Author's Note: This chapter is dedicated to my BFF KatFox, without whom I would have certainly strangled key family members during my recent emergency trip home.
Chapter 25 — Elusion
Harry bounded through the hall towards the Headmaster's office the moment the last student from his first class filed out, trying unsuccessfully to suppress his excitement.
The lesson had superseded his every expectation. Not only had the students participated, but they had done so enthusiastically, and even the star-dazed hero worshipers had stopped staring glassy-eyed at him long enough to take a few notes.
At the end of the exercise he'd done a few demonstrations of spells they would be working on throughout the year, having decided not to test his luck with their attention spans on the first day of class.
Several of the students actually asked intelligible questions, which he answered, and then watched with gratification as they absorbed every bit of knowledge as absolute truth which then seeped into their young, impressionable minds.
He was immediately hooked.
Unfortunately when he reached the Headmaster's office he found it vacant, so he was stuck extolling the virtues of his first years to a very sleepy, very disheveled Ron. Despite the fact it was well after ten, his redheaded friend was yawning and grumbling about missing breakfast. His Auror training did not start until the following week and their only class was four hours on Friday mornings. Ron had decided to catch up on his beauty sleep in the mean time.
"It's like they actually listened to me, you know?" Harry said excitedly.
"Well you are the teacher," Ron said.
"Yes but when was the last time you actually listened to a lecture?"
"When I was eleven?"
Well he did have a point. Maybe he would not be so jazzed after his older students.
Harry tried not to let the thought ruin his teaching buzz. This was better than sex! He'd never had sex! This was better than… than… Felix!
Harry decided to read his cousin's letter so he would have time to reply before the excitement got the best of him. He fished the envelope out of his school bag, using his wand to open it so as to not risk any paper cuts. The stark white muggle printer paper that he unfolded made him appreciate the finer delicacies of parchment even as he read Dudley's barely legible writing.
We settled back in at home. Your friends were very kind and accommodating.
Hessie mentioned you are back at Hogwarts this year, but would you be available to take lunch sometime?
Wizards do eat, don't they?
Harry couldn't help but laugh at the quintessential Muggleness of Dudley's last question.
I am glad to hear you and your family returned safely and that Dedalus and Hestia (Hessie, you say?) didn't strangle your parents.
We are indeed back at Hogwarts for the year, but I am teaching so I should be relatively free to come and go.
He consulted his schedule, which also included the list of designated Hogsmeade weekends, deciding that if he was going to leave the school at least he could do so while everyone else was leaving.
Are you available to meet me at The Liberty Pub in Greater Winging this Saturday at noon?
Of course wizards eat! What do you think we do, drink stardust and shit rainbows?
Harry put his quill down, reading over his words with trepidation. Had he really just agreed to meet with his cousin? Willingly? The boy who had done nothing but tease and torment him and make his life a living hell?
True, Dudley had told him he didn't hate him in the end. He had even tried to help during his last summer on Privet Drive, but Harry had been so busy during the last year he'd never even taken the time to reconcile his memories of Dudley his boyhood tormenter with the adult version of his cousin. Maybe this meeting would help with that, and if Dudley turned out to still be an asshole he could always leave and never return.
Besides, the Dursleys were the only family he had left. If there was a chance to hang onto even a part of them he really ought to.
His mother would have wanted him to.
Dumbledore would have wanted him to.
"Oi, what's that?" Ron said when he came back out of his room, now dressed but still yawning.
Harry hurriedly folded up the parchment and sealed it in an envelope before he lost his courage.
"Secret admirer then, eh?" Ron winked at him.
Harry snorted before picking up his quill to scratch "Dudley Dursley" on the front of the envelope. "Hardly. Just my cousin."
"That stupid git! What does he want?"
"That stupid git is the only family I have that doesn't hate me… possibly."
"The only family you have? What am I, chopped dragon spleen?"
(Dragon spleen, incidentally, is a notorious ingredient in Potions making. Every part of the rare magical being, from the top of its head to the tip of its tail, is studiously put to use in potions whenever available, in accordance with the Potioneers motto "Waste a knut, want a knut." Much to their dismay, the spleen was found to be largely perfunctory.
