6. Green's No Pretty Colour
3rd September 1996
It was the second day of school, and Harry had slept in once again. The last day had been more tiring than any first day of school he'd ever experienced, but he supposed that he would accumulate in time. At least, he hadn't forgotten to clear his mind before going to bed, so there hadn't been any nightmares for him.
Harry dressed quickly and ran down to get a small breakfast before his first class, which was, quite unfortunately in fact, Potions. He was just thinking that he'd need to send an owl to Remus and see how he's doing, when he entered the Great Hall and his train of thought trailed off. There was Ron, sitting on one end of the table and eating quite slowly.
Harry walked over and sat down next to the redhead, reaching for a slice of bread and some butter. "Morning," he said quietly.
"What did Hermione say to you?" Ron demanded immediately, without looking up. Even from his profile Harry could tell that Ron wasn't smiling.
"Eh, not much," Harry said, unsure why he always found himself in the position to solve some crisis or another, even if his own problems – which were popping out of nowhere and recreating like those bloody Duracell bunnies - were far more important than Ron and Hermione's petty ones.
Ron's eyes flashed as he turned around to face Harry. "But she said you should talk to me, didn't she? Sent you here that-"
"No!" Harry said emphatically. "She didn't do anything of that sort. She just said that she hadn't a clue why you were so mad at her and that she didn't want me to get in between..."
Ron's eyes narrowed at that. "But you are already in between, aren't you?" he said bitterly. "And of course she doesn't know why I'm mad at her..."
Harry's stomach twisted uncomfortably. He knew what Ron was trying to say. It hadn't been on purpose. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I really thought she felt the same way..."
"Yeah, I'm sorry, too," said Ron, moving to stand. "Well, at least now I'm sure what she's feeling, right?" He stood, staring off into space for a moment, before saying somewhat melancholically, "If only it hadn't been my own brother. She could have had anyone. Why did it have to be George?" He didn't wait for an answer, instead leaving for his first class.
Harry sat a moment longer, then headed down to the dungeons. It had to be tough for Ron, he thought, seeing Hermione happy and knowing that it wasn't him making her smile but his own brother. Maybe he should have said something earlier, maybe Hermione would have been more open to the idea, but Ron had waited too long.
"Nearly on time, Potter," Snape sneered the second Harry entered the dungeons classroom. "One point from Gryffindor. Sit down so I can finally start the lesson."
Harry tried hard not to growl. The only empty seat left was next to Pansy Parkinson, so Harry sat down next to her. Hermione shot him an apologetic look. Harry should have eaten more quickly. Parkinson made some snide remark that she'd rather work together with Neville Longbottom than the Boy-Who-Unfortunately-Lived-But-Wouldn't-Keep-On-Doing-So-Much-Longer, but Harry ignored her. He didn't want to lose any more points, and talking back was a dead sure way to not achieve that.
Harry sighed and started to gather and measure the needed ingredients as they appeared on the blackboard. The Exploding Fluid didn't seem to be too complicated, he thought, while pouring 200 ml Erumpent fluid into a beaker. Really, quite easy.
There was some snickering from behind, but Harry ignored it.
Then Harry poured the liquid Erumpent into the softly simmering Exploding Fluid, and the cauldron did just that: explode.
Harry didn't really have the time to get cover before the cauldron knocked into him, and he crashed down. The world was upside down, slowly swirling, and there was a headache building behind Harry's temples. The potion hadn't burned him, but the cauldron was getting quite heavy on his torso. Parkinson's face appeared above him, smirking gleefully, and then there was Snape, pointing his wand at Harry, cleaning the potion away and letting the cauldron float away.
"Another zero then, Potter," he said coolly, moving back to the front of the classroom. "And now get to your feet again. You're not injured."
Harry groaned, holding his probably bruised ribs, and sat up. Hermione looked as if she'd run over to help him any second, so Harry made an effort to smile that everything was all right. Only when Harry managed to get back to his seat, though, did Hermione's frown ease a bit and she went back to her own Exploding Fluid.
