I was two months into my latest attempt at brewing Felix Felicis when my home fell on its side.
“Gah!” I cried, vanishing the potion from my robes and the floor before it starting eating its way through again. I got up, unlatched the entryway, and crawled onto the floor outside.
“What is the meaning of this?” I said, staggering to my feet.
Hermione didn’t even look up from her book. “Your trunk fell off the shelf.”
I hastily took in my surroundings. Hermione sat primly on a seat, reading this year’s Charms textbook. Meanwhile, Ron, Ginevra, Luna, and Longbottom were playing a particularly volatile game of Exploding Snap. “…We’re on the train.”
“Of course we are,” Ginevra said.
“Why didn’t anyone inform me that we were returning to Hogwarts?” I snapped.
Luna crawled away from the game, peering into my trunk curiously.
Ron said, “We couldn’t get in to tell you. You locked us out.”
“Of course I did. You kept trying to steal me from my bed.” I waved my hands around in frustration.
Hermione flipped a page in her book. “To protect you.”
“And I locked it in order to protect myself from you.” I accioed my wand, sick of gesturing like a Muggle.
“You don’t have a Floo in there. How were we supposed to get you?” Ron said.
“Have you ever heard of knocking?”
Luna looked in my general direction. “Do you mind if I go inside?”
“Yes, go ahead.” I waved my wand dismissively.
Ron gaped. “What? She’s allowed to go inside but we’re not?”
“She has yet to attempt my kidnapping,” I said.
Ginevra beamed up from her continued game with Longbottom. “I haven’t tried to kidnap you yet, Harry.”
“Yes, I just don’t want you in my home,” I said.
Longbottom opened his mouth, glanced at the wand still in my hand, and shut it again.
“I don’t think I would like living in here very much,” Luna called from my trunk. “It’s not very cozy, and it’s rather cold.”
“Heat disrupts the brewing process.”
I glared at Hermione because this latest incident was almost certainly the result of her vengeance. “…which reminds me. You ruined three months of work.”
She groaned. “You’re not seriously trying to make Felix Felicis again?”
“I’ve figured out the secret to making the most potent batch in existence,” I declared.
Hermione pursed her lips. “You’ll be lucky if you can make it at all. That’s a very advanced potion, Harry. Most Potions Masters can’t even brew it.”
“It takes incredible luck for anyone to successfully brew it. I suspect that luck is actually an ingredient. The insane amount of luck necessary for me to do it would therefore add to the quality of the potion. In fact, it may actually be stealing my luck for later use, thus leading to my many failures.”
“Harry,” Hermione said, “that’s stupid and –”
“–just the sort of thing that magic does!” Ginevra cried.
“She’s got you there, ‘Mione,” Ron said.
Longbottom mumbled, “Makes more sense than Potions usually does.”
Ginevra sat up, an uncomfortably large portion of her face taken over by a smile. “You should tell Snape about this. It might completely change potion making or at least make the class slightly less boring.”
“No, that seems like a bad idea. Snape doesn’t like me.” Also, more people who are not me would have access to liquid luck, which would be terrible.
“I guess I could tell him for you, if you wanted,” she said.
I condescendingly tapped her on the head with my wand, snatching it back when she leaned into the touch. If I wasn’t careful, I’d have another Bellatrix on my hands. “Let me rephrase that. Snape hates all of us.”
Luna’s voice drifted out of my trunk. “Harry?”
I amended my previous statement. “Except for Luna. I don’t know how he treats Ravenclaws.”
“Only slightly better than Hufflepuffs,” Ginevra chirped.
Luna’s voice was fainter this time. “Harry? I’m lost.”
Hermione nervously stroked her wand, muttering, “Harry, why do you have a shield charm up?”
I glanced around the Great Hall. There were no eavesdroppers, at the moment, aside from Ginevra. “Put yours up. Ron, hide behind Hermione. Ginevra, hide behind Ron.”
Obstinate as ever, all three cast separate shields. I growled in annoyance. Hermione frowned. “No, seriously. Why are we doing this?”
“Who’re they?” Ginevra asked, voice dropping to match mine.
“The other students. I think they’re preparing an attack.” It wouldn’t be the first time.
Hermione dropped her charm and said, “They’re just curious.”
“I sense anger, and I very rarely get that one wrong.” I glared at an errant Hufflepuff who had the gall to glare back. They were rebelling, just as I always knew they would.
“Well, I guess some of them might be riled up by the papers. They’ve been pretty bad about you lately, what with Dumbledore saying You-Know-Who’s back,” Ron said.
I raised an eyebrow. “And I was not informed of this because…?”
