I do not own anything here, nor am I making a profit from this. It is purely to pass my time, and hopefully, interest other people. J. owns Harry Potter, not me.
Chapter One - Nothing was supposed to Change
Madam Pomfery loved her job. She loved mending students, sending them away happy, and being able to control the hospital wing with her glare alone. After the war, she had decided she would spend her time making students happy again, treating them for depression and ensuring every single one of her students would graduate in the perfect picture of health. She was a woman on a mission. She would even tolerate the slytherins, she thought with a frown, and treat any injuries they got; she would be damned into hell before she smiled at them though. It was an outrage that they were even allowed back into the school, and she had voiced her concerns heavily to the headmistress, but they were back to stay. Well, she would dedicate her time to the other students, and make them all smile again; after the war, they needed to celebrate and smile as much as they could.
While everyone else was in the Great Hall feast celebrating the beginning of a new year, Madam Pomfery was busy tidying the hospital wing, double checking her potions and even contemplating a colour change. Maybe yellow, the colour of happiness? Although she knew she was regarded as a stern woman, she could surprise the students still. It was looking like a good year.
The sound of the door closing hinted that she was not alone anymore. Surprisingly, or not, in her regards, Harry Potter was standing sheepishly by the door, hesitating before making his way across the room. There was something different about him, but she brushed it aside. He was going to be the strongest this year, the happiest, without the constant threat of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named lurking over his shoulder. Harry, if anyone, deserved contentment more than any other person here, student or teacher alike.
He smiled, the mock happiness not quite reaching his eyes. Something was wrong.
He handed her a letter, refusing to meet her eyes.
A seal has a wand and a bone crossed; Mungo's symbol.
Madam Pomfery loathed her job. Especially when she had to tend to a student that had no hope.
"What's up, Harry? I know, potions as the first lesson of the year but...oh Merlin…that is really depressing, isn't it?"He trailed off, suddenly his own grin faltering. Harry smirked at Ron, knowing it didn't reach his eyes but trying nevertheless. He didn't really smile anymore, more like a grimace or a half-hearted smirk. Never a smile.
"Thanks for the pep talk there Ron. Made me loads better."
"Anytime mate…potions. I haven't made a potion in over a year! I'm going to be pathetic! This is ridiculous…how do they expect us to catch up? I'm barely a sixth grade level now!"
Harry sighed to himself at Ron panicking, watching him talk himself into a pale wreck. He was panicking about potions. Potions. As if passing that class was the end all, as if that one class was able to settle every dream he had and hold up his future on a shining platter. How was he supposed to console his friend when he could barely hold his scoff back? Harry was kind of looking forwards to being abysmal in potions this year; he might even explode a few cauldrons on purpose, just to torment everyone else. Seriously, worrying about Potions. Harry barely managed not to roll his eyes.
Harry knew it wasn't Ron's fault. He knew he should probably have told Ron and Hermione as soon as he found out something was wrong the few weeks after the battle. He should stop his facade of contentedness and turn to them both, shut them up about talking about Potions, and say loudly 'hey guys, are you going to ask me where I disappeared to after the war, because I'm ready to tell you about this thing taking control over my body, my magic and my life…'. But he didn't. He couldn't. And it was too late to tell them now. He just felt awkward, knowing full well he would get lectured, and they would cry, and he would feel like shit for weeks after. No, he couldn't tell them. How were you even supposed to bring it up? Over dinner? Maybe a chess game? 'Hey, Ron, let's share out exploits over the summer! Really, you and Hermione got together? Jeez, congrats! Me? Nah, I can't date anyone anymore; turns out I'm dying'…It didn't even sound good in Harry's head, eloquent as he always was.
He had had enough turning around to see everyone staring at him wildly, almost bowing as he passed. He had had enough of looking at the prophet in the morning to see his own face plastered across the pages with titles as irritating as possible. The Boy Who Lives Missing? Harry Potter, New Dark Lord? A Boy With More Than One Scar? Merlin, it was unbearable. Humorous, whilst he was in hospital. The story about how he had eloped with a vampire with an evident neck fetish had interested him. The one about how he had become a hermit, with his hair growing widely and his nails so long they were curling and yellow had amused him.
