Chapter Eleven: A Warm Welcome
Dean's alarm clock went off the next morning at 8 AM sharp, jolting Harry harshly from his peaceful slumber. He groaned and pulled the covers tighter over his head, not wanting to get up just yet, but Ron and Neville (who were already up and dressed) threw socks at him until he got out of bed. He dressed vaguely, pulled on his robes and slumped down to breakfast with Ron, bleary-eyed and tired from the previous late night.
Hermione was already at the Gryffindor table, eating a slice of toast and jam, reading her new timetable. They sat down on either side of her, and Harry pulled a bowl of porridge wearily towards him as she handed them their own timetables with a pleasant, "Morning."
"Morning," said Harry. He glanced up and down the column for the day while adding sugar to his porridge. First thing was Defence Against The Dark Arts, followed by Charms, first break, Transfiguration, lunch, and then two hours of Pure Arts in the afternoon. It could be worse, he thought. It could be Potions.
"Hey," said Ron, frowning at his timetable. "How come you're doing two hours of Pure Arts and I've got an hour of Magical Creatures instead?"
Harry shrugged. "You took five hours of Magical Creatures a week, I only took three."
"Oh no," Hermione said, sadly, checking all three of their timetables. "I'm doing Runes instead of Pure Arts today... my first Pure Art lessons is on Wednesday."
Ron grinned. "Don't cry."
"I'm not crying," she snapped. "I'm just disappointed. Harry's the lucky one, he gets to do Pure Arts first before any of us."
"Yeah," said Ron. "Lucky you, I'm going to be chasing animals around the grounds while you're blowing stuff up and Hermione's staring at weird scribbles."
"Look at tomorrow morning though," said Harry, showing Ron his schedule. "You get to chase animals while I'm stuck in a dungeon with Snape for two hours."
Ron tried hard not to grin too much. "Hey, look! We've got three hours of Dark Arts on Friday, all of us!"
"No," said Hermione, smiling shyly. "One of mine is Pure Arts."
"Oooh, well, good for you," Ron said, sarcastically.
"On Wednesday all three of us are doing Pure Arts all afternoon," Harry said. "And Transfiguration between breaks. Hang on... oh no!"
"What is it?" said Ron.
"On Thursday I'm on my own in Potions," Harry groaned. "What am I going to do? Snape's going to make my life hell."
Ron shrugged. "Should have dropped it like me, shouldn't you? Still, me and Hermione are doing double History Of Magic then, so at least you're not going to die of boredom."
There was an increased in noise from the Hufflepuff girls as the doors behind the staff table opened, and Professor Alrister came in, looking resplendent in a copper-coloured tunic and dark brown trousers. His hands were missing their black velvet gloves of yesterday, replaced by scarlet fingerless ones with gold trim around the knuckles.
Ron snorted. "What does he think he looks like with those gloves on? Captain Hut?"
"That's Captain Hook," said Harry.
"Whatever," said Ron, vaguely, turning away and stabbing a sausage with his fork so viciously that it gave a soft bang as air was expelled from it. He didn't seem to be in a good mood anymore.
"Come on, cheer up," said Harry. "Dark Arts next, and Charms."
Ron huffed, jabbing at the sausage some more until it was little more than a mangled pile of meat strands on his plate. "I hate Mondays."
"Look on the bright side," said Harry. "No more Potions for you ever again. And we get to see what a prat Alrister is this afternoon." Really, Harry didn't think Alrister was as bad as Ron though, and thought he looked like quite a good teacher, but he didn't like seeing Ron so annoyed.
Ron smiled slightly. "I'm glad we're third cousins, you know."
"Once removed," Hermione's voice said from behind the massive volume on Runes that she was reading.
"We know," Harry and Ron both said at once, and they then grinned.
"Come on, let's go get our books," said Harry. "I'm not hungry anymore."
"Me neither," said Ron. "See you in Dark Arts, Mione. Don't drool all over you book if Alrister comes over to borrow the milk."
Hermione frowned but said nothing, turning her page with a contemptuous look on her face as Harry and Ron hurried back up to Gryffindor Tower, fetched their books and got down to the Defence Against The Dark Arts classroom with good time until the bell. They were the only ones in the corridor at all for a few minutes, and they stood chatting about nothing in particular, until another figure appeared in the corridor. Malfoy looked just as diminished as yesterday as he walked slowly down the corridor, looking at the floor, hands in his pockets, not even noticing Harry and Ron. He passed them and languished quite far from them, head still down, as though he didn't deserve to look at them.
