at Hogwarts."

Hermione felt devastated at that. To take away a child's memory of their parent was horrible! "That's barbaric! How can they treat someone that way just because they are infected! It's terrible!"

Ron flinched at her glare. "Don't blame me! Dad tried to help Auror Forman but there was only so much he could do without getting in trouble at work."

Harry nodded grimly. "That is why I don't want this getting out. Honestly, I wouldn't have shown you now but it was kind of an emergency."

Hermione nodded feeling embarrassed that he had taken the chance of exposing himself to save her. No one had ever done something like that for her. Impulsively, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a strong hug.

"Thank you for saving me," she said.

"You're welcome," Harry replied.

Hermione released Harry's neck. She glanced briefly at Ronald Weasley. His face almost matched his hair colour. "Thank you also, Ronald." She turned back to Harry.

"Well, I have homework waiting and I need to get today's assignments."

-II-

Ron watched the bushy-haired witch leave the abandoned classroom with a sense of shock. The girl was barmy! One minute she was upset and now she was off to do homework?

Harry started towards the door to follow Hermione. Impulsively, Ron reached out a hand to grab the other boy's arm.

"Wait, Harry." Harry paused and looked at Ron.

Ron felt his face start to burn even worse, but he had to know. "Why did you bring me along? You could have handled this on your own. Or grabbed a Prefect or even just told a professor and let them deal with it. Why me?"

Harry seemed to weigh Ron with his eyes. It felt like hours before Harry spoke. "Honestly I didn't really think about it at the time. I don't like bullies and you were coming close to earning that title. I've heard from your brothers that you have a younger sister. What would you do if some kid said something like that to her?" Ron felt something inside squirm at that comment.

"I think part of me reckoned that you helped get her into trouble so you needed to help get her out." A small smile crossed Harry's lips. "Or it could be you were the first warm body in reach. We are in Gryffindor after all."

Ron grinned weakly at that but he was still in a bit of shock. He trailed silently behind Harry on the rest of the way to the Common Room. He didn't even realize where he was until he found himself standing in the middle of the Common Room watching Harry's back disappear up the stairs to the boys' dorms. He noticed Hermione sitting at a table with her books already out in front of her. The other two First year girls and a couple of Second year girls too were sitting nearby also.

Without any conscious thought, Ron walked over to the table. He couldn't lift his eyes from the floor but he knew she was looking up at him.

"Hermione? I'm sorry for being a git and what I said this morning. I…I haven't been very nice to you. I haven't been having a good term and took it out on you."

Ron tried to get out the final words but they just froze in his throat. He never really had to at home; Mum and Dad just forgave him, Percy ignored him and the twins pranked him. Ginny would hex him with the Bat-Bogie spell Great-Aunt Muriel taught her. Ron steeled himself like he was about to get hit by a Bludger.

"um, I apologize, er, for what I said today."

"Did Harry force you to do this?" Hermione asked suspiciously.

Ron's eyes shot up to look at her in surprise. "No. He just kind of said he was disappointed and how would I like someone talking to my sister like I did to you." Ron felt his face heating up again and dropped his eyes to the floor again.

"Very well, I accept."

Ron looked up now with an excited smile. Hermione was smiling too but her face was blushing. Ron didn't notice everyone in the Common Room was watching and listening in.

"Thank you," Ron whispered. Then he made a retreat for his dorm.

9 November 1991

"So how did you talk me into this again?"

Padma rolled her eyes at Harry's question. She had explained this to him several times. She'd swear he was just teasing her.

"You need to learn about this world you were just dropped into. The Potters are a very old British magical family," she answered. Teasingly, she added, "Not as old as the Patils of course but still a respectable history." Harry just smiled in response.

The Magical Society Club advertised itself as a group interested in the study and preservation of Magical culture, history, and heritage. What it really was is an association of the children of the higher strata of magical society. In theory that social position was based on three criteria: Blood lines, wealth, and magical strength. Unfortunately, for the last 100 years, the magical strength criterion was set aside although they still paid lip service to it. At one time, a magically-gifted Muggle-born witch or wizard was sought after to bring new blood and power into a Family line. That started to change when the Muggle world entered the Industrial Revolution.

