Harry chats with Flitwick, learns about chocolate frogs, and teaches a bit, right up until the end.
Chapter Thirteen: A Hand of Unlucky Cards
“Professor Harris, may I speak with you for a moment?”
Harry turned at the sound of the high pitched voice. Why on earth did the school have a policy of having the teachers eat with the students if they constantly prevented him from doing so? Harry turned away from his walk to the Great Hall for breakfast and faced the small Charms professor. “Filius,” he said congenially, “we’ve been on a first name basis since the first time we met, why so formal now?”
“Well, I… ah,” the short man stumbled over his words before simply changing subjects back to his original, “I just wanted to let you know that I found it.”
“Found what?” Harry asked.
“Miss Lovegood’s necklace. You had stated that it had to be returned to her no later than tomorrow, well actually you said you wanted to see her wearing it, and I just wanted to let you know that it had been returned.” Flitwick shuffled his feet a bit before continuing. “But you might not see her wearing it.” He ducked slightly as if expecting a rebuke but Harry just looked at him expectantly. “I placed several anti-theft and security charms on the necklace when I gave it back but I also cautioned Miss Lovegood that it might not be wise to flaunt the necklace. Her position within the house has improved drastically in the last week but I thought it might be wise not to risk exposing the jewelry again.”
Harry nodded a few times in thought. “That might be the case, Filius, it might. As long as she has it back, that’s the important thing.” Harry didn’t hear the soft sigh coming from his colleague. “Can I ask where you found it?”
“It was at the Barnes’ residence.”
Harry growled. “So it was Priscilla who took it.”
Flitwick looked up at him and spoke quietly so as to not be overheard, “The story is a bit more complex than that. It seems that Miss Barnes, Priscilla that is, did covet the necklace when she saw Luna wearing it, and she did take it, although perhaps not with the idea of keeping it. We can’t be sure about that. But she did take it. She took it to show her older sister who was the fifth year girl’s Prefect at the time.” Harry struggled with his memories of his second year at Hogwarts, the year of Slytherin’s Heir but couldn’t seem to recall the girl. “She coerced Priscilla to give the necklace to her under the guise of returning it to Miss Lovegood. However, she decided to keep it herself instead. Priscilla, unable or at least unwilling to come forward to confess, kept her silence on the matter. In the course of time, guilt from both girls drove them to act out on Luna.” Harry nodded his head, it was indeed strange the lengths that people would go to in order to avoid facing their own guilt. How many times had he been blamed by people for things they did just so that they could avoid facing their own guilt? “It seems that the rest of the house took their leads from the Miss Barneses and Luna was effectively ostracized.”
“How did you find all this out?” Harry asked.
“I went to visit the Barnes family, thinking to uncover some clue as to how it all began as well as to explain to the girl’s parents how the curse could be undone. When I asked about the necklace, Priscilla grew quite agitated but still being transformed she was unable to directly communicate. Martha, the older sister, happened to be at home as well and tried to stun her sister. Priscilla ran past and into a bedroom where she began rooting about in her elder sister’s things. The necklace was found in a jewelry box.”
At this point, Harry leaned against the wall and slid down until he was seated on the floor listening to Filius. Filius himself, conjured a low stool and sat on it to continue his tale. Harry cast a series of privacy charms around them to keep wandering students away.
“Martha, of course, denied any knowledge and claimed the necklace was a gift from a beau. When I pointed out the inscription, from Xeno with love to Astra, she then claimed that it must have come from a pawn shop. Priscilla grew quite distraught at this point and almost crushed Martha.” The small man chuckled at this, probably having been on the wrong end of similar situations in his own past. “She finally confessed to taking the piece and keeping it.”
“So, it’s been returned to Luna?”
“Yes, yes it has. I returned it last night, myself, and cast the protections on it.”
“Pardon?” Filius asked, not sure where Harry was going.
“What happens with Priscilla? Will she return to school? Will charges of theft be brought against her or her sister?”
“Given the passage of time, the return of the piece, and the punishments already incurred by Priscilla, I doubt that legal prosecution would be very effective. I did, however, leave it up to Miss Lovegood to decide whether or not to pursue.” Harry nodded his acceptance of this. “Priscilla will not be returning to Hogwarts in any case, her parents are seeking specialized treatment at St. Mungo’s for her condition.”
“A simple apology was too difficult?”
Filius shrugged his shoulders. “Some people will do almost anything to avoid facing the people they have wronged.”
“And this Martha gets off scott free?” Harry said with derision.
Flitwick shrugged again. “All we can do is all we can do.” He looked over at Harry, still seated with his back against the stone wall of the corridor. “Is it worth it to continue to pursue vengeance at this point?”
