Classes started again on Monday much to the chagrin of Harry and Blaise. They had been having fun exploring the old castle and some of the grounds. In the castle things were always changing and one day they would discover a new room only to be unable to find it the next, or a passage would lead them to a totally different location then it had minutes before. They could still explore during the week of course but classes, meals, and homework would cut sharply into that time. One thing that had raised the hope in both of them had been the sight of stables on the far side of the castle near the edge of the Forbidden Forest where no one seemed to go. Harry missed riding Azrael something fierce and would love to at least have somewhere to go to be near horses if he could. Their joy at the discovery of the stables had been short lived though, there were no horses there and it seemed that only magic kept the stables in such pristine conditions. No one had set foot in the abandoned building in quite a while. So they had planned on ways to sneak into the Forbidden Forest to explore a bit, only they now had to figure out how to do it without alerting Hagrid who had started to keep a sharp eye on them along with the Weasley twins when they got too near the tree line. Not that slipping past Hagrid would be a whole lot of trouble, but Fang could scent them and never hesitated to pounce playfully on them and slobber all over their robes.
So it was that on Wednesday the Slytherin and Gryffindor first years found themselves trooping down onto the vast grounds for their first flying lesson ever. Many of the pureblooded or halfblooded students were boasting about their skills with a broom and all sorts of adventures they had found themselves in while flying.
It began to get sickening after a while and a few stopped their telling of tales after Harry said loudly enough for everyone to hear "I doubt half of these stories are true, but I guess we'll find out the liars in a few minutes when we have the lesson."
Weasley glared at the smirking Mafia Prince while Draco gave a small smug laugh calling "looks like you were shown your place Weasel."
"That's enough Mr. Malfoy" Madam Hooch snapped as she came striding towards them "everyone beside a broomstick. Now put your right hand out over your broom and say 'Up!'"
Naturally the air was soon filled with the yells of frustrated students trying to get their brooms to obey. Those who had spoken with clear confidence though were already holding their brooms and having Madam Hooch inspect their grips. Finally they were all allowed to mount up after being shown how to do so properly and not slide off the end to land on their asses like untrained novices.
"Now, when I blow my whistle, you kick off from the ground, hard," said Madam Hooch.
"Keep your brooms steady, rise a few feet, and then come straight back down by leaning forward slightly. On my whistle-three-two-"
Neville took off in a panicked rush not to be the last one left on the ground. His hands were practically white from clutching the vibrating broom as it rose higher and higher before shooting straight off towards the castle wall at a speed the old broom shouldn't have been capable of. With a sickening thud that sounded like wet meat hitting a rough surface really hard Neville rammed into the castle wall, fell off the splintering broomstick to smack into the ground with a crunch, and lay deathly still upon the grass.
"Broken bones" Harry whispered to Blaise "an arm most likely."
Blaise nodded, remembering when they had heard a similar sound. It had been the one man left alive from the attack on the amusement park. He had been gagged so his screams could not be heard through the rest of the house, but standing right outside the door where no one could see them had been Harry and Blaise. They had heard the crack of bone as various limbs were pushed to the breaking point and beyond. The unfortunate man had finally given in and started to spill the information he knew as the Daggers had started sectioning off his arm and cracking each bone one at a time, allowing the broken shards to grind painfully against each other for added effect. Harry and Blaise had fled not wanting to hear as the man broke from the torture placed upon him.
"Broken wrist" they heard Madam Hooch mutter as she helped Neville up before giving a piercing glare to the rest of the class "None of you is to move while I take this boy to the hospital wing! You leave those brooms where they are or you'll be out of Hogwarts before you can say 'Quidditch.'"
~~ ~~ ~*~
Severus Snape strode quickly onto the school grounds towards where the flying lessons for Gryffindor and Slytherin first years were being held.
"Idiot woman" he muttered "leaving them unattended like that. They're Slytherins and bloody Gryffindors for Merlin's sake. No one in their right mind leaves that group alone together."
