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Settling In

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Harry packs his bag slowly, then leaves it on his desk as he approaches his tutor hesitantly. He takes Remus by the hand and tugs until the man sits in the chair at the teacher desk and pauses only briefly before climbing onto his lap and resting his head on the broad shoulder. A hand comes up instantly to hold him securely.

“Is … everything okay?”

He shrugs and shuts his eyes, willing his brain not to hear his sister’s approach or her whispered conversation with Remus. “Can we have tomorrow off?” he asks quietly. “At least part of it? I just … I want to spend it with my Potter parents.”

Silence surrounds him at this request, but Remus’s other hand slides into his hair and massages his scalp, so he doesn’t mind the lack of immediate answer.

“How about we work in the morning, and then in the afternoon we gather for Potter stories?” Remus offers eventually, and Harry lays his left arm across Remus’s stomach and shoves at the man’s back until he shifts enough in the chair for Harry’s right arm to wrap around him.

“Do I have to go to the Halloween feast? One of our prefects told me there’s always a tribute to my parents, but….”

“Daniel?” When Harry nods, Remus answers the original question. “I’ll talk to Professor Flitwick about it.”

He wants to ask if they can go back to the cemetery and visit his parents, if they can go home and visit his other parents, if they can undo time and bring his Potter parents to meet his Granger parents for real, but he knows that if he were allowed to leave the school … well, he doesn’t want any special favors for fame he doesn’t deserve. Missing a feast he imagines to be less of a special favor and more of any kind person would allow an orphan to miss a party on the anniversary of his parents’ deaths.

An orphan.

It’s the first time he’s ever used the word to describe himself.

He’s dimly aware of Remus’s arms tightening around him, but mostly he’s just shaking and fighting the urge to cry. He holds on to his … his … god, Remus needs some kind of title that actually says what he means to Harry, because tutor isn’t quite right. But he holds on to his Remus and fights back the tears until he’s at least breathing regularly again.

“You don’t have to—“

“Tomorrow,” Harry interrupts, sitting up and loosening his hold on Remus but not entirely letting go. “Just … tomorrow, okay?”

“Do you like Daniel?”

Harry frowns but nods tentatively. He doesn’t dislike him, that’s for sure, but he doesn’t think that he knows the older boy well enough to really like him.

“Can I call him here to stay with you while I talk to Professor Flitwick?”

“Remus, you know we won’t go anywhere we shouldn’t!” Harry glances over to see his sister, and she’s just as he imagined from her tone of voice - glaring as though angry, but with hurt showing in her eyes. She catches Harry’s gaze and instantly softens into concern and care.

“I know, but we agreed you’d never be alone on this floor.”

Harry rolls his eyes. “That was when the corridor of certain death was here.”

“Sure, you tell your mother that, but in the meantime, I’ll stick to the agreement.”

Ah. Right. Convincing Mum would not be that easy. “Daniel’s okay,” he offers.

The incantation is the same one Professor McGonagall used, but instead of a lion, Remus’s spell produces a silver owl. “Daniel Jackson, Ravenclaw Tower. Please come to my office, Remus.”

As the owl flies out the door, Harry releases the last of his hold on Remus and leans back to look up at the man. “Can you teach us that?”

“I … Well, it’s not usually taught until seventh year, and even then most people don’t get it.” Remus shrugs. “I don’t mind trying, but don’t be surprised if you can’t do it. It takes a lot of power and a lot of concentration.”

“Miss Crawford said we were the strongest kids she’d ever heard of being tested by the wand,” Hermione puts in, looking excited. “Besides, we’re Ravenclaws. Concentration is second nature.”

Remus laughs. “That’s true. Alright, we’ll try. You have to find a happy memory to be able to do it, so—“


The man blinks at them, but Hermione steps closer in the same moment that Harry slides off his lap, and the siblings reach out without looking at each other and hold hands. “Okay?”

“Yes, we know what memory we’ll use, so what’s the wand movement?” Harry asks.

Remus blinks again, then again. “You … do realize you don’t have to use the same memory?”

“And you realize that the best parts of our lives have been lived together, so it’s only sensible that such a strong positive memory would have the same impact on both of us?” Hermione asks.

“What mem— Oh. That is probably a better memory than most seventh years come up with on even their tenth attempt, much less their first.” Remus smiles at them and then demonstrates the wandwork several times in slow motion until Harry and his sister both nod. “I don’t want you to hold hands, and I only want one of you at a time to try it.”

“You first,” Harry says, and he positions himself behind his sister as he slips his wand into his pocket. If the spell takes as much power as Remus said, he wants to be ready to catch her.

Hermione makes the wand movements silently a couple of times, then whispers, “Expecto Patronum,” then finally looks up at Remus and nods firmly. “I’m ready.”


“Go ahead,” the man says, looking interested but not like he expects anything to happen.

“Expecto Patronum!” Harry sees a silver flash but reaches out to steady his sister before trying to see what it is. The light hasn’t taken a form but is instead a kind of swirling mist.

“Wow,” Remus says, and it’s clear from his tone that he didn’t expect this much on her first try.

The mist dissipates, and Hermione frowns. “I didn’t get an animal.”

“You got something,” Remus replies. “I didn’t get anything until my last week of school, and I didn’t get an animal until two years after that.”

He could have told them that before Hermione tried. Harry’s sure his sister would have been much more excited about her mist if she’d known Remus’s history with the spell.

“My turn, then,” Harry says just as a knock sounds on the door.

“Hang on,” Remus replies, turning and waving his wand to open the door. The seventh year Ravenclaw prefect stands there looking concerned. “Hey, Daniel, thanks for coming. I need to go talk to Professor Flitwick, but these two can’t be left alone on this floor. Not for anything they’ve done wrong!” he adds hastily. “It’s just part of their tutoring agreement. Do you mind hanging out for a bit?”

The older boy blows a breath out loudly and seems to slump a bit. “Merlin, your message had me worried, Tutor Lupin,” he answers. “I’d be happy to sit with them. What are you working on?”

“The Patronus Charm,” Hermione replies, and Harry can see the frustration in her eyes as she turns to face Daniel. “I couldn’t do it.”

“I’m not surprised. That’s some really advanced magic,” Daniel tells her.

Remus shrugs. “They practically begged. And Hermione got mist on her first try. I neglected to tell them beforehand that I couldn’t get an animal to form until I was almost 20.”

“I’ve never tried it.”

Harry grins at the prefect. “Then why don’t you have a go after I do?”

Everyone agrees to the plan, though Daniel looks nervous as Remus tells him to try to find a happy memory. Hermione shows the older boy the wand movements. After a deep breath, he smiles at Harry and nods.

“Expecto Patronum!” Harry focuses every fiber of his being on the day the adoption was finalized, the way his new parents scooped him up and hugged him and kissed him, the way his sister explained ‘happy tears’ for the first time, the way Mum pulled a bag from the back of her closet full of all his old Dursley clothes and started a fire in the back garden. He feels the emotion well up more strongly than his magical power and, in a sudden surge of inspiration, pushes the emotion and the memory down his wand arm, letting the magical power follow as it will but not trying to push it into the spell.

Silver mist flies out of his wand, and Harry remembers looking at his new documents with Harry James Granger written on them. The mist swirls and starts to solidify. He stumbles a bit, his sister stepping up behind him for support, and the feel of her arms coming around his waist sends another burst of emotion through his wand. The mist settles into a large animal; Harry’s wand drops with a clatter to the floor as he stares at the massive stag. It winks out of existence only moments after the wand leaves his hand.

“Merlin’s ti— er, something that isn’t vulgar,” Daniel mutters, staring at the space where the stag had just been. “Harry Granger, you are full of surprises, aren’t you?”

The boys grin at each other for a long moment before a soft thump greets their ears. When they turn towards the noise, they see Remus sitting on the floor, mouth hanging open, tears running down his face. “Prongs,” he whispers, and Daniel swears again, moving over to squat beside the man.

“Hey, Remus, come on,” Daniel cajoles, and Harry exchanges a confused look with his sister. Other students call him Remus, too? “Not right now, okay? Pull yourself together.” Daniel sets a hand on the man’s shoulder and squeezes, and it’s only a short moment before Remus nods and scrubs a hand over his face.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, and the two first-years move towards him hesitantly until he reaches out an arm to welcome them. Harry feels Daniel catch him as he tumbles across Remus’s legs, and the older boy steadies him as he latches onto Remus. Daniel leaves a hand on Harry’s back as he lowers himself to sit on the floor beside Remus, too.

“I think I’ll try another time,” the older boy says calmly, and Harry laughs into Remus’s chest.

“Don’t want to be outdone by a first year?” Remus asks, his voice sounding almost normal.

Daniel chuckles. “No, I’ve resigned myself to being outdone by both of them. They have quite an advantage with you as a tutor from the start, Remus. I just think I’ll keep my failures private.”

“Well, hurry up and get it right, and you can help me teach the rest of my seven.”

“And Sam?”

Remus shakes his head. “Not until she passes the test and joins the rest of you.”

“What’s Prongs?” Harry asks, bored of the eldest two talking about things that didn’t have anything to do with him or Hermione.

A small tremor runs through Remus, and Harry pulls back just in time to see Daniel’s arm go around Remus’s shoulders. He’s torn between anger that someone else gets to hug his Remus and gratitude that Remus has someone who takes care of him the way he takes care of Harry and Hermione.

“Remember the stories of your father and our friends becoming Animagi to help me?” Remus asks, a sad smile and more tears decorating his face. “We all had nicknames. I was Moony. James, your dad … he was Prongs. Named for his antlers.”

“That was my dad?” Harry asks, jumping off Remus’s lap and running for his wand. “I saw my dad?”

“Harry! That wasn’t your real dad, just … a spell that looked like him.”

He nods impatiently and brandishes his wand. “But I can look at Dad Potter. Even if it’s not his human form, I can still see him. Expecto Patronum!”

The spell comes more easily this time, solidifies more quickly, and he’s not as shocked by the massive animal as before. He doesn’t lose his grip on his wand and continues to feed not just the memories of his adoption day but his current joy at seeing his birth father’s alternate form. Remus gives him photographs of Dad Potter whenever he finds more, but he’d told Harry he didn’t have any of the man’s animal form. He never thought he’d be able to see it.

“He’s beautiful,” Hermione says softly, leaving Remus’s lap after giving him one last hug.

“Handsome,” Daniel offers instead, standing up and offering Remus a hand.

“Majestic was his preferred word,” Remus tells them, taking Daniel’s hand to rise. “Prongs was majestic.”

“Silver Prongs is majestic,” Harry corrects them all. “I know it’s not Dad Potter, so it’s not Prongs, but Silver Prongs?”

Remus nods, his eyes never leaving the stag. “Make sure you don’t exhaust your magic holding the spell. They never like to stay long if they’re not being used.”

“He is being used,” Harry tells them, eying Remus oddly. “And he’s not really using my magic to stay up.”

The man finally raises his eyes to look at Harry, but they drop back to Silver Prongs quickly. “Oh, Merlin, either you’re confused or you’ve revolutionized a spell.”

Harry shrugs, returning his own gaze to the stag. As though sensing his attention, Silver Prongs turns to look at him, showing off well-defined muscles with the movement. “No, I just did what you said. Let my happy memory cast the spell. Well, it was more the emotions of the memory than the memory itself, and this time I added in happy feelings from being able to look at my dad’s shape and not just from the memory. But it only took a little bit of magic, with all the feelings I was feeding it. And now, as long as I stay focused on the emotions, he’s using less magic than a levitation charm.”

“And he’s being used?” Daniel asks, and Harry resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“Yeah. We’re looking at him, and he’s cheering us up by being here. That’s a good use, since I don’t know how to send a message with him yet.”

The prefect laughs, but it’s only a quick glance at his face for Harry to realize it’s not meant unkindly. “Remus didn’t bother to explain the purpose of a patronus, did he. No wonder you’re making your own rules for the spell, or maybe discovering rules that have always been there that we just didn’t know about.”

“You can test that!” Hermione says excitedly. “Daniel, you know the old rules, and I don’t, and we both know Harry’s rules. We can be the test subjects to find out how this works!”

Silver Prongs digs a hoof into the ground and tosses his head, and Harry grins. “I like the idea. Scientific method applied to magic!”

“Merlin help us all if you two are going to test every spell,” Daniel says with another laugh.

“Can I touch him?” Silver Prongs blinks out before the man can even finish asking the question, and Harry frowns.

“Sorry, Remus. I don’t know what happened. Do you want me to cast him again?”

The man shakes his head in reply, then shakes it harder as though clearing his mind. “Right. Tomorrow. I’m going to go find Fili— Professor Flitwick. No patronuses while I’m gone, okay?”

“Anything we should work on?” Daniel asks, and Remus waves a vague hand at his desk, pushed back flush against the wall.

“They’re done for the day unless you want to teach them the logic puzzles you seven have been working on.”

Oh, yeah. Grin spreading across his face, Harry catches his sister’s equally interested eyes before turning to Daniel. Logic puzzles sound interesting, and if it’s something the seventh year students Remus started tutoring this week are doing … Oh, yeah. They want in.

Daniel drops onto the floor beside the deep blue couch where Harry and Hermione are sprawled out and sighs loudly. “The unfortunate reality is that you’re famous, Harry, and now your sister is as well.”

“I’m not going,” Harry replies without hesitation.

“Oh, no, you’re not required to go,” Daniel adds hurriedly. “Just … people will notice, and you need to know that. Nobody ever noticed that I didn’t go. Well, except Jack and Sam, but they’re friends and not people who will run to a newspaper to get the story told.”

Harry groans and turns his head to hide his face in his sister’s ribs.

“So you don’t go anyway?” Hermione asks, carding her fingers through her brother’s unruly hair.

“No, but you two being here aren’t going to get in the way or anything. I just go to the kitchens for dinner and then lie around on the couches remembering.”

“I wish I could do that,” Harry mumbles into Hermione’s jumper, and a tug on his hair makes him lift his head and repeat the comment audibly. He knows that’s really their plan for the night anyway, but he doesn’t really remember. Daniel was eight when his parents died; Harry was one.

A hand lands on the arm Harry has wrapped across his sister’s stomach. “I, uh, got some things for you. To help with that,” Daniel tells him quietly. “Remus is coming by as well with dinner.”

“Hey, you two need anything before I go?” Harry lifts his head and meets Anthony’s concerned gaze, but it’s Hermione who thanks him for his worry and sends him out of Ravenclaw Tower and on to the Halloween Feast.

The trio stays in silence for a while, the younger two hugging on the couch and the elder on the floor beside them, head leaned back against Hermione’s hip and Harry’s arm. Harry eventually speaks, but he imagines it’s not a topic either of the others expect.

“I like that you wear glasses like me,” he tells Daniel softly. “Nobody else wears that shape. It makes me feel a little better about having to wear them.”

“Not a fan of this frame?” Daniel asks, not turning to see Harry’s reaction. “My foster parents had four other kids. This was the cheapest frame at the shop. I don’t hold it against them, but the only reason I haven’t changed frames is so they don’t know about the money my parents left me in the wizarding world. I can’t use it to help them, so it would just be cruel to let them know it exists.”

“This was the cheapest frame in the shop, too.”

Hermione shifts under him a bit. “We can get you new frames if you don’t like them, Harry. Mum and Dad won’t mind. I promise.”

“They already got me new lenses,” Harry protests.

“Because you couldn’t see through the old ones!” He squeezes her at the end of the sentence and feels her take a slow, deep breath. “We’ll talk about it at home, okay?”

Daniel turns his head just enough to make eye contact with Harry out of the corner of his eye. “Tell you what. Let’s ruin the ugly glasses club. Both of us come back from winter break with new glasses.”

“I … maybe.”

The older boy sighs and shifts his whole body to make better eye contact with Harry, who stuffs his face back into Hermione’s ribs. She tugs on his hair until he lifts his head again, and Daniel catches him by the chin. “Why are you hesitating?” After a long silence, the older boy gives him a stern look. “Harry James Granger, you deserve glasses that make you happy. If I have to tie you down and pick new frames for you myself and pay for them out of my vault, I want you to be happy with your glasses.”