Harry looked back coldly. “Vengeance or justice?”
Filius tilted his head and returned Harry’s gaze. “That is for you to decide, isn’t it? Are you willing to pay the price of continuing this?”
Harry sighed and said, as much to the castle as to his companion, “It seems to be my lot sometimes, to pay the price for other people’s justice.”
“Why is that, Odysseus?”
Now it was Harry’s turn to shrug.
“I think I need to find a way to tell the girl chocolate frogs from the boys,” Luna said while she deposited three of them on Harry’s desk on her way out the door.
“And why is that, Miss Lovegood?” Harry answered, watching carefully as Ginny crept through the shadows towards the door. She hadn’t said a word all through his class, but then she never spoke, at least not in his class, so that wasn’t unusual.
“Because they seem to be reproducing with a total disregard to the amount of room I have on my bedside table,” she said in her usual not-quite-focused-on-reality way. “And the little beans they are leaving all over! It’s starting to become a bit inconvenient. But then, who am I to stand in the way of true chocolate love.” She turned slightly to gaze directly at Harry rather than at some spot over his left shoulder. “I often wondered how they were made; I never realized that they were ranched before. It must be a very interesting sort of farm to visit.”
With that she picked up her bag and left Harry chuckling. As Ginny slunk after her, Harry reminded the girl, “I haven’t forgotten about that diary, Miss Weasley. The sooner the better.” Ginny didn’t even turn around as she scurried out the door.
Harry sat and considered the girl as his sixth years started to file in. When the bell rang he pulled out his roll and checked the names off. All present and accounted for; bureaucrats the world over cheered the news.
“Professor Harris,” a familiar girl’s voice called out.
Harry looked over at Hannah Abbot and said, “Yes?”
The girl fidgeted in her seat uncomfortably for a second before speaking. “About what we were talking about last class, I was in the Hospital Wing talking with Madam Pomfrey..”
“Were you ill or injured?” Harry asked with some slight concern.
“Oh, no, Professor, I help out there a bit. I want to be a Healer after school and Madam Pomfrey is showing me a little while I help out there.” Harry nodded at the Hufflepuff who continued. “Anyways, we were talking about how the Unforgivables got invented while taking care of some firsties. They had gotten tripped up by one of the trick stairs and we were taking care of their bruises and all. Madam Pomfrey lets me do some of the simpler spells like getting rid of bruises and the like.”
“And how is this is relevant to the class?”
Hannah blushed as she continued. “Well, Madam said that she had no idea how they - the curses I mean not the firsties - were developed as most decent folks don’t discuss them, but she said that it was possible that some healer might use… it… to help a patient to… you know, but most wouldn’t.”
Harry nodded. “Yes, the issue of euthanasia is quite controversial in both the magical and muggle worlds. Some doctors and healers feel it allows the patient to retain his dignity and that if there is no other recourse it is an act of mercy to make an inevitable death as painless and easy as possible. Others feel it to be a violation of their Hippocratic Oath to allow any death, even one they can not hope to prevent or even postpone. Quite a thorny issue for the healing profession.”
“Yes, it is,” Hannah said, “but Madam also said that she thought there had to be some spells that couldn’t be used to injure people and some that couldn’t be used to help. Like the bruise vanishing charm I was using, how could that be used to hurt someone? And she mentioned a very Dark curse she had heard about, it cut the muscles right off of the bones, she said it was a horrible thing to see. How could that be good?”
Harry looked up at the girl and then at the rest of the class as he thought for a few moments.
“Well, if I were a butcher,” he began, “someone who made his living by turning animal carcasses into food, such a spell would be quite handy, wouldn’t it?” The class nodded. “I’m not saying that that particular spell is actually used by butchers, since I don’t know, just that the results can be constructive if used or modified to be used in a certain way.
“As for your bruise vanishing charm,” he went on, “what exactly is a bruise, anyway?”
He noticed Hermione’s arm jerk a bit, as if she were about to shoot it into the air then deliberately held it back. Harry gave her a small smile.
Hannah said, “A bruise is a tender area of discoloration caused by the clotting of blood released by the rupturing of small blood vessels when you get hit. The charm vanishes the blood as well as seals the broken vessels so more blood isn’t lost.”
“Very good, Miss Abbott, two points for Hufflepuff.” He paused a moment while Hannah’s seatmates congratulated her. “Now I assume that the charm is cast on the damaged area only and not the body as a whole?” The girl nodded. “Now what do you think would happen if that charm was cast on healthy tissue?” Harry pulled back his left sleeve to expose his hand and began to wave his wand over it casting a glamour spell. “What would be the result if I took that spell and added more power so that it affected more than just the surface tissue?” As he cast his spell his hand began to wither. It seemed to dry up as the skin receded towards the underlying bones, leaving it looking desiccated, almost skeletal, almost like… Harry was shocked to see that it looked almost exactly like Dumbledore’s hand had looked when he collected him from the Dursley that last time, after he had destroyed Slytherin’s ring. What if it had been a curse like this that had damaged Albus?
