The Sugar Quill
Author: Theowyn (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Enemy Within  Chapter: Chapter 2: School Starts
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PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 2:  School Starts

The next few weeks passed calmly, or at least as calmly as life ever seemed to get at number twelve Grimmauld Place.  Members of the Order came and went at all hours of the day and night. Harry didn’t even attempt to listen in on the closed meetings in the library.  Since Sirius’s death, he’d lost his desire to discover what secrets the Order might be keeping from him.  He simply didn’t care anymore.  Besides, his recurring visions told him more than he wanted to know. 

Harry spent a great deal of time in his room studying.  If he got bored or lonely he’d go down to the kitchen where Remus or some other Order members were usually happy to chat with him.  All except Snape, of course, who was there with annoying frequency.  But aside from a glare or two the Potions Master ignored Harry entirely, which suited Harry just fine.

In the last week of August, Ron, Ginny and Hermione came to stay.  Harry was thrilled.  He hadn’t seen his friends since his birthday party and although they had owled one another frequently, he missed them.  But he was also troubled.  He still hadn’t told anyone the details of his conversation with Dumbledore at the end of the previous term.  In particular, he hadn’t told them of the prophecy.  Knowing that he was destined to either kill Voldemort or be killed by him weighed heavy on Harry and he was reluctant to lay that burden on his friends as well.  He was also uncomfortable discussing the contents of his visions.  He had mentioned vaguely that he was still having them, but hadn’t revealed just how nightmarish they had become.  Instead, he chose to push his cares aside and to enjoy the simple pleasure of being with his friends.

Finally the day arrived for Harry and the others to return to Hogwarts.  Remus had warned them all in his most professorial tones to pack the night before and they had.  Or at least they thought they had.  However, there were more last minute details than they had anticipated which, once again, left them running late.

“Do you four want to miss the train?” Remus called up the stairs in a thoroughly exasperated tone.  “Harry, Ron, I need your trunks down here now!  Hermione, would you please come and collect Crookshanks off the curtains in the library!  We need to go!”

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny descended the stairs in a clatter of luggage and stomping feet.  Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks and Mundungus Fletcher were waiting, along with Remus, to escort them to the Hogwarts Express.  Between them, they finally managed to corral all the luggage, animals and personal belongings that had somehow been mislaid since the previous evening. 

The walk to the train station was uneventful and soon they were at platform Nine and Three-Quarters.  Harry and his friends boarded the train and waved goodbye to Remus and the others as the Hogwarts Express pulled away.  Most of the compartments were already occupied, but about halfway down the train they came across Neville and Luna Lovegood with a compartment to themselves.  Harry knew at once why no one else had joined them.  Neville’s Mimbulus Mimbletonia had grown considerably over the summer and took up an entire seat.  It seemed to sway and croon all by itself, and Harry had the uncomfortable feeling it was looking at him.

“Hi Neville!  Hi Luna!  Mind if we join you?” Ginny asked, pushing her way into the compartment.

“Oh, hi. Come in,” Neville replied.  They all piled into the compartment.  Harry sat as far from Neville’s plant as possible and noticed Ron and Hermione were giving the plant a wide berth too, but Ginny didn’t seem to mind it at all.  They exchanged news about the summer, though Harry stayed fairly quiet, not wanting to talk about the attack at Privet Drive. 

The conversation turned to school and Ron said, “I hope we get someone decent for Defense this year.”

“We should be.  His name’s Comyn Ryan,” Luna said.  “He’s a Hogwarts graduate, but he’s spent most of the past two decades traveling on the continent.”

“How do you know that?” asked Hermione.

“My dad heard about it from one of his associates when we were in Sweden last month.  My dad’s worked with Ryan from time to time.”

“Oh, well, that inspires confidence,” Ron said and Ginny kicked him hard in the shin.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” she said. 

“If he went to Hogwarts, do you have any idea what house he was in?” Neville asked.

“Slytherin,” Luna said without looking up from the Quibbler.

“You’ve got to be joking!” Ron exclaimed.  “A Slytherin Defense teacher?  Has Dumbledore gone mad?”

“Well, he can’t be as bad as Umbridge,” said Hermione.

“No, but he’ll be as bad as Snape.  And just when I’ve manage to get away from that git!”

“I don’t imagine Dumbledore had much choice,” Ginny said.  “Nobody seems to want the job.”

“Yeah, but now that You-Know-Who’s back, you’d think somebody decent might take an interest,” Ron said.

“Well, he might be good,” Hermione said, gamely.

“Yeah, and I might inherit a million Galleons someday,” Ron scoffed.

***

They arrived at Hogwarts and took the Thestral-drawn carriages up to the castle and the Sorting feast.  The Sorting Hat once again warned them of the necessity of unity among the houses then proceeded to sort the first years.  When the Sorting was complete, Dumbledore stood to welcome the students. 

“Difficult times are upon us.  There is no point in pretending that the danger in the world around us does not exist.  In fact, to do so would be the gravest mistake.  But rest assured that you are safe here at Hogwarts from any outside danger.  And, of course, our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher will do his best to prepare you to face that danger once you leave this school.  It is my great pleasure to introduce Professor Comyn Ryan.” 

A handsome man, who appeared to be in his late forties, stood and bowed gracefully, first to Dumbledore, then to the assembled students.  He wore dark, tailored robes with a green and silver Slytherin scarf around his neck. He had short brown hair, a brown goatee and a warm open smile.  His blue eyes twinkled merrily and Harry had to admit that he seemed all right at first glance.  Plus, Snape was scowling at him, which had to be a good sign. 

Dumbledore continued as the polite applause died away.  “You will find Professor Ryan to be exceptionally qualified and I hope that all of you will take advantage of his insight.  Now, I believe it is time to eat.”

Platters laden with food instantly appeared on the tables and the students all began to eat and talk.  When the feast was over, the students found their way to their rooms and went to bed.  Harry made sure to take the time to practice his Occlumency exercises.  He didn’t really think they were helping to keep his visions at bay, but he did seem to sleep better when he practiced. 

***

The next morning, the students gathered for breakfast and McGonagall came around to pass out their class timetables for the term. 

“Potter, I don’t believe you received a complete booklist this summer,” she said as she handed Harry another sheet of paper in addition to his timetable.  “Here’s the correct one.” 

Harry looked at the list and his stomach dropped.  “There’s a new Potions text?”  His eye scanned down the page to the long list of potion ingredients.  “I don’t have any of this!” 