Hermione said, “In a trunk. Besides, Rita Skeeter –”
“Wait, didn’t we kill her?!” I exclaimed.
Hermione winced. “No, Harry. We didn’t kill her.”
“No, no. I remember this specifically. You were trying to starve her to death, and I said that was too evil. We were going to take her out some other way, though. Just what have you been doing all summer?”
An obnoxious Gryffindor said, “A murderer, too! Wait until my Ma hears about this. Of course, we all knew you were a crazy, attention-seeking liar.”
Hermione pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Harry is all of those things. But rarely at the same time.”
“Also, he’s my best mate,” Ron said. “It doesn’t matter how true your insults are; I’m hexing you for having a go at him.”
“I’ll help,” Ginevra squealed.
I raised a hand. “Down, Weasleys. I can handle this.”
They reluctantly acquiesced. I stared at the Gryffindor through my shimmering shield charm. “Tell me, have I ever been quoted as saying that Lord Voldemort is back? Have you ever seen me say that? Am I saying it now?”
He appeared confused. “So you’re saying he isn’t, then?”
I chuckled. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I certainly saw some snake-like man burst from a cauldron. However, I cannot say with certainty that he was Voldemort. I’ve never even seen a photograph of the man.”
“There aren’t many of them around, and they’re almost never in the history books,” Hermione said.
Ron snorted. “Not surprising, is it? It’s bloody creepy when he smiles and waves at you.”
I’ve always loved having my picture taken.
The Gryffindor cleared his throat. “But Dumbledore said that you said that Voldemort was back.”
“Dumbledore is clearly trying to manipulate you all. I am neutral on the Voldemort issue. Tell all of your friends.”
The Gryffindor, still looking dazed, wandered off.
Ron nodded, standing tall as though he had just chased the boy away single- handedly. Hermione said, “That should quiet some of the louder Gryffindors.”
I quirked an eyebrow.
“You were in your trunk,” Ginevra said.
I sighed. “Trust Dumbledore to sabotage my reputation.”
The redhead tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Well, he hasn’t done a very good job. The Gryffindors are mostly behind you, already. The Hufflepuffs think you’re lying. But you insult them in public, so you never stood a chance there. The Ravenclaws who are lucid enough to understand what’s going on are reserving judgment. And the Slytherins believe you because Voldemort killed most of their parents.”
I hummed thoughtfully. “Yes, I suppose we have that in common.”
I stared at my folded hands, Dumbledore’s phoenix burning my face as it crept ever-closer. “Sir, I think your bird is hissing at me.”
“Because he likes you, my boy,” Dumbledore said.
The phoenix slowly backed away. A quick glance showed that its beady, black eyes still watched my every move. “You said the same thing about Snape.”
“They’re both rather unconventional in showing their fondness,” he said.
I’ve often wondered if Dumbledore was attempting to orchestrate my death through negligence.
Dumbledore steepled his fingers, leaning forward. “Do you know why I called you here today, Harry?”
I spoke very quickly. “Is it because I publically denounced you in front of the entire student body?”
The old man looked surprised for a moment, an obvious act, before coughing. “I may wish to speak of that later, but no. Did you hear about the break in at the Ministry of Magic this summer?”
“No,” I said, thinking of the prophecy orb which now served as a make-shift lamp in my trunk. “Why would I know anything about the Ministry? I don’t keep up with politics. You should tell me about it.”
“The details don’t matter,” he said. “What you need to understand is that Voldemort broke into the Ministry to steal something very important. Something that concerns you both. A prophecy.”
I tried to channel my inner Ron. “We read about those in Divination, I think. Don’t they tell the future or something?”
“They do indeed. This prophecy concerns Voldemort and yourself. I heard it many years ago, and it seems that Voldemort now knows it. I believe it is time that you do, as well.”
I frowned. “I’m confused. Why am I always the last to know about these things?”
“I was trying to protect your innocence.”
How would a normal fifteen-year-old respond to that? Hermione would write a book report. Ron would turn red and start sputtering. Malfoy would go brush his hair or something.
I gave up that line of thought and shrugged because scoffing seemed suspicious.
Smiling, Dumbledore prepared a pensieve and showed me his memory of Trelawney’s prophecy.
As I swirled back into the real world, I asked. “Are you sure that this is genuine? This is Trelawney we’re talking about here. According to her, I’m supposed to have died six times by now. I know; she usually gives dates.”
“I’m quite certain of its validity.”
I shivered at the thought of what disturbing rituals Dumbledore had performed to satisfy him of this. I shook myself, turning to brighter topics. “So I have to kill Voldemort, then?”