“That’s horrible,” he heard someone gasp. He looked out at the class to see the revolted looks on their faces, several of the girls were hiding their faces in their hands, Draco stared at his mummified hand with wide eyes as if it were fascinating.
Harry quickly tapped his hand with a muttered, “/Finite/.” There was an audible sigh as the illusion was dispelled. “Sorry about that, I wanted to give you a bit of a visual and I’m afraid I might have gotten a bit carried away. It was just an illusion. But what matters is that it is easy to see how a simple and very beneficial healing spell can be used, or easily modified to cause harm, right?” Most of the class nodded while some, including Hannah, still seemed disturbed by it.
“But this sort of discussion isn’t really productive, is it? Can anyone tell me why?” He looked around the classroom but no one was volunteering to try and answer. He turned and looked directly at Hermione. “Miss Granger, perhaps you could tell us?”
Hermione paled for a moment, and Harry could almost see her mind working on the problem.
After a few moments thought she said cautiously, “It seems to me, Professor, that what we’re doing is more an exercise in imagination then really learning about anything.”
Harry beamed her a wide smile. “Excellent, Miss Granger, five points. That’s exactly what we have been doing. Someone mentions a spell and then it is merely an exercise in creativity to come up with a way that it can be used for either a good or an evil purpose. And as amusing as that might be, it doesn’t really answer any questions, does it?”
“Then why is a spell classified as either Dark or Light?” one boy asked.
“The Ministry fills out a form on the spell with the information given by whoever it is that is asking the Ministry to evaluate the spell, and then some bureaucratic weenie uses that information and his or her own limited imagination, to decide if the spell is too dangerous for the general populace to be permitted to use.”
“Excuse me, Professor, but you don’t sound like you approve much of the Ministry?” Hermione asked quietly.
“And you would be correct in that conclusion, Miss Granger. I have little reason to like it. I dislike anything or anyone who thinks they have the right to limit or control what I do.”
“But don’t you think that someone has to?”
Hermione thought for a moment. “If people are going to live together in a cooperative society then there has be an underlying code of conduct and ethics that all agree to follow.”
“And what if I don’t agree?”
“Then there have to be penalties for violating the code. Society wouldn’t function if there weren’t.”
“So society passes rules, laws and penalties to protect itself, and individuals agree to abide by those rules in order to benefit from being a part of society?” Harry asked.
“There is no other way,” Hermione said.
“And society provides the individuals who submit to their rule with protection and other benefits in exchange for their subjugation.” The class nodded in agreement.
“Is this a successful arrangement?” he asked. Hermione made a motion to answer then suddenly bit her lip to keep silent.
“Did society protect Cedric Diggory?” He paced up and down in front of the class to let them think about that. “I assume all of you heard about the raids the Dementors are making throughout the country since leaving Azkaban? How successful is society… let’s be blunt here, how successful has the Ministry been in protecting the people from them?” No one spoke. “If the society whose authority we submit to is incapable of providing the things we need then why should we submit to it at all? Government is a necessary evil and we have to remember that no matter how necessary it is, it is still evil.”
“Which brings us back to our original assignment,” Padma Patil said into the silence, “and the question I originally asked: what makes magic dark?”
Terry Boot raised his hand and spoke for the first time that term, “If I understand what you have been saying Professor, no magic is Dark, so how can we protect ourselves against it?”
Harry smiled sadly out at the class. “It is an interesting problem, is it not? If some spells were Dark and the rest not then this class would be a simple matter of teaching you how to perform a list of counter-curses and you would all be safe. Unfortunately, life is rarely that simple. All magic can be used for Dark purposes, and for simplicity’s sake I am using Dark as a synonym for evil. Likewise, all magic can be used for light, or good, purposes. So why are we bothering with this class at all?”
“I could certainly use more study time for the others,” Draco stage whispered to Pansy.
“I’m afraid all the additional revision in the world couldn’t help you, Mr. Malfoy,” Harry replied, as the class giggled quietly; so few teachers were willing to stand up to the Slytherin given the threat of his father’s retaliation. But then again, that wasn’t something that anyone needed to worry about anymore. Draco flushed pink and stared back in quiet, angry rebellion.
Hermione’s hand went up and Harry turned to her, surprised at the move.
