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, Harry plays in the second...
Harry was glad he had solved the minor puzzle of Nicolas Flamel, although he and his friends quickly realized that it really had not sent their 'investigation' much further ahead. Still, while every year would make them look back longingly at the ease of their First year, while they were experiencing it they were tremendously busy. As January followed February into early March, the four friends stayed busy, with only minor distractions like Valentine's Day and Ron's birthday taking them briefly away from their studies. Harry was even busier than the more-studious Hermione, who was already studying ahead in many areas far afield of her regular classes. This was because Oliver Wood had restarted Quidditch practice.
Normally, Quidditch practices restarted in mid-February, then there would be two games in April and two final games, one in late May and the other in early June. However, it had been six years since Gryffindor had last won the Quidditch Cup, in one of Charlie Weasley's last years at Hogwarts. Wood was determined to bring the Cup back to Gryffindor in each of his three years as captain, and the rest of the team wanted it almost as much as Wood (and McGonagall) did. Added to that was the fact that Slytherin had won most of the championships, and as much as the Gryffindors wanted to beat Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, they wanted to defeat Slytherin for the Cup as much as they had wanted to beat them on the field.
Even the endless rain of late February and March that had replaced the snow and sleet of January and early February didn't dampen Wood's spirits. By mid-March, the Weasley twins were complaining that Wood was becoming a fanatic, although Harry was on Wood's side. Harry didn't mention to anyone that, starting in January, he had started having nightmares about his birth parents dying in a flash of green light. So, apart from wanting to win, Harry found that he had fewer nightmares when he was tired out after training. Then, during one particularly wet and muddy practice session, Wood gave the team a bit of bad news. He'd just gotten very angry with the Weasleys, who had been dive-bombing each other and pretending to fall off their brooms rather than practicing with the Bludgers.
"Will you stop messing around!" he yelled. "That's exactly the sort of thing that'll lose us the match! Snape's refereeing this time, and he'll be looking for any excuse to knock points off Gryffindor! Not to mention the penalty shots he'll invent if you. . . ."
George really did fall off his broom at those first, dreadful words. "Snape's refereeing?" he sputtered through a mouthful of dirt. "When's he ever refereed a Quidditch match? He's not going to be fair if we might overtake Slytherin!"
"It's not my fault," Wood retorted. "We've just got to make sure we play a clean game, so Snape hasn't got an excuse to pick on us."
'Pick on us?' Harry thought. 'I have more to worry about than Snape just picking on me!'
Usually the players hung around talking a bit after practice, but that night Harry headed straight back to the common room, where he found Ron and Hermione playing chess. Despite their best attempts, Ron still won nearly every game of chess he played against Harry and Hermione. Ron thought this was very good for building the character of his two friends.
Harry looked around, looking for Neville, but he wasn't around.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked.
"Don't talk for a moment," Ron said, studying the chess board. "I need to concen. . . . What's wrong? You look terrible."
"It's Snape," Harry said quietly. "He's going to be the referee at our next Quidditch game."
"Are you sure?" Hermione asked.
"Wood told us tonight," Harry said with a fatalistic shrug as he sat down.
"Don't play," Hermione suggested. "You can say you're ill."
"Not play Quidditch?" Ron asked in a puzzled tone, and then seemed to be weighing the choices and quickly understanding why Harry wouldn't want to fly anywhere near Snape.
"You could pretend to break your leg," Hermione suggested.
Ron jumped in with, "Really break your leg."
"I can't," said Harry regretfully. "There isn't a reserve Seeker. If I back out, Gryffindor can't play at all."
At that moment, Neville limped into the room.
"What happened to you?" a Seventh year prefect demanded.
"Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle all caught me with Leg-Locker Curses," he complained. "They got me outside the library. He said he'd been looking for someone to practice it on."
"All three?" the prefect demanded.
"Well, Malfoy got me first," Neville said. "I did the counter-spell, and then they all hit me with it. My counter-curse must not have been strong enough to get rid of all the effects."
Hermione quickly performed the counter-curse, and Neville's limp went away.
"Did you get them at all?" the prefect demanded.
