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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
The next morning, the students gathered
for breakfast and McGonagall came around to pass out their class timetables for
“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
“Don’t I know it,” Harry said. “When’s our first Potions class?”
“First thing tomorrow morning,” Hermione
“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
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
“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
“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
“Well they probably won’t be for
long. Accidents do have a way of
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“You are nothing but trouble, Potter!” Snape said as he propelled Harry down
“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
Snape’s attention had been drawn to a nondescript door in the wall next to
“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,
“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
“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
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
“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
“Then why am I alive?”
“Why am I alive?”
Harry saw Snape’s look of annoyance slowly shift to one of horrified
“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
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
“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
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
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
“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
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.
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
“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
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
“Of course not!” Hermione said.
“Besides, it’s not as if Dumbledore would give him the Defense post
“It’s not about Defense,” Ginny said knowingly. “I overheard some of the
Slytherins talking. Ryan wants Head of
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
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.
“Protego!” Harry barely managed to
deflect the curse at the last moment then cast his own curse. “Diffindo!”
Malfoy’s robes were ripped down the front and the Slytherin gaped in
“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
“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
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
“Relashio!” Harry hurled his own
curse, but Snape deflected it with a flick of his wand.
“Pitiful. Is that really the best you
Harry didn’t answer, but Snape’s taunting had given him time to get to his
Snape smiled contemptuously at the sweating, disheveled young man and
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
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
“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
“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
"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
But Snape's grip didn't loosen.
Instead, he pulled Harry closer until their faces were only inches
"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
"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
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
"This is a school, Professor Ryan,” McGonagall said. “Undisciplined free-for-alls are not
"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
“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
“Don't sulk, Severus," McGonagall said, smiling slightly, having calmed
down. “Potter beat you fairly and you
“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
“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
“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.”
“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.