This wasn't done thought Harry as he trudged up to McGonagall's office. It was the end of classes for the day and Harry was making his way to the Professor's office. The whispers and stares had refused to die down and had become more pronounced as the day progressed; Harry wasn't very happy. There was a crease on his forehead as he thought about the situation. It was all so confusing. He had saved a centaur, a life! You'd think people would be a bit happier but no, he was suddenly the next Dark Lord. He didn't get it. At the Dursleys, a beating was the least he could expect for not listening to Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia. True, they were adults but surely the situation counted for something? The centaur was dying after all, speaking of which, maybe he ought to visit him in the infirmary. Who knows what he might learn and Harry had been dying to meet a real centaur. Back to the matter at hand though, he didn't really know what had caused him to lash out at Ron like that. It was like something had come over him, one moment he was annoyed and the next he was glaring at Ron who was a heap on the ground. And here he was being called to Professor McGonagall's office to be yelled at. She was supposed to be on his side, she was a friend of his parents! Weasley would die.
Harry kicked at the foot of a suit of armour as he passed and jumped as a cat sprang out from behind the shield. Mrs Norris. She stopped after a few steps and turned around. She gave a rather haughty look and was gone. Harry's mood darkened further, great, now he was getting looks from cats. Fuming, he marched right up to the Professor's door and knocked loudly. A moment passed and there was no sound. Harry checked the old, twice broken watch he had found in Dudley's second bedroom and repaired with the money he had stolen from his cousin's piggy bank. He wasn't early, if anything he was slightly late. Perhaps it was just as well, he thought. He didn't want to seem like he wasn't in control of his emotions which was sure to come up in conversation anyway.
Not knowing when Professor McGonagall would return and deciding he might as well be comfortable, Harry slumped down cross legged on the floor. Bored, he drew his wand out and examined it idly, occasionally flicking it and watching sparks dance merrily before fading away. His mind soon wandered to the Inanimate Transfiguration spell they were learning in Professor McGonagall's class and his fingers unconsciously traced the figure eight in mid air.
Professor McGonagall stumbled over a rubber duck as she hurried to her office from the third floor. She clutched the nearby balustrade for support as she looked down, annoyed. To her astonishment the floor was littered with all kinds of little whimsical figures ranging from cast iron frogs with lopsided grins and a cheeky wink to a trio of miniature soldiers surrounding a giggling princess. And to the far end of the corridor, close to where her office was situated, sat a little black haired boy frowning at a metal plate in his hand as he moved his wand above it slowly, the nearby floor hardly visible through the multitude of obvious failed attempts. McGonagall carefully avoided the army of oddities and made her way to Harry.
Harry was so absorbed in his task that he failed to notice Professor McGonagall come up behind him. McGonagall almost smiled, he seemed so adorable, like a little child surrounded by his toys. She put a hand on his shoulder, intending to break his little reverie. She was definitely not expecting what happened next.
Harry, oblivious to the world was glaring at the breast plate in his hands. He'd managed the inanimate to animate transfiguration but the result was somewhat wonky. He could only manage to transfigure it into an animated toy like object, not, say, a real mouse or a hedgehog. Funnily enough, the inverse was easy, like turning a hedgehog into a pin cushion or something similar which they'd already tried in class. Trying to remember the theory he had read in The Transfiguration Transcript in the library, he had almost closed his eyes when he felt a hand on his shoulder. His eyes snapped open and before he knew it, he was standing with his back to the wall facing the intruder, the objects around him hurtling towards the stunned figure.
Minerva McGonagall was not one of the most formidable Transfiguration Duellists in magical Europe for nothing. Although she was stunned at the abrupt reaction, she drew her wand in one quick, fluid motion and caused them to halt mid flight. Another wave and the objects went back to their original shapes and she gasped. There, hovering uncomfortably close to her stomach was a long sword, it's edge glinting dangerously. A closer look at the rest of the objects made her realise that Harry had been practising his Transfiguration on a dismantled suit of armour! One, she realised with a start, that used to stand half hidden in the alcove behind her.
Harry had opened his mouth in horror when he had recognised the figure as Professor McGonagall and had desperately tried calling the objects back. However, to his relief, they jerked to a stop on their own before the transfiguration was undone and the discrete parts of the suit clattered to the ground. He watched as McGonagall caused the whole suit to put itself together with a casual flick and another flick made the suit straighten up, grab it's sword and walk over to the empty pedestal in the alcove behind her before assuming a rather lurid pose. McGonagall looked back on seeing the look on Harry's face and shook her head. With a sigh and yet another flick of her wand, the suit of armour assumed the traditional stance of Hogwarts suits; head bowed, sword grasped by both hands with the point between the feet. Cold and unforgiving.