“I thought not,” McGonagall said.  “This is the text.”  She produced a large book and handed it to Harry.  “I’ll have the ingredients you need sent up from Hogsmeade.  You’re obviously behind on your reading, so I suggest you spend every spare moment today with your nose in that book.” 

She walked on leaving Harry to stare miserably at Advanced Potion Brewing by Ainsworth Brewster

“You didn’t do any of your Potions homework, Harry?” Hermione looked appalled.

Harry scowled at her.  “I didn’t know we had any.”

“I bet that was Snape’s doing,” Ron said.  “He’s got it in for you Harry, no mistake.” 

“Don’t I know it,” Harry said.  “When’s our first Potions class?”

“First thing tomorrow morning,” Hermione answered.

“Well that gives me a little time at least.  What do we have first today?”

“Let’s see.”  Hermione glanced at the timetable and frowned.  “Double Defense with the Slytherins?”

“What?” said Ron, picking up his own timetable for the first time.  “That can’t be right!”

“Well, that’s what it says,” Hermione said.

“Good.  I want to see what Ryan’s like,” Harry said glancing up at the head table where the new Defense professor was chatting amiably with Professor Sprout. 

“Yeah, but Defense with the Slytherins!” Ron said.  “That’ll be worse than having Potions with them!”

“No, it won’t,” Harry said in a strangely calm voice.  He was watching the Slytherins across the Great Hall and Malfoy in particular.  “We’ve taken on Death Eaters.  We can defend against anything they throw at us.” 

“Er, yeah, I suppose you’re right,” Ron said, not sounding entirely convinced.

The Gryffindors hurried through breakfast and arrived at the Defense classroom early.  The Slytherins arrived soon afterward.  The two groups of students settled into seats on opposite sides of the classroom and glared at one another while they waited for Professor Ryan to arrive.  The animosity took over almost immediately.

“Well, Potter,” Malfoy sneered.  “Have a nice summer?  How are those Muggle relatives of yours?”

“Just fine, I’m sure you’re sorry to hear.”

“Well they probably won’t be for long.  Accidents do have a way of happening.”

Harry felt his stomach twist, but kept his face passive.  “Not if your dad has anything to do with it.  That’s twice he’s botched killing me.  I can’t imagine Voldemort’s very happy with him.”   

Malfoy went white with fury.  “I’m the one who’s going to kill you, Potter.”

Harry smiled.  “No, you’re not.  But I can’t wait to see you try.  I haven’t had the chance to curse anyone since your dad at the end of last term.  It’ll be interesting to see if you fight as badly as he does.” 

Malfoy was on his feet instantly with his wand drawn, but Harry was faster and already had his wand pointed at Malfoy’s chest.  The rest of the Gryffindors and Slytherins were out of their seats as well with their wands pointed at one another.

“Ah, it’s always good to have an enthusiastic class!” Ryan said appreciatively as he strode into the room.  “You might want to put those away for now, though,” he added as he walked up the aisle between the drawn wands.  At the front of the class, he perched on the corner of his desk, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically.  His eyes shone with amusement. 

“Well, what have we learned so far today?”

The students, still standing with their wands half-raised glanced around at each other in confusion.

“No one knows?  Never let yourself be provoked!  That is one of the most important lessons you’ll learn in this class.  Mr. Malfoy, since you allowed Mr. Potter to provoke you, that’ll be five points from Slytherin.”

“What?”  Malfoy’s outrage almost equaled his surprise.

“Anyone who allows himself to be provoked in this class will lose house points.  Don’t worry, Malfoy, I’m sure you won’t be the only one.  Now sit down, everyone and let’s get started.”

The students resumed their seats.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve chosen to do double classes this year,” Ryan began.  “At this point, you’ve all learned a fair number of curses and counter curses.  “Your two houses, for one reason or another, are particularly advanced and some of you could hold your own in a fight against even adult wizards.  So teaching you more curses wouldn’t improve your abilities significantly.

“However, few duels are won or lost on the basis of which curses are used.  The victor is determined up here.”  Ryan tapped his temple.  “It’s the battle of wits that makes the difference.  That’s why self-control is the first and probably the hardest lesson you’ll need to learn.  When you allow anger or any other emotion to overrule your judgment, you give your opponent an advantage.  If you lot can learn not to react to one another, you’ll have more self-control than most wizards. 

“One final point. I am here to teach all of you how to defend yourself against the Dark Arts.  I don’t care who your parents are, how much money you’ve got, or what house you’re in.  I also don’t care what your allegiances are beyond this school.  I will judge you only on your performance in this class and I will treat everyone equally.

“I don’t do this out of altruism, but because I’ve discovered over the years that indulging in petty prejudice is one of the fastest ways to underestimate an opponent.  People who do so are fools and fools always wind up losing in the end.  Do yourself a favor and don’t be one of them.  Now, collect your things and follow me.”  

Ryan led his astonished students out of the castle and down to the lake. 

“What do you make of Ryan?” Neville asked as he fell into step beside Ron and Harry. 

“I dunno,” Ron said.  “He’s certainly not what I expected, but anyone who’ll take points from Malfoy can’t be all bad.”

“Well if he’s going to go into the psychology of dueling, it should be a fascinating class,” Hermione said excitedly.  “I’ve done some reading on the subject –”

“I just want him to teach us how to duel effectively,” Harry interrupted.  “We’re in a war and I’m not interested in theory.”

They arrived at the lake and Ryan clapped his hands briskly to get the class' attention.  “This is where we’ll be meeting from now on, no matter the weather.  Everyone pick an opponent from the opposite house and we’ll practice dueling.  Hexes only today.  No curses.  I want to see how you handle yourselves.  And spread out, I don’t want you hexing your neighbors.

“Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Potter, if you could stop glaring at one another for a moment, I’d like to impress upon you both that I don’t want anyone up at the hospital wing my first day teaching, to say nothing of my very first class.  That would hardly endear me to the headmaster.  Consequently, if either of you lets loose with anything more deadly than a bat-bogey hex, you’ll lose fifty points for your house and have detention for a week.  Do I make myself clear, gentlemen?”

Harry and Malfoy eyed each other menacingly, but nodded agreement.

“That goes for the rest of you as well,” Ryan said.  “Let’s get started.”

