Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Echoes of Power, Part I: Anger

12. Seeing

by moshpit 6 reviews

Chapter 12

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure - Characters: Andromeda Tonks, Angelina Johnson, Arthur Weasley, Barty Crouch Jr., Bellatrix, Bill Weasley, Blaise Zabini, Cho, Colin Creevey, Crabbe, Dean Thomas, Dobby, Draco, Dudley, Dumbledore, Ernie, Fleur, Flitwick, Fred, Fudge, George, Gilderoy Lockhart, Gi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006-12-30 - Updated: 2006-12-31 - 9609 words

Chapter 12: Seeing

Tue, 5 Sep 1995

"Please, Hedwig," Harry called out a bit plaintively, "Don't hold it against me. Remus said that until it's safe, you can't come with me."

Hedwig was sitting on top of his bureau, nestled by the ceiling, ignoring her normal perch in the corner of the room. She was doing her best to ignore his attempts to say goodbye in any manner.

"Alright, well, I'll leave your bacon here then. I'll see you this afternoon, girl." Shaking his head at his owl's attitude, Harry grabbed his bag and headed outside. The fresh early morning air was invigorating, but he could live without the dew that dampened his shoes.

Breakfast had been a relatively quiet affair, but everyone knew that Harry would be back shortly after 4pm, so there was no reason to make too much out of his departure. Harry was just commuting a long way to school in some respects, even though he would seldom be spending the night at home. Harry had a light snack, knowing he would be eating a full breakfast at Hogwarts shortly.

David had given him a hug before he left, which was a little unusual, but then Sirius and Remus just half-shoved and half-threw him out of the kitchen and told him to make "nice-nice" with the locals for a change. Remus had turned up a small pensieve for Harry to take, telling him to use it wisely but carefully.

As Harry crossed the threshold of the disruption field and then the wards, he stepped into the center of the small cluster of trees. Looking around, he sat on a small tree stump and held his bag in his lap since he was less than keen on soggy books. "Alright there, Floppy?" he asked quietly.

"Indeed, Mr. Potter. Experiencing your family is much different than just seeing the memories of it." Floppy sounded calm and collected, a marked contrast to what the hat's mood seemed to be the last time they talked.

"So do you still wish to discuss things?" Harry asked quietly. "It's not quite seven yet, so we have time."

Floppy stirred restlessly, shifting from one side of Harry's head to another. Harry was mildly curious what that might indicate about Floppy's mental state, specifically whether if given a body the hat would be wringing its hands or shuffling its feet.

Floppy finally sighed in a mildly dramatic manner. "I am in agreement with Mr. Lupin. I am uncertain as to whether you are deliberately being obtuse or truly do not see the connections around you."

Harry laughed briefly. "Well, I'd be more inclined to say I'm just dense, but whatever suits you, Floppy. Since you've not got anything for me, do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"

"You may, Mr. Potter."

Harry shifted a bit to try and get a little more comfortable. "You scanned my mind in the hospital, and you most certainly saw enough to actually sort me into one of those houses. Why haven't you officially sorted me yet?"

Floppy swayed gently in a soft breeze blowing past, the slight tinge of salt discernible in the air even though the sea was some distance from their house. The scent was always particularly strong in the early morning, before all the traffic and shops disgorged their own odors into the air.

"Would you like to be sorted, Mr. Potter?"

Harry shrugged absently. "Doesn't really matter to me, Floppy. I just thought that you might want to be done with riding around on my head."

"I find your argument specious, Mr. Potter. You are the one tired of having to think about me riding around on your head." Harry could feel himself grinning as the hat recognized his misdirection. "I feel that to sort you at this time would be dangerous, Mr. Potter. Once officially sorted, the expectations upon you will change, unlike your freedom with the present status you have."

"Alright, Floppy. My other question for the moment is whether you will share with me how you were made, and perhaps teach me the magic involved?" Harry was almost certain the answer would be no.

Floppy transformed with a soft pop! into a riding harness with blinders that a horse might wear when pulling a wagon. "Do I appear to be naive, Mr. Potter?"

Harry laughed outright. "Okay, then, Floppy. Back to Hogwarts it is." Glancing at his watch to note that it was just now seven in the morning, Harry covered it firmly with one hand while saying, "Gaoler Central!" The swift jerk behind his navel left him stumbling slightly as he appeared in front of the gates at Hogwarts, and he absently noted that Floppy reverted into a beat up wizard's hat during the brief moment of portkey travel.

The gates of Hogwarts, while probably imposing to someone who studied castle architecture, were imposing to Harry for a completely different reason. They radiated an aura of substantial size, little magical sparks constantly emitted into the sky and ground like shooting stars from the aura. Whenever he saw a major magical artifact, he always took a moment to admire the view of minute sparks and flowing aura fields. He still struggled with looking in a mirror with Floppy on his head. Half the time he felt that his hair should be catching fire from the sheer quantity of sparks radiating from the hat. Some day he would have to find a way to enable others to see auras and signatures like he did.

As Harry entered the corridor leading to the Great Hall on one side and the main staircases on the other, he noted Snape standing at the foot of the stairs, apparently lecturing two young students in the proper attire becoming Hogwarts students of Hufflepuff. Harry noted absently that he had seen many Slytherins dressed in far sloppier fashion since his arrival, yet they had never garnered a reaction from the man.

Deciding that the timing was just about perfect since Snape was clearly in mid-rant, Harry popped a wand into each hand with a quick flick of each wrist and concentrated on weaving the patterns that Remus and Sirius had devised for the first stage of the Snape Spectre Spell. Harry then turned and cast a quick charm on the entry doors to the Great Hall.

With the last motion complete, Harry hurriedly tucked his wands back into his wrist holsters and entered the Great Hall, making a direct path for the Gryffindor table. It was early enough that only a few of the students were present, the rest still waking up or getting ready for the day.

