Author's Note: This chapter has only been slightly extended. It was almost combined with chapter four.
Chapter Three: Letter to Marchbanks
Harry Potter was glad for the supply of good parchment and ink kept in the ground room of the owlery. It was provided, especially during the first week of school, mainly for the first years. Harry had never really needed to use it, but Professor McGonagall had told him about it at the beginning of his first year.
Harry was rather frugal when it came to his own parchment purchases. He didn't buy the really cheap stuff, anymore. That had been a lesson learned. He didn't buy the really expensive stuff, either. He bought perfectly serviceable parchment and ink. For this particular letter, he wanted to send it with the good stuff. So he had pulled out a single foot long piece from the drawer, and very carefully wrote out his letter, signing it with his best signature.
Harry didn't like signing things. He didn't think being the boy-who-lived should mean that his signature was worth something. Still, he had learnt that when did sign his name for someone, it should be clearly readable. Hermoine had shown him a lot of signatures when things came to a head with Lockhart in his second year. He wanted his to be as clear as that of John Hancock, when he did it for a purpose. This was one of those times.
As he made sure the ink was dry before folding it, he recalled the first time he'd actually willingly signed something for someone. It was during the summer before his third year, when he'd spent most of it in Diagon Alley. It was for a little curly haired strawberry blond toddler, whose favorite dolly, a Harry Potter doll, which Harry had many issues with, had been torn apart by her big brother.
There had been something about the crying little girl who had run into Harry that had tugged at him. He'd never quite figured out what had possessed him to kneel down and comfort the little girl. It wasn't like he was used to such things, but he had. He'd got her to stop crying. The doll was destroyed, and he was quite happy about that. By the time the little girl's mother, who was sheparding around a brood larger than Mrs. Weasley's, finally caught up with Harry, he'd somehow ended up promising to sign her new dolly's cape.
He hadn't done the best of jobs signing it.
He hadn't signed anything else like it since. Today he signed his letter though, like he should have signed the dolly's cape. It looked dry enough now, so he folded it carefully, and went back outside to ascend to the top of the owlery where he knew that Hedwig was waiting.
As he turned the corner and was about to start up the stairs, he ran into Ginny Weasley. Fortunately it wasn't a literal impact, as she managed to stop, and step to the side. "Harry, what are you doing here?" she asked. "Your year had Defense for the next half hour still."
"I'm about to send a letter that will allow me to exit Defense for the rest of my Hogwarts career," Harry said, with a big smile. "With an Outstanding NEWT, to boot, thanks to Madam Marchbanks and the Triwizard Tournament."
"At least something good came out of that class, but Harry, are you sure you want to waste your free NEWT on Defense?" Ginny asked. "It's your best class."
"You knew I had a free NEWT?" Harry said. "I had to be approached by Madam Marchbanks to find out, but you knew?"
"I thought you knew," Ginny said, leaning up against the outer wall of the tower. "I spent a good deal of time trying to convince my older twits of brothers that they shouldn't be trying to get around the protections. You were the first fourteen year old to get through the first task alive. In the last twenty times, two thirds of the champions got injured, half of them fatally. I had to know every reason they might want to do it to refute them. Then after that attempt to cross the age line, I kept having nightmares that they'd find some other way. I even went to Professor Dumbledore to make sure the ways I thought of were blocked."
"I wish he found a way to stop however my name got in the goblet," Harry said. There were still people who thought he had put his name in. "I'm not sure how it got there, but it had to involve Barty Crouch junior."
"Oh, that's easy, there was one exception to the must put their own name in rule," Ginny said, almost causally, her hand going up to play with her hair. "Drumstrang insisted that their Defense Professor be allowed to put in some names that might not be able to put their own names in due to some other event. It couldn't be made to be just for one school, so the other two could as well. Hermione and I found out about that right after the First Task."
"Oh that explains it," Harry said, suddenly feeling exasperated at the ways fate seemed to conspire against him. He had figured that there wasn't a put your own name in rule, after he had been chosen. "An exception designed so the one position in all of Hogwarts that seems to be cursed to try to kill me, could do so again. I have to wonder how Umbridge is going to try to do so."
"I know about your second year, and last year, but I didn't think it was every year," Ginny said.
"Yeah," Harry said. As he looked at Ginny, he realized that he'd never talked to Ginny about what had happened her first year, his second year. The image of her body, laying there with Tom Riddle gloating over it still haunted his dreams. If he didn't have to go send the letter ...
As if answering his thoughts, Hedwig landed on the railing, and raised her claw for the letter. As he attached it, he said. "Since I'm done here, if you'd like to hear about it, I'll tell you the tale of the four, maybe five soon, Defense Professors that tried to kill me."
He turned to look at Ginny, as she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Why not. I don't have another class for another ninety minutes."
Ginny found herself heading out towards the lake at Harry's side. She knew where he was heading. There was exactly one place overlooking the lake that Harry could be found, especially early in the term. It was just enough to the north that on smooth natural stone seat you could see a good portion of the castle and across the lake Hogsmead Station's roof peaked just over the trees. It was a peaceful place, and quite comfortable. She had often wondered why no one seemed to ever use it but Harry. Then again, Ginny had never tried to use it without Harry either.
As they walked to Harry's place, Harry began. "If I'd noticed that the pain in my scar came from Quirrel's gaze, not Snapes during the Welcoming Feast, everything might have gone a bit differently. I didn't though.
"But perhaps I'm actually starting a bit late. I tend to meet Defense Teachers before I arrive at Hogwarts. I met Quirrel in my first day in the Wizarding World. At the time, I kind of felt it was a bit strange. I mean every one was trying to shake my hand, and then there was Quirrel, who actually pulled his hands away. I really wonder what would have happened if I'd shaken his hand then. Would they have turned to ash even back then?
"Hagrid said that Quirrel was scared of his own subject. He was wrong..."
Ginny listened closely to Harry. She'd heard a bit about Professor Quirrel from her older brothers, but no one had really told her the tale of Harry's first year. She let Harry tell the tale, not interrupting, not questioning. There would be time for that after he was done with the story.
As they arrived at the stone overlooking the lake, and took a seat there, he reached the first Quidditch match. Ginny felt herself getting furious as Harry described how the Defense Professor had cursed his broom. The wind tousled her long straight hair, as Harry covered the mirror and their discovery that someone was going after the stone.
Original Author's Note
Remember this story will cover time line wise from the beginning of Take no Umbridge I to the end of Harry's fifth year. At this point we are not yet past the second chapter of Take no Umbridge I, and are not likely to reach it until after the next part.
As usual, compliments, comments, correction, complaints, and critique are accepted eagerly ... just not requests for more soon, which has been known to make the muse go slower.