"Come with me, Harry." Harry dumbly followed her into the office and stood there, waiting. He was suddenly reminded of why he was here in the first place and his anger started to return.
McGonagall sank into an uncomfortable looking chair behind her desk before looking up to see Harry still standing. "Have a seat." She gestured.
Harry took the proffered chair without a word and looked at McGonagall a little coolly. McGonagall observed him intently for a moment before reaching for a tin on a small shelf next to her.
Harry blinked. "Er.. Alright, thank you." He took one.
"Here, have another."
Harry dutifully took another.
McGonagall eyed him, "Eat," she said.
Harry began crunching.
McGonagall waited until he took another bite.
"Now, Harry, care to explain why Feldor was bits of a rubber duck and wooden elephant outside?"
Harry, who had found the biscuit delicious and having skipped tea, had unfortunately just taken another bite. He chewed hastily, while McGonagall waited patiently.
"Feldor?" He swallowed.
'The suit of armour outside my office."
"I'm sorry about that Professor. I was sitting there, waiting for you and I was playing with my wand and then I thought about the spell we were learning in your class and…well, one thing led to another." He finished weakly.
McGonagall frowned slightly, "Harry, it may surprise you to know I am perfectly aware of what I've been teaching first years and what I haven't. What I saw outside while is part of the first year curriculum, is only theoretical. You do not begin the practical applications of Inanimate to animate transfiguration until your second year."
Harry muttered something inaudible and McGonagall made an impatient noise.
"I know, Professor. It's just I'd already read the theory very well and when I was able to do the inanimate to inanimate spell like you'd taught, I tried to push the same spell to get….um, a different result which got me thinking about the theory. I thought I could use the same understanding to do an inanimate to animate transfiguration. Well, not the same but similar since the mortuus is the only difference and the focus shifts from the magic to the being, I thought I could get it. But I wasn't quite able to get it right. The magic felt wrong somehow."
"Like flaring instead of the usual narrow stream? As if it were spreading around the surface somehow?"
Harry looked up to meet McGonagall's eyes for the first time that evening. "Yes, exactly like that, Professor," he said quietly.
McGonagall really did smile this time. A small one and it vanished quickly but a smile nevertheless. "I can see you are interested. Perhaps we could arrange for some ….extra-curricular work in the evenings after class? I did feel the class wasn't challenging enough anyway."
Harry nodded vigorously.
"Good, now that that is over with, there is the matter of why you are here in the first place. While I'm sure you have a fair idea…" McGonagall stopped. Harry's face had quite suddenly darkened and his features had frozen.
"Harry, it is not my intention to reprove you." Harry looked up and refrained from scoffing with great difficulty.
"Harry, look at me. It truly is not why I asked you here. I invited you here to offer you advice."
Harry was confused. His features assumed their usual expression when unsure; blank.
"Now, that I am sure you will not discard everything I say arbitrarily I'll have you know that I am very aware of what occurred on the grounds during the Gryffindor-Slytherin common Flying lesson. While I admit I am displeased with the idea of one of my own students attacking his housemate, I am significantly prouder of the cause. You effectively saved a life yesterday, Harry and believe me when I say Lily and James would have been proud. Now, the important part. I cannot say I understand what passed between you and Mr Weasley as deserving of the violence that followed but I can say this, and listen carefully, keep in mind that no matter how angry you are or how justified you may think it is, attacking a fellow witch or wizard is not taken kindly in the Wizarding world and one should never allow others any opportunity to cast accusations."
McGonagall was anxious Harry understand what she was trying to say.
Harry considered these words for a long minute before finally looking up and nodding. McGonagall leaned back into her seat satisfied.
Harry was making his way slowly to the infirmary, a note clutched in his left hand. His mind was still processing what Professor McGonagall had just said. He couldn't deny the truth in what she said. Witches and wizards had taken it very badly that he had attacked one of them. One of us, he thought quietly. But I'm more than that, he thought as he absentmindedly nodded to a portrait of a bright little witch in vivid robes. I 've got to be, he thought as he stepped into the infirmary.
"Over here, dear. What seems to be the matter?" Harry turned to see a matronly lady with a kind face framed by lose strands of hair that had escaped what must have been an elegant knot. She was bending over a fifth year from Gryffindor he recognised. Bloom something.
