Harvesting your own potion ingredients builds character.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. JK Rowling owns all. Don't we all wish we were her?
Summary: The summer after 'Order of the Phoenix', Harry is depressed and angry. And he starts thinking. Is death really irreversible?
After disappearing for a year, Harry has returned, wearing the pins that identify him as a Necromancer. It's time to get ready for the war with Voldemort.
Spoilers for: Books 1 to 5. (HBP never happened. Really.)
Instant Trouble! Just add Harry.
Hermione carefully folded the piece of cloth she'd used to slide down the pipe without getting dirty, and tucked it into her backpack. She had promised Harry to bring down some books for him, that's why he had left the entrance to the Chamber open. When school started he would have to close it again, because even in the unlikely event a student would go to Myrthle's bathroom, they couldn't risk some unsuspecting student stumbling upon Harry's Headquarters.
Hermione was sure Harry was a great leader. The whole business with Dumbledore's Army should have been enough proof for that. At first she had felt a little unsure about Harry's use of the Dark Arts, but after reading up on Necromancers she'd been rather relieved.
In the old magical communities Necromancers hadn't been as rare. There had been a few dozen all around the world, most of them concentrated in Atlantis. According to the books Hermione had read Necromancers were prone to losing control of their abilities when they felt an extreme emotion, which was why the Atlantean Council of 893 B.C. had decided all Necromancer should wear pins to identify themselves, so people knew who they shouldn't anger. Through the years those skull-shaped pins had become standard equipment for a Necromancer. They were given to them when they finished their studies, as a symbol of their craft. Like ordinairy wizards and witches had their pointed hats, the Enchanters of the Dead had their pins.
And it worked. People weren't as afraid of the Dark Arts in those days, but believed in balancing Light and Dark. Actually, the whole restriction on the Dark Arts had only appeared around the eighteen hundreds... And the fact the book she'd read this in was borrowed from the library in Grimmauld place, wasn't a good sign either. Did only the "Dark"families remember the past, where magic was balanced properly?
It made Hermione think twice about some things she'd never doubted before.
These heavy thoughts were disturbed by the sound of savage screaming en cursing coming from the stone doorway that gave entrance to the actual Chamber.
Hermione frowned, and decided that Harry's army was probably training their techniques. She could already imagine them sparring, using weapons and methods from times far past...
She stepped into the Chamber, and blinked.
The floor was covered with a mega-sized version of Twister, and sixty-nine living corpses were standing, lying and hanging in different poses. Somewhere inside the mass of intertwined zombies Hermione could make out Harry's black hair. Everyone was yelling and screaming at eachother - some were giggling instead - and Harry's voice was easily the loudest. "That's cheating! You're not supposed to twist off your left leg so you can glue it to the blue circle!"
The only zombie who hadn't joined in with the game appeared next to Hermione. "Childish, isn't it? In my days these inane games didn't even exist." He turned to Hermione. "The name is Slytherin, by the way. Call me Salazar." Elegantly, he took her hand and brought it to his mouth to brush his lips on it. It would have been much more endearing if he'd still have something that resembled lips. The same went for his hand, by the way.
Hermione swallowed, and forced herself to smile politely. "Ah. Er- Sure. Hermione. That's my name, I mean. Um. Nice to meet you, er- Salazar."
"You're so eloquent, Lady Hermione," the Slytherin-zombie murmured.
Hermione, despite Slytherin's appearance, had to fight down a blush and smiled a bit wider. Desperately, she turned her attention back to the game of Twister. She cleared her throat. "A-hum. Harry?"
Something stirred in the pile of bodies, and Harry Potter managed to crawl out of it. "I'm done with this, you all cheat anyway!"He yelled to the remaining participants, and then smiled sheepishly to Hermione. "Hi."
"Why exactly are you playing children's games when you should be training your army to face Voldemort?" She asked, with an eyebrow raised expertly.
"Um. To train their flexibility?"
Hermione shook her head, sighing. Just a moment ago she'd been thinking what a strong leader Harry could be...
"I have the books you wanted." She opened her backpack and took them out. "Now I really have to get back. My Portkey back home is set to go off at eight, and I still have to meet with the Headmaster beforehand."
"If you tap the wall next to the pipe it will turn into a stairway," Harry told her. He smiled, taking the books. "Thanks for bringing me these. I know you'll be busy, being Head Girl and all."
Hermione blushed a bit. "Well, I still don't know why the Headmaster found me suitable, but - anyway, I have to go. See you tomorrow."
Hermione was just watching the slide growing stairs when she heard Harry yelling something to her. "Oh, and playing Twister was entirely Dumbledore's idea!"
Yes, she admitted. She could believe that.
Harry hadn't been on the train, and he wasn't at the station, where everyone except the first years stepped into the coaches. Hermione reasoned he had just stayed at the castle, and she told so to Ginny when the girl pestered her about it.
"Honestly, he'll be waiting in the Great Hall. Why would he go to King's Cross just to board a train that would bring him back to where he already is?"
Harry, however, wasn't in the Great Hall. The Sorting was already finished and Ron was eating his way through a stack of chicken nuggets when the doors of the Great Hall opened and the dark-robed figure slipped inside. A hush fell over the students, who all stared at Harry. Some looked obviously fearful, while others - mostly the Ravenclaws and the Slytherins - stared at him with almost hungry, calculating looks. Hushed conversations sprung up, without doubt about the cloaked wizard making his way to Gryffindor table.