Ron rolled his eyes to Harry. Harry smiled weakly as Ron muttered under his breath, "It's a good job Hermione isn't here or she'd be boring us both to death with her Malfoy The Trapped Soul speech again."
Harry nodded, though really, he thought Hermione did have a point. He wasn't going to say this in front of Ron though. Luckily, Professor Lupin came out of the classroom at that moment, spotted them and smiled, coming over. "Hello Harry, Ron. You're not busy, are you?"
"No, not at all," said Harry. "What are we doing today, Professor?"
"I could use some help setting it all up, actually," said Lupin. "Care to help?"
"Sure," said Harry, and Ron nodded. Lupin smiled and held the door open for them as they stepped into the classroom, but before he shut it, he spotted Malfoy and said, "Ah, Draco, you can help as well. Come on in." Malfoy didn't argue. Harry doubted whether he had the strength to do so. When the Slytherin stepped into the light of the Dark Arts classroom, Harry noticed that he did have something of value. There was a silver chain hanging loosely around his neck, with a pendant shaped like the club from a pack of cards, but before Harry could take a closer look, Malfoy saw him looking and clasped his fist around the locket, tucking it inside his robes, meeting Harry's stare with as much hatred as he could muster.
"Now then," said Professor Lupin, drawing Harry's attention away. "We're doing some work on curses today, so everybody will need -" He dragged a huge box out from under his desk "- one of these books -" He handed them a stack each to give out "- perhaps some parchment -" He placed a few rolls of parchment on top of each stack of books "- and chocolate, but I'll give that out at the end if anybody needs it. Thankyou, boys, just put a book and a roll of parchment in each place."
They got to work, handing the equipment out as instructed, while Professor Lupin copied some things from a book onto the board. When his chalk broke for the third time, he sighed, "It's times like this I wish I had Alrister's skills."
"Why?" Harry asked, curiously, unrolling a scroll of parchment and setting it down on a nearby desk.
Lupin smiled. "He can just snap his fingers and the chalk sets to work itself. Of course, there are charms that do that but I don't trust them anymore. The chalk writes what you're thinking at that precise moment, and unless you keep your thoughts clear then it can all go horribly wrong."
"So... Pure Arts is basically magic without a wand?" said Ron.
"No, no, it's much more complicated," said Lupin. "Actual spells aren't used, so he can't snap his fingers and perform a hex or a jinx, but wizards skilled in raw magic can do some wonderous things. Just using raw magical energy, I've seen a few things they can do... but it takes a lot of mental and emotional strength to be able to perform the Pure Arts well."
"My mum can cook using raw magic," said Ron, remembering something.
"Ah, yes, now that's now technically the Pure Arts," said Lupin, smiling. "Even though Molly's cooking is marvellous, I admit. That's something a little different. I'm sure that Alrister will explain it all to you later."
The class was now all lined up outside, peering through the glass interestedly to see what was going on. Lupin opened the door to let them in and they filed in quietly, taking desks and looking curiously at the books before them. Harry sat at the front of the class with Ron and Hermione, and when everybody was sitting down, Professor Lupin smiled around at them all. "Two years since I last saw you all," he said, pensively. "How has your Defence Against The Dark Arts been since then?"
"Terrible," said Ron, without a second thought.
Lupin chuckled. "Now, I'm sure it wasn't quite that bad."
"It was," said Harry.
Lavender Brown nodded vigorously. "Professor Moody - well, he wasn't actually Professor Moody, was he? But he terrified us, and Umbridge... well..."
"Yes, I heard about her," said Lupin, smiling, and there was a cruel look in his eyes that Harry hadn't seen there before. "I was also at school with her and she truly was hopeless at Defence Against The Dark Arts... I'm sorry you all had to endure her for a year."
Everybody was delighted at this, and they all sat up in their seats, watching Professor Lupin closely. Even some of the Slytherins were smiling. Pansy Parkinson was languished at the back of the room with her gang, not taking any notice of what Lupin said, and Malfoy was in a corner on his own. Harry was surprised he wasn't with Pansy.