Neville smiled. "We'll see if Harry was right about Malfoy's boil-removing solution being too runny to be effective."
"All three?" Ron asked.
"All three," Neville answered proudly.
"Well done," the prefect said.
"Aren't you going to take points?" Hermione demanded.
"If you mean from Longbottom for defending himself, no," the prefect said coldly. "If you mean from Malfoy, I could only do that if I had seen it, which I didn't." He walked away.
"Go to Professor McGonagall," Hermione urged Neville. "Report him!"
"I don't want more trouble," Neville replied, shaking his head. "If McGonagall got involved, it would get Snape involved and we don't need him glowering at us in potions more than he does."
"Neville stood up to Malfoy," Ron pointed out. "He's used to walking all over people, but that's no reason any of us have to lie down in front of him and make it easier."
"I suppose," Hermione said, dissatisfied.
Harry clapped his hand to Neville shoulder. "You're worth twelve of Malfoy," he said proudly.
"Just twelve?" Neville said with a grin.
"Sit down," Harry added more quietly. "I need to fill you in on what Snape is up to."
As the match drew nearer, Harry became more and more nervous, despite what he told his friends and team mates. The rest of the team wasn't too calm, either, despite what they claimed to each other and their friends. The idea of winning the Quidditch Cup and perhaps the House Cup, especially ahead of Slytherin, was wonderful, but would they have a fair chance to with such a biased referee?
Harry didn't know if he was imagining it or not, but he seemed to be running into Snape wherever he went. At times, he even wondered if Snape was following him, trying to catch him on his own. Potions lessons were nearly as bad as they had been at the beginning of the year, although Snape was still grading them fairly.
Could Snape possibly know they had found out about the Philosopher's Stone? Harry remembered that slight mental intrusion earlier in the year, and wondered if Snape had picked up something from himself or one of his friends.
Harry knew, when his three friends wished him good luck the afternoon of the Quidditch match, that they were wondering if they'd ever see him alive, or at least in one piece, ever again. Harry did not find this comforting. Harry hardly heard a word of Wood's pep talk as the team pulled on their robes and picked up their brooms.
The other three friends had found a place in the stands, and looked very grim and worried. All three had brought their wands, although none of them, not even Hermione, really knew many spells which might be helpful if Snape hexed Harry or his broom again. The best they had come up with was the Leg-Locker curse. The mere fact that Hermione was willing to hex a teacher was about the only thing which had cheered Harry even a little.
"Now remember," Hermione muttered to Ron, "it's Locomotor Mortis."
"I know, I know, don't nag," Ron snarled, pushing his wand up his sleeve.
Back in the players' area, Wood was telling Harry to try and catch the Snitch as soon as possible while Fred was peeking out at the crowd.
"Wow, it looks like the whole school is out there!" Fred exclaimed. "Even -- blimey -- Dumbledore's come to watch!"
Harry's heart leapt for joy. "Dumbledore?" He went over and looked out. Fred was right, and Harry smiled in relief. There was no chance Snape would try anything too blatant, or magical, while Dumbledore was there. Snape, on the other hand, looked even nastier than usual.
"I've never seen Snape look so mean," Ron observed from the stands. "Ouch!" Someone had poked Ron in the back of the head.
Ron turned and glared, which intensified when he saw it was Malfoy and his two goons.
"Oh, sorry Weasley, didn't see you there." Malfoy grinned. "Wonder how long Potter's going to stay on his broom this time. Anyone want to bet? What about you, Weasley? Or don't you have a Knut?"
The Gryffindors ignored him. Snape had just awarded Hufflepuff a penalty shot because Fred had aimed a Bludger at him. While Ron and Neville watched the Hufflepuff captain miss the shot, Hermione kept her eye on Harry, who was circling the game like a hawk.
When play was stopped again a few minutes later -- Snape had awarded Hufflepuff another penalty shot for no apparent reason -- Malfoy leaned forward and spoke again. "They must put people on the Gryffindor team because they feel sorry for them. Potter has no parents, the Weasleys have no money, and I don't think the others have much ancestry. Maybe you can be on next year, Longbottom. Your parents. . . ."
