Chapter 11 - Fame if not Fortune
The dormitory had started giving Harry that closed-in feeling, so he took one of the parchment spell books down to the Great Hall to read. It was an innocent enough book titled, Witch Writing. It was short on theory, but it had a lot of examples and ideas, mostly for dolling up letters to friends.
It was only an hour before lunch, so Harry took up a spot near the far end of the Hufflepuff table. A basket of chocolate frogs sat in the center of the area where the staff usually ate. Gradually, the staff came in and sat and talked over tea beforehand. Harry, feeling peckish, took one of the yellow, five-sided boxes out of the basket and opened it, coming down with an odd sense that everyone was watching him. Looking up, he found faint smiles from around the table, which was a little strange, although it shouldn't have been worrisome.
The dark brown frog hopped over his book and climbed his hand. Harry raised his arm automatically to make it harder for the magical frog to leap away. It froze in a climbing position, clinging to his pinky. Trying to ignore his sense of unease at the teachers' behavior, Harry broke off a leg and went back to reading as he ate it. He could have sworn the table relaxed a little as he did so.
Dumbledore arrived and so did lunch. Harry put his book aside, set the remainder of the frog on the edge of his plate, and made himself a sandwich. Lunch was unusually quiet, adding to Harry's growing edginess. He was getting a lot of glances too, he was sure, although it wasn't something he usually paid much heed to.
He finished his sandwich and his frog. His plate disappeared so he reopened his book. He reached over for the yellow package beside the book and felt a ripple run through the table, not unlike the one he had caused in the Dementors. He glanced around at everyone and received the same faint smiles. If they were trying to make him crazy, they seemed to know exactly how to go about it. Suppressing a sigh, Harry idly pulled out the chocolate frog card and crumpled the package as he tried to find where he had left off in the chapter on cartoon spells.
The first thing Harry thought was, he did not have this card, as the picture was not a portrait and all the ones he had were. He gave it his full attention then and froze. On the card was a color version of the picture from the Ministry of him standing over the crumpled body of Voldemort. As he stared at it, the breeze disturbed the hem of his robe in the picture. The look in his eyes was even stranger with the bright green of them piercing through.
He moved his thumb to see his name printed fancifully on the bottom border. Chagrined, he looked around the table. At least he now knew why everyone had been behaving so strangely. "This isn't a joke, is it?" At Dumbledore's shake of his head, Harry looked at the card again. He flipped it over. On the back it read Destroyer of Voldemort at the top, as though it were some kind of honorary title. In the biography was written, As an infant, survived an attack by Voldemort that killed his parents. Defeated the selfsame dark wizard sixteen years later. Famed as well for the expulsion of over two hundred Dementors from the Hogwarts Quidditch grounds. Won the Tri-Wizard Tournament of 1994.
"Better not do anything else," Harry quipped. At the questioning looks he explained, "No more room on the card." He put the card into his book as a page marker and stood up.
Dumbledore gestured that he should take the whole basket.
"Those are all the same?" Harry asked.
"The company sent them over," the headmaster replied.
With an odd reluctance, Harry reached over for the basket and took it up by the handle as he departed. When Harry was gone, Dumbledore steepled his fingers before him. "If I could do just one thing this summer holiday it would be to remove that boy's melancholy."
Snape sat back and crossed his arms. "It would undoubtedly help if he ceased to have nightmares."
"He is still?" Dumbledore asked in surprise.
"Yes," McGonagall replied. "Though who knows what they mean."
Snape sat straighter. "Potter believes he is seeing the remaining Death Eaters hunting him, which is not impossible given that he inherited another vision of the nonphysical world from the Dark Lord."
"I am afraid there is more to this than poor sleep," Dumbledore said as he stood up.
Harry sat on the floor beside his bed, staring out the window at the castle grounds. He had his entire stack of chocolate frog cards on the floor beside him. The Destroyer of Voldemort one had the highest series number and there was no gap between himself and Marigold the Malevolent, so he assumed they had only issued one new card. It was odd to imagine future Hogwarts students trading it on the train to school; they would get entirely the wrong impression from the text on the back.
He gazed out the window again. Harry had sat in this precise spot six years ago the night after he had arrived on the train the first year. His emotions now couldn't have been farther from what they were then. Back then he had been painfully hopeful and so happy to have been rescued from his relatives. It occurred to him that it was easier to be happy when things were simpler.