The amusement had stopped, however, as soon as he entered the train. With people glancing at his neck, or whispering to each other as soon as they sighed over his normal nails. The whispering behind his back, the immediate shushing as soon as he glanced their way…it was as if they had never met him before, as if they had never seen him walking the halls of his school. The reverence they held, and often, the fear, was grating Harry's nerves. As soon as someone in the school found out about it, it would spread like wildfire. He could picture the headings now. The Boy Who Can Live No Longer. Saviour Of The Wizarding World, A Squib. How Will Muggle Harry Cope?
That was why he couldn't tell Ron or Hermione. Not wouldn't, but physically couldn't.
Ron would get angry at first, that he hadn't been informed immediately. He would ignore it, fluster about and say inappropriate things at all the wrong moments. Hermione would be worse, crying, hugging, and then straight to the library to find a cure or create one. Harry knew of her brilliance, and Ron was still his best mate, but sometimes, you needed to struggle through something alone. God, he had done that more than enough to know how.
So, he pretended to smile at Ron, exchanged knowing glances with Hermione, and pushed his food around on his plate, not that hungry. After letting Madam Pomfrey know last night, he had been ushered by the blubbering nurse to the Headmistress, who also shed a quick tear before pretending it had never dribbled down her aged cheek. They demanded to know everything, which Harry had begrudgingly told, and swore not to tell any students. The teachers would be informed, but that would be all. It was all up to Harry's discretion. Thankfully.
Then they continued to talk.
Harry was no longer allowed to use excessive magic, only the bare minimum. He had pushed this point, saying it would be obvious something was wrong if he just didn't use magic at all. He had returned for a life of normalcy, and was going to be normal.
Harry had to report to the Hospital Wing. Daily. Just to ensure he could take his potions as directed. After all, in these types of cases, usually the patient stopped taking the medicine or started to have…questions about mortality. Harry attempted a smile, shaking his head. He had no plans to end his life, not when he was finally home.
His housemates had to be informed, for his own safety and wellbeing. Here, Harry had finally put his foot down, no longer agreeing and being polite. It was his life, and he wanted normalcy. No one, except for his teachers, were going to know of this, and if they did, he would be pulling out of school immediately. He was not going through the whispering and the gossiping and concerned glances again. He was of legal age now. He was making his own decision, and there was nothing they could do about it.
Harry should go to bed. He must be exhausted.
Yeah, they didn't know the half of it.
Harry sighed again, finally declaring he was full and following his friends down to the dungeon. He had been living on a slim hope that once he had gotten back to Hogwarts, everything would be okay. It was the reason he remained sane all through summer, through the tests and the medicine. Now, being back here with his friends and house, all he could think of was how much he wanted to be alone. They all seemed so happy and were able to laugh as if it were nothing. And no one had even asked Harry about his fake grimace. Did they not see it, or did they simply not care? Which answer was worse?
The Gryffindors lined up outside the classroom, their voices dropping into harsh whispers as they suddenly glared at the other occupants. Harry blinked up too, for the first time surprised. Only half the Slytherins decided to return this year. Knowing they would be ostracised and hated stopped most from considering entering Hogwarts again. How depressing, Harry mused. Hogwarts was his home. It could be theirs too, and the gossip had stopped them from returning. Another enticement for keeping his secret to himself; he couldn't deal with the gossip anymore, and quite frankly, wouldn't.
The Slytherins stood in near silence.
Parkinson was blatantly refusing to meet anyone's gaze, gaze to the floor and biting her lip worriedly. Usually, the snappy girl would flaunt herself and others, but now she was silent. Goyle likewise refused to look at anyone, but instead glared holes through the walls. He looked unstable, as if he was barely holding on underneath the surface. As if he felt the stare, he suddenly turned his head to stare at Harry, eyebrows folding to cover his small eyes immediately. He snarled, clenching his hands before spinning around, literally showing his back to Harry. The hostility was expected, but not to that extent. Harry blinked, eyes flickering to the other Slytherins. Zambini was whispering to Nott, who both flicked their eyes to meet Harry's startled ones before talking again. Great. It had started.
