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A/N: Thankyou for all the support for the last chapter, and in general! I'm still battling those inner demons, but inspiration has struck me once more so hopefully, the next chapter won't delay as much as this one.Join Magic's Finest RPG to see what's keeping me away! lol... Now without further ado...
*Chapter 10*
The following morning Harry was awakened by the sound of Dean’s voice traveling through the dormitory. He was speaking in hushed tones, and in a way Harry hadn’t heard from him before. After a quick glance at his clock, he decided not to stand up just yet and covered his head with a pillow to block out the sounds. “I know, I miss you too…” Harry stuck his head out from between the drapes of his fourposter, wondering who on earth the boy was talking to. Surely it wasn’t Seamus, who lay asleep some feet away, his foot twitching slightly. Then Harry spotted Dean sitting on his bed, still unchanged, and talking into his hand. Immediately a hundred thoughts passed through his head. Was Dean talking to Rita Skeeter in her Animagus form? Or was it a telephone? He realized Hermione would be very annoyed at him for both these ideas, because they simply weren’t feasible. “She’s not in this room! I told you Lucy, boys and girls sleep separate in boarding schools.” Harry’s eyes narrowed. He stuck out a finger and prodded Ron rather roughly in the back, waking him with a loud snort. The noise attracted Dean’s attention, because he looked up in fright and gripped the thing he was holding tightly. It was a wand. “I’ve got to go Lucy, goodbye!” He muttered into the tip of it, and then performed a complicated swishing motion not unlike the one Gilderoy Lockhart had used to block a Disarming spell. The wand glowed magenta for a moment, and then went back to normal. “What was that all about?” Ron asked sleepily, rubbing the back of his neck. “It was… A private conversation,” Dean replied hesitantly, stowing away his wand. Harry got up and began changing into his robes, figuring that he might as well be early on his first day back to classes. But it didn’t take away his curiosity. “And er… Who is Lucy?” He asked semi-casually, but tripping over his feet because he was at the same time putting on his sock. It seemed like a touchy subject to discuss since Dean was Ginny’s ex-boyfriend, and Ron was in the room. But these days Harry was paranoid. Lucy could be a nickname for Lucius the Death Eater, for all he knew. “That’s his Muggle girlfriend.” Harry turned around in surprise. He hadn’t noticed Neville was up yet. But there he was, fully dressed and with his books in his hands. What he had barely noticed in the excitement of the day before, was suddenly overly apparent now. The eerie light of the rising sun cast long shadows over his face, which appeared very serious and far more mature. Dean shot Neville an exasperated look. But Harry wasn’t interested in the anger and jealousy that would probably emerge in Ron, he wanted to know about the wand. “How did you talk to her? I thought she didn’t know you were a Wizard.” “She doesn’t. I spent the summer studying pretty hard with our new Charms books, and there’s a whole chapter on means of Magical Communication. This took a lot of practice and effort from me, but now I can talk to Lucy as though I’m on the phone. And I may have an extra NEWT.” He smiled at this, as though proud of himself. Harry glanced at Ron, wanting someone to share his nervousness at not having opened a single book over the summer. But his best friend was simply eyeing Dean with dislike, his fists balled. To make matters worse, Neville trudged past them, saying he’d head for the library to do some extra reading before breakfast. What was happening to them? “I didn’t read anything, d’you think that’ll matter?” Harry asked, turning a bit green around the nose. Dean stared at him as though he’d just murdered a Veela. “Are you joking? Charms is first period!”