"We're doing curse deflection today," said Lupin, picking up his register, "but first, the register. Lavender Brown?"
After the register, Lupin instructed them to scan through the first chapter and make notes on anything that looked important, and that this was going to be an overall test of their abilities, so to take this seriously. Hermione nearly filled her parchment with her neat, tiny handwriting, copying sentences straight from the book. Harry noted down a few common curses, wrote out some instructions on how to avoid them, and then sat back. Ron stole notes from both of them vaguely, taking anything that caught his eye. Fifteen minutes later, Lupin called for them to stop, collected in the books and moved all the desks to the walls, clearing a space in the middle of the classroom.
"Now, I hope you've done your notes well," he said. "I'm going to test how well by calling you each forward and attempting to curse you. If I can do it, you'll have homework, if not, five points to your house and no homework. Fair?"
They all nodded. Hermione looked quite disappointed at the prospect of no homework if she did well, and was clearly torn between wanting homework and wanting to pass. Ron and Harry grinned at each other as she murmured, "But... oh..." in a worried sort of way.
"Don't worry," Lupin continued. "These are all reversible curses that won't do anything particularly nasty to you, and all the counter-curses are right here in the book." He patted the textbook stack. "So, who wants to go first?"
Nobody volunteered, all a little worried about how well they'd prepared themselves, until a Slytherin boy stepped forward from the crowd. Harry knew him by sight, though had never spoken to him properly. Blaise Zabini had dark brown hair, clever hazel-coloured eyes, and he was rather short, but known for his lethally sharp tongue.
"I'll do it," he said.
Lupin nodded. "Very well, Blaise, stand over there by that desk please, and get ready... you have to avoid the curse in anyway you can. The only thing you cannot do is curse me back, as I would hit you with my own spell anyway. Just as a matter of curiosity, can anybody tell me the difference between a hex, a curse and a jinx?"
Hermione's hand shot into the air, and nobody was overly surprised by this.
"A hex changes something about the victim," she said, "in a bad way. A jinx gives them a handicap. Curses are the name given to any malicious spell which cannot be placed definitely in the hex or jinx category, or causes damage, like the unforgivable curses."
"Excellent, as always," said Lupin. "Five points to Gryffindor. Okay, Blaise, this is a curse coming at you, remember. Ready? On three. One, two, three!" He raised his wand, and cried, "Rictusempra!"
The bullet of light shot at Blaise, who swished his own wand upwards so that it ricochetted off at an angle and blew a hole in the ceiling. Everybody clapped, and Blaise acknowledged it with a vague nod of his head.
"Well done, Blaise, very good. That was a perfectly demonstrated block of a curse using the tip of the wand. Of course, some wizards find this method unreliable, as if the curse hits any part of the wand other than the tip, it will not be stopped." Lupin smiled around at them all. "Next?"
"Well, that was fun," said Hermione, as they left the room at the end of class.
Ron snorted, as he crammed his homework into his back. "Yeah, for you, Miss Fancy Deflecting Charm."
"You should have done better notes, shouldn't you?" said Hermione. She had, of course, got no homework at all and seemed rather pleased with herself. "And besides, it's only a short homework."
Ron nodded. "Yeah, I suppose so." He slid his timetable out of his bag, checking up and down the column. "Charms for me next. Same with you both?"
"Yeah," said Harry. "Wonder what we'll be doing."
"I hope we're starting some NEWT coursework," Hermione said, as though just the thought sent a shiver of excitement down her spine.
They all headed off towards Charms. A few people branched off, going the other way for other lessons, including Malfoy, who walked with his shoulders hunched at the back. Blaise Zabini called after him as he started to ascend the steps to the Astronomy Tower. "And make sure you're there at break, Malfoy, or we're not going to be happy!"
Pansy Parkinson grinned and stepped closer to Blaise, taking his arm and snuggling into his side. Hermione screwed her nose up and looked away as they swept passed.
"Honestly," she muttered.
"I thought Pansy was with Malfoy," said Harry, confused.
"Yeah, he wishes," said Pansy, loftily, as she and Blaise headed off towards Transfiguration, followed by all their Slytherin cronies.
Ron shrugged. "Then both Blaise and Malfoy haven't got any taste. Come on, or we'll be late