"Merlin, you're pathetic, Potter," Parkinson whispered. "Can't even measure twenty drops, can you?" She snickered and made a show of doing just that. When the last drop had fallen into the beaker, she poured the Erumpent fluid into her cauldron. "Now, that shouldn't have been so difficult."
Harry cleaned his workplace, frowning. Why only twenty drops? The blackboard clearly said 200 ml. As if to convince himself, Harry looked up, and yes, he was right. He blinked, his eyes hurting somewhat, and took his glasses off. When he squinted at the board for a second time, he could make out a slightly blurred 'twenty drops.' He blinked again, but the words didn't change anymore. Harry looked through his glasses and took them off again, seeing two different instructions. That was strange.
"Something wrong with your glasses?" Malfoy hissed from behind him, the smirk obvious in his voice. Harry tensed visibly. "Really, you should be more careful. Anyone could tamper with them if you're not watchful enough."
'Don't turn around,' Harry thought fiercely. 'Whatever you do, don't turn around...' He didn't want to give Malfoy the satisfaction of knowing that he'd gotten to him. The stupid little ferret was acting superior enough as it was. Harry thought back to the train ride last Sunday, when Malfoy had grabbed him. The Slytherin had managed to clean his hands without saying or even mouthing the spell. And now he all but confessed that he had hexed his glasses.
This was something else than 'simple' wandless magic, Harry mused. Malfoy had used his wand but not the accompanying incantations. Maybe this ability had something to do with the blood on his robes? Harry shook his head mentally. This wasn't that important, he decided, at least not as important as Lupin's safety, Harry's training and who was going to be their new DADA professor.
"Thanks," Harry said as Hermione handed his now hex-free glasses back. He put them back unto his nose, and together they made their way to their next class, DADA. Wincing slightly, Harry pressed his hand against his side.
"Are you all right?" Hermione asked anxiously. "Professor Snape should have sent you to the Infirmary."
"No," Harry protested, waving her concern away. "It's nothing. Just a bruise, really. The cauldron was heavy." He laughed a bit to disperse Hermione's worries. It didn't work. "I'm all right, I promise."
Hermione nodded reluctantly. "All right. But if you have any more pain, I'm taking you to Pomfrey."
Harry grinned. "Okay," he said, feeling better that at least one of his friends still cared for him. "I saw Ron at breakfast," he said then.
Hermione stiffened slightly beside him. "You did?" she asked. "What – what did he say?"
"Not much," Harry said. "I think you should talk to him, clear it all out."
"I'm trying to. Ron's avoiding me, though."
"We have DADA together now. You could catch him after class," Harry suggested.
Hermione nodded. "You're right," she said, sighing. Then she shot her friend a look. "You weren't in the common room the last two evenings... Did anything – happen?"
"I'll tell you later," Harry said, reminded of Hagrid's warning about the walls having ears. A couple of minutes later, they arrived at the DADA classroom. They entered and sat together at the first table.
"Do you know who's going to be the new professor?" Hermione asked, putting her books on the desk. "There weren't any Defence classes so far, we're the first ones..."
"No," Harry said. "I don't know either. Dumbledore said it would be a surprise."
Hermione frowned, and Harry guessed correctly that she was wondering when he'd had the time to talk to the Headmaster. "Do you think it's Lupin or someone from – you know?" she whispered.
Harry thought it would be pretty convenient to have someone from the Order back teaching at Hogwarts. He didn't need a repeat from last year.
He didn't have the time to answer, though, as the door to the DADA office opened and the class quietened down. Harry's heart lifted as he saw the light brown hair, spotted with grey, but then the man turned around and Harry watched quietly as their new professor slowly descended the steps to the classroom. It wasn't Lupin, after all.
"Hello, class," the professor said, almost cheerily, as he sat down on his desk. "I'm Professor Phasky, and I'm going to be your Defence trainer for this year. We'll see whether I'm going to be able to break the curse by coming back next year."