He stopped when Neville turned around and glared. "My family is worth more than yours in terms of blood and nearly as much as yours in terms of money, Malfoy, which puts me ahead of any other Slytherin in our year. In everything else, I'm worth at least twelve of you, even by your stupid values."
The Slytherin trio glared.
"Look!" Hermione cried. "Harry!" Everyone looked where she was pointing. Harry had gone into a spectacular dive, which had brought Hermione's crossed fingers to her mouth in a mix of horror and admiration. Harry's dive streaked across the ground, leaving the other Seeker way behind.
"Maybe you've in luck, Weasley," Malfoy said. "If Potter's spotted some money, maybe he'll share. If it's a Knut, he can double your family's fortune."
"Come on, Harry!" Hermione screamed, ignoring what was going on around her. Harry was chasing the Snitch, which was now flying towards Snape.
Ron turned and jumped Malfoy. When Crabbe and Goyle turned to help their leader, Neville tackled them from behind.
Harry zipped past Snape before he even realized what was happening. The next second, Harry caught the Snitch and raised his hand in triumph, before Snape could find his whistle to blow for another arbitrary penalty shot.
The stands erupted in applause. Even counting the two penalty shots, the game had barely lasted five minutes. When Hermione had stopped screaming and cheering and dancing with Parvati Patil, she noticed the fight going on behind her. She leg-locked the three Slytherins, and forced her rather bruised friends to move on. Before leaving, Neville checked to see if they had their wands (they hadn't brought them).
There were no other Slytherins in that part of the stands, and someone put muting charms on the three Slytherins, who were not discovered into after dinner by their annoyed prefects.
Meanwhile, Harry was being congratulated by Dumbledore, while Snape spat in anger and marched away.
There had been such cheering that the congratulations on the field lasted longer than most Quidditch games. Harry was the last person to go put his robes and broom away (he had to keep his broom stored near the pitch rather than in the castle since he was a First year).
Harry was content. His first catch may have been luck, but this time it had been pure skill. Dumbledore had congratulated him, his adoptive parents and siblings had congratulated him, and members of his House that he barely knew by sight had congratulated him. Even some Ravenclaws had.
Hermione had given him a warm hug and had kissed his cheek. Ron and Neville had shaken his hand and then hugged him as well -- although they had bled a little on his robes, Ron from a bloody nose and Neville from a split lip and a cut over his eye. When Percy had asked about it, Hermione had explained they had gotten elbowed in the excitement. Percy had clucked and taken them to the Infirmary.
Harry had spent the last hour just feeling good about himself and about the world. Still, he was thinking, it was almost time for dinner.
He paused when he saw a hooded figure coming down the steps of the castle. Even at this distance, Harry knew it was Snape. Harry jumped back on his broom and then glided to follow the figure around the castle.
Harry saw the figure duck into the Forbidden Forest. Harry followed, over the trees rather than through them. When he lost Snape, he flew slow, quiet circles, until he heard voices, and then he dropped lower.
". . . d-don't know why you wanted to t-t-to meet here of all, p-places, Severus. . . ."
"Oh, I thought we'd keep this private," Snape said icily. "After all, the students aren't supposed to know about the Philosopher's
Harry leaned forward, but missed what Quirrell was mumbling. Whatever confidence Quirrell had had over Christmas seemed gone.
"Have you found out how to get past that beast of Hagrid's yet?"
"You don't want me as your enemy, Quirrell," Snape said in a threatening manner.
"I-I don't know what you mean. . . ."
"You know perfectly well what I mean n!"
An owl hooted nearby, and Harry nearly fell off his broom into the tree. He steadied himself in time to hear Snape continue, ". . . your little bit of hocus-pocus. I'm waiting."
"B-but. . . ."
"Very well," Snape cut in. "We'll have another of these little chats soon, when you've had time to think things over and decided where your loyalties lie." Snape pulled the hood of his robe over his head and strode out of the clearing. Harry silently rose through the tree, watching Quirrell, who was standing quite still. Harry decided he'd best clear off as well.
Had Harry stayed, he would have heard Quirrell say, in a very different tone, "You should be more worried about your loyalties than mine, Snape."