Dumbledore sat down on the bare bed beside him where Ron usually slept. As usual, Harry hadn't heard him enter. Dumbledore's eyes looked very pale blue in the sunlight. "You deserve the chocolate frog card, Harry." Harry took a deep breath and stared outside again. Dumbledore went on, "It is unproductive, if not harmful, to continually wish for things that are impossible to obtain."
Harry dropped his eyes and looked at his hands, pulled halfway into his sleeves.
"Come here, my boy," Dumbledore invited. Harry stood up and sat on the bed beside the old wizard. Dumbledore put an arm loosely behind Harry and said, "Our pride is not enough for you, apparently."
It wasn't, Harry thought. It only served to remind him of what he was missing.
Dumbledore went on. "We are very proud of you," he said, patting him on the arm. "You have a whole year of school ahead of you, as a Seventh-Year, no less. Top of the pack. A whole season of Quidditch. You are looking forward to that, I expect?" He waited for Harry to nod. "And your grades the last term were most impressive. I expect you can earn your way into any program you wish to enter. We are all very aware that you do not intend to influence your way in."
"I don't want anything from Fudge."
"Minister Fudge, Harry, and you are not obliged to accept anything from him." After a pause, he said, "You have been writing to your friends?" Another nod. "And working on some project of your own with parchment spells. If you need any help, I, or any teacher, would gladly give it."
Harry pulled away and removed the Map from the drawer beside the bed, marveling in part of his mind that he was going to show this to the headmaster of all people. He grinned a bit at what his father would be thinking if he could see him now. "I want to edit this," he explained, "but I'm having a hard time figuring out how." He sat back down, unfolded the Map, pulled out his wand, and activated the parchment.
"My, my," Dumbledore said as he put on his spectacles and peered at it.
"I don't want to damage it, so I've been trying to make something similar first, but it's really hard. I'm thinking that my dad was much better at magic than I am."
Dumbledore handed the Map back. "That is possible, Harry. He managed the grades you have now without seeming to work at it. But I am certain you are much more clever, especially when things are most dire, if that is any consolation." Dumbledore rubbed his hands together. "Do you have a blank parchment?"
Harry sat in the Great Hall in what had become his usual spot. Ron had sent him a deck of wizard cards and a book of games to play on his own. At first he had been a little insulted, but boredom drove him to try it out and he was getting more amusement out of it than expected. Most of the games required careful strategy. Some of the cards aged after they were dealt and changed value. Some cards reacted to the presence of other cards and changed predictably or randomly depending upon the game.
The post owls arrived. One dropped a letter in front of Harry. Another three, flying together, dropped a package on the end of the table in the spot for mail when the recipient wasn't around. Harry read his letter from Hermione. She was really good about writing immediately when she got Harry's letters. Harry took out a quill and wrote a reply on the back. He told her about his ongoing shadow-filled dreams and his frustration at still being stuck at school.
The school barn owl, used to this routine from him, waited for him to finish. Harry gave the letter back to it and it took flight, scattering the nut shells from the bowl on the table. Snape stepped in and looked at the package before picking it up. He untied it as he came over and looked over Harry's shoulder. "Red seven-flint on the black obsidian," he said.
"That will turn the nine into a dragon and I'll lose," Harry said. He picked up the seven-flint and held it near; the other card flickered threateningly.
"Haven't you already lost, then?" Snape asked.
"No, I have the deck in novice mode."
Snape tossed the brown paper from his package aside; it disappeared before it hit the floor. "Potter, I can't imagine you doing anything in novice mode," he commented as he flipped through the stack of books in his arms.
Harry, spying the title of one, asked, "What are those?"
"Potential texts for Defense Against the Dark Arts."
Harry half stood by kneeling on the bench seat and looked at the pile more closely. "Can I see one?"
Snape selected one and handed it over. Harry leaned on his elbow and flipped through it. "Which year is this for?" he asked doubtfully.
Snape considered him, "What is wrong?"
Harry frowned lightly. "We've done-" he stopped and flipped to the table of contents. He listed spells under his breath, "Grand flecture, Whistler, Frompten, Polarized blocking. Those four," Harry said, pointing. "We haven't done those."
"Haven't?" Snape took the book back and glanced at it. "Potter, I have Grey's syllabus—you have only covered two of this list."
Harry shrank down a little, half expecting an outburst as he said, "Not in class. In D.A."