Each pair of students dueled until one was incapacitated, which only took a few minutes.  Once all the duels were completed, Ryan reversed the worst effects of the hexes and everyone switched partners and began again.  Those students who could no longer duel simply watched.  They continued in this way for the next hour.  By the time Ryan finally called a halt everyone except Harry had been hit by at least one hex.  Though Ryan reversed most of the effects, they were all still dirty and tired, though for the most part in high spirits.

Ryan dismissed the students and they trooped back up to the castle.  No insults were exchanged; an hour of hard dueling seemed to have temporarily obviated the need for verbal attacks.  They poured into the entrance hall only to be confronted by Professor Snape, who took one look at their bedraggled appearance and scowled. 

“What on earth have you all been doing?”

“Defense class, sir,” Pansy Parkinson answered.  “Dueling down by the lake.”

Snape’s eyes raked over them disapprovingly.  “Well, go and get cleaned up, all of you.  You can’t go into lunch in this condition.”

The students all mumbled their consent and split up with the Slytherins heading for the dungeons and the Gryffindors heading for the stairs.

“Mr. Potter.”  Snape’s cold voice stopped Harry.  “How is it that you don’t seem to be in the same state of dishevelment as the rest of your classmates?

Harry met Snape’s eyes and said, “I won all of my duels, sir.”  He continued to hold Snape’s gaze, silently daring his professor to find fault with him.  

Apparently Snape couldn’t, because all he said was, “I see,” and turned away.

The sixth year Gryffindors washed up and returned to the Great Hall for lunch.  Ginny joined them just as they were sitting down.

“So how was Defense?  Is Ryan as bad as Snape?”

“Oh, please don’t ask!” Harry said with feeling.

“He’s brilliant!” said Ron.  “I think he’s the best Defense teacher we’ve ever had.”

Harry sighed.  “He’s been going on about how great Ryan is since class ended.  We only just now got him to shut up.” 

“But he’s a Slytherin,” said Ginny.

“Well, he doesn’t act like one!” Ron said enthusiastically.  “At least, he doesn’t act like any of the ones I’ve ever met.  He and Snape are like night and day.  He even took points from Malfoy!”

“Well, I can see where he’d be your favorite teacher, then,” said Ginny.

“I’m serious.  You just wait.  You’ll see what I mean.”

***

Tuesday morning was sixth year Potions.  Harry would have given anything to be able to drop Snape’s class this year as Ron had done.  Snape was the last person he wanted to spend any time with.  But he needed a NEWT in Potions if he wanted to become an Auror, so after breakfast he and Hermione headed for the dungeons.

The first thing Harry noticed was that there weren’t just Gryffindors and Slytherins in class as there had been in previous years, but Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs as well.  Malfoy was there but, thankfully, Crabbe and Goyle were not.

Snape entered in his usual abrupt manner and strode to the front of the class.

“By this time next year, half of you will be gone,” he began.  “I tolerate shoddy work and laziness in my younger students because I have no choice.  I will not tolerate it in you.  I will dismiss anyone who does not put forth his best effort.  If you aren’t prepared to give it, leave now, the door is there.” 

No one moved.  No one even breathed.   

“No?  Then let’s get started.”  Snape walked slowly up the aisle as he spoke.

“Today you will be making Pepper-Up Potion,” he said.  You will find the instructions on page forty-three of your text.  Open your books and begin.”

Harry started to flip open his book, but Snape laid a hand on it to stop him.

“Not you, Mr. Potter,” Snape drawled.  “I’m told you aspire to be an Auror.  As such, I’ve prepared a special lesson that’s a bit more appropriate to your future endeavors.” 

Snape smirked at Harry then held up a vial of some purple liquid and addressed the entire class.

“This is the Cruciatus Poison which you should have all read about by now,” he said.  Harry hadn’t, but he hoped that wouldn’t matter.

“Though by no means as intense as the Cruciatus Curse, the poison’s primary function is to cause prolonged pain that escalates until the victim can no longer bear it and loses consciousness.  The antidote is relatively straightforward.  Any fourth year could brew it under normal conditions, but for an Auror in the field conditions are never normal.”

Harry swallowed.  He knew where Snape was going with this.

“One of the primary reasons an Auror must be accomplished at Potions is self-defense.  It is usually much faster to brew a potion than to obtain one.  That is always the case for potions that must be brewed fresh, such as the antidote to the Cruciatus Poison.  In many cases, an Auror’s life may depend upon his proficiency at brewing antidotes.

“Therefore,” Snape said, returning his full attention to Harry, “We will see how well you manage under duress.  The Cruciatus Poison is relatively slow acting.  The effects don’t become completely debilitating for at least an hour.  You have that long to produce the antidote.”

“I’m not drinking that,” Harry glared at Snape defiantly.

Snape held Harry’s gaze and said in a perfectly calm voice, “Drink it or you will never set foot in this class again.”

So, that was it then.  Drink the poison or lose any hope of becoming an Auror.  Either way, Snape had won and he knew it.  Harry hated the man.  With one last savage glare, he took the vial from Snape and swallowed the contents in one long gulp. 

Snape smirked at him again, then turned to Hermione who was staring at them in horror from her place next to Harry. 

“For today, Miss Granger, you will take a seat in the back of the classroom.  I wouldn’t want you to distract Mr. Potter.” 

“But Professor –” Hermione started to protest. 

“We can wait as long as you like,” Snape said with a thoroughly nasty smile. 

Harry looked desperately at Hermione and shook his head in warning.  He could already feel the effects of the poison and he was acutely aware of each second ticking by.  Hermione understood.  She gave him an apologetic look, then grabbed her books and headed for the back of the classroom.

“Now, Mr. Potter, you may begin.”

With a final sneer, Snape turned away and Harry went to work on his antidote.  The potion was straightforward, however it was slow to prepare, with each step needing to be timed precisely before the next ingredient could be added.  Harry worked as quickly as he could; he knew he was racing against time. 

Unfortunately, despite Snape’s assertion that the Cruciatus Poison was relatively slow acting, it had begun working almost instantly.  Harry had suffered pain before and this wasn’t as bad as some of his experiences, at least not yet.  But it grew steadily worse and it was relentless.

What had begun as a dull ache in his stomach had quickly turned to cramps that spread down into his groin and up into his chest.  A sharp pain shot through Harry’s shoulder and he gasped.  He tried to concentrate on the potion he was brewing, but it was no use.  He couldn’t focus, couldn’t think.  He knew the antidote wasn’t difficult, but he also knew that he didn’t have it right.  He ran a shaky hand across his forehead and wiped away the sweat.