“You’d tie me up over a stupid pair of glasses?” Harry asks, amazed at the older boy. They’ve only met a couple of times and are hardly close, but Daniel seems to feel pretty strongly about him. Maybe sharing Harry’s first Patronus made a difference, or maybe he’s just protective of the two first-year Ravenclaws he knows best.

“Yeah, I would, if that’s what it takes to get you to accept some happiness.”

Tears well up in Harry’s eyes, and the hand on his chin moves to brush one away as it falls. “I don’t like these frames,” he admits out loud for the second time ever, and he flinches and freezes before he can stop himself. When he’d told Aunt Petunia that the day she brought them to Privet Drive for him, Uncle Vernon had told Dudley to use his fists to remind little freaks to be grateful for what they got.

“I don’t really like them on you, either,” Hermione says quietly, holding perfectly still except for her breathing. “I don’t think they really suit you.”

“Dad Potter had them, though.”

“And everyone always says how much you look like James Potter,” Daniel adds, sounding like everything just clicked for him, and yeah, Harry bets it has. He doesn’t like them but he should be grateful for them, and he doesn’t like them but Dad Potter did. “Harry, I’ve heard that your eyes come from your mum; is that right?”

He nods, pulling away from Daniel's hand.

“Well, think about it as not using something that’s more like your father to cover something that’s more like your mother. I mean, you choose frames you like, and they’ll be yours instead of your Dad Potter’s, and that way your Mum Potter will be more obvious in your eyes.”

Harry thinks about it for a while and then nods. “Okay.”

“Thank you, Daniel,” a voice says from behind the couch, and they all look up in surprise. Harry has a really weird angle on the newcomer, but he knows from the voice who it is.


“I have dinner and presents,” the man says as he rounds the edge of the couch. “Are we moving to a table with chairs or sitting on the floor at this footstool?”

“Floor,” the three students all reply at once, and Remus eyes them suspiciously as he leans over to deposit a tray of food on the makeshift table.

“Nothing fancy. The agreement was that you can’t have the feast food,” he explains as he starts shifting the sandwiches and vegetable spears around so each of the four sides of the footstool has a portion. “Come on down, you two.”

Harry rolls onto his right side, squeezing himself against the back of the couch for Hermione to work her way free. She’s not in uniform tonight; she told him when she joined him and Daniel in the common room that with all the hugs she’d be more comfortable in jeans than a skirt, and as he watches her climb awkwardly from the couch, he’s glad of her choice. His full-body couch hugs might have shifted a skirt. He follows her over to the footstool and sits facing Daniel, Hermione to his right and Remus to his left.

The four of them eat in silence except for Harry’s sneeze, Daniel’s burp, and Remus’s coughing fit when his pumpkin juice goes down wrong. Despite the lack of conversation, the meal is unhurried, and it’s forty-five minutes later when Remus places the last goblet back onto the tray. He shifts so he and Daniel are both leaning against the back of the couch and calls for a house-elf to retrieve the tray.

“Harry, I have a present for you. It’s not only from me, though. I asked several people who knew your Potter parents to help out. I have more pictures of them for your photo album, and I have four of these.” Harry stares blankly at the small balls Remus pulls from his pocket and takes the one the man holds out to him.

“It looks like smoke,” he comments, watching the swirls move around inside it. He turns the ball around in his hand and sees a small engraving on the opposite side:

From Rubeus Hagrid
1. James Potter’s first detention
2. Lily Evans meets a unicorn
3. Rescuing Harry

“Hagrid…. Why is that name familiar?”

Daniel smiles and reaches across the small space in the middle of the group to squeeze Harry’s shoulder briefly. “He’s the Keeper of Keys and Grounds here,” he answers.


“He’s going to send an owl to you in the next few days inviting you to tea in his hut,” Remus added.

“If you want to go, I can show you the way and even introduce you. Hagrid’s been a friend to me. He understands losing your parents.”

Harry smiles sadly at Daniel. “Soft spot for orphans?”

“Soft spot for anyone whose lot in life is rough,” Remus corrects. “He was there for me, too.”

“So what are these balls?” Harry asks.

Remus plucks the Hagrid ball out of Harry’s hand. “They hold recordings. Not full memories, though that’s possible with much larger balls, but voice recordings. Each one of these balls is from a different person, and they have different … call it files. Each ball has different files inside, and each file is a recording of that person telling you a story about your parents, or sometimes one about you as a baby. I listened to each of them and engraved this note on the side so you know who it is and what the files are. You can play them by tapping your wand on the ball and saying Number One - or whichever number - and control the volume with Volume Six - the numbers run one to ten, and one is quiet enough that you could probably listen to it in your bed with the curtains drawn and not bother other people.”

“Rescuing Harry,” he says quietly, running a finger along the engraving before looking up at Remus. “Is that what I think it is?”

The man nods. “It’s not easy to hear, but it’s an important part of your history. Please don’t do that yet, though. There are things I need to tell you first that I can't do tonight.”

Harry hesitates for a long moment. “Are there any other stories you don’t want me to hear yet?”

“No. Just this one.”

“You promise you’ll tell me things soon?”

“Over winter break at your parents’ house,” Remus tells him. “Harry, I’m sorry to give you something like this and tell you not to listen to part of it, but I thought you’d rather have the first two stories now. If you can’t promise me, I can take the whole orb back. Your parents want to be there when you hear what I have to say, and I imagine they’d like to hear Hagrid’s story, too, but that’s your choice.”

He thinks it over for a long moment, also eyeing the other three balls sitting beside Remus. “I’ll listen to his stories now and give you the ball back after that,” he decides. “Who are the others from?”

Instead of answering, Remus hands the balls over one at a time. Professor McGonagall has six memories recorded in her orb, including those of his parents’ reactions to being named Head Boy and Head Girl, a couple pranks Dad Potter and his friends pulled, and one just labeled Classic Lily. Someone named Elphias Doge donated four memories, two of which are about battles from the first war; one of his is described as Harry’s First Party.

“Lily announced during a meeting of our vigilante group that she was pregnant, and it turned into a bit of a party,” Remus explains. “You’ll see.”

The final orb is from Neville’s grandmother, the Hogwarts Governor, Augusta Longbottom. She gave him seven memories, including Harry & Neville’s First Birthday.

“Where do I start?” Harry asks, staring at the four orbs lined up neatly in front of him.

“With the one you’re giving back to Remus at the end of the night,” Daniel suggests. Harry can’t think of any better way to decide, so they all listen to Hagrid’s first two stories before Harry passes the orb back to Remus and asks Daniel to share something about his own parents.

“Good morning!” Harry chirps as he and his sister come through the door into their tutoring room.

Remus smiles down at him and reaches out to ruffle his hair. “Good morning. What has you so excited?”

“Did you hear about the new Dueling Club?” Hermione asks, and Remus blinks rapidly.

“No, I haven’t heard about it yet. Tell me!”

Harry grins and drops his bag onto his desk. “That new Defense professor is running it. We know what Daniel and your other seventh years say about him—“

“More than that, we’ve listened to their evidence, and I’ve read his books, so we agree with what they say.”

“Anyway, I think it’ll be even more awesome because of that,” Harry announces, hauling himself up onto his desk.

Remus leans back to half-sit on his own desk. “Let me get this straight. You believe the Defense professor is….” He struggles to find a nice way to say incompetent but eventually just shrugs in an exaggerated manner and leaves it. “And you think him teaching Dueling will be better than someone who knows what they’re doing teaching it?”

“Well, yeah!” Harry’s grin is enough to make Remus’s smile grow to match it.

“Care to explain?”

Hermione rolls her eyes. “He’s just being a boy, Remus.”

“Am … well, I am being a boy, but that’s because I am a boy and don’t want to be a girl instead.” Harry gives his sister a look that Remus can’t quite decipher, but when he makes eye contact with the boy again, the look dissipates into that grin again. “Okay, so the idea of a Dueling Club is really popular, right? Not so much with Hufflepuffs or girls—“

“Actually, a lot of girls want to go just to look at Lockhart,” Hermione interjects with a severe frown on her face. Remus isn’t sure if she’s still young enough that the idea of doing something just to look at a pretty person is inexplicable or if she’s balanced Lockhart’s … okay, incompetence … with his looks and decided he’s still wanting.

“Still, there will be a lot of people there, get it?”

Remus nods, his grin sliding more towards the territory of a smirk. “You think he’ll show his, er, lack of dueling skills? With a large audience to witness it?”

“Yeah! Either he’ll have students trying to use spells that he teaches badly - at which point it’s obvious he taught it wrong, because the entire school can’t all mess it up at once - or he’ll have someone helping him demonstrate and will lose badly to them.”

He redirects them to their own work by teaching them a few basics of dueling to segue into the more theoretical parts of Defense coursework, but there’s an idea growing in the back of his head throughout the lesson. It coalesces at lunchtime when they run into Professor Flitwick on the way to the Great Hall, and the small man tells the small group that he’s heard of the new club but isn’t a part of it. Remus joins the professors at the High Table as he’s been doing every Thursday since his professorship ended and eyes the others discreetly. A hunch based on subtle facial expressions leads him to approach the one man he never expected to speak with after graduation.

“Professor Snape,” he calls with as much deference and politeness as he can summon. “May I have a quick word?”

The tall man looks up the few stairs he’d managed before hearing his name. “Tutor Lupin.” There’s no attempt to cover the malice or distrust. “Speak your piece quickly.”

“Very well. Will you be assisting Lockhart at his Dueling Club meeting this evening?”

Snape nods sharply and offers more information after a brief pause. “Directly following the end of dinner in the Great Hall. If you attend, you may duel the loser of our exhibition.”

“You’ll be leaving leftovers?” Remus asks before he thinks better of it, but he’s answered by a sparkle of amusement in the other man’s eyes. “Tell me one thing. Are you planning to completely expose him or just slightly humiliate him?”

“I haven’t had time to gather enough proof to completely expose him,” Snape answers sourly, finally turning to fully face Remus.

“My seven have. That is, the seventh years who are in Defense. The Head Girl is one of your snakes; I’m sure she’d love to help kick that waste of space out of the castle.”

Snape tilts his head and studies Remus, who meets the piercing gaze as calmly as he can. The other man climbs the few steps to bring them level. “You want Lockhart gone.”

“I want every class to have standards,” Remus counters. “I’m sure you’re aware of my new tutoring contract.”

“The seventh years.” Snape’s gaze locks on Remus’s neck, and he fights not to fidget. “This scar is new.”

“I didn’t realize you paid that much attention to me.”

“I’m acutely aware of all dangers to my life and the lives of my students.”

Ouch. “That’s good,” he replies after a deep breath. “Then you’re with me in wanting a better teacher for Defense.”

“Why do you think I apply for the job every year?” Snape spits so viciously that Remus actually flinches despite himself.

“I wasn’t aware you did. Who would replace you in Potions?”

Snape rolls his eyes. “I have several former students currently pursuing their Masteries, one under me. This year, I have no doubt that Slughorn could be persuaded to fill in until one finished, given the right—“

“Because Harry would be in his class.”


Merlin curse Slughorn, and Merlin curse Snape for so callously throwing his … throwing Harry to such a shameless social climber. “And the rumor of the curse on the Defense position?”

“I have two theories on how to get past it,” Snape grinds out. “Don’t you have brats to teach?”

“They know how to start the lesson without me,” Remus says with a shrug. He’d anticipated talking to someone after lunch and already set up the mural wall with a History lesson that could be started with the tap of either of their wands. “I don’t want the Defense job, Snape.”

“You were quick to take it when the Board offered it to me.”

He closes his eyes and begs every deity from every religion for patience. “Because it was temporary and the other alternative was to turn Albus Dumbledore loose in Hogwarts with a Time Turner.”

Snape shudders in a way that Remus finds extremely gratifying, both because it’s Snape reacting that way and because he’s reacting to Dumbledore that way. “Then it appears you did take the … less horrifying of two completely horrendous options.”

“Thank you.” The taller man blinks, and Remus suddenly wonders if that had actually been a compliment. “You have two theories to get past the curse on the position. So it is real and you can’t break it?”

Snape draws his wand and mutters several spells that Remus recognizes as designed to keep their conversation more private. An unfamiliar one at the end turns all background noise into a vague and distant buzz. “It is all too real,” Snape finally answers with a grim look on his face as he stows his wand once more. “It has been all I can do to modify it bit by bit until it is no longer lethal.”

Remus swears under his breath. “Albus is a stronger wizard. Cou—“

“He forbid me to do as much modification as I have accomplished. You will tell no living or dead soul of this conversation without my permission, Lupin.”

“Agreed,” Remus says without hesitation. He’s shocked Snape took him into his confidence at all, much less before extracting that promise.

“The curse shows clear signs of being placed by the Dark Lord. Albus doesn’t know magic dark enough to even understand it. Anyone who attempted to modify it who did not bear the mark of the Dark Lord would likely die painfully.”

Remus swears again. “And you thought it would be fun to muck around in that kind of curse?”

Snape gives him a withering glare that makes Remus feel like a naughty second-year. “You forget that I am undeniably a dark wizard, surrounded by dark magic from a young age. I did not ‘muck around in’ anything, Lupin. I studied it and modified it carefully and slowly as I was sure of my safety.”

“Well, thank you for that, on behalf of the entire wizarding world,” Remus offers, still shocked at the information he was receiving - and the fact that Snape was giving it to him without coercion. Yet.

“The entire wizarding world can eat Merlin’s dirty pants,” Snape retorts, and Remus lets half of his smile show. He wasn’t explicitly included in that.

“So, Lockhart.”

“Yes. He’s not immediately dangerous, unlike other professors have been. Albus has my word that I will not expose him.” Snape eyes Remus up and down again, causing the tutor to wonder if perhaps his clothing had been rent open without his notice. He refuses to look down to check, though.

“But you made no promises about humiliating him in front of the entire student body.”

The smile on Snape’s face would have looked cruel if Remus weren’t becoming the man’s ally. “Indeed.”

“How about helping out students who want to expose him?”

“Think for a moment, Lupin,” Snape growled impatiently, smile dropping as though it had never been there. “How many people do you think are left in the world stupid enough to take a cursed position? Can we afford to waste this man’s idiocy on exposing him when we can use him for a year of filling a seat in the teachers’ lounge?”

“Can we afford to let the students have substandard teachers?” Remus throws back.


There’s a long moment of silence as Remus tries to reconcile Snape’s opinions. He wants to keep Lockhart, but he doesn’t want the students to have bad professors. Lockhart is agreed to be a bad professor. “I don’t see an answer.”

“That’s because there isn’t one.” Snape looks away as though studying the wall, but Remus keeps watching him, sure there’s something else coming, and he’s not disappointed. “Unless you want to convince Albus to close Defense Against the Dark Arts as a subject, seal that section of the school, and open a new subject in a new area using a new contract for the new professor who would of course cover essentially the same material.”

Ah. Dumbledore. Of course. Everything seems to come back to that man, but— “Wait. It’s that simple?”

Snape shoots him an incredulous look. “Of course not. There’s more tweaking that would need to be done to the curse to allow that, and it would take me a fortnight of uninterrupted work while the school is full of students. Still … yes, it is that obvious of a solution. However, I was not sure of this until two years ago, and because Albus cannot understand the type of magic….”

“He won’t agree to it because he doesn’t understand it, never mind that he has an expert telling him so?”

“Precisely.” There’s an odd flicker in Snape’s face that Remus can’t decipher before it disappears. Likely the fact that Remus called him an expert without thinking about it. “I am unable to take two weeks off during the year to accomplish the work without his agreement.”

“Oh, like hell,” Remus fumes. “Go over the coot’s head. You’re friends with Malfoy, aren’t you?”

“Friends is perhaps not the word I would choose, but he is very concerned about his heir’s safety.”

Remus shakes his head, suddenly wondering if Lucius Malfoy’s involvement in the whole corridor business was about protecting his line via his only heir rather than protecting his son and the other students. It doesn’t matter now, though. As long as Malfoy’s goals line up with the Grangers’ goals - which are the same as Remus’s goals - then they can continue work together peaceably.

“I cannot go over Albus’s head, as you put it,” Snape continues, unaware of Remus’s wandering thoughts. “I don’t care to explain it to you, though.”