Snape raised his chin before he turned on his heel. "Come with me, Potter."
Harry stood up and followed, figuring it was all right to leave his game as it was, although by the time he came back the cards would be different anyway. Snape led the way up the stairs and down the corridor to the Defense classroom.
"In here," Snape pointed.
"Am I in trouble, sir?" Harry asked uncertainly.
"Not if you are telling the truth," Snape replied. He went to the front of the classroom and stepped up onto the platform.
Harry stepped up onto the other end. "Can't you just tell by looking at someone if they are?"
Snape froze at that. He raised a brow and replied softly, "Usually." He pulled out his wand. "First spell is a Titan Block. Let's see it."
Harry took out his wand and thought a moment. "Are you going to spell me with an attack to bring it up against?" he asked, thinking that would make sense. He was used to that from D.A.
"What if I told you you have a persecution complex?" Snape said sharply.
"If I insisted I didn't, wouldn't you think I was overly optimistic?" Harry retorted.
Harry cleared his throat and tried not to grin. Finally he put up his wand, mostly because Snape looked impatient with him.
"Ready?" At Harry's nod, Snape said, "Figuresempre!"
Harry put out both hands, palms outward, his wand hooked under his right thumb. A shimmering orange dome flared, absorbing the incoming curse.
Snape pulled the book out of his pocket. "Next is Grand Flecture; you said you didn't know that one . . ."
"Can you show me?" Harry interrupted.
"Why not, Potter." Snape said in resignation and stepped over to him. He held out the book. "It is a spell to repel anything physical around you. Timed correctly, you can avoid being struck by something, or many things, thrown at you. Or, you can use it to force a path through something moveable, like brush, or even people, should you be in that much of a hurry."
Harry grinned at that and wondered if Snape were really trying to make a joke. He took the book and read through the description quickly. "Can you do it once?"
Snape moved two heavy stone pedestals onto the platform and placed a wooden block on each. He stood between them and, holding his wand straight up, said, "Hovequanta." The blocks flew in opposite directions away from him.
Harry set the book down on the floor, picked up one of the blocks and placed it back on the pedestal. Snape did the other and stepped out of the way. Harry stepped into position and thought a moment. The book said the spell felt like a globe expanding in sections away from the caster. He took a deep breath and holding up his wand, spoke the incantation. The block on his right moved to hang half off its pedestal; the other didn't move.
Harry put the one block back into position and tried again, thinking harder about a globe sectioned longitudinally like in the picture. Both blocks flew off their perches. "Huh," Harry muttered as he moved to pick them up. This was a heck of a lot easier than making parchment write on its own.
Snape shook his head at him.
"That wasn't right?" Harry asked, concerned since he thought he had succeeded that time.
"It was acceptable," Snape said evenly.
Harry jumped over and scooped up the book. "What's next?" he asked eagerly.
An hour later, when they had gone through all of the spells, Harry jumped down from the platform. The stack of other years' texts lay on a desk in the first row. He picked up one and thumbed through it. "Which is the sixth-year?"
"I have a question for you first," Snape said. "How many students know the spells you know? Not counting the four new ones, obviously."
"It varies. Not everyone came to every session of D.A."
"There were nineteen students on the staircase the day of the battle. Safe to say they all do, correct?"
"Yep, that was pretty much the core. Some of the younger ones we made stay behind." Harry picked up another book as he talked. That one looked like first-year, or he hoped it was. He didn't see Snape's thoughtfully surprised expression as he said that. Harry said, "There were probably forty-five who came to most sessions-"
"Forty-five?" Snape echoed in surprise.
"And another fifteen who came depending upon the topic. Easy stuff that is really useful brought in the most students."
"Basic counter-curses, spell detection, stuff like that. Which one is the sixth-year?"
Out of his pocket, Snape handed over another book and watched Harry as he perused the contents.
"If I am out sick, you can simply teach the class," Snape muttered.
"What?" Harry asked, distracted by the book.
"Nothing, Mr. Potter."
"I don't know this one," Harry said brightly, pointing at one halfway down the contents.
"It is also referred to as a Banana Peel."
"Oh, I do know that one, then." Harry snapped the book closed and handed it back.
"Hm. You are making me realize that I need to rethink this. At least for the upper levels."
"Sorry, sir," Harry said sheepishly.