And naturally the potions professor was right for as the class came into view he saw Draco Malfoy dart forward and pick up a shining sphere from the grass.
"It's that stupid thing Longbottom's gran sent him."
"Give it here Malfoy" Weasley shouted, his face turning red enough to rival his hair.
Severus could have easily hexed Hooch as Draco's face lit up with the patented Malfoy smirk and the blonde boy hopped onto his broom.
"I think I'll leave it somewhere for Longbottom to find-how about-up a tree?"
Severus continued to watch as Draco flew up into the air and Weasley foolishly followed in an attempt to flaunt his Gryffindor bravery. He continued to wait until Draco grew tired of the brief game as Weasley clumsily flew around trying to catch him and launched the sphere through the air so that it landed in the trees. Landing with grace Draco hopped off the broom and Severus saw his chance to reveal himself.
Striding the rest of the way to the waiting students who had been yelling various things throughout the aerial exchange he barked out sharply "Weasley! Get down here this instant!"
Shaking and pale Ron Weasley did as commanded, all thoughts of the rememberall gone as he tried to protest his innocence in the matter, his house mates backing him up.
Severus sneered down on the boy "Fifty points from Gryffindor, a weeks detention with Filch, and a visit to the Headmaster is in order. Madam Hooch informed me that she distinctively said that no student was to be on a broom without her presence; you have disobeyed."
Severus began marching the even paler Weasley towards the castle, ignoring his stuttering of "but Malfoy-" when a summoning spell caught his attention.
"Honestly" he heard the distinctive voice of Harry Potter "you would think that Weasley didn't know that there was magic that could be used to get this back. Make sure Neville gets this back."
A heavy accented Irish voice answered Harry and Severus had to repress a slight upturning of his lips towards a smile, it wouldn't do to reveal to anyone that Hogwart's potions master could be nice and had a sense of humor. It seemed that Potter had the attitude and thoughts of a Slytherin but he also had a sense of decorum, or perhaps nobility, that most other Slytherins lacked.
Severus sneered down at Weasley, pleased at the chance to intimidate and belittle the Gryffindor further "come along Mr. Weasley."
~~ ~~ ~*~
To the dismay of the Slytherins Ron Weasley did not get expelled or even suspended though his detentions with Filch remained. The greatest laugh though came when Weasley foolishly challenged Draco Malfoy to a wizards duel to regain his honor. Draco went through the motions and accepted the challenge but wisely the blonde Slytherin did not swear to his acceptance by an oath made by his blood, magic, or name. As well there were no witnesses besides the chosen seconds so no oaths were broken when the blonde Slytherin decided not to show up and tipped off Filch instead. The next morning Draco was a bit put out at breakfast to see that Weasley had not been caught in his nighttime wanderings though the red-head looked tired and pale. Harry and Blaise found out later that day why the boy had a frightened look deep in his eyes.
"-keep such a thing locked up in a school. The bloody thing could have ripped me in half."
"Ron" Dean snapped "you weren't the only one there; it could have gotten us too. And the Headmaster told us that corridor was off limits-"
The voices trailed off as the Gryffindors moved on and Harry looked at Blaise. They had been quite interested by the mention of the forbidden corridor. If you tell a Darkov or Zabini not to go somewhere they will eventually end up there. This overhead conversation only piqued their interest more and not even the mentions the Headmaster made of death would keep them away now. It was about time they broke a few rules.
"Bloody fucking hell" Harry swore after performing a simple alohomora and opening the door to the forbidden corridor.
Before them stood one mean, drooling, three-headed dog that looked as if it really needed some exercise. Their quick eyes quickly scanned the room and saw nothing visible that it could have been guarding so they looked for the next obvious thing and found the trap door under the dog's paws. Nodding to one another they slowly backed up, they didn't want to test their weapons or their wands on that thing and didn't think their fathers would be too happy if they died a young and painful death for acting foolishly. The door closed and with a flick of Blaise's wand the door was once again locked.
"Want to explore some more" Harry asked as they turned away.
Blaise shrugged "might as well. Too much adrenaline to sleep, unless you want to fight it off?"