Harry spotted two redheads sitting at the end near the Head Table and recognized the faces as none other than the self-titled titan twins of trouble. Ignoring the vast wave of silence that spread among the students and staff in the room, Harry made sure to sit in such a way that he would have an unimpeded view of both the doors into the Great Hall and the path Snape would travel to the Head Table. Fred and George looked at Harry curiously, but he just whispered a terse command to them, "Not now!"

Fred and George spun around to stare at the entrance to the hall, but instead of matching Harry's look of calm gaze, they appeared somewhat confused. The sight of the three of them watching the doors to the Great Hall so closely caused most other students to begin watching the doors as well, glancing from time to time back at the trio. Without warning, the doors opened and Snape strode in, his cloak billowing behind him as he scowled at all and sundry. Almost immediately the bottom corner of his cloak twitched slightly. Harry leaned back slightly so his face would not be immediately recognized by Snape and started placing food on his plate.

While Fred and George settled into a deeper confusion and most students in the hall continued to watch either the pranksters or Snape, the doors opened again as Dumbledore and Harry's new mentor, Cyril, entered the Great Hall.

Cyril Feiner had clearly been around the block on an extended tour, almost for the past century in fact. While his carriage was proud and, in some respects, regal, the slight limp and walking staff made it clear that his life had been less than peaceful. While not a necessarily well-recognized name among the general populace, in certain circles his name was spoken either with utmost respect or outright fear. Whereas Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody generated a feeling of nervousness in some individuals in the know, for those same people, Cyril generated a feeling of shortened life expectancy. Harry found this reputation oddly clashing with the man's appearance of a friendly grandfather. Cyril could pass as a distant relative to Dumbledore; the only difference between the two men being the shorter beard that the former sported. His charcoal grey robes, complete with War Mage shoulder emblems, and the chain of full status around his neck were simple adornments. The lack of any other sigil or distinguishing item was unusual for one old enough to be a living contemporary of Dumbledore himself.

As Dumbledore and Cyril simultaneously spotted Harry and began moving toward him, Harry was aware of being recognized by Snape who had made it to the Head Table without incident. The students, left somewhat confused over the lack of entrance effects by Snape, now focused on the impending collision between the two old men and the great unknown that was Harry Potter.

Harry rose to his feet when Cyril came to a stop opposite his seat, and bowed from the neck. "Mentor," he stated calmly, "it is a pleasure to see you."

Cyril showed no reaction to Harry's greeting, which left him slightly puzzled. Dumbledore, however, cleared his throat loudly and every set of eyes except Cyril's focused on the Headmaster.

"Mr. Potter," the Headmaster began in a very loud and formal tone, "I am unable to accept your actions of yesterday afternoon. While Professor Umbridge may have been exaggerating her claims of the Ministry's prowess, your actions are inexcusable. Despite her claims to the contrary, I know you made no effort to kill or actually injure the professor. If you had tried, she would not have been complaining about your failure to succeed. To that end, you are hereby placed under ban for all school sponsored extracurricular activities for the next three months, and you are officially to be in detention for the next three months as well. The first month you shall serve with Mr. Filch, the second month with Professor Snape, and the final month with Professor Umbridge. Your detentions will also encompass weekends. You will serve a detention of two hours per class day and four hours per weekend day, starting tomorrow. Is this clear?"

Harry realized that there was a distinct twinkle in the Headmaster's eyes, almost as if he was enjoying the show unfolding. Apparently Umbridge herself had arrived during the disciplinary chastisement, alternating between some type of righteous rage or else gloating glee at the fate assigned to Harry. Looking the Headmaster in the eyes, Harry gave the only response he could in a clear voice that carried through the hall. "Perfectly, sir."

Dumbledore nodded as he and Cyril moved to the Head Table and seated themselves. Harry sank back into his seat and slowly exhaled. Fred and George whistled softly at him, shaking their heads. Harry chanced to see the expression on Snape's face, which was unmitigated pleasure at the prospect of a servile Harry at his disposal for an entire month. Catching where Harry was looking, Fred leaned over and asked the obvious. "What's with the entrance, eh?"

Harry shook his head. "It's not the entrance. It's the setup. Be early for lunch." Taking a moment to look around while he picked over his bacon, he realized that Dumbledore had acted mostly as Harry expected. His announcement sent a clear message to all that Harry's actions were not being allowed to go unpunished, although Harry knew that in reality, expulsion would have been a more appropriate course of disciplinary action. Harry snorted inwardly. As if he cared whether or not he stayed at Hogwarts.

George coughed briefly before turning to Harry. "Dumbledore addressed the school last night, Harry. He had to quell the 'attempted murder' rubbish with Umbridge and the Aurors, and then he explained that on Sunday you were just defending yourself from an unprovoked attack."

George shook his head for a moment. "Frankly, it didn't help much. I think if it hadn't been for that fracas on Sunday, you'd be doing well enough, maybe you'd even be liked by the others. Except for the snakes, of course."

Fred nodded in agreement. The twins had no problems handing off bits of the conversation to each other, apparently. "As it is, well, 'Dark Lord in Training' seems about the nicest label people are using for you. That Prophet thing really didn't do you any favors."

Harry shook his head in frustration. He was ordered to make nice-nice with these people? Somehow, he would have to find a way to turn that image around, although Harry had serious reservations that his current company would help with that. As Harry slowly finished off his second breakfast of mostly bacon, scones, and fruit, he surveyed the ever expanding crowd in the hall. The Gryffindors continued to treat Harry's presence as anathema, leaving a wide berth around where he sat with the twins and studiously avoiding even glancing at their end of the table.

Harry saw Neville enter with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, but only Neville would meet Harry's gaze as they took seats in the midst of the Gryffindor pack. Harry nodded briefly in salute to the one person that was willing to buck the trend. The other students in the hall would furtively look his way, but the conversations were never such that he could make out the topic. He was certain, however, that the public announcement of his punishment would be common knowledge before the end of breakfast.