“Okay,” Remus agrees easily. He doesn’t want to know Snape’s every secret any more than the man seems to want to share them. They’re allies in fixing the position and humiliating Lockhart, nothing more. “Tell me this, though. If the Governors ordered you to tweak the curse and Albus objected, what do you do?”

Snape’s almost-cruel smirk makes another appearance. “I must do what those above me in the chain of command order,” he tells Remus slowly. “I believe that, in such a case, Albus would withdraw his objections to avoid killing me.”

“It does seem more his style to keep you alive but try to convince the Governors to reverse their order before you could complete your work.” If contradicting orders like that could result in Snape’s death, there’s probably an Unbreakable Vow involved, and that tells Remus much, much more about Snape’s loyalties than either of them are probably quite happy about.

“Governor Prewett is aware of the curse and agrees with Albus about it,” Snape says shortly, drawing his wand once again. “I believe all of the others to be ignorant of it.” He pulls down all of the privacy wards in one smooth motion and spins on his heels. His left boot is on the first step when Remus calls for him again.

“Professor Snape! I don’t need to the duel the winner or loser, but I’ll be there tonight if you need an extra hand.”

He thinks he sees the dark head nod before Snape resumes walking, but it could have just been the natural motion of a body going down stairs.

“There you two are!” Anthony says with clear relief, running up to the Grangers and Tutor Lupin outside the Great Hall. “Er, hello, Tutor Lupin.”

“This is Anthony,” Hermione introduces quickly.

“Ah, the young man who knows History so well? Good to meet you, Anthony.”

Anthony smiles nervously as he shakes Tutor Lupin’s hand. “You as well, sir.” He withdraws his hand as soon as his upbringing suggests isn’t outright rude and turns to his friends. “Could you have cut it any closer? We’ll barely have time to eat!”

“You didn’t have to wait,” Harry replies curtly. “Come on, then. Remus, we’ll see you later.”

“I appreciate you waiting, Anthony,” Hermione says with a smile, tilting her head toward Harry and rolling her eyes. “You don’t have to, though, if you’re ever worried about missing dinner.”

He shrugs and walks with Hermione through the huge doors and to the Ravenclaw table. “You’ve told me how Tutor Lupin is. I can’t imagine he’d ever actually let you miss dinner. And what do you mean you’ll see him later? It’s Dueling Club tonight!”

Hermione grins as they sit. “Yeah, he’s coming to the club. He wouldn’t say much, just that he talked to the person Lockhart is going to duel and he might need to help that person run the actual club after the demonstration.”

“Demonstration!” Anthony nearly drops a drumstick on the table but manages to get it over to his plate before letting his excitement get the better of him. “Two adults are going to demonstrate dueling?”

“Well, it could be one of Remus’s seventh years,” Harry puts in, and Hermione nods as she continues chewing her mouthful of carrots. “He never actually said it was going to be an adult. But yeah, a demonstration, and whoever it is must be good. Remus said he’s really looking forward to watching it.”

Hermione snorts and glances up the table to where one of the seventh years is watching the conversation with a smile. “I’m not sure they have to be good to beat that man in a duel,” she says without looking away from the older boy, who raises his cup and grins in a mock salute. She finally turns her attention back to Anthony. “We overheard a story about one of his upper level classes. I think all you need to do to beat Lockhart is not butter your wand.”

Anthony tries confused looks, pleading looks, and outright questions around the rest of his dinner, but the Grangers don’t give him any more information. They keep looking at each other and dissolving into giggles. Anthony likes them both, really likes being friends with them - especially the early morning ritual he and Hermione have slid into - but sometimes it’s like trying to hang out with a pair of twins who can use Legilimency silently. He never presses when it happens during a conversation about home, families, or life before Hogwarts, because Harry’s made it clear without ever saying a word that those subjects are not up for discussion, but this is definitely not related to any of that. Still, the Dueling Club meeting is very soon, so hopefully after it they’ll share whatever doesn’t come to light during the meeting itself.

When the food disappears from the platters, the seventh year who’d saluted them with his cup slides down the bench until he’s right next to Anthony. “Grangers, Goldstein,” he greets, and Anthony sees the prefect badge on the boy’s chest.

“Jackson,” he replies, nodding politely.

“Ah, you can just call me Daniel,” the boy tells him. “Look, guys, we need to get set up for the Dueling Club. Don’t eat so fast you make yourself sick, but try to hurry up, okay?”

Anthony looks over his plate and nods. “I will.”

“What if we take something we can hold without a plate and get out of the way?” Harry sticks an apple in his pocket and lifts the rest of his drumstick, but Hermione slaps his elbow.

“Ew, Harry. No. First of all, that’ll drip all over your robes, and secondly, what on Earth would you do with the bone?”

Anthony looks at his plate consideringly. “Apple and bread to go, eat the rest first,” he declares, and the Grangers both agree and follow his lead. As soon as they rise from the table, Jackson - Daniel - also stands and calls out to the Head Boy, who joins him at the table to use both their magic to move the massive piece of furniture over to a wall to join the other long tables. Professor Dumbledore chants a long incantation, and a wall seems to grow up from the floor until it has the tables completely blocked off.

“Oh, wow!”

Anthony follows Hermione’s gaze and sees some sort of platform rising where the High Table usually is - no, in front of it; he’s pretty sure another wall was raised to block off the High Table while they were looking elsewhere. The platform appears to be a stage; Professor Lockhart is directing the prefects near him, and an instant later, the stage is golden.

“Too bad he isn’t trying to do it himself,” Hermione mutters, and Anthony elbows her.

“He needs his strength for the dueling and teaching!”


Anthony considers glaring at his friend for her lackluster response, but he’s too entranced by the work the prefects are doing. A pattern appears on the top surface of the stage that he recognizes from the time he went with his uncle to an amateur level dueling debut - the stars and half-moons on it are decorative as well as providing the duelers with a guide for distance. He starts to turn to explain it to the Grangers, but then several people surround the stage and raise their wands. He recognizes Tutor Lupin mixed in with Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sinistra with one adult he doesn’t know but recognizes as a professor. She probably teaches one of the electives they can add in their third year, he decides.

“What are they doing?” Harry asks.

“Shielding the stage so a stray spell can’t hurt the audience,” Anthony explains.

”That is definitely a good plan,” the other boy replies, relief and amusement both evident in his voice. Anthony frowns but doesn’t look away from the adults chanting together.

“They stand at the five points of a star and chant the spells together. For a professional duel or an honor challenge duel, you have to be certified - all together, as a group of five - to be able to raise the shields.”

Hermione hums again, but this time it’s with interest. He glances over at her, but her attention is riveted on the shielding group as well.

“My grandfather used to be part of a certified group,” he says as he looks back at the group. “He likes to talk about it, if you want to write to him. I’m sure he’d be happy to tell you all about it.”

“That’s nice of him,” Hermione says, and Anthony smiles at the sincerity of the words. “Remind me to write a letter this weekend for you to send to him.”

The adults step back and nod to each other. There’s no visible sign of the shields, but Tutor Lupin steps onto the stage and shoots a few spells in different directions. They’re all absorbed without issue, and he grins and says something they’re too far away to hear. The other adults nod again and wander toward the edges of the Great Hall, all spacing out far enough to step in and handle any problems that might come up.

“You three probably want to get closer if you want to be able to see.”

Anthony just barely manages not to jump when the voice sounds from his right. He turns to see Daniel Jackson grinning down at them and watches Harry punch the older boy in the arm.

“You don’t have to do that!”

“You’re the one who wanted to learn what Remus is teaching us,” Daniel replies, punching Harry’s arm in return. “It’s called situational awareness. You don’t even want to know what Jack is doing to, ah, help me learn.”

“Maybe I should help him,” Harry retorts, and Anthony stifles a laugh.

“Front of the room, guys. Lockhart’s about to have the doors open, and you’re short little firsties.”

Anthony rolls his eyes at the language but starts walking toward the stage. It’s true enough; the three of them are pretty short compared the school in general, and they’ll have no chance of seeing over any seventh year student that get in front of them.

“Prefects, direct your wands toward the doors and prepare to open them!” Lockhart called, his voice magically magnified through the room.

“Merlin,” Daniel mutters, holstering his wand as he walked alongside Anthony. “Like that takes all of us. Maybe if you’re a pretty boy who only knows how to smile.”

“Jackson!” Anthony almost whispers in his shock.

Daniel shrugs, clearly not sorry. “Just … watch him during the demonstration, yeah?”

Anthony watches Professor Lockhart as the man welcomes the students - seemingly all of the school - to the first meeting of the Dueling Club and explains the plan for the students. First, he and his still-unnamed assistant will demonstrate a short duel. After the demonstration, they’ll start teaching the basics of dueling to the crowd. He wonders how in the world they plan to control this many students ordered to duel.

Finally, the time for the duel arrives, and Professor Snape steps up onto the stage. His dark eyes survey the crowd without expression before landing on Professor Lockhart. The small smile that slowly slides onto Professor Snape’s face as he looks over the blond man terrifies Anthony.

Professor Lockhart’s explanation of the bow and the dueling stances is something Anthony can tune out, since he already knows it. He waits for the moment they cast their first spells and—


Professor Lockhart’s on his back, wand somewhere in the crowd, looking completely shocked. Professor Snape looks smug and angry, an odd combination to be sure. One quick disarming spell, that’s all it took. Maybe Professor Snape is mad because it was so easy.

“There you have it!” Professor Lockhart says, climbing to his feet and pasting a smile on his face. Anthony reckons it’s only because he was watching, but he would swear he saw a bit of a glare directed at Professor Snape. “That was a little demonstration of the disarming charm that we arranged for you.”

Liar, Anthony thinks to himself, unsurprised to hear the thought echoed in whispers by several people around him. You wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been arranged from the beginning.

“Of course, for a real duel, Professor Snape wouldn’t have stood a chance against me. You see, he was a bit slow in his wandwork—“

No, he really wasn’t, Anthony thinks, sure his disbelief is painted across his face. It’s clear on Professor Snape’s face, right alongside the anger.

“But no matter!” Lockhart - and yes, he’s done using the title for that man - says with a broad grin. “Everyone draw your wand, and we’ll practice the spell!”

“Oh, Merlin,” Anthony says, realizing an instant too late that the words are coming out rather loudly.

“Don’t worry, Mr Goldfinch!” Lockhart cried, and Anthony felt both eyebrows hit his hairline. Goldfinch? No Goldstein in living memory has been called that! “I’m certain even you can master this spell with enough practice."

Anthony’s not a person who swears by nature, but enough is enough. He yanks his wand from his pocket and points it at Lockhart. “Expelliarmus!” he cries, and Professor Snape catches Lockhart’s wand neatly out of the air.

“Well, Gilderoy,” Professor Snape says in a very satisfied tone, “perhaps we should revisit the lesson plan.”

“Wh— I— Thank you for catching my wand, Professor Snape,” Lockhart says, finally pulling his smile back on. Merlin, but that grin is getting on Anthony’s last nerve. “And thank you, Mr Goldfinch, for helping me demonstrate that even a nervous first-year student can learn the spell.”

Anthony grits his teeth and takes a deep breath, then another, but it doesn’t seem to help. “Goldstein,” he says sharply. “Are you capable of learning the spell? I only ask because I know you aren’t a nervous first-year.”

The entire room goes silent except for one snort of laughter that isn’t quite muffled. He wishes he could look around to figure out who it is, but he’ll be thrown to Acromantulas before he breaks eye contact before this blond fraud.

“Mr Goldfi— Goldstein, I assure you, only the most competent of applicants are given jobs as professors at Hogwarts.”

“Who else applied, the giant squid?” a voice calls from the back of the room, and Anthony grins in agreement.

“Of course, students, that is not information that anyone except the Board of Governors and Professor Dumbledore can know.”

“Come on, anyone involved in interviews also knows,” a different voice calls.

“Can you even disarm anybody?”

“I bet he can’t.”

“Well, I bet he can!” Anthony is surprised to see that this is a Ravenclaw, but he suspects she’s been looking at the man’s smile more than his teaching.

“A Galleon says he can’t,” the previous voice replies, and the girl responds almost instantly.

“You’re on!”

Similar bets begin to crop up all around the room. Anthony braces himself on Hermione’s convenient shoulder to stand on his tiptoes and scan the edge of the room for the other teachers, but they all look to be pointedly occupied with other things. Professor McGonagall is picking the same piece of invisible fuzz off her sleeve over and over. The female professor he doesn’t know is studying her nails with the kind of intensity reserved for things that might kill someone. Professor Flitwick is controlling his hovering spell to move up and down while he … dances? Professor Sinistra is staring at the ceiling - okay, that one isn’t so weird, seeing as how she’s the Astronomy professor and the stars are perfectly reflected there. Tutor Lupin, however, is watching the proceedings with distinct interest, and Anthony realizes he’s the only adult there who isn’t bound to enforce Hogwarts’s rules.

He returns his attention to the stage in front of him, absently patting Hermione’s shoulder in combination thanks and apology. Professor Snape is also watching the room with interest, curiously not hiding his attention from the students but not putting a stop to any of the betting.

“Okay, everyone, that’s enough,” a voice cuts through finally. Anthony again borrows Hermione’s shoulder to look around.

“Head Boy,” he hisses in her ear, and she nods thoughtfully before passing the message along to her brother.

“I think we’ve all had ample time to make bets among ourselves,” O’Neill continues shamelessly. “The odds are, from what I could hear around me, approximately twenty to one. No! It’s too late to change your bets now! However, we do have the time to place one new bet.”

“Gilderoy Lockhart,” Daniel interrupts loudly, and Anthony cranes his neck just in time to catch O’Neill give the other seventh-year a dirty look. “I would like to make an honor wager with you.”

“A what?” Hermione asks at the same time as many other voices.

Anthony hears dozens of whispered explanations around the room and adds his own for the Grangers’ benefit. “A bet where the honor of one or both parties is at stake. Listen.”

“My terms are this: If you successfully disarm me, you have an open favor owed to you personally by myself or my descendants. If you do not disarm me in two attempts, you resign from your position, admit to the press every facet of your fraud, and never recant your admission.”

Lockhart stares down at the prefect. “I do not accept. You don’t have the clout to ask an honor wager from me.”

“Then from me,” O’Neill says, but Lockhart refuses him as well.

“From me,” a younger voice suddenly declares, and Anthony whips his head to the left so hard he feels a twinge. Harry Granger is staring defiantly up at the blond on the stage. Anthony risks a look up: Professor Snape looks almost as surprised as Lockhart. “If you disarm me using the spell Professor Snape demonstrated, I will issue a press release saying I wish I were in your classes. If you don’t, in only one attempt, you will do everything Daniel outlined earlier. The full honor of the Potter and Lockhart names is also at stake.”

Full honor of the Potter name. There’s no way Harry really knows what that means, but it’s too late to explain it. Besides, Anthony is pretty certain both that Harry will win the wager and that Harry thinks equally if not more highly of his Granger name than his Potter name.

“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Lockhart says after a beat. Anthony’s glad once again that Daniel herded them to the front of the room; he’s close enough to see the sweat starting to slide down the man’s face. “I release you from the wager on the grounds that you’re still inexperienced.”

Harry pushes through the crowd, finding little resistance as students part before him. He struggles to climb onto the stage until a Gryffindor first-year - Weasley … Ronald Weasley - takes one knee and offers the other as a sort of step for Harry to reach the stage more easily. “I do not accept your release,” he says as soon as he’s standing in front of Lockhart. “Do you sacrifice your honor, job, and reputation rather than complete the wager?”

The boy must have heard of honor wagers before, Anthony realizes. He really does know what he’s doing. He has to know what the full honor of the name means, too, then. Harry must be extremely certain of Lockhart’s lack of skills.

“I … of course not,” Lockhart answers slowly, eyes darting around. “I will disarm you in one attempt, then, Mr Potter.”

“Mr Granger, and don’t forget you have to use the spell Professor Snape demonstrated on this stage,” Harry returns, looking as confident as his terms imply.

Anthony feels someone grab his hand and glances down to see it’s Hermione. He’s confused until he remembers how often he sees her holding her bother’s hand. With Harry on the stage, she’s just grabbed for the closest familiar hand. Actually…. He leans around stifles a chuckle. The two closest hands, familiar or not. The Hufflepuff third year gives Anthony a confused look but doesn’t try to remove her hand from Hermione’s.