~~ ~~ ~*~
Severus groaned as a section of wall in his quarter's glowed red and a small alarm went off. The wall flashed twice and went still before flashing twice again. He had two students out of bed. He also highly doubted it was one of the older years, most of them had already realized that he knew when they left the Slytherin dorms. No, these were probably first years and he had a very good guess as to who it could be. It was unlikely that it was two from the girls dorms, their minds just didn't work that way. They'd be talking about makeup if they were awake, not sneaking out and Crabbe and Goyle would never think of doing something without Draco telling them to. And it wasn't Draco either, he had different warnings set up for the Malfoy heir as he was most likely to be a rallying point for Slytherin because of his family's position. That left the most likely duo of Zabini and Potter; he would need to set up specific wards for them as well it appeared. Laying his book of potions down he swept out of his personal chambers and began to walk the halls of Hogwarts after tracing his wards to learn that they had already left the dungeons.
It was in the left hand side of the third floor corridor that Severus finally found them. They moved gracefully up and down the hall as they fought each other. For a moment he considered breaking the fight up but he recognized it as a training exercise and decided to take the chance to study them. He had once done similar things when the Dark Lord had been at the height of his power and he had been working as a spy for Dumbledore. He had learned early on in the service of the Death Eaters that you could not rely solely on a wand. Watching Potter and Zabini made him aware that he had neglected his training since the Dark Lord's defeat and knew that these children could probably beat him in a hand to hand fight if it came down to that. He studied their moves as Zabini flipped in the air only to have her feet swept out from under her the moment she landed and Potter ended the match by lightly placing his foot at her throat. Zabini conceded, accepted Potter's hand up, and the duo left the hall to head in a direction that would take them back to the dungeons near the common room.
Pensively Severus moved from the shadows and without conscious thought began to move through a basic self-defense routine. After a few minutes he had to stop and relax his body, he was stiff and not in the right condition to do any more than what he had already done. His muscles were already protesting the now unfamiliar routine and he knew that he would feel the effects in the morning unless he took a potion. Silently he made his way back toward his chambers, his robes not flowing out behind him as they usually did. He did not notice the silent figures that had taken up occupancy in the very shadows he had used to watch them from. They had decided to return the favor of being spied on and now they were glad they had realized someone was watching them. They didn't know to what use they could put their head of house's actions quite yet, but they would worry about that in the morning and discuss it during their run.
Friday started out normally for the duo as Harry and Blaise followed their usual morning routine only to find it slightly disrupted when they went to go for their jog about the lake. On the far side of the lake they could see someone already jogging and even though they were too far away for Harry and Blaise to identify it made them a bit uneasy, no one else was ever out at this time in the morning. Also, the person would have had to pass right by the grove where they had been following The Path and doing their training on the way to the lake. They had been using their knives in training today and while being out on the grounds so early might not be against Hogwarts rules they didn't know what would happen if they were found to have blades in their possession. Exchanging glances and making sure their daggers were tucked out of sight Harry and Blaise decided to continue with their jog. They didn't want to seem suspicious and if they continued on as they normally did there was a chance they could catch up and find out who their morning companion was.
They kept their pace even and at a comfortable speed for both of them even though they were tempted to run fast enough so that they would catch up with the person that could possibly be a threat to their morning activities. Yet as they continued with their steady jog it became obvious that this person obviously wasn't in as good of shape as they were for partway through their second and final lap, it was a damn big lake after all, they got close enough to identify the person.
"Professor Snape" Blaise almost choked on the words and Harry was almost as shocked.
If they had not seen what they had the night before they would not believe that their dress-in-billowy-robes-to-frighten-the-students potions master would be dressed in simple dark pants and a dark grey shirt for an early morning jog.
Ending their jog with a set of quick stretches Harry and Blaise made their way back to the Slytherin dorms, returning the nod their head of house sent to them when their paths crossed. They were a bit wary of this transaction, after all professor Snape hadn't tried to speak to them about their presence on the grounds that morning or mention what he had seen the night before. In fact he hadn't said a word to them at all, he hadn't tossed out any of the veiled comments he seemed to keep on hand specifically for them.
