Chapter Twenty-Six: Unlucky Lupin
Alrister banged his stick on the desk before them, making them all jump and stop talking instantly.
"How long is it until your NEWTs, Mr Weasley?" he asked.
"Two months," said Ron.
"Precisely," said Alrister. "This means that in eight measly weeks, you will be walking into my office and facing a NEWTs examiner, who will expect you to have your performance polished and perfect. If you don't know what you're doing, or at least look it, I can guarantee you a fail. As you all know, I have now seen all of your test performances. And how many Os do you think there were out of all of you sitting here now? Shall I tell you? One! One weedy little O, all on its own. The average mark was an A. Average. Acceptable. Absolutely not up to the standards I expect. Would somebody care to tell me to tell me just what went wrong?"
Lisa Turpin, a Ravenclaw girl, raised a hand. "The floor disappeared."
"Too specific," said Alrister. "Though it was something to see Professor Flitwick's face when my Pure Arts class fell in from the roof. Anyway. What went wrong? General things."
Draco raised his hand with a rather bored look on his face, and he said, calmly, "People did not remember their planned scripts, or have them practiced enough."
"Precisely," said Alrister. "And another thing. Not of you were prepared for the unexpected. Mr Potter is still the only person in here who isn't dead. The rest of you are. Somebody tell me why?"
Draco put up his hand again. "Because we weren't expecting the unexpected."
"Very good," said Alrister. "And you should have been! Because that's what Pure Arts is. The unexpected. Learning how to grasp the opportunity and use it to your advantage. And a big opportunity coming up very soon is your NEWTs. Weasley! How far away are your NEWTs?"
"Two months," said Ron dully.
"Correct." Alrister banged his stick again, and the few people who were drifting off once more jerked upwards and made sleepy grunts. "Wake up! I'm not that boring. Next week, I will be testing the whole of the seventh year on their performances. As you are my favourite class, I expect high marks. Better than wimpy little As. I expect Os, across the board! Potter, what do I expect?"
"Os across the board," said Harry.
"Very good," said Alrister. He swiped at Harry with the stick, and Harry instinctively lashed out. There was a whoosh of flames, and the end of the stick caught fire. "Very good, Harry!" said Alrister. He swirled his fingers quickly in the air, and doused out the fire. "You see? Now that's why Harry got the only O in here. Expecting the unexpected! Right then, scripts out everybody, and start practicing. If anybody sees a good opportunity for me to kill Harry, please say. Off you go."
Ron reached into his bag, and took out his parchment, unrolling it and getting a quill. "Right," he said. "I'm going to cut out levitating out of the door, or at least remember to open it before I do. Oh, that reminds me. Is it Quidditch practice tomorrow morning, Harry? Semi-finals in a week. I still can't believe we beat that last team."
"Can't do tomorrow morning," said Harry. "I've got to go and see Professor Lupin for my extra class."
"How's that going?" asked Draco idly, adding more notes to his scroll.
"Alright," said Harry. He shrugged. "I've done a lot of practice for it. I'm going to be learning how to kill tomorrow."
Draco raised his eyebrows. "Lucky you."
"I was expecting it," said Harry. "All our work's getting harder now though. Transfiguration yesterday was a real pain."
"Oh, don't remind me," said Draco, rolling his eyes. "I've still got some feathers."
Harry circled a note on his parchment, and read through it all briefly. Part of him didn't know why he was bothering doing work anymore. After all, his grades were doomed. Madam Ivy had cornered him in the corridor after school the day before, and reminded him of this, unless he suddenly remembered a few things which would keep Snape in Azkaban for life. Harry's mind stayed empty, and he told her nothing. Harry knew she couldn't actively drop the marks he was getting in any subject apart from Defence Against the Dark Arts, but she could definitely tweak the grades that were put on file at the ministry. In Dark Arts, Harry got a stream of constant Ps during Ivy's lessons, and Os during Lupin's. Harry had considered talking to Professor Lupin about this, asking him to try and intervene, but then he remembered that Ivy was in the school not only to deal with Snape, but also Lupin. Harry desperately didn't want to cost two men their jobs. It was bad enough without Snape in his life. In his guardian's absence, he had been spending a great deal of time with Professor Lupin, doing more and more extra classes, or going up to see Peter and Jinx. The rest of his time was either spent in lessons, or out on the Quidditch pitch. Quidditch was one of the only ways he could distract himself properly anymore, and in a short week, he had the semi-final match. He and Kainda had spent a lot of evenings on the pitch, sharing tips and advice. Harry's mind started to wander to Kainda, as it so often did now his hormones were in full control, and he found himself doodling a little heart on the corner of his Pure Arts script. He only realised he was doing it when Alrister's voice spoke from behind him.