Sighing, Harry glanced at the last Slytherin in his class, blinking as he met grey eyes immediately.
Malfoy was impeccable as ever of course. Head held high, he lazily regarded the Gryffindor before turning away with a roll of his eyes. Nothing grated Malfoy, it was beneath him. At least some things never changed.
Harry felt his lips twitch, surprisingly and bit into it to stop it spreading. Not one smile, and Malfoy was the one to break that habit? Perhaps he was going mad. Well, madder.
He felt eyes on him again but kept his face to the floor, blatantly ignoring them. He wasn't going to rise to the bait, not this year. He had other things to preoccupy his time with. But then, he wanted normalcy, didn't he?
The door opened before he could settle his thoughts, and he grudgingly entered the room last.
He made a move to his usual spot, but stopped abruptly as he realised there was no seat for him. The classroom, usually, was set out with three seats around a cauldron…this year, there were only two. Which were filling remarkably quickly.
Ron sidled next to Hermione, naturally, grinning at her as he asked whether or not the cauldron was free in what he surely considered a sultry voice. Since they had kissed in the war, they had become inseparable, and almost insufferable. They took 'snuggling' to a new extreme, and Harry was surprised Hermione wasn't calling Ron 'Won Won' yet. He didn't mind that they were sitting together, he had expected it, but it didn't stop the hurt from flashing across his face.
They didn't even consider him, didn't give him a second of their thoughts. And that wasn't all. Dean and Seamus were together, naturally, and by this time Harry usually made a beeline for Neville, but the chair next to him was likewise occupied…by Parvati Patil not less. Parvati barely gave Neville a thought a day, and definitely knew of his reputation during potions, and yet, she was sitting there, huffily taking her books out.
Okay, he could cut her some slack. Usually she sat next to Lavender. Usually, her friend would be smiling and waving her over, desperate to divulge in the latest gossip. Not anymore.
Harry stood there, nonplussed. He, for the first time, didn't have anyone to sit with in potions, because they didn't give him time of day. First day back, and none of his friends wanted to sit with him? Not a word all holiday, and now this in potions? Fuck them all.
"Hmm, Harry, dear boy! Please, take a seat." Slughorn waited for Harry to sit, drawing attention to him from the class. Suddenly, all his friends understood.
"Oh…oh! Sorry Harry, I just didn't think-"
"It's fine." Harry snapped, not caring if his tone was a bit too harsh. Why didn't they notice him yet? Why didn't they notice that he wasn't smiling? He turned instead to the other side of the room, almost groaning. Malfoy and Zambini were together, both with their eyebrows raised as Harry's gaze stopped on their table for slightly longer than necessary. Parkinson was lounging back on her chair with Nott as a partner…which left a cloudy Goyle all by himself.
Holding in his sigh, Harry went over to Goyle's cauldron and sat in it gingerly, feeling as though he was in a nest of vipers. In front of them, Malfoy and Zambini. Behind him, Nott and Parkison. Goyle was on his right, closest to the door. He was surrounded by Slytherins, and could feel every gaze on him immediately. Ron shared his thoughts. Sort of.
"Sir, you can't let Harry sit there! It's dangerous, sitting with a bunch of-"
"Mr Weasley, I could advise caution before speaking about my house."
"…Come on, it's Harry! He should be the last person to sit with them!"
"Well, you didn't give me much choice." Harry snapped at Ron, catching his blank expression before facing the table. "Just leave it."
A hushed silence rang though the classroom before Slughorn began speaking again in rushed, excited tones. "Well, I thought before be begin the term, we should catch up on some of the last potions we did, shouldn't we? Therefore, you all have to pick a potion, any potion, in the book, and you have one and a half hours to concoct it. Good luck, winner gets thirty house points. Off you go, off you go! No time wasting!"
