The Many Faces of Harry Potter 14

“The Many Faces of Harry Potter: Chapter 14”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Fourteen: Cutting Remarks

Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there.

Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of Alastair, Harry, and Zoey, and now #Iliana (bold, italic, underlined, and now between hashtags/pound signs because some people's computers don't do the B.I.U.).#

His sleep having been fitful, Alastair was even grumpier in the morning than usual, at least until he got some food into him. Malfoy pretending to faint in terror to tease them didn't help his mood any, and he snapped back at the git.

“I may pass out from dementor attacks, Malfoy, but at least I've never snogged my mother, unlike you!”

It was fortunate that the teachers stepped in to prevent violence. Al ignored them all and sat down to eat. He was very hungry, too, eating fully twice what they usually ate at meals, and was still chowing down when McGonagall came around with the class schedules.

“You'd better watch out, Al,” Ron said. “Malfoy looks ready to kill.”

“He tries anything, I'll transfigure his mouth and his eyes permanently shut.”

“You could do that?”

“Probably. Or Zoey could, anyway.”

Ron made a faintly scared sound, then shook himself.

“Anyway... what'd you guys take, Al?” asked Ron. “I forget.”

“Ancient Runes, Divination, and Care of Magical Creatures. Ancient Runes sounded interesting. Divination... well, given what the centaurs called us our first year, that only made sense. And Care of Magical Creatures sounded useful. Should be interesting, with Hagrid teaching it.”

He turned to Hermione, looking at her schedule. He saw just enough before she snatched it away to raise his eyebrows. Ron had seen, too.

“Hermione, they've mucked up your schedule,” Ron said. “Half these classes are at the same time, there's no way you can get to them all!”

“Never mind, Ron. I fixed it all with McGonagall, it's fine.”

Ron and Hermione went back and forth some more on this, Ron increasingly bewildered, until Al finally spoke.

“Well isn't it obvious? She got given a time machine last night when she was talking with McGonagall.”

He felt a sharp spike of panic from Hermione, though the fact she'd knocked over her pumpkin juice would've been telling enough. He raised an eyebrow at her; he'd been speaking sarcastically, but might he be onto something?

Time travel, real? Nah, that's preposterous.

“Don't be silly, Al, there's no such thing,” Hermione said.

While he privately agreed, he found it amusing to be contrary, so he said, “Funny, my uncle used to say the same thing about magic. Frequently. More like he was trying to convince himself than me, to be honest.”

More panic. Al resisted the urge to smile. Whatever the truth was, he was making her uncomfortable.

“Either that or a cloning machine,” he said, to go in a more realistic direction. “Is there something like Gemino for people?”

“Cloning machine?” Ron asked.

“Fictional device that can make exact copies of humans or other animals. Not quite the same as actual cloning would be, of course. If they ever pull off actual cloning, it'd be more like making an identical twin you'd never grown up with, and it'd be an infant, and have to grow like a normal person. But, hmm... I wonder... Gemino!”

He had pointed his wand at Ron when he said this, but all that happened was a copy of Ron's robes appeared in the air beside him.

“Oy, don't use me to experiment on, mate! I don't want to get accidentally transfigured into a moose or something.”

“Duly noted,” Al said.

Hagrid passed them then, stopping to gush about how they were going to be in his first class later today, and how he'd gotten everything set up. Ron wondered, with some worry in his voice, what Hagrid had prepared.

“Well it's unlikely to be a dragon, so that's good news,” Al said.

“Yeah, but there's a lot of other dangerous creatures it could be. Hope it isn't manticores or a chimera or something worse.”

But they had to cut off their discussion then, because they had Divination, which was all the way in North Tower. It took them every shortcut they knew to get there in time, and even then they had to get help from the painting of a very annoying and inept knight named Sir Cadogan.

“You know,” Al said as they approached the rest of the class, who were waiting in the corridor, “I wonder if Hogwarts teaches how to make portraits like that. I'd love to get one made of myself, and live forever.”

“You'd be trapped in a painting, though,” Ron pointed out.

The class was assembled at a tiny landing, but there was no sign of the door. At least, not until they happened to look up and see a door in the ceiling.

“'Sybil Trelawney,'” he said, reading the plaque on the door. “If I'd known this was going to happen, I would've brought my broom.”

As soon as he said this, the circular door opened and a silvery ladder came down.

“Glad I'm not wheelchair bound,” Al said, climbing up the ladder. “Or afraid of heights,” he finished, getting to the top and looking down.

#I'm sure someone in a wheelchair could float up,# Iliana said internally.

Good point.

He emerged into the strangest-looking classroom he had ever seen. In fact, it didn’t look like a classroom at all, more like a cross between someone’s attic and an old-fashioned tea shop. At least twenty small, circular tables were crammed inside it, all surrounded by chintz armchairs and fat little poufs. Everything was lit with a dim, crimson light; the curtains at the windows were all closed, and the many lamps were draped with dark red scarves. It was stiflingly warm, and the fire that was burning under the crowded mantelpiece was giving off a heavy, sickly sort of perfume as it heated a large copper kettle. The shelves running around the circular walls were crammed with dusty-looking feathers, stubs of candles, many packs of tattered playing cards, countless silvery crystal balls, and a huge array of teacups.

“Where is she?”

A voice came suddenly out of the shadows, a soft, misty sort of voice.

“Welcome,” it said. “How nice to see you in the physical world at last.”

Al snorted with barely-suppressed laughter. He saw through this woman at once; she was a fraud with no real talent.

“I can already tell you this class is going to be a waste of time,” he told Ron.

“How d'ya reckon?”

“My heart-reading ability, of course. She's a total fraud.”

Her appearance didn't help matters, either; looking like a large insect, glittering with bangles and draped in shawls, she looked like a bad stereotype of a “gypsy” fortuneteller, except that she was white.

“Sit, my children, sit,” she said, and they all climbed awkwardly into armchairs or sank onto poufs. Al crossed his arms and resisted the urge to put his feet up on the table, but only just. Which was for the better, as Hermione would've berated him for it.

“Welcome to Divination,” said Professor Trelawney, who had seated herself in a winged armchair in front of the fire. “My name is Professor Trelawney. You may not have seen me before. I find that descending too often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner Eye.”

Nobody said anything to this, though Al barked once with laughter.

Looking annoyed but not calling him out on his behavior, Professor Trelawney delicately rearranged her shawl and continued, “So you have chosen to study Divination, the most difficult of all magical arts. I must warn you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you. Books can take you only so far in this field.”

