Well, new chapter (yay!) and I'm very glad that everyone was pleased to see, not only me return to fanfiction, but the content of the previous chapter! PLEASE KEEP UP THE REVIEWS! I've actually hit a huge amount of speed bumps in my musing on all my stories, not a grinding to a halt type, but dramatic slowing down from previously. your continued reviews are probably the best medicine for this, as there's only so much I can find atm to spark my past this spot that I'm stuck in currently! Best wishes, and enjoy!

Chapter Eleven

Growing Pains

Lord Anguis was losing all patience for his family over the summer holiday. Having been awakened to the true order of things by his master the previous year, to be confined and cut off from the outside world for the summer was maddening. The attempted past times of broomstick riding and homework only did so much, before the gnawing urge to be doing something of worth returned.

It was a problem that could have been easily solved with some lightsaber practice or Force training, if not for his parents' constant need to have him watched, either in person or by one of their house elves. Not that it stopped Anguis from getting in what training he could without supervision.

One of these moments came in the brief hours before Lucius and Narcissa were going to take him to Diagon to collect his school supplies for the next year. Sitting on the floor of his room, Anguis stretched out his senses beyond his physical form. Soon he could see not only outside his room, but throughout the entirety of the manor and most of the grounds surrounding it. He could feel every apparation of the house elves as they attended to their duty, his mother in his parents' bedroom, and Lucius in the drawing room with… Lord Veneficus?

Anguis started from his meditation. How could that be? Veneficus couldn't have been in the manor without Anguis' knowledge, could he? Anguis reached out again, specifically targeting the drawing room. There was another presence there with his father, strongly similar to and dark as his master, but definitely not the same.

Throwing all pretenses to the wind, Anguis left his room, entering the drawing room just as his father closed the secret trapdoor to the vault beneath it. The Sith Acolyte sensed the foreign presence strong emanating from the small black book that his father carried, and masked his intention with childish curiosity.

"What is it, father?" he asked, cocking his head to the side to appear as innocent as possible.

"Nothing Draco," Lucius replied, stowing the book immediately in his robes and starting to depart past Anguis. Inwardly, the young force user was not surprised at his father's indifference and secrecy, it was expected. But this time, Anguis had the power of the force on his side.

"But father," he started, drawing on the subtle energies around them to nudge the older man into a sense of security, "If I am to take over family business when you're gone, shouldn't I be more privy to the happenings to the Malfoy artifacts…"

"Now Draco," Lucius said, the coldness in his voice diminished but his resolve unaffected, "This matter is beyond your concern. But I will tell you that I am preserving the name of our family for when the Ministry decides to stick their noses where they don't belong, now run along and prepare to go to Diagon Alley."

Those words alone told Anguis much, despite his attempt overall failing to retrieve the knowledge he desired from the head of the Malfoy family. He had learned however, that the little book was a dark artifact, of a magnitude that would destroy their standing with the ministry if discovered, and it was likely that Lucius was planning to pawn it off in Knockturn Alley during the course of their trip.

What the young darksider had intently noticed was that the supposed love that his father portrayed at him, and had for his entire life, was not so much a personal father to son love or relationship, but a perseverance of line and family honour, and as cold and lifeless as the artifacts that the old man so jealously guarded.

For once in his life, Anguis found him more than happy to be leaving home for an extended period of time with the return to Hogwarts.

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Veneficus had pushed his very limits in all aspects of his training as a self punishment for the rest of the summer. He kept up with this up to his scheduled meeting with Anguis in Diagon Alley to make final preparations for the return to Hogwarts. The Sith Lord was not completely looking forward to the return to the adolescent infested school, but was not foolish enough to believe that the boon of power granted him via his magical ability was not worth the sacrifice of his time.

Another reason for accepting the return to the magical world was that it was becoming less private for Veneficus in the Sith Manor in Great Hangleton, as Darth Millennial had brought two more human underlings to be on Earth with them, Zhar Quelmok and his own Acolyte Septin Aranis, the same young man Veneficus had spoken with on Dromund Kaas.