Suddenly, Muggle technology started to explode. In 1900, the horse was the primary mode of Muggle land transportation just like the previous four thousand years. Yet within fifty years horse travel had been completely replaced by cars. Muggle aeroplanes filled the sky and Muggles had weapons capable of destroying entire cities in a single strike.

As technology improved at an ever increasing pace, the old guard of the magical world felt threatened. Many of the Wizengamot and other leaders of the Wizarding World were born before the invention of the electric light and the telephone. The gap between the standards of living between wizard and standard humans shrank for the first time in thousands of years. But it wasn't just that the gap shrank. It disappeared almost completely. Transportation, health care, entertainment, production; suddenly there were areas where the standard world equalled or even exceeded the capabilities of the magical world. And the Muggle-born coming in to the magical world brought those ideas with them.

The magical world had a great deal to be proud of as a culture. Where the standard world was still struggling with racial and gender equality, the magical world was long past that. After all, magical power was not impacted by either factor. It was just as likely that the wife had a greater magical talent than her husband as the other way around. Yes, one could argue that the magical world treated the non-human magical species poorly but the standard world didn't have a much better track record with indigenous people. For example, the magical world never was involved in colonization or human slavery.

The magical world reacted to these rapid changes by closing ranks. Powerful and talented Muggle-borns found themselves barred from advancing in their new magical world. As they pushed for change, the Purebloods closed ranks even tighter. It was in this fear and uncertainty that Voldemort found fertile ground for his particular brand of hate. And if Voldemort hadn't risen on the platform of preserving magical culture (the status quo) it would have been just as likely for another Dark Lord to have risen pushing Muggle-born culture or an aristocracy based solely on magical power.

The Magical Society Club at Hogwarts was the local branch of the elite of Pureblood society. Not necessarily Death Eaters, but also the Light-sided families that existed at that societal level. For every Malfoy, Parkinson, Black, and Nott family, there was a Longbottom, Bones, Crouch, and Patil family to counter them. The 'Neutral' families outnumbered either side alone by enough of a margin that the Dark and Light would have to join together to out vote the Neutrals in the Wizengamot. However, what bound them together was they were all long-established Pureblood families with a vested interest in continuing to maintain their world. They simply disagreed with how to do that.

The Potters were never in that elite class. While they had magical power and a rich family history they lacked sufficient wealth and tended to marry Muggle-borns on an alarming basis. James Potter was considered a Pureblood due to the Potter history but his grandfather and great-grandfather both married Muggle-borns. Padma convinced Harry to attend claiming that his fame and apparent power with his defeat of the Dark Lord was enough to get him accepted. There were a few grumbles when he arrived but Harry simply shrugged it off.

The meeting had been going on for almost an hour and Padma was starting to regret attending and dragging Harry into it. This session was supposed to be a 'social' to allow the First through Third years a chance to get to know each other and establish connections with others of their 'class'. However, it turned out to be polite political warfare to establish the social pecking order in Hogwart's 'lower half'.

Her friend Daphne's family, like Harry's, was an old family but never had the money or influence to enter into the elite. Apparently, Daphne wanted to change that. Padma guessed the Hat put her in Slytherin for a reason.

-III-

Daphne glared at Malfoy and in a cold voice said, "The Greengrass family has stood in Britain for over two thousand years. Long before the Malfoy name existed, the Greengrass family was known as the Faiche. We were elite amongst the learned Druids until the armies of Caesar forced us into hiding in Wales and Scotland! And where were the Malfoy's at that time? Pig farmers in France!" Tracey Davis sat beside her cousin Daphne adding her icy glare at the Malfoy scion as well.

The slightly pompous sounding Hufflepuff sitting next to Padma rolled his eyes at Daphne's speech. "Oh great. That's all we needed. A Druish princess," he groaned under his breath. Padma barely heard him so she was surprised when Harry spoke up from her other side.

In an innocently curious voice, Harry commented, "Funny, she doesn't look Druish."

Ernie Macmillan looked to be in pain as he tried to hold in his laughter at Harry's reply. Padma didn't get the joke but realized it was some kind of reference. Unfortunately, it also attracted the attention of the rest of the room.