Some students laughed quietly. Harry looked around himself. Ron, who sat on the other side of the room next to Parvati Patil, raised a brow. Malfoy, Parkinson and the other Slytherins looked disgusted. When Harry turned back to the teacher's desk, he caught sight of Phasky winking at him. He raised a brow, honestly confused.
"Oh," Hermione said suddenly. "Very clever."
Harry didn't need to ask what the girl meant. Phasky went around his desk, barely avoiding stumbling over an almost-non-existent bump on the ground. There was only one person who could be that clumsy. Harry smiled, pleased that they'd gotten their wish and someone more from the Order was working at Hogwarts.
After his short detour to the Owlery to send Lupin a note, Harry sat alone at lunch. Hermione had managed to catch Ron, and now they were talking. Or maybe Hermione was lecturing Ron. Or maybe Ron was screaming at Hermione. Well, at least they were together now. The sooner they managed to sort their problems out, the better.
The air was still strained, which wasn't such a surprise, because of Trelawney's death. She didn't have too many fans amongst the students, but Parvati and Lavender were really shocked. Harry tried not to think about her too much, convincing himself that it was because of his Occlumency training.
Harry left the Great Hall early, everyone leaving him in peace because they thought he was having enough stress. He was torn apart. On the one hand he wanted that people realised that he needed someone to confide in, that he needed his friends now, but on the other hand he was thankful for the peace, which would morph into a full storm soon enough.
Harry didn't only leave the hall, but Hogwarts as well. He went down to the lake, deciding to enjoy the free period he had after lunch down here. He sat down amidst the meadow, as it was still warm enough to do so, and lay down. He was busy watching the clouds in the sky when he heard approaching footsteps in the grass.
"Hey," he said, surprised that Ron would come to him now.
"Hey," the redhead replied, plopping down next to him. Then there was silence as Ron just watched the water and the occasional swirl when the giant squid touched its tentacles to the surface.
"How did it go?" Harry asked at last.
"All right, I guess," Ron said, shrugging. "At least I didn't tell her how I – well. She doesn't know the real reason why I was mad at her."
Harry supposed that was the easiest way.
Abruptly, Ron turned around to Harry. "You weren't in the dorm yesterday," he said, trying to redirect the conversation from him to something more 'safe.' "Where were you? I – well, I covered for you in the morning as Seamus noticed it too."
"Oh, thanks," Harry said. "I was with Snape and then with Hagrid, actually. Additional classes. Dumbledore thinks I need more training, and more training I get." He shrugged. "I have a lot more lessons this year."
Ron nodded noncommittally. "Right," he said. Harry couldn't tell whether or not there was a jealous tone in his voice.
Severus Snape left the Owlery after deactivating his little Monitoring Charm again that had told him that Harry Potter had, finally, sent the dumb werewolf a letter inquiring about his health. Snape hadn't thought that the brat would take quite as long to finally get overwhelmed with concern – or even only good old curiosity. It wasn't in Snape's nature to care, but pulling the threads in the background did fit his image well enough.
Homebrewed memories were something oh so convenient. Especially if Potter didn't realise that the thing he had seen couldn't possibly have been real.
Harry stayed at the meadow, long after Ron had left for his Divination class, still gazing up at the clouds in the sky. He practised clearing his thoughts. After twenty minutes, he sat back up and stretched. He ran his hand through his hair to get the grass out. He twirled a few strands then, realising that he needed a cut.
Suddenly, Harry saw a small, silvery grey snake slithering in his direction. Harry had never seen such a snake before and, because he had plenty time left before he needed to get back in for his History of Magic lessons, he decided to chat a bit.
"Hi," he hissed. "How are you?" The snake bobbed its head in Harry's direction, but didn't reply.
"You don't have to be afraid," Harry said softly, extending his arm. "I'm not going to harm you..." The snake crept nearer, but still didn't talk.
"It's a nice day, isn't it?" Harry hissed, pulling some more grass from his hair. Then he frowned. "Why aren't you talking to me?"
