Harry watched his wand levitate in midair, effortlessly floating while he laid in bed, waiting for the sun to rise. He found it easy to do so after a few days of practice. Inspired by Flamel's class a few weeks prior, Harry started levitating his wand, trying to see if he could replicate his wandless magic from last year. At first, he struggled, barely able to float it an inch off his hand. As he practised more, the task became simple. In the moment, he had thought levitating the chair repeatedly had been a useless exercise but like any task, repetition often brought about perfection.
He had barely a few hours of sleep and by the sounds of the snores in the dormitory, he was still the first one awake. After the announcement of the champions, they were all brought into a back room where the rules were collectively explained to them. The tournament was to consist of three tasks and each task would be graded based upon the collective performance of each school. The winner at the end would receive the spoils and while all of the tasks had been approved by the Ministry, there was still an inherent danger about them. Since there were so many competitors for this special event, the Ministry did change one rule.
Anyone that wished to exit the tournament could do so without individual penalty.
Harry lowered his floating wand, concentrating on the act of levitation as he made it sway from side to side. He had some level of control over the wand besides forcing it to ascend and descend. He had not yet tried the spell on a larger object, but he intended to test his limits. If he could improve every day, that would give him a palpable advantage over almost all of the students at Hogwarts. He doubted they could perform the same level of wandless magic, or any at all, if he kept practicing.
After the rules were discussed and magical contracts were signed, they were shooed away to return to their dormitories. Ludo Bagman, the Chair of Magical Games, mentioned something about a media day, but there were so many people crammed into the room that Harry didn't catch the rest of Bagman's statement. He didn't even have the chance to talk to Hermione as she, too, was sent away without another word.
Even simple wandless magic such as levitation took a toll after a certain amount of time. Harry didn't want to exhaust himself even though Battle class wasn't on the schedule for the day. Finally letting the wand drop into his open palm, Harry heard the first signs of life from his dorm mates. From his bed, which was still close to the door and isolated from the others, Harry opened one of the curtains as he saw Draco rise and take a sip from the jug at his bedside.
"Malfoy. Wake up Blaise," Harry said.
Draco looked over his shoulder, his disheveled blond hair swinging about as he tried to locate the source of the voice. When he saw it was just Harry, he nodded and knocked his knuckles against the bedpost of Blaise's four poster bed. Harry could hear Blaise mumble and complain and allowed himself a smile. Though he and Blaise were not as close as they were before, it was hard to not to be amused by Blaise's lackadaisical approach. If only it didn't seep into every facet of his life.
Already fully clothed, Harry swung his legs out of bed and swayed momentarily as he stood up. Reminding himself not to push the wandless magic too far so early in the morning, he waved a tired Draco and Blaise closer towards the door. The others would likely wake up soon and while they would likely hear their new orders eventually, Harry wanted to take this amount to just inform Draco and Blaise of his future plans.
"I want you two to start taking over most of the in-game strategic choices. Split up everyone up into pairs this time and try to keep them balanced. I don't want Goyle and Millicent together. Draco, I want you to be the roamer. Float in between the groups however you see fit. Remember that just because they're broken into four teams this time doesn't mean that you can't combine them together. Just keep yourselves tactically flexible," Harry instructed.
"Won't you still be in the Board room?" Blaise asked.
"I will be, but I have a feeling that the tournament is likely to keep me busy. I'll still be operating Commander, but I don't want to make too many mistakes. If all of the reliance continues to be on me, there is likely to be a mistake from fatigue or exhaustion. I am still human."
Blaise raised his eyebrows and looked away but said nothing else. Harry bit his tongue, choosing not to reprimand him.
"I'll tell the others to take your instruction from now on. You've both performed very well and I think they will respect each of you and have no problem to listening to either of you. Can you two both do that?"
Harry had initially wanted to groom just one person to start designing plans and strategies but decided against it. He still wanted the chain of command to go through him and if he appointed a lone successor then there was a possibility the Slytherins would start listening to another commander beside himself. Despite his need to cover the gaps likely to be exposed as he focused on other things, Harry still thought he was the best at what he did and didn't want to ruin all of his good work.