* * *
Charms at it turned out, was the last thing Harry needed to worry about. The lesson went by rather smoothly, as Flitwick chose to simply outline their syllabus for that year (they’d mostly be working on Conjuring Charms, and some Communication) and chat about what they’d done in the holidays. It was rather amusing to see Hermione so wrapped up in being a perfect student that she was actually taking notes on Lavender’s trip to the Canary Islands. Transfiguration was quite different, and compelling in its difficulty. The seventh years were appalled upon entering the classroom; they found Professor McGonagall standing cross-armed in front of the black board, which was covered up the last inch in minute writing and diagrams. Harry instantly regretted not having given his one hundred percent at their private tutoring lessons. “Today we will begin the methodical study of Human Duplication and Dislocation in all its forms, a concept so meticulous that it will take us the entire year to study it. As you are now the oldest and probably most capable students in this school, we shall work at a steady pace and any questions will be asked outside lessons.” After this ominous introduction, a silence hung in the air so profound that Harry swore he could hear the beating of Hermione’s heart. The lesson that followed was no better, and Harry realized he’d soon learn to dread McGonagall’s NEWTs classes. There was no talking, because everyone was far too busy taking notes from their Professor’s rapt speech and what was written on the board. When it was over, Harry and his friends left in a daze. “Wow…” Said Ron, shaking his head. “I never knew so much information existed.” Hermione’s eyes were closed, and she was muttering the 17 steps of Partial Dislocation to herself in order to memorize them. The first year they had met at the Opening Feast bumped into her, and muttered a few swear words in his gruff voice. “5 points from Gryffindor!” Hermione snapped at him. Ron’s mouth sagged open in shock at her taking points from their own house, but she ignored him. It was clear that Hermione would be very strict and impartial in her role as Head Girl that year. Suddenly her eyes snapped open once more. “You realize that Partial Dislocation is perhaps Apparition in a higher form? So by missing out step number nine, the rotation of three wands around a person’s heart, you could perhaps be reverting to the more primitive magic of Apparition. But no, because what if the person’s center is their heart…” Her eyes were bulging at the discovery and she could have been Luna’s cousin. Ron stared at her for a moment, appalled. “Hermione, DON’T MAKE THINGS MORE COMPLICATED THAN THEY ALREADY ARE!” He bellowed finally. “5 points from Gryffindor for driving me to a near break down!” They were passing through the Entrance Hall at that moment, and Harry eyed the giant Hour Glasses showing the house scores apprehensively. If Ron and Hermione kept this up there was no chance at winning the House Cup this year. “I don’t understand what Dislo – thingy and Duplo – thingy have to do with Transfiguration, anyway. Why can’t we just be changing things into something else, like we’ve always done?!” Harry agreed with all his heart. But then he cursed Ron in silence for the comment, because it brought on another storm of information from Hermione. His brain really didn’t have the space to harbor it all, especially not after a fairly inactive summer. “Haven’t you been listening at all in the past hour? Duplication isn’t the virtual copying of a human being as much as it is Transfiguring them into two separate entities that share the original’s physique and memory! Dislocation is the action of Transfiguring a person’s surroundings into a different place to match what is in their mind and soul, isn’t that obvious?” Harry tuned out the rest of her monologue and luckily they arrived quickly at their next lesson, Defense Against the Dark Arts. Finally a place he could feel comfortable in… Even if the classroom contained Krum. There was a line of Gryffindors waiting outside the classroom when they got there, all of them as expectant and apprehensive as they. Lavender and Parvati were whispering in that annoying way – when they wanted people to hear what they said so that everything was still perfectly audible. “Yes, and he’s voted fourth in the Most Eligible competition for Teen Witch Weekly!” Parvati shot Harry a dark glance. “Should have been higher than him, if you ask me.” Ron sniggered a bit, apparently finding it extremely funny. He’d somehow gotten his hands on a copy of the article that morning at breakfast and wouldn’t let the subject rest. Harry was surprised and relieved at this, because he had expected Ron to be jealous. But instead comments like “So, is Pansy a good snogger?” and “I can’t concentrate, your gorgeous green eyes are distracting me,” kept flying him around the ears. Harry shot Hermione a side-ways glance, as subtly as possible. He saw she was frowning and chewing on her bottom lip, general signs of discomfort. After she’d left Krum on bad terms in Bulgaria the previous summer, they hadn’t talked once. The teacher-student relationship would only make things stranger. He suddenly felt someone move past him and saw the back of Krum’s dark head. It was strange the way they were now the same size, when Harry’s image of the boy was based upon his memory of when he was fourteen. Things changed a lot in three years, he knew that better than anyone. And now Krum would have to teach him Defense Against the Dark Arts… Harry wasn’t big-headed, but he suspected his own knowledge of the subject was greater than Krum’s. “Let’s all take out our quills, I reckon. Nothing outside the notebooks will happen in this class, that’s for sure,” Ron sneered, without bothering to keep his voice down. Krum shot him a puzzled look from the doorway to his classroom, and Harry nudged Ron to shut up. Although he did share the opinion that they probably wouldn’t do any practical work during the course of that year, it was a bit mean to attack Krum on his first teaching day. They took their seats slowly, Hermione, Ron and Harry at the very front. It was deadly silent while they watched their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the youngest they had ever had. “Vel, I think you all know who I am, and you can call me Viktor.” Krum made a stab at a warm smile, but it just clashed wrongly with his surly expression. Ron laughed mockingly. Ignoring this, Krum went on, “Professor Dumbledore is hiring me because he thinks vat you need is someone your own age to show you how to fight, the vay Harry has done in his fifth year vith Dumbledore’s Army.” A murmur of appreciation met these words, since there was no one in the class who hadn’t taken part in the DA. “Please put away your quills and take out your vands,” Krum said simply, eyeing Ron. There were huge sighs of relief, because after the extreme note-taking in McGonagall’s class no one felt like writing anymore. “Since CAT classes start at the end of this month, I haff prepared a few curses and counter-curses that may be useful.” Harry had half forgotten McGonagall’s words of the year before, preparing them for their obligatory classes outside Hogwarts. According to her, they would be helping Muggles affected by or under the attack of Voldemort. There were so many of those cases nowadays, that Harry wasn’t at all hesitant to start. He thought it was a rather excellent idea, however dangerous. “I think you may be disappointed if you think I vil teach you the exciting things right away,” Krum continued with a grim sort of smile, and Harry’s shoulders sagged. “First you need to be able to deal vith Muggles.” Krum pointed his wand at Ron, whose smirk froze on his face. “Confundus!” To Harry’s absolute surprise Ron began to cry, loudly and dramatically. His wails carried through the classroom and surely the whole castle could hear him. He slammed his fist down onto his table and caused Hermione to jump back in fright. “This Muggle has lost his house and his family,” Krum observed dryly. “Vat are you going to do about it?” The seventh years were dumbstruck for a moment, and then Neville pulled out his own wand. His voice quivered as he cried, “Obliviate!” The change in Ron was instant. No one breathed as his crying ceased, and he dried his blue eyes. “Maggie? Gwineth?” He searched fruitlessly around the classroom, sending Harry and the other Gryffindors odd looks. Harry felt an odd hollow sensation at the pit of his stomach. He was sure they would all be laughing by now, if it weren’t for the fact that this exact thing was probably taking place in real life. All those people dying, it wasn’t funny at all.