“Rest assured, if you attempt any spell other than the one specified, I will defend this student,” Professor Snape says quietly enough that Anthony’s pretty sure nobody behind him hears the words. “Be sure you don’t forget that, Gilderoy.”

Lockhart breaks out in a fresh sheen of sweat at the words, to Anthony’s confusion. Is Professor Snape implying that Lockhart has already forgotten the disarming spell? No, that can’t be it. Is he threatening to obliviate the man? Well, Anthony wouldn’t really put it past Professor Snape, but it’s an oddly specific threat for a man of that background.

“V-v-very well,” Lockhart stammers. Anthony winces at the sudden vice-like grip on his hand.

“Ease up, Hermione,” he murmurs softly, leaning closer to her ear so she can hear him without eavesdroppers butting in. “Lockhart’s beyond nervous. It’s nothing to worry about.”

“Quirrell stuttered,” she replies shortly, eyes not leaving the stage.

“Tutor Lupin would step in if he thought there was a problem.” Well, Anthony thinks he would, at least. Hermione relaxes, though, so he must have gotten it right. He flexes his fingers while carefully maintaining a hold on her hand.

On the stage, Lockhart is taking a position opposite Harry, who is holding his wand pointed at the floor in a grip that looks loose enough for a gentle breeze to disarm him. Professor Snape moves to stand behind Harry, his own wand coming up to bear.

“How do I know you won’t shield him?” Lockhart asks, sounding very much like he’s searching for a reason to call off the wager.

“If you only cast the disarming charm, I won’t,” Professor Snape replies in a bored tone. “What do I care if the brat gets disarmed? I simply can’t allow him to be … damaged … under my care.”

Hermione’s fingers tighten on Anthony’s hand again. “I’m going to kill him,” she hisses, and he’s really not sure which of the three on the stage she means.

“What if he shields himself?”

Harry laughs. Honest to Merlin laughs. Anthony can hardly believe his ears. “Come on, if you can’t get through a first-year’s shield—“

“You’re the Boy-Who-Lived!” Lockhart almost shouts. “You’re probably all kinds of powerful!”

One story he has gotten about the Grangers’s past is of their first encounter with magic and how strong they both are. Anthony never held a testing wand, but he’s still certain they’re both more powerful than he is. Still—

“Did you agree to this or not?” Professor Snape asks. “Some of us have grading to do, seeing as we’ll be teaching tomorrow.”

“Expilarms!” Lockhart yells, waving his wand in a very rough approximation of the movements necessary for the disarming charm.

Harry waits a moment, then lifts his wand hand as though the spectators have any doubts about the spell.

“He shielded!”

Harry rolls his eyes. “You mispronounced the spell and performed the wand movements like a monkey who got into Dad’s scotch. It’s expelliarmus, and watch my wand.” He demonstrates the wandwork perfectly, then eyes Lockhart. “One more go for you, then. If you disarm me this time, I won’t require your resignation.”

Lockhart might keep the job one more day, then, until the story hits the papers and gets back to parents. The man doesn’t hesitate, though. “Expellarms!”

Harry shows off his wand again. “Same problems, though your pronunciation was closer. I’m happy to teach you, if you like.”

“Obliviate!” Lockhart yells, and oh, that’s why Professor Snape emphasized the word ‘forget'. Oddly, Lockhart seems to have directed the spell at himself rather than at Harry.

The entire Hall is quiet as Lockhart removes the wand from beneath his chin and looks at it curiously. He then looks up and smiles at Professor Snape in a way that seems almost innocent. “Hello.” He looks out over the crowd, eyes widening. “Oh, my, that’s a lot of children. Shouldn’t they be in a school? Whatever are they wearing?”

Anthony expects a flurry of whispers of break out, but the room remains completely silent.

“And that, students, is why you don’t do complicated spells while overly emotional,” Tutor Lupin finally says from the edge of the room. “I believe we’ll call Dueling Club over the night. Prefects?”

Nobody hesitates despite Tutor Lupin not being a teacher, though he was just recently. Anthony wonders if Tutor Lupin and Professor Dumbledore will take over the Defense classes again. He tries to leave with the rest of Ravenclaw, but the grip on his holds him and the Hufflepuff hostage as Hermione stays planted in front of the stage.

“Anthony Goldstein,” he says to the girl over Hermione’s head.

“Juliette Gordon. Nice to meet you. I’m guessing we’re attached until Potter returns?”

He smiles a bit ruefully. “It seems likely. He prefers Granger, though. They both do.”

“I’m guessing that was so he can’t expose himself as a fraud,” Harry interrupts from the stage, where Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, and Tutor Lupin have also gathered. Professor Snape has moved to the far end as though being near Harry might contaminate him in some way, but the others are all standing around Lockhart, whose wand is now in Harry’s hand.

“That’s likely, Mr Granger,” their Head of House replies. “I doubt he intended to obliviate himself quite this thoroughly.”

“Are you a midget?” Lockhart asks, and Flitwick slaps the man’s hand away from him rather harder than strictly necessary. Anthony doesn’t blame him. From what he understands, that would be rude even in the muggle world, but to say that to someone with goblin blood in them….

“I’ll see my students back to the Tower, then,” he says with a nasty glare at the obliviated man before he turns to levitate himself down from the stage. “Oh. Miss Gordon.”

“I’m attached,” the Hufflepuff explains, lifting her hand where Hermione’s still clutching it.

“Harry Granger, go hug your sister,” Professor Flitwick says. His tone is even, but when Anthony meets his eyes, they both look away quickly, suppressing laughter.

The black-haired boy leaps from the stage and barely has time to stumble before Anthony feels his hand being released and sees Hermione rush toward her brother.

“They have trouble with being separated,” Anthony explains to the bemused Hufflepuff beside him as he massages his hand.

“I see. Well, I’ll just head back to my own common room. Nice to meet you, Goldstein.”

“You too, Gordon.” He watches her leave the common room as much because he wants to as to give the Grangers a moment of privacy before their long trek up to Ravenclaw Tower.

He turns when he hears his name being called, unsurprised to find both Grangers looking expectantly at him but fairly shocked to see Draco Malfoy and two larger boys with them. “Good morning, Grangers, Mr Malfoy….” He raises his eyebrows in a question as he trails off.

“My— Our friends Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe,” Malfoy introduces quickly. “Tutor Lupin.”

The two mumble a sort of greeting without quite meeting Remus’s eyes. Hermione pats one on the forearm and whispers something to him that makes the boy beam, though he doesn’t seem to meet her gaze, either. Remus makes a mental note to ask about him later.

“What are you doing here?” Harry asks bluntly. “It’s Monday. We don’t see you until last block.”

Remus laughs. “Really, Harry? It’s Monday? I got confused and thought it might be Thursday, what with Sunday having come yesterday.”

The black-haired boy sticks his tongue out. “You didn’t answer the question.”

“There’s not a lot I can tell you,” Remus replies hesitantly, knowing with painful certainty that the mystery will only make them interested but not having a lot of choice in the matter. “I have a meeting with Professor Snape, then a meeting with Tutor Zanlow, then a meeting so secret I don’t even know who will be there.” He has a good idea, though. The summons was exactly the way old Order of the Phoenix meetings summons were during the war, so probably a few of the old members were invited back. Snape hasn’t said anything about it, but it seems likely a curse this long-lasting and powerful could be somehow tied directly into the caster. His modifications to it could draw You-Know-Who’s attention back to the school.

“Tutor Zanlow?” Malfoy repeats, looking thoughtful. “My old Potions tutor, remember?” he says to the other kids. “If I don’t see him, tell him I said hello.”

Messenger owl for a Malfoy. “I’ll try to remember.”

“Thank you, Tutor Lupin. I appreciate the effort.”

Damn. Now he really does have to try to remember. “Grangers, we should be good for the usual time, but Professor Flitwick helped me set up your History lesson. If I’m late, start with that.”

Harry opens his mouth with the buildup to a full whinge fest on his face, but he closes it after a brief glance around. Remus can only be grateful that Harry’s finally getting comfortable enough with him to complain about lessons, but he’s allowed to be more grateful that the presence of his friends kept the whining inside. “Alright,” he replies, still obviously unhappy but not arguing. “If you’re on time, can we do another lesson?”

“We’ll see.” He has to spend every morning of the next two weeks bolstering protective enchantments around Snape, but today will be the most magically draining as he sets them for the first time. “Good to meet you, Mr Goyle and Mr Crabbe.”

“You, too,” Crabbe responds rather more loudly than usual before chewing on his bottom lip, still not meeting Remus’s eye. Goyle just grunts and nods. He’d like to sit down and puzzle out the boys’ behaviors - especially with how Hermione seemed so protective of Crabbe - but he’s already running late.

He waits until he’s out of sight of students before picking up his normal sedate pace to an outright run, jumping down groups of stairs as quickly as James always had. It’s only two flights down to Snape’s office, and he skids to a halt in front of the closed door just a couple of minutes later. Before he can knock, the door swings open.

“You’re late,” Snape says quietly, intent on what appears to be grading in front of him.

“Grangers and Malfoy held me up in the entrance. Introduced me to Crabbe and Goyle.”

Snape hums and looks up from his desk. “Did they.”

“Are you ready?”

“Change in plans. Roderick will be here in five minutes. I’m meeting with him first. You may sit in, if you choose.”

Roderick? Must be Zanlow. “Five minutes gives me time for a question,” Remus says, surprised when Snape sets down his quill and gives what appears to be his undivided attention to Remus. “How dangerous are these curse modifications to the people in the castle who aren’t shielded?”

“Less so than they are to me and the Headmaster. Less so than they would be to anyone who still held the title of Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. And yet….” Snape pauses for almost a full minute, seeming to study Remus. He fights to keep his breathing even and his gaze unmoving in response despite his instinct to pull away from the blank blackness. “And yet, if I did not need them to be in the castle for this to be possible, I would recommend sending them all home.”

Either ‘pretty dangerous after all’ or Snape has a well developed sense of student preservation, and it irks Remus not to know for sure.

“They risk temporary magical weakness, nightmares, mild dizziness, and confusion of incantations when casting spells. I have warned all professors of these side effects as it may influence their classes. Consider yourself also informed now as it affects your … tutoring duties.”

That could escalate quickly into actual danger, but with the professors warned, hopefully any issues can be headed off at the start. “Thank you,” he tells Snape, startled at the level of sincerity. The other man is also surprised, judging by the way he freezes for several seconds before sliding his facial expression firmly back to professional.

“Were you summoned to … the meeting?” Snape asks after flinging the buzzing privacy ward from last week on the office door.

Remus nods. “I was wondering who else was attending.”

Snape’s mouth tightens. “There is concern that my tampering with the ward may in some way alert the Dark Lord and draw his attention back to the castle.”

“Because he’s not going to try infiltrating Hogwarts again if we don’t mess with the ward.”

The other man snorts out a chilling laugh. “I suggest you try to explain that to Albus. I can only hope he listens more closely to you than to me.”

“Is You-Know-Who strong enough to do anything right now, anyway?”

“We can’t be sure,” Snape says slowly, “but I strongly doubt it.”

“And he’s already motivated to get stronger. Is that what the entire meeting is about?”

“To the best of my knowledge. Lupin, sit already. I refuse to allow you to strain my neck.”

Remus turns an angry retort about not having been invited to sit into a calm smile and takes one of the chairs in front of Snape’s desk. “And you will be there?”

“It will not be my first meeting,” the man replies. “Albus recommended that I inform you of the length of my involvement before the meeting. I would prefer not to.”

He’s curious, but does he actually need to know? “Then don’t,” he decides firmly.

“I was Madison Pritchard.”

Remus freezes like a prey animal trying not to be noticed by its hunter. Madison had joined the Order just months before the end of the war. A surly bastard by all accounts, his dark humor had somehow drawn Remus in, and he’d even counted the man a friend. Another friend taken from them in the days following Harry’s victory over He-Must-Not-Be-Named, or so he’d thought. To find out Madison had been Snape all along….

There’s a knock on the door, and Snape gives Remus a searching glance before dropping the privacy ward. “Zanlow. The classroom is one door to the right. Familiarize yourself. I will finish this business as quickly as possible, but it is unavoidable.” The ward is put back up without the door ever opening, without a chance for anything but Snape’s short speech to penetrate it.

“Prove it,” Remus says, embarrassed when it comes out as a whisper.

Snape sighs. “There’s a rebuttal for every bit of proof I can give. I have the tattoo, but I could have gotten it at any point in the past ten years. I could recount conversations or meetings, but I could have gotten that information from almost anybody.”

“There is one thing.”

“I’m a Potions Master, Lupin, remember? I still carry Veritaserum at all times, among other potions. I’m also— This conversation falls under the same secrecy oath as our last.”

“Yeah, no, it doesn’t. Or rather, I need a failsafe clause in the oath.”

Snape studies him, and Remus thinks any other man - except Madison Pritchard - would be biting his lip right now. “Very well. If at any time I mean harm to Harry Potter—“

“Granger, or his family,” Remus interjects.

“To Harry Potter-Granger or his family, defined as Hermione Burke-Granger, Alavani Burke-Granger, and….”

“Sam Granger.” He doesn’t bother correcting Emily’s name; it might even be a more binding oath to use her magical name.

“And Sam Granger, you are released from all aspects of this and any other oath you may make to me.”

Any other oath? That’s … That’s enough to convince Remus right there that the man in front of him was Madison Pritchard. It’s too broad a failsafe to put on anything that isn’t deadly important. “Good,” Remus agrees.

“I’m a Legilimens. And an Occlumens. I could retrieve memories from someone’s mind and pretend they were my own. Knowing that, will you trust any proof I give you that I was Madison Pritchard?”

He stares at Snape, blinks, and stares again. “You and I need to sit down one day when this curse mess is over and have a discussion about Harry.”

Snape’s head actually jerks back at that, confusion clear in his eyes. “That did not answer my question.”

“That did,” Remus replies. “You can disguise yourself however you like, but it comes down to who you are, and you’ve just proven three times over that you are … were … Madison Pritchard. I’m satisfied. Well, I’m pissed off and I need to calm myself before the meeting lest I beat Albus Dumbledore to a bloody pulp, but I’m satisfied with you. For now. I’m serious about that future discussion, but we have bigger things to deal with today. Let’s get Zanlow set up, then I’ll put your shields on, then you can levitate me up to the meeting. Albus is supposed to be making coordinating pendants for us so you can summon me if you need shield refreshing at any point, but don’t forget that I’m the rare grey-aligned Gryffindor. Unless you have a dark-aligned coconspirator, I may be your best bet if you need another wand.”

“Not to mention you’re a dark creature,” Snape adds in a thoughtful tone that makes Remus swallow his automatic distaste for the term. “Could be useful.”

“Oi, Granger!”

Harry rolls his eyes as he turns to walk backwards. “Oi, Malfoy,” he mocks with smile. “Can you just call me Harry?”

“Are you aware of the societal implications of that?” Draco asks quietly.

Again, Harry wonders why Remus hasn’t taught them any of this sort of thing. “No, but is it bigger than me having publicly acknowledged that you saved my life two months ago?”

“Fair point, and no, it’s actually really small in comparison to that. Taking it back would be the scandal of the century, though, between your fame and all the press my father - through him, my family name - has been getting.”

He rolls his eyes again and turns to face forward again as Draco comes even with him. “So don’t try to hurt me or people I like so we don’t have to get caught up in some silly scandal. I call you Draco already.”

“Yes, well, I never invited you to do it.”

“You never told me not to!”

“It would be terribly rude to do so!” Draco hesitates almost audibly. “Besides, I like it.”

Harry grins at him. “Then call me Harry. Oh, and start teaching me all this society stuff that Remus isn’t.”

“Yeah, okay. Hey, I wanted to finish the conversation we were having this morning,” Draco says, stopping just to the side of the entrance to the Great Hall. “Join me for lunch?”

“Does Nott still want to kill me?” Harry asks, glancing over to the Slytherin table in the room. He knows there are older students who blame him for their parents’ mistakes in the previous war, but he’s somehow more worried about his fellow first year.