Unhappy with wasting such a precious rarity, Potioneers spanning seven continents and nearly as many centuries had chopped, minced, diced, sliced, filleted, fricasseed, and flambéed the ingredient into what they hoped would be a career-winning brew.
In fact, one Potions Master in Botswana had been so obsessed with finding a use for dragon spleen that he'd established his own Dragon farm, secretly breeding the creatures in the relative seclusion of the Kalahari dessert.
His research progressed unfettered for years, funded by an unexpected inheritance from an Armenian uncle who made his fortune selling reticulated porcelain spider webs. That is, until one evening after a long day of work, during which the hot dry winds had nicely cured the spring grasses to a burnt summer orange, the potions master sat helplessly sipping iced tea on his porch as a wayward game of duck-duck-goose lead to all of the participating dragons lighting the dessert on fire.
The short prison sentence and massive fines he incurred only spurred his interest in the subject. Instead of deterring him, he went on to find the one use of dragon spleen known to date. The potion in which it is utilized requires a one-sixteenth inch julienne, making chopped dragon spleen a veritable pariah to the Potions world. Incidentally, the Armenian uncle's name was Felix Felicius.)
"Friends are the family you choose, Ron," Harry said and got up to smack him over the head with the envelope on his way to the door. "They're my only blood relations."
"Oh bother. Don't let Hermione catch you talking about blood relations," Ron groaned as Harry pushed the portrait door open. "Wait! Do you fancy a trip to the kitchens? I'm starving."
He turned at the entrance. Ron looked thoroughly miserable; Harry had learned within their first weeks on the move that the boy became highly agitated at the sight of spiders and empty plates. "Our kitchens are fully stocked by the school elves."
"I can't — you don't — I don't know how to cook!" Ron screeched, panic creeping into his voice.
Harry sighed in defeat. "Kreacher!" he called to the empty air, and a moment later the elf appeared with a crack.
"Kreacher lives to serve the noble House of Black, Harry Potter, and Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," he said with a regal bow.
"That's great, Kreacher. Could you help Ron make something for breakfast without blowing himself up?"
"Of course Master Potter. Kreacher lives to serve the noble—"
"…House of Black, me, and Hogwarts, yeah, we got it the first time. Thanks, Kreacher," he said before turning to exit the room, sticking one foot through the portrait door before ducking down to get through it.
This would forever be remembered as the year Harry had to start ducking to fit through the portrait holes. He'd never had to duck to fit anywhere in his life.
The trip to the staff room was short: too short for his taste. Though Severus had assured him he had full access to the areas reserved for the faculty, he could not shake the normal dread that had accompanied him every time he'd had to visit the place as a student, usually with bad news.
The door swung open at his touch, revealing the same scholarly, if poorly-lit, room he remembered. Harry was relieved to find Arabella Figg sitting in an ancient armchair, even if she was squealing like a hyena at some undoubtedly stupid joke the plump man next to her had just attempted.
The woman started at hearing her name, but smiled when she caught sight of him. "Bella, Harry."
"Bella, sorry. Are you still planning on going to Privet Drive this evening? I've written a reply to Dudley."
"Yes, dear. I would be happy to take it!" she said, and he brought it over to her.
"Thank you," he said, and, with a glance at Slughorn, who was leaning unnecessarily close to her, "You will take care of Bella for me, Professor?"
Mrs. Figg laughed in delight, and Professor Slughorn patted her arm, "You have my word, m' boy!"
The smile he sent Slughorn was strained. "Thanks," he said. "How are your classes so far Mrs., er, Bella?"
"Oh wonderful! They are such little dears, though I'm accustomed to much younger students!"
"You've taught before?" he asked, realizing just how little he really knew the woman that had looked after him since he was born… except for her preoccupation with cats.
"Oh my, yes. I ran a pre-Hogwarts school for many years. A young woman took it over just before you were born, though I hear she didn't keep it. In fact I do believe you know her son Draco?"
Harry's eyebrows disappeared into his messy fringe. "Narcissa Malfoy ran a preschool?!"
"Yes! Right out of their home, though that awful husband of hers refused to let Squibs study in his house."
He swallowed heavily. Evidently the kind woman in front of him was unaware of the fact that he'd sent a killing curse at "that awful husband" less than a month ago, but he decided not to bring up that fact. "Pity," he said instead. "Well I've got to prep for my next class. Do either of you know when Severus might be around? I couldn't find him in his office."
