A/N: Like the summary says, this is the much requested prequel to Movie Night. The core classes (Charms, Herbology, Transfiguration, and Potions) have voluntary extra lessons for their NEWT students; an in-depth study for those who wish to learn more than the curriculum has to offer. I like to think that back when there was a continuity in Defense professor's, there was a voluntary extra lesson for that, too. Set in sixth year, this story will fill in a couple holes, namely how that particular group started spending time together in the first place, let alone becoming as thick as thieves, and that question Severus said no one knew the answer to: Just how did Harry convince Dumbledore to let them sleepover in the House Common Rooms? Also gives a bit of a first look into the hopelessly stubborn emotions between them.
Harry moved calmly down the dungeon corridor, no speed to his steps beyond that of carrying him to his destination. The air down here was cold enough that he could see his breath, be he felt none of that, his body suffused with warmth from his racing heart. It had always raced as he approached the Potions Classroom; excitement had set it going for his first class (he had been so sure it would be his favorite lesson) and after that it had been a mixture of fear and anger that made his heart pump so strongly. He missed those days stridently. Fear, excitement, and anger…they had all been more quantifiable, and certainly easier, than this turmoil that ruled the vital organ in his chest now. He took a deep breath as he came at last to his goal and walked through the open door.
"Good evening, Professor," The 16 year old said, walking to the desk at the right-front of the room. "Draco, glad you could make it this time." He winked at the blond Slytherin, who rolled his eyes.
Snape didn't look up from the papers he was grading. "As I just finished telling Mister Malfoy, you are unusually early, even for your group, and though I don't care why, if this is some attempt by you and your friends to get the lesson over with more quickly, you will be disappointed to find I will not be starting any sooner."
The boy wonder, no longer a boy, shrugged. "Of course not, Sir. Our premature arrival will simply give us more time to go over the lesson before you start, and give certain others a chance to participate." Snape looked up and raised an eyebrow in doubt. "I really think Ron might come this time," Harry said stubbornly in answer to the man's unspoken question.
Draco looked at him sympathetically. "You say that every time, Harry. Why do you expect so much from the hair-brained Weasel?"
"Because despite knowing better," Hermione said as she walked into the room and took the desk behind Draco. "Harry hopes to convince Ron of the merit of these voluntary lessons, and of befriending Slytherins."
Draco wrinkled his nose. "That's a touch foolish, Harry."
Harry shrugged again as he set out the group's notes. "Well, you know what they say about hope and foolishness."
Snape chuckled darkly, making Harry wonder at the bitterness he heard there. "They go hand-in-hand, Potter."
Harry blushed and chuckled as Luna came in and set up beside him at his desk. She had to work with a partner since Snape and the other teachers had made an exception for her age. "I was actually going to say they both spring eternal, but I suppose that's essentially the same, isn't it?"
Neville and Susan came in and took desks of their own. "Who has last week's notes?" Susan asked.
Neville cut in wanly. "Yeah, I want to actually learn something this lesson." Snape looked up at him sharply. "No offense, Professor; we all know that it was Draco's fault."
Everyone snickered when the Slytherin Prince stuck his tongue out at the typically shy Gryffindor, before they all gathered around Harry as he laid out their research in a semblance of usable information. The group's study system had been Harry's idea, at the start. He had seen them all struggle in the first week, himself included, with the research required by the four voluntary classes they were taking and had suggested a trade-off. One person per class would do the preliminary research, and then on their free Sunday's all of them would gather in the Library to complete the research together. Then the person who had done the preliminary research would take all of the information they'd gathered and work it into a synopsis for the next class and review of the last for them to go over in the minutes before class. Then the next week they would pass the research to another person. It worked out that two different people were given a week's holiday to concentrate on schoolwork and sleep. Eventually, their study group had bled into their regular classes to the point that they were meeting nearly every day to help one another with homework as well as everything else, cutting out the holiday for two but decreasing their overall stress and lack of sleep.
The week before, Draco had only just been on time for the lesson, having gotten a last minute detention from McGonagall, and hadn't had the time to pass the research to another member of the group. In the end, they'd been forced to listen to Snape give a lengthy lecture over the properties of the potion they were going to be working on and how it related to the previous lesson. He knew their ribbing was all in jest, and that it was much deserved for making the class run over by an extra hour.