“Having trouble, Potter?” Snape’s self-satisfied voice purred in his ear.  Harry gritted his teeth, but said nothing.  “Well, obviously something is amiss,” Snape continued, looking disdainfully into Harry’s cauldron.  He withdrew a vial from his robes and held it up for Harry to see.  “It’s supposed to be clear green, not, yellow.  Really, Potter, I would have thought even you could manage this.”

“I don’t think even Aurors are expected to make potions they’ve never brewed before when they’ve been poisoned,” Harry retorted as a particularly sharp pain lanced through his abdomen. 

“Excuses won’t keep you alive, Potter,” Snape sneered at him.

“Will you shut up!” Harry snarled.

“What did you say?” Snape asked in a soft and deadly tone.

Harry turned to face the Potions Master.  Too many sleepless nights filled with nightmarish visions pushed him past the breaking point and hatred and pain obliterated any thought of discretion.  

“I said shut up!”

The entire class was staring at Harry in shock.

“Well, Potter, your ineptitude seems to be matched by your disrespect,” Snape’s eyes narrowed in anger.  “Clearly, you aren’t fit to be in this class.”

“And you’re not fit to teach it!  What kind of maniac poisons his students?”

“I was planning on giving you the antidote since you’re obviously incapable of making it!  But perhaps you’d prefer to suffer the consequences of your failure.”

Harry lunged for the vial in Snape’s hand.  Snape pulled it away, but Harry was faster and his hand closed around the top of the vial.  However, Snape was stronger and he held fast to the antidote.  In fury, Harry yanked as hard as he could and the vial went flying across the room and smashed on the stone floor.

There was a moment of absolute silence in the room.

“That, Mr. Potter,” Snape said slowly, “was incredibly foolish.” 

Snape looked from the ruined potion to the rest of the students who were all staring at Harry and him in varying degrees of stunned disbelief. 

“Get, back to work, all of you.”  He snapped grabbing Harry’s arm and dragging him towards the door.  “If there is any disturbance while I’m gone, I will give this entire class detention!”  He gave the students one last scowl, then pushed Harry into the hallway. 

“You are nothing but trouble, Potter!” Snape said as he propelled Harry down the corridor. 

“This isn’t my fault!  You’re the one who decided to poison me!”

“That is beside the point now.  The question is what to do with you.”

“Just give me the antidote then you can punish me all right!”

Snape stopped in his tracks and shoved Harry up against the wall, fixing him with a furious glare. 

“There is no more antidote, Potter!  Nor is there time to make any!  The poison will run its course in less than an hour.”

Harry stared at Snape and tried not to believe what the Potions Master had just said.  He can’t be serious!  Harry thought desperately.

Snape’s attention had been drawn to a nondescript door in the wall next to them.

“Let me see your wand,” he said suddenly.

Harry obeyed automatically, pulling his wand from his pocket.  Snape snatched it from Harry’s grasp and deftly pocketed it. 

“Give that back!”  Harry yelled, outraged.

“Believe me, Potter, you’re not going to need it.”  Snape pulled Harry away from the wall, opened the door next to them and shoved Harry into a very small room that he immediately recognized as a broom cupboard.

“What are you doing?”  Harry asked incredulously.

“Stay here,” Snape said, stepping back to close the door.

Harry might have been in tremendous pain, but his reflexes had been honed by years of Quidditch.  He jumped forward, blocking the door and grabbed Snape’s arm.

“You can’t leave me in here!”

“There is no better place for you at the moment.  I am not going to take you all the way up to the hospital wing and there is nothing Madam Pomfrey could do for you if I did.” 

Snape gave Harry a shove that sent him stumbling back into several mops and a bucket.  The door slammed shut and Harry heard Snape cast a locking spell.

“Wait!” Harry yelled.  He threw himself against the unyielding door.  “Professor, please! Don’t leave me here! You can’t do this!”

“Potter, stop screaming!” Snape called in exasperation.  Then Harry heard his professor cast a soundproofing charm and everything went deathly quiet.

Harry slid to the floor and leaned against the door, stunned.  He knew the Potions Master hated him, but he wouldn’t have believed even Snape was so cruel as to leave him here alone in the dark to die.  A sharp pain knifed through his gut and Harry slumped onto his side gasping.  Every muscle in his body felt like it was being strained beyond its limit and he wondered how bad the pain would get before he passed out.  He pressed his forehead to the cold stone floor and tried to find some respite.  He moaned and was grateful that no one would hear him in his death throes. 

At least he wouldn’t have to worry about Voldemort anymore.  Or visions he couldn’t control.  He could see Sirius again and his parents, too.  Besides, hadn’t Dumbledore said that death was just the next great adventure?  But none of these thoughts did anything to lift the cold dread that gripped his heart. 

Harry gritted his teeth against the pain that was rapidly becoming agony.  It had to end, he knew.  Snape had said he had less than an hour.  But time seemed to stand still as he tossed and turned with increasing violence in the confined space, hardly noticing the buckets, mops and brooms he knocked over.  His robes had become a twisted, sweat-soaked mess, but he didn’t have the presence of mind to shrug them off.  He knew he was screaming, but didn’t care and he no longer feared death.  He hoped for it.  Finally, his struggles subsided into jerks and twitches and at last he lost consciousness.  

***

“Potter, wake up!” 

Harry felt someone shaking him and opened his eyes.  Snape was kneeling next to him. 

“You can’t lie here all day.  Get up.”

Harry stared at the man wondering if this was some strange vision associated with dying. 

“Potter, can you hear me?”

Harry nodded, still certain this must be a dream.  Snape sighed, took hold of him and pulled him up into a sitting position.

After the near total darkness of the cupboard, Harry blinked at the light streaming in through the door from the corridor.  He ached all over which had to mean that he was still alive, but the terrible pain was gone.

“Did you make more antidote?” Harry asked

Snape frowned at him.  “No, Potter.  I told you there was no time for that.”

“Then why am I alive?”

“What?”

“Why am I alive?”

Harry saw Snape’s look of annoyance slowly shift to one of horrified understanding.

“Potter, haven’t you done any of your reading?  The Cruciatus poison isn’t fatal!  It’s used to torture, not to kill.  Surely you didn’t believe I was leaving you here to die?”

Harry didn’t answer.  He didn’t have to. 