"Oh yes, we keep a schedule right here," Slughorn said as he got up to waddle towards the wall near the entrance. There was a massive piece of parchment hanging from it… somehow, as it had no frame. The paper was darkened and frayed with age and had an empty black grid on it. The man winked at him as he tapped the parchment with his wand. "Id estcapiattelevavi.*"
At his words, the blank grid began to fill with frilly maroon calligraphy. The first column had the name of every teacher on staff, and the row at the top had the days of the week. Everything else was blank.
"Just tap the square for the day and person you wish to see," the man said and put his wand tip on the square under Wednesday's column in Severus' row, and the grid immediately changed to give the times of his classes, as well as his scheduled office hours, which appeared to be whenever he wasn't eating, sleeping, or teaching.
"So he'll be… teaching," Harry said after consulting his wristwatch.
Slughorn tapped a point off the grid, causing it to fill in with the days of the week and teachers' names again. He then touched Harry's square for Wednesday, causing the grid to fill with a new schedule. "If you cancel a class, make sure you make note of it here," he said, indicating the parchment on the wall. "That way your students won't get detention for wandering the halls during class hours."
"Brilliant, thanks," Harry said.
"And if you need to find someone in an emergency, just say their name and tap the map here," he said, pointing his wand at a strange symbol in the corner. "Severus Snape."
The grid disappeared entirely. The parchment now showed the layout of the classroom Snape was utilizing for the sixth and seventh year DADA classes, and a dot with the Headmaster's name attached to it was pacing back and forth at the head of it.
"And when you're done make sure you clear it. Otherwise anyone can use it," he said with a chuckle that jiggled his belly like a bowl full of jelly, touching his wand to the paper one last time and muttering, "Judicium executes."
Harry suddenly had a very good idea where the Marauders got the idea for their map.
Both Severus and Luna continued to remain elusive, and so it was the very next morning found Harry tapping his fingers on his teacher's desk in what he keenly hoped was not an emulation of Professor McGonagall as all the little children filed in. After surviving one whole day of teaching Harry fancied himself an old pro and was thus feigning impatience to cover his amusement as he waited for the restless children to settle down.
The previous day had gone well, except for the fact that his fourth years were extremely disappointed he would not be killing or torturing anything. He was content enough to Imperio some of the more verbal naysayers around the room for a bit, which shut them up nicely.
Harry was, however, noticing a trend in some of the classes, one he could not quite yet put his finger on, but some of the classes had a large number of students that seemed to have been misinformed by previous Defense teachers. He was unsurprised that they had learned nothing from the Carrows, but he would have thought Severus would have set them straight in his year of teaching.
"Now, class," he said after the clock chimed and they had mostly quieted down. "Yesterday we established a working definition of magic. Today we are going to define dark magic, or more specifically the dark arts."
He turned dramatically, and with a flick of his wand, the chalkboard had an empty list numbered one through three.
"The dark arts fall into three categories, now… can anybody tell me what they are?"
As expected, one of the Allen boy's hands was waggling in the air immediately. "Yes, Tom?"
"The three categories of dark arts are Inherent, Maleficium, and Gray Magic."
"Excellent! Five points to Slytherin! Can anybody tell me what all of that means?" Harry said, once again flushed with the excitement of inciting understanding. "Inherent dark arts," Harry began in the absence of any volunteers, "refers to spells that are considered inherently bad. Any spell that is specifically designed to kill, torture, or take away another's free will is considered Inherent Dark Magic."
"The Unforgiveables," Harry heard someone mutter.
"Exactly!" Harry said, making a side bar from 'Inherent' to list the three Unforgiveable curses. "We have the killing curse, the Imperius curse, which causes another to act as the caster wills, and the cruciatus curse, which causes unbearable pain."
"But Professor, me brudder says you used Imperius on the fourt' years!"
"That's right, I did. An excellent point, Sean. As the saying goes, there is an exception to every rule. In this case the Ministry sees teaching people to resist the Imperius curse as more important than not having anyone do it. Do you agree with them?"
The children looked at each other nervously, as if this might be a test if they would disagree with the Ministry, and there was a general answer of shrugs.
