An AU of a Sixth Year AU Story: What would have happened if two liberal American druids had taken Harry to America, before returning with him to Hogwarts? In this chapter, the first Quidditch game.
If the troll attack accomplished nothing else, it brought a new understanding between Hermione and Ron. From what Harry could see, before the quartet settled down on the thick, squishy, purple sleeping bags that Dumbledore had materialized in the great hall, Ron had sincerely apologized to Hermione for the insult and Hermione had thanked Ron for helping to save her from the troll.
The castle and grounds had been searched, and no sign of Sirius Black was found. Nor was there any clear way for Black to have made his way into the castle in the first place. It seemed obvious that Black had let the troll in as a distraction, but the purpose of Black's attack on Gryffindor was obscure to almost everyone.
The next morning was still a class day, so the students were awakened early. After their early breakfast, they were allowed back to their dorm rooms to change. Harry, however, was held back and sent to the Headmaster's office. At the base of a guardian gargoyle, Harry ran into an unexpected figure. He ran and embraced his step-father.
"You all right, Harry? I've been told you had an exciting night."
"It was," Harry agreed. "What are you doing here?"
"Are you all right?" Henry repeated.
Harry sighed. "I'm fine, Dad."
"Great." Henry looked at the gargoyle. "Tomboy Toffee." The gargoyle moved aside, revealing a spiral staircase moving upwards. "Come on," Henry told his fascinated boy.
Dumbledore was not back in his office yet, and both Henry and Harry spent some time looking around. Even Henry couldn't explain all the objects that were sitting around the office. He was amazed by some of the ones he was able to identify.
Finally, Dumbledore came into the office and gesture the two to sit. "Apparently, the Ministry has been sitting on some important information," he started off after greeting the pair.
"That's hardly surprising," Henry commented. "What was it this time?"
"It seems that Minister Fudge inspected Azkaban during the late morning of the Second of September. He was quite surprised to see Sirius Black acting almost normally."
Henry frowned. "Almost normally? You mean as in, well, normal, or normal for someone stuck around dementors for nearly the last ten years?"
"He seemed subdued, but otherwise as normal as anyone," Dumbledore said. He obviously been equally surprised by this information. "He even asked the Minister if he might have the copy of the newspaper he had, as Sirius rather missed doing the crosswords."
"And that was the edition with all those damned photos of Harry, right?"
"Correct. From that night onwards until his escape, the dementors report that Black would call out at night, 'he's at Hogwarts.'"
"'He' meaning me?" Harry asked.
"That does seem the most likely explanation," Dumbledore agreed. "The troll would have sent the staff off the scent, so to speak, while Black must not have realized that the guardians to the common rooms are not there merely for show. The students would have come back, the First years would have been sent to bed early, and he could capture or kill the other First years, and either kill or kidnap Harry."
"That does seem to fit," Henry agreed.
"Now, Harry, I don't want you spreading this around," Dumbledore said.
"Don't you think someone will make the connections and spread it anyway, sir?" Harry asked.
"Possibly, but there is no need to confirm it," Dumbledore pointed out. "Your three friends may be trusted, but let them suggest the scenario first."
Dumbledore turned to Henry. "I am certain you and your wife are concerned. I have therefore reluctantly agreed that Cadfael's group may patrol the grounds at night. If Black tries again, hopefully they will catch him."
"If that's how he's getting in, they will catch him," Henry said.
"Good." Dumbledore turned to Harry. "One more thing. You may inform your classmates that since Mister Lawrence knows all the spells, he and Mister Filch will have your regular guardian back tomorrow night."
Harry quickly forgot about Sirius Black. The next Saturday was the first Quidditch match, and to make it more interesting, it was against Slytherin.
While few outside the Gryffindor team had seen Harry practice, news that he was the seeker had of course leaked out within hours of Harry's tryout. Wood made certain that everyone on the team played down exactly how good a flyer Harry really was. Therefore, most of the Gryffindors had taken to giving Harry what they hoped was encouragement, while he had to endure the jeers from the Slytherins. Many of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs merely gave him looks of pity as the game drew closer.
After all, the Slytherins were usually had the roughest (and dirtiest) players of the four teams.
Harry's supposed weakness gave Wood an excuse to call even more practices than usual the week before the game. Had he not been friends with Hermione, who had taken to reading and correcting all their home work, Harry would have fallen behind.
The afternoon before the game, Harry was free (much to Wood's fury) because the Slytherins had finally managed to book the pitch. To get away from the people trying to give Harry advice and wish him luck, the four friends had retreated to a small courtyard, despite the fact that the weather had turned very chilly. Hermione had become very adept at conjuring bluebell flames, which weren't very hot but which gave some warmth to the group as Hermione read over the boys' homework and the boys talked about the upcoming game and went over the copy of Quidditch Through the Ages Hermione had checked out of the library for them.
Out of the corner of his eye, Neville spotted Snape limping into the far side of the courtyard. While Hermione's flame might not be technically illegal, the quartet had learned that probably wouldn't matter much to Snape. The boys shifted to hide the flame until Hermione could close the spell. Unfortunately, their movement attracted Snape's attention.