Snape shook his head in disgust.  “As many times as I’ve saved your wretched life, when will you stop expecting me to kill you at every available opportunity?”

 “You’d just poisoned me and locked me in a cupboard!  What did you expect me to think?  Besides, torturing me doesn’t exactly fill me with trust, you know!”

“It was never my intention for it to go that far!”

“No, just far enough to humiliate me in front of everyone!” Harry said, his voice choked with bitterness.  “Far enough that I’d do something to give you an excuse to throw me out of class!  How long were you going to wait before giving me the antidote, Professor?  Were you going to make me beg you for it?  You’d have had a long wait because I’d have died before I’d have done that!”

Harry and Snape glared at one another until Harry spoke again.

“What about my wand?  Why’d you take it?”

“To prevent you from breaking it while thrashing about,” Snape said.  He pulled Harry’s wand from his robes and thrust it at the boy.  “I certainly have no use for it.  Since you obviously haven’t done any of your homework, I’d say you deserved the fright you got this morning.  Now get out!”

Harry didn’t need any more encouragement.  He pushed his way out of the cupboard and headed for the stairs, but Snape’s voice stopped him.

“Potter!”  Harry turned back to see Snape regarding him coldly and the Potions Master’s next words sent a chill down his spine.  “If I ever do decide to kill you, you’ll never know it.  Then Snape turned in a swirl of robes and stalked away.

“Harry!” Hermione called as Harry entered the Great Hall for lunch and joined his friends at the Gryffindor table.  “Where were you?  I went to see Madame Pomfrey, but she said you hadn’t been up.”

“Hermione told us what Snape did, Harry,” Ron said.  “I think the git ought to be sacked, or better yet, forced to drink some of his own potions!”

“Where’d he take you?” Hermione asked.

“He locked me in the broom cupboard by his office,” Harry said matter-of-factly.

Ron choked and spat his pumpkin juice across the table.  “He what?

Harry sighed.  “He took my wand, locked me in the cupboard and set a sound-proofing charm so no one would hear me.”

Ron and Hermione gaped at Harry.  Then Ron’s jaw clenched and he was on his feet glaring furiously at the head table where Snape now sat.

Hermione grabbed his sleeve.  “Ron, sit down,” she hissed. 

“I’m going to kill him.”

“No, you’re not!  Don’t be ridiculous!” 

“Yes, I am!  He’s not going to get away with this!  I’m tired of him treating Harry and anyone else he pleases like dirt!”

“I don’t like it either, Ron!”  Harry said.  “But Hermione’s right.  You’re not going to kill Snape right here in the middle of the Great Hall.  Don’t be stupid!  You’d just get expelled and Snape would love that.”

Ron sat down still flushed and breathing hard.  “Someday, I swear I’m going to kill him.”

***

As the weeks went by, Harry found himself struggling in most of his classes.  Despite continuing to practice Occlumency, his visions hadn’t decreased at all.  Between these and the nightmares that resulted from them, hardly a night went by that Harry didn’t awake in a terrified sweat.  He knew he was disturbing Ron, Dean, Seamus and Neville and some nights he forced himself to stay awake just so he wouldn’t wake them with his screaming.  Because of all this, he was too tired most of the time to concentrate in class and his professors were increasingly looking at him with varying degrees of concern and bewilderment.

Potions was by far Harry’s worst subject.  It demanded precision and concentration that he was rarely capable of.  Snape, of course, relished Harry’s difficulties, holding each new failure up to the scorn of the class.  But even the Potions Master had taken to giving Harry perplexed looks from time to time.  At least Snape hadn’t poisoned him again.  Apparently, the man did have a limit to his cruelty.  That he had gone too far and chosen to step back was plain.  Of course, he might have just been worried about what Dumbledore would say to a student being poisoned and locked in a cupboard.  It didn’t matter to Harry, so long as Snape left him more or less alone.

Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures weren’t too bad since they required more action than thought and Charms he could fake his way through most of the time.  But History of Magic had always been boring and now Harry found it impossible to stay awake.

He had tried his best the first couple of classes then given up.  Ron had attempted to wake him a few times, but Harry had only gone straight back to sleep, so he’d given up too.  Consequently, for the first time in six years, Harry found himself really looking forward to History of Magic and wishing he had it more than twice a week.  He had taken to getting to class early, settling into his seat in the back row and going to sleep, often before Binns even started lecturing.  After the first couple of weeks, no one bothered him anymore, unless he started snoring in which case Hermione would simply cast a Silencing Charm on him.   

Transfiguration was a different matter.  Harry couldn’t simply read the text to learn what he’d missed in class.  He had to practice his transfigurations and most of the time he couldn’t focus enough to manage them. 

Currently, he was supposed to be changing a chintz throw pillow into a cat.  Harry had only managed to give his pillow a tail, feet, and two eyes that blinked at him through the fringe.  Without warning, the pillow jumped off his desk and went scurrying across the room. 

“Hey, come back here!” Harry yelled, diving after it.  Professor McGonagall caught it first and with a wave of her wand turned it back into a simple pillow.  She thrust it at Harry. 

“Mr. Potter, this is not your best work.”

“No, Professor, I’m sorry.” 

Harry sighed and returned to his seat where he stared at the pillow unenthusiastically.  Just ahead of him, Hermione sat petting a lovely Cheshire cat whose fur had a subtle chintz mottling to it.  The cat was butting its head against her hand and purring loudly. 

“Oh, you’re a sweetheart, aren’t you,” she cooed at it.

Harry scowled enviously at her and put his head in his hands.  Concentrate! He told himself.  I’ve just got to focus.

“Potter!” 

Harry’s eyes flew open.  His head was on the pillow, which he noted absently was quite comfortable.  Unfortunately, at the same moment, he noticed Professor McGonagall standing over him looking very displeased.

“If you’re going to sleep on that, perhaps you should Transfigure it into a bed!” she told him.

“I’m sorry, Professor,” Harry said chagrined.  He sat up and glanced around to see how many of his classmates were watching this exchange.  Thankfully, most were ignoring him. 

“Mr. Potter, I want to see you in my office after class.  That’s assuming you can stay awake that long.”

“Yes, Professor” Harry said, thinking that the last thing he needed was detention.  The lesson ended soon afterward and Harry followed McGonagall to her office.

“Mr. Potter, in all my years teaching I have never had a student fall asleep in class.  What is wrong?”

“Nothing, Professor.  I’m just really tired today.  I didn’t sleep well last night and I think I must be coming down with something.”