Entering the Magical marketplace, Veneficus swept the immediate area with the Force, searching for his acolyte, while simultaneously shrouding himself from detection with the Dark Side. If his previous venture into Diagon had lead Veneficus to believe anything, it was that the people of the wizarding world were dead set on heralding him as some sort of celebrity, and would flock at him wherever he went in the densely packed market.

The Malfoy family was simple to locate, as the Force presence of their son was very distinct over the rest of the mob of locals. They were just entering the goblin owned bank, Gringotts. By the time Veneficus weaved through the crowds and entered the building himself, the Malfoy's were no longer in the atrium of the bank, presumable retrieving things from their vault. In the meantime, Veneficus went to a private office, bypassing the public tellers, as a Sith Lord was above such petty service.

Upon entering, the goblin worker looked up at him with a scowl. "May I help you boy?" he asked with a sneer.

"I wish to make a withdrawal from my vault," Veneficus said, returning the goblin's sneer and revealing the tarnished silver key of the Gryffindor vault. The goblin eyed the key with a muted expression, before bowing begrudgingly and conforming to Veneficus' wishes.

Soon enough, a goblin courier arrived, carrying a pouch filled with gold for the Sith Lord, and he departed. The goblins looked none the happier to see the back of him, and Veneficus felt very much the same. There was simply something off and eerily familiar about the small green creatures, and it didn't sit well with the young Sith.

The Malfoy's had still yet to return, so Veneficus started his needed shopping to pass the time. He began with getting his clothing at Twilfitt and Tattings, purchasing several more of his altered Hogwarts robes, as well as a specialized dark cloak with extra room and deep sleeves for stowing away a plethora of weapons. This one he wore out, having the others mailed to the Manor for later.

Leaving the tailors with his order, Veneficus at last spotted his Acolyte and the boy's parents emerging from the bank, and went to greet them. Anguis, naturally, sensed his presence first as the Sith slid into the wake through the crowd made by Lucius Malfoy. The boy offered a grateful smile and bow of the head in respect, neither of which his master returned.

"Now Draco, ah…" Narcissa Malfoy started, turning to her son and abruptly breaking off when she saw Veneficus, "Harry Potter…"

This caught Lucius' attention quickly. Turning to look at Veneficus with his cold grey eyes, he cocked an eyebrow, "Mr. Potter… how nice to run into you agian…" smirking, Lucius extended his hand, which Veneficus took, "Draco had told us you desired to join us today."

"Indeed Lord Malfoy," Veneficus replied, hiding his disgust of any man usurping the title 'Lord' from its true owners, "I simply hoped for intelligent company while I go about my Hogwarts purchases, and Draco is my best friend after all…"

Narcissa Malfoy brought a small package out of her robes and handed it to Veneficus, "Draco told us that your birthday was the end of July," she said smiling warmly. Inwardly Veneficus frowned, but took the neatly wrapped package and opened it.

Inside was a wand holster, runes etched into the leather to protect it from removal by force or without the wearers consent. Veneficus smiled, "Thank you, it's a wonderful and useful gift."

Flattery, it seemed, was very potent with Lucius Malfoy, as he smirked in a smug sort of way. "Well," he said coolly, "we mustn't keep you two from enjoying yourselves. Be at Flurish and Blotts at half past noon and we'll go to lunch."

Narcissa kissed her son on the cheek, "be good," Veneficus heard her whisper, and the elder Malfoys walked away, toward the far side of the alley.

Eyeing his 'birthday present' again, Veneficus frowned. The entire concept of giving things to a child because it was the day of their birth seemed demeaning and childish to the Sith Lord. It went completely against Sith philosophy to give away strength to those who, in this case as far as the Malfoys knew, who were not worthy.

Anguis chattered animatedly throughout their time in Diagon, and Veneficus only partially listened to his would-be apprentice. The Lord of the Sith was more concerned with monitoring the immediate area around them with the Force, and only snapped back to reality when Anguis stopped in front of the bookshop at the appointed time.

They were by no means the only ones making their way to the bookshop. As they approached it, they saw a large crowd jostling outside the doors, trying to get in. The reason for this was proclaimed by a large banner stretched across the upper windows:


will be signing copies of his autobiography


today 12:30 P.m. to 4:30 P.m.'

Veneficus recognized the name from the expensive booklist that was expected for that year at Hogwarts. The man had written over half of them, and Veneficus sensed the deceit from outside the shop.