"What are you four doing here?" he growled as his made his way slowly towards them. "What do you have there, Potter?"
Harry mutely held up the library book.
"Library books are not to be taken outside the castle," Snape barked. He took the book from Harry. "Five points from Gryffindor." He sneered and limped away, Hermione and Harry staring after him in shock.
"His leg seems worse now than it was in the girls' loo," Ron remarked.
"Good," Neville said. "I hope it gets even worse than it is."
Hermione finally recovered her voice. "There's no such rule!"
"Good thing you didn't remind him of that while he was out here," Harry told her. "He would have docked us more than five points."
The missing book weighed heavily on Harry's mind the rest of the afternoon, as well as during dinner and afterwards. He finally decided to at least try and get it back.
"Better you than me," Ron said.
"Just remember, he's nastiest in the dungeons," Neville added.
"Harry, I'll just tell Madam Pince that Snape took the book," Hermione put in. "I won't get into trouble, honestly! You don't have to do this."
"No, I want it back," Harry stated. "But you are right," he said to Neville. "I'd never get it back if I asked him in the dungeons." Harry thought a moment. "I'll go see if he's in the staff room. Maybe he will only be his usual nasty self there."
"Maybe, if some other teacher is there," Ron muttered.
Harry made his way to the staff room, and found that the door was ajar. Hearing Snape's voice, Harry pushed the door open slightly.
Harry saw Snape holding his robes up high, showing his limp was caused by some really serious, and bloody, injuries. Filch had obviously just finished cleaning them and was handing Snape some clean bandages.
"Blasted thing!" Snape said. "How are you supposed to keep your eyes on all three heads at once!"
Harry managed to slip away without attracting Snape's attention.
"Did you get the book back?" Ron asked when Harry came back to the common room.
Harry gathered his friends over at their usual table and told them what he had seen. "So that means when he got injured Halloween night, he had been trying to get past that three-headed dog."
"Then that's where he was going! He's after whatever that thing is guarding," Neville agreed.
Eyes wide, Hermione protested, "No, he wouldn't! I know he's not very nice, but he wouldn't try and steal something Dumbledore was trying to keep safe. Besides, Sirius Black must have let the troll inside the castle."
"Honestly, Hermione, you seem to think all teachers are saints or something," Ron snapped. "I'm with them. I wouldn't put it past Snape to have let in the troll and Black. But what could that thing be guarding?"
"I know they aren't saints, but Dumbledore isn't a fool," Hermione retorted. "Snape probably went to check on the dog during the alarm, and the dog managed to catch him."
"Maybe," Harry said, "but we need to keep an eye on him. If he was just checking things out, why not go to the Infirmary?"
Even Hermione reluctantly agreed to that, but she still had one objection, "If he was up to something, why trust Filch?" Harry had to agree that the case was not proven.
The morning of the game, Harry was surprised at how nervous he was. He knew he was an excellent flyer, but he still had to be the winning seeker, which needed lots of luck and other skills besides good flying. Harry had a difficult time choking down some toast and a little milk.
"Nothing more?" Hermione asked, concerned.
"Harry, you need your strength," Seamus said. "Seekers are always the ones who get clobbered by the other team."
"Oh, thank you for that," Harry growled.
All of Gryffindor and Slytherin were in the stands, as were most of the other students and staff. There were even dozens of visitors. Dean Thomas, another of the First year Gryffindors, was a good artist, and had made a banner cheering Harry out of a sheet that Ron's pet rat had ruined. Hermione had then enchanted it to flash in brilliant colors. As Harry waited for the captains to meet with Madam Hooch, he caught sight of the banner high above him, and smiled. His nerves started to settle down.
The two captains sneered at each other and shook hands. Harry thought the Slytherin captain, Marcus Flint, looked like he might be part troll. "Mount your brooms, please!" Madam Hooch's whistle set the players off.
Harry hovered high above the other flyers, following the game plan that Wood had insisted he follow. From there, he could see that the Gryffindor chasers had the Slytherins slightly outclassed, and was unsurprised that Gryffindor scored first. He managed to ignore the game below after that, only keeping an eye out for the Snitch and any Bludgers that might come his way.
After the game had gone on for some time, only one Bludger had come in his general direction and Gryffindor had scored again, when the Snitch appeared for the first time, zipping past the Slytherin seeker before he had any time to react. Harry was in a curving dive after the Snitch even before the Slytherin seeker had managed to get turned around to give chase.
Harry was just a few seconds from catching the Snitch when Marcus Flint dropped between Harry and the Snitch, fouling Harry and sending him spinning off. Gryffindor made the resulting penalty shot.
As Harry started to climb back overhead after the penalty shot, his broom suddenly jerked. Before he could stabilize it, the broom was bucking in a way that not even the bouncing hex he had detected the first day of flying class could have caused, and it was also zigzagging on a very erratic course. Harry was just barely hanging on.
At first, no one noticed, as Slytherin was making its first successful scoring run. It was Hagrid, who had come and sat in front of the Gryffindor First years, who noticed it first. His shouts started attracting attention of the other people around him, and soon the entire stadium was watching.