McGonagall regarded him closely, taking in his pale, haggard face and the dark circles under his eyes. 

“You certainly don’t look well,” she said.  “All right then, I want you to go straight to Madame Pomfrey for some Pepper-Up Potion.  And, for heavens sake, get some rest, Potter.

“Yes, I will, thank you,” Harry said.  He left McGonagall’s office, relieved not to have detention.  He didn’t bother going to the infirmary.  He’d already tried Pepper-Up Potion and knew it wouldn’t help.

Harry made it through Herbology, struggled through a Potions essay he was certain he’d be lucky to pass and finally joined Ron and Hermione for dinner.  They had barely sat down when Ginny and the other fifth years arrived, breathless and grinning.  Ginny sat down next to Hermione.

“You should have seen us take on those Slytherins in Defense,” she said happily.  “We did teams this afternoon, four on each side.  We drove two of them straight into the lake!”

Harry glanced over at the Slytherin table where, sure enough, the fifth-year Slytherins were looking angry and sullen.  He strongly suspected they’d be getting even in the next class.

Ron had been right about Professor Ryan.  The general consensus among the older students was that he was the best Defense teacher since Lupin.  While some were still wary of having a Slytherin teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, most were so relieved to have a competent teacher that they didn’t care.

What was curious though, was the muted reaction of the Slytherin students.  They seemed indifferent to the Defense teacher but the reason rapidly became obvious.  Snape.  It was no secret that Snape coveted the Defense position and he had displayed varying degrees of contempt for all of the prior Defense teachers.  But that was nothing compared to the pure loathing he showed towards Ryan.  Even Remus Lupin hadn’t inspired such hatred.

Ryan, by contrast, was effusively pleasant to Snape, even friendly.  Looking closely, though, Harry noted that the man’s jovial smile became distinctly predatory when directed at the Potions Master.  Whatever rivalry was going on between the two men, the Slytherin students had wisely chosen not to take sides.

Ryan arrived at that moment and joined the rest of the teachers at the head table.  As usual he seemed on top of the world.  He whispered something to McGonagall, who smiled delightedly at him.  He returned her grin before taking his seat.  Snape, meanwhile, was doing an uncanny impression of a snake poised to strike his victim. 

“You think he might actually kill Ryan?” Neville asked nervously eyeing Snape.

“Of course not!” Hermione said.  “Besides, it’s not as if Dumbledore would give him the Defense post anyway.”

“It’s not about Defense,” Ginny said knowingly. “I overheard some of the Slytherins talking.  Ryan wants Head of House.”

“You’re joking!” said Harry.  “He’s only been here a month.”

“Well, Slytherins are known for their ambition,” Ginny said.

“You know,” Ron said around a mouth of food.  “Dumbledore could do a lot worse than make Ryan Head of House.”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Hermione said.  “Snape has seniority and he’s been Head for ages.  It’d be a worse insult than sacking him.”

“Yeah, but Ryan would be about a thousand times better than Snape is.  Either we’re serious about all the houses working together, or we’re not.  Besides, it might encourage him to stay around more than a year.  If he wants it, I say Dumbledore should give it to him.  If Snape doesn’t like it, he can pack it in.”

Harry couldn’t have agreed more and spent the rest of dinner thinking about how happy he’d be without Snape around. 

***

By the next Defense class, Harry was seriously wondering if there was anything they could do to convince Dumbledore to make Ryan Head of House, if for no other reason than because Draco Malfoy clearly despised the man.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Ryan said as Harry and Malfoy faced each other during the next Defense class.  “You’ll never beat Potter that way.  He’s faster than you are.  You have to find a way to catch him off guard.”

“I know what I’m doing,” Malfoy snapped. He feinted and attacked Harry, but Harry dodged the curse and cast a Disarming spell that ripped Malfoy’s wand out of his hand.

Harry grinned triumphantly while Malfoy flushed in anger and embarrassment. 

“I hate to say I told you so,” Ryan commented dryly.

Malfoy whirled on his teacher.  “You call yourself a Slytherin?” he yelled.  “You ought to be helping us, but instead you ridicule everything we do!  Potter’s perfect, isn’t he?  The fastest, the cleverest!  Maybe you should have been a Gryffindor!” 

“I’m no Gryffindor, Mr. Malfoy,” Ryan said calmly.  “But I’m not Professor Snape, either.  I prefer to teach my students, not coddle them.  You can’t learn anything if no one ever tells you when you’re wrong!  I’m not going to waste my time or yours.”

“I don’t need to learn Defense against the Dark Arts anyway,” Malfoy sneered.

“Why, Mr. Malfoy?  Because your father’s a Death Eater?”  All the students froze.  Insults might be hurled in the hallways, but to have a teacher make such a bald statement in class was shocking.

Ryan looked around at the students, eyebrows raised in amusement.  “Oh come now.  We’re not going to have this nonsense, are we?  I’ve found that the things that aren’t said are usually the ones most in need of saying.”  He turned back to Malfoy. 

“I don’t care where your loyalties lie, Mr. Malfoy.  But don’t fool yourself into thinking they make you better than anyone else.  There’s nothing more deadly than hubris.  And remember, the lies you tell yourself are precisely the ones your enemies will use against you.”

Ryan raised his voice and addressed the whole class.

“We’ll see how much all of you have learned about dueling soon enough.  I’ve spoken to the headmaster and he’s agreed to let us have a school-wide dueling competition in two weeks.”

Neville raised his hand. “Is that going to be like the dueling club we had four years ago?”

Ryan grinned.  “This will be a competition, Mr. Longbottom, not just a demonstration, so you may find it a bit rougher.”

***

The dueling competition was held on the Quidditch pitch, the second Saturday in October.  Everyone who wasn’t participating turned out to watch and bleachers had been erected on the ground all around the stadium to accommodate the spectators. 

The rules were simple.  All competitors were paired up, and each pair then dueled until a winner was determined.  The winner then advanced to the next round.  The last duel between the final two remaining competitors would determine the champion.  There were few restrictions on the actual duels.  No Unforgivable Curses could be used, of course, nor any curses intended to cause death or permanent injury.  Beyond that, anything was acceptable.

The Slytherins took full advantage of this, using any underhanded tactic to win, although the Gryffindors’ sheer daring was usually a match for this.  Neville’s finest moment was defeating Pansy Parkinson, who had cast a ventriloquism spell to confuse him.