His contemplations were interrupted by the arrival of the morning post. Harry watched with veiled amusement as the horde of owls descended upon the student masses, since it forced them to stop covertly watching him or risk wearing their breakfasts to lessons. Next to him, Fred received a copy of the morning paper from a school owl, while George ignored the commotion. Fred just sighed as he unrolled the paper and threw it on the table surface before tapping it with his finger. "You've got a real fan out there, Harry." The smirk could be felt plainly from his tone, so Harry had no need to look at either twin's face as he scanned the article.

Boy Who Lived Attacks Professor!
Near-death experience dismissed by Dumbledore!
by Rita Skeeter

In a further development of the violent and unexplained re-appearance of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived attacked a Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy without provocation. The new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Dolores Umbridge, coincidentally also the Senior Undersecretary to Minister of Magic Fudge, was in mid-lecture when she was viciously attacked without warning and left wounded in front of a horrified classroom full of witnesses.

Despite Professor Umbridge's attempts to press charges on the possibly mentally disturbed Potter, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore wrote the incident off as a misunderstanding and merely stated that, "Mr. Potter will receive suitable punishment within the school rules for breaking the school rules."

When Minister Fudge himself attempted to make Dumbledore see reason regarding the dangers of harbouring a student as violent and blood-thirsty as Potter appears to be, the Headmaster and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot claimed that there was no problem and everything was fine.

The handling of Potter when combined with Dumbledore's recent inflammatory comments this past weekend to the English Wizengamot has led to questions being raised as to Dumbledore's continued fitness for leading the Wizengamot. Dumbledore is apparently suggesting that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has regained a body and is now back among us, despite the common knowledge that he was killed by his own curse failing years ago, leaving us with the shadowy Boy-Who-Lived.

Minister Fudge is rumoured to be personally overseeing the sensitive investigation looking into matters regarding Potter, Dumbledore, and the so-called return of the Dark Lord due to the volatility and status of those involved.

More troubling, perhaps, are the lingering issues and stories that speculate that Potter has become or is now turning Dark. Not only did he survive the Darkest curse known, the Killing Curse, as an infant for inexplicable reasons, his own actions over the past week raise serious doubts about his intentions.

With Dumbledore claiming the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at the same time as Harry Potter rejoins us as a seemingly unstable, murderous, and vicious wizard, the obvious connections and implications that perhaps the Dark Lord rising is none other than Harry Potter must be examined.

Dumbledore's failure to address the dangers of having Potter at Hogwarts where he can recruit his own secret followers (continued, Page 3.)

As Harry finished the top-fold story, he was incapable of stopping his snort of derision from escaping. "Right," he muttered at Fred and George while rolling his eyes. "I'm the next Dark Lord, and you two are my trusted lieutenants. Do go out and fetch me some Muggles for a spot of torture 'round tea time, won't you?"

Fred spit his juice across the table and started coughing while George just stared at Harry with faint admiration. "Sir, yes, sir! Sir, would that be three or four Muggles, sir?!"

Harry made a show of considering things. "Four, I think. You can each have one, but since I'm clearly the Dark Lord here, I must have more than any followers. So be sharp about it, right? No scraggly ones for us, we want some decent, well-fed ones with a good bit of fight in them."

Fred was wiping his face with a towel while George saluted Harry with a banger. "Sir!" he agreed emphatically. As the three started laughing quietly over the byplay, most conversations in the hall were focused on the recently delivered Prophet. Students everywhere were hunched over their own copy of the paper, or the copy of a neighbouring student. What should probably have been the occasional furtive glance was so frequent that Harry wondered if the magical world would have methods available to cure self-induced whiplash en masse.

Harry scanned the Head Table, noting in passing that Snape was once again looking like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. Or rather, given the man's disposition, the snake that ate the field mouse. As Harry locked his eyes with Cyril who was calmly eating next to Dumbledore, he inclined his head toward Snape in a vague gesture. Cyril merely raised one eyebrow in response and continued eating. After a few moments, the older man spoke something so quietly that Dumbledore had to lean over toward Cyril. As Dumbledore straightened, he unobtrusively scanned the hall before glancing at his own staff. Frowning, Dumbledore turned back to Harry and the twinkle died in his eyes.

Clearing his throat, Dumbledore rose to his feet and tapped repeatedly on his goblet for everyone's attention. As the students focused on the Headmaster, Dumbledore surveyed his staff again before shaking his head slightly.

"Thank you all for your attention. While I normally loathe announcing changes during the term, recent events have made it clear to me that some of my staff are quite overworked. By his own admission, our dear Potions Professor is hard pressed to manage his many duties." Pausing for a moment, Harry was curious where this was going, while Snape was suddenly looking very unsure of himself.

"It is with sadness that I must therefore announce that Professor Snape will no longer be the Head of Slytherin House. I had hoped to delay this, but his heavy burden requires me to act sooner."

Pausing to let the murmurs quieten, Dumbledore surveyed the students. Harry noted that Dumbledore's gaze lingered on those students unable to stop themselves from expressing dismay or anger at the development. "Due to this change, his own classes will no longer be held in the dungeons, but they will be exchanged with the classroom of the new Head of Slytherin House. In her years at Hogwarts as a student 50 years ago, she was a model Slytherin, using her skills and House ideals to further her career goals most admirably. She has continued her practical use of those skills as faculty for the past 16 years."

Dumbledore paused once more to gaze upon the Slytherin students, going so far as to adjust his body to solely face that table. "It is with pleasure that I now introduce you to your new Head of House -- Professor Sybill Trelawney."