Draco nods slowly. “Yeah, he does, but me, Crabbe, and Goyle can protect you. Not to mention the prefects. I wouldn’t recommend Hermione join us, though.”

“Let me tell her. I’ll meet you there.”

His sister is already serving herself lunch beside Anthony, and he leans over the bench on her other side where a place is sitting empty, probably reserved for him. “Hey, I’m going to eat lunch with Draco. I’ll see you in Charms.” He squeezes her shoulder and resists the sudden temptation to give her a full hug in the middle of the Great Hall as he turns and heads to the next table over.

He greets Crabbe and Goyle as he joins the trio at the table - beside Goyle, across from Draco, at the very end of the table so nobody is on his other side. The two large boys only grunt in response, but he’s used to them both by now and doesn’t take it badly. “Okay, Draco, this morning.” He looks around at the serving dishes, trying to decide what to eat.

“My father told me that we’re going to see changes in the staff here soon,” Draco says after wiping his mouth neatly. “He implied that Defense is going to be better in the future. More consistent with professors.”

Harry snorts. “You really can’t get much worse than going through three teachers in as many months,” he points out reasonably.

“Yes, well, that is definitely unusual, but it’s been almost fifty years since a professor has managed to teach more than one year of Defense. With Professor Snape taking time off - don’t look at me like that; why else would Tutor Zanlow be in the castle? - and Tutor Lupin helping Professor Snape with whatever he’s doing…. Ah, has anyone explained light and dark magic to you?”

“Bad guys use dark magic,” Harry offers.

Draco sighs dramatically. “Let me guess. A light magic user who is also socially light told you that.”

Harry blinks. “Er, Anthony Goldstein.”

“Exactly. Let me start from the beginning. Magic is magic, but it comes in flavors. Sort of a line of flavors. Dark is at one end, light is at the other, but nobody is really at just one end or the other. We’re all somewhere in the middle.”

“On a spectrum?” Harry asks.

Draco shrugs and glosses over the term, making Harry wonder if the other boy has heard it before. “What type of magic you have is mostly inherited from your parents. Goldstein is on the light end of the line. Malfoys, Crabbes, Goyles - we’re all on the dark end of the line. We use dark magic. Are we evil?”

“You’re kids,” Harry replies. “We’re not really good or evil yet.”

Draco smiles at him, the most sincere and real smile he’s seen on the blond’s face yet. “Before you ask, you’re also on the light end of the line, but closer to the middle. Grey-light is the technical term. Potters have been for all of living memory.”

“What about Hermione?”

“Mud— Muggleborns are always dead center, pure grey, but she comes from a grey-dark family. Her muggle blood might make it more grey than dark, but she’ll have an affinity for dark magic.”

“Mum Potter was a Muggleborn. Does that drag me more grey than grey-light?”

Draco pauses and takes the time to eat a bite of lunch. When he swallows and pats his mouth delicately with his napkin, he meets Harry’s eyes again. “Honestly, I don’t know. What with the Dark Lord, you’re a special case. Nobody really knows what’s going on with you.”

“Okay, so why are you telling me about the types of magic?”

“There are some spells that work better for those who use dark magic and some for light magic users. With enough practice, anyone can probably use the spells, but they’ll work better if you’re inclined that way. Professor Snape is the only pure dark magic user working for the school. There are a few grey-dark professors, but Tutor Lupin is … my father said he’s a dark-enhanced grey wizard, whatever that means.”

Probably the werewolf thing, Harry thinks. He’s heard werewolves called dark creatures before, so maybe it changes his magic somehow. Draco probably doesn’t know about Remus’s lycanthropy, though, so he just nods. “Okay. So they’re probably the two adults working in the castle with the darkest magic. And they’re working together on something that will make Defense professors stay more than a year in the position.”

“Yes, exactly.”

He sets down his fork and narrows his eyes at Draco to block out the other people at the table. “They’re not friends,” he says to himself. “They wouldn’t work together for the company. Dark magic users. Dark spells are easier to cast. Is there a dark spell that would make professors stay longer?”

Draco looks surprised. “Probably, but it would be illegal. Forcing someone to do almost anything they don’t want to is illegal. Not to mention Dumbledore would pitch a fit having a dark spell cast. He’s one of the lightest wizards I know of, so light that he can’t cast even grey-dark spells without a lot of study.”

“Huh. Seems exactly his thing to force people to stay where they don’t want to be,” Harry remarks with his best sneer on his face. Draco expression seems to indicate that the sneer is not working, so he drops it quickly. “Maybe they’re taking down an old spell,” he offers. “One that made the professors leave every year.”

“Now you’re thinking,” Draco compliments him. “But the spell would have to be fifty years old. Dumbledore has been the headmaster that long. Why wouldn’t he have done something before now?”

Harry feels his lip curl and repressed the urge to snarl audibly. “I’m sure he had his reasons,” he forces out. “Probably something stupid like not wanting a dark magic user messing with things in the castle.”

“He wouldn’t stand a chance at understanding a curse dark enough and strong enough to still be running fifty years later. It was killing the professors most years until recently,” Draco adds.

“Oh, in that man’s world, I’m sure that his own ignorance is reason enough for dozens of deaths."

“Remus!” A small hand shakes his shoulder, and he bolts upright, snapping his wand from his wrist holster straight into his hand. A quiet eep helps him pull his attention away from his war reflexes and back to the present.

“Hermione.” He fumbles his wand back into the holster and lets himself collapse back onto his desk. “Is it time for your tutoring already?”

“We watched the history lesson and read over the chapter about it,” she replies, sounding small and frightened.

“I’m sorry.” He reaches a hand out to her, then frowns. “Come here, around the desk.” He hugs her and strokes her hair, murmuring apologies for drawing his wand on her until she pulls away. “Harry?”

“Why?” the boy asks, and Remus has to half-stand, leaning on his desk, to see a small ball of Harry under the boy’s desk.

He sighs and turns slightly to sit on the edge of his desk, trying to gather his strength to go to Harry. “I had to do something this morning that took almost all of my magic,” he explains, but the blank looks on their faces make him shake his head hard. “Merlin, if a house elf could bring me a coffee, I would be over the moon. You two know about the war, right?”

“The one I ended,” Harry replies, cautiously uncurling but not coming out from under his desk.

Well, he sort of ended it. There was another month of cleanup before the killing and torturing really stopped, but “Yes, that war, Harry. Are you okay if I come around and sit in front of my desk?”

The kids share a long silent look, and Remus wonders if Harry’s still using his unintentional Legilimency. He hasn’t felt it since the first time, but since people with lycanthropy have natural resistance, maybe Harry’s just decided not to use it on Remus. “If you put your wand away from you,” Hermione finally answers, and it stings that he’s lost a bit of their trust even though he knows it was his own actions, his reflexes, that brought this on him.

He decides not to unholster his wand, instead unstrapping the entire holster and setting it on the edge of the desk. It’s in a place where he can reach it if he needs to, but it’s not a natural place to aim for like holstered on his wrist is. He levers himself up from the desk with a quiet groan and uses it as a support to come around to face them, more collapsing than sitting on the ground in front of them. There’s a quiet pop, and a house elf appears beside him with a tray holding a cup of coffee, two cups of hot chocolate, a small bowl of marshmallows, a bowl of sugar, and milk.

“Oh, you’re a godsend,” Remus tells the elf, distantly noting his lapse into muggle terminology. Wizards don’t really have a good equivalent for that one. “Just set it on the floor between us.”

The elf bows and sets the tray down, then turns back to Remus. “If Mister Tutor is needing anything else, he is only needing to call for it.”

Brilliant. He wishes Dumbledore had bothered to mention that when he took the job. “Yes, that’s a house elf, and no, we’re not talking about them today,” he says as soon as Hermione’s mouth starts to open. He’s sure of her initial response to them, and he doesn’t have the energy for it, especially if they’re going to finish this conversation.

“Okay. The war,” Harry reminds them.

“Yes. The war. As soon as we graduated, James Potter went to Auror training, and I joined a group of … I suppose technically we were vigilantes, but the Aurors knew about us and sometimes planned strikes jointly with us. Your Dad Potter was an Auror and a member of this group.”

Harry’s still under his desk, but he’s leaning forward in interest now instead of cowering back in fear. Remus supposes there’s no point in the boy coming out from under the desk now that they’re all sitting on the floor, sipping hot drinks.

“I’m not going to go into details, but we fought with the enemy a lot, and sometimes we fought in battles that lasted for days with the winner being the last side with enough magical power to bring down the battle dome and call for help.”

“What’s a battle dome?” Harry asks, and yeah, they’re far too young - and muggle-raised - to have heard of it.

“A set of wards put up around an area that basically keep people in if they’re there and don’t let new people in. You’d put them up if you thought you stood a good chance of defeating the enemies there or at least of outlasting their magical power well enough to get them too tired to apparate out when you dropped the dome and called for someone to take the enemies into custody.”

Harry nods and takes another sip of his drink. “You got used to being worn out but still having to defend yourself,” he says thoughtfully.

“Exactly. You develop reflexes from that sort of thing, and reflexes you get in life or death situations don’t just go away,” Remus explains.

“You had no idea we were the ones trying to wake you up?” Hermione asks.

He laughs. “Merlin, I had no idea you two were in the room at all! I guess I should thank you for letting me nap.”

“What took almost all your magic, and how fast do you get it back?” Harry asks, sliding forward to add a few more of the tiny marshmallows to his hot chocolate.

Remus hesitates for an awkwardly long moment, fully aware of the kids watching him but equally aware of the need not to scare them unnecessarily. “I was helping Professor Snape prepare for his task.”

“And you won’t tell us what that is or how you were helping?”

“No, and sure, why not. There are some shields that have to be put on by another person and refreshed every day as long as you want to use them. Refreshed by the same person who put them on you.”

Harry frowns. “So you’ll be this tired for the next two weeks while you’re helping him.”

“Refreshing isn’t nearly as tiring as putting them on the first time,” Remus counters. “I wouldn’t enter any dueling tournaments, but I won’t be falling asleep at my desk.”

“How fast do you get your magic back?” Hermione asks impatiently. Remus gives her an odd look before remembering that Harry had asked that already and he’d not answered.

“Me specifically, assuming we continue with lessons but I don’t cast much if any magic? I’ll be in my normal range in another six hours.” The look on the Grangers’ faces makes Remus wish he hadn’t said the first sentence. He holds up a hand to stop the barrage of questions he knows are incoming. “Different people replenish at different rates. It depends mainly on your innate replenishment rate and if you’re using magic while you’re trying to build it back up. I’m faster than most people I know but more exhausted today than most people ever get outside of life or death situations.”

“Is lycanthropy a factor?”

Remus looks Harry in the eye very seriously, concerned at the eagerness he’d heard. “I don’t know, and if you put yourself in danger trying to find out—“

“No!” Harry says hurriedly. “I wasn’t thinking that, I swear. Just curious.”

“Good.” He doesn’t really have the energy to come up with a suitable punishment for that level of foolishness. Considering that the only werewolf Harry knows is Remus…. He’s flashing back to the time Sirius led Snape into the tunnel, when he nearly claimed his first victim; he’s flashing back to his childhood when he became yet another victim for Fenrir Greyback. He can’t do the former again, and he wouldn’t wish the latter on Voldemort, much less the child he considers his godson in all but name.

A hand on his knee brings him out of the dark contemplations with a start. “Is everything okay?”

Remus reaches down and covers Harry’s small hand with his own, large and unwieldy in comparison. “Just … thinking. Remembering.”

“You were young when you were bitten.” The boy says it like a fact, but the look on his face is a question that Remus can only answer by nodding. “I swear I wasn’t thinking that. I don’t want that to happen to me. Or to anybody!” he adds hurriedly.

“I know, pup.” Remus closes his eyes and tilts his head back against the desk, remembering a conversation he’d had only days before Harry’s birth.

"It’s a shitty life, James.”

“Yes and no,” the young man replied with a grin. “On one hand, you’re a single, nerdy, part-time furry monster, but on the other hand, you have me, Pads, and Wormy to force you to get out of your books, help you through transformations, and keep you safe.”

Remus scoffed. “Yes, keeping me safe was what Padfoot had in mind when he dragged Snape—“

“I know.” James sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair, the one boyish habit Lily hadn’t managed to break him of. “Look, Moony, I … we….”

He sighed. Apparently whatever James wanted to tell him was something he wasn’t going to like hearing. “Spit it out, Prongs.”

“We can’t make you godfather because you’re a werewolf.”

Remus blinked slowly. “I never expected you to even consider me. Sirius—“

“Is kind of immature, if we’re being honest.” James grinned again at Remus’s look, some combination of ‘this is not news to me’ and ‘I can’t believe you just admitted that.’ “Lily had me convinced that we should name someone more responsible than him to be Harry’s godfather, but I guess we’re just going to trust his godmother to provide all the responsibility and Sirius all the fun.”

“Hey, now, don’t talk like that!” Remus glared at James, somewhat pleased to see his friend’s surprise at the tone. “Nothing is going to happen to you and Lily, and even if it did … well, Prongs, you’re hardly the template for mature adulthood. Having a kid will make you grow up, and when Sirius has a kid, he’ll grow up, too. Besides, I may not be a legal godparent, but you’d better believe I wouldn't let Sirius raise Harry alone. I love that baby too much for that, and I haven’t even met him yet."


He opens his eyes with effort and pulls his head up off the desk. “Hermione. Sorry, I got … lost.”

“How are you getting home tonight?” The concern is clear in her young face, and to his surprise, Remus feels a tear track down his cheek. Her concern only grows at this.

“I love you both,” he whispers, feeling his voice catch. He coughs to clear his throat and answers her question at a normal volume. “I’m staying here for the next two weeks. I don’t want to try apparating home this exhausted, and I have to be on hand for Snape the whole time he’s working.”

“Should you nap now?” Harry asks, the same concern in his face as in his sister’s. Remus is amazed at how well Harry fits in his adoptive family. They look absolutely nothing alike, but he’s picked up exact facial expression and body language from his Granger parents that leaves no doubt that he’s theirs.

Remus shakes himself abruptly. “No, we need to do your lesson. You did the history on your own?”

“Yes, and we can do the next history on our own now in exchange for science tutoring Wednesday morning when we usually do our self-study,” Hermione replies in a voice several years too mature for her age. He doesn’t really feel like there’s any room for argument. “We’ll walk you to your rooms.”

“You’re not supposed to know where professors live,” Remus protests as he reaches up for the edge of the desk to haul himself to his feet. Merlin, he’s tired, even if he won’t admit it to the Grangers.

“You’re not a professor,” Harry retorts. “Hermione, remember the thing we talked about?”

“For him?”

“Yeah. Remus, do you trust us?”

That was never a good question to hear from students when he was a first year - or even a seventh year; Sirius really never did mature - but he actually does trust these two. “Have you done it before, whatever you’re thinking of doing, and is it going to help me?”

“Yes and yes,” Hermione says with pride, drawing her wand at exactly the same moment as her brother, and okay, Remus really needs to find out if Harry’s still using his natural Legilimency skills. Signs keep pointing to yes, and he can’t ethically put off the training much longer if so.

He shrugs, finally managing to get both feet underneath him and levering himself upright. “I trust you if you trust you.” Something off in that sentence, he thinks, but he’s too busy convincing his body that it can stand without the help of the desk.

“Wingardium Leviosa,” the siblings incant in perfect unison. The strain on muscles that haven’t seen a workout today but loaned their energy for magic suddenly lessens, and he smiles down at them.

“Oh, yeah. That does help. You can walk me to my rooms.” He glances down and laughs. “Less power, though. I’ll explain later but I have to do at least half the walking, which means I can’t actually float.”

After another exchange of glances in which Remus is increasingly sure Legilimency plays a role, Hermione reduces and then cancels her spell entirely. Remus feels his shoes reconnect with the stone floor and gradually take more of his weight until he nods firmly.

“Yeah, right there.” He stifles a groan as his muscles protest and makes a mental note— “Remind me to teach you mobilicorpus when I have energy.”

“Okay,” Harry replies, and Remus is pretty sure he’d be impressed at Harry’s ability to talk while holding a spell if he weren’t about to pass out from magical exhaustion.