Although the competition started by pairing up students from different houses, this quickly broke down as more and more people were eliminated.  Friends wound up dueling one another other.  Ginny took great pride in defeating Ron who claimed that, as his sister, she had an unfair advantage.  Hermione beat both Neville and Seamus before Harry finally beat her.  Malfoy beat Ginny after a particularly dirty fight during which Hermione had to hold Ron back to keep him from intervening.  The final match was between Malfoy and Harry, who had won all his previous duels easily.  Harry had been watching the Slytherin, and knew Malfoy would stoop to anything to win.  Harry was determined not to let him.

The two faced one another each looking for an opening.  Suddenly, there was the sound of a loud explosion behind Harry and he whirled to see what had happened.  He realized his mistake instantly.

Reducto!” Malfoy yelled.

Harry had no time to defend himself.  Instead he dropped to the ground and Malfoy’s spell barely missed him.  He rolled over to find Malfoy’s raised wand pointed at him again. 

Relashio!

Protego!” Harry barely managed to deflect the curse at the last moment then cast his own curse.  Diffindo!” he cried.

Malfoy’s robes were ripped down the front and the Slytherin gaped in surprise.

Expelliarmus!” Harry yelled

Malfoy’s wand went flying.  Harry jumped to his feet, his own wand leveled at Malfoy who stood with his fists clenched in impotent fury. 

“One of these days, Potter, we’re going to catch you off-guard,” Malfoy said.  “You can’t watch your back forever.”  He stalked off the pitch just as Ryan came up to Harry.

"Well done, Potter!" Ryan said.  "I've never seen anyone your age who was a finer duelist.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“He’s competent enough for a boy.”

Harry turned to find Snape sneering at him.

“Do you think you’re up to dueling an adult?” Snape asked in contempt.

Harry’s jaw clenched.  “I’ve fought adults before.”

“Yes, but you can’t run this time,” Snape said nastily.

Harry fought the urge to curse Snape on the spot and forced his voice to be calm. “I doubt I’d need to.”

Snape’s eyes flashed dangerously and he took a step closer to Harry.

“Let’s find out, shall we?” he said

“I’d be delighted,” Harry agreed.

“If you two are serious about this,” Ryan interjected in a tone somewhere between alarm and amusement, “I have to remind you that no Unforgivables or deadly force should be used.”

“Of course,” Snape purred.

“Right,” Harry answered.

Neither Snape nor Harry so much as glanced in Ryan’s direction.  Their eyes were locked on one another’s and the hatred between them was almost palpable.

Ryan sighed.  “Fine then.  Take your places.  Professor Snape, if you’ll step over there please.”  Ryan grabbed Harry’s arm and spun him around, at last breaking his eye contact with Snape.  He marched Harry a few yards away from the Potions Master and whispered urgently in his ear.

“This is no amateur you’re dueling, Potter!  Keep your wits about you and for Merlin’s sake don’t let him provoke you!”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said. 

He turned to face Snape who already had his wand ready and looked far more relaxed and confident than Harry felt.  Harry raised his wand, nodding his readiness and Ryan gave the signal to begin. 

Harry felt as though he’d been hit by a bus.  The force of Snape’s Reducto curse had knocked him halfway across the pitch and left him dazed and out of breath. 

Spicula!” Snape called.

Harry knew he had no hope of blocking the curse, but his reflexes were still excellent.  He dove aside just as a stream of silver arrows blasted the ground where he’d been lying.  He continued to roll and another curse sizzled in the air next to him.  If Snape wasn’t trying to kill him, he was doing a great imitation of it.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to run, Potter,” Snape jeered at him.  

Relashio!” Harry hurled his own curse, but Snape deflected it with a flick of his wand.

“Pitiful.  Is that really the best you can do?”

Harry didn’t answer, but Snape’s taunting had given him time to get to his feet.

Snape smiled contemptuously at the sweating, disheveled young man and attacked again.

Reducto!

This time, Harry was ready.  Protego!  Although he could feel the intensity of Snape’s curse, his blocking charm held and the spell rebounded towards Snape. 

Murus!” Snape barely managed to stop the deflected curse.

Diffindo!  Stupefy!” Harry called in rapid succession.

Snape blocked both curses easily, but this stopped him from attacking, which was what Harry had been hoping for.  Harry put all his focus into his third curse. 

Inflictum!” he cried and an invisible knot of force slammed into Snape’s defenses, which buckled under the blow.  The Potions Master was thrown back to land winded and surprised in the sand.  Now it was Harry’s turn to smile coldly as Snape rolled to his feet glaring furiously at Harry. 

The two circled one another looking for weakness, trying to anticipate the other’s next move, attacking, blocking and feinting.  Harry had never concentrated so completely in his life.  He wasn’t even aware of the sweat running down his neck or his own deep measured breathing.  His eyes never left Snape’s as they moved almost in a kind of dance together.  The curses flew more and more rapidly as they each became familiar with the other’s style and abilities.

Turbo!  A whirlwind picked Harry up and tossed him across the pitch.  He landed and immediately rolled into a crouch.

Onis!  Hailstones flew from Harry’s wand and hurtled towards Snape.

Declino!  The chunks of ice separated and passed harmlessly on either side of Snape.

Relashio!” Harry yelled just as Snape cried “Spicula!”  The spells met in mid air and ricocheted off one another and into the crowd of spectators.  Students screamed and dove out of the way as everyone scrambled for a safer viewpoint.  Neither Snape nor Harry noticed the bedlam.  They were completely absorbed in the duel. 

Murus! Snape yelled. 

Prote-  Harry faltered realizing that Snape had just cast a blocking charm.  Since Harry hadn’t attacked, he had no idea why Snape would do such a thing and that momentary confusion caused him to hesitate. 

Snape was ready for it.  Expelliarmus!” he cried.

Harry’s blocking charm was an instant too late.  His wand was ripped from his grasp and he was thrown backward to land in a heap in the sand.  Harry shook his head to clear it and sat up, only to find Snape's wand leveled at his chest and his own wand grasped lightly in the man’s other hand. 

"So easily distracted, Potter,” Snape sneered.  “You’ll never win a real duel like that.”

Harry's fists clenched in fury and he found himself holding a handful of sand.  Without hesitation, he threw it.  The fine grains caught Snape full in the face and he gasped in pain and surprise, temporarily blinded.  Harry didn't wait for him to recover.  He launched himself at Snape with all the speed and force he could muster.  As he tackled his professor he had only one thought on his mind.  Harry’s fingers closed around his wand as he and Snape both went sprawling.  He had it at Snape's throat almost instantly. 