"What about other exceptions? They occur in classrooms, but more commonly in the medical field. What if a healer has a patient that is convulsing badly? Would you sanction the healer putting an imperious curse on them to stop them from hurting themselves? Or using the killing curse to ease a slow and painful but inevitable death?"
The classroom was quiet for several moments before someone finally spoke.
"Aye, I think then it might be alright," Sean said.
"And what about this," Harry continued without missing a beat, "If someone uses an Unforgiveable curse in one of those situations does it make them a practitioner of the Dark Arts?"
It seemed nobody had an answer to that yet.
"Well that's alright. But think on it! They'll be asking you again fourth year. There are more than the three unforgivable that are considered Inherantly Dark Magic, but we'll get back to that later. Let's move on to Maleficium: more commonly known as "sorcery," Maleficium is using any not inherently dark spell in a dark manner, that is to kill, torture, maim, etcetera or take away someone's free will. Now as for Gray Magic…"
"Dedalus Diggle named his son Icarus?!" Harry said with disbelief as he flipped through the short stack of pictures in his hands. By Friday evening he had finally tracked down Severus, who had evidently been spending his time not teaching back at Malfoy Manor helping Narcissa Malfoy get settled back in and, hopefully, less crazy.
"Indeed. Madam Hooch has been advised to take the utmost precaution at this year's First Flyers," Severus replied distractedly as he perused a piece of parchment on his desk.
After a week of classes he had finally received the names and pictures of the students in class he had not recognized since they were missing from the original role. As it turned out most of them were missing because they had been in hiding and were proving difficult to find.
The one flaw in the brilliant plan of casting the Fidelius charm on your own hiding spot so no one else could find you was that no one else could find you. War, plague, famine, or peace could present itself on your doorstep and you would be none the wiser.
The return of the Dursleys had of course heralded the return of their protector and Secret Keeper Dedalus Diggle, along with the Diggle family and Hestia Jones. The unfortunately named Icarus Diggle turned out to be one of the children he didn't recognize, and Harry was now trying to commit a whole new set of faces to memory.
"How did Mrs. Malfoy seem?" Harry asked. "Any less crazy?"
"She is not crazy!" Severus hissed at him with a stern face.
"Right, er… any less troubled?"
"She is healing as well as can be expected. Thank you for your concern," Severus said snippily then went back to his parchment. He huffed a moment later. "So, how did your classes go?"
"Brilliant!" Harry said and launched into a detailed explanation of the events of the previous week.
Severus simply raised one side of his lips slightly. "I am glad you are enjoying teaching."
"I never thought it would be this… awesome!"
'Awesome' Severus mouthed with a smirk.
"There is one thing that troubles me, though."
The man sitting across from him peered over his parchment. "Oh?"
"Well some of the students seem to be a bit, er… misinformed. Some of my Slytherin fourth years in particular… they seem to be under the impression that hexes can only be deflected, not reflected back to their original caster. Were the Carrows really that… dim?"
"Ah," Severus said and put his papers down. Harry thought the older man held a few creases of guilt on his face as he continued: "That will be my fault, you see I thought it prudent when I was teaching DADA to… misdirect some of the more… dangerous students."
"You deliberately sabotaged their education!" Harry said with wide eyes.
"Some might say—"
"You see I felt—"
"I. am. shocked!" By this point Harry was standing, and lecturing the man with his hands on his hips.
Snape leveled him with a glare. "I fully entrust you to sort them all out, Mister Potter. Now was there anything else you needed?"
"No, no, don't mistake this for anger, Severus. I'm just surprised that's all. And there was one other thing I needed to discuss with you." Harry sat down again, and the tense set of the Headmaster's shoulders eased minutely. "Besides the fact that you haven't been sleeping."
"I—How did you know that?" Severus frowned.
"You're cranky. You're having nightmares again aren't you?"
The sudden stubborn set of the man's jaw both answered Harry's question, and told the younger man he was not going to get a straight answer from Severus himself.
"Severus, you should let me stay with you."
"Wh-what?! Are you insane?""
"Not last time I checked."
"You are a student at my school you cannot stay with me."
"I am also a teacher at your school and perfectly of age. Or is that against school rules too?"
"As a matter of fact it's not. Undoubtedly the founders trusted in the faculty to—" Severus extrapolated as something clicked in Harry's mind and he blushed.