Al and Ron looked at each other, then at an astonished Hermione, then back again, and grinned. Hermione was so used to being able to read her way through any class, this was going to be interesting, watching how she'd take a class where that wasn't very helpful.

“Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future,” Professor Trelawney went on, her enormous, gleaming eyes moving from face to nervous face. “It is a Gift granted to few. You, boy,” she said suddenly to Neville, who almost toppled off his pouf. “Is your grandmother well?”

“I think so,” said Neville tremulously.

“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you, dear,” said Professor Trelawney, the firelight glinting on her long emerald earrings. Neville gulped.

Al sat up straighter and interrupted. “Hey, that's not on. What gives you the right to scare him like that with your vague prediction and then not offer any further explanation?”

Professor Trelawney stared at him incredulously, as though she wasn't used to people interrupting her and didn't know what to make of it. Then she crossed her arms and looked imperiously down at him.

“Pardon me, young man, but I am the teacher here, and you the pupil. You will withhold any comments until I am done.”

“I don't think so. Neville gets scared enough by that overgrown bat, Snape, he doesn't need you making this class difficult for him, too. By all means continue making predictions at us to try to impress us, but leave poor Neville out of it.”

She seemed to focus as he said this, regarding him more carefully. She lifted up a set of papers to look at it.

“Your name, brash young man?”

“Alastair Potter.”

“Ah,” she said, as though delighted to find some succulent prey, “the Potter collective. I have seen much about you in my crystal ball, of late.”

“Sure you have. And I'm all five of the Three Stooges,” he said. Only a couple people laughed; the rest looked confused.

Trelawney didn't seem to know how to respond to this, and stood there for several moments looking torn, before setting the papers down and pulling her shawls around her again, looking determined.

“Moving on,” she said placidly, “We will be covering the basic methods of Divination this year. The first term will be devoted to reading the tea leaves. Next term we shall progress to palmistry. By the way, my dear,” she shot suddenly at Parvati Patil, “beware a red-haired man.”

Parvati gave a startled look at Ron, who was right behind her, and edged her chair away from him. Al rolled his eyes, threw his head back, and sighed very loudly. Trelawney glared at him, but ignored him.

“In the second term,” Professor Trelawney went on, “we shall progress to the crystal ball — if we have finished with fire omens, that is. Unfortunately, classes will be disrupted in February by a nasty bout of flu. I myself will lose my voice--”

Al turned to Ron and stage whispered. “Flu, in a school full of kids. Good prediction, that one. All she has to do to make it come true is lick every doorknob she finds.”

There was a ripple of laughter at this. Hermione, he noticed, looked torn between annoyance at Al's disrespect toward a teacher, and the urge to laugh at his comments.

Trelawney, who was plainly used to her mystic attitude doing all the work of keeping classes orderly for her, shook a little, then in a louder, more authoritarian voice, she said, “And around Easter, one of our number will leave us forever.”

Even Al didn't have anything to say to that one.

Her disruptive student struck speechless, Trelawney continued with a smug look on her face.

“I wonder, dear,” she said to Lavender Brown, who was nearest and shrank back in her chair, “if you could pass me the largest silver teapot?”

Lavender, looking relieved, stood up, took an enormous teapot from the shelf, and put it down on the table in front of Professor Trelawney.

“Thank you, my dear. Incidentally, that thing you are dreading — it will happen on Friday the sixteenth of October.”

“Could you vague that up for her?” Al said, a little lamely.

Lavender, however, trembled.

“Now, I want you all to divide into pairs. Collect a teacup from the shelf, come to me, and I will fill it. Then sit down and drink, drink until only the dregs remain. Swill these around the cup three times with the left hand, then turn the cup upside down on its saucer, wait for the last of the tea to drain away, then give your cup to your partner to read. You will interpret the patterns using pages five and six of Unfogging the Future. I shall move among you, helping and instructing.” At this point she turned to Neville as if to speak, then – glancing at Al – thought better of it.

They went about getting cups and saucers, and making tea. Al looked at his with disgust.

“Ewww. It's got bits of leaf floating in it,” he told Ron. “I mean, I suppose it wouldn't work otherwise, but usually if there's tea leaves in the tea, I throw it out and try again.”

“You've never had loose leaf tea before?”

“Oh, sure I have. Aunt Petunia would never be caught dead buying anything as gauche and low class as teabags. But her tea sets all had these metal inserts to keep the tea leaves from getting into the tea itself, like a metal teabag. She hated it when tea leaves would get in the tea. I guess I got that from her,” he said, looking very annoyed about it.

Glaring at the tea, he slurped it down as fast as he could, gagging on the tea leaves and spitting them out like he'd gotten sand in his mouth.

“That would've been quite good if it hadn't been for the tea leaves floating in it,” Al said.

“Wish she'd given us milk,” Ron said. “At least there's sugar.”

“Ew,” Al commented. “I like my tea like I like my clothing; black and bitter as Hell.”

Ron stared at him. He shrugged.

“Okay, so that sounded funnier in my head. Anyway, let's trade cups, read each other's fortunes.”

They did, opening their books as well, looking for symbols to look for.

“Whadda ya see in mine?” Ron asked.

“Load of soggy brown stuff,” Al said. He suddenly became aware of how hot it was in the room, something he knew from experience wasn't good for them. Even he, who had some immunity to the soporific effects of heat, felt groggy.

“Broaden your minds, my dears, and allow your eyes to see past the mundane!” Professor Trelawney cried through the gloom.

For all his sass at the teacher, Al wanted to actually be able to do this stuff, so he tried to focus.

“Right, you’ve got a crooked sort of cross …” He consulted Unfogging the Future. “That means you’re going to have ‘trials and suffering’ — sorry about that — but there’s a thing that could be the sun … hang on … that means ‘great happiness’ … so you’re going to suffer but be very happy. You're not a masochist, are you?”

“You need your Inner Eye tested, if you ask me,” said Ron, and they both had to stifle their laughs as Professor Trelawney gazed in their direction.

“My turn …” Ron peered into Al's teacup, his forehead wrinkled with effort. “There’s a blob a bit like a bowler hat,” he said. “Maybe you’re going to work for the Ministry of Magic. …”

He turned the teacup the other way up.