“I have our bags and Remus’s briefcase,” Hermione tells Harry.

Remus starts walking towards the door. He feels himself wobbling on his feet despite the spell easing his efforts. Hermione tucks herself against his side and wraps an arm around his waist, steering him in a more direct path. “Thanks,” he murmurs, wondering vaguely at how distant he feels from the whole thing.

“Which way?” she asks as they go through the doorway.

Um. He holds up his hands, staring at the backs of them for a long moment before giving up and pointing. “That way.” He nearly topples as they turn, but suddenly Harry’s on his other side, wand held in his off hand while he helps his sister steady Remus. “And the next corridor.”

“Isn’t that the forbidden corridor?” Hermione asks with disbelief clear in her voice.

“I’m a forbidden corridor,” he replies, then he shakes himself hard enough that he nearly dislodges the two students that are the only thing keeping him on his feet. The fog recedes just enough that he can refocus on what he’s doing. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. “We cleared it out while I was still teaching. Reinstated some guest suites and classrooms. No suites in our corridor, just classrooms and offices, so—” He stumbles, tripping on what he’s definitely going to claim was an uneven part of the floor but was probably just him trying to walk and talk at the same time with his brain heading firmly back to sleep despite his best efforts.

Harry muffles a laugh, but Remus still hears it and tugs vaguely on Harry’s hair in return. “Alright, I’m not saying anything,” the boy tells him with continued mirth.

“I like not scaring,” Remus tells them earnestly, this time tripping so well that the three of them careen into a nearby wall. “Sorry.”

Hermione shoves them off of her. “How about you don’t talk, Remus. Just point to get us where we’re going, but don’t say anything else.”

He opens his mouth to reply but snaps it shut when she glares at him. He nods quickly, then groans as the move ends with him face-first against the stones again. The Grangers may be smart, capable, and willing to help, but two first-years are not meant to steer the bulk of an exhausted adult. He points vaguely behind himself, pleased when the kids help him off the wall and back to the middle of the corridor with them sandwiching him again. They don’t quite manage a straight line down the corridor, but they don’t hit any more walls until they purposefully prop him beside the door for Hermione to try the knob.

“Slytherin’s the best,” Remus pronounces with extreme care, and the knob finally twists under his student’s hand. “Snape set the password,” he explains, sure that they’re both looking oddly at him while he looks at the inside of his eyelids.

“Professor Snape,” Hermione corrects him, and he hears the sounds of a slight scuffle that has the hovering charm on him fluctuating in power. It’s an interesting feeling, but he makes a vaguely disapproving sound just the same. He doesn’t think they’re actually fighting, but he’s not opening his eyes just to confirm it. He’s not opening his eyes again until after he sleeps, even if that means napping in the hall beside his unlocked chambers. “Sorry, Remus. He’s not your professor, and I shouldn’t correct you.”


“I think he’s almost asleep, not mad,” he hears Harry whisper.

“Mmm.” It’s as close to an answer as he’s going to put the energy into giving.

“Well, you aren’t sleeping in the hall,” Hermione replies, self-assuredness apparently back in full force. “On your feet, Remus.”

He is on his feet. He’s just also on the wall. Where they put him, he might add. “Mmm.”

Hands tug at him, and he tries to help, but his body is done. He feels fingers twitch as he tries to push off the wall, but that’s all the response he’s getting. He gives up and sags more against the wall. His feet start sliding out from under him, and he doesn’t bother to try to react.

“Yeah, no,” Hermione says firmly, and his toes run into something solid, stopping his descent. “Harry, see if you can send Silver Prongs for help.”

“He hasn’t taught us how to make the patronus carry a message! And who do we ask?”

“Professor Flitwick has a free period. And … I don’t know. Just try? And then maybe go after it in case it doesn’t get there. Hurry, though. I don’t think I can hold him much longer.”

Things sort of blend together after that. Remus tries to stay awake, and he can’t fall truly asleep standing against a wall, but he’s too exhausted to stay truly awake. He feels all of his weight snap back into his body with the sudden cancelation of the hovering charm. He feels his body snap into the rigid form of the full-body petrification jinx. He feels the rub of stone on the back of his head as he’s inelegantly shoved more upright. He feels his weight leave his body again, followed by the annoying pressure against his toes disappearing, and then he’s bobbing lightly but carefully into a darker place and then a still darker place. When his weight returns, it’s just to sink into a mattress where he’s covered in blankets with even his shoes still on and finally, finally, left alone to sleep.

“Come,” Severus calls sharply. “Sit. There. Not my shielding.” He gestures with an elbow to a very precise spot, fully aware that he’s going to have to correct the other man’s positioning but unable to release his hold on the curse without it becoming intangible again.

“Can I cancel my pendant first?”

He looks up and finds his eyeballs assaulted by an annoying flashing green light. “By all means.”

“Where’s yours? Albus said we have to touch them to each other. I think I’ll have to un-silence mine.”

Bloody hell. “In my trouser pocket. Left hand side.” Severus shifts his position very slowly, very carefully, until his pocket is somewhat accessible. He’s impressed that he hasn’t lost a single strand of the curse in the past hour of working on this section, and he won’t let Remus Lupin sticking a hand in his pocket break that streak. Oh, Merlin. No. He’s focusing on the curse and only the curse.

“Ah, good, it didn’t need to be unsilenced to get canceled. Trust me, you didn’t want to hear that. So, not your shielding. Do I need to get shielded?”

Bloody hell again. “In the future, you will go get shielded by someone immediately after refreshing my shielding. You won’t need as much coverage. In this moment, I don’t have time for you to leave the room. You should be fine. Now sit.” He gestures with his elbow again, barely holding on to a piece of the curse determined to slip away. The nature of the curse leads him to believe that this evasive strand is necessary to deal with, and he’s not sure when he’ll get another chance at it. “Four inches left, one inch toward me.”

“What are we dealing with?” Lupin asks, and Severus resists the urge to sigh in relief.

“Wandwork for basic curse detection spell, incantations ecce tenebrox, tangere tenebrox, and recensere tenebrox. Summon a set of dragon hide gloves, from my office if necessary.” Lupin follows his directions without hesitation and swears quietly when the detection spells show him the strands of the curse Severus is holding.

It had taken him a day and a half to trace the curse through the corridors dedicated to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classrooms, office, and living quarters, but he’d finally located the nexus of it. Once revealed, the curse appears as jet-black strands of living magic writhing throughout the office, so numerous and large that very little of the lighting in the room can be seen any longer. Severus plans to leave the largest of the strands entirely alone; hopefully the parts of the curse he planned to modify are among the smaller and more easily handled strands.

“Tell me what to do.”

“This wiggly one?”

“I see it.”

“Trace it back toward you. Carefully. Find where it intersects something. Triple check if you can before taking hold of it. Triple check again after you’re holding it.”

There’s a long moment of quiet broken only by the two men breathing and Lupin’s occasional muttering under his breath. Severus wants to watch the other man, but he’s drawn back into containing his handfuls of magic every time he starts to turn his head. The curse is determined to survive intact, but he’s not going to let it win. He wants the job badly enough to put his life in danger, badly enough to call the werewolf to help him, badly enough that some stupid curse set by his former master isn’t going to stop him.

“I have it,” Lupin says quietly. “Fully checked.”

“You realize that I have no problem causing you immense amount of pain and blaming it on the curse if you have this wrong,” Severus mentions conversationally. He’s not sure if he’d follow through on the threat or not - on one hand, he’d love to have the werewolf out of his school, but on the other, he needs Lupin to finish this part of the job and probably several others. Not for the first time, he wishes he’d been able to convince the headmaster to bring Lucius Malfoy in on the project. The man may not be on Albus’s side when war breaks out, but for now he is undeniably on the side of getting Draco a good education, which is going to require this curse leaving. Lucius was always quite good at unraveling hexes.

“I’m aware,” Lupin replies lightly, then repeats, “I have it.”

“Dagger on my belt. Black handle, garnet inset on the pommel.” He feels a hand fumbling with the sheath on his belt and fights the urge to look down at the action. It feels like Lupin is less coordinated than he usually appears to be, so he’s probably using his left hand. Severus suppressed a sigh and clears his throat. "The blade is silver.”

Lupin’s hand freezes, then continues more carefully. As he unsnaps the hold on the sheath, his fist crashes into Severus’s ribs.

“One more mishap like that and I will demonstrate the blade on you,” Severus hisses, watching two strands of the curse slide out of his hands before he can regain control from the automatic reaction to sudden pain. Fortunately, neither of the strands were the one Lupin is about to deal with. “Draw the dagger without stabbing me so we can get on with this.”

“Hold your hippogriffs,” Lupin mutters. “Okay, I have it.”

“That blade is extremely sharp and enchanted to leave liquid silver behind any time it makes contact with something solid or magical other than its sheath. If you cut quickly, that liquid silver will spray. However, the curse is definitely going to react to being cut. I have the strand isolated for now, but if you take too long, the isolation will fail and the entire curse will attack us both. I have no doubt neither of us would survive it. Regardless, this strand will attempt to attack as soon as it realizes it is being cut. I estimate I will be able to hold it for no longer than two seconds.”

Lupin actually laughs at the explanation. “So, cut quickly and I die, but cut slowly and I die, too?”

Severus smirks even though Lupin can’t see him. “Win-win, as long as you don’t let the curse kill me along with you.”

“I think that’s what would make it truly a win-win,” Lupin remarks, and Severus manages a glance out of the corner of his eye before the writhing curse tendrils demand his attention again. The werewolf is adjusting his grip on the magic to free his right hand for the dagger. Smart.

“If the curse is released from containment now, as it would be in the case of my death, Potter’s spawn would also die. I imagine even in death you would regret that.”

“Hmm, I always imagine death to include not needing emotions. That would explain how everyone thinks you’re a vampire.”

“They’re undead, not dead,” Severus shoots back.

“Selective death,” Lupin replies quickly, and Severus catches an amused half-smirk on the man’s face. “And you have selective emotions.”

Damn. He can’t argue with that. “Are you quite ready?”

“Yes.” Lupin’s voice loses all trace of amusement in the space of one syllable.

“Be prepared to run if the curse attacks. For Salazar’s sake, if we do have to run, bring the dagger with us.” Not only is it a really nice dagger that he doesn’t want to see lost or damaged, they can’t risk the curse learning from it. He’s not sure yet if it has that ability, but better safe than sorry. “Give me a countdown from three when you start.”

“Three,” Lupin says instantly. “Two. One.”

He tightens his grip on all seven strands of magic in his hands. One is the one Lupin is severing, and it fights violently for freedom. The other six are the worst of the main curse’s defenses against modification, or the ones he was able to get a hold on; they thankfully have yet to realize what’s happening. Time slows to a crawl as he clenches his fist around the desperate and dying strand until his knuckles turn white. It’s putting all of its strength into fighting, a considerable amount more than Severus had expected. He thinks only second has passed when the strand finally slides out of his grasp. The isolation seems to be holding, though, so on a split-second’s decision, he drops the defensive strands in his right hand to the floor, slams a dragon hide boot on top of them, and flails wildly to the side to grab the strand inches from Lupin’s head.

The silver knife finishes slicing through the strand’s root in the same moment, but instead of going dormant or disappearing, the strand flares with renewed energy. He can feel the isolation enchantment start to fail, but he can’t reinforce it and deal with the strand at the same time.

He shoves the strand into Lupin’s gloved hands. “Dagger. Out. Don’t cut this. Hold or tame. GO!” Without waiting to see if the werewolf complies, he drops the strands he was containing in his left hand and crashes to his knees where Lupin had been sitting. Severus spreads his hands across the thick strand there, noting distantly that the cut to sever the strand couldn’t have been more perfect if he’d done it himself. He throws his mind against the strand, easily finding the isolation enchantment he’d placed earlier. There are holes, and through those holes, the information about the missing strand is starting to leak. There’s no time for his usual finesse, and he grits his teeth against the unusual and uncomfortable feeling of his magic flowing uninhibited and unshaped from his hands. The enchantment doesn’t weave back together the way a true fix would make it, but the patches his magic form are more solid than the rest of the enchantment. He forces aside his discomfort and pushes more magic out until the entire enchantment is covered with his patches.

Crisis averted, Severus rises smoothly to his feet and leaves the room with long, quick strides. Lupin might have let that strand loose on the school by now for all he knows—

But the werewolf is standing in the hallway with the curse held tightly between his hands. The strand itself is almost limp and definitely losing a staring contest with eyes that have a disturbingly yellow tint to them. Severus wonders briefly if he should intervene and take over the curse, but the memory of those same eyes fully yellow and in a furred face is too strong. He backs away slowly and quietly, never taking his eyes from Lupin, stopping halfway down the corridor. He’s far enough that he can run if he needs to but close enough to jump in and take over control of the curse strand if that’s needed.

But then Lupin growls, and his eyes flare to full werewolf. Severus can’t stop the ripple of fear in his muscles, but he stays where he is and gapes as Lupin opens his foolish mouth and shoves the entire strand of the most lethal dark curse Severus has ever worked with straight into his mouth, chews it, and swallows it.

That should not be possible, and if it were possible, it should be lethal.

Lupin looks over at him and grins, all signs of being anything but human gone without a trace. “You were right about a dark creature being useful for this curse,” he says cheerfully.

Severus tries desperately to think of a response, but his brain is occupied with peeling himself off the stone wall behind him and looking anything other than completely terrified.

“Okay, no rush, I know what I just did was weird and a bit nerve wracking, but I’d like it if you could do some sort of diagnostic or detection spell to make sure I actually destroyed that.”

“Obviously,” Severus says, pleased when his voice comes out more irritated than afraid.

“You got the main body of the curse subdued?”

He rolls his eyes. “I would hardly be standing here if not.”

“You get a rush from working with magic on that level?” Lupin asks, and the grin is so close to Potter’s and Black’s from school that Severus just wants to vomit.

“You need to be closer for my spells to be effective,” he spits out, drawing his wand from his left sleeve with a simple speed that makes the werewolf blink.

The other man comes closer to him but moves slowly. “I just mean, it’s exciting. To go up against something that powerful and win.”

“So it is.” He begins a series of intricate spells designed to detect dark magic on people. Because of Lupin’s lycanthropy, he has to examine the results of each closely to determine where the bounds of being a werewolf ends and having eaten a dark curse begins. “Are you aware of what that portion of the curse was designed to do?”

“It looked like a targeting portion.”

Remarkably close to the truth. “It identified the people using the office based on their interaction with items such as the desk, certain chairs, and the frequency with which the person used a quill.”

“But it didn’t target the curse to them?”

“No….” Severus squints at the spell results in front of him and frowns. “Turn.” He reaches out and manipulates the other man with one hand, controlling his speed and direction in the turn. When Lupin is finally facing him again, he nods firmly. “You are unharmed and not contagious. I will monitor you daily until after the full moon, but I believe you are safe to continue … consuming curses.”

Lupin laughs. “Only this one. Unless you have a better way of dealing with any more strands you cut off.”

“You will continue to be the one cutting them,” Severus corrects. “Your assistance was acceptable, though this strand is likely to be the easiest of them all. I will enjoy having a dark creature at my beck and call.”

“You’re welcome,” Lupin says, sounding unbothered, but Severus smirks at him anyway. It’s probably the dark creature label and the idea of belonging to his schoolyard rival, and Severus is going to enjoy rubbing both those things in Lupin’s noble face.

“Good afternoon, class!” Rolanda calls as she strides onto the quidditch pitch, a few minutes late as usual.

“Good afternoon, Madam Hooch,” the class chants back obligingly.

She sighs as her eyes roam over the clump of students. “We’ve been flying for two months, class. Don’t you know you need a broom to do it?”

The students rush to stand beside the brooms she has out in two groups of eight. She’s pleased to note that there’s a fairly even balance of genders and Houses on the two teams, but— “Grangers, we talked about this. One of you needs to switch teams.”

Harry Granger glares at her almost mutinously, but his sister blushes and murmurs an apology. Hermione steps away from her broom and glance over at the other side. Rolanda watches in interest as the students to her left whisper among themselves before breaking apart as Bones walks across to meet Hermione Granger in the middle of the teams.