"Do not apologize, Potter," Snape retorted. "You needed those students. Not a single one lost their life. I would not have imagined that possible—not against some of the wizards I know were there. We shall have a more interesting class than expected, that is all. With Dumbledore's permission, perhaps we can do some advanced offensive spells as well."
Harry's head snapped up with acute interest.
Snape set the books on the desk and straightened the chairs. "Remember what I told you," he threatened.
"Yeah, detention for the rest of my life, or something."
"Precisely," Snape stated as he strode past him to the door. As he opened it, he said, "You still have a few hours before dinner. Perhaps you should wander up to McGonagall's office and finish your last year's lessons with her as well."
Harry scoffed. "Her class is hard. I'm not very good at Transfiguration. Hermione is."
"Disgusting having friends like that, isn't it, Potter?" Snape commented.
One day, as Harry sat in the Great Hall building a card house out of his wizard pack, McGonagall stepped in and said, "Potter, I really do think you need to get out. Come with me."
Harry jumped up and followed her across the Entrance Hall and down the steps to the lawn. "Are you my only escort, Professor? Headmaster said two to leave the castle."
She slipped on her traveling cloak as they walked. "From what Professor Snape tells us, you qualify as your own escort. As well, several Order members are in Hogsmeade today. Come along."
They walked down the lawn. Harry was grateful that only a few figures loitered at the gate. He and McGonagall approached and the figures started to take interest in them. As they drew closer, they started calling out his name excitedly. Harry's steps faltered. McGonagall slipped an arm through his and pulled him along. "There are only four of them," she admonished.
An old wizard shook Harry's hand vigorously as soon as they passed through. A woman with her two small children bent down and said. "Look, dears, it is the famous Harry Potter." The tow-headed children clung to their mother's skirt and stared at him with wide-eyed, unblinking gazes.
McGonagall steered Harry through. "Just out for a butterbeer. Excuse us, please."
On the high street, people turned and gaped at him. Quietly, Harry said, "You are reminding me of all that is good about the castle."
"Relax, Harry. Everyone else is now." She tugged open the door of the Three Broomsticks and gestured for him to enter.
"Blimey, it's 'arry Potter!" someone exclaimed, and the room broke from quiet murmurs to shouting and chaos. Everyone got up from their seats and came over. Madam Rosmerta came out from behind the bar and seated them at the best table near the bar.
"Two butterbeers, please," McGonagall said, completely unshaken by the goings on around her.
Harry shook everyone's hand and a few people's twice. Eventually, after much back pounding and expressions of worship, the crowd settled back at their own tables, although the conversations were much more raucous than before.
"You survived," McGonagall said as she poured her bottle out into a mug.
Harry made a noise that indicated it had been a close call.
His teacher leaned forward and asked, "How are you doing, Harry?"
"I'm doing all right, Professor. A little bored."
"You're spending a lot of time in the dungeon," she observed.
"Sna- Professor Snape gives me things to do."
"It's a little surprising, is all. You two haven't got along well in the past and during meals it seems as if that is still true."
Harry's brow furrowed. "Does it?"
She took a gulp of her mug. "Well, if you aren't noticing maybe it is my imagination."
Halfway through their butterbeers—which Madam Rosmerta insisted were on the house, forever—murmuring behind them started to raise alarms with Harry. He settled back in his seat and tried to listen in. Moments later, in badly tuned voices, an old drinking song started, although the lines had been changed. Harry listened with growing bemusement as the lyrics roared out with much shouting.
I'll sing thee one, ho
green glow the wizard, ho!
what is your one, ho?
one is gone destroyed and gone and ever more shall it be so
I'll sing thee two, ho
green blow dark wizard, ho!
what is your two ho?
two and twenty wanded boys spelt on his head, oh
one is gone destroyed and gone and ever more shall it be so.
Harry sank down in his seat with his mug. "At least they made it into a group effort," he offered.
"Well, this must be my lucky day," a familiar voice said from behind them. Rita Skeeter stepped over and started to pull out a chair at their table.
"Ms. Skeeter," Harry said a little less than welcoming.
"Please, have a seat," McGonagall said, getting a sharp look from Harry.
Skeeter took out a pad and a normal quill this time. "Anything to say, Mr. Potter? You have been quite the recluse."
"He is being protected from the remaining Death Eaters," McGonagall pointed out factually. Skeeter made a note of that.
"No more attempts on your life, Mr. Potter, since the Dementor incident?"