“Perhaps,” Dumbledore said, as noncommittal as ever. “Or perhaps you might defeat him with love.”
I snorted. “Fire doesn’t kill everything, Headmaster…Wait, I have a brilliant idea.”
“Oh, yes?” he asked.
I widened my eyes, which I could imagine shining with excitement. “Could you teach me your Dark Magic?”
The phoenix dived for my head.
It was a typical evening in the Gryffindor common room: Hermione was polishing off the tenth page of our five-page Charms essay, Ron was thrashing Longbottom in chess (an accomplishment that was more embarrassing than impressive), and Ginevra was by the fireplace pretending to have other friends.
“Dumbledore won’t talk to me,” I grumbled. This would usually be a good thing, but I now had no idea what he was plotting.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have asked him for his Dark Magic.”
“I’ll admit that might have been rude,” I conceded, “but he’d just told me that I had to kill Lord Voldemort. And, really, it’s very selfish of him to hoard it. He doesn’t even have an heir.”
Ron looked up from the chessboard where his knight was busy decapitating Longbottom’s queen. He said, “Mate, Dumbledore isn’t evil.”
“I never said Dumbledore was evil.” Implied, yes, but outright stated? Absolutely not, everyone knows the portraits spy for him.
I continued, “Besides, that has nothing to do with this conversation.”
Hermione got a queer look on her face and asked, “Harry, just what do you think Dark Magic is?”
I snorted. “Secret magic retained within a family, obviously. That’s why they call it Dark Magic. It’s kept in the dark where very few people get to see it.”
“But I thought it was just evil magic,” Ron said. “Like spells that make people’s eyes explode and stuff.”
“Well, of course it’s mostly that. If I invented a spell that made eyeballs explode, I wouldn’t tell everyone about it. People would start asking awkward questions like: ‘Why would you make something like that?’ and ‘What’s wrong with you?’ and ‘Are you the person going around exploding people’s eyeballs?’
“Then they would start to use it on you, or they’d come up with a counter- curse, ruining the whole point of inventing it in the first place. Actually, that’s where most of the spells we learn in class come from. Petrificus Totalus, for instance.”
Hermione huffed. “That’s ridiculous. Petrificus Totalus is perfectly harmless.”
I said, “Oh, sure, it’s all good fun now that everyone knows the counter- spell, but no one was laughing when the Parkinsons used it to bury their political enemies alive.”
Hermione gasped, hands flying up to cup her mouth and Charms assignment forgotten on her lap. “That’s horrible.”
“Magic usually is,” I said, “but Dark Magic isn’t any more evil than the rest. It’s just very exclusive.”
A light of understanding weakly lit within Ron’s Weasley eyes. “So, when you said that my family had Dark Magic…”
“I assumed that during your nine hundred year history, at least one of your ancestors invented a spell and then didn’t go out and tell everyone,” I said.
“Ginny isn’t evil then?” Ron said.
I paused, thinking for a moment. “I’m not sure. Only one way to find out, I suppose.”
I turned to towards the fireplace and shouted, “Ginevra, Hermione is recruiting for her Dark army. Would you like to join?”
Ginevra appeared thoughtful. “Are you going to join?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” I admitted.
“Let me know when you do.” She nodded decisively and then turned back to her previous conversation.
I said to Ron, “See, she’s less evil then Hermione.”
“I’m not evil,” Hermione said.
I chuckled. “Then we have nothing to worry about.”
Ron frowned. “Someone should probly let Dumbledore know that Harry isn’t evil, either.”
“Hem, hem,” Umbridge hem-hemed.
I turned _Most Potente Potions _to page four hundred and twelve.
A flick of my wand sent three small fires dancing atop my desk. I glanced up disdainfully at her toad-like face. “What is it?”
“Can you tell me, Mr. Potter, why a cauldron is on top of your desk?”
I frowned, adjusting it slightly so that the fires evenly heated its pewter sides. “Felix Felicis is very sensitive to altitudes. This isn’t ideal, but it’ll have to do.”
She pursed her lips so that they looked a bit like a duck’s bill. “And why aren’t you reading your textbook?”
“I already did that,” I said.
“In this class, we read the textbook,” she said slowly, smiling as if I couldn’t sense her evil intentions.
“Yes, which is why everyone hates your class” – I turned around to the seat behind me – “Right, Hermione?”
“Harry! You can’t say things like that to professors.”
I turned triumphantly back to Umbridge. “If she didn’t hate your class, she would have said that. For instance, she’ll never accept that Potions might as well be self-study.”
Hermione huffed. “Potions is a perfectly reasonable subject, which requires a teacher to ensure its students’ safety.”