"Maybe it's more intelligent than you're giving it credit for," a voice to his left suddenly said, giving Harry a start. He whirled around, eyes narrowing as they caught sight of Draco Malfoy sneering down at him. Then they widened as he realised that Malfoy had just answered to his question.
"Since when do you understand Parseltongue?" Harry asked incredulously.
Malfoy rolled his eyes and sighed in a long-suffering manner. "You, obviously, don't deserve the credit you get for your supposed intelligence. Or you might have realised that you weren't using Parseltongue, and maybe even that you weren't talking to a snake, at all."
"What?" Harry said. "Of course that's a snake, or are you blind?"
Malfoy's lips almost quirked. "You are the one with glasses, Potter. I would have thought you recognised a snake, with your experience, you blindworm." Harry sputtered angrily, but Malfoy didn't give him a chance to insult him back. "What are you doing here, anyway? Oh, I know. Camping again, are we? If I were you, I would stop twirling so much – at least your hair – lest your mop resembles Granger's frizzy mane. See you around, Potter." With that, Malfoy turned on his heel and walked back to the castle, leaving a growling Harry Potter behind.
The Gryffindor balled his fists, taking deep breaths to calm himself down again. Harry didn't ask himself why Malfoy did nothing but insult him, he didn't wonder why the other boy was outside of Hogwarts now, either. All he wanted to know was why Malfoy had put such emphasis on the words 'camping' and 'twirling.' As if they had another meaning altogether. Maybe the Slytherin lost it, Harry thought, pulling himself to his feet and walking back to the castle himself. Deciding that was it, he forgot about it.
9th September 1996
One week into school saw Harry already accustomed to his new schedule, even if he could do with a bit less of Snape. The friendship between Harry, Ron and Hermione was almost completely restored, and now Harry was on his way to the tryouts for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Even though he wasn't still on the team – a fact that still irked him to no end – he had promised Ron, the new captain, to come to the first tryouts. Jack Sloper and Andrew Kirke were already up in the air, training with the Bludgers. Katie Bell, Ron and his sister Ginny were on the ground, a group of approximately eight students gathered around them.
"We'll be doing it like that," Ron started. "Sandra, Brian, Chris, Penny, Andrea, Leo and Ginny, you're going to form a team. Every ten minutes we're going to switch positions."
Ron didn't give the kind of pep talks that Oliver Wood used to, but it was clear that he was born to be captain. Five minutes before the lunch break was over, the tryouts were called to an end. Chris Perry, a small third year with clear eyes, was declared the new Seeker. Harry thought that he would give the Slytherins a run for their money, if he'd train enough. Ginny and Leo Geterson, a rather quiet fifth year, were the new Chasers.
It was on their way back across the lawn that Harry caught sight of another team making their way towards the Quidditch field, the Slytherins. Harry saw Malfoy, leading his team with his known superiority, now that he was their captain. When they drew closer, Harry recognised that the team didn't have the same brooms anymore like last year. Ron hissed something about slimy snakes, and the general air around the Gryffindors grew tense, but Harry didn't concentrate on that. He was far more interested in Draco Malfoy's broomstick.
The Slytherin was carrying the newest broom on the market, a Quicksliver 66, casually hung over his shoulder. The handle was shimmering a reflecting silver, the twigs were arranged to guarantee the least air resistance, and the broom itself was lighter than any other, granting the most efficient usability.
Just as Malfoy passed by Harry, he said loudly to one of his team mates, "And – mother – got me the new broom when I arrived home over the holidays. Imagine my surprise. Just because three Gryffindors, who shouldn't have been allowed to play, anyway, had been prohibited from ever playing again..."
"Why, you little-" Ron snarled, but Harry held his friend back.
"Don't," he said, including all the other Gryffindors. "He isn't worth it." For a second he held eye contact with Malfoy, daring him to say anything more, but the other boy merely smirked and bowed mockingly.
"Harry!" Ginny said. "Why don't you do anything against the slimy bastard? You can't just let him treat you that way!"