"Who has the final directive to give orders?" Draco asked. He spared a sidelong glance at Blaise, trying to gauge the other boy's reaction. "I don't mean any disrespect to Blaise, but if we have to make a split second decision in the field and we have differing opinions, it won't make things easy for the rest of the group."
"Run it through me. I'll still be listening in even if I miss something," Harry carefully said, not wanting to incur any intra-House fighting already.
"And if you're not there?" Blaise asked, equally game to asking the difficult question.
"If that's the case, defer to Draco. He'll be running point as the roamer and will probably have a better vantage point but work together," Harry emphasized. "The point of this is to make sure we don't overexpose ourselves and to correct any mistakes should I miss something. Is that understood?"
Harry could feel the burning glare of Blaise and raised his eyes to match his friend's. Blaise said nothing, but he didn't need to. It was a slight to put Draco ahead of him as Blaise was the one chosen for Leadership classes. In combination to what Harry had already put him through, it was easy for Blaise to hold some resentment towards Harry. Nonetheless, Harry had reviewed the tapes thoroughly and decided that Draco was not only the superior duelist, but he was the better strategist as well. Draco was one of the first who recognized the importance of Lostrego and the intimidation it could cause. While Harry understood that Blaise should have been the one to be second in command, the realities of the Battle room compelled Harry to pick Draco as the de jure second.
"Yes, Commander," Draco said.
"Yeah, Com," Blaise said, purposefully using the nickname as a slight sign of disrespect. Harry had half a mind to say something but bit his tongue again, letting Blaise go off and lick his wounds in peace.
Who would have thought last year that Draco would be my second in charge and that Blaise would hate me? Friends and enemies, indeed.
Sitting alone at breakfast, Harry kept one eye on Draco and Blaise as they disseminated his orders for the others to hear. It was hard to tell their reactions from afar, but judging by how many heads were nodding, they seemed to understand. Nonetheless, Tracey tore away from them and plopped down across from him.
"Yes, Tracey?" Harry asked in between bites of his scrambled eggs.
"Blaise told me that we're deferring to Draco if you aren't able to give me a response," Tracey said bluntly.
She fixed him with a glare, her blue eyes chilly. "Why are you doing this to him? He missed one practice. Haven't you embarrassed Blaise enough?"
"I'm not trying to embarrass him. Malfoy, whether I like it or not, has been the most consistent performer on the ground. He has shown the most strategic acumen and performed well beyond expectations. Even if he still is a smarmy prick, I'm not going to give second command to Blaise just because he's my friend," Harry patiently explained.
"Sure, I could believe that, but Blaise is also the one chosen for the Leadership track. Do you know how undermining it is that you don't choose him to be the one to defer to?"
"I put them both in charge of covering the gaps! It's supposed to be equal positions, but they put me on the spot and that's my answer, or do you deny that Malfoy has been better than Blaise this year?"
"It's not about that," Tracey said, trying to dismiss the obvious truth. "Aren't you at all worried about losing your friend?"
Harry shrivelled up emotionally, resenting that Tracey thought he was doing this just to spite Blaise. Couldn't she see that this was a purely tactical decision? He had a strong desire to vent on how naive she was, but he held his tongue in public. Harry didn't want the others to see Tracey publicly having a row with him. He leaned closer, making sure she heard him.
"My decision is final."
Tracey leaned away from him, her normally beautiful face contorted in a disgusted expression. She hid it away quickly, also realizing that breaking Slytherin solidarity wouldn't be beneficial to any of them, but Harry knew her well enough to know that she was far more than upset with him. She stood up and slid his timetable towards him.
"Your altered schedule, Commander," she snarled.
Harry kept his eyes on her, trying to quell the anger that she incurred. Glancing down at his timetables out of habit, he was surprised to find that all of the classes were cleared. Instead, a single line of instruction was inscribed at the top.
Report to the Third Floor.
As soon as he saw Hermione also on the third floor, Harry realized that his free schedule must have had something to do with the tournament. When Cedric, Stephen Stebbins, and Heather Locklear appeared at the same time, his suspicions were confirmed. Slowly, the rest of the champions filed in, including the ones from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.