Harry sighed and turned to Goyle, who was staring at him sullenly. He had never really seen him this close before, despite the skirmishes through the school years. His small piggy eyes reminded him immediately of Dudley, and he hulked over Harry, not missing anything he did as he stared at him angrily. He flicked the book open, not even looking at the page, and glowered at Harry.
"We're making that one. Don't speak to me, don't touch me. You fucking got it?" He snarled, watching furiously as Harry simply nodded and didn't fight at all. He stood up, staring at Harry again for a moment, before storming to the back of the room to the ingredient cupboard.
Harry, remembering to breathe, had to stop himself from smiling again. This was ridiculous. He had killed the strongest wizard in all time…and yet, he was scared of a fellow student that had barely said two words to him before now? It was ludicrous. Trying not to smile, he felt eyes on him and stiffened slightly. He started boiling his cauldron, and flicked through the book at the ingredients in surprise. Well, he had already made this potion once. Doing it a second time wouldn't be that difficult. After all, he had had a great teacher.
Harry still felt the eyes on him, and finally, glanced up to grey eyes. Malfoy raised his eyebrows at him, as if he was staring first, and smirked. "The Weasel was right, you know. It really isn't safe for you to be sitting over here."
Harry didn't bat an eye. "And I should care…because?" He asked, watching Malfoy smirk again and turn back to the front of the room as Goyle returned. He dumped the ingredients on the desk roughly and got out a knife, starting to hack at the wormwood. Harry sighed, picking up the valerian roots and began to slice them thinly, keeping an eye on the still smirking Malfoy. Why did he let him have the last word? What was he planning?
The Slytherin side of the room worked in silence.
Harry grabbed the sopophorous bean and crushed it with the back of his blade, about to add it to his potion when Goyle stabbed it with his knife. Harry jerked his hands back, almost getting nicked and turned to him angrily. "What's your problem?"
"You, you half-blood filth." He growled back, teeth clenched furiously. "Follow the instructions."
"You're fucking not. Next time, the knife gets your hand." He growled, wrenching it free and glaring at Harry. He could feel the other occupants of the room staring at him again, daring him to do it. He could feel the heat rushing to his face, and clenched his teeth angrily. Then, in one daring move, he grabbed the board and let the crushed bean's juice run into the potion.
Harry placed the board back down, and picked up the ladle, starting to stir the potion counter-clockwise, counting under his breath. He glanced up, still counting, as he saw Goyle clench the knife tighter in one hand, his wand in the other. Harry got to seven, swallowed, and brought it back clockwise. The potion grew lighter. And he was shoved off of his chair as his stool disappeared underneath him.
Harry slammed onto the tiles, feeling his glasses snap and growled, getting to his feet and wiping his grazed hand on his robe. He took off his glasses, instead pocketing them. He couldn't magic them right, not here. He reached forwards again, grabbing the ladle, and began to stir again. Seven times. One clockwise.
He couldn't see what happened, instead had to squint at Goyle who seemed closer than he was a second ago.
"Goyle, if you curse him, we'll have every fucking Gryffindork throwing hexes at all of us. Pocket your bloody wand." Malfoy drawled, he, too, closer than Harry remembered. Harry swallowed, sitting back on his stool, hand lingering on the ladle.
"Well Potty, you have our attention. Continue." Malfoy drawled, smirking, Harry thought for sure. Harry blinked, swallowing slightly. Was this some sort of test? How the hell did it turn to this?
He swallowed again, and started stirring his potion, counting in his head. When he got to the seventh, he paused, and did one clockwise. He felt breathing on his neck and turned around, squinting at who it was, unable to tell. All the Slytherins were leaning over their desks, crowding him, trying to see what he was doing. It was unnerving that none of them spoke, only watched. Goyle was growling and muttering somewhere to his right, so Harry, if just to annoy him, kept stirring the potion. Seven anti-clockwise, one clockwise.