"No," Harry replied. "Not that I've been informed of, but I'm not informed of much; you must realize." He sipped his butterbeer and watched her write that down. He didn't look over at his teacher.
"Plans for the future?" Skeeter asked without looking up from her writing.
"Still deciding. I have a whole year to figure that out." Working with Fudge, if he were an Auror, was starting to seem unsavory, even if working with Tonks still sounded like fun.
"Glad to have Voldemort gone?"
"Thank you for using his real name," Harry stated. "And yes, very much so."
"But you aren't free to move about as you please because the seven are still loose, correct? You're still a prisoner?" Skeeter asked this in a tone that sounded mild, but really wasn't. Harry wondered in concern what she was really trying to ask, at the same time as he was glad that someone else recognized his situation.
"No, I can't go out without an escort, but Hogwarts isn't a prison—it's my home, as it has been for six years."
Skeeter glanced at McGonagall before she asked Harry, "What do you think your parents would say if they could see you now?"
Harry was very grateful that Skeeter didn't have her Quickquotes quill because this time his eyes did feel a little warm. "I don't know," he replied flatly. She had cut right to the heart of what was bothering him.
"Mr. Potter, you may make up whatever you like. What would you want them to say?" Skeeter waved to Madam Rosmerta for a pot of tea.
"I didn't know them," he insisted, staring into his butterbeer as he grappled with himself.
"Move on to the next question, Ms. Skeeter," McGonagall interjected.
"You knew them," Skeeter pointed out to her. "What do you think they would say?"
Harry looked up at his teacher as she sat back and thought that over. He tended to forget that many of them had known James and Lily Potter at least as students if not from the Order. McGonagall had, as well as Dumbledore, Flitwick, Hagrid, Lupin, and even Snape. It gave him a flash of anger to think that he was the only one who didn't know them.
McGonagall sighed. "It is a long way to think back." She glanced at Harry with a sympathetic expression. "They were very intent on defeating Voldemort and didn't hesitate to get into fierce, dangerous battles with him and his followers whenever they tried to extend their power. It was not the best of circumstances in which to try to raise a child. But like the Longbottoms, I think they felt that they needed something to pin their hopes on. We are all very grateful now that they did." As she said the last, she stared evenly into Harry's eyes.
"Do you still miss them?" Skeeter asked Harry.
"I miss not having parents," Harry replied flatly. He finished his butterbeer and set the mug down. He easily imagined all the other students practicing Quidditch in their yards, taking holiday, waking up late to breakfast with their families.
"Must be difficult," Skeeter commented as she looked over her notes. "No particular future to look forward to and a dark past to keep you company."
Harry hoped the article didn't read like that. "I have plans, I just don't feel like sharing them."
"How about off the record?"
"Is there such a thing with you?" Harry asked.
She put her quill down. "There is now."
"What's with you, anyway?" Harry asked, curious about her good behavior.
Skeeter hedged by topping up her tea cup. "I'm on a very short leash. Finding you here is my big chance to move up again. Plus, I'm still under a cloud of blackmail, am I not?"
"I suppose you are," Harry said. "The deal didn't include Voldemort."
"What is this?" McGonagall asked sharply.
"It wasn't me," Harry insisted.
"It wasn't him," Skeeter confirmed. "Another of your students is presently blackmailing me to not write anything unfavorable about dear Mr. Potter, although that isn't hard to follow as he is all the rage at the moment and anything negative would get the Prophet flooded with angry howlers. It is blasted hard to work when that is going on," she complained as an aside. "Well, I do appreciate your time." She stood and put away her pad and quill. "Nice to see you again, Ms. McGonagall."
When the door closed after her. McGonagall leaned in and said, "Am I to understand that one of your friends is blackmailing a Prophet reporter? To your benefit?"
"Don't you remember all of those awful things she wrote about me during the Tri-Wizard Tournament?" Harry asked.
"No," she said firmly. "Who is this student?"
"You have to ask? Who is smart enough to pull that off?" Harry said.
"Hm," McGonagall growled.
"Skeeter wouldn't have got into trouble if she hadn't been breaking serious wizard law. That is what we have her on, and that's why she's behaving."
"What law is she breaking?"
"As long as she's holding up her end, I can't tell you," Harry pointed out and felt a bit of justice in it.
"Are you in deep anywhere else that we should know about?" She asked a little smartly. "We are only charged with your continued safety, young man."
"Are you finished with your butterbeer, Professor?" Harry asked, very ready to leave.
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