Harry saw Fleur surrounded by a cluster of girls and made eye contact. He gave her a slight smile and a wave and she responded in kind except she did it in such a way that attracted the attention of almost all of the males in her vicinity.
"New friend?" Hermione asked, staring at Fleur, though not in the way most of her male peers were doing so.
"We met briefly. Introduced ourselves."
"She's going to be trouble."
"I've heard she's very competent," she answered, looking Harry in the eye.
"That's what I've heard too." Harry could barely contain the slightest hint of the smirk that crept onto his face. Hermione gave one of her infamous eye rolls and turned away from the beautiful, French girl.
The booming voice could only belong to Ludo Bagman and Harry was pleased to see that Snape had a sour expression on his face as he walked alongside the loud and brash man. They couldn't be any more different. Snape, sour and taciturn, walking next to Bagman, exuberant and excited, provided one of the funnier sights in Hogwarts.
"As I said last night, we're going to get ahead of the game and have our media day today, so if you could just follow me. Go on! Go on! Let's move!" Ludo clapped his hands together, physically ushering the thirty-nine contestants towards a spare room. Inside, Harry was surprised to find numerous set up stations armed with what looked to be make up artists.
"What is this?" Hermione asked, slowly turning on the spot to take in her surroundings.
"Well, first we have to do pictures. Individual pictures. Group pictures. Maybe a few action shots if we have the time. You're going to be all over the Daily Prophet, folks! We want you to look good for the camera," Bagman explained.
"No one told us about this," Hermione said and Harry had more than a feeling that she was not happy about this reveal.
"Our schedule is going to be very busy this year, Miss….Granger?" Bagman tentatively asked.
"Well, it's going to be busy," Bagman repeated. "So split up into your groups because we have a score of interviews to do later as well."
"Interviews?" Cedric spoke up this time.
"You know, I seem to remember Hogwarts being a lot smarter than this. We do NOT have time to waste. Let's go!" Harry could see why Bagman was the chair of his position. If nothing else, having a loud voice certainly caught the attention of the room even if he had nothing substantial to say.
They were separated into different sides of the room according to school and each of them were sat down in a chair facing a mirror. A woman with bright, purple hair approached Harry's left and immediately ran a hand through his lengthy locks. He flinched away from her, looking up at the witch in alarm.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"What are you doing?" she repeated. "The Boy Who Lived can't take care of his own hair. This will have to go."
"You mean to cut my hair?"
"I mean to do a lot of things with...this." She gestured all around his face.
"I agree," said the mirror.
"I don't really want my hair cut," Harry argued.
She stepped back, looking at his reflection on the mirror. Mumbling something indistinguishable to herself, she began to nod as if she agreed to some unasked question.
"It could work in a teenage angst sort of way."
Harry was about to interject and ask exactly what she meant by angst, but his thoughts were interrupted by a rather loud yelp from Hermione.
"No!" she said firmly. "A little bit of blush. The barest hint of eyeliner. Nothing. Else. Definitely not that garish color you want me to put on my lips."
Cedric laughed loudly at her protestations, drawing a glare from the Fourth Year Gryffindor. Sensing that these people were fully ready to make alterations to his appearance, Harry turned to the girl with the purple and asked, "What's your name?"
"Chantel." She smiled and Harry saw that little images were drawn or pasted on her teeth.
"Okay, Chantel. You're not cutting my hair and you're not doing anything else to my face."
"But your scar.." She pouted and brushed his hair aside so that the lightning bolt etched on his forehead was more visible. Harry batted her hand away and swept his hair back so it covered most of his forehead again. It wasn't intentional on his part to grow his hair out so it covered the scar, but once it did so, Harry was fond of keeping it that way.
"I'm done," Harry said.
"Are you sure about that? Your face is about to be plastered all over the Daily Prophet and you want to look like...that?" Chantel scrunched her face and the mirror verbally agreed with her again.
"I'm sure I'll still make the front page."