“But this way it looks more like an acorn. … What’s that?” He scanned his copy of Unfogging the Future. “ ‘A windfall, unexpected gold.’ Excellent, you can lend me some … and there’s a thing here,” he turned the cup again, “that looks like an animal … yeah, if that was its head … it looks like a hippo … no, a sheep …”

Professor Trelawney whirled around as Al let out a bark of laughter.

“Let me see that, my dear,” she said reprovingly to Ron, sweeping over and snatching Al's cup from him. Everyone went quiet to watch.

Professor Trelawney was staring into the teacup, rotating it counterclockwise.

“The falcon … my dear, you have a deadly enemy.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Al said, half the class aghast at his cheek. “Ever since I was born, that's been true, and every witch and wizard in the world knows it, too. Moldy Voldy, dumb and oldy, should be six feet under, coldy.”

“The club … an attack. Dear, dear, this is not a happy cup. …”

“I thought that was a bowler hat,” said Ron sheepishly.

“Convenient how a hat morphs into a club,” Al commented. “Almost like you're making it up as you go along. Oh wait!” he said, mimicking an iconic scene from Home Alone.

“The skull … danger in your path, my dear. …”

“Given that a deranged lunatic escaped from prison to kill me, that's not exactly a prophecy.”

Everyone was staring, transfixed, at Professor Trelawney, who gave the cup a final turn, gasped, and then screamed. Al jumped, clutching his heart.

“Ye gods, woman!”

“My dear boy … my poor, dear boy … no … it is kinder not to say … no … don’t ask me.”

“Oh don't tell me!” Al said, putting two fingers from each hand on each temple, and closing his eyes. “Eeny meeny, chili beeny, I predict you've found... a death omen!”

He opened his eyes to see her looking at him like he'd stolen her thunder.

“Aha! I was right, wasn't I?”

Her lips got very thin, and she looked like she was debating whether or not to speak.

“Yes,” she said, finally.

“YES! I'm good at this already! So go on, don't spare the rod, let me hear how bad it is! Don't pull any punches, I can take it,” he said melodramatically, lifting the back of one hand daintily to his forehead.

“I see... the Grim.”

Everyone who was raised in the wizarding world gasped. Al opened his eyes, his hand still on his forehead.

“Well that was anti-climactic,” he said. “What is the Grim?”

“The Grim... it is a giant spectral dog that haunts churchyards. It is the most dire omen of death.”

“Well we all die eventually,” Al said.

“Yes, we do,” Trelawney said, annoyed. “But an omen means imminent death.”

“So it's just a dog that you see? Hey, maybe your inner eye is myopic; maybe it just means I'm going to be friends with a large black dog.”

Hermione huffily took the teacup from Trelawney and looked inside.

I don’t think it looks like a Grim,” she said flatly.

Trelawney glared at Hermione, obviously annoyed and thinking Al's bad attitude was spreading.

“You’ll forgive me for saying so, my dear, but I perceive very little aura around you. Very little receptivity to the resonances of the future. Both of you.”

“Nah, I'm just allergic to fruh... fruh... FRUH... ACHOO! Allergic to frauds.”

Trelawney's gaze turned to Al, and it was plain she was growing to really dislike him. She stood there, her arms crossed, as though thinking about whether to slap him or not.

“Detention, Mr. Potter, for your disrespect!”

“OooooOoooo...” the class intoned.

Al fist pumped. “Woohoo! Detention on the first day! A personal record!”

“And ten points from Griffindor,” she added, before skulking away in disgust. “See me after class for instructions on your detention.”

“Righty-o,” Al said, saluting.

~

“You really oughtn't have done that, you know,” Hermione said as they went to Transfiguration.

Al shrugged. “Yeah, but I went into that class expecting a talented person teaching us, someone actually able to tell the future. If I wanted a scam artist, I could go to the Muggle world for that.”

“What'd she give you for detention, anyway?” Ron asked.

Al giggled. “Polishing her crystal balls. While under a Silencing Charm.”

Ron chuckled. “Not terribly creative. Except for the Silencing Charm part.”

“Yeah, she's no doubt going to regale me with dire predictions of my death and/or dismemberment the whole time, probably turning that fire on so high that I fall asleep.”

When they got to Transfiguration, most of the class wasn't paying attention to McGonagall's lesson, but Al was so enthralled by the idea of Animagi that he, Hermione, and Ron were the only ones to applaud when she changed into a cat and back again.

“Thank you, you three,” she said graciously. “But really, what has gotten into the rest of you? Not that I mind, but that's the first time my transformation's not got applause from the entire class.”

Everyone turned to look at Al, who was leaning back in his chair so it was standing only on two legs. But it was Hermione who broke the silence at last.

“Please, Professor, we’ve just had our first Divination class, and we were reading the tea leaves, and —”

“Ah, of course,” said Professor McGonagall, suddenly frowning. “There is no need to say any more, Miss Granger. Tell me, which of you will be dying this year?”

Everyone stared at her.

“Who else could it be but me?” Al said easily, a toothpick hanging from the corner of his mouth, his hands behind his head.

“I see,” McGonagall said. “In that case, Mr. Potter, you should know that Sibyll Trelawney has predicted the death of one student a year since she arrived at this school. None of them has died yet. Seeing death omens is her favorite way of greeting a new class. If it were not for the fact that I never speak ill of my colleagues...”

Professor McGonagall broke off, and they saw that her nostrils had gone white. She went on, more calmly, “Divination is one of the most imprecise branches of magic. I shall not conceal from you that I have very little patience with it. True Seers are very rare, and Professor Trelawney...”

“...is an old fraud,” Al finished for her.

She did not reply at first, which was telling enough as is. When she did speak, it was in a matter-of-fact tone.

“You look in excellent health to me, Mr. Potter, so you will excuse me if I don’t let you off homework today. I assure you that if you die, you need not hand it in.”

Hermione and Ron laughed.

“Not even if I leave a ghost behind?”

“As ghosts cannot do magic, no; not even then.”

On their way out of Transfiguration, they discussed the Grim and Trelawney again.

“You know, my uncle Bilius saw a Grim once, and died 24 hours later. So she's not wrong about it being a death omen, but since you say you haven't seen one, I'm not worried.”

“Coincidence,” said Hermione airily, pouring herself some pumpkin juice.

“Excuse me?”

“It's just a coincidence, what happened to your uncle.”

Ron glared at her. “You don’t know what you’re talking about! Grims scare the living daylights out of most wizards!”

“There you are, then,” said Hermione in a superior tone. “They see the Grim and die of fright. The Grim’s not an omen, it’s the cause of death!”