Anguis sighed, "Well, father wanted to meet us… inside…"

Gritting his teeth in annoyance, Veneficus led the way into the crowd, slipping between the gaps of witches who were excited pushing their way deeper into the bookstore.

Anguis recovered the tomes that they needed, and he and Veneficus mounted the stairs to the second floor to observe the idiocy from a safe distance. Lockhart was wearing robes of forget-me-not blue that exactly matched his eyes; his pointed wizard's hat was set at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair. He looked every part the fool that Veneficus figured he was.

A short, irritable-looking man was dancing around taking photographs with a large black camera that emitted puffs of purple smoke with every blinding flash.

The two Force users saw Anguis' parents when they entered, and sensed the brewing conflict when Lucius started speaking to a knot of red haired wizards. Veneficus noticed Ronald Weasley in their midst, and guessed that the others were his family. Using the Force to amplify his hearing, Veneficus eavesdropped on the wizards' conversation.

"Well, well, well… Arthur Weasley." Lucius said, cold contempt evident in his voice.

"Lucius," Weasley senior responded, just as icily.

"Busy time in the Ministry, I hear," Lucius continued, as though Weasley hadn't spoken. "All those raids… I hope they're paying you overtime?"

The Malfoy patriarch reached into a young red headed girl's cauldron and extracted a very old battered book before continuing his taunts.

"Obviously not," Lucius said, "Dear me, what's the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don't even pay you well for it?"

The barbs found their mark, and Mr. Weasley started to become angered. "We have a very different idea of what disgraces the name of wizard, Malfoy," he responded.

"Clearly," said Lucius, his pale eyes straying to another pair of adults, that Veneficus sensed here not magical at all, who were watching apprehensively.

"The company you keep, Weasley... and I thought your family could sink no lower…" Lucius finished with a smirk.

The ensuing scuffle was rather predictable to Veneficus. The cauldron in the girl's hands went flying; Mr. Weasley had thrown himself at Lucius, knocking him backward into a bookshelf. Dozens of heavy spellbooks came thundering down on all their heads; there was a yell of, "Get him, Dad!" from one of the older red headed children; Mr. Weasley's wife was shrieking, "No, Arthur, no!"; the crowd stampeded backward, knocking more shelves over; "Gentlemen, please… please!" cried a shop assistant, and then, louder than all "Break it up, there, gents, break it up…"

The giant man, Hagrid, waded into the shop, pulling the fighting adults apart, and Veneficus ended listening, annoyed at Lucius Malfoy's ineptitude. What point was there to goading a random family, even if enemies. He looked back at the group out of the shop windows, and that's when he saw it. Lucius was thrusting a book back to the red headed girl, and concealed under it was a second book, much smaller than the one over it.

"What is your father up to…" Veneficus said, addressing Anguis, who had also seen the little sleight of hand from his father.

"Ah, that's what he wanted to do to get rid of the dark book…" Anguis responded, before filling in Veneficus on seeing his father removing it from a secretive vault in his home, and its strange aura of power that felt similar to Veneficus' own magical signature.

Veneficus felt the aura himself, and was just as intrigued as his acolyte. However, as it was currently on the young girl, and probably a darker artifact, Veneficus chose to wait until they were at Hogwarts before attempting to retrieve it for himself, and hopefully view what it did to the girl before taking it from her.

"Come Anguis," Veneficus said, descending the stairs once the crowd settled down, a cheery call from Lockhart soothing them towards thoughts that the scuffle was nothing more than a staged event for his own purposes… the Sith Lord also overheard his announcement that he would be teaching at Hogwarts himself that year, which made the reason for all of his books being on the booklist immediately obvious. The man was clearly a scam artist, and wanted as much gold from book sales as possible… and how better than by making them mandatory for the students. It seemed however that despite his idiocy, Lockhart was at least cunning enough, for the sheep-like mentality of the wizarding populace at least.

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Hermione burst into the train compartment that Harry Potter was occupying, along with his faithful sick kick Draco Malfoy. The two boys were alone, sitting across from each other next to the window.

"Harry!" she said sternly as she flung the compartment door open.