That brought another laugh from Cedric and Harry turned in his seat to see that he was actually letting the woman apply some sort of spells to his face that brightened his cheeks and removed the zits from his face. When Harry gave him an incredulous look, Cedric just shrugged and grinned without turning his head.
"I figured I might as well play along," he said.
By the looks of it, most others were playing along as well. While some of the guys were a little more hesitant in changing their appearances, the girls, bar Hermione, happily let the makeup artists do their work. Harry ran a hand through his hair and glanced over at the Durmstrang students and was pleased to see that most were declining any efforts to color their faces. Krum, in particular, scowled in his seat. No one came within a five foot berth of him and Harry had to admire that sort of fearful aura.
After the primping was finished, the rest of the decor was levitated out of the room and replaced with a variety of couches and love seats. Chantel then spent some time organizing in what was deemed to be a dramatic fashion. She grabbed Harry by the arm and seated him on the armchairs of one of the longer couches in a group picture of the Hogwarts champions. Harry denied her the pleasure of moving his arms and legs into an exact pose. Chantel wanted him to to lean forward and hold his chin, but Harry opted for standing with his arms crossed instead. Hermione glared daggers as soon as Chantel neared the Gryffindor girl. Subsequently, no one dictated her pose either.
It was whirlwind of flash photography and numerous subsets of groups for the pictures. There was an all boys picture, an all girls picture, and solo pictures as well. Harry had the same pose fo all of them: crossing his arms and not quite scowling at the camera. It must have taken over an hour to finally finish all of them and, frankly, Harry found it more exhausting than some Battle classes.
Before Harry even had a chance to sit down, he was whisked away to a separate room and sat across an older, plump woman. She had an unnaturally round head, almost resembling a donut. Her dark hair was sticking up in odd directions and her clothes were tinged in a deep red. A smile revealed crooked and stained teeth as a parchment and quill raced across the table and settled in between them.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat this for you. I have waited a very long time to finally meet you in person. How is that the most celebrated person in the wizarding world has somehow found a way to completely avoid the press? Of course, that's a rhetorical question since none of us are ever allowed into this wonderful fortress. For all of the things that have changed in the past two decades, I must say that they still have the same outdated decor in these hallways. I would have thought that the headmaster would go with something more intimidating. A lot more black. What am I saying? I'm rambling now. A little bit about me. I graduated here with the class of '69 and I know what you're thinking. Stop thinking that."
"I was a Gryffindor and in our times, the rivalry between your House and mines was not nearly as intense. After all, we were in a happier time between Dark Lords, and we didn't feel the need to constantly antagonize each other. I graduated with rather low scores in my OWL's and NEWT's. Suffice to say I wasn't accepted in any of those prestigious Ministry jobs. Yet, I have found that there is a place for everyone in this world. I had no particular skills. My only saving grace was an unnatural ability to dedicate myself to a temporary obsession. Still, even that can be cultivated. Journalism requires that sort of madness. What other profession is dedicated to finding out everything - and I mean everything Mr. Potter - about someone else? To crawl into every crevice and open every door and dig every hole just to find some innocuous piece of information that you can only hope your readers latch onto."
"So imagine my surprise when I could find next to nothing about you. Oh, I sifted through the Potter records and found lots on your parents. I can detail your lineage back to some rather wicked wizards, but that's hardly your fault. I can even pinpoint the exact location and time when you got that infamous scar on your forehead. Yet, there is nothing from that point onwards besides the occasional sighting outside King's Cross before the school year starts. You are an enigma wrapped in a mystery thrown out of a window and drowned in a river that has whisked you away into a bottomless pit somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic."
She finally stopped speaking, the train of words echoing in the nearly empty room and overlapping until it seemed like the woman was speaking forever. The smile had vanished from her face, replaced by an expression that was a cross between curiosity and anger. Never had Harry heard someone that could speak so long and say so much with barely a breath. If she had taken one, it was well masked.
"But here you are; an almost normal boy except for one telling feature. My name is Aristophanes. Are you ready for the world to know you, Harry?"