The absolute silence that was the only impact upon the Great Hall was impressive to Harry. Having been on the receiving end of the "cone of silence" as he liked to think of it, he realized now that he had never had complete silence as a reward for his actions. This announcement had not only stilled all conversation, it stilled all movement, perhaps even all breathing, and not even the few remaining owls were moving. As Dumbledore surveyed the students once again, Harry wanted to laugh himself sick at the pale and horrified expression on Snape's face.

Without warning, Fred and George shot to their feet and began loud applause with the occasional cat call of approval. As though this was the one signal everyone else needed, the entirety of the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuffs tables stood and applauded loudly. The only ones that seemed less than pleased by the announcements were the Slytherins. Unsure of the dynamic that had just occurred, Harry merely stood and applauded politely with the others who were much more enthusiastic. He would have to find out more about this new professor later.

As the noise died down, Dumbledore raised his hands once again to gather silence. "Yes, yes, I'm sure you will all congratulate Professor Trelawney later. Right now, the house elves are moving all of the Potions classroom materials to the North Tower and all of the Divination materials into the dungeons. With the change in status, there will also be a change in housing, as Professor Snape will no longer need to be near the Slytherin common room. He will now reside in the North Tower by his new classroom, while Professor Trelawney will move into the suite outside of the Slytherin common room. Please, return to your breakfasts and remember the locations of the new classrooms. No one shall be penalized for being late to either class this week as we all adjust to this minor change."

As Dumbledore sat down with a grand gesture of grace, Fred and George began gleefully telling stories of Professor Trelawney to Harry. Harry listened with one ear in mild amusement at the stories of the apparently batty old Divination instructor and felt a flicker of something that almost was sympathy for the Slytherin students. Whatever sense of pride they may have had, it would now be crushed. But then again, Harry was less than fond of most Slytherins he had met, so perhaps the change would do a world of good for the next generations.

As the Great Hall settled into a flurry of conversations, most likely older students explaining to younger ones about the new Head of House much like Fred and George were doing for Harry, Cyril rose from the Staff Table and headed toward Harry. Fred and George slowly trailed off as Cyril came as sat opposite to Harry.

Harry inclined his head once respectfully then waited.

I was less than pleased to find you had left for the evening, and I had no way to reach you. The thought was clearly projected past Harry's Occlumency shields.

Harry nodded briefly in return, ignoring the frowns coming from Fred and George. Harry was hard-pressed to squelch his own surprise at Cyril's ability to project directly into his highly shielded mind. Narrowing his concentration in order to control the projection of Legilimency required for this type of communication, Harry carefully constructed his reply thoughts. Dumbledore told me that I should spend the evening with my family. I should have left a message for you, since he told me you would be arriving yesterday. Harry paused for a moment. I apologize.

Cyril waved his hand in a vague manner. No matter. It has been some years since Albus and I have sat and talked freely, so we took advantage of the evening after he was done chatting with your Severus Snape.

Harry bristled slightly at the tone. He's not my Snape. If he were, he'd be shackled appropriately.

Cyril smirked, something Harry had never seen before. Oh, he's yours now, Harry. Never fool yourself about that. Whether you like it or not, he owns you as you own him.

Harry frowned hard at Cyril before shaking his head. I don't see it that way. He is in a bed of his own making.

Cyril merely smiled in response. He who controls a thing, Harry, owns that thing. We shall talk more later I believe. For now, I will be roaming about and reacquainting myself with this castle. I shall see you this evening, after your meeting with Albus.

With nothing more than that, Cyril stood up and disappeared with a soft pop! While Fred and George gaped at the spot Cyril had been in, Harry frowned and concentrated. Try as he might, there was no magical energy radiating from the space Cyril had been in that he could discern. Despite the fact that it really was supposed to be impossible to Apparate in Hogwarts, Cyril seemed to have done it. Or else the old man was being sneaky and using a portkey coupled with a masking sound spell to mimic the distinctive Apparition noise. Harry would have to determine how that trick was accomplished later.

George nudged Harry in the ribs briefly. "What is it with you types? You just feel like breaking the rules of magic around here?"

Fred nodded quickly. "Where can we learn to break through the Apparition wards?"

Harry shook his head briefly. "You can't Apparate in Hogwarts, boys, everyone knows that."

As Fred groaned, George began chuckling. "Well, then, Harry, you're about to wish you could." He pointed at a grey ball of feathers flying in a drunken pattern but with an overall trend of aiming right for the triumvirate of trouble. As the owl approached, Harry became conscious of two immediate things. First, it was a very old owl that looked ready to die on the next beat of its wings. Second, it was carrying a Howler which was beginning to shake somewhat in the owl's grip, or perhaps the owl just had a slight palsy.

George looked at Harry with mock sorrow. "Looks like our Mum has decided to give you a bit of her mind, probably over Ginny and that article yesterday. Better run for it."

Harry shook his head and cleared away the dishes in front of him. As soon as the owl dropped the howler, Harry tossed it into the air before flicking a wand into each hand. With two quick wrist snaps, twin spheres appeared around the now-glowing howler, one ever so slightly smaller than the other and fully inside the larger one. "Watch," Harry commented as he concentrated on the spheres. With a drawing motion in his left hand, the inner sphere shrank to a quarter of its volume, and with a pushing motion from his right hand, the outer sphere tripled in volume. The owl, meanwhile, dropped like a stone, sending bits of egg and toast flying as he landed and lay limp in the middle of George's plate.

Nearly every eye in the hall was riveted on the glowing balls hovering above the table. Harry casually put his wands back into his sleeves, grabbed his goblet, and enjoyed the cool pumpkin juice. As the howler exploded and only the very faintest of buzzing sounds could be heard, Fred's and George's faces exhibited unmitigated awe. "No way!" Fred breathed. "You can silence a howler?!"