Another voice replied, "He shall be taught his place when the time comes, as will many others." Quirrell quirked a small smile, and left the clearing as well.
Three minutes later, two figures emerged from inside the rowan tree Harry had been perched in.
"That was interesting," the Dragon (a member of both the Druid and Hidden security forces) said.
"Very," Cadfael agreed. "I rather think young Harry will have gathered the substance of the conversation, but will reach the wrong conclusions."
"Probably," the Dragon agreed. "I would have, if I didn't know the players and their roles already. That Snape belongs as Head of Slytherin; he's as twisty as any snake."
"Do we let this play out?"
"We have to. Both prophecies say the boy has to be the one, and the second one says it will happen at the end of this academic year. We must do what we can to help him without upsetting the prophecies. To do more would likely spell disaster for the boy and then for the rest of us."
"Harry, where have you been?" Hermione said in a worried squeak.
"We won, and you've been gone all afternoon!" Ron shouted. "And I gave Malfoy a black eye, and then Neville and I took on Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. We fought 'em to a draw, then Hermione leg-locked 'em! Well, Neville was kind of battered and is in the Infirmary for observation, but so is Crabbe. Talk about showing Slytherin! Come on! Everyone's waiting for you in the common room. We're having a party. Fred and George took some cakes and stuff from the kitchens."
"Never mind that now," Harry told his friend. "Let's find an empty room. Wait 'til you hear what I overheard!"
Hermione looked at him, and quickly led them to an empty classroom. They made certain Peeves wasn't inside, and then Harry shut the door behind them and told them everything he had seen and heard.
Harry said it all in a long rush of words, concluding, "So we were right, it is the Philosopher's Stone, and Snape is trying to force Quirrell to help him get it. He asked if he had found out how to get past Fluffy yet, and he said something about Quirrell's 'hocus-pocus.' I reckon there are other things guarding the stone apart from Fluffy, loads of enchantments, probably. Quirrell must have done at least one of them, some anti-Dark Arts spell that Snape needs to break through or something."
"So you mean the Stone might be safe only as long as Quirrell stands up to Snape?" Hermione asked in alarm.
"It'll be gone by next Tuesday," Ron stated.
The Stone was not gone by the following Tuesday. Quirrell looked paler than usual, and Snape acted as ornery and nasty as usual, so the students gathered that either Quirrell hadn't given in or there were many more enchantments in Snape's way.
Harry started to smile encouragingly at Quirrell whenever they passed each other, which rather seemed to disconcert the man rather than cheer him along as Harry intended. Harry, Neville, and especially Ron took to defending Quirrell from the many off-hand snide comments directed against him.
Hermione, however, was making up color-coded charts for herself and her three friends. To their horror, especially Ron's, they learned these were study schedules.
"But Hermione," Ron protested, "the exams are ages away."
"Just ten weeks, which is hardly ages. That's like a second to Nicolas Flamel."
"We're not six hundred years old yet! Anyway, why are you worried about studying? You already know it all."
"What am I studying for? Are you crazy! We need to pass these to get into Second year. They're very important, and I should have started at least a month ago!"
"You know more than any three of us! You'll drive us. . . ."
Harry stood up and went between them, holding his hands for quiet. They had attracted a lot of attention from the rest of the room, but they all averted their eyes when Harry glared at them. Somehow, when Harry did that, he seemed a great deal more powerful than a little First year.
Harry turned back to his friends. "Hermione, I know being first in the class means a lot to you. You feel you have to prove you belong here like the rest of us, and you love studying. We want to do well, but we aren't as studious as you are. You want to know all the theory behind what we're doing, but we really don't."
Hermione started to speak, but kept quiet under Harry's stern eye. "Ron, Neville, we might not take this as seriously as Hermione, but we do have to make an effort. Hermione, could you please make those schedules for the three of us? Just give us half the out-of-class study time you plan for yourself, and don't forget to leave time for you to have fun with us."
Hermione and Ron both glared at Harry, while Neville grinned. Finally, Hermione said, "Three-quarters."
Hermione chewed her lower lip, and said, "All right. But don't complain if the teachers pile things on."