However, neither seemed terribly surprised at her abrupt arrival, which she found odd and stopped her in her tracks from initiating her moral debate with the two Slytherins.

"Yes Hermione, what can we do for you?" Harry said coolly, as if he had expected her all along. "Here to learn some more of the way the world works?"

The goad was all she needed to ignite her fire again. "You have no idea how the world works, your only twelve years old!"

Harry smirked in that same incessant way of his, "Don't I now? Pray tell me Hermione, what do you think sets this world apart then."

"That's not the point…" Hermione started, trying to pull back to her heavy research on morality and its benefits on society, but Harry interrupted her yet again.

"Wrong! It is the entire point Hermione," Harry said sharply, before settling into a more 'instructor-like' tone. "Understanding the way your world works allows you to manipulate it to your needs and desires, giving you power over those who lack such, which starts a cycle until you reach the apex. It is how all society works, everyone an individual, working in a group, but not inseparably part of a group. But the weak and foolish outnumber the strong, and try to impose, through their numbers and the seeming power behind that, to drag the individually strong down to their level, to hinder them!" Harry shouted the last, but settled down, albeit with visible difficulty.

"As this happens," Harry continued a moment later, "the individual's strength atrophies, and thus the entire system become further weakened… It is this mentality, the thought of collective power as the strongest of all, that is a lie… it invites weakness to creep in, corruption, and unless weeded out, will cause the individuals, society and or world involved to collapse upon itself. Only through personal, individual power, and the strengthening thereof, that allows true growth. Every technological advance was established this was, fundamentally, and thus it will continue to be…"

Hermione was flabbergasted. Every time she thought she had a solid argument against Harry Potter he shifted the entire game, turning the tables back on her once again.

"Is power all you care about?" she demanded irritably.

Harry merely shrugged, his smirk returning. "Power is the sum totality of all our existents, is it not? Power leads to freedom to act, and not be acted upon… Criticizing my ambition to be a free as possible is not a reasonable excuse to disagree on."

Hermione couldn't believe her ears. Every time she spoke with this infuriating boy, his points sounded so reasonable and true, but the concepts suggested were so disgusting that it was repulsive. "So what," she finally rebuffed, "are we supposed to lord superior power over everyone that we can? What purpose would that serve?"

"Do you not do that already Hermione?" the Slytherin boy said calmly. "Answering all the questions you can, displaying your prowess and knowledge every opportunity you can? Is not knowledge a pure expression of power?"

Hermione recoiled as if struck. Standing in a quick flurry, she stormed out of the compartment, slamming the door behind her. Once again, in a roundabout way, the Slytherin had out maneuvered all her points and standings. She hated him so much when he did it. 'But…' her mind betrayed her, 'is it that you hate him because he's right?'

Bottling up the offensive thought, Hermione returned to her compartment to change for their imminent arrival at Hogsmead.

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Millennial glided through the depths of the Dark Side, lost in the ebbs and flows of power as it radiated through the Galaxy. The balance of Light and Dark were altering, shifting towards the Dark after nearly a century of light.

The students on Dromund Kaas were slowly being filtered, those of lesser potential being sent to Dathomir to begin mastering the ancient arts of the Sith Assassins, with the newly appointed High Prophet Ocraadi. The Togruta was perfectly willing to accept her new Masters and position, her insanity breeding a mad sort of control that Millennial had no qualms manipulating.

Thos who proved themselves remained on Dromund Kaas to become the fledgling beginnings of the Sorcerers and Sith Alchemists, warping the galaxy around them with the Force to their every whim. Several of the most advanced were also sent to seek out the lost Sith Academy on Gamorr, to recover the lost techniques of the Sith Marauders and Battle-Lords. Still others were sent in secret to the Outer Rim to seek out more promicing students and lost artifacts.

The Sith's movements in the wide Galaxy taken care of, Millennial turned his brilliance to the smaller system of the world he was currently on, and his budding acquaintanceship with one Lucius Malfoy, and his infinite connections with the magical world. The prospects of these low technological magicians would be supernal for the Sith war effort, and a resource that the Sith could not pass up when the force placed it in their laps.

Lucius himself was merely a means to an end, the old fool was so set in his ways that he would resist everything short of his old master returning, and thus would have to be eliminated, when he no longer served a purpose. However, currently he was Millennial's only source of information to figure out the riddle of the mysterious artifacts he found that were somehow connected to Lord Veneficus.