"I haven’t lost yet," Harry panted.

For a moment Snape’s eyes widened in complete astonishment then he grabbed Harry by the collar with tremendous strength.  Harry knew from the murderous look in Snape's eyes that the man would think nothing of strangling him on the spot.  He felt a genuine rush of fear and shoved the point of his wand deeper into Snape's neck.

"I'll do it.  I swear I will."

But Snape's grip didn't loosen.  Instead, he pulled Harry closer until their faces were only inches apart.

"Go ahead," Snape whispered. 

For a moment they stared twin looks of pure loathing at one another while Harry's mind raced to think of a curse that wouldn't hurt him as much as Snape at such close proximity.

"That will be enough!"

Startled, Harry and Snape both looked up to find Professor McGonagall towering over them in outrage.

"Get up this instant!  Both of you!" she commanded.

Harry scrambled to his feet and Snape managed only slightly more dignity as he stood up as well.

"It is bad enough that you nearly cursed a dozen students in this ego-driven spectacle of one-upmanship,” McGonagall was livid.  “But I draw the line at allowing brawling in front of the entire school!"

Harry glanced up at the shocked faces in the stands above him and felt chagrined.

"Potter, join the rest of your classmates at once!"

Harry started to apologize, but McGonagall held up a hand.  "Not a word, Potter.  Go."

Harry sighed and left the pitch.

"And not a word from you either, Severus!"  McGonagall told Snape when Harry was out of earshot.  “I am appalled!  You are no longer a sixteen-year old boy cursing James Potter in the halls!  You are a professor of this school.  Act like one!” 

Snape crossed his arms and glared at McGonagall who glared back.

“Potter is the one who attacked me in a most unsportsmanlike way," Snape said angrily.  “He’s the one –”

"This was not only Potter’s doing and don't even suggest taking a single point from Gryffindor!” McGonagall interrupted.  “It was obvious from the beginning that neither one of you had the slightest interest in dueling etiquette.”

"That doesn't give him leave to cheat!"

"He didn't cheat, Snape.  He just changed tactics," Ryan said pleasantly as he joined them.  Unlike McGonagall, he looked thoroughly delighted.  "My only stipulation was that no Unforgivables or deadly force be used.  I don't believe in having a lot of rules for dueling.  It's not very realistic, after all.  Death Eaters aren't going to fight fair."

"This is a school, Professor Ryan,” McGonagall said.  “Undisciplined free-for-alls are not acceptable."

"Nonsense!” Ryan said affably.  “Every student and most of the staff here learned an invaluable lesson about dueling today.  You never give up!  You do whatever it takes to win and if you can't win, you force a draw.  I couldn't have asked for a better demonstration!"  He smiled broadly at Snape who scowled sourly in return.

“Nevertheless, Professor Ryan, if you plan to arrange another such event, it will require a more stringent code of conduct,” McGonagall insisted.

“As you wish, Professor,” Ryan agreed easily.  “I’ll make certain of it.”  He nodded to both his colleagues and walked away.

“Don't sulk, Severus," McGonagall said, smiling slightly, having calmed down.  “Potter beat you fairly and you know it.”

“He didn’t beat me!” Snape said outraged.

“I suspect you’ll find the rest of the school disagrees,” she said, nodding towards where Ryan had rejoined the duelists.  There was already a throng of people gathered around Potter, obviously all congratulating him.  Snape grimaced.  The day Harry Potter left Hogwarts would be the happiest day of his life.

***

The students arrayed around Harry couldn’t have been happier if he’d just defeated Voldemort, himself, it seemed.  With the notable exception of the Slytherins, all the duelists plus a good number of the spectators were trying to shake his hand and congratulate him. 

“This calls for a celebration,” Ron said, clapping Harry on the back.  “We’re going to have the best party ever in the common room tonight!” 

Harry grinned at him, but before he could say anything, Ryan addressed them all.

“So, what have you learned today?”

“Snape’s not as great as he thinks he is,” Ron said immediately.  There was a general murmur of agreement from the assembled students.

Ryan didn’t respond, but looked at Harry.  “Mr. Potter, how would you describe Professor Snape’s dueling skills compared to your fellow classmates?”

Harry thought a moment before answering.  Ryan often asked them to analyze one another’s skills, something Harry found fascinating and beneficial. 

“He knows a lot more curses than any of us do,” Harry said.  “I have no idea what some of the ones he threw at me were.  He’s also a lot stronger.  Curses I know I could have deflected from anyone else knocked me off my feet.  And he’s incredibly fast.  I could barely keep up with him.”

“So, how did you get the upper hand?”

“Harry’s the best!” Dean said to more general agreement.

Ryan’s eyes didn’t leave Harry’s and Harry knew he was being judged on more than just his dueling skills.

“I got lucky,” he said truthfully.  “Professor Snape should have beaten me.”

“Why didn’t he?  Getting lucky usually means your opponent made a mistake.  What was his mistake?”

“He didn’t think I could beat him,” Harry answered at once, smiling slightly.  “When he got my wand away from me, he should have cursed me.  Instead he stood there talking and gave me the chance to attack.”

Ryan’s mouth curved up into an appreciative smile.  “Well done, Potter!  All of you need to learn from this.  It’s a perfect example of what I told you the first day of class.  Your attitude is at least as important as your dueling skills.  You’re quite right, Mr. Potter.  You’re a fine duelist, but you should have been no match for Professor Snape.  He underestimated you.  He was trying to teach you a lesson.  You were trying to win.”

Ryan looked at all the students gathered around him and smiled.  “Now, go and celebrate, all of you,” he said.  “You’ve earned it.”

Everyone began to disperse, but Ryan stopped Harry.

“Potter, I’d like a word.”

“Yes sir?”

 “I’d stay out of Professor Snape’s way for a while,” Ryan told Harry quietly.  “That’s a man who doesn’t like to lose.”

Harry nodded.  “Thank you, sir.  I’ll keep that in mind.”

Harry followed the rest of the students back up to the castle, where the Gryffindors did indeed arrange a spectacular party in the common room.  But as happy as Harry was, he couldn’t shake Ryan’s warning and wondered if his victory would be worth the vengeance Snape would no doubt exact. 

 

//
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