"Potter, a moment," Snape called gruffly.
Harry looked up from where he was explaining the connections between two bits of research and saw the Potions Master standing by the door to his office. He spelled his quill to answer any questions about the research if he knew it (a nifty spell of partial possession that Hermione had found) and left his friends to follow the professor into the dimly lit office. He was minutely surprised when the man didn't sit behind his desk, creating the usual unalterable distance between himself and his students, but shrugged it off as he noted the vaguely apologetic look in the man's eyes.
"Potter, because this is your groups final extra lesson for the week it has fallen to me to inform you that the lessons will be cancelled as they are," Snape said formally.
Harry furrowed his brow in confusion. Surely they weren't demolishing the lessons outright. "I don't understand, Sir."
"The other Heads of House and I have agreed that your group is learning nothing from these lessons as they are and have decided to put a stop to them," Snape explained haltingly.
Harry staggered slightly as though he'd been hit when he realized what his teacher was saying. "But, Professor, we are learning! Is this because of our research system? Have we been cheating without realizing it? If yes, then we can go back to sleepless nights in the library doing individual research, but don't take away the lessons. We enjoy these, it's the only time we can truly be ourselves." Harry was surprised to see he had grabbed the professor's hand in his desperation to make the man understand and pulled back as if burned.
"Potter, I'm not making myself clear," Snape growled. Harry flinched and the Professor softened his tone. "Harry, we're not abolishing the lessons entirely. What I'm trying to tell you is that we, the other professor's and I, will no longer be teaching them, we have no need to any longer. You were correct in your assessment that your research 'system' is the cause, but it isn't due to any unknown cheating. You have made our lessons obsolete, as it were." Harry was now doubly confused as the man took four scrolls and a timetable from his desk. Snape handed Harry the timetable. "These lessons are meant to last 3 hours, including a lecture and time to answer any questions you might have. Your group has reduced them to only one hour."
Harry thought back to the previous week and realized that, even with Snape's lecture, they'd only been there for two hours because the single day of joint research had left them with comparatively few questions. "So if the lessons aren't being cancelled, but you aren't going to be teaching us, then what are we to do?"
Snape handed him the four scrolls. "These, Potter, are the lesson plans. Your group may copy them as you wish, all we ask is that you not hand them out to your peers. We don't wish to see students attempting the lessons without the in-depth research they require. The Greenhouses as well as the Charms, Transfiguration, and Potions classrooms, will remain open to you and your friends on the usual nights, and we of course will be here to supervise. What we're doing is essentially giving you free reign to practice the lessons at your own pace. Two or more at once, if you wish."
Harry looked at the scrolls. "Thank you, Sir. We…I know it's not really my place, but would it be possible for you to postpone our lesson by about ten, maybe twenty, minutes, to give me a chance to talk to the group and maybe rearrange our timetable?"
Snape nodded once sharply and Harry turned to go back into the classroom while Snape moved to the desk in his office. Harry smiled at him gratefully for the unasked-for privacy, and went into the classroom where his friends were waiting for him impatiently. After a cursory explanation to them, he pulled out their study timetable.
"Harry, there are at least twice the number of lessons the Professor's could have taught us this term," Hermione squeaked, looking at the four lesson plans.
Harry nodded as he looked over the timetable. "I know, I think they gave us next years plans as well," He said distractedly. "They've all told us themselves that they didn't half expect us to continue the lessons, since our homework would practically triple in size for our last year, so they're giving us the opportunity to still absorb the information from the classes without the serious lack of sleep and possible need for time-turners next year. Damned decent of them, I think."
Draco scoffed. "Oh yeah, real decent, Potter. Except, where are we supposed to find the time for the extra research? Half of us have dropped out of clubs as it is. Are we now to drop them all altogether?"
"He has a point, Harry," Susan said softly. "It was hard enough to get our homework done on time with our clubs until we started meeting to study for regular lessons, and after the Winter Break you and Draco won't only have Quidditch practice, but games as well."