Harry shrugged. "No, magically they are protected from silencing. But you can contain them so that they don't make any noise." Harry noted in passing that the howler burst into flames, but due to the limited atmosphere in the inner bubble, it just turned into a partially burned but fully carbonized parchment. Flicking his wand at each sphere with a concentrated /Finite Incantatem!/, the parchment slowly fell to the table while most people in the hall were staring at him again.

"Wow," George said, picking up the parchment. "Was that a bubble-head charm you used?"

Harry nodded.

Fred crumbled the edge of the parchment, watching as little flakes fell to the table. "I didn't know you could change their size." Glancing up, he noticed how angry Ron looked further down the table. "Er, Harry, I do believe our Mum is going to hear about this. You probably just should have taken the howler."

Harry shook his head in response. "Nope. I refuse to accept howlers. I can't understand why anyone puts up with them. After my first one, I took the time to learn how to handle them. I can't believe you guys haven't yet."

Fred dropped the remnants of the howler and glanced around. "Well, my master and Dark Lord, you sure know how to draw the crowd. It's like they expect you to put on a show for them."

George nodded as he also seemed to admire being the center of attention in the Great Hall. "Quite. Perhaps you're not being Dark enough this morning. Need some help there putting on a proper show? Slashing up some toast, maybe?"

Fred leaned closer. "Stabbing some eggs? Violating the jam?"

George smirked. "Butchering the bacon? Hanging the strudel?"

Harry was laughing quietly at the antics of the twins. "Right," he agreed. Glancing at his watch, he sighed for a moment. "Well, it's been fun, but it's time for class. Later, gents."

As Harry began heading off to Charms with Professor Flitwick, Fred and George rose to fall in stride with him. "Really, Harry, you don't think you can leave your loyal followers like that, now do you? We have to follow you. It's in the job title, right?" George asked.

Fred simply walked as closely behind Harry as he could manage.

"Don't the two of you have classes or the like?" Harry asked a bit plaintively as Fred kept trodding on the backs of his feet. Somehow Harry doubted that it was accidentally happening on every step he took.

Fred chirped up from behind him. "'Course we do. Transfiguration, right next to the Charms classroom. Where are you headed?"

Harry just sighed loudly in resignation. "I'll be Charmed."

After much jostling and continued harassment from his self-titled followers, Harry gratefully entered the Charms classroom and took a seat near the middle but on the far right edge. Pulling out his Muggle notebook and text, he leaned back in the seat and waited for others to arrive. Given the dubious reactions he was still likely to encounter, he thought it best to arrive early and let the other students decide how close they wanted to sit to him. His schedule said that this class would be with the Ravenclaws, and he was curious to see how that group of students would react to him.

Harry was mildly surprised when Neville arrived only a minute or two after Harry and proceeded to drop into the vacant seat next to him. With a quick nod as a silent 'hello', Neville dropped his bag and pulled out the Charms text along with parchment, quill, and ink. Once Neville was situated, he glanced at Harry before rolling his shoulders and started reading the text.

While Harry was trying to puzzle out the mystery that was Neville, other students began filing in. Most sat far away from Harry, but it was evident that sooner or later the lack of copious free tables would force students into his proximity. The simultaneous arrival of Hermione, Ron, and Ginny became an interesting moment.

Ginny moved to the empty chair behind Harry. Ron hustled to sit next to her and kept muttering under his breath. Her eyes narrowed, Hermione marched over and sat with a rather attractive bloke wearing Ravenclaw colours two tables away. This only seemed to make Ron mutter more, but whatever he was saying was lost between his lack of enunciation and the general rustle and bustle of students preparing for class.

Harry tried to make a conscious effort to smile at whomever looked his way, but this mostly just caused them to rapidly spin back to whatever they had been doing before furtively looking at him. After one rather abrupt spin which caused a boy's ink pot to smash on the ground, Neville leaned over to provide a word of caution. "Er, your smile isn't right, Harry."

Harry felt overwhelming confusion. "What do you mean, it isn't right? How can a smile be wrong?"

Neville looked mildly sorrowful to be the bearer of bad news. "Well, it sort of feels like a wolf smiling at sheep, if you know what I mean." Neville smiled weakly at Harry, but Harry was just shaking his head.

"Play 'nice-nice'," Harry muttered darkly while Neville looked more nervous. "I'll show them how to play 'nice-nice'..."

"Attention!" Harry glanced around in mid-rant, mildly surprised to see a rather short Professor Flitwick standing on top of a pile of books in a chair, waving his hands with excitement. "Let's get started!"

The next fifteen minutes were excruciating to Harry. He was convinced that every professor had some pat speech they would give at the beginning of each O.W.L. class or final N.E.W.T. year class, and they had all been delivered so many times that each one was as exciting as watching the paint peel, perhaps on a wall that had just been painted - in a room devoid of anything but fresh paint and walls.

When Flitwick finally announced that they were to review the Summoning Charm, most students turned to their partners and began talking over who was going to do what and when, in order to minimize accidents. Before Harry could talk about procedure with Neville, however, the diminutive Flitwick scurried to their table.

"Mr. Potter!" he called to get their attention. "I have been led to understand you know magic appropriate for this year group, perhaps even somewhat ahead of them. Would you please demonstrate this charm for me?"

Harry shrugged, flicked his wand out, drew a few motions in the air, and silently summoned the chair that Flitwick had been standing on, books included. Neville paled before dropping to the floor, but Harry changed the motion as the objects began arriving, holding them all in place in the air. Once they were all reasonably close to how they had been, with the books stacked on each other on the chair, he let the whole collection fall to the floor with a bit of bang.

"Impressive! Excellent work, five points to.. err.. Gryffindor, then, is it?"

Harry nodded slightly, aware that most students were again staring at him. "Gryffindor for today, at any rate, Professor."

Flitwick nodded briefly. "Very good, please continue to practice and perhaps help anyone that needs a bit of assistance, would you?" Flitwick moved off to another table before Harry could even reply.