Ron looked about to speak, but Hermione interrupted.

“Divination seems very wooly to me. Not very interesting, either, unlike my Arithmancy class.”

“What're you talking about? You can't've been to Arithmancy yet, you've been with us all morning.”

Hermione sniffed and stalked off.

“Time machine, Ron. Bet you anything she's got a time machine.”

~

Their Care of Magical Creatures class was after lunch, under a pleasant, sunlit sky, the grass still springy from the rain the day before. Al was still chewing on a toothpick, walking along with his hands in his robe pockets, his two best friends at his sides. They weren't talking to one another, but it was better than bickering.

When Al approached Malfoy (they were having this lesson with the Slytherins), he waved as though to a friend and said in Parseltongue, 'Beautiful day, isn't it?'

Malfoy, who had been regarding Al with hatred a moment before, jumped back, terrified.

'What, I can't greet a fellow student amicably?'

The Slytherins, and even some of the Griffindors, backed away from Al.

“Al, stop doing that,” Hermione scolded him.

Al shrugged. “Sorry. I see a snake, I speak Parseltongue. It's a reflex.”

Hagrid was waiting for his class at the door of his hut. He stood in his moleskin overcoat, with Fang the boarhound at his heels, looking impatient to start.

“C’mon, now, get a move on!” he called as the class approached. “Got a real treat for yeh today! Great lesson comin’ up! Everyone here? Right, follow me!”

For a moment, Al thought they were going to be led to the Forbidden Forest, but instead, they went to a paddock around the edges of the trees.

“Everyone gather ’round the fence here!” he called. “That’s it — make sure yeh can see — now, firs’ thing yeh’ll want ter do is open yer books —”

“How?” said the cold, drawling voice of Draco Malfoy.

“Eh?” said Hagrid.

“How do we open our books?” Malfoy repeated. He took out his copy of The Monster Book of Monsters, which he had bound shut with a length of rope. Other people took theirs out too; some, like Al, had belted their book shut; others had crammed them inside tight bags or clamped them together with binder clips.

“Hasn’ — hasn’ anyone bin able ter open their books?” said Hagrid, looking crestfallen.

The class all shook their heads.

“Yeh’ve got ter stroke ’em,” said Hagrid, as though this was the most obvious thing in the world. “Look —”

He took Hermione’s copy and ripped off the Spellotape that bound it. The book tried to bite, but Hagrid ran a giant forefinger down its spine, and the book shivered, and then fell open and lay quiet in his hand.

“Oh, how silly we’ve all been!” Malfoy sneered. “We should have stroked them! Why didn’t we guess!”

Al frowned at him. “Yeah, Malfoy, why didn't you think of that? You're an expert in stroking, after all.”

The whole class burst into laughter at this, except for most of the Slytherins of course. But Hagrid, who had been looking crestfallen a moment ago, was chuckling as well, which had been Al's intent. That, and shutting up Malfoy.

“Well,” Hagrid said after a few moments. “open yer books, as I said. Got em? Good. Now, turn ter page 123, the entry on Hippogriffs, and follow me.”

They opened their books and followed Hagrid.

“God, this place is going to the dogs,” said Malfoy loudly. “That oaf teaching classes, my father’ll have a fit when I tell him.”

“That's about all he can do about it, now he's no longer a school governor,” Al loudly commented back. “Which is what happens when you put Moldywart's old school things into innocent hands in order to open secret chambers to let horrible monsters loose onto the school. Good thing there wasn't any proof, or he'd be feeding the dementors up in Azkaban, and we all know what a huge loss that would be.”

“Watch out, Potter, there's a dementor behind you!” Malfoy said venomously.

Al barked with laughter. “That comeback was lamer than a legless unicorn in broken crutches.”

Malfoy turned red, and shut up. Al grinned.

Then they were there, and Al looked in amazement at the most bizarre creatures he'd ever laid eyes on. They had head and forelegs like oversized eagles, and the back half of a horse. Each of the creatures had a thick leather collar around its neck, being led by a long chain.

“Gee up, there!” Hagrid roared, shaking the chains and urging the creatures toward the fence where the class stood. Everyone drew back slightly as Hagrid reached them and tethered the creatures to the fence.

“Hippogriffs!” Hagrid roared happily, waving a hand at them. “Beau’iful, aren’ they?”

“Those. Are. AMAZING!” Al exclaimed, making Hagrid beam. “How old d'ya have to be to buy one?”

“At leas' 17, an' yeh need a special license an' all, too. Yeh see those beaks and claws? They can take a chunk outta yeh if you bait 'em.

“So,” said Hagrid, rubbing his hands together and beaming around, “if yeh wan’ ter come a bit nearer —”

No one seemed to want to. Al, Ron, and Hermione, however, approached the fence cautiously.

“Now, firs’ thing yeh gotta know abou’ hippogriffs is, they’re proud,” said Hagrid. “Easily offended, hippogriffs are. Don’t never insult one, ’cause it might be the last thing yeh do.”

Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle weren’t listening; they were talking in an undertone and Al had a nasty feeling they were plotting how best to disrupt the lesson.

“Hey Malfoy!” he yelled, getting the Slytherin's attention. “Pay attention, if you don't want your hand snipped off or something. If you eff this up for Hagrid, I will transfigure a pair of bollocks onto your chin!”

“Don't tell me what to do, Potty.”

Al smiled creepily at Malfoy and said, in an equally creepy tone of voice, “Your funeral.”

“Yeh always wait fer the hippogriff ter make the firs’ move,” Hagrid continued. “It’s polite, see? Yeh walk toward him, and yeh bow, an’ yeh wait. If he bows back, yeh’re allowed ter touch him. If he doesn’ bow, then get away from him sharpish, ’cause those talons hurt.

“Right — who wants ter go first?”

Al looked around; nobody, not even Ron or Hermione, wanted to do it. So he shrugged and stepped forward.

“I'll do it,” he said.

There was an intake of breath from behind him, and both Lavender and Parvati whispered, “Oooh, no, Al, remember your tea leaves!”

Al rolled his eyes at them, and climbed over the paddock fence.

“Good man, Al!” roared Hagrid. “Right then — let’s see how yeh get on with Buckbeak.”

He untied one of the chains, pulled the gray hippogriff away from its fellows, and slipped off its leather collar. The class on the other side of the paddock seemed to be holding its breath. Malfoy’s eyes were narrowed maliciously.

“Do I have to bow?” Al asked. “I mean, can't I curtsy instead?”