* * *
The last two lessons of the day were Potions and Care of Magical Creatures, a sour-sweet mix. Harry hated the idea of being back in the dungeons with an idiot who had almost achieved Harry’s death the year before because of his carelessness, and Malfoy’s taunts were even worse. He hadn’t had a chance to insult Harry for the article yet, since there had been strict silence in the Transfiguration classroom. But he knew it would come. To his surprise, lunch that day was interrupted by a brief announcement of Dumbledore’s. He stood up from the Staff Table, beaming at them, and said: “Professor Snape and Rubeus Hagrid have asked me to inform you that they will have a lesson together, and all seventh years taking Potions or Care of Magical Creatures are requested to assemble at the edge of the Forbidden Forest after finishing their meals.” It was no surprise after this that people rushed to finish eating, because Snape and Hagrid teaching a lesson together was quite an event. Harry couldn’t remember two classes having been combined before, but he awaited it with anticipation because it was bound to be interesting. No suffering in the dungeons! Ron and Neville thought differently about this. “I thought I would never have to see Snape again… And now this…” Neville muttered miserably. Ron, who hadn’t been accepted into Potions either, grumbled in agreement. He was still a bit moody after Defense Against the Dark Arts, and claimed to have a whopping headache. “Don’t say that, it’ll be lots of fun! Imagine how challenging the material must be for two teachers to give it at the same time?” Hermione said chirpily. “Besides, now I get to see how Hagrid is teaching this year. It’ll be worth missing just this one History of Magic lesson.” Harry recalled irritably that Hermione had chosen not to take Care of Magical Creatures this year, opting to be bored to death by Binns instead. He still wasn’t sure he forgave her for betraying Hagrid like that. But all dark thoughts disappeared when they crossed the grounds, and Hagrid was waiting for them with a huge grin on his bearded face. “Hello, Hagrid! How are you?” Hermione asked politely. Hagrid responded by flinging his arms around them and bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. “I tell yeh, I’ve never been this bloody happy in my life! Ter think everything is falling into place!” He boomed, showing them all of his teeth. Hermione was momentarily taken aback, but then a knowing smile crossed her face. “Congratulations, Hagrid! Harry told us all about your engagement to Madame Maxime, we’re so happy for you.” And she looked it. By this time more and more students had assembled around them. It seemed to be almost the whole of the seventh year. There were the clever students in Potions (although strangely, Harry was among those), and then those who took Care of Magical Creatures. Snape hovered grimly near the Slytherins, as though trying to stay as far away from Hagrid’s students as possible. Finally everyone seemed to be there, and Snape moved forward to address them. “This will be the only Potions class in which we will work on the grounds, in case any of you thought otherwise. Since, er, Professor Hagrid has retrieved a magical creature that applies to our own work, we have made an exception.” He paused, and his dark eyes flickered onto Harry’s face. He glared back. “For this we must ask you to stay calm and professional at all times. The creature is extremely powerful and dangerous, so incompetence will not help us.” This time his words were directed to Neville, who lowered his head as though interested in his shoelaces. “Ah Professor, Norbert won’t hurt a soul!” Hagrid cried out, overcome with joy. “And he’s well tied up, nuttin’ can go wrong there.” Harry, Ron and Hermione immediately exchanged glances to make sure they’d all heard the same thing. Norbert the dragon? Wasn’t he somewhere in a distant country, surrounded by other wild companions of his own species? If it was true, and Norbert was truly hiding around there somewhere, then Dumbledore had surely lost his marbles. He couldn’t possibly approve of a creature that dangerous at Hogwarts. However, they would find out that afternoon that indeed he had; and occupying the clearing in which Grawp had once lain was none other than a fully-grown, vicious looking Norwegian Ridgeback. Apparently Voldemort was busy gathering up dragons and other potentially dangerous magical creatures for his own ranks, Hagrid explained, and Dumbledore thought keeping a few of them on their side would do no harm. The sight of the monster, combined with the Forbidden Forest looming around them and Professor Snape stalking in the shadows, was enough to bring Neville back to his previous state of fear completely. He was once more the nervous, stammering boy Harry