As Neville slowly got back into his seat, Harry smiled faintly at his partner. "Care to demonstrate your summoning charm?"

Neville had no problem with the charm, but he was only summoning the top book from the stack in the chair Harry had brought over. "Er, Harry, how did you stop those from hitting us?"

Harry winked slowly and stated in a voice just a little too loud for quiet partner level work. "Just switched the charm from Accio to the old /Wingardium/, Neville. Rather trivial once you try it." Harry glanced over to Hermione who was staring at him with a spark of fire in her eyes. Before he could realize the depth of his mistake, she had a roll of parchment on the table and was furiously scribbling down something. Harry would almost swear that was the same parchment she had her list of Pester-Harry-About questions on.

Neville, seeing where Harry was looking, just started chuckling. "Didn't expect that, did you?"

Sighing, Harry just gave up. Most of the other students were back to doing their own work, but he was still getting random glances. Deciding it was time to put on a bit of a show since he was being stared at anyway, Harry began a rapid alternation between silent Summoning and Banishing charms, moving Neville's corked ink pot in a mental game of tennis against an invisible opponent.

At first, this again caused all work in the room to stop. As students quickly realized that Harry was randomly firing an ink pot around the room at high speed, alternately shooting away from him and then rocketing back to him, people started ducking. Flitwick, however, came to Harry's side and began applauding enthusiastically. This caused most students to calm down somewhat, but they still flinched whenever the pot got close to them.

After a few minutes of boredom with the ink pot, Harry dropped it back onto the desk in front of Neville. Neville smiled weakly back at Harry, before slowly putting the pot back in his bag. Ron's muttering reached new heights as he finally was audible enough for Harry to make out the phrase "show-off" at least twice in one sentence.

Turning slightly, Harry smiled broadly at the gangly red-head. "What's the matter, Ron? Can't do a simple Summoning Charm? Need some help?"

Ron flushed dark red, before glaring back at Harry. "I don't need any help! Of course I can do a stupid Summoning Charm!"

"Oh?" Harry smirked. "Prove it, but not on something wimpy like that quill you've been using. The door's barely closed. Why don't you summon the handle, and it should pop open if you actually can do it right?" Harry spent considerable effort lacing his tone with the sarcastic expression of Ron's imminent failure.

Ron huffed a time or two before sharply calling out, "Accio Handle!" Harry thought it was completely too easy. Before Ron could realize what went wrong, he was jerked into the table he was sharing with Ginny, and the wand flew from his hand across the room to smack into the door handle.

As Ron sank back into his chair while wheezing slightly, Harry could swear he heard giggling coming from the direction of Hermione. "Really, Ron, how thick are you? Haven't you heard of that crazy squib Isaac Newton that lived back in the late 1600's?"

Ron moaned somewhat as he rubbed his ribs. "Why should I care about some squib?"

Harry clucked his tongue in false sorrow. "Children these days. Mr. Newton came up with the first workable model of gravity. You do know what gravity is, right?" Ron just nodded sullenly. "Well, Mr. Newton was a bit odd. I mean really, how odd do you have to be to poke a stick into your eye and wiggle it around to see how the colors change with where the stick moves..." As Ron paled to match Neville, Harry saw Ginny fighting a smirk.

"Anyway, Ron, Mr. Newton came up with this crazy idea. He basically said that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So you, maybe 80 kilos of thick witted student, just tried to summon a reinforced door in a block wall. Instead of pulling the door to you, you just about summoned yourself to the door. A perfect display of Newton's Third Law of Motion."

Harry waved his wand theatrically for a moment, before the door swung lazily open. "It's not the force you use, Ron, but how you use it." Ron looked nothing short of bewildered. With a sigh, Harry turned back into his seat and slumped down to stare at the ceiling. It was going to be a long and slow class.

Harry surmised Transfiguration with the Hufflepuffs would be a similar experience in tedium -- albeit hopefully one with less homework. The Weasley twins had apparently an inverted schedule from Harry and quite a bit of jostling took place between his dubious followers and their master as they moved into Charms and he moved into Transfiguration. While Hermione had made a point of smiling and saying hello to Harry and Neville as she took the table just in front of them this time, no one else seemed willing to sit near Harry. Neville looked somewhat sad that Hannah was still avoiding him and when Harry suggested that Neville might want to go sit with her instead, the boy just told Harry that it was probably for the best anyway. Harry knew he was dreadful at deciphering relationships, so he just let it slide. Maybe Sirius could explain it later to him.

After receiving another rote lecture on O.W.L. importance, expectations, and study habits, Professor McGonagall launched into a discourse on the complexity of Vanishing Spells. Harry was mildly interested to hear her talk about the lesson, as he had yet to try the Vanishing family of magic. He was slightly disappointed that she skipped the theory behind how the spells would work, but the text should have such information if he was lucky.

While the rest of the class settled down to immediately begin attempting the spell, Harry pulled out the text and tried to study the section on the Vanishing spell for a few minutes. The sound of a throat clearing caused him to look up at the stern Professor McGonagall, who was frowning at him. "Mr. Potter, would you please tell me why you are not practicing this spell?" Her tone was far from warm, but it held no implications that she was angry either.

"I'm trying to determine the theory behind how the spell works, Professor," Harry replied as politely as he could.

"Oh? Was my explanation lacking?" Her tone had become decidedly cooler.

Harry felt a moment of quandary over the situation. Should he admit the truth, or find a nice-nice way to lie? "Well," he temporized, "I'm used to thinking about the energy mixes and motions, not the particular words of an incantation. You gave a great discussion of the mechanics, but I was hoping to find more on the abstract side." He tried to keep his tone pleasant and a smile on his face, but Neville's warning that his smile was completely wrong made him even more concerned over how to deal with the professor.