That was the only word Harry could use to describe his emotions as the day drew to an end. Poked, prodded, and interrogated, he wished that he would have gone through two Battle classes instead of the neverending line of people that marked press day for the champions. Aristophanes had been the worst of them all and Harry already regretted anything that he was tricked into saying. Her questions came fast and her counterpoints even faster. She promised to be fair in her write-up, but if Harry had learned anything at all at Hogwarts, very few people were fair.
Judging by the deep scowl on Hermione's face, her day had not been any better. Even though she had protested any excessive makeup, the little she did have one brought out her better features. Her eyes were more expressive, the emotion visible as her eyes darted around, constantly absorbing information. Her hair was straightened and swept into a tight bun, framing her face better instead of the usual untamable jungle. Harry swept aside any pretense and approached her in the middle of the hallway, figuring that anyone who saw their interaction would assume they were just talking about champion business.
Before he could talk to her, however, Snape called out his name. It was rare for the headmaster to speak to him in the halls where everyone was within earshot, so it must have been important. Harry was instantly alert, his Occlumency shields rising as he prepared his mind for any intrusions. He looked Snape in the eye, confident that a competent enough Occlumens to at least detect an attack.
"There has been an alteration in your schedule, Mr. Potter. Please check it when you have a moment."
Snape left without another word, his billowing robes floating an inch off the ground as he descended the staircase. Harry still had the constantly updating schedule in his pocket and pulled it out. In the rare after dinner timeslot where detention was usually scheduled, Harry saw that he would have to meet with Trow. There was no other descriptor besides the professor's classroom which was an oddity. Harry inaudibly signaled to Hermione that there was indeed a change in his schedule by pointing at the paper. He would have to rush down a few flights in order to make it on time.
Collecting himself before he entered the classroom, Harry found that Trow was not the only one within. Professor Lupin was seated in one of the student chairs as he conversed with the older professor. Trow looked up to see Harry enter the room and beckoned him forward with a kind smile. The Strategy teacher looked considerably better, even gaining a little color in his cheeks. Lupin, fresh off a full moon, contrasted the healthy upturn of Trow.
"Good to see you, Harry. I was worried you wouldn't be able to tear away from the excited rabble up there," Trow said.
"I managed to escape in the end. Snape, I mean, the headmaster told me to show up here. Have I done something?" Harry asked.
Trow smiled as if Harry said a joke. "Why, of course not. We probably should have told you earlier, but I figured that today would be enough of a shock. You have been assigned additional classes as per your curriculum in the Theory track."
Harry did not remember any additional classes when he covered the objectives of the Theory track. Even if there were additional classes, wouldn't it be with Flamel and not Trow? Neither of that even explained why Lupin was there.
"Are the other Theory students in different classes then?"
This time, Lupin laughed and Harry wondered if he was secretly a comedian that didn't understand his own stand-up. The werewolf stood from his seat and looked at Trow. The Strategy professor nodded back at him and again gestured for Harry to take a seat.
"I suggest you sit, Harry. There's a lot we have to cover and if you have any questions at the end, we will gladly answer them."
There was something amiss about this situation and the years of simulated battles caused Harry's analytical side to kick in. There was absolutely no reason for Professor Lupin to be here. He was the Creatures teacher and had never offered any lessons in strategy or theory besides the advice Harry sought after hours. The fact that Trow twice requested for Harry to take a seat was also a strange demand.
Harry wanted to see where this was taking him, so he seated himself in the front row and patiently awaited what Trow and Lupin had to say. The Creatures professor waved his wand and brought down the projector screen. Walking over to the projector, he turned it on and flicked the switch to display an image on the screen.
It was an image of a young man a few years older than Harry. He was handsome, with a strong jawline and high cheek bones. Yet, there was something in his eyes. Even in a still picture, there was a sense of movement behind them. It wasn't quite sinister. Unsettling would be a better word to describe the emotion invoked within Harry when he looked at this stranger's eyes. The stranger's smile also seemed to mock him.
Trow spoke up after a moment. "I sometimes wish that we had kept teaching History of Magic. Of course, Professor Binns would have been replaced, but it is important to know the past in order to inform yourself for the future. After all, that is how we learn which strategies should be used and which should be reconsidered. Unfortunately, there is an immediacy that was required and that course had to be abandoned for the mean time."