remembered. But nobody paid attention to this, they were all too busy trying to stand as far away from the dragon as possible. If Norbert had been large the last time Harry had seen him, it was nothing compared to this. In seven years he had grown to become only slightly smaller than the Hungarian Horntail in the Triwizard Tournament’s first task, and glared down with utmost ferocity. He seemed to be restrained by something, because his attempts to crush the students with his claws were futile as an invisible wall held him back. The funny thing was that Harry could actually remember feeding this creature, singing it lullabies. If he were to suggest this to Malfoy – who was in no state to tease Harry because he was far too busy hiding behind his cronies – he certainly wouldn’t have believed him. “Very well, once the courageous Gryffindors have finished wetting themselves, we may begin this lesson,” Snape remarked, his lip curling. A few Slytherins laughed at this, but most were subdued. “Do you recall having studied the twelve uses of dragon’s blood?” He began, watching them with the eyes of a hawk. All the Potions students nodded; it had been a long a boring essay to write. “Well then, this shall prove easy. What I will do today, is extract some of this blood for us to use as a means of testing what we have learnt.” Hagrid flinched at these words, as though the idea of someone hurting his precious baby Norbert was too much for him. But apparently it had been discussed before, because he kept silent. Snape was now busy doing exactly as he had said, and they watched in awe as he flicked his wand through the air in a strange zig-zag. “He’s removing part of the invisible wall,” Hermione hissed from Harry’s side. A couple of Hufflepuffs that had overheard this quickly moved away from the spot Snape was disenchanting. Their Potions Professor moved through the space in the wall without the slightest hint of fear, his wand outstretched. Norbert hadn’t noticed him yet, and was baring his fangs at Ernie McMillan on the other edge of the pitch. From Ernie’s pompous composure it would seem as though he was telling the dragon off for offending a Head Boy. “Javellus!” Snape hissed, and his wand began to lengthen and sharpen like a spear. The tip of it gleamed in the sunlight, and Harry heard Hagrid sucking in his breath beside him. Snape’s arm moved forwards brusquely and the tip of the spear sunk into Norbert’s skin, in the lower part of his stomach. It only went in for a few inches, and Harry marveled at the man’s strength. Everyone knew how thick and difficult to penetrate a dragon’s hide was. By this time Norbert had of course noticed that he was being attacked, and let out a thundering roar that shook the ground they were standing on. “Dun’ cry, Norbert!” Hagrid yelled out, stretching out both his arms to peace the dragon. He reared on his hind legs, and unfortunately Snape was dragged into the air because he was still holding onto the spear. Harry watched open-mouthed as Snape hovered at least ten feet above the ground, his legs flailing. The last time he’d seen him like this was in the Pensieve, but even then it hadn’t been this amusing. All of the Professor’s dignity was lost as the spear finally came loose and he crashed to the ground. Pansy Parkinson and her gang of Slytherin girls gasped in shock. It was hard not to feel at least a little bit sorry for Snape, who was lying on the floor with a furious dragon towering over him. Finally Snape managed to scramble back on his feet, and run through the space in the wall. The spear in his hand was drenched in a purplish liquid, and it let off a stench that Harry associated with dead animals. “Oh! Are you alright, Professor?” Pansy cooed anxiously, and Snape shook off her hand on his shoulder. His face was murderous, and he glared at Hagrid as though it was all his fault. Ron and Harry tried to stifle their laughter, but it was difficult. The image of him floating in the air like that remained too vivid in their minds. “As I was saying,” Snape said icily, “We will now test this blood for its twelve uses. And take plenty of notes, because I expect 5 rolls of parchment to account for this lesson by Friday.” “Well, my students don’ have ter write anythin’, jus’ watching should be enuff.” Hagrid beamed at them, and Harry felt his heart go out to him. They could always count on Snape to suck the fun out of life, especially after they had witnessed him in a rather humiliating position. But Hagrid was too happy at the moment to notice the tensions running high. Harry wished he felt the same way, but the day had been too stressful and challenging to feel cheerful. Casting Hermione and Ron a sideways glance, he saw they were thinking the same thing. This year would be hard.

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