McGonagall, if anything, stood more erect and her arms folded sharply across her abdomen. "Really, Mr. Potter. And precisely what have you found?"

Harry knew he was in trouble, but he was less than sure just how deep the trouble was. "Well, so far, this book doesn't explore the theory at all. It's just mechanics. That's why I keep flipping through different sections. I think the author missed the point of writing a textbook."

The silence between the Professor and Harry began to stretch out, and Harry had the uncomfortable sensation that he was being prepared for slaughter. Most of the students around them were watching warily, except Hermione, who was once again writing vigorously on her parchment. Harry noticed in passing that she was now writing on the opposite side of the scroll.

Finally, McGonagall strode to the front of the room, extracting a book from the small collection neatly stored there. Returning to Harry's table, she gently placed the text in front of him. "Mr. Potter," she said, her tone still somewhat near freezing, "the Headmaster informed me you might find the text lacking in some ways. I am offering you this as supplementary reading material. You are to take extremely good care of it, do you understand?"

Harry nodded slowly, trying to ignore the bead of sweat rolling down his temple from the strain he felt. He was sure that if he ever needed to learn how to completely cow someone with a glance and tone, this was the woman to come to for lessons. McGonagall gave him a sharp nod, before turning and moving off to the next table to investigate why their snail had grown a second shell instead of losing parts as the Vanishing Spell should have done. The end of the class saw another behemoth homework assignment handed out with casual indifference from the stern professor. All in all, Harry thought he might like Professor Flitwick's demeanor better, but he was forced to admit that with the book McGonagall gave him, he would learn far more in Transfiguration at this rate.

As soon as McGonagall dismissed the students, Harry strode to the exit and reached into his bag. In one swift motion as he approached the first staircase, Harry leapt over the railing and swept his Firebolt under him as he shot off like a rocket to the Great Hall. Harry bypassed the students standing around waiting for staircases to align properly and flew over the heads of those students already in the halls. As he reached the Great Hall, he was pleased to see the doors standing open and flew directly in toward the Gryffindor table.

Harry's use of his broom to get to the Great Hall had led to many shouts and surprised faces, but he was surprised himself to find Fred and George had beat him to their end of the Gryffindor table. Flying straight to his seat before dropping into it and pushing his broom back into his special case, Harry squinted at the twins. "Now how did you get here before I did? Charms is right next to Transfiguration!"

Fred winked. "Simple, old bean. But what's that you called it?" Fred paused to thoughtfully tap his chin.

George snapped his fingers and looked triumphant. "That's right. 'Trade Secret', Harry, so terribly sorry."

Harry sighed. "Yeah, yeah, all that rot. Point made." More students were filing into the Great Hall, and Harry was gradually realizing that no matter what he did, his schoolmates were going to stare at him. He made a mental note that it was worth some time to consider ways to actually deserve the fishbowl treatment, but he had to concede that most people did not travel the corridors by broom. That in and of itself was a bit of a mystery, since he thought the idea of waiting for a staircase to feel like being useful as far more ludicrous than just flying from room to room.

Professor McGonagall entered the Great Hall and stalked over to stand in front of Harry. "Mr. Potter," she said in perfectly clipped tones, her eyes flashing, "did you or did you not hear the announcement that there is to be no use of magic in the corridors between classes?"

Harry looked surprised at his temporary Head of House. "Of course I did."

She leaned forward slightly before tapping the table as a syllabic cadence with each word she spoke. "Then explain your use of that broom to get here!"

Harry smiled benignly. "Well, Professor, the rules say we aren't to use spells, but Mr. Filch asked for the Headmaster to say we aren't to use magic. He was incorrect, you see, so I did nothing wrong." Harry just leaned back slightly as McGonagall continued her tapping of the table top.

After a long moment of watching Harry, she collected her hands as she folded her arms. "I shall look into these rules, Mr. Potter. We shall speak again about this." She gracefully turned and strode away. Harry was uncertain, but he thought he saw a faint twitch of her lips as she left.

As she was moving toward the head table, however, Professor Snape came striding into the Great Hall. Having planted the seeds earlier, Harry turned a thoughtful gaze on the Professor. Fred and George rapidly locked their eyes on the Professor as well. Most of the other students were realizing that the three Gryffindors were staring at Snape, so they too began to watch the man as he entered. As Snape continued his patent march, causing his cloak to billow behind him in a tangible aura of malice, Harry saw the back corner twitch slightly. "Perfect!" he whispered. Harry began softly counting. "3... 2... 1... Now!"

With each count, Snape's cloak billowed even higher, and when Harry reached number one, it was almost horizontal and ruffling gently. Snape appeared unaware of the situation, but started scowling harder and walking faster, realizing that many students were staring at him for no apparent reason. Before he could pause to interrogate someone, his cloak shot around his body, perfectly mummifying his arms and legs. The next thing everyone witnessed was an immobilized Snape falling on his face, and with no ability to catch himself, he smashed his nose into the floor. As soon as he hit the floor, his cloak flared up, relaxed and reverted to normal, quickly covering him like a sheet over a corpse.

At that moment, Harry barely resisted the urge to laugh his head off as Dumbledore and Cyril strolled into the Great Hall talking to each other. Dumbledore paused and paled slightly at the sight of a body under a cloak in the middle of the floor, while the students were staring with a mixture of horror and something akin to constipation at the body. McGonagall was frozen in a half-sitting, half-standing posture by her seat at the Head Table. In the longest instant of record, the Great Hall was silent for one eternal second. Finally, a first-year Ravenclaw cracked and started laughing outright.

Before anyone could react, Snape shot to his feet and glared at all and sundry in the room. His scowling expression was marred by the blood freely flowing from his obviously broken nose. This set off a rapid chain reaction as dozens of students slowly gave in and started laughing, although most were still making Herculean efforts to mask it by laughing into their hands or turning around in their seats.