"HP loves KZ 4eva," said Alrister, loudly. "Very nice, Mr Potter, but not in my classroom when the NEWTs are so close."
Harry smiled, and scribbled it out. "Sorry sir."
Alrister picked up the parchment, and ran through it. "Very good. Nice thorough performance. I enjoyed watching yours last week, got you a good O. Very close on full marks, apart from the scorch-mark you left on the corner of my desk. Just keep an eye on where your flames are going during the exam, and you'll be fine."
"Alright, sir," said Harry. He watched Ron and Draco stand up, and go off to a corner of the room to practice together.
Alrister took Ron's vacated seat. Pretending to read Harry's script again, making corrections here and there, he spoke to Harry in a quiet voice. "Are you alright, Harry? You've looked blue lately."
There was something about Alrister's fatherly, kind tones that made Harry want to open up. Alrister just seemed like the sort of person you could confide in, and expect some good advice back. "You read the Daily Prophet article, right?" said Harry.
Alrister nodded. "I did. Is it about that?"
"Mostly," said Harry. He rested his head on one hand. "And... there's something else. It's sort of... serious."
"I'm here to talk to," said Alrister.
And to Harry's surprise, he found his mouth starting to talk, spilling his problem with Madam Ivy, as though it had been longing for somebody to talk to for a very long time. Somebody neutral, who would give him an unbiased view of things and logical advice. Alrister listened in silence as Harry talked, and when he finished, he looked up at the Pure Arts master. Alrister was looking rather grave.
"Well..." he said. He rubbed his neck. "That is a serious problem, Harry... I'm not entirely sure what I can do, directly. I don't have influence at the ministry at all... but..." He gained a thoughtful look on his face. "There is something I can do, actually."
"What?" said Harry, searching his face desperately.
Alrister bit his lip. "Do you remember Andralyn Galvez?"
"Professor Snape's sister?"
Alrister nodded. "Indeed. I'm still in contact with her... she currently works in the ministry, in the education department, setting tests and writing down grades. I could ask her to keep an eye on your NEWT grades, and make a note of them when your papers are first marked. She could change them back if they suddenly turn into Ds."
Harry felt a wash of relief and gratitude inside him. "You could honestly do that? For me? Thanks, Professor... I really appreciate it."
"No problem, Harry," said Alrister bracingly. He patted Harry on the shoulder. "It's only fair. Don't let Ivy intimidate you Harry. It's a shame she's almost popular with the other students, and most of the staff. I think Minerva is rather fond of her, and Professor Sprout. No matter though. You shouldn't have to lose your grades. I'll do everything I can to help you."
"Thanks sir," said Harry, smiling.
Alrister smiled too, and got up, pushing in Ron's chair and heading to speak to some Ravenclaw girls. Just before he left, he said, "Oh and Harry?"
"Yeah?" said Harry, glancing over his shoulder.
The stick poked him hard in the back. Alrister grinned. "Dead. Red desk."
The next morning, Harry woke up with an odd feeling of worry, as though there was something unpleasant he had to do today. He laid still in the nest for a few minutes, just gazing at the ceiling, before he remembered his lesson with Lupin. He sighed and closed his eyes. Ron gave a grunt next to him.
"Go back to sleep," said Harry. "Sorry I woke you."
"What's wrong?" said Ron, sleepily.
"Learning to kill lessons," said Harry. He rolled over, and pulled the blanket up around his neck. "I have to be at Lupin's office by ten o' clock. We're doing the killing curse today."