"Wait, you checked?"
"—avoid any hint of impropriety!"
"It's not like we'd be sleeping with each other. I'm sure you're up to making up two beds."
"I said no!"
"Technically you said 'Are you insane?' And it's not just you that's suffering," Harry said the last part quietly, which amazingly halted Severus' impending apoplexy.
"What do you mean by that?" Snape snapped at him, though not entirely unkindly.
"I…" Harry began, then looked up to catch his gaze. "I've missed you, Severus. You've been mostly gone all week. Have you been avoiding me?"
The older man sat down with a sigh and looked away from him. "I was helping Nar—"
"No," Harry said simply. "You can't lie to me anymore, remember?" he said tapping his temple to remind Severus of the mental link they shared.
He huffed again. "I thought staying away from you would help."
"And has it?"
"No," he admitted. "It's only made it worse."
Harry let out a sigh of relief. At least he had gotten that much out of him. "So we're not going to do that anymore, right?"
Severus just shrugged. "What else did you say you wanted to talk about?"
Harry sat back in his chair, only mildly disappointed at the abrupt change in topic. He was, after all, getting used to it. "I have a student that is not doing very well in my class," Harry said, producing a few pieces of parchment from his bag.
"You'll get used to it."
"I'm sure I will, but this student in particular stuck out to me. She does brilliant work on essays, but every in-class quiz I've given she has failed abysmally."
Harry set out the two short essays and two even shorter quizzes that were all his first year students had produced in the first week of class.
Severus looked over them briefly before replying. "I see what you mean. Have you spoken to the student yet?"
"No. I wanted to come to you before I accused anyone of cheating," Harry said seriously.
"I see. Well I'm glad you did. Cheating is something we take very seriously, however there is a very thin line between cheating and getting help." He paused to look at Harry over the paper in front of him. "Your student is obviously not cheating on the in-class work. It is possible she is asking for help from home and that the problem therein lies with the help she has sought, and not necessarily with her. Sometimes parents of first years are a bit… overzealous… and like to 'help' their kids with homework via owlpost. This can result in exceptional out of class work that the student does not fully understand. We of course like to nip this behavior in the bud, and in this case I suspect that is exactly what is happening."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well, your student is Jessica White. Her mother is Emile White."
That name sounded familiar. Harry nodded slowly.
"We worked with her to capture all of those Death Eaters a week ago."
"Oh! Emile White the Auror!"
"Precisely," Severus said.
Harry remembered the overzealous single parent Auror with something to prove very well. She must be a very demanding mother, he thought and began to feel a tinge of sympathy for Jessica.
"You should probably schedule a Parent-Teacher conference with her as soon as possible."
"Oh, right," Harry said. "I'm not really familiar, er, with the procedure for that?"
"Just owl her with a time to meet. Usually on the weekend if you know the parents work during the week. Go over the work her daughter has done with her and see if she comes to the same conclusion, if not confront her on it without being too accusatory."
"I wasn't aware teaching involved so much diplomacy," Harry complained good-naturedly.
"Just you wait," Severus said with an evil grin that wiped the smile off Harry's face.
Harry had sent an owl off to Emile White the moment he left Severus' office and was only mildly amused to receive a reply not 20 minutes later:
Dear Professor Potter,
I was admittedly confused by your letter. What trouble could Jessica have possibly gotten herself into so early in the year?
I am happy to meet with you tomorrow morning at ten. I will see you in your office.
The woman's behavior at the strategy meeting did not seem to agree with the friendly wording of her letter, and Harry wondered if she was much different outside of work. Perhaps being able to send her child away to school had done her some good.
After breakfast on Saturday morning, Harry grabbed all of Jessica's work and stuffed it into his bag before making his way to the DADA classroom. He was sitting at his desk pulling out paper when the door flew open.
"Professor Potter! What an honor to meet you!" Emile said as she walked in with a wide smile.
Yes, she was much different outside of work.
Harry stood up to shake the woman's outstretched hand. "Oh we've met before," he said and thought he saw her flinch ever so slightly. Her smile, however, never waivered.
"Of course. But then you weren't Professor Potter then now were you?"
"No I suppose not. Will you have a seat?" he gestured to one of the two seats in front of his desk and Emile neatly perched on one.