“See? We all hate your class. I would blame the curriculum, but I don’t think we have one of those. You’re just a terrible teacher.”
Her chest heaved up and down in fury. “How dare you –”
“It’s not just me. Snape agrees, and he should know. He’s a terrible teacher, too.”
Umbridge said, “I have absolutely no interest in the opinions of a half-breed werewolf.”
I laughed at her idiocy. “Snape is a full werewolf. There’s no such thing as a half werewolf, and you would know that if you knew anything about your subject.”
“Detention, Mr. Potter!” she cried.
I glared. “Fine, we’ll talk about werewolves. Maybe you’ll even learn something.”
“But the only way to seal a werewolf bite is with a mixture of powdered silver and dittany. Mind you, it doesn’t do much good against –”
Umbridge interrupted, and I was suddenly quite certain that she hadn’t been listening at all. “Your detention will be very simple. You will write ‘I must not interrupt class.’”
“There wasn’t a class to interrupt.”
“You will write it as many times as it takes to sink in,” she said tightly, pulling out a thin, black quill.
I gestured widely with my wand. “It’s sunk in. Can I go?”
“Five hundred lines, then,” she said.
I sighed gustily and took the quill.
I was aware that arguing would only irritate her further, a secondary goal, but I knew a blood quill when I saw one. And that complaint had given me just enough time to cast an invisible glove charm, most commonly used by Potions Masters. You see, a blood quill is always attached to the last person whose skin touched it.
In this case, Professor Umbridge.
I smirked and wrote the first line. Umbridge yelped. I wrote the second.
I wrote the third, humming merrily under my breath.
“Stop that! Stop that right this instant!” Umbridge shrieked.
I looked up from the parchment, absentmindedly doodling. “What is it, Professor?”
She trembled with rage, clutching her injured hand. “Give me the quill.”
I smiled congenially. “Are you bleeding?”
“She’s got you in for detention again? I figured you’d have scared her off already,” Ron said, lounging in a chair near the common room fireplace.
“Honestly,” Hermione huffed. “This wouldn’t happen if you didn’t keep antagonizing her.”
“You think she’s terrible, too,” I pointed out.
“Yes, but I don’t tell her that.”
I stared at Hermione, stunned by her selfishness and cowardice. “Then how is she supposed to know?”
Ron said, “She probably already does, mate.”
“No, she could not possibly know how awful she is and then do nothing about it. She’s worse than Quirrel. She’s even worse than Binns! At least he lets us duel in the back of the classroom.”
Hermione said, “You can’t keep doing that, by the way. It’s disrespectful.”
“Binns doesn’t mind,” I said.
She curled her fingers into fists. “He doesn’t notice.”
I nodded. “Exactly. Binns doesn’t stop us from learning. He doesn’t encourage it, either, mind you. I’ve been turning in the same essay every month, and I get the same grade every time.”
“That’s cheating!” Hermione said, as if she didn’t do worse things on a daily basis.
“Binns doesn’t think so.”
Ron appeared awestruck. “That’s brilliant.”
Hermione scowled at him, and he hurriedly added, “But you shouldn’t do that.”
I said, “Why not? We essentially don’t have a teacher for that class. I might as well enjoy the advantages. Regardless, Umbridge is actively ruining our ability to learn. You, of all people, should be upset about that. You’ll fail your OWLs.”
Ginevra giggled in the corner, calling out, “I would pay to see that. It would just be so weird.”
Hermione’s eyes widened until she resembled a house elf. “You’re right. We, we need to do something about this. A study group, maybe. Um, you and Ron will be in it, of course. Neville, too, and I imagine Ginevra will want to join…”
“So that makes five of us,” she said, nodding jerkily. “Good. Alright. And the Ravenclaws, too, if they haven’t already organized something.”
Ginevra said, “They haven’t!”
“Alright, good. We’ll all arrange a meeting time –”
“And I will lead it,” I declared, eyes shining.
This was perfect. If I successfully prepared a class of students for their OWLs, then Dumbledore would have no choice but to give me the DADA position.
“But there’s nothing here,” Ron said, staring at the blank wall beside the portrait of Barnabus the Barmy and his dancing trolls.
Hermione smirked, head tilted smugly as she began another one of her history lessons. “The Room of Requirement only appears under very specific circumstances, since they tried to seal it several centuries ago, but it’s definitely there.”
She began walking, Ron trailing behind her. She turned abruptly, bumping into Ron, and – face reddened with exertion – continued her pacing.
I stood still and watched the wall. Recalling the storage room where I’d stashed Ravenclaw’s Diadem, I frowned. “How did you find out about this room, again?”
“It’s in Hogwarts a History.”