When Snape saw Dumbledore and Cyril behind him, he glared at them just as hard. Pulling out his wand, he cast several "Finite Incantatems!" upon his cloak before returning to his survey of the students. Harry was working hard on maintaining an expressionless face, and the twins next to him were clearly professionals at this routine. When Snape finally settled his gaze on the twins and Harry, the narrowed eyes were the only suggestion the man was up to something before a scream rent the air.


The screaming then began repeating itself after doubling in volume, while Fred began glowing with a nimbus of bright azure light. Harry smirked internally as he thought of all those rings that the twins had sold sounding off like this when someone got a little too curious. Snape paled partially through the second iteration and finally looked away, silencing the screams echoing in the hall but leaving frustration evident on his face. Dumbledore was frowning at Snape and Cyril was simply staring impassively at the man. Every student was either staring at Snape, the Headmaster, or Fred.

Before Dumbledore could say anything, Snape stalked over to Fred and George. "Your wands!" he demanded in a hiss. Fred and George were grinning madly as they handed theirs over. "You too, Potter!" Snape demanded. Harry yawned at the man as he handed over both of his wands.

Snape proceeded to test each wand, but only found Charms work on each of the twin's wands and Transfiguration class work on each of Harry's. With a growl of frustration, Snape stared again at Fred before turning to George. Handing George his wand back, Snape narrowed his eyes sharply as George looked up to receive his wand. Without warning, the screams of "RAPE! HELP! MIND-RAPE! SOMEONE IS-" started up again, while George began glowing a bright azure color. Looking away in frustration, Snape threw the other wands on the table and marched back over to the Headmaster, where he was joined by Umbridge.

Dumbledore, Cyril, Umbridge and Snape proceeded to leave the hall in argument. Snape was following the other three and arguing the whole way out that somehow one of those Gryffindors assaulted him and he wanted to find out which one it was. Just before he reached the doors, his cape flared up and assumed a shape that looked like it stepped straight out of a Mr. Universe muscle-man competition.

As a few snorts of laughter rang out once more, Snape whirled in place, his cloak immediately dropping back into the aspect of a normal billowing cloak, slowly settling as he stopped walking. Glaring at the students who were now again unsuccessfully trying to stifle their laughter, Snape whirled once more and left the Great Hall, his cloak now making shadow puppet figures randomly.

Fred and George both enthusiastically clapped Harry on the shoulders. "Brilliant, Harry, just brilliant!" Fred's voice carried overtones of admiration. "We've been trying to prank him since we got here, and he always either catches us before we can or proves it was us after we do. We've never pulled one off on him without some punishment!"

George was smiling broadly. "I wish I could have a picture of that. It would be perfect."

Harry smiled in response. "Glad you liked the little show." Looking at the ceiling in thought, Harry reflected on how the spell was constructed. "I wonder how long it will take him to catch on now that it's in the second phase of operation."

Fred face became suddenly thoughtful as he stared at Harry. "You know," he mentioned casually, "that grace period has been over for two days now..." Fred let his voice trail off significantly.

Harry grinned back while George and Fred began grinning in turn. "So it has," Harry said amicably. "So it has."

Before any further discussion could take place, Hermione dropped into the seat across from Harry and next to Fred. Neville sat next to her. "Hello, Harry," she said in a firm voice. The effect of her determination was spoiled somewhat as she shot glances further down the table where Ron was scowling at her and arguing with Ginny over something.

"Hermione," Harry returned calmly.

Hermione smiled at him in an exaggerated fashion. "How are you, Harry?" she asked brightly.

Harry merely raised one eyebrow at her as Neville slowly shook his head behind her back.

To her credit, Hermione managed to suppress the flush to her skin almost before it happened. "Er, well, I guess that was a silly question. I think you're being treated poorly, Harry. I'll admit to being unsure at first, but when Dumbledore explained things, I don't see why everyone is still expecting you to become violent."

Fred clapped her on the shoulder, grinning maliciously. "Maybe because he's our new Dark Lord and Master?" George hunched his shoulders slightly and took on a vacant expression as he slowly nodded his head in agreement.

Neville choked on the sandwich he had just begun eating while Hermione giggled slightly. "Right," she said, rolling her eyes. "I'm convinced." Hermione began methodically putting her lunch together with the same precision that Harry had observed in her breakfast eating habits previously, choosing the salad, roast chicken and trimmings rather than the sandwich options.

"I want to talk to you, Harry," Hermione said as she assembled her lunch.


Sorry for the delay, travel for work and life always complicate things.

As always, a big thank you to my genius betas who have valiantly strived to make this story better, despite my crafty attempts to make it incomprehensible. Immeasurable thanks to Chreechree and cwarbeck.

This chapter also marks the introduction of Treecat, who has volunteered to be a Brit-picker. Thanks, Treecat.

Thanks also to everyone who nominated me for an award (see SIYE home page). It's generous of you to think this story worthy of competition with the works of Fake a Smile, Viridian, Melindaleo, and others.

Oh, and for the record -- yes, that's a true story about that crazy man, Mr. Isaac Newton, and the stick he put onto his eye. See the fun text Journey Through Genius, by William Dunham.

For the metric-ally impaired, 2.2lbs ~= 1kg. Ron at ~80kgs is approximately 175lbs.

You may have recognized one line in particular as inspired by Frank Herbert.

And last, about nice-nice: This slang term in the States apparently has no equivalent in England. Sirius and Remus telling Harry to 'make nice-nice' with the other people at Hogwarts is essentially 'be friendly' but with a lot more context/connotation. There's a weak bit of a kissing-up aspect, but it's really more that it implies that you were less than nice to begin with, are being forced or coerced into changing, and it's slightly sarcastic/condescending/patronizing ... perhaps also along the lines of 'masquerade sufficiently to blend into another group you really don't fit well with' or 'do what it takes to fit in and get along.'

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