“Michael and Terry will look out for you; don’t worry,” the blonde girl reassures her class mate as they swap brooms.

“Very good. Now, magical raised, you can’t answer these questions. Muggle raised, please participate. Who can name the four positions on a quidditch team?”

Every muggle raised Ravenclaw raises their hand, and Rolanda sighs. “Granger,” she decides, pointing to her right to indicate the boy.

“Chaser, keeper, beater, seeker,” he answers promptly.

“The four balls? Other Granger.”

Hermione smiles proudly as she answers. “Quaffle, golden snitch, and two bludgers.”

“How many people to a team, and which positions have more than one person? Finch-Fletchley.”

“Seven,” the blond Hufflepuff beside Harry Granger replies. “Three chasers and two beaters.”

Rolanda nods sharply. “Good, all of you. Magical raised, have any of you played quidditch before?” Fewer hands are raised in this class than in her Gryffindor/Slytherin class have, but still a fair few. They’re already evenly divided between the sides, and she suspects the students organized this before she arrived. “Raise your hand if you’ve played chaser.” Every student who said they played quidditch at all raises a hand again. “Keeper.” About half of the hands stay up. “Beater.” Half again, but it’s a different half. “Seeker.” Only Turpin and Boot have their hands raised this time, and Rolanda isn’t surprised that the two Ravenclaws are on different teams.

“Today, we’re doing to play quaffle-only quidditch. Can anyone explain the rules? Abbott.”

The smallest Hufflepuff beams at being called on. “Yes, ma’am. You have two teams and only the quaffle. Chasers try to score, keepers try to block the scoring just like in any game of quidditch. You play up to a set number of points or for a set amount of time. Sometimes you make two keepers if you have too many players.”

“Good. Today we’ll split each side into two teams of four so each team can have one keeper and three chasers. Unfortunately, I can only referee one game at a time, so the other team will have to cheer you on until their turn to play. Abbott, for a good answer, your side will go first. Choose your teams and decide who will play keeper, then let’s get in the air!”

Abbott’s side all huddles together, and one voice rises above the others. “Who wants to play keeper?” Goldstein asks. After a moment’s discussion, two keepers emerge - Goldstein and Bones. They take turns picking chasers from the rest of the students until the two small teams emerge. The students quickly break apart to grab their brooms before lining up on either side of Rolanda. Those not playing in this game head for the side of the pitch, brooms in hand, and sit down on the grass to watch.

“Bones with Granger, Turpin, and Finch-Fletchley, and Goldstein with Brocklehurst, Li, and Jones. Keepers, take your positions. Chasers, in the air and ready to get the ball. Those who have played before, please be gentle with your classmates.” Rolanda looks around to be sure all the first year students are in position, then shouts, “Go!” as she launches the quaffle straight up into the air. She swings her broom under her and kicks off to monitor the game from the air.

It’s clear who has played and who hasn’t for the first few minutes, but once they seem to settle into the rhythm of the game, she starts to sort them in her mind by who has talent and who doesn’t. Goldstein is a fair keeper with potential for more, Turpin is a decent chaser, Granger shows the potential to be really good chaser but seems to forget about teamwork, and Jones is pretty good as chaser as well. Finch-Fletchley can’t seem to handle a ball and fly at the same time, Bones is much the same as him (but thankfully doesn’t need to fly complicated patterns as keeper), Brocklehurst was one who said keeper and probably is better in that position, and Li is just good enough on a broom not to fall from the sky.

She blows her whistle when Turpin scores on Goldstein. “Change positions! We’re going to give everyone a chance at keeper.” Turpin and Bones switch positions, as do Li and Goldstein. After a few minutes, it’s clear that Turpin can’t seem to keep the goals behind her in mind when watching the quaffle come at her, and she drifts out of the scoring zone so often that the other team earns goal after goal in penalties. Li is equally as hopeless as a keeper as she was at chaser, but Goldstein is a much better chaser than Bones.

“Change again!” she calls when everyone seems too frustrated by the layout of teams to continue. Turpin and Li both seem relieved to get out of the keeper position. Jones proves to be just as adept at it as Goldstein, and Granger is … well, he’s better than Turpin, but he’s definitely not keeper material.

“Last change!” Finch-Fletchley is somehow worse at keeping than he was at chasing, but Brocklehurst is phenomenal. She shows a real promise of joining the house team at some point.

“Okay, these two teams to the ground and the other two teams to the air!” Rolanda calls. The Granger in this group bears special watching; she’s learned enough to safely fly at relatively low speeds, but adding a ball into the mix might be a bit much. Her team has her starting at keeper, which is probably a way to ease her into playing rather than overwhelming her. Her chasers are Boot, Corner, and Hopkins. They’re going against MacDougal at Keeper with Patil, Abbott, and Macmillan as chasers.

It’s no great surprise when Granger, Hopkins, Patil, and Abbott all perform poorly, but the others are reasonably good. Nothing spectacular, but nothing horrifying either. When she calls for positions to change, a nervous-looking Granger trades with Boot while MacDougal lets Patil take a turn in goal. The Indian girl is surprisingly good as a keeper, as is Boot, though Granger is indeed a horrifying chaser. MacDougal’s performance as a chaser is on par with her keeper abilities.

“Change again!” Rolanda shouts. She loves quidditch, but that makes these classes all the more painful. Watching students without talent or passion fumble to play the game is not her idea of fun.

Corner’s turn as keeper proves that he’s also good at it, a fact that appears to take him by surprise as much as anyone else. Rolanda doubts he’ll ever outperform Brocklehurst, but he stands a chance of getting on as a reserve keeper. Abbott is rather the opposite story, though: she’s such a bad keeper that even Granger scores on her once. Rolanda is quick to blow her whistle after that and call for an early change in positions.

Hopkins blocks most of the easy shots but comes nowhere near any of the harder ones, but Macmillan performs well enough for a pickup game, maybe even a reserve slot if he works at it. Rolanda blows her whistle once again and touches down with the students.

“I think that gave all of you some indication of your quidditch skills,” she starts, not surprised to see tears on a few faces. “The good news is that, unlike Charms or Transfigurating, your knowledge from Flying classes won’t ever be needed in other classes.

“Now, that’s all you’re required to do with me, so class is over for those who would rather leave. If you stay, I’ll bring out a training bludger, some beater bats, and a training snitch. We won’t play a full game today, though maybe in the future. Today is just trying the different positions. You have five minutes to make up while your mind while I get the supplies.” She doesn’t look back, just spins on her hell and heads across the pitch to the supply room under the stands.

She dawdles with the supplies, gathering everything by hand instead of with magic as she does every other time. The students need time to decide without her there hovering, staring, judging - not that she does any of those things, but kids always think that’s what adults are doing. Still, there comes a time when she can’t justify standing around humming; it’s probably less than five minutes when she heads back to the class, but it’s the best she can manage.

Macmillan, Patil, Corner, Brocklehurst, Goldstein, Turpin, Jones, and both Grangers remain on the field. The other seven students are already heading back towards the castle. Rolanda raises her left eyebrow at the female Granger, and the girl shakes her head vigorously.

“Oh, no, Madam Hooch, I don’t want to try for any of the positions! I just want to watch, if that’s okay.”

She shouldn’t be surprised; the Grangers are practically attached at the hip, and Goldstein has been spending more time with them than with the other classmates. Of course she’d want to stay with the other two-thirds of her trio of friends. “If anybody objects, you go back inside,” Rolanda agrees. “Everyone close your eyes.” She waits a minute and checks to be sure nobody is peeking, then asks, “Who wants Hermione Granger to go inside? Raise your hand.” Nobody so much as twitches, and she grins. No good quidditch player is going to object to being watched, not with the crowds they’ll have at games. “Okay, Granger, you can stay. Eyes open.”

She aims her wand at the chest in front of her and unlocks it with a quick spell, muttered quietly so none of the students can hear it. It would be a disaster if someone set bludgers loose in the school. “Beater position first,” she announces, feeling that it might be slightly redundant. “If you don’t want to try it, go sit outside the bounds of the pitch. Safety. Those trying, grab a bat and a broom.”

The Grangers and Patil are the only three who aren’t trying, so Rolanda sends one bat flying over to rest out of the pitch bounds with them and picks up the other extra bat. “Into the air, all of you, and stay sharp! I’ll release just one bludger at first to see how you do.”

She watches the group smash the bludger around for several minutes before releasing the second bludger. With six beaters in the air, nobody gets hurt, but it’s obvious who is starting to regret their decision to try this. Turpin is the first to retreat to the ground, followed by Jones and Corner before Rolanda swoops down to the case and recalls the bludgers to their homes.

“How about the seekers?” Granger, Patil, Jones, and Macmillan all step up to brooms. “Okay. We’re not using the snitch today, because I don’t want to be here for a week waiting for you to find it. I have some nonmagical balls about the same size that I’m going to throw. Chase them down. If they touch the ground, they’re out. I have five balls. Whoever catches the most of them wins, but you’re going one at a time instead of racing for them. Who’s first?”

“Ladies first,” Macmillan says pompously, and Granger steps back with him looking amused.

“You go ahead,” Jones offers, and Patil nods as she mounts her broom and shoots up into the sky. Rolanda follows her up.


Patil nods, looking a bit grim.

“When you catch or lose it, come back up to me,” Rolanda instructs. “I won’t throw the next ball until you’re back, but I won’t ask you if you’re ready or tell you which way it’s going.”

“Understood.” Patil eyes Rolanda carefully, watching the teacher reach into her pocket and pull out a ball. Rolanda pulls her arm back and throws the ball more up than out to compensate for new fliers on old brooms. Patil manages to grab the ball, and when she returns, Rolanda launches the second ball in a different direction. It takes Patil a long moment to spot the ball, long enough that she can’t catch up to it, a pattern that repeats for the rest of the balls thrown at the same level of difficulty.

“That wasn’t bad for a first time,” Rolanda encourages her student. Patil isn’t professional or even House seeker material, but there’s no cause for hurting her feelings, and the girl could improve with time and practice. “Jones! You’re up!”

The Hufflepuff girl catches the first two throws but not the final three; Rolanda offers her the same encouragement she gave the Ravenclaw girl. “Macmillan!” He catches the first and third throws, essentially performing at the same level as Jones. “Granger!”

On the first throw, Harry Granger shoots up into sky after the ball instead of waiting for it to come back down as his classmates had, and he returns to Rolanda’s side quickly. The second throw is a bit more difficult, just as it was for the others, and he makes the catch look just as effortless as the first. The third throw is where the Hufflepuffs couldn’t keep up, but Granger again snags it easily from the air and returns it to Rolanda with a grin. “This is fun!” he says as he shoots past her to chase down the fourth throw, which he brings back a moment later. The fifth and final ball is flung across the pitch with all of Rolanda’s strength, and Granger snatches it inches from the ground. “Give me a real challenge,” he says with a huge grin as he hands it back to her.

“You’re on. Close your eyes. I’ll tell you go as soon as I throw it, and you find it and catch it before it hits the ground.” She knows the limits of the school brooms, and it wouldn’t be fair at all to make the catch physically impossible. Still, the boy wants a challenge. She lobs it over her shoulder and says, “Go!”

Granger’s eyes fly open and he scans the area in front of her, falling for her trick, but not for long. When he doesn’t see anything, he wheels the broom around and searches the rest of the pitch, eyes lighting up as he speeds away. Rolanda jerks her broom around as quickly as it’ll go to watch as the small black-haired boy speeds steeply after the ball. He’s heading straight for where the stands rise out of the ground, two likely crash spots for a fresh flier, and she pushes her broom after him, wand out and ready to levitate him to the Hospital Wing.

But he pulls up and cuts hard to the left at the last moment, twigs of his broom brushing against both ground and stands. The boy holds his hand high and lets out a loud whoop of excitement. “I got it!” he shouts. “I caught it!”

“You nearly died!” his sister yells in return, running toward him even as he rises to meet Rolanda in the air.

“I’m fine, Hermione,” Granger says dismissively. “This is amazing. I can’t believe how much fun this is.”

Rolanda takes Granger’s wrist instead of the ball in his hand. “That was foolishly dangerous,” she tells him quietly. “You don’t know this broom, you’re new to flying, and you didn’t have to catch the ball.”

Granger returns her gaze with a serious look. “Madam Hooch, I know I’m new to flying and could have let the ball go, but I’ve been flying this same broom in all our classes. I do know it. And you’ve said yourself that I fly like I’ve been doing it for years. I would have turned when I did even if I didn’t catch the ball then. I promise you, I was safe.”

“We haven’t had that many flying classes,” she counters. “Professionals crash like that after riding the same broom every day for months.”

“I was safe and careful,” Granger reiterates.

She’s not satisfied, but she’s not going to get anywhere harping on it. “See that you’re more safe and more careful in the future.” She releases his wrist and takes the ball from him. “I’d like to try you with a real snitch sometime when I didn’t just have a heart attack watching you.”

“Thank you, Madam Hooch. I’d love to try the snitch!”

“Get to the ground and convince your sister you’re alright. You’ll be helping me put away the supplies as the consequence for scaring us like that. You’re lucky I don’t write your parents about it.”

He pales a bit. “Yes, Madam Hooch,” he says quickly. “Thank you, Madam Hooch.”

The Great Hall goes quiet fairly quickly, and Harry looks up at the Head Table with interest. “Fumble Bore,” he whispers to Hermione, and she stifles a laugh even as she punches his shoulder.

“Good evening, students,” the headmaster says in an almost echoing voice, smiling around the room. “I have some interesting news for all of you. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that you haven’t had Defense Against the Dark Arts classes for the past two weeks—“

“Even I noticed they weren’t happening, and I don’t take the class,” Harry mutters.

“And all of the faculty here is very grateful to you for your cooperation during this time,” Dumbledore continues. “I would like to announce that Hogwarts will no longer offer Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.”

The students in the hall gaped, whispered, and shouted their surprise. “This has to be related to whatever Remus and Professor Snape were doing,” Hermione hissed in Harry’s ear. He nodded but didn’t reply as the headmaster resumed his speech.

“I also would like to announce that we are starting a new class that is required for all students fifth year and lower. Sixth and sevenths year must speak with the professor regarding their participation if desired. Please welcome your newest professor, Auror Alastor Moody! He will be a full time professor during the school year and only be on call for the Aurors for emergencies and on weekends and breaks. Professor Moody will be teaching Protective Magic this year, which will meet during the times that are now empty on your schedules from the class removed. I realize it is unusual to start in the middle of the week like this, but Thursday and Friday classes will indeed meet.

“We have another staffing change as well. While Tutor Zanlow was not able to join us for dinner this evening, I’m sure you’re all grateful to him for stepping in the past two and a half weeks. Professor Snape will be returning to his usual post as of tomorrow but with a slight change. This is Potions Mastery Candidate Alexa Johannson. She has been studying under Professor Snape and will now be joining him to teach the younger three years under his supervision for the remainder of the year. This will give her valuable experience towards her mastery and career goals and allow Professor Snape to continue with some interesting research he began over the summer. Please welcome Professor Johannson!”

Harry claps along with the rest of the student body, curious as to why someone who has been studying under Professor Snape would start teaching with him partway through the year instead of starting at the beginning of the year. Still, he’s glad to be out from under Professor Snape. Their truce is holding, but it’s very unsteady. Harry knows that Remus told Hermione something, but neither of them will tell him what they know of Professor Snape’s antagonism.

“The rooms used for the class we no longer offer are now off-limits to all students and faculty. I have sealed it personally and included alarms that will notify me if anyone attempts to tamper with my warding. Protective Magic will meet on the second floor corridor directly below the Muggle Studies corridor.”

Damn Lupin and his need to be a decent teacher, Alastor thinks for not the first time. He had of course been able to outfight every class so far, though the sixth years had made it uncomfortably close. He’s actually starting to worry about facing his seventh year class, given that they’re studying with Lupin on the side after the man stopped teaching.

But he has them tomorrow, so for now he just needs to worry about the second batch of first years. And yes, worry. Lupin’s convinced the Granger kids to enroll in Protective Magic for at least a month as a trial run. Alastor has some idea of what to expect from the other students based on the (few and extremely spotty) notes left by the previous three teachers this year (and isn’t that awful, four professors in one year), but Lupin wouldn’t tell him anything about the Grangers except that he had them slightly above where they ought to be based on the original Defense Against the Dark Arts standards and more focused on both spellwork and practical situations than the theory and classroom-based practice of their yearmates.