The ring he had recovered had proved most difficult to obtain. Millennial had found it in a tiny shack just outside the town of Little Hangleton, protected by the blackest auras he had ever felt, rivaling the darkest of Sith Artifacts or Holocrons that he had ever encountered. The spells and wards that protected the resting place of the tiny ring had been a challenge, but nothing surpassing the might of the Dark Lord of the Sith.

But like the cup that the Sith Lords had recovered from Veneficus' vaults, the ring was just as impervious to any of Millennial's destructive means, and just as mysterious.

Which was the exact reason Millennial had sent an invitation to Lucius, to summon the blond aristocrat to Blackmoore Manor for tea with him, all for the purpose of allowing the Sith Master to plumb the slippery mind of the dark wizard.

A flash from the Force and the distant sound of flames heralded the arrival of the Dark Lord's guest.

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Luna Lovegood simply loved the enchanted ceiling of Hogwarts' Great Hall. She had longed for years to come to the enchanted castle and start her studies, ever since her mother had shown her the wonders that magic could do. Luna wanted to be just like her, except for the small detail of suffering fatal injuries from a spell backfire.

The Sorting Hat had finished its wonderful song just minutes ago, and Professor McGonagall was calling up the students for sorting. She was surrounded by the nervous first years, yet her attention wandered. Many people thought her strange or 'Looney' as her nickname tended to be, but Luna knew she was special. She could see things that no one else could. Sometimes she knew things that no one else should have, and was able to be places or talk to people at just the right time. She didn't know how she did it, but it was a gift that she cherished and used to help everyone that would allow her to.

Unfortunately, with all the good and wonderful things she could see and do, there was darkness that she found as well. People weren't simply black or white, they were various shades of grey, some brighter or darker than others. As an example, the boy just called up to the hat, Colin, was a very good person, with a very troubled past. Luna could tell that the boy had problems with his temper, and that he was easily swayed by those around him, especially if he considered them friends.

Locking eyes with the unsorted boy, Luna saw his eyes dart toward the table covered in green and silver as the Sorting Hat was lowered over his head. Luna turned to see what he could have been looking at, and gasped, covering her mouth with her hand in order to not draw attention. One person in the room radiated pure blackness, no light left in him whatsoever. The soul (or at least Luna thought it was the soul that she saw) was so tortured and blackened that it was hideous in her eyes. Fear permeated from the boy's deathly green eyes as he lazily glanced over the gathered first years.

"Slytherin" the hat called. The abomination of a person watched with a small, half-smile as little Colin joined the others at the green and silver table. 'Poor Colin' Luna thought sadly. The blackness had taken notice of the shadows in his heart, and with what Luna had seen, would corrupt the emotional weakened boy to darkness.

"Lovegood, Luna" Professor McGonagall said a short while later, after several more students had been sorted.

Squaring her shoulders, Luna ascended to the stool where the tall Professor lowered the Sorting Hat upon her. She could feel the vivid green eyes on her, trying to see within her mind.

"Don't worry," the Hat said in her ear, "he can't see inside your mind while I'm here. Just focus on the present little one."

Luna relaxed slightly, but she was scared of being anywhere near the source of darkness at the Slytherin table.

"Not even near Slytherin, eh?" continued the Sorting Hat, reading her thoughts. "Are you sure? You would do well in Ravenclaw, and they and Slytherin are close allies… you have a very keen mind and powerful gifts that Ravenclaw would teach you how to nurture…"

Luna pondered this for a moment, but felt the presense nudging the outside of the Hat, trying to force its way in. 'No, I can't be near him,' Luna thought sternly.

"Well, you have great bravery to wish to stand up to him, and if you're sure… better be GRYFFINDOR!"

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Severus paced sinisterly in front of the fireplace in the Slytherin common room, his entire house seated or standing in front of him. He had called this meeting of Slytherin house the first night to relay information that was his duty, as Head of their house, for their own safety and academic achievement. Severus loathed having to spend more time than was necessary instructing, especially with classes the next morning anyway, but as there were new first years among them, and several older students that needed reminders. He had chosen to go over the unofficial rules of Slytherin House and their corresponding punishments.