"What are you going to be killing?" Ron yawned.
Harry shrugged. "Birds, probably. Mice. Insects. That sort of thing." He sighed. "I don't want to go."
"Then don't," said Ron vaguely. "Say you forgot."
"Ron, I've been going every single Saturday morning all year," said Harry. "I don't think Professor Lupin's going to believe me. And you're supposed to be supporting education, you're a Prefect."
Ron yawned widely, and pulled the covers tighter around himself. "Not so early in the morning, Harry..."
Harry got up, stretched, and clambered out from the nest to go and get dressed. He headed down to breakfast, and as usual, the faces turned to look at him and the whispering broke out. He tried to ignore it as he had his breakfast. People were still buzzing about the revelations of Snape and Harry's bond, and though nobody had yet spoken about it in front of Harry, he had heard from his friends just what sort of things people were saying.
"They say Snape's going to control you," Ron had told him. "You know, like. get you to do his evil bidding, from inside Azkaban."
Harry finished his breakfast in silence, and glanced at his watch. It was nine o' clock, but he didn't know what he could waste an hour on. Deciding to go and see Professor Lupin anyway and check if they would still be learning to kill today, he got up, and headed out of the Great Hall. He passed lots of people on their way down to breakfast, most of which eyed him suspiciously and started whispering to their friends. He met their gazes defiantly, but they still said nothing, and just carried on to the Great Hall.
Finally, he reached Professor Lupin's office. Hoping Madam Ivy wasn't in, he lifted a hand, knocked several times, and waited. The seconds lengthened. Harry knocked again, louder this time, but still there was no answer.
"Professor Lupin?" he called through the door, knocking a third time. "It's Harry, are you there?"
He hadn't seen Lupin at breakfast, and hadn't passed him on the corridor. He checked the date on his watch. It wasn't any near the full moon, so Lupin wouldn't have transformed. Feeling a little worried now, he curled his fingers around the handle of the door. It was locked. He drew his wand.
"Alohomora," he murmured, and the lock snapped open. He twisted the handle, and opened the door.
The stench of blood met his nose in an over-bearing, sickening wave. He grimaced and covered his face, looking into the room. There was nothing in here, just Lupin's normal office. His eyes full upon the door to Lupin's quarters, and he stepped towards it, subconsciously knowing what he would find inside.
Blood covered the floor, and there was a crimson pool of it spreading slowly across the sheets of the four-poster. Lupin had been attacked in bed, and badly attacked. His face was deathly pale. Harry rushed over, trying to avoid the pools of blood all over the carpet. There was a very faint pulse, but it was slowing.
Harry didn't know what on earth he could do. Run to the hospital wing? No, and he wouldn't carry Lupin. He knew somebody who could fetch help though.
"Peter? Peter, where are you? I need help!" he shouted. "Peter!"
A white shape bloomed out of the wall next to Lupin, as Peter appeared. His eyes fell on the professor. "Oh merlin!" he choked. "What happened? Stupid question. Harry, stay here with him, and I'll go and get some help." He streamed away through the wall again.
Harry put his hand on Lupin's forehead. He was so cold. He must have been bleeding like this for a long time, to create so much. This was far worse than any of the other attacks. Whoever had done this was aiming to kill. He put his fingers to Lupin's neck, tracking his pulse, as two sets of footsteps came rushing through.
"Harry just found him here!" Peter's voice was saying. "He's been badly attacked, just in his bed!"
The door burst open. Professor McGonagall came in, with Alrister behind her.
"Oh good Lord." said McGonagall, covering her nose and mouth against the stench. "We need to get him to the hospital wing. no, he'll need to go to St Mungo's. There must be floo powder in here somewhere... ah, here." She picked up a jar on the mantelpiece, and took a pinch. "Harry, Alrister, try to lift him... gently, that's it..." McGonagall moved forward to help, and then she and Alrister moved him towards the fireplace. She turned over her shoulder to Harry. "Potter, I suggest you go back to breakfast... tell nobody what you have seen. We don't need more of a scandal about you."