“If we take what you said as true, Professor, than what are the Dark Arts?” Harry started to get angry with her but remembered this wasn’t the old Hermione questioning his motives but a different girl entirely. She had asked a question not given an unwanted answer, and her question was asked in genuine curiosity and he chose to take it in that spirit.
“What we generalize under the category ‘Dark Arts’ is not a type, or classification of magic, in spite of how the Ministry seeks to simplify it for categorization. It is more a philosophy of how magic is used.”
He looked out at the class and they all seemed confused so he thought for a moment. “Which is easier to do, build or destroy?”
“Destroy, obviously,” sneered Draco.
“Indeed,” Harry answered, ignoring his spiteful tone. “It is easier to destroy than to build. It is easier to harm than to heal. To attack than to defend. To cause pain than to bring joy. It is easier to kill than to give life. We all face the same choice in this life: we can do what is easy or what is right.”
Harry looked over at the knot of Slytherin students and continued, “There is nothing wrong with ambition. Nothing wrong with the drive to prove yourself better than you are seen.” He glanced over at Hermione as well. “This is a trait shared by many people both in and out of Slytherin. There is really nothing wrong with seeking power, either. After all, isn’t that why you are all here? To learn how to become more powerful, at least magically?” He smiled as none of the students could disagree with his statement.
“The issue comes with how we go about obtaining, or at least proving, that power. There are basically two ways to it. You can work hard and develop your own skills to their maximum potential or you can destroy all those whose skills are greater than yours. Which way would you choose?”
He looked around as the class digested this. When it looked like those who would had, he continued, “The easiest way to become the most powerful is through destruction. After all, as we said a moment ago, it is easier to destroy than to build, so if you want the easiest way to become the best you simply destroy all those who are better.”
“But you still haven’t become any better than you were?” Terry Boot said.
“No, but you are now the best. It’s easy to stand head and shoulders above the crowd when you are surrounded by gnomes. It would be far more difficult, not to mention time consuming, to try to become better than all those around you. What type of person would go through all that when he could just destroy his enemies instead?”
“A fool,” Draco mumbled.
Harry smiled at the group. “But how does this relate to our original question?” Harry stopped and slid a sly wink to Padma. “I’ll wager you thought I had forgotten, eh?” he stage whispered.
“Those things that we tend to label as the Dark Arts,” he said to the room, “are really the tools most frequently used by those who would gain power at the expense of others rather than through their own achievements. Destroy all those in your way and you win. It’s a rather simple choice, an easy choice, but rarely the right choice.” He began to pace once again, back and forth across the front of the class. “It is a choice that each of faces, not once but every day of our lives; do we do what is right or what is easy? It’s a rather easy thing to justify ‘Just this one time’ for making the wrong choice, and that much easier to do the next time. It is a slippery slope, making the expedient choice rather than the more difficult. The ends justify the means, as it were. Like some song that you can’t unlearn, the melody creeps back into your head when you least expect it and you find yourself making the wrong decisions for the right reasons.”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Hermione said softly.
“Exactly,” Harry agreed, nodding.
The bell rang, signaling the end of class, and Harry watched as his students gathered up their things before leaving; for once, not fleeing in a near panic. He smiled as he packed his own papers away, thinking he was finally going to get to eat in the Great Hall again. It seemed liked days since he had.
Suddenly, he spotted a head of dirty blonde hair pushing its way through the crowd like a salmon fighting its way upstream. In a spurt, Luna burst through the remaining students and ran up to his desk.
“Professor, you’ve got to come! You’ve got to help her!”
“Come where, Luna? Help who?”
“Ginny! It’s Ginny! She’s trying to get back in!”
A/N: You know something? I’m getting rather bored writing this preachy!Harry stuff, so no more of it. From here on in, there will be more action. Oh, there will still be the occasional rant against Dumbledore but it won’t be the majority. The inspiration for this continuation is a comment posted by yojorocks on the DarkLordPotter forums and it inspired another round of creative thinking on using good spells for ill.
I have had a couple of folks ask me if I was going to make this DH compatible. No. I may incorporate some aspects JKR brought out in the seventh book, such as Albus’s guilt over his sister. I may even include the Snape/Lily dynamic as he rolls slowly and inexorably towards his destruction but there will be no redeeming him. He is a vile and petty bully, even as presented in canon and I intend to keep him that way.
And I’ve given you the reason for the title of this story, but not the source. If anyone out there can give me the author and title of the poem that line comes from, or even the album it is on (hint, hint) I will make them a character in the story as a reward. Nope, no e-house points or make-believe doughnuts for you, I will make you a character in the story, although I can’t guarantee how long you will live.
Oh, and last but not least, a big thanks to Helen, my beta.