"Hmm, I'm guessing this is how you beat us last year." Harry glanced up at Malfoy, frowning slightly. He seemed to notice his slip and huffed, "I meant two years ago. In potions."
This was getting weird. Harry kept stirring, finally noticing that the potion had turned as clear as water. The perfect Draught of Living Death.
He put the ladle away, tapping his fingers slightly, unnerved at the attention and how they weren't giving him his space.
"But you're terrible at potions." Parkinson was the first to speak up, and apparently the one breathing on his neck. Harry jerked at the voice, squinting at her as he answered.
"This is the only potion I'm able to brew."
"You're not supposed to defer from the instructions."
"Because Slytherins are so good at following the rules?" He heard a quick chuckle, turning to strain to see who it was. Did he…just make a joke with a Slytherin?
"He's got you there Pans." Malfoy snickered, turning around and suddenly the spell was released. All the Slytherins went back to their respective potions, leaving Harry bloody well confused. He fingered his glasses, feeling the broken glass with his finger and wishing he could see. He knew Goyle had left his chair, but felt more comfortable with him in sight. He had changed after the war, and not for the better.
Finally Slughorn had announced Harry and Goyle as the winners, to the Gryffindor's amazement and the Slytherin's indifference. Malfoy spoke again, muttering though he was heard throughout the now stifled room.
"And, he did it blind."
Harry turned to Malfoy, who was blatantly looking away. Was he being nice, or was it a joke?
It was a relief when Slughorn finally called it a day, Harry hurrying to grab his things and slip outside, still squinting at everyone. He thought he saw bushy hair, and stumbled towards it, but then Hermione grabbed his arm from behind, pulling him behind them.
"…what happened to your glasses?"
"Uh, I can't remember the wand movement to go with the spell…"
Hermione rolled her eyes, or Harry presumed she did, before jabbing her wand forwards to mend the broken glasses. They were both staring at Harry, with impatient expressions.
"What? What? Harry! We looked over and they were bloody hanging off of your every word! That cow Parkinson looked as if she was about to give you a hickey!"
"Well, she didn't." Harry snapped uncomfortably, heading up for a break before lunch. "None of this would have happened anyway, if you had saved me a seat. Really, did you just forget about me or was it intentional?"
"Yeah, sure, blame us Harry. Seriously, what were you doing?"
"Nothing, I had a quick chat, they were watching me as I worked. They were actually fine."
"Oh, really, nothing was it?" Harry turned to Ron, hesitating when he saw his face the infamous red and a look of disbelief in his eyes. He grimaced at Harry, as if he was a stranger. "Maybe you should go and fucking sit with them for lunch then, if you like chatting with them so much!"
"Oh, just fuck off!" Harry bellowed, turning to the both of them, not caring that they were in a crowded corridor and had every eye glued to their fight. "Would you prefer me to act like a dick and get hexed all lesson, or maybe, just maybe, make it through the year without having a fucking miserable time as usual? There were no seats, so I sat there! Big fucking deal! Grow! Up!" He slung his bag over his shoulder and shoved his way through the crowd, regardless of the whispers that followed him. Great. Fantastic. Day one, not even lunch, and he had already snapped at them.
Harry ignored the stares he was getting and instead ran through the great hall, storming through the grounds before settling under a tree, directly next to the lake. Hogwarts wasn't supposed to have changed. The Slytherins were not supposed to show an interest in him, they were supposed to fight and hate each other. The Gryffindors were not supposed to forget him, they were supposed to stick by him until the end and joke around like they usually did. McGonagall was not supposed to cry! Slughorn was not supposed to give him sympathetic glances all through the classroom. The only one acting normal was fucking Goyle, and he was a brainless, sadistic prick!
Harry growled to himself, wiping his eye hurriedly. He was not going to cry. He hadn't cried yet, had he? He ground his teeth angrily, punching the ground before slamming his head back against the tree.
Hogwarts was not supposed to change!
...Why didn't they notice he couldn't smile?