Harry for his part didn't pay the whispers and stares any attention. His stride was purposeful, his skull-shaped pins glinting in the light of the candles, everything about him saying that no, he wasn't dead, and yes, the rumours were true.
It was only after he dropped himself - rather unelegantly - into the seat Ron and Hermione had saved for him, that they noticed how weary he looked.
"I know it isn't nice of me, but I wish Voldemort would hurry up with attacking," he murmured to them. "I'm going mad."
"Having trouble with your army, mate?" Ron asked, his grin belying his sympathetic tone of voice. Harry just stared at him, tired to the bone.
Hermione huffed. "I'm sure they can't be that bad."
"Clearly, you're not the one having to live with them. In the same chambers. For the whole -bloody - day," he stressed.
"Cheer up, you won't have to put up with them all day, not now school has started." Ron patted Harry's back.
The young Necromancer glanced around, at the hundreds of faces who stared at him and talked in hushed tones. "Yeah, that really cheers me up."
Classes were horrible. Harry had to balance his time between those, the meetings with his army, making homework. Eating and sleeping were optional. Luckily, this all meant he couldn't play Twister with the zombies again. They were forced to discuss battle tactics on his meetings with them.
Harry's exhaustion didn't make the classes any more bearable. It was bad enough he had missed a year. Sure, he'd studied the darkest of Dark Arts, with only a flick of his wrist he could summon the most horrible of demons, but that didn't make Transfiguring his rabbit into aflowerpot any easier.
The way everyone kept gazing at him wasn't helping, either.
It had been a week, for Death's sake! Couldn't they just get over it? So what if he'd disappeared for a year, was proclaimed dead, and returned as a Necromancer? That wasn't such a big thing, right?
Well, now he thought about it...
But surely a week should have been enough for everyone to get over their worry? He was sick of feeling like a bloody television all the time!
He was in a foul mood when he walked to Potions - how he'd gotten an O in the subject was anyones guess - and seeing Snape didn't improve his mood in the slightest.
Events even worsened after that.
Snape entered his room full of NEWT-students with awooden box in his arms. Harry heard the hissing, and knew what Snape was planning.
"We're brewing the Rigmarole Potion today. Take your textbooks on page twenty-five and start. When you've arrived at the proper stage in your brewing, come to me to obtain one of these adders. The instructions how to strip their skin are in the book. Get started."
Harry heard the hissed discussions of the adders, like most snakes wondering when they were going to get fed and why the sun was gone, and he'd had enough. He raised his hand. "Sir?"
Snape fixed him with a dark look. "What is it, Mr. Potter? Have you forgotten how to open a book, maybe?"
Harry ignored it. "Sir, it's against school rules to make us kill living creatures in any class. The skins should already have been prepared."
The Potions Master narrowed his eyes dangerously, and stalked towards Harry. "Are you telling me how to teach my class, Mr. Potter?"
Another, different kind of hissing was added to the sounds of the dungeon room. Harry recognized it, but paid it no attention. "The rules clearly state -"
"I'm sure you of all people should have no problem with killing," Snape interrupted him smoothly. "Or do you, perhaps, wish to take those specimens as your pets? I must say, though, adders are not popular familiars to future Dark Lords. They lack that imposing quality..."
The students tried to hide beneath their desks or cauldrons. Some of them simply fled to the corner of the room as far from the door as possible. It had nothing to do with Harry's anger or Snape's cutting remarks, but rather with the dark shape that appeared in the doorway. Snape stood with his back to it and thus didn't notice it, wrapped up as he was with insulting Harry.
Harry coldly met Snape's eyes. He refused to back down, no matter what the greasy git said. "I already have a familiar, besides my owl, sir. Sally is a wonderful pet, even though she's blind."
Snape sneered and wanted to reply - the words died in his throat when something tickled in his back. He turned around, slowly, to meet the blinded stare of a huge green snake, which was flicking its tongue at him. It was doing its best to slide entirely into the dungeon, but 50 feet of snake was just too much for the room to hold.
"Professor Snape, meet Sally. I'm pretty sure she heard those poor adders you've captured and decided to investigate. :Sally, you can go, I'll handle it:," he hissed the last in Parseltongue. The Basilisk turned her head at him, and carefully started to slither out of the room again.
A Huffelpuf girl whimpered. One of the Ravenclaw boys had fainted. Hermione looked uneasy, but the real surprise was Snape. The Potions Professor had completly frozen. Without turning around, he ordered:"Class dismissed. I want two scrolls on the use of the Rigmarole Potion in combination with Cheering Solutions before next lesson. Get out."
The students hurried with packing their cauldrons away. Before Harry could leave, Snape's voice stopped him. The man still hadn't moved much. "Potter, fifty points from Gryffindor. Take your stupid snakes now and I fully well expect you to pay for them."
Harry smiled slightly, knowing when to pick his battles, and with the box full of hissing adders he left the classroom.
Sally had already slithered back into the pipes but was still nearby. He could hear her faintly. There had to be some secret entrance somewhere close to the Potions classroom, he decided. There was no way a 50 feet Basilisk could have glided through the hallways without being seen, all the way from Myrthle's toilet to the dungeons.
Ah, well. At least it had made Snape shut up. He would have to think about a way to reward Sally...