Harry glanced at Draco apprehensively, then looked back at the timetable. "Er, Draco and I are quitting Quidditch." He saw Susan look at Draco in surprise out of the corner of his eye. His dissent wasn't as big a shock, since he'd been drifting away from Quidditch since the start of term, but Draco was the Slytherin team captain. "It's become less fun, and more an annoying distraction. Draco's going to give the captainship over to Nott after Christmas, if he doesn't change his mind before then." He waved his wand over the timetable. "There, I think I've worked out how we can do all the research and still get a proper amount of sleep."
Neville pointed to the most obvious flaw. Harry had labeled Friday through Sunday as simply 'Homework'. "How do you expect to pull that off? Even without Quidditch, we've got Potions club and dueling on Saturdays, and all of us but Luna have nonstop classes on Friday."
"I think he's going to call in a favor," Luna said mysteriously.
Hermione huffed disbelievingly. "On who, the Headmaster?"
Harry blushed. "Well, he does sort of owe me, for convincing him to stop being stubborn and to just speak with Gellert. When they sort of got back together, he said he'd help me out whenever he could."
Susan cooed. "That's so sweet, Harry, I didn't know you'd done that for him. No wonder he's been more cheery than usual! How did you even know they'd been lovers, it isn't common knowledge?"
Harry didn't answer.
"Lovesick recognizes lovesick, doesn't it, Harry?" Luna asked softly.
Harry sighed and nodded. "Yeah, and it wasn't hard to get Phineas to tell me why. The former Headmaster's have been trying for decades to get them to talk. It just took a sympathetic kick in the arse to get Dumbledore to give in."
Hermione hugged him briefly. "Oh, Harry, that must've been so hard, seeing him get his happy ever after." Harry shrugged her off. They all knew he'd been infatuated with someone for almost a year now, though none of them knew who. "Have you spoken to-"
"No," Harry said, cutting her off. "I told you, it'd never work out, he doesn't see me that way. I imagine I'll have to tell you several more times before you'll all finally understand that's it's just not meant to happen." He glared at them, but they only looked back sympathetically. Finally he sighed. "Look, can we just drop it? I'll talk to the Headmaster tomorrow about letting us spend weekends together in one another's common rooms. Can we get back to tonight's lesson, now? Snape only gave us so much time to discuss the change and we've wasted quite enough of it talking about my nonexistent love life."
They all gave in after a second and Harry packed away the timetables and lesson plans so they could concentrate on the research. He couldn't help the painful twinge in his heart as he stared at the empty desk at the front of the class. He prayed that someday, if he said it to his friends often enough, he might truly give up all his foolish hope for a happy ever after.
Severus had to bite the inside of his lip to keep himself from returning the smile Potter sent him before the shorter wizard left to speak with his friends. When the boy had finally disappeared back into the classroom, closing the office door, Severus released all the breath in his lungs with a painful gasp. He leaned against his desk forlornly and stared at the closed door to his classroom as he tried desperately to get the burning touch of Potter's fingers out of his mind.
"Foolish, dirty old man," He muttered, crossing his arms over his chest against the cold he suddenly felt. "What hope for a man as beautiful as him to ever love you?" After a minute he gave up on trying to ignore the ache in his chest and hand, and moved around the desk to read. The least he could do is give the young wizard a few moments with his friends.
Afterword: Alright, for those of you wondering why Luna gets to be in the lessons it's because the teachers made a special exception for any bright Fifth Years and she was the only one to take up the opportunity (you'll remember that Ginny was of the same opinion as Ron about befriending Slytherins and this is about the time that she'd stop trying to win Harry and turned her attentions to forcing him to love her). Technically, what Luna's doing is auditing the class, but because the professor's know Harry and his friends wouldn't let anything untoward happen to her, they allow Luna to participate. Thanks for reading, and while I accept that I probably didn't cover everything that everyone wanted me to with this story (Harry joining Draco at the Slytherin table, Snape getting the cold shoulder from his Slytherins for ragging on the other Houses, etc.) you must accept that I didn't get to put in everything I wanted to. Unfortunately, this was the extent of what my muse could give me that was even a little cohesive. To put it simply, there was too much information for too little storyline. Sorry. Complaints will be dutifully read before being fed to my cat.