"Did something happen to Harry's broom when Flint blocked him?" Seamus asked.
"Can't have," Hagrid answered. "Can't nothing interfere with a broomstick except Dark magic, and on a new professional racing broom? No, no kid could do that to a Nimbus Two Thousand."
At those words, the pale Hermione turned paler. She borrowed Hagrid's binoculars and scanned the crowd. "What are you doing?" Ron demanded.
"Look at Snape! Right across from us, in front of Professor Quirrell!"
Ron and Neville fought over the binoculars. Ron won and said, "What is Snape doing?" He was clearly staring up at Harry (most people were by now), but seemed to be muttering.
"He must be jinxing the broom," Hermione said, standing up.
"What can we do?" Neville asked.
"Leave it to me."
"She'd better hurry," Ron said. Harry's broom was now doing barrel rolls.
By now all the players, even the Slytherins, were circling under Harry, ready to catch him, except for Flint, who had seized the Quaffle and was throwing it through the hoops, hoping someone would notice and add to Slytherins' score (five of Flint's scores were counted). A number of staff and spectators had their wands drawn, and were ready to help as well.
Hermione finally arrived in the proper section. Rushing down the steps towards Snape, Hermione nudged against Professor Quirrell, who tripped over his neighbors and hid what Hermione was about to do. A touch of her wand, and Snape's robes were on fire. Hermione was gone before the entire section was in an uproar.
Meanwhile, Harry had recovered control of his broom and was coming in to land. As he did so, he clasped his hand to his mouth. Landing, he fell to his knees and to everyone's amazement, he coughed up the Snitch. "I've got the Snitch!" Harry announced.
Despite Flint's howls of protest, Gryffindor had won.
After being congratulated by a large number of people, including his adoptive parents, Harry was carried off to Hagrid's hut for tea, along with his three friends.
"It was Snape," Ron explained to Harry. "We all saw him. He was cursing your broomstick, muttering, and he wouldn't take his eyes off you."
"Rubbish," said Hagrid, who hadn't heard a word of what had gone on next to him in the stands.
"It's true," Neville stated.
"Why would Snape do somethin' like that?" Hagrid demanded. The four friends looked at each other. Harry decided he ought to tell someone in any event. He looked at the others, who knew what Harry was thinking. Each nodded their head in agreement.
"We found out something about him," Harry said. "He tried to get past that three-headed dog that's guarding something in that forbidden corridor. He tried it Halloween. The dog bit him, and we think he tried to steal whatever the dog is guarding while Black tried to get into Gryffindor. The troll was a diversion for both of them."
Hagrid had been staring at Harry, and now he dropped the teapot. "How do you four know about Fluffy?"
"Fluffy!" all four exclaimed.
"Yeah, he's mine. Bought him off a Greek chappie I met in the pub last year. I lent him to Dumbledore to guard the. . . ." Hagrid trailed off.
"Yes?" Harry asked eagerly.
"Now don't ask me any more," Hagrid said gruffly. "Snape's a Hogwarts teacher, he'd do nothing of the sort."
"So why did he just try and kill Harry?" Hermione cried out. The afternoon's events certainly seemed to have changed her mind about Snape. "I know a jinx when I see one, Hagrid. I've read all about them! You've got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn't blinking at all, I saw him!"
"I'm tellin' yeh, yer wrong," said Hagrid hotly. "I don' know why Harry's broom acted like that, but Snape wouldn' try an' kill a student! And I know for certain, whatever his faults, he sure wouldn' help Sirius Black do nothin'! Those two never had nothin' but bad feelins agains' each other! It would easier to get young Malfoy to help the four o' you than to get Professor Snape to give Sirius Black the time o' day."
Hagrid took a deep breath and went on. "Now, listen to me, the four of yeah. Yer meddlin' in things that don' concern yeh. It's dangerous. You forget that dog an' you forget what it's guardin'! That's between Professor Dumbledore an' Nicolas Flamel. . . ."
"Ah!" Harry said, "so there's someone called Nicolas Flamel involved, is there?"
Hagrid looked furious with himself.
To Harry's slight surprise, things quieted down after that for the rest of the term. His classes progressed nicely, and he and Hermione had fun challenging each other in the practical parts of Charms and Transfiguration (Hermione was clearly superior in theory). Ravenclaw beat Hufflepuff in a close game, and Hermione managed to take her school broom to over ten feet, to the other Gryffindors' applause and Slytherin jeers. Malfoy had tried to tease Harry about catching the Snitch in his mouth, but except for his two friends, no one else, even in Slytherin, thought it was amusing. Malfoy reverted to teasing Ron about his family and Hermione about her teeth and her lackluster flying. Since that was the only course Hermione wasn't the top student in, even that didn't have much effect on Hermione.
The four friends tried researching Nicolas Flamel, but came up empty. Ron had suggested keeping an eye out on the various ways to the forbidden corridor, but they soon discovered that there were at least six ways to get there and of course there was no way they could keep an eye on any of them for very long. If any thought about trying to access the corridor, or Fluffy's room, none gave voice to it.