"How are things at the Ministry? Have you sorted everyone out yet?"
Emile clicked her tongue. "Not even close. We've had to let loads of people go due to insufficient or even lost evidence. Half of the people there have not even been arraigned... oh it's a zoo!"
"Oh my… well I hope you get that sorted out soon," he said, slightly dismayed to hear the state of the Ministry.
"In due time, my dear Professor. All in due time. Now what was it you needed to talk to me about Jessica? She hasn't been doing well in class?"
"Well yes, and no," he said, placing the essays and quizzes in front of her. "Her essays are exceptional, but her in-class work is… lacking."
He let Emile look over the papers herself, her face all business in a heartbeat. "I see," Emile said when she was done reading, a definite frown on her face.
"What do you think might be causing it?" Harry prompted her.
"She clearly needs to study harder. These are unacceptable!" Emile said, waving the quizzes in the air, a giant blood-red letter 'T' announcing itself in the corner. "I will speak with her."
"Well I wanted to speak with you first. Before we check for any… reading comprehension issues or test taking issues we just like to make sure everyone is on the same page here. Has she by chance been owling you for help with her essays at all?"
The anger on White's face was replaced with a flash of guilt, though Harry had the distinct impression it was feigned. "Oh, that. Well you see she is painfully shy, so yes she does ask me for help with her homework… frequently."
"Ah, I see. Is there any chance you might be giving her… too much information… such that it's over her comprehension level at this time and is… overwhelming her?" Harry asked, hoping that his words were diplomatic enough.
Emile looked embarrassed, though her fair skin notably lacked any red tinge whatsoever. "Yes, I suppose that is possible," she said simply and hung her head.
"Well I can't blame you for wanting the best for your daughter," Harry said. "Perhaps if you encourage her to seek help from her peers instead they could better explain things at her level?"
"I will try. She is ever so shy."
"She must have a friend?" Harry asked. He was an outcast and even he had managed to make friends at Hogwarts, but the woman just shook her head sadly. "Did something… happen to her that I should know about?"
"Oh, no… not that I know of."
"Well has she always been this shy?"
Harry frowned at her noncommittal answers. He would have expected most parents to ramble on and on about their children, if the Dursleys were any indication. Perhaps Jessica was an accident. "It must be quite hard raising her alone and juggling your career all at the same time," Harry said, hoping he would get more out of the woman, but it seemed he instead offended her.
"I do alright, thank you," she said shortly.
"Oh please, I didn't mean to offend. I just meant we are here to help, if you need it," he smiled, but she continued to look at him resentfully. "And you do do alright. My best friend Hermione was absolutely enamored with you."
That calmed her down a bit, and she spoke more sweetly: "Well I would love to meet this friend of yours. She sounds charming."
Harry frowned internally, but left his face an unchanged mask. Something wasn't right. It was one thing to forget meeting the Famous Harry Potter, but to forget meeting the Famous Harry Potter AND the Famous Hermione Granger with a name no one could pronounce and everyone would remember was just too unlikely. "Oh, but you have met her. Don't you recall?"
Emilie was smiling and shaking her head slightly while appearing to search her memory.
"Yes we all met at the strategy meeting a couple weeks ago," Harry supplied.
The woman relaxed a fraction and feigned comprehension, "Oh of course! Yes, we were all there for the… strategy planning."
"Yes," Harry spoke calmly, all the while inching his hand towards his wand in his pocket, "Oh, do you remember they told us the phrase that unlocks the Dark Mark? What was it again?"
"Oh? Oh! Yes, er, if I recall correctly it was, 'Speak to me Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four,'" she said, but only a fraction of the incantation had left her lips before Harry was out of his seat with his wand aimed at the woman's heart. She looked frozen with shock.
"Who are you, and what have you done with Emile White?" he asked.
The woman's expression changed to a frown as her gaze focused first on the tip of Harry's wand, and then on his face. "No one you know, and she's somewhere you'll never find her," she said with a sneer.
A split second later he was looking at a cloud of black smoke that rose from the chair and smashed out the window with a loud crash.
*Id estcapiattelevaviis probably not Latin for "I solemnly swear I mean no harm" and Judicium executus may or may not mean something along the lines of "Justice managed."
…according to Google Translate. :D