The whole class laughed.

“You're a boy, Al,” said Lavender Brown.

Al glared at her. “Yeah, so? Boys can curtsy too. Boys and girls can do anything they want. Girls can be boys. Boys can be girls.”

Everyone laughed, again.

“I'm not joking for once. Girls can be boys, and boys can be girls. And I'll support anyone and everyone who made a realization like that about themselves, even if it was Malfoy!”

“I'm not a bloody girl, Potter!” Malfoy shouted, his face hot.

Al waved his hand dismissively. “Of course you aren't.”

“I'm NOT a bloody girl!”

“Didn't say you were, Maco Dralfoy. In fact, you're far too weak and pathetic to ever be something as awesome as a girl!”

Malfoy snorted derisively. “You sound like you want to be one yourself.”

“I don't, but I'll support anyone who did. And to anyone who made fun of 'em for it, I'd punch 'em in the face!”

“Al, none o' that now, okay? I'm tryin ter teach yeh how ter handle Beaky.”

“Oh. Sorry, Hagrid.”

“ 's'all righ,' Al. Anyway, step on up. Easy, now. Good lad. Now, make eye contact. Good, good. Now that yeh’ve got eye contact, jes try not ter blink. Hippogriffs don’ trust yeh if yeh blink too much.”

Al's eyes immediately began to water, but he didn’t shut them. Buckbeak had turned his great, sharp head and was staring at Al with one fierce orange eye.

“Why? Do they have something against me keeping dust out of my eyes?”

“Mind yer smart tongue 'round hippogriffs, Al.”

“Duly noted.”

“Tha’s it,” said Hagrid. “Tha’s it, Al … now, bow …”

Al didn’t feel much like exposing the back of his neck to Buckbeak, but he did as he was told. He gave a short bow, said, “Milord Buckbeak,” and then looked up.

The hippogriff was still staring haughtily at him. It didn’t move.

“Ah,” said Hagrid, sounding worried. “Right — back away, now, Al, easy does it.”

But then, to Al’s enormous surprise, the hippogriff suddenly bent its scaly front knees and sank into what was an unmistakable bow.

“Well done, Al!” said Hagrid, ecstatic. “Right — yeh can touch him! Pat his beak, go on!”

“Okay,” Al said warily, and patted the large animal on the beak.

The class broke into applause, all except for Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, who were looking deeply disappointed.

“Righ' then, Al, I reckon he'll let yeh ride 'im now. Yup, right there behind the wing joint. Don't pull out any of 'is feathers, 'e won't like that none.”

Once Al was secure, Hagrid slapped the animal on the backside, and it took off running, then leapt into the sky, flying around.

Holy shit! Al said to Harry and the others. How the bloody hell does this thing fly? It must weigh a ton!

#Probably with magic,# answered Iliana.

Good point.

The hippogriff flew Al around the paddock a few times, then landed with a thump that made Al wince.

“Good work, Al! Now who else wants a go?”

Al watched the others, emboldened by his success, try it on different hippogriffs. Neville kept backing away from his. Al watched Draco warily, for the Slytherin had gotten Buckbeak.

“Hey Malfoy! Remember, don't insult it. I know it's difficult for you, treating someone other than yourself as an equal, but it's that or death!” Al shouted. Malfoy, of course, ignored him.

“This is very easy,” Malfoy drawled, loud enough for Al to hear him. “I knew it must have been, if Potter could do it. … I bet you’re not dangerous at all, are you?” he said to the hippogriff. “Are you, you great ugly brute?”

In a flash, Buckbeak reared and started to slash at Malfoy. But Al, who had been expecting trouble, magically shoved the blond boy out of the way.

“That bloody chicken tried to murder me!” Malfoy shouted, shaking like a leaf in wind. “I could've died!”

“Maybe if you'd actually listened to Hagrid and me about not insulting him, that wouldn't have happened! Honestly, could you maybe pull your head out of your arse every once in a while?”

But Malfoy kept going on about it, threatening to sic his father on Hagrid and Buckbeak, making Hagrid very flustered.

“Oh sure, run squealing to Daddy like a pathetic baby every time your actions have consequences, Draco, because that's just so mature!”

Still, the git wouldn't shut up, and he started storming off, still ranting about his father hearing about this. But Al grabbed the back of his robes and yanked him back around, then grabbed the front of his robes. Crabbe and Goyle surged forward, but a force-field knocked them down as he glared at Malfoy.

“Did I not warn you,” he said in a dangerously quiet voice, “to not fuck this up for Hagrid? Did I not tell you I would transfigure bollocks to your chin if you disobeyed?”

Malfoy whimpered as Al held his free hand over his face. Then, in a flash of movement, Al grabbed Malfoy's chin and caused a familiar glow to wash over the boy's face. When it stopped, Malfoy had a pair of very hairy testicles hanging from his chin.

“You have a problem with me or any of the rest of my collective, you take it up with me. Try taking it out on my friends again, Malfoy, and next time I will make you cut your own, actual testicles off and EAT them. Understood?”

The blond boy nodded meekly.

“Good. Now run along,” Al said, letting go at last, and giggled evilly as Malfoy scampered off to the hospital wing to get his face put back right.

Al whistled a jaunty tune the whole way back to the castle, utterly at ease, Ron on one side of him, struggling to stop laughing long enough to breathe, Hermione on his other side, torn between giggles and recriminating looks.

His eyes were closed as they approached the door, but he suddenly opened them and grinned.

“I can feel McGonagall coming. And boy oh boy, she is pissed off at me!”

Fully 20 seconds later, the oak front doors slammed open, and Professor McGonagall, her face contorted in fury. Ron and Hermione both looked at him in amazement. Or at least, Al thought that's what Ron was doing; it was hard to tell, since the redhead was still laughing so hard he could barely breathe.

McGonagall finally caught up to them, and all four of them stopped.

“So, Professor, how many detentions, and how many points off?” Al asked.

McGonagall opened her mouth to speak, but seemed unable. She pointed at him furiously, apoplectic not only with what he'd done, but his wry smirk as well.

“Seventy-five points from Griffindor, Mr. Potter,” she finally said. “And a week's worth of detentions. With Professor Snape. And it will be you, understood? None of the others are to take your place.”

Al's smile faltered, momentarily.

“Totally worth it,” he said. “And agreed. Anything else, Professor?”

Her face, if anything, grew more angry.

“Now see here, Mr. Bl--- I mean, Mr. Potter... you... my office. Now.