"You know what happened the last time I lost it around Malfoy, don't you?" Harry said with a sigh. "I don't want that to happen again, to either of you. We've got a decent team... The Slytherins won't know what hit them. We shouldn't risk anything now."
Harry frowned thoughtfully as he and Ron made their way to Transfigurations, thinking back to the encounter with the other Quidditch team. He remembered that back in their second year, Lucius Malfoy had bought the whole team Nimbus 2001's in order to get his son the positions as Seeker. The team's members had been constant until this year. And now the older members had already left Hogwarts, and taken their Nimbuses with them, as it appeared. The younger students, who were new on the team – the Slytherins had been the first for the tryouts – had their own broomsticks. Malfoy had his Quicksliver 66 and one bulky fourth year Harry didn't know the name of had a Nimbus 1500. There was another new member, though: a tall, brown-haired boy, who was carrying a Nimbus 2001. And Harry, who hadn't been Gryffindor's Seeker for nothing, could have sworn that this Nimbus had a small crack in the handle. A small crack Harry was only too familiar with.
But what the heck did this boy do with Draco Malfoy's old broom?
10th September 1996
Harry had Potions first thing in the morning, so he was pretty pleased to receive owl post to distract him from the upcoming lesson. Then he recognised the owl Remus used, and Harry grew solemn again.
"Is that Remus'?" Hermione asked in a whisper, leaning closer.
"Yeah," Harry said, untying the letter and feeding the owl a piece of bacon from his plate. He read the letter, frowning.
"What does it say?" Hermione asked, itching to rip the letter out of Harry's hands. "Is he all right?"
Harry nodded, but the frown didn't come off. "I want to see him."
"You can't leave Hogwarts!" Hermione cried out, then lowered her voice again. "You know you aren't supposed to-"
"I know," Harry cut her off, a tick irked. "I thought more along the lines of – I don't know – spending Christmas there..."
'There' was Sirius' home, and Hermione wasn't sure that was the best for Harry. But she was concerned about Remus as well, so maybe it was the best for him.
26th October 1996
So far, the second month of his second to last school year had been pretty odd, Harry Potter thought. At first, Neville Longbottom's memory seemed to be getting better, but that proved to be wrong soon afterwards as some third year Gryffindor found Neville in front of the Fat Lady, not remembering the password again. Then Harry caught Hermione Granger reading the Quibbler, but she denied it vehemently, and Harry never saw her with it again after that. And now Harry was sitting next to Hermione and Neville in the Gryffindor stands, waiting for the first game of the season, Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff, to begin. It wasn't the most thrilling combination – Hufflepuff did have a reputation, after all – but Ron and Harry were glad about it nonetheless, because it gave the team much needed practical workout.
Jordan Lee had left Hogwarts the year before, and now there was a new commentator, as well. Harry had thought it was going to be another Gryffindor, but he thought wrong.
As the game started, Hendrik Raterban kept the audience up to date what was happening on the field. Snape was standing beside him, always ready to scold the boy should he cross some line, but never quite doing so.
"And here we go!" Raterban screamed, very audibly, thanks to the Sonorus Charm. "This redhead has the Quaffle – really, girl, that doesn't suit you! Ever thought about dyeing? – moving quite quick, but then again, she's supposed to be a weasel, so-"
"Severus!" McGonagall snapped, eyes wide. "Don't you have to say something about that kind of behaviour?"
"Yes, of course," Snape said, throwing Raterban a frown. "Save your stylish suggestions until after the match."
McGonagall spluttered, but she didn't have a say in the commentary anymore, so she could do nothing but watch, grind her teeth and pray that the boy would get hoarse rather sooner than later.
"And goal!" Raterban cried. "That makes 10-0 for Gryffindor. Oh, I'm so impressed! The Gryffindors only needed seven minutes for their first goal against HUFFLEPUFF! Wait until the Slytherin match, Gryffs, and you will know how fast a match is won!"
Harry shook his head. It was a weird month, after all.
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