"Do you mind, Macmillan? We are trying to have a rational conversation here," Draco Malfoy commented with his best attempt at a glare. His two enforcers standing over his shoulder added their glares to his. Padma started to apologize for the interruption but Harry got a comment out first.

"Dear me, what are those things glaring at us over there?"

Ernie answered, still fighting the laughter. "Spaceballs?"

Harry sighed resignedly. "Oh shite, there goes the school."

At Harry's comment, Ernie lost his battle with the laughter and started laughing uproariously to the confusion of the other students sitting around them.

Draco was glaring over at them and was backed by some of the Second and Third years. Even some of the Light-sided students and non-Slytherins were unhappy. Although whether their unhappiness was caused by the levity or the fact it was obviously a Muggle reference was debatable.

Ernie managed to fight his laughter back down. "I apologize for interrupting your discussion," he said in his slightly pompous sounding manner.

Padma noticed that Malfoy was ignoring Harry's presence as much as possible. Jakob Bulstrode was the nominal 'host' of the gathering but the Third year Slytherin took all of his cues from Malfoy. So far, this was the most acknowledgement Harry received the whole meeting.

Michael Corner, a boy from her own House and year, looked over at where Padma sat with Harry and Ernie with a sneer. "I don't know why Potter is even here. We all know the Potters were never … acceptable in Society. They were worker bees, not powers."

"He is the Boy-Who-Lived," Susan Bones offered in a tentative tone. Hannah Abbott nodded her support although Padma wondered if it was in support of Harry or simply her best friend. "He defeated the Dark Lord. Surely that is enough to show he belongs with us."

"Even a peasant gets lucky every so often," a Second year Slytherin witch answered condescendingly.

Harry rose gracefully to his feet. He gave them a slight bow before saying, "I apologize for my interruption of this most prestigious of gatherings. I am afraid my manners are not on the level of a gathering such as this. Ms Patel merely wished for me to see for myself the society that my parents and I sacrificed so much in defending. I am pleased to say in this she succeeded admirably. And now if you would excuse me?"

And with that Harry walked out.

Padma sat stunned in her seat as she watched him walk out. The little speech was totally out of character from her last two months of friendship with the famous boy. Harry was generally quiet and a bit shy although occasionally he showed glimpses of something else behind his walls.

Caught in her own musings, Padma missed the rest of the gatherings initial reactions to Harry's impromptu speech. Then she noticed Susan's embarrassed expression. Padma glanced around now taking notice of a few embarrassed faces and several angry or annoyed ones. Ernie looked rather amused again. Padma replayed Harry's words in her mind.

'Oh Merlin' she gasped in her thoughts. 'He just told off the entire room!'

Padma stood. "Excuse me; I am going to see after my guest."

Fortunately it was just a few steps to the door. To her surprise, Ernie was right behind her.

"That was bloody brilliant," Ernie snickered once they were out of the room. "They can't really get upset with his words but what he implied … that was awesome!"

"It was not awesome!" Padma retorted as tears started down her cheeks. "Harry just offended everyone in that room! Not that they didn't deserve it, b-but I brought Harry to help him, not make things worse."

Ernie looked a bit uncomfortable but simply shrugged. "Most of them already had their minds made up. The Dark families hate him. The Light families put him on a pedestal. And the Neutrals like my family are the same place they always are … on the fence."

Padma acknowledged his comment with a small nod. Her daddy had said something similar. Varish Patel owned on of the largest import/export businesses in the magical world and did significant business with the Muggle world. He often spoke at home of the isolationist stance of the magical world and its dangers.

"Well, I am off to find Justin," Ernie announced. "I promised to give him my assistance in improving his flying. I believe he wishes to try-out for the Hufflepuff Quidditch squad next year. He heard McGonagall almost got Potter onto the Gryffindor squad this year. Cheerio!"

Padma smiled a bit as she watched the boy strut off. Ernie was one of the sweetest and most thoughtful boys she knew but he really came off like an arrogant berk sometimes.