Al sighed, his smile finally leaving his face. “Okay, okay. I'm coming.”

“And you, Mr. Weasley, to the hospital wing for a Calming Draught, before you pass out from hypoxia.”

~

“So,” Ron said later at dinner. “What did McGonagall say to you in her office?”

“Oh, it was a very long rant. The gist of it was, she gave me an extra week of detentions, and insisted I write an apology that at least sounded sincere, and insisted I write it there, so she could read it to make sure it was acceptable. She also watched me give it to Malfoy. This is a copy of the letter, here.”

Ron read the letter. The farther down he got in it, the more confused he looked, and the more Al grinned. Hermione regarded him warily. By the time Ron finished, Al was stifling giggles.

“Something's weird about this letter, but I can't put my finger on it.”

“Oh here, give me that,” Hermione said, snatching it out of Ron's hand. She read it, too.

It read:

Dear Draco Malfoy,

I am deeply sorry for disfiguring your face. When I got angry at you, I should have just used words, instead of causing you physical harm. I can only hope you will accept my heartfelt apology for my heated behavior. Ladies and gentlemen do not behave in such a manner, and in my position of fame, I should strive to be a better example to others. Lonnie Williams, a famous Muggle philosopher, once said that to err is human, to forgive is divine. Forgive me, please, for this slight on your person. Under no circumstances will I ever do such a thing again, I assure you. Can I do anything to repay you for the embarrassment I have caused? Kin we are, I believe, given the old age of my family, and so my kin, I shall pay reparations if you insist. Yes, even if you wish me to apologize to you in front of the whole school! Only tell me your wish, and I shall do it, within reason. (Understand, I will not break any laws or hurt anyone else, those are my limits.)

Until we meet again;
Potter, Alastair.

“Oh Al, you didn't!”

Al was trying very hard not to laugh, and not having much success.

“Didn't what? What did you see that I didn't?”

“Here. Take the first letter of every sentence and put them in order next to each other,” she said, handing the letter to Ron. “Honestly, I can't believe Professor McGonagall didn't notice that.”

Ron's eyes went over the letter again for several moments. Halfway through, he was grinning. When he finished, he burst out laughing.

“Brilliant!” he exclaimed. “Bloody brilliant!”

“Oh Ronald, it is not brilliant. He's lucky he didn't get into even more trouble.”

“How did you spot that so quickly, anyway, 'mione?”

“Well, I was already suspicious before I read it, and would've been anyway after a few sentences. But there is no famous Muggle anyone named Lonnie Williams, as far as I know of, and that's not who said that quote anyway. He clearly made up the name because he couldn't think of any other way to put the second 'L' in 'will.'”

Al lost control, then, and barked with laughter so loud that it made several people jump in surprise. Then he spent the next few minutes laughing more normally, banging his fist on the table, tears coming from his eyes.

“You lot're havin' a lotta fun over here, I see,” said Hagrid's voice behind them. “Wha's so funny, Al?”

“Oh, nothing, Hagrid,” Al said, crumpling up the letter and pocketing it. “Just remembering what I did to a certain blond git.”

“Well, don't do it again, funny as it was,” Hagrid said quietly. “Still not sure what young Mr. Malfoy's gonna do. But I do reckon I started out a little too big fer me first class. Reckon I shoulda gone with unicorns or summat.”

“Yeah, hippogriffs are maybe more of a fifth year creature,” Al agreed.

“Anyway, thanks fer getting' Malfoy outta the way o' Beaky. No tellin' what woulda happened if yeh hadn't.”

“Cheers, Hagrid,” Al said, holding up his pumpkin juice.

~

There was no additional fallout from the incident, other than Malfoy regarding Al with a mixture of hatred and fear every time they passed each other. The detentions with Snape were horrible, of course; Snape had Al cutting up pickled toads and sorting the organs into individual containers the whole week long, staying to watch and offer pointed comments with a gleeful sneer. Why Snape needed so many pickled toads was beyond him; maybe it was a delicacy for the bat-like teacher?

Either despite these detentions, or because of them, Potions classes were far easier for the duration. At least, until one of Thursday's classes.

They were making a Shrinking Solution. Al found that he was a moderately good potioneer when Snape wasn't glaring at him in hatred and grinding his teeth audibly in his general direction, so all in all, the class was going reasonably well. That is, until Neville – whom Snape was still harassing – messed up his potion so badly it turned orange; it was supposed to be acid green.

“Orange, Longbottom,” said Snape, ladling some up and allowing it to splash back into the cauldron, so that everyone could see. “Orange. Tell me, boy, does anything penetrate that thick skull of yours? Didn’t you hear me say, quite clearly, that only one rat spleen was needed? Didn’t I state plainly that a dash of leech juice would suffice? What do I have to do to make you understand, Longbottom?”

Neville was pink and trembling. He looked as though he was on the verge of tears.

“Please, sir,” said Hermione, “please, I could help Neville put it right —”

“I don’t remember asking you to show off, Miss Granger,” said Snape coldly, and Hermione went as pink as Neville. “Longbottom, at the end of this lesson we will feed a few drops of this potion to your toad and see what happens. Perhaps that will encourage you to do it properly.”

Al stood up, glaring at Snape. Everybody turned to look at him.

“You know, maybe you'd be a better teacher if you didn't engage in blatant emotional abuse, you overgrown bat.”

The whole room went dead quiet. Snape turned, regarding Al with a look like ice.

“Twenty points from Griffindor, Potter. Sit down before I add another few nights to your detentions.”

“No. Neville is nervous enough with this subject as is, and then you deliberately target him, emotionally abusing him just because you seem to derive pleasure from bullying students. Why are you even a teacher if you hate kids so much?”

“Why I do the things I do is no concern of yours, Potter. But for your information, I derive no pleasure at all from anything at all to do with teaching, except perhaps for having the entire summer away from all you sniveling brats. Every year I get stuck with a bigger and bigger batch of buffoons than last time, all of you so utterly cocksure that you need taking down a peg or two.

“But perhaps you're right; perhaps I should ignore Longbottom, and let him melt yet another cauldron, letting dangerous half-finished potion splatter everywhere, and have to sort out the damages from that? Perhaps I should focus more on you, Mr. Potter, and micromanage your every movement?”

“Sure, go ahead. Just leave Neville alone.”

Snape looked like he was (sarcastically) considering Al's words.