Parting ways in the common room Blaise couldn't help but say "it almost makes me feel bad about what we're going to do later. Almost."
After breakfast they traced the now familiar route to the dungeons and entered the potions classroom. Except for the first day the classroom had been open and they were expected to be inside before professor Snape came in at the start of class though no one ever went in until a minute or two before class time. None of the students ever seemed to want to be the first to enter the classroom; it must have had something to do with the nastily fascinating objects floating in jars around the room. This was perfect for Harry and Blaise though. They had managed to come across a bottle of prankster's glue that blended into whatever surface it was put on and claimed to be undetectable. It also helped their cause that the Gryffindors always sat in the same seats on the same side of the classroom and the Slytherins did the same thing on their chosen side. Quickly smearing glue across six seats the newest prankster duo of Hogwarts watched in satisfaction as it blended seamlessly in with the surface of the stools so that you couldn't tell that there was anything wrong with them. Next they sprinkled a few of the explosive pellets across each seat with the glue. They had bribed an older Slytherin that didn't take sides with any of the factions within their house to charm them so that when the pellets heated up the mini explosion would be triggered. Smirking the two slipped out of the classroom only to head back in a few minutes later with the rest of their classmates, the professor right behind them.
It wasn't until they were halfway done with the simple fever reducing potion that Harry started wondering if the prank was ever going to work, it also appeared as if nothing was going to go right or be normal that day. First professor Snape had actually given them encouraging remarks on their potion as he did to the other Slytherins and now the prank looked as if part of it would fail. It wouldn't be a complete and total let down since six students would still be glued to their stools but it would be anticlimactic for himself and Blaise when certain results weren't produced. Ten minutes later and Harry no longer had to worry. Crabbe and Goyle began yelling and tried to jump off their stools as tiny sizzle-spark sounds began to be heard. With a small pop and a cry from the two thuggish goons they finally managed to separate themselves from their stools but at the price of their robes. Meanwhile the other four victims had just succumbed to the prank.
Pansy, Dean, Seamus, and Ron made up an interesting chorus as they tried to hop around the dungeon, stool legs knocking into cauldrons and spilling partly completed potions everywhere to cause a major disaster. Blaise managed to grab their potions out of harms way just as Pansy leapt past their table shrieking. But the best part of course came when the popping sounds came again and the stools clattered to the floor. This was better than Harry and Blaise had ever anticipated. Ron Weasley hadn't been wearing any pants under his robes, revealing his teddy bear covered boxers to the class. For a moment all was silent and then the snickering began. Ron looked horrified and with a red face that was brighter than his hair he fled the room.
~~ ~~ ~*~
Somehow Severus restored order to the classroom and managed to get the class out of the room without them coming in contact with the potions quickly spreading theirs way across the cracks in the dungeon floor. With a few quick waves of his wand he scoured the potion out of the cauldrons that were still upright before they reacted. The mess on the floor was harder to deal with but he didn't dare trust the house-elves to deal with what could possibly be volatile mixtures. Sitting behind his desk with a heavy sigh he gave into a small chuckled. The prank would have been funny if the students at the butt of the joke hadn't panicked and knocked over some of the cauldrons. The best part of it all was that now he would have enough snide remarks to make to Weasley for a few weeks to come.
Which reminded him-"twenty points from Gryffindor Weasley."
~~ ~~ ~*~
"Oh" Blaise half-laughed, half-groaned once she and Harry were alone "that was hilarious seeing them go around like that. I hadn't expected their robes to rip like that though, that was a bonus, but I never want to see Weasley's underwear ever again."
"Just wait until lunch" Harry smirked "the whole school will know by then."