Padma turned now and started walking to the Gryffindor tower. She wanted to apologize to Harry for dragging him to the stupid social. Besides, maybe she could catch Hermione to talk about the Potions assignment. They needed three uses of Trileaf Simitoil and she'd only found two.

14 December 1991

"Harry, where do you disappear to all the time?" Hermione asked."

Harry looked up from his meal to see a number of curious faces looking expectantly at him. He simply shrugged. "Around. I like to explore. I feel cooped up if I stay in too long."

Ron leaned forward and whispered, "Harry, mate, there is something we need to tell you about." Harry peaked over his glasses to make eye contact with Ron. Ron supressed a gulp and said, "No, it's about something different."

Hermione said, "We went looking for you the other week, Ron, Neville, and I. It was after curfew and Fitch and his horrible cat were chasing us. We ended up on the third floor where Dumbledore warned us not to go." She noticed that the Weasley twins were now listening to their conversation.

"It was horrible; we barely got out with our lives!" Ron supplied. "It was some kind of monster with three heads!"

"I didn't even want to be there," Neville mumbled. "I just couldn't remember the password to the dorm again."

Harry smiled. "Oh, you met Fluffy."

"Fluffy!" Ron exclaimed in an outraged voice. "Fluffy! You mean that monster has a name?" From the shocked expressions on the Weasley twins' faces, Hermione surmised they had met the monster dog also.

Harry shrugged. "Well, that is what Hagrid told me. Fluffy is his."

"When did you talk to Hagrid?" Fred (or is it George?) asked.

"Um, since the first week we were here," Harry answered after some thought. "He gave me a note our first morning here inviting me down for tea. Apparently he really liked my mum and dad. He wanted to give me a birthday present. That's when I got Hedwig."

Hermione had wondered where the snowy owl had come from. Before she could comment, the owl in question suddenly flew in and landed on Harry's shoulder.

"Well, aren't you the brilliant one," Harry commented with a grin. "Knew you were the topic of conversation and had to make an appearance." Hedwig made a barking sound that almost sounded like agreement before snatching a piece of bacon from Harry's hand. Hermione wanted to ask how he thought the owl would have known they were discussing it rather then it just being a fortunate coincidence, but she forced herself to focus on the topic at hand. She mentally noted to ask later.

"Harry, what about 'Fluffy'?" Hermione asked with a disbelieving tone when she mentioned the three-headed monster's name. "My research says it is a hell hound."

"We should have known it was Hagrid's," George (or Fred) commented to his brother.

Fred nodded in agreement. "He did have a sphinx our First year."

Harry grinned at the twins but shrugged in response to Hermione. "Hagrid mentioned him to me one night when we were coming back up to the school. I think he takes Fluffy out for walks after curfew or early in the morning. He makes Fluffy sound like a big puppy."

Harry's casual comment about Fluffy made her doubt that Hagrid's mention of the animal was Harry's only encounter with it. She strongly suspected Harry had visited the monster dog in his … other form. But she couldn't voice that here.

Instead she asked, "Did you notice the trap door in Fluffy's room?"

"Never been there," Harry answered innocently. Hermione didn't buy it but again was prevented from following up here in the Great Hall.

"Good morning all," Ernie greeted them as he approached the Gryffindor table. "Harry, I wanted to ask if you would be interested in joining us for a pick-up Quidditch game? Madam Hooch had agreed to supervise a match for the First years and let us use the school brooms. I think this would afford us an excellent opportunity to gather some experience."

Harry grinned at that. "Who else have you grabbed?"

"Justin, of course. Also Sally-Ann, Daphne, Tracey, Padma, Theodore, Susan, and, um, Michael."

Hermione saw a slight tightening around Harry's eyes at the mention of Michael Corner. She had heard about the other boy's comments during the club meeting Harry went to with Padma.

"Sure, sounds like fun," Harry accepted with a shrug. Ron and Dean also asked to join in the game. Harry left with Ernie to gather up the equipment for the pick-up game while the others finished eating.

Hermione was left wondering about the trap door. If there was one thing that drove Hermione crazy it was unanswered questions. The question about what was under that door had been bugging her, but Harry didn't seem concerned at all. The young witch made a small sigh. Maybe she should leave it alone. She still had the question of what happened to Harry when he'd been bitten by what was almost assuredly a werewolf.