Trow wasn't speaking to Harry but to the image on the screen. He was standing in front of it, almost as if he were lecturing the stranger instead of Harry. Harry looked at Lupin and saw that the Creatures teacher had a stormy expression on his face.
"Who is he?" Harry asked.
"He was a Hogwarts student quite some time ago. Bright, ambitious, and full of ingenuity. He was a Slytherin, like you, that many admired for not embracing the more obvious Dark Arts. Though he was gifted at many subjects, he was quite adept at Potions, creating concoctions that interested not only his professors but the Ministry as well. Prefect and eventually Head Boy, he was probably the most gifted student that Hogwarts had seen for some time."
Trow nodded his head at Lupin and the werewolf flicked his wand at the projector to display the next image. Harry noted that Trow curiously did not use his own wand. Another image popped up this time. There was the faintest amount of recognition as Harry looked upon the next face on the screen. It was another young man a few year older than Harry. This man had a long nose and sunken cheeks, thin eyebrows and thin lips with wild, blond hair. He looked every bit as charming as the previous person.
"This student was from Durmstrang and I doubt Headmaster Karakoff would appreciate me showing this to you. Nonetheless, he is quite an infamous character in our history. He was also very intelligent but very overt with his...non-traditionalist views. Nonetheless, he was a passionate and very ambitious man. Even at a young age, you could sense that the world was his to take."
Pausing, Trow stroked each of his cheeks as he gazed at the Durmstrang student on the screen. Harry continued to stare at the image, wondering where he knew that face from. Professor Trow was right in that very little history was taught, but there were still piles of books in the library as well as various outside resources. It was on the tip of his tongue. All he needed was one clue.
"This is Gellert Grindelwald. This picture was taken before he was expelled from the Durmstrang Institute. I wanted to show you this so you could understand that very few people look like a Dark Lord when they are younger. While many knew of Grindelwald's dark tendencies, only a handful of people even dared to predict what he would go on to do. Even now, people are afraid to speak of what he did and it is often glossed over in the history text. The press distorted it as sometimes it is better to not reveal the whole truth as the whole truth is too disturbing for most people to understand."
Harry remembered getting the Grindelwald card from a Chocolate Frog. He had never read up more on him besides the description on the card. The Grindelwald on the Chocolate Frog card was ominous and sinister, and while Harry could see how the young Grindelwald would eventually become the feared dark wizard, it wasn't a foregone conclusion just from the picture.
"What did Grindelwald do?" Harry asked.
Trow stroked his chin and Harry still had the distinct feeling that the professor was talking to the picture rather than Harry.
"Grindelwald had an obsession with old, magical artefacts. In particular, he had a deep fascination with the fabled Deathly Hallows. He believed that if he obtained these objects, he could have better control over those who resisted his pull. Grindelwald was always about control. He experimented frequently with the Imperious Curse, pushing the boundaries of how far he could push people. It was...a shock to him when he realized the Deathly Hallows were just a fable. It drove him to madness and no could ever really pull him out after that."
"He imagined himself a puppeteer. Some say he even fashioned a spell that could control multiple people. Of course, like all those who crave control, anyone that went against him had their strings…"
Trow made a slicing motion with his hand and the image disappeared as the torches illuminated the room. Harry had to blink to readjust to the different brightness as the projector shut off and Trow finally walked away from the screen.
"But Dumbledore defeated him, right? That's what I read on the card," Harry said.
Trow nodded but avoided Harry's curious gaze. Instead, it was Lupin who answered verbally.
"Yes, he did," Lupin said. "But not before he killed several prominent officials in the Buglarian Ministry of Magic and countless others. His influences ran deep, tainting a generation of Durmstrang students and a score of other wizards that adapted his desire for control. He was a growing power and left unchecked, who knows what might have come from his base in Nurmengard. Of course, the most fascinating thing about Grindelwald was that he believed what he was doing was right. All he wanted to do was shape the world in the image he thought fit best. He very much believed that the means fully justified the ends."