Glancing to the back of the gather students as he spoke, Severus saw the furrowed face of Harry Potter, who seemed to be concentrating on something, clearly not what his teacher was saying, but it stirred Severus' interest none the less. "And finally," he said, stopping in front of the crackling fire for effect, "if I catch any of you specifically antagonizing other students or provoking them in any way, you will direly regret your actions. House point deductions will be the least of your concerns. Off to bed, all of you."

The students slowly scattered, fear of their House Head firmly implanted in their young minds. Severus knew that many, if not all would break the some odd twenty or so rules that he set for them, but the point wasn't to enforce them, but to breed the skills Slytherins needed, subtlety and secrecy.

Potter turned to retire, and Severus called him back, "Mr. Potter, a word, in my office."

Severus' office was only a short walk down the dungeon corridor from the Slytherin common room, and once inside, Potter stood casually as he and Severus stared for several silent moments. Severus knew from Albus that he had been trying to probe the boy's mind when he had his 'accident' in the Great Hall the end of the previous school year, and the Potions Master wasn't about to get strangled by forces unknown just yet. So, setting his Occlumency shields strongly in place, he began.

"Mr. Potter, in light of several events over the past year, the Headmaster has seen the need to be in more contact with your guardian, as there has been a serious threat to your life, from the Dark Lord no doubt," Severus saw Potter's green eyes flash at the use of the title, annoyance and anger evident, but in a moment it was gone, "and we wish to be able to call upon him if such an event were to happen again."

Potter paused a moment before speaking, clearly organizing his response carefully, "I am sure that that is not necessary. My… guardian… is often away while I am at school, and would be very difficult to contact therefore. Also, if I remember correctly, I was perfectly safe when I had my little conflict with Professor Quirrell and whomever or whatever had possessed him. Coupling those two together with the fact that I know my guardian would not be comfortable with his important work being spontaneously interrupted unannounced, I can definitely say that this is not possible."

Severus was taken aback, not enough to show it, but the completely diplomatic and highly Slytherin mindset of the defence that Potter brought up was astounding for a twelve-year-old. However, an excuse it was still, and Severus was not allowed, or inclined, to let this one slide.

"Unfortunately, that is out of the question Mr. Potter. The Headmaster needs to know how he can contact every student's parent or guardian in case of anything out of the ordinary, be it punishment or accident or award…"

Severus could literally feel the gentle wafting of negative emotions from the boy, almost like an unseen miasma in the room. It felt… familiar… yet not so… where had he felt that before…

"Unfortunately…" Potter replied, drawing out the word, "My mentor is behind a Fidelius Charm, and I am literally unable to give away his location to anyone, willing to or not."

'Blast!' thought Severus bitterly; there was no way to get the information out of the boy if that level of magic was in play. "The name then, at least Mr. Potter, so we might perhaps send him an owl for permission to be able to contact him…"

Potter replied slowly, his voice cold as ice, "Lord Alexandre Blackmoore-Ravenclaw…" and with that he turned to leave.

Potter had almost touched the doorknob when Severus called him again, "There's one more thing Potter. I have spoken with Marcus Flint, the Slytherin Quidditch team Captain," Potter narrowed his eyes suspiciously, "and he has agreed to take you on as the new Slytherin team Seeker, effective immediately. Terence Higgs voluntarily stepped down to reserve when he heard, so there will be no tryout to see who's more competent… practice is…"

"No." It was not a statement, but a command.

"What did you say to me, Potter?" Severus replied scathingly. He wouldn't allow any student, least of all James Potter's brat, to speak to him in such a manner.

"No, sir… I will not play Quidditch. I feel it is a waste of my time."

Severus smirked, "Well, unfortunately, that is not the way things work in Slytherin. You have been appointed, on recommendation, my recommendation I might add, and the team has unanimously agreed to have you. Your choice in the matter never was on the table. Unless you want seven very angry students out for revenge because you denied them your, ah… incredible reflexive skills…"

Potter glared openly at him. "I have no broom, nor will I purchase one…"

"Mr. Malfoy's father has recently, and very generously, donated seven of the highest grade brooms for our team to use, you will have the very best." Severus countered.