Currently, she had two working theories. One was that it was something naturally different in Harry the caused both the rebounding of the Dark Lord's Killing Curse and the strange mutation of the lycanthropy. The second theory was something from surviving the Killing Curse interfered with the lycanthropy. In either case it offered an interesting question on would other Dark curses on Harry also be twisted in some bizarre way? Such a fascinating topic.

Hermione decided to set the question of Fluffy aside to continue researching what happened to Harry. After all, the later was done in the library and she really didn't want to face a giant, three-headed, slobbering, guard dog again.

1 April 1992

Professor Quirenus Quirrell carefully opened the door to the third floor corridor. The harp sat on the ground beside him with its strings moving silently. A simple charm lifted the device slightly off the ground and sent it smoothly gliding across the floor. A second charm released the Silencing Charm on it.

A silent command sent the conjured torch floating into the room. The Defence Against the Dark Arts professor was gratified to see the beast's body settle indicating it was asleep. The stupid dog got a hold of his arm the first time that he managed to access the room. He didn't want to repeat that experience.

"Quickly," the Master demanded. "Move the half-breed's mongrel. Dumbledore could be back soon."

"Yes, master."

A simple Levitating Charm moved the sleeping monster out of the way revealing the trap door. He opened the trap door and let it gently flip back onto the floor. Quirrell sat down on the floor letting his legs hang over the ledge and the inky blackness below. He knew the Devil's Snare would catch him but it was still a bit unnerving.

"This charm better work," the Master growled.

"It was from an Incan tome, master," Quirrell assured him. "Dumbledore's anti-summoning spell on the key should not block it." The Master of course knew this as the spell came from the Dark Lord's own library but Quirrell knew from experience who would be held accountable for any failure tonight.

The harp's music suddenly stopped in a harsh twang as it suddenly smashed into the wall. Quirrell twisted to see the harp drop to the ground.

"Hey, Fluffy, dinner!" a low, growling voice called out. Quirrell felt a sudden fear he hadn't felt since his Master first possessed him.

"Quickly, you fool! Get us out of here!" the Master demanded.

Quirrell tried to comply but with his legs hanging over the trapdoor's ledge he just didn't have time to comply. He felt two of the monster's heads bit into each arm pulling him up. He finally screamed in terror as the third head's jaws closed over his own head.

-IV-

Fluffy made a great couch.

The giant canine had a soft, black fur coat and he curled his body up making a warm, soft niche for a young boy to snuggle into. The hell hound seemed to enjoy being read to even if he couldn't really understand the words. A little light conjured above the book was perfectly adequate to read by in the dark room.

The best part was no one else except for Hagrid would ever come in here. Harry needed some alone time and he didn't want to get caught sneaking into the Forbidden Forest to run around.

The sudden sound of music in the room caused the reading to come to a surprised stop. Harry peaked over the now sleeping dog towards the door. A figure stood there with a torch hovering in the air over his shoulder. A magical harp sat on the ground nearby playing a soft lullaby.

"Quickly," a voice hissed. "Move the half-breed's mongrel. Dumbledore could be back soon."

"Yes, master."

Harry recognized the second voice even with its shocking lack of a stutter. What was the defence professor doing here? And where did that other voice come from? He obviously wasn't supposed to be here if they were worried about Dumbledore finding them.

Fluffy suddenly shuddered as he was lifted off the ground and the trap door he was laying on top of was revealed.

Once the dog was back on the floor, Harry carefully stood up and moved further into the shadows along the wall.

"This charm better work," the unknown voice said in a threatening tone.

"It was from an Incan tome, master. Dumbledore's anti-summoning spell on the key should not block it."

Harry knew they were here to steal Nicolas Flamel's Philosopher's Stone. Hagrid had slipped so many times over the year Harry reckoned he knew the whole story by now. Harry really liked Hagrid but the giant groundskeeper had a harder time keeping his mouth in check than Ron Weasley.

Harry took the simple expedient to stop the harp.

He kicked it. Hard.