Good, no one ever reads that book, so my Horcrux was fairly safe.
Hermione’s eyes sparkled. “It’s a fascinating story, really. Ravenclaw designed this room a few years after founding the school. It could temporarily summon anything off the grounds, and she often used it when preparing a particularly tricky ritual or spell. Of course, it also became quite popular among the students as a recreation center. But it was too enthralling for some, and a few students never came out. They say you can still find their skeletons, if you ask it for the right thing.”
“Hermione, you’re really not selling me on this room,” I said.
“It doesn’t have any sort of enchantment to lure you in. Some people just don’t like their lives, I suppose. And I don’t have to sell you on it” – a door shimmered into existence – “It will sell itself well enough.”
I opened it, peering inside with my wand raised. The arched ceiling rivaled that of the Great Hall, and wheeled dummies darted about one section, occasionally bumping into sturdier targets. At the far end, a podium overlooked the room. To the side, a bookcase jutted out, connected to the wall by a red, velvet curtain.
“Impressive,” I said.
“Oh, isn’t it?” she sighed, immediately racing to the bookcase.
Ron cast a stunner at one of the dummies, grinning when it flashed bright red and collapsed. “Wicked.”
I wandered about, mentally claiming the podium as my property and taking a head off of a dummy. It promptly regrew it. I wondered if I could instruct the room to not let it do that.
I then peered around the curtain. “Oh, look, there’s even a bed in here for when the members are injured!”
Hermione squeaked, and a library book thudded against the floor.
I frowned. “Of course, we’ll have to get rid of the skeletons first.”
The grass whispered across my scales as I slithered away from the mansion. I liked it better there. There were more hiding places. But I couldn’t hunt Master’s minions. I wasn’t allowed.
I hissed as a scuffling sound caught my attention. Venom pooled in my mouth, and I lunged forward –
I blinked, suddenly aware of the Room of Requirement, which was arranged in its usual position for our study group. Hermione and the other Ravenclaws huddled in the corner, whispering, while the rest of the students practiced their Patronuses. After showing the wand motions, I’d sat this lesson out. That spell simply did not like me.
Neville hovered nearby, ready to bolt at any moment.
“Neville!” I cried, slinging an arm around his shoulder, “Just the man I wanted to see.”
“Of course,” I said. “You.”
“Oh, okay…What do you want?”
I gave the boy a measuring glance. He’d always been pudgy, his timidity had yet to lessen, his classwork was abysmal, and Neville Longbottom was generally pathetic.
Exactly what I required.
“I wish to grant you a great favor,” I said. “I will make you the fifth greatest Hogwarts graduate since it was first founded a thousand years ago.”
Neville shoved his hands into his pocket, a nervous habit acquired from several years of owning a toad that despised captivity. “Fifth?”
“Well, there’s no beating Dumbledore, Voldemort, or myself. And Hermione would probably poison you if you outperformed her.”
“Y-you’re kidding about this, right?” Neville asked.
“Not at all,” I assured him. “I will happily do this for you. All that I ask is that you tell everyone that I was your teacher.”
“Alright,” he said.
I smirked. “Our training shall begin when you least expect it.”
Neville nodded, looking pale. “Um, Hermione sent me to get you. You need to sign the contract…”
I snorted and stalked towards the library. “I don’t sign magical contracts. Remind her of that.”
Neville looked as if he might speak, for a moment, then scurried away.
“I noticed a lot of runes when I visited your house. I don’t suppose you’re trying to summon a demon?” Luna asked. A silvery hare hopped behind her, occasionally stopping to sniff the floor.
“Well, not actively,” I said with a modest shrug.
“Oh” – Luna spent a moment staring into space – “Are you from the future?”
I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so taken aback. “What?”
“Well, it’s just that you get most spells on the first try, except when they’re obscure – in which case you become upset and take slightly longer than average. Also, you know a lot of things that you probably shouldn’t.”
I’ve never been one to diminish my reputation. “It’s true. I come from a time not long removed from now, where I am the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. In my timeline, I successfully defeated Voldemort but then decided that I could do better.”
Luna’s Patronus jerked its head up, then disappeared. Luna spoke softly. “You…you don’t have to lie, you know. You could have just told me I was wrong.”
She departed, her movements less floating than usual. I scowled at her retreating form. “Right. She probably wants an apology or something. Ginevra!”
Ginevra raced from the line of practicing students, and I found myself chuckling at her eagerness. “I need you to apologize to Luna for me.”
“Alright,” the redhead said. “What did you do?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure. You should probably figure that out before you apologize to her, or you’ll look like a jerk.”< Previous Next >