Magic flared subtly in the room, as Potter stewed over the latest development in the war of words and arguments, and finally admitted defeat. "When is practice, then…"

Savoring victory, Severus informed him of all the necessary practice details, the first to be held that Saturday, and summoned over the note he had signed for Flint, and finally released him to retire.

Only as the boy left did Severus place where he had felt the aura that Potter projected. It was the same malevolent anger that the Dark Lord had been most fond of terrorizing his followers with... yet, different, more controlled, yet more menacing. The palpable ramifications were serious, to say the least. It could be either possession, use of Dark Magic, or even something else entirely. Severus felt the distinct urge to immediately run and tell Albus his suspicions, but forced himself to stop.

Many times he had gone to the Headmaster with nothing more than a feeling or a hunch, and every time he had been rebuffed with the request for proof. This time, Severus would act more cautiously, and bring proof with him first. He would wait for the right opportunity to catch Potter in some act, possessed or of his own will or whatever the case may be, and stop whatever darkness may or may not be at work.

'If it is possession,' Severus thought as he retired himself, 'it certainly would answer a lot of questions regarding last year.'

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Collin Creevey turned from his armchair when Harry Potter reentered the common room. "Hi Harry!" he called, ignoring the disdaining looks from the other night owls in the common room. Harry simply looked at him, before exiting toward the boy's dormitories.

Colin smiled to himself. The people on the train that he had spoken with had all told him how great and powerful Harry Potter was; how he had defeated a Dark Lord as a baby, and everything else. Colin had been positively delighted when he had seen the boy for the first time himself, his magic glowing like a fireworks display. Colin was desperate to be with the famous Harry Potter, and had begged the hat to place him in the same house, despite the hat's warning against being in Slytherin.

Colin wasn't worried; he knew how to handle himself. Having always been smaller than others his age, Colin had had to fight of many bullies, and this situation wouldn't be too terribly different, especially when Colin had an advantage. Colin had the uncanny gift to see magic; he had barely realized it before, having grown up in the muggle world with his failure of a father. The thought of his milkman father made Colin scowl, but he recovered quickly.

People were whispering again, several pointing at him when they thought he wasn't paying attention, but he could see them all, their magic giving them away as if a spotlight were on them. Colin stood and collected his things to go to bed himself, but as he made his way to the dormitories, one of the bigger, older students stood in his way intentionally. Colin made to go around him, but the burly third year grabbed him roughly, causing Colin to drop his books.

"Where do you think you're going?" He said gruffly.

Another first year, a boy named Harper, Colin remembered from the Sorting, laughed loudly, "What do you have there Montague? A filthy little Mudblood trapped among the snakes?"

Colin tried to pry the huge hands off his robes, to no avail, and was shaken roughly while the rest of the room looked on or laughed with his persecutor. Blood beginning to boil, Colin wrenched at the offending fingers holding him off the ground, digging in his fingernails. Montague yelped, dropping him to the ground hard.

Colin tried to escape, but Montague grabbed him again, hefting him off the ground and shoving him up against a wall. Dazed slightly, Colin only registered the exposed wrist holding his robe front, and his arms pinned on either side. So he used the only weapon left to him, his teeth. Biting down hard and refusing to let go even when he tasted blood.

Montague cried out louder now, drawing the whole room's attention. Colin quickly picked up his books and darted for the dorms, but Harper blocked his path, giving Montague enough time to recover and catch up.

"Montague…" a cold voice said behind Harper, freezing boys in startled fear. Harry Potter had returned, standing directly behind Harper, while Montague stood stock still, his fist still in the air where he'd been about to attack Colin. "Surely you realize my position in what you're about to do Montague…" Montague glared, but remained silent.

"Mr. Creevey will be under my… protection… from here on Montague, and I suggest you find a target actually worthy of your aggression, before I am forced to give you a target you cannot handle." Turning to Harper, Harry continued, "As for you Mr. Harper, I would suggest you talk to the other students in Slytherin and learn what it means to cross me, before you make an unfortunate mistake…"

With the threats left hanging in the air like poison, Harper and Montague departed, and silence returned to the Slytherin common room. Colin smiled at Harry, who didn't return the gesture, took his books and departed.