Harry nodded. Peter came forward, put an arm around him, and then lead him quietly from the room. Once they were out in the corridor, Peter stopped Harry and looked him in the eyes. "Are you alright, Harry?"
"I think so..." said Harry, shakily. He wiped his forehead. "I... I just walked in, and..."
"I know... shhh..." Peter hugged him, and patted his back. "Poor Harry... try to put it out of your mind, okay? It's good that you found him, so they can patch up his injuries and he'll be back at school in no time."
"What am I going to do?" whispered Harry. "I haven't got Snape, and now Lupin's gone too... everybody who's teaching me to help me against Voldemort is being taken away..."
"They'll come back," Peter assured him. "Don't worry, Harry... now off you go, have some proper breakfast. You'll feel fine soon. Just don't - oh no..."
Peter stopped dead, and covered Harry's eyes. This did nothing, as Peter was see-through, and Harry had already seen the body lying face-down in the middle of the entrance hall below them. Harry swatted Peter's hand away. "Don't! Who is it?"
"I..." said Peter, his mouth open.
Harry went down the marble staircase, and stood over the thing lying on the floor. It wasn't a student, or even a teacher. Harry had never seen this man before in his life. He was chalk-white, with wild matted black hair all over his face, and numerous scars on his jaw. He looked rather grey and cold. He had the look of something dead that had purposely been kept alive longer than it should.
Getting a suspicion, Harry gingerly reached out, nudging his toe underneath the man's arm, and flipping him onto his back. The movement also tilted his head back, and his jaw fell open, revealing long fangs.
"It's the vampire," said Harry. Excitement and terror rushed through him at the same time. "Peter! Peter, it's the vampire!"
Peter hurried over to him, and gasped, covering his eyes. "Oh goodness. we need to fetch somebody, quick. Harry, get your wand out, don't let it escape. is it dead? How sure are you?"
Harry kicked the vampire hard in the shoulder. His head fell limply to one side. "Pretty sure," said Harry.
Peter was kneeling down, and studying the vampire, with a queasy sort of look on his face. "I hate to break it to you," he said. "But this has been dead for quite a long time. Vampires don't decompose when they're dead, not like humans, but there are definite signs. This has been dead for at least a few months. And it can't have attacked Lupin... there's not a spot of blood on it."
Harry paled. "But... then there must be another vampire in the school somewhere. Maybe two. We don't know how many there are."
"And it's not going to prove Snape's innocence," said Peter sadly. "But... how did it get here? Somebody must have dragged it here, to leave false evidence. Make people think the attacks were over. Maybe to get Snape back to Hogwarts." Peter looked up at Harry quickly. "We've got to go. Now. Come on."
He grabbed Harry by the arm, and before Harry could utter a word, Peter had dragged him away up the marble staircase.
"Hey," said Harry. "What's wrong?"
"In here," said Peter, dragging Harry behind a tapestry into a used corridor. "Look... Harry... everybody knows about your bond with Snape. Luckily they haven't found out about me yet, but anyway... people are going to realise quickly that the vampire there has been dead for a long time, and that somebody must have planted it, to fake Snape's innocence. And you would be the number one suspect. We need to keep you as far away from the vampire case as possible. I don't think that McGonagall and Alrister will tell people it was you that found Lupin, but... you know what's going on with Ivy. You don't want to get arrested, Harry, and you don't want to give people reason to get suspicious."
Harry nodded. "Okay..." he said quietly. "It's just that... maybe if we went down there, and put some blood on it... made it look as though it's freshly dead... maybe the ministry would let Snape out of Azkaban."
Peter looked at him with a very sad, sympathetic expression. "Poor Harry... it won't work... I know you want him back, but all we've got to do is wait until justice prevails... it always does in the end."
He hugged Harry, causing the oddest sensation of being drenched in very thin, light water. Harry sighed. "Okay."
"Good boy," said Peter. There was a cry from the entrance hall, as somebody clearly discovered the vampire's body. Peter gave Harry a last reassuring hug. "Come on... let's go act surprised. And don't lose hope... he'll come back someday. I promise."
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