“No, I think I'll do both. I'll continue to keep my eye on Longbottom for as long as I have the idiot in my class, and then I shall do the same for you, Potter. Yes, that's what I'll do.”

Al frowned. “Oh I get it now. Like the old saying goes, 'Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.'”

Snape surged forward like a striking cobra, making Al back up into his cauldron.

“I will have you know, Potter, that I have not one, but several Masteries in Potioneering, which is the highest qualification one can possibly have, and takes years of intensive labor to achieve, so my title of Potions Master is no mere formality. I can brew potions in my sleep that are so complex it normally takes a team of wizards working together to make them, potions you've never even heard of. If things in my life had gone just a little differently, I could have become a professional potioneer, inventing potions that would echo through the annals of history, and be able to retire with a fortune to rival that of the Malfoys. But instead, I am stuck here in this blasted school, surrounded by utter buffoons and shrieking pre- and post- pubescent little monsters all day, attempting to fill your brains with something more substantial than cobwebs, whilst simultaneously trying to stop idiots like Longbottom from destroying the school because they can't be arsed to pay attention and follow simple instructions! Then I spend every day keeping track of the Headache Cure potions I've taken during the day so I don't accidentally poison myself from overuse. So don't you stand there thinking you know what I'm about, Potter, because you don't have a clue, and you had better pray that you never come to understand what my life is like, because let me tell you, it is utter Hell.

Al just stood there gaping at him like a fish out of water.

Snape spun on his heel and stalked off to the front of the classroom, leaning on his desk with a glare.

“And if you don't want more detentions, Potter, I suggest you sit down and get to work before your potion becomes even worse than Longbottom's.”

Al nodded, sitting down.

~

“I've seen Snape pretty angry before, mate, but that was bloody terrifying that was,” Ron later said as they left the classroom.

“Yeah, I know. But now I kinda feel sorry for the git. Sounds like he'd rather be doing literally anything but teaching.”

“Uh huh. Upside, though, is he never did go back to Neville. At least, not til his cauldron melted, anyway. Even then, he just seemed more tired than anything else.”

Al nodded absently.

At lunch, Seamus Finnigan leaned over toward Al and said, “By the way, forgot to tell you in all the hubbub earlier, but the Daily Prophet this morning reckons Sirius Black was spotted.”

“Where?” Ron and Al asked. Over at the Slytherin table, Malfoy looked up with interest.

“Not too far from here,” said Seamus, who looked excited. “It was a Muggle who saw him. ’Course, she didn’t really understand. The Muggles think he’s just an ordinary criminal, don’t they? So she phoned the telephone hot line. By the time the Ministry of Magic got there, he was gone.”

“Not too far from here … ,” Ron repeated, looking significantly at Al. Then he looked behind Al and glared. “What do you want, Malfoy?”

Malfoy was regarding Al malevolently.

“Thinking of taking him on yourself, Potty?”

Al raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Malfoy’s thin mouth was curving in a mean smile.

“Of course, if it was me,” he said quietly, “I’d have done something before now. I wouldn’t be staying in school like a good boy, I’d be out there looking for him.”

“What are you talking about, Malfoy?” said Ron roughly.

“Don’t you know, Potter?” breathed Malfoy, his pale eyes narrowed.

“Know what?”

Malfoy let out a low, sneering laugh.

“Maybe you’d rather not risk your neck,” he said. “Want to leave it to the dementors, do you? But if it was me, I’d want revenge. I’d hunt him down myself.”

“Revenge? On who? Why? What the bloody Hell are you on about?”

“Trouble, boys?” McGonagall's voice interrupted.

“No, Professor,” Malfoy said smugly. “Just telling Potter here I accepted his... rather interesting apology. Just spelling out for him what I thought about it, you know.”

“Well good. Now back to your own table, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Yes, Professor.”

Al watched McGonagall go back up to the staff table.

“Now that McGonagall is McGonagone,” Al said, eliciting titters of laughter, “anyone have any clue what Malfoy was babbling about? Something about Sirius Black?”

But nobody did. And there wasn't anything else to say about Sirius Black, either. Seamus went back to his food, and Al noticed Hermione looking significantly at him.

“You realize he was telling you he--”

“--figured out my coded message? Yeah, I did pick up on that, funnily enough.”

Their next lesson was their first Defense Against the Dark Arts. Everyone arrived on time, but Lupin wasn't there when they got there, so they all sat down and got their books, quills, and parchment out. The class were talking, except for Al who was too busy leaning back in his chair with his feet on the desk. It wasn't until then that Hermione noticed that even though Al had been roughly 14 in their first year, he hadn't gotten any older, and looked almost the same age as everyone else in the room.

Professor Lupin came in at last, smiling vaguely and placed his tatty old briefcase on the teacher's desk. Though shabby still, he looked healthier than before. That is, until he spotted Al and nearly had a fit, clutching his heart and jumping back in fear, alarm, and a mix of other emotions Al couldn't sort out. Then he relaxed a little, but continued to grimace weirdly. But unlike the grimace of loathing Snape always gave him, this one was a grimace of pain, self-disgust, confusion, and a different kind of fear. Al raised an eyebrow curiously, taking his feet off the desk to regard Lupin curiously.

“Um... uh...” Lupin said absently as he dropped his briefcase and struggled to pick his things up without his wand, “er... Good, good afternoon class.” Lupin pointedly looked away from Al, calming down some more.

“Would you please, uh... please put all your books and papers back in your bags. Today's will be a practical lesson.”

A few curious looks were exchanged as the class put away their books. They had never had a practical Defense Against the Dark Arts before, unless you counted the memorable class last year when their old teacher had brought a cageful of pixies to class and set them loose.

“R-right, then,” Professor Lupin said, when everyone was ready. “Follow me, please.”

They were all puzzled and interested, Alastair even more so than the others. As they followed him out the classroom, Al tried to get closer to the man, who was clearly avoiding him.

They rounded a corner and found Peeves the Poltergiest, who was stuffing chewing gum into keyholes. Peeves looked up when Lupin was a couple feet away, wiggled his curly-toed feet and broke into song.

“Loony, loopy Lupin,” Peeves sang “Loony, loopy Lupin, loony, loopy Lupin!”

This was surprising, as Peeves usually showed a modicum of respect to teachers, even if nobody else. But Lupin didn't seem perturbed by this. In fact, he was smiling.

“I’d take that gum out of the keyhole if I were you, Peeves,” he said pleasantly. “Mr. Filch won’t be able to get in to his brooms.”