"Didn't anyone try to stop him?" Harry asked.
It was very rare that Trow injected any emotion into the things he said. Trow often pushed Harry to displace himself from the situation and view it as objectively as possible. It was a surprise that there was an inflection of bitterness and disgust in Trow's one-word response.
"They had to rely on a Transfiguration professor from Hogwarts to defeat Grindewald," Trow said.
Harry interjected, "Wasn't Dumbledore the most powerful wizard at the time?"
"He might have been, but he was still only one man. Should the governments of Europe rely on one man when it comes to defeating dark wizards? Should they wait until then?" Trow asked and this time, Harry knew the professor was asking him the question.
"I guess they should have tried to stop him if they could."
"And what if they couldn't?"
"Why wouldn't they be able to? Didn't Bulgaria have the equivalent of Aurors?"
"Aurors that were better trained at cleaning up Muggle-Wizard incidents than battling Dark Lords. Your perception of an average Auror is skewed by the several graduates of Hogwarts in recent years. In Grindelwald's time, Aurors were no better trained than your average wizard when it came to battling Dark Lords. They just had the authority that allowed others to defer to them," Lupin added.
"So you're saying that there's nothing anyone could have done to stop Grindelwald?!"
"If it weren't for Dumbledore, there was every chance that Grindelwald would have pushed his way into England," Lupin softly said.
What are they trying to tell me?
They wouldn't both go through all this trouble just to give him a history lesson. There were parallels to be drawn, not the least of which that they described Grindelwald and the unknown student as young and powerful. Given the speeches that Lupin had given him, Harry assumed that they saw the same prowess within himself. The question was: Did they also believe he could become a dark wizard?
"Pardon if I'm going off-track, but what does this have to do with Theory?" Harry wondered.
Trow smiled at him, finally shaking off the moodiness that had overtaken him. "I'm afraid we weren't too forthcoming with you from the start. Before you ask more questions, please hear us out until the end. Is that okay with you, Harry?"
Harry nodded, still trying to understand the objective of this lesson.
"The seeds of the project started after Grindelwald," Trow began again, "Was there a way to prevent what Grindelwald did? Was there a way to stop Grindelwald before he got to the height of his power? How could it be done? Of course, these questions have been asked for centuries. There had to be a balance. A light against the darkness. Often, we would watch and then turn a blind eye to what we wished to ignore."
"No more," Lupin growled.
"No more ignorance. No more blindness. We can not pretend that the monsters only hide in the dark," Trow finished.
Harry finally realized what they were trying to tell him.
Lupin nodded. "You have to have people capable enough to take on dark wizards."
The Creatures professor flicked his wand and the torches dimmed again. The projector whirred to live as the screen came down and another image was splashed onto it. It was the first picture. The young man with the unsettling eyes.
"And who's he?" Harry asked.
Trow and Lupin stared at the picture as if they were mesmerized by the image. They must have both known him judging by the emotions flitting across their face. Lupin was all animalistic anger. His jaw was clenched, his eyes narrow, and his lips pressed tight. Trow was more somber, a visage of contemplation. It was he who finally spoke.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle."
"Am I supposed to know who he is?" Harry said.
"In the months to come, you will learn every facet of his life."
Lupin waved his wand and the image changed one last time. This picture was unlike the others. It was not a young man, but an old creature that was deformed beyond recognition. His eyes were narrow slits, the irises somehow narrowed so the whites of his eyes were visible from a mile away. His hair was gone, his head smooth and scaly. Where his nose would be were two slits. Yet, there was a still a slight smile on his thin lips. If ever a smile could be cruel and mocking, it belonged to this man.
The image flicked back towards the young man then towards the old creature. Lupin kept oscillating between the two even after Harry had figured out who it was. As soon as Harry saw the old man on the screen, there was an internal trigger. He might have only seen his face as a toddler, a brief glance into the abyss, but there was no mistaking who was on the screen. The two images became a blur until Harry could barely distinguish one from the other. It was his past, his present, and if the professors were right, Harry's future.
A/N: Projected update time: 35 days