"Nothing, ma'am. I'm here to see Firenze. Professor McGonagall said it was okay." He handed her the piece of parchment. She barely glanced at it before giving him a warm smile.
"Of course, Harry. He's right down that wing, the last bed. He's awake and wanted to meet you for a while now." Harry gave a small smile and nodded his thanks as he walked to where she had pointed. He noticed that she called him by his first name very easily, as if they knew each other. But then, so did almost everyone else he didn't know.
Thick white curtains screened the last bed from sight as Harry made his way to it. There was a soft clopping coming from behind the curtains. Harry raised a hand to grab the end of a curtain when they were suddenly wrenched back. A tall, muscular horse's chest stood in front of him. A long, fine tail swished behind and a man's slender torso arose from the horse's chest, the pale fur giving way to rough skin before smoothening out. Keen blue eyes were aimed straight at Harry's green ones.
"Harry Potter. The stars told me would meet."
Harry came away from the infirmary, his mind whirring. Speaking to Firenze had been a radically different experience. He hadn't understood half of what the centaur had said in his soft, low voice. The words were simple enough but they were twisted by obscure references to events long past or far into the future, Harry couldn't decide which. Firenze had flat out refused to say what it was that had injured him, instead inviting harry to meet him the next day. But it was what Firenze had said as they parted that Harry had found chilling. We will meet again, and then, Child of Mars, then we shall know if it will be a night, a darker night than any has seen or a brilliant, glorious new dawn.
Harry shivered a little as the words floated in his mind and the clouded gaze of the centaur fixed itself on his scar.
Harry had gone to bed, but sleep had continued to evade him as he thought about Professor McGonagall, Firenze and Ronald Weasley. As a result he was now sitting at the breakfast table grumpy and his hair sticking up at odd angles. Many a giggle died an ignoble death when a pair of cold green eyes had sent, quite literally, the equivalent of a death glare. Even Hermione had steered clear after a few feeble attempts to get him to talk.
They had Defence Against the Dark Arts first and Harry was seriously considering skiving off. There wasn't anything the bumbling idiot could teach that Harry didn't already know since he simply stuttered the book at them. A half glance at the head table banished the thought. Private lessons with Professor McGonagall! Suddenly, the world didn't seem all that bad. He even gave a small wave to Draco who had been trying desperately to catch his eye all morning. Harry frowned, he might ask him about it during Charms.
Harry and Hermione made their way to the Defence classroom when Hermione took another chance.
"Harry? What did Professor McGonagall want yesterday? You were gone for quite a while," she said tentatively.
"She wanted to talk about Weasley. Apparently someone complained."
"What? How could they? Weren't they there? Didn't they see… It was Ronald, I'm sure of it! That.. that..!" Hermione spluttered.
"Don't worry, Professor McGonagall didn't yell at me. Just said she didn't approve but she was proud of what I..we did yesterday."
"Oh," said Hermione feeling foolish but seeing Harry give her a small smile, she quickly brightened up.
A low hiss broke Harry's concentration as he read in Professor Quirrell's class. He looked around confused.
Harry looked to his side and found Hermione glaring at him.
"What do you think you're doing? That isn't our text!"
Harry looked down, no, it definitely wasn't. Quirrell seemed to be unwell today and had assigned the class to read the third chapter. Almost immediately after, he had collapsed into a large armchair by the fire behind the teacher's desk and seemingly fallen asleep. Harry spared the chapter a disinterested glance before reaching into his bag and slipping a slender, dark book with faded silver lettering onto his desk on top of his text. He had found it in a dark corner in the unsorted section. He had been rummaging around looking for something interesting for a bit of bedtime reading when he had come upon it. The date on the book read 1943 and seemed to be some sort of discourse on Magic. He had picked it up thinking it might be interesting to read the opinions of witches and wizards from the '40s.
Hermione wasn't letting go so easily.
Harry sighed and closed the book dramatically before raising an eyebrow at Hermione who appeared mollified. Harry waited until she was lost in the book before he quietly opened the little book again. Magic, it said, the Muggle's dream and the Magical's birth right I have found to be a beautiful little thing. One that is at the same time the most exquisite angel and the vilest crone. I have ever been drawn by magic, her intricacies, her complexities and magic has ever remained that elusive temptress, always flitting further and further from my grasp with every spell I mastered with that brother mine; mine Holly and Dragon partner.