~~ ~~ ~*~
Ron was in a foul mood for the next few days and on Halloween it seemed that Snape was being even more vindictive in his taunting of Weasley though how Ron recognized half the insults directed towards him was beyond Harry. Perhaps it was the tone their professor used or perhaps Weasley had come to accept that anything directed from Snape towards himself would be negative and demeaning. So it was with puzzled looks that Harry and Blaise contemplated what could have cheered Weasley up so that he was practically strutting around. It wasn't till near the start of the Halloween feast that they heard Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil gossiping.
"She was crying up a storm-won't come out at all."
"Poor dear, her face is probably all splotchy but Ron was right, she can be a bit of a know-it-all and no one really talks to her."
Blaise shook her head.
"Pansy was saying something about Hermione Granger running through the halls all upset earlier. Figures Weasley would get his balls off of making someone else feel belittled and upset."
Harry's fist clenched for a moment, he hated guys who bullied girls for kicks, every single one of them seemed to remind him of Chris Chauvez. Harry shook his head and forced himself to relax; he didn't need to go socking Weasley one and getting a letter sent home to his dad. Harry had come to realize that it wasn't really the fighting that his father frowned down upon, but the fighting with those that didn't have the same training as he had and therefore didn't really stand a chance against him was what Manuel disapproved of.
"It's none of our business though, she'll have to work this out herself and her housemates and head of house should be watching out for her" Harry told Blaise "Gryffindors really need to adopt some of Slytherins attitudes in that regard."
Harry and Blaise continued on to the Great Hall for the feast. The hall was decked out with live bats fluttering wildly among floating jack-o-lanterns and skeletons that were dancing overhead. Eventually they joined in with those around them as they discussed classes and hobbies. Mainly most of the talk focused around Quidditch though and the first game of the season that was the highly anticipated Slytherin vs. Gryffindor match. The Slytherin team was fiercely determined to keep the Quidditch cup sitting in their common room for another year, no matter what. Then two things happened at once to disrupt the meal. Well one thing for Harry and Blaise and the other for the whole school.
Ciara came sailing quickly through the hall though it wasn't time for mail and dropped a letter into Harry's waiting hands as Professor Quirrell came stumbling into the hall in a terrified panic shouting "Troll-in the dungeons-thought you ought to know."
Then the one teacher in the school that was supposed to be teaching them to defend themselves against creatures like trolls fainted.
Some of the weaker Hufflepuffs screamed and began to quake, the Ravenclaws were scared but huddled together discussing useful spells they could use to defend themselves, a few Slytherins panicked but most stayed outwardly calm, and the Gryffindors who did not wish to be outdone began to yell loudly thus adding to the confusion.
"Silence" Dumbledore called out over the uproar as he shot off sparks and bangs from his wand "Prefects, lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately. Professors come with me."
It also seemed that the Headmaster forgot one of the most important things, the Slytherin dormitories were in the dungeons and to head there could possibly be taking them straight into the troll's path. But their head of house hadn't forgotten and stopped some of the students who hadn't yet realized that fact.
"Head along the back corridor" Snape instructed the Prefects "stick together and make your way through to the alternate entrance to the common room. You shouldn't run into the troll that way. The painting is of Lady Alyssa hanging from the gallows, password is 'mistrial.'"
With a curt nod Snape swept off to join the rest of the teachers combing the dungeons, deliberately ignoring the contemptuous kicks some of his Slytherins were giving their unconscious and incompetent defense teacher.
Harry and Blaise followed along near the end of the line till they came to an intersecting corridor where Harry jerked Blaise aside and pulled the letter out that he had hastily stuck in his pocket once the panic began.
"Something's up" he said worriedly "Trevor wouldn't send Ciara to us at this time of night and normally she would wait till breakfast tomorrow to give us the letter with the rest of the mail owls."
Blaise nodded apprehensively "I know. I recognized dad's handwriting. What's-"
She broke off and started again "did you hear that?"
Together they wheeled around and put their backs to the wall, using what little cover the shadows afforded them to hide. A horrible stench was filling their nose, even worse than the dung bombs they had used on the teachers.