Peeves paid no attention to Professor Lupin’s words, except to blow a loud wet raspberry.

With a sigh, Lupin took out his wand, pointed it at shoulder height, said, “Waddiwasi,” then pointed it at Peeves. The gum flew out of the keyhole and right down Peeve's left nostril; the poltergeist took off, cursing loudly.

“Sweet,” Al said.

Lupin's grin faltered a little, but came back up.

“Thank you, Alastair. Shall we proceed?”

When they finally stopped again, they were in the staffroom where he, Ron, and Hermione had heard of Ginny being taken down to the Chamber at the end of last year. Unfortunately, Snape was there, sitting in an armchair, watching them file in. Lupin made to close the door, but Snape got up.

“Leave it open, Lupin. I’d rather not witness this.”

Before leaving, Snape paused and turned back to face them.

“Possibly no one’s warned you, Lupin, but this class contains Neville Longbottom. I would advise you not to entrust him with anything difficult.”

Neville's face went red, and Al glared at Snape. Al opened his mouth to speak, but Lupin beat him to it, which was just as well; Al didn't need any more detentions.

“I was hoping that Neville would assist me with the first stage of the operation,” he said, “and I am sure he will perform it admirably.”

Neville’s face went, if possible, even redder. Snape’s lip curled, but he left, shutting the door with a snap.

With that done, Lupin went back to teaching. He had them stand in front of an old wardrobe that was shaking around like something inside was struggling to get out.

“Nothing to worry about,” said Professor Lupin calmly because a few people had jumped backward in alarm. “There’s a boggart in there.”

Most people seemed to feel that this was something to worry about. Neville gave Professor Lupin a look of pure terror, and Seamus Finnigan eyed the now rattling doorknob apprehensively.

“Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces,” said Professor Lupin. “Wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, the cupboards under sinks — I’ve even met one that had lodged itself in a grandfather clock. This one moved in yesterday afternoon, and I asked the headmaster if the staff would leave it to give my third years some practice.

“So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a boggart?”

To nobody's surprise, Hermione raised her hand.

“It’s a shape-shifter,” she said. “It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most.”

Lupin kept talking, more about the boggart. Al had Iliana listen in his place as he thought about this. What did he fear the most? If they were covering this in class, and it was a practical lesson, it made sense that there'd be a chance of coming against this thing, so he thought it prudent to be prepared. So what scared him? And how would it respond to them, anyway? There were five different people in one body, and Lupin said groups of people confused boggarts, so would they confuse the boggart all on their own? Or was there enough bleed-through between them to render that moot?

Neville was the first to be given a chance to face the boggart. Curious about Neville's greatest fear, Al lost the thread of his thoughts and watched, and listened. According to Neville, Snape was his greatest fear, which made Al, Iliana, and the others feel a surge of anger on Neville's behalf.

Lupin was talking about putting Boggart-Snape into Neville's grandmother's dress, handbag, and hat. Al felt a little sick at this, and couldn't quite pin down why at first. But then it occurred to him that Lupin was going to use Snape to make a joke out of men in dresses. Now he felt a surge of anger on Harry's behalf, because surely lots of people would, if they knew what the Mirror had showed Harry, think that Harry was a boy in a dress, if he ever felt comfortable to do that. This was not something that would be good for Harry, he knew.

But by the time he'd figured all this out, it was too late; Neville had said “Ridikkulus!” and boggart-Snape went from menacing to dressed in women's clothing and looking confused. Al just crossed his arms and glared; he was the only person not laughing.

It was only then that Al realized that the rest of them were immediately taking turns, too, and he had missed a chance to figure out what scared him most. So he got to work. Was it Voldemort? That face in the back of Quirrell's head had been terrifying. But no, that wasn't it. Was it Iliana's fear of being a murderer? No, not that either. He got an image from Harry, that he knew applied to him too: a glistening, rotten, scabbed hand coming out of a cloak; a sucking cold sensation. He – nay, they feared dementors.

Holy shit! How do you make a dementor less scary?

There was no response from anyone else. If there was an answer, it would not come easily.

The boggart changed into one thing after another as each person in class took a turn, being scary and then comical. And the closer they got to Al's turn, the more his brain froze, unable to think of any way to make a dementor comical.

Al saw Ron's turn into a giant spider, then saw it lose its legs. Al's thoughts shook out of their funk just long enough to note he didn't think it being legless made it any less scary, really.

Still, he stepped forward for his turn, but then Lupin jumped in front of him, and instead of becoming a dementor, the boggart became a... some kind of floating white orb. Al looked at it, stunned, and saw a gray pattern on the orb that looked very familiar...

CRACK! The orb became a cockroach. Then Lupin had Neville take another turn to finish it off. He said the spell again, and the thing exploded into a thousand tiny wisps of smoke, and was gone.

“Excellent!” cried Professor Lupin as the class broke into applause. “Excellent, Neville. Well done, everyone. … Let me see … five points to Gryffindor for every person to tackle the boggart — ten for Neville because he did it twice … and five to Hermione,” Lupin said.

Then he gave them schoolwork, and they all were dismissed.

Al was still lost in his thoughts, this time lost in the realization that Lupin had deliberately stopped him having a turn. He didn't know why, but he was glad for it. He didn't think the class would have reacted well to a dementor suddenly appearing in class, especially when there were real dementors outside the school at this very moment.

He massaged his head. Despite being mentally off somewhere else most of the class, their empathic sense had been running the whole time, and now that he was out of the room, the headache was beginning to make itself be known. He took a vial of Headache Cure out and drank it before the headache could become a full migraine.

“I wonder why Professor Lupin’s frightened of crystal balls?” said Lavender thoughtfully as she passed.

This snapped him out of his funk enough to glance at Hermione, who looked like she had recognized the strange orb as well. But like him, she said nothing.

“That was the best Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson we’ve ever had, wasn’t it?” said Ron excitedly as they made their way back to the classroom to get their bags.

“He seems like a very good teacher,” said Hermione approvingly. “But I wish I could have had a turn with the boggart —”

“What would it have been for you?” said Ron, sniggering. “A piece of homework that only got nine out of ten?”

Al opened his mouth to speak, but he stopped, knowing the thing he wanted to say wasn't his to say, not here. Not yet.

Harry?

Yes?

May I tell Lupin off for that boggart-Snape, if I very carefully don't mention you in any way?

There was a pause of almost a minute. Then, quietly, Harry replied: Yes.

End note: No end notes this time. (This space intentionally left blank.)



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