Harry didn't manage to read much more as the class grew restless and noisy. This forced Professor Quirrell to stagger out of his chair and patrol the benches. But Harry found himself intrigued by what he read.
Charms was as lively as ever and with Neville somehow managing to make it snow feathers every time he tried making his feather rotate in mid air. Under cover of the confusion and constant yelling, Harry found Draco and asked him what was on his mind.
"Weasley's on the lookout for people who don't like you. He's taken the attac… whatever happened on the grounds very badly. And with the rumours about you flying around, there are a lot of those people." Draco looked serious and Harry felt it might be better to keep an eye on Weasley for a while.
"Thanks, Draco." Draco nodded and slipped back to his place between Crabbe and Goyle.
Harry considered what he had just heard. His inherent paranoia forced him to take it seriously although the idea that Ronald could harm him was laughable. Damn the redhead. He would really have to keep an eye out now. Maybe he could enlist the help of a few people. Speaking of which, he thought, it might be good to have a few people on his side as well. After all, there had to be people who believed in him and most would jump at the chance to be part of his inner circle. This needed some serious thought he decided.
Harry was distracted through lunch. This caused him to eat much slower than usual. He had a feeling someone was glaring at him but brushed it off. Hermione fumed silently by his side.
Finally, with Harry done Hermione pulled him to his feet and led him to Potions.
Professor Quirrell was alone in his room. Once the door had closed behind the last student, he had barely made it to the chair before collapsing with a groan. His eyes flickered briefly before assuming a red hue. And suddenly he was upright, pacing the office with quick, powerful strides.
"The stone is here," he muttered, "that much you may claim credit for, Quirinus. I must admit, the troll, abominably dull though the idea was, did serve its purpose. Severus, though. Ah, Severus. As fierce as ever. Does he really believe that it is Quirinus he thwarts? He is a slippery one, Severus."
Abruptly, Quirrell stopped mid pace and fell to his knees, crying. His eyes were the usual black. "Master, please," he whimpered, shaking like a leaf in a storm. "Master, I believed the troll would work! It did draw them away, Master! If only those kids hadn't beaten it so quickly, Snape would never have been able to figure it out before it was too late! I beg of you Master, I beseech you, remove Snape! With you commanding my body, He stands no chance, not one, Master!"
Quirell straightened, red eyes gleaming. "My dear Quirinus, you sound downright bloodthirsty! Can it be that you wish me to act in haste and reveal myself? Do you regret the bonding? No, Quirinus, you must be clever. You must find a way that avoids Snape for now. I am unsure of his loyalties yet. And in this castle, he is perhaps the only one apart from Albus who may be able to discover me. What he would do with such knowledge, however…. Should he choose to help, I would rise once again, more powerful than ever, faster than I believed possible. Should he not, however. My mean existence will cease. No, Quirinus, you must be clever. As for the children who vanquished the troll, I thought I commanded you to find out if the rumours were true, did I not Quirinus? Was Harry Potter involved?"
Quirrell walked over to the mirror at the back of the room and sank to his feet.
"Master, please. It is a great strain but I bear it willingly, willingly for you! You did command, Master. I shall do as you say but he boy refuses to have anything to do with me. He does not seek me out like the other teachers and almost seems to shy away from me whenever I approach." He whispered.
"Quite right, you will," said an amused voice as red eyes stared back from the mirror. "I believe that says a lot about the boy. And what it does say is rather encouraging. He shies away from the weak. He understands power, Quirinus. He has felt it. Perhaps…"
Snape observed Potter from afar. This time, there was something different about the boy. The whispers were the same, the rumours just as hurtful but the boy paid no mind. He seemed distracted? No, focussed. He was thinking of something. He watched him brew the potion he had set them today. A milder variation of the Shrinking Solution. He had to admit, the boy was almost a natural. His careful and calm, almost cold nature, perhaps, was just what was needed in Potions. But he did not have the flair for it, yet.
Snape looked on, interested as Potter just sat there after finishing his Potion. No attempt to help, no attempt to engage in useless conversation, just sit there. The boy was definitely thinking of something. He saw him cast a glance at Draco and his eyes narrowed. Draco was another he had been keeping his eye on. Initially, Draco had appeared to be friendly with the Potter boy for obvious reasons. Now, there was something about it. The dynamic had shifted. Draco almost seemed…no, it couldn't be. He would have to watch closer before he came to a conclusion.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who read, reviewed and favourited.