Pulling their wands they tried casting Stupefy hexes on the slowly lumbering creature but they only bounced off the troll's thick hide and seemed to only mildly irritate the thing. Neither Harry or Blaise thought to run though it had been part of their training to fall back when things got out of hand, but they hadn't tried all their options yet. Holstering their wands both mafia raised brats fell back into a more comfortable form of offense and drew their guns. Harry's first shot echoed loudly through the darkened halls, and though it pierced the trolls flesh where their spells didn't he cursed himself for not flipping on the specialized silencer that the lab had added to their guns. Remedying the fact he and Blaise fired off a few quick rounds, aiming at the creatures head and causing it to roar in pain when a bullet or two pierced through its eyes.
Shouts from down the hall alerted Harry and Blaise that the teachers were nearby and coming for the troll or to investigate the sound of the first shot. Quickly squeezing off a few more bullets to stall the troll for a few moments so that it wasn't right behind them Harry and Blaise took off and ran down the halls after their housemates. They only managed to catch up with them right at the portrait of Lady Alyssa and slip through before the Prefects shut the entrance. The whole encounter with the troll had only taken a few moments though for Harry and Blaise time had seemed to slow and stretch before speeding up rapidly. Making sure their guns were tucked away the duo sat down in a corner to wait for their head of house to show up.
~~ ~~ ~*~
She had sat huddled behind a statue the whole time. She had just come out of the bathroom and was wiping her red and puffy eyes when Harry Potter and Blaise Zabini had shown up in the hallway. Not wanting to be seen she had ducked behind a statue and whatever they were doing had them so engrossed they didn't notice her. Then the troll had shown up. She had watched as they futilely sent spells at it but by then she had been too terrified to move. Then they had started shooting at the troll! Not with spells but with guns and bullets. The noise drew the teacher's attention and they were suddenly dealing with the already toppling troll, hexing it with powerful spells till it lay still on the floor though the fact that its chest no longer rose and fell attested to the fact that it was dead.
The teachers had examined it then, taking in the holes riddling the trolls face and the ruptured gooey mess that were once eyes. They were wondering what had done such a thing. Hermione wanted to jump out and scream at them that it had been Potter and Zabini and they had guns but she was too scared. She didn't want to rat them out and have them discover that she was the one that told on them. Or even worse, she could possibly get expelled for being there. No, she would stay quiet and forget that this had ever happened. At last the teachers pulled away and a few levitated the troll away to dispose of it somehow.
"I'm going to check on my students" Professor Snape had announced before sweeping away, his billowing robes swishing lightly against her hiding spot and making her cringe back.
The other heads of houses concurred and Hermione nearly cried. Professor McGonagall would surely make it to Gryffindor Tower before her and she would get in trouble for not being there. But luck was on her side.
"One moment Minerva" the Headmaster had said "I need to speak to you in my office before you check on the Gryffindors."
She had been left alone then and had wasted no time slipping up to Gryffindor Tower, no one noticing her late entrance as she scurried up to her bed. She only wanted to forget what she had seen and go back to being the naÃ¯ve bookworm everyone thought her to be.
~~ ~~ ~*~
Snape finally showed up in the common room and after checking to make sure that none of the Slytherins had strayed informed them that the troll had been subdued by the teachers and taken away to be dealt with. He didn't say anything about unusual wounds on the troll which brought Harry and Blaise some relief, but they were still going to tread carefully. Shooting a troll with muggle weapons was probably a sure way to get expelled and they were glad that there had been no witnesses present. At last everyone began to retire and Harry and Blaise moved to huddle near the fire so that they could read the letter Trevor had sent. It turned out to be more like a frantic note.
H & B-Code Black, sever contact, we'll initiate in two weeks. Ordering Pizza.-T & M
It was unmistakably Trevor's handwriting and the small sigil beneath the words confirmed that the note was genuine and not forced. Either something had happened that forced them to go into hiding or they were involved in some deadly scheme that they were seeing to personally. At least they knew where to find them if it became necessary. Blaise looked up and filled her voice with anger to hide the worry shining from her eyes, a look Harry knew he reciprocated.
"What the hell are they doing in New York!?"