Harry tried not to worry about the cursed clan that requested his help. He wouldn't be able to help them until summer break at the earliest. He simply couldn't travel that far from the castle without a good alibi. Already he was pushing his luck heading to Gringotts, those trips would have to unless it was an emergency as well now that school was in full swing. He hated putting off his responsibilities but he saw little choice without outing himself to the headmaster and the world.
He had a good start on his essay once class ended and Hermione and Neville headed to lunch. The quidditch practices had been going well and he was actually starting to look forward to the first game coming up even if he was going to be in the stands. At least Ron wasn’t here to barrage him constantly about it.
“Are you certain about quitting the team? They might take you back if you grovel a little bit.” Hermione offered with a frown.
“I’m ready for a break. If things calm down next year I can try out again then.” Harry said ignoring the glares, it was taking too much of his time to practice three times a week and trying to manage the unruly members.
“As long as you are sure,” she said with a nod dismissing the entire matter.
Neville shrugged with Harry as they went back to the food. The desserts popped up and Harry hissed at his poison detection bracelet went burning hot as he reached for a dish.
“Don’t touch the pudding,” he snapped warding off that part fo the table and standing to fetch Professor McGonagall only to see her already striding his way.
“Sirius got me a bracelet that detects poison last year. The trifle made it burn my wrist when I reached for it.”
“And the wards?”
“I placed them so no one else would try and eat anything.” Harry offered with a shrug.
“Very well, please remove your spellwork so we can examine the food.” She said turning back to the rest of the students, “Everyone, please go directly to your dorms. Dinner is canceled and if you feel sick at all let your head of house known immediately.”
Flickwick levitated the offending pudding to a conjured table while the rest of the food was scanned for tampering. Two other dishes were eventually found to have been dosed but the house elves had held the food back.
“The puddings had a bad smell but Tuffy be insisting one must be served since it is Potter’s favorite.” The kitchen staff elf said wringing its hands.
“Where is Tuffy now?”
“He is leaving to run an errand for Headmaster Dumbledore, Mistress and has not returned to the kitchens.”
“I’ll scan the rest of the kitchens to be safe.” Flitwick said with a frown gesturing for the elf to accompany him.
“Perhaps you should start carrying a bozar, Mister Potter. They can mean life or death with a poisoning.” Slughorn said with a frown.
“You maybe right, Professor Slughorn,” Harry agreed, “Professor McGonagall would I be able to go to Hogsmead to pick up one this weekend?”
“Surely the boy shouldn’t be traveling when someone just tried to kill him? What if they try again?” Professor Sprout asked twirling her wand in agitation.
“I will escort Mister Potter myself since I need a few items from town as well.” McGonagall said with a sniff, “We will arrange a time later, Mister Potter, I need to discuss todays events with the headmaster.”
“How exactly did a house elf not owned by Hogwarts wind up in the kitchens in the first place?” Slughorn asked, “I thought there were wards to prevent such things?”
“I intend to ask Albus that myself. Come along Mister Potter, I would like Madame Pomphry to check you over before you return to the dorms.” The herbology professor said guiding him out of the hall as the others went back to examining the pudding.
“I didn’t even touch the pudding professor.” Harry protested.
“I would rather be safe than sorry, my dear.” She huffed guiding him up the stairs, “I was rather hoping this would be a calmer year for everyone, yourself especially.”
“I’m starting to think I attract trouble. No matter how calm I try to keep my life, Professor Sprout, trouble just seems to find me.”
“I doubt it is simply your nature, Mister Potter. You would have done well in Hufflepuff. Not all courage is rushing into danger, there is courage in smaller quieter actions as well.”
“I’d much rather prefer the behind the scenes courage, professor, but so far I keep getting pushed into the spotlight.”
“Sadly there is little anyone can do to control the wiles of the public.” She sighed opening the hospital ward door, “Poppy, do you have a moment to check over Mister Potter?”
“What has happened?” Madame Pomphry asked hurrying over.
“Someone slipped poison into a dessert on the griffindore table, no one touched it but I would rather double check than have a child get injured.”