The band of first year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs turns down the Protective Magic corridor and quiets as they approach Alastor, who leans back on the wall to casually show off his wooden leg. “Afternoon, fresh meat,” he says quietly, and the students all mumble a reply. “Into the classroom with you, then.”

Just like every other class he’s had since he started teaching Wednesday afternoon, they hesitate and eye each other warily. After a long moment, Harry Granger turns to face him. Should have guessed he’d be the one nominated to speak for the class.

“After you, sir,” the boy says politely, sweeping a hand across his body and holding his arm out toward the door.

Better than the verbalized distrust of the other classes. Alastor nods sharply, represses his smile, and walks into the room, exaggerating his limp and the sound of his wooden leg as he does so. “Respect for your elders, son?”

“I try, sir, until my elders prove they don’t deserve my respect,” Granger answers without a hint of cheekiness or insubordination as he and the other firsties follow Alastor into the classroom.

“Not a bad policy, but not a good one, either.” The door slams shut as the last student enters. As the lights go out and the windows tint to almost sheer darkness, Alastor focuses his magic through his fake eye to trigger the setting that allows him to see clearly in the dark.

“Lumos Maxima!” Granger says quickly enough that the boy must have had his hand on his wand already, ready to draw it. The resulting light is strong enough to temporarily blind Alastor’s magical eye, but he manages to squeeze his normal eye shut before the spell resolves and opens it slowly to find two students with their wands trained on him, the others blinking from the light but slowly drawing their wands and joining the two.

The black girl beside Granger…. “You’d be his sister, then?” When she nods, Alastor lets his smile escape. “You two plan to be Aurors?”

“We haven’t thought about it,” she replies, clearly comfortable speaking for her brother.

“Well, start thinking,” he responds quickly. “Everyone sit! Tell me about wand safety.”

They’re still scrambling into chairs as the first one responds. “Don’t point it at someone unless you’re casting a spell.”

“Half-correct, so take two points for Hufflepuff. Who can fix his answer?” As everyone sits, Alastor focuses his magical eye on the Grangers and lets his natural eye roam the rest of the students. They’re clearly more prepared than the rest of their classmates, but that’s no surprise; he’s the one who taught Lupin how to fight. The man’s bound to use much of the same techniques he learned when teaching.

There’s a long silence and a lot of looking around at each other, but Alastor notices the Grangers are both focused on him rather than the chatter of their classmates. “Granger. Either one of you. Fix his answer.”

They exchange a quick glance, and it’s the girl who replies. “Don’t point your wand at someone unless you’re willing to cast a spell on them.”

“Five points for Ravenclaw. Sometimes it’s necessary to point your wand at someone to drive the point home, but you have to be willing to follow through with your threat. How many of you know an adult who threatens things like no dessert but doesn’t follow through? Are you more likely to listen to them or to someone who does follow through?”

He loves the look of dawning comprehension on their faces. Loves it. It’s more rewarding on eleven- and twelve-year-olds than it is on the new Auror trainees he’s used to teaching. He’s going to have to rethink the original plan of him retiring at the end of the year. It’s not like Albus has professors lined up in the wings waiting for the job, anyway.

“Keep going. What else about wand safety?” He recognizes the girl who raises her hand as the niece of his boss. “Bones.”

“Sir, my aunt told me about an Auror trainee who lost … well, part of his bum, because he kept his wand in his back pocket.”

He can’t help the grin on his face, evil though it must look. Rogers had been a pain in his arse, and he hadn’t wished the man injury so much as to be out of his presence. The injury had accomplished that! “Yes, he did. Sat down wrong and BOOM!” The class jumps gratifyingly. “Raise your hand if your wand is in your back pocket right now."

Most of the class instead looks at their desks, where their wands are lying.

“Or if your wand is frequently in your back pocket.”

Every single hand goes up, even Bones’s.

“Well. Maybe since we caught you early, we can break that habit before you lose any buttocks. Stop carrying wands in your back pockets! Yes, Turpin.”

“Where are we supposed to carry them?” the girls asks.

He rolls his eyes. “In your hand, where you’re ready to respond if there’s a threat. In a holster where you can draw it easily if you need to. In your bag if you really must, but sew a separate pocket into your bag so you don’t break it with your school books or blast a hole in someone without meaning to.”

“A holster?”

Thankfully, Granger - the boy - steps in for this one. “Tutor Lupin has a holster on his right arm. He can somehow send the wand shooting out of it and into his hand, and he can just tuck it away again when he’s done.”

“That type of holster is favored by Aurors, curse breakers, and anyone who might need a very quick draw,” Alastor elaborates. “The drawbacks to it are that it’s very difficult to get the hang of - if you don’t get the timing just right, you’ll send your wand shooting across the room instead of into your hand - and it’s not cheap. The average wizard wears a holster on his off forearm and draws with his wand hand when he needs to cast a spell. It’s slower in a fight, of course, but less risk of losing your wand.”

“Why’s a tutor need a quick draw?”

Alastor pulls his magical eye away from the Grangers to study the boy who asked the question more closely. “Are you muggle-born?” he asks in reply.

“Halfblood, sir, but raised in the muggle world.”

“You know Granger’s history?” Alastor points at Harry Granger to be certain the boy knows which of the two he’s referencing.

“He stopped an evil wizard? Sir.”

Alastor nods. “There was a war before that. And after that, for a bit, until they realized they really weren’t getting anywhere without their leader. Lupin wasn’t a tutor then; he helped us fight that wizard’s followers. He fought in a war. He needed a quick draw then. Let me tell you, son, those of us who fought in that war are not likely to forget it any time soon. Took my eye, took my leg, took my ability to sleep soundly at night, took my reaction time and cut it in half. Maybe Death Eaters don’t try to kill me in my sleep anymore, but I wouldn’t recommend sneaking up behind me or Tutor Lupin anytime soon.”

“Definitely don’t, Andrew,” Granger adds. “I’ve seen Remus’s reaction time. It’s scary.”

Alastor spins his magical eye back to the Grangers even as he watches the Hufflepuff’s reaction. The boy nods as though learning an abstract lesson, but Granger is clearly affected by the memory of however he saw Lupin’s draw time. Probably startled the man and ended up on the business end of his wand. “You’re growing up in peace time, for now, but nobody in the school can deny that Voldemort has returned, and stop hiding from a name now before it’s harder to change your reaction. There are two ways you can stay safe, and neither is refusing to say his name. The first is to pay attention in class and learn all the protective magic you can. The second is CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

Everyone jerks back in surprise, but Alastor notes Harry Granger flinch full-bodied before his sister takes his hand under the desk in both of her hands. He’s composed his face quickly enough, but his other hand is visibly trembling as he runs his palm up and down his thigh. Interesting.

“I hear you all still have the books from the class no longer offered. If you brought it, open it to page twelve. If you don’t have it, partner with someone who does. Before you can protect yourself against something, you have to know what that something is. Read pages twelve and thirteen quietly, then we’ll talk it over.”

“Where are you three going?”

Hermione turns and stops walking. “Oh, hi, Morag. We’re heading to a study group meeting,” she answers politely. Despite a good conversation on the train ride, Morag hasn’t really talked to her or her brother since they were sorted. Anthony thinks it’s because of him; she doesn’t really talk to any half-bloods for some reason.

“With Malfoy.”

It’s not a question, but Hermione is determined to be absolutely as proper as she can manage. “Yes, he is a part of the study group.”

“I can’t believe you’re hanging around with someone like him.” Morag turns away after saying that, and Hermione exchanges glances with her brother and Anthony.

“Shall we go meet our friends?” Anthony asks, overemphasizing the final word.

“What’s today, Potions and Herbology?” Harry asks. Hermione knows full well her brother is aware of which subjects are when. “I can’t wait to hear what Draco and Neville have for us.”

“We won’t know until we get there, and we won’t ever get there if we stand here talking about it,” Hermione tells them firmly, grabbing each boy by an arm and spinning them to face the exit. “Let’s go.” As soon as they’re in the corridor, she whirls on them, hands planted on her hips. “What are you two doing? I don’t want to antagonize Morag! I want her to realize what she’s been doing and be our friend again!”

The boys both look down, Harry blushing a bit. “Sorry, Hermione,” they mumble in chorus.

“Just don’t do it again,” she tells them in a gentler tone, and as the trio heads down to the second floor, she lets them steer their aimless conversation. Quidditch and Professor Moody seem to be all they can think about, and she tunes them out to mentally review the Transfiguration lesson for tomorrow.


“Yeah?” She reaches out and steadies Anthony as he nearly falls down a flight of stairs looking at her. “Watch where you’re going!

He turns back to watch his feet on the stairs but asks, “What do you think of Professor Moody and the Protective Magic class?”

For anyone else, that would probably be a pretty simple question, but she and Harry have the choice after the winter break to stay in the class or go back to Remus tutoring them for it. “He certainly knows what he’s talking about,” she hedges. “I wonder how long he’ll be in the job.”

Harry snorts. “The older students talk about a curse on the Defense position, so maybe renaming the class means he can do it for longer than a month or so. I guess we’ll find out.”

“Find out what?” a voice asks as they round the corner, and Hermione doesn’t hesitate to whack Vince Crabbe gently on the arm for startling the Ravenclaw trio.

“How long Professor Moody stays in the job,” she explains.


“Where’s Draco?” Harry asks.

Neville sighs heavily as he comes out of the classroom to join them. “He and Ron Weasley are arguing again. Next corridor over.”

“What’s their problem? I think Ron would be a cool friend. You know, if he wasn’t torn between hero worshiping me and hating me because I’m friends with Draco.” Harry looks disgruntled at the state of affairs, and Hermione can’t blame her brother. The redheaded first year who shares a dorm with Neville does seem like a good friend for Harry; he needs someone who isn’t as academically inclined as most of the Ravenclaws are.

“Do we need to break it up?” Anthony asks, looking very sure that he doesn’t want to do so.

“Ugh!” Draco exclaims as he storms around the corner, Greg Goyle right behind him. “Someone Scourgify me to make sure I don’t have any Weasley on me.”

“I’m sorry,” Neville offers. “I didn’t realize he was following me again.”

“Start hexing him before you leave your common room,” Draco suggests. “Everybody get in the classroom and blockade the door before he follows us and tries to start something again.”

They shut the door firmly but don’t actually blockade it, despite Draco’s humorous (and repetitive) suggestion. Draco and Neville levitate two desks side by side and lay out their materials as Anthony and Harry levitate enough desks for everyone else into a semicircle with a good view of the two leaders of tonight’s study group. Vince beams at his fellow students as he seats everyone, a job they’d agreed at the first meeting could always be his. He’s finally starting to get comfortable with everyone else, two and a half months in to their meetings, but he can only really learn if he feels as comfortable as possible. He seats Greg on side of him, closest to Draco’s desk, and Hermione on his other side. Harry is on Hermione’s other side with Anthony closest to Neville’s desk.

“Thank you,” Hermione tells her large friend, patting his hand as he takes his seat to her right.

“Okay,” he replies with a shy smile.

“Everyone ready?” Draco asks, taking charge as he so often does when he and Neville are hosting a lesson.

When the study group has a lesson instead of just studying together and answering each other’s questions, they meet for a full hour. The first half of that is dedicated to the lesson, but the second half goes back to the usual sort of meeting. Lessons are rare, but Draco and Neville noticed that the next week’s Herbology and Potions classes relate and decided to give their group a head start on understanding them. Hermione’s fascinated by the way a plant’s use in potions can change entirely based on how it’s grown, so the lesson holds her attention very well.

When they split up to work on assignments after the lesson, she’s not surprised to find Vince sticking to her side. Greg has questions for Anthony about History of Magic, and Draco has questions for Neville about Herbology, and Hermione seems to be Vince's default companion when Draco and Greg are both occupied. She asks about the status of his homework and decides they can work on Transfiguration together; Harry joins them a moment later with the same idea. Now that they’ve gotten past the initial hurdle of the dense theory and started actually transfiguring objects, Hermione’s brother has a fairly good grasp on the homework. They still prefer to work together rather than separately, which comes in handy when Vince needs more help and attention than one person can manage while also doing their own assignment.

“We’ve been here for the full hour,” Anthony announces just as Harry, Hermione, and Vince are finishing up their essays. “Ravenclaws need to head back to our common room soon, but we’ll see the rest of you on Monday at 7:30?”

“I’d like to do a lesson on solar eclipses before the break,” Greg puts in. “There’s one during our break, though we won’t be able to see it.”

“How about the last week of classes?” Harry proposes. “That way it’s fresh in our minds, and we won’t be distracted by all this work.”

Greg agrees with Harry’s sensible plan, and the group start to pack their bags.

“Hey, Grangers, big holiday plans?” Draco asks, leaning against Hermione’s desk as she tucks her quill and ink into the special section of her bag she had Remus spell against ink spills.

“Just our usual Christmas party,” Harry answers.

Literally everyone else in the room turns to stare at them. “Nothing for Yule?” Neville asks.

“We’ve never celebrated Yule before,” Hermione explains. “Is that a particularly wizarding thing?”

“Most old families do Yule. Some do Christmas too,” Vince tells her.

“Father said I could invite you to our Yule celebration,” Draco adds. “Both of you. It’s very traditional and a lot of fun. I can talk to him, tell him you weren’t raised with our traditions. He’ll probably let you come earlier so you can learn about it - I wouldn’t want you to be embarrassed at the party.”

Hermione exchanges a glance with her brother. He clearly wants to go, but his excitement is tempered by the indecision she’s sure is on her face. “We’ll have to talk to our parents,” Harry replies for them both.

“I know they’ll want to talk to your parents about it,” Hermione adds.

Draco looks relieved that the siblings aren’t dismissing it out of hand. “Oh, of course, but Father insisted I speak with you before he contacted them. There would hardly be a point to our parents discussing the matter if the two of you were uninterested.”

“Well, tell him we’d like to think about it and will owl our parents tomorrow,” Hermione decides. “He can go ahead and contact them as well.”

“Do you celebrate Christmas?” Harry asks.

Draco shakes his head.

“I do,” Neville offers.

“So do I,” Anthony adds.

“We don’t,” Greg says, indicating Vince with his hand. “Hadn’t heard of it until we came to Hogwarts.”

Wow. Talk about culture shock. Hermione knows that the pureblood wizarding culture can be different, but that’s more different than she’d imagined.

“Well, I’d heard of it, but Father always said that type of thing is beneath the dignity of a Noble House, so we never had a Christmas party. None of my friends before Hogwarts celebrated, either.” Draco looks mildly disgruntled at this, and Hermione knows exactly what she’s going to see on her brother’s face before she turns to him.

“We need to talk to Mum and Dad,” she tells her brother firmly.

He shrugs but nods.

“Maybe our families can meet at King’s Cross to discuss holiday plans,” she offers, and Harry and Draco both perk up.

“That would be brilliant!” Draco grins at her. “That way, your parents can meet my mum, too. Do you want to share a compartment on the train? All of you, of course.”

Neville shakes his head. “I promised Ron, Dean, and Seamus I would sit with them. My dorm mates,” he adds as explanation for the group.

“I’ll join if there won’t be any other people against half-bloods in the compartment,” Anthony says with a look at the Grangers.

“There’s really only room for six,” Harry says.

“So if all of us except Neville sit together, there’s no room for any bigots to join,” Hermione finishes.

“We’ll squeeze together if you want to join us, though,” Greg says to Neville. “Not a problem.”

The Gryffindor grins. “I might come join you for a bit if the others get to be too much. Thanks, guys.”

“Two weeks to winter break!” Vince exclaims a bit too loudly. Hermione shushes him gently, and he winces and smiles at her before repeating the sentiment at a more normal volume. She nods encouragingly.

“Okay, we really need to get back to the common room,” Anthony says, looking up from his watch. “We’ll miss our curfew if we don’t rush.”

“Bye, everyone!” Harry says as he picks up his bag and heads for the door. “See you Monday! And again on the train!"