Harry allowed the change to come and growled out, "Hey, Fluffy, dinner!"

The hell hound quickly woke and spotted the intruder. Harry watched as the lovable dog attacked, quickly tearing the hapless professor to pieces. He had hunted his share of animals but even his stomach started to turn.

"Who did this?" the hissing voice demanded. Harry's transformed eyes spotted the dark cloud rising from Professor Quirrell's remains. "I shall have my revenge! I will find you and destroy you and everyone you ever loved!" Then it screamed and flew out of the room right out the door.

-VI-

Quirrell's remains were not found until early the next morning when Hagrid arrived to feed Fluffy. Hagrid quickly took the remains away from the now disappointed hell hound and called a house-elf to get Professor Dumbledore.

In short order the Headmaster along with his senior staff was looking over the scene in some discomfort.

"What was Quirenus thinking coming in here so late at night?" Minerva asked in a shocked voice.

"You are assuming that he was the one making the decisions," Severus sneered. "I warned you, Headmaster, that there were signs."

Dumbledore was crouched down next to the remains of Quirrell's head. "Yes, yes, Severus, you were quite right." The older wizard moved aside the defence professor's turban. "It appears as through Voldemort managed to possess poor Quirenus."

Minerva went white at the suggestion. "Him? Albus, are you sure?"

Severus looked just as concerned. "Albus, do you think he will try again?"

Dumbledore stood carefully as his knees protested. "Yes, I am quite sure. And, no, I don't think he will try again soon. Voldemort had to gather his power over ten years to make this attempt. I would expect at least another four to five years before he could make an attempt to possess someone even voluntarily again. Which gives us time to allow Mr Potter to remain a child a bit longer but still properly train him."

"Potter?" Snape retorted in disgust. "He shows no real potential. He completely average whatever his adoring public may wish to believe!"

Albus sighed as Minerva launched into defence of her young lion. In truth, Severus had a point on Mr Potter's performance this year. But there was still time and hope. Harry's grandfather was also a rather late bloomer and Henry Potter still grew to be a rather skilled and powerful wizard. Perhaps Harry took after his namesake in this as well.

With a wave of his wand he reassembled the pieces of Quirenus into a whole. It would not withstand a magical investigation but his word should be sufficient to ensure there was no investigation. After all, Hagrid would be most upset if his pet were to be destroyed over performing such a service. Now he would have to retrieve Nicholas's Stone. It would be safe enough from a weakened Tom Riddle now.

-VII-

The school was shocked the next morning when Professor Dumbledore announced the death of Professor Quirrell.

"Professor Quirrell was involved in several magical experiments in the pursuit of knowledge. Thus we are reminded that pushing back the boundaries of ignorance is not without its hazards. Your other professors will take turns covering the class for the remainder of the year. Please see your Head of House if you have any questions."

The Headmaster sat back down and watched as his students started to speculate and gossip. Ah the innocent. So unaware of the dangers that lurked just outside of their sight. It was the responsibility of those called as Light's Champions to protect the rest of the wizarding world so they could live in such blissful ignorance.

His eyes automatically sought out the one he saw as his chosen replacement. Harry Potter had been something of a disappointment. Minerva and Filius had thrown off his initial plan but the boy took to Hagrid well enough anyway. His devoted groundskeeper had practically spoon-fed Harry everything he needed to find Nicholas's Stone but the boy simply didn't seem to care. Where was his Gryffindors sense of adventure? James Potter would have never let something like this go. Maybe the Dursleys had gone too far?

Dumbledore made an unconscious nod. Yes, he would have to check in this summer to ensure they were properly taking care of the boy. He couldn't fathom how any sister of Lily Potter could be anything else but loving but it wouldn't hurt to check.

After all, the Wizarding World needed its new Champion to rise to the challenge, not watch from a place amongst the lesser wizards.

AN: A bit of deviation there from First year. I've had several reviews complaining that the story was sticking too close to canon. For the most part I agree. Unfortunately, this was only planned as a one-shot so I have to stick close enough to canon that the ending of PoA still makes sense to occur. If I continue past Third year, canon will become significantly less a factor.