“Of course,” she said casting a series of spells over Harry and blinking in surprise at the results.
“Is everything alright?” Professor Sprout asked looking concerned when Poppy didn’t reply immediately.
“Oh yes, he is in perfect health but I’d like to keep him overnight just to be safe.” She said giving Harry a questioning look from his results and back.
“That would be fine,” Harry agreed giving Professor Sprout a shrug as he took a seat on the closest bed, “At least this way I get a night without listening to half the dorm snoring.”
Poppy quickly locked up and warded the door, casting something at each of the portraits and windows before turning back to Harry with an anxious look.
“Have you have a full physical done elsewhere, Mister Potter?”
“The goblins insisted after a number of irregularities were detected in my vault.” Harry said warily but deciding to trust the woman.
“Thank Acesco,” she gasped sagging on to a bed, “You must thing very badly of me but when I took the evidence of your abuse to the headmaster he spelled me silent. I can only speak of it to someone who already knows about the situation. I kept trying to warn people but couldn’t get the words out.”
“My account manager is helping to cleanse the targeted students. I’m going to see him Saturday night. Come with me and get scanned, they might be able to remove the curse.”
“Dumbledore is a very powerful wizard, Harry. If he knows you have caught on he could hurt you.”
“If he tries I will leave. I have houses waiting and ready. You could leave now if you wanted.” Harry offered wanted to give the woman a chance to escape if she could.
“No, no, someone has to watch over the children. I won’t leave them in danger while I’m able. I’ll need to get busy then, I’ve been making copies and notes of the student’s files and the aurors will need them if you go to trial.”
“Thank you, Madame Pomphry. I know this is a risk you are taking.”
“A risk I have been praying for since I came to Hogwarts. If we can cleanse the school in my lifetime I will be able to retire happily.
“We are working on it, Madame Pomphry.”
Dumbledore came to dinner that day probably simply to calm everyone’s fears, the headmaster was eating the food then it had to be fine. Mcgonagall was absent, probably overseeing the added wards to the kitchens. Harry dropped into a seat and openly pulled his wand, scanning the food around him with several spells.
“Well?” Dean asked glancing dubiously at the steaming food before them.
“Nothing, just regular ingredients,” Harry offered with a grin starting to fill his plate setting off a chain reaction at the table.
“Have you heard from Ron lately?” Dean asked trying to change the subject as everyone started to eat.
“No, but the rumor is that his mother is sick.” Harry said with a frown cutting into a sausage, “It sounded like all his brothers are taking time off work to be home.”
“I tried writing a letter but the owl returned it. Do you know where they are staying?”
“I sent a letter through Gringotts to Bill, you could try the same.” Harry said, turning to Hermione as she hurried to the waiting seat, “Get caught up studying?”
“Sorry, I found this great book on wards and how they can be used. I took it to my room so I could show you a few useful spells later.” She said casting her own spells over the food before serving herself a plate.
“How are you liking classes so far?” Harry asked nibbling at a roll as he glanced around the hall, Neville was at the Ravenclaw table eating with Luna today.
“Professor Slughorn seems a more even teacher then Professor Snape.” Hermione said slowly.
“I don’t think Snape wanted to teach, he was forced there when he really wanted to be a potions researcher. Did you know he submitted constantly to Potion Master’s Monthly and other publications?”
“Was he not published often?” Hermione asked frowning trying to remember seeing the man’s name attached to any articles.
“Most were deemed too complex to replicate, they generally published only his break though work, like the wolf’s bane potion.”
“He was the youngest Potion’s Master so far,” Hermione said with a hum thinking.
“I don’t understand Professor Richmond, he’s supposed to be a dueling master but all he does is demonstrate. Do you think we will have practical lessons after Christmas break?” Harry asked changing the subject, “Even with Lockhart and Lupin we practiced in class.”
“I hope so, if not the DA is going to have to pick up the slack and that’s not really the direction I wanted to teach this year.”
“At this rate the main class is going to be pretty small either way.” Harry said with a grimace, “Only ten people showed up to the last morning class and only about twenty are coming to the inside sessions. Do you think it’s just too much right now?”
“I would think more people would be coming now that the outdoor sessions are on hold.” Hermione said.
“You do realize we are just moving the exercise inside the castle, right?”
“Do they?” She countered with a smirk.
“I hope not,” Harry chuckled, “Saturday morning is going to be brutal, consider this your fair warning.”
“Do we need permission to take the students through the halls?”
“I’ll ask Professor Flickwick after charms. Do you think there will be a problem?”
“Would you want a herd of students running up and down the halls on the weekend?” She asked rhetorically.
“Point,” Harry sighed, “I really don’t want to move to just spell casting.”
“Maybe you would be allowed to use the quidditch pitch instead? You could always ask.”
In the end the exercise sessions were canceled forcing Harry to use shadow drills in one of the larger classrooms to at least get the students moving. He pushed for accuracy, speed, and movement in every drill. They needed to know when to stand and when to dodge. Casting stinging spells randomly certainly motivated people to move, he thought with a smirk.
They lost a few more members that week when they realized the sessions would not be getting any easier. It left them with about thirty members, a handful from each year and house. Most at least seemed determined to stick it out even if they were not particularly skilled at the drills yet.
“Do you have a moment, Mister Potter?” Professor Mcgonagall asked stoping him on the way to the dinner.
“Has something happened?”
“I’ve been asked to moderate a meeting between you and the griffindore quidditch team. They have concerns with you vacating the Captaincy so early in the year.”
“Alright,” Harry said with a sigh, “I know I should have refused this summer but I’d hoped this year would be calm.”
“Honestly, I would have preferred you have the Prefect position but the Headmaster insisted it would be too much of a burden on you this year.” She murmured with a tired smile as she let him into her office where the rest of the team was waiting.
“Thank you for letting us have this meeting, Professor.” Katie said looking tired, “I’m afraid if Potter leaves the team we won’t have a chance at much of a season. Most of our members are new and untested. I want to offer to take the Captaincy if Potter stays on to play as Seeker.”
“With Ron and Ginny out as well, we’ve lost three members and don’t have easy replacements. We will need to hold tryouts again to pick backups for every position.” Dean Thomas said glaring at Harry.
“Mister Potter, would you be willing to continue as Seeker for this year if the Captaincy was given to Katie?”
“No, Professor, I just have too much going on. What if someone tried to hurt the team because I was a member or if they got hurt by someone aiming for me? My broom was cursed in first year during a game. I won’t risk the same thing this year.”
“So that’s it, you are just going to leave us flat?” Cormac snarled fists balled against his sides.
“I can understand your reasoning, Mister Potter. Team, what options do we have? Would you be willing to have Mister Potter train a new seeker but not compete himself?”
“We never had a back up seeker, we would have to run tryouts for the position along with a new Keeper.” Katie said, “If we do find someone promising it would help if you could train them at least one day a week.”
“I’m willing to help where I can, I just can’t do multiple days a week right now.” Harry agreed, “Let me know when you want me on the pitch to help train and I’ll be there.”
“It’s going to be a rough season with most of the team aren’t used to then training we do each week. We could use you to help with training.” Katie pressed.
“I’ll help where I can but I can’t promise anything. I have a feeling the rest of this year is just going to get crazier.” Harry agreed with a sigh.
“We’ll schedule tryouts for next weekend, if that is acceptable, Professor?”
“I’ll arrange to have the pitch reserved for the day.” Mcgonagall agreed making a note, “Is there anything else you wish to discuss?”
“Is the poisoner really targeting Harry?” Dean asked looking worried.
“I am afraid so, I must ask that everyone be on their guard. Mister Potter isn’t wrong in saying that those around him could be harmed until the perpetrator is caught.” Mcgonagall said with frown, “The school is taking every precaution however it never hurts to be aware of your surroundings.”
“Constant vigilance,” Dean muttered with a tired smile.
“Quite,” Mcgonagall agreed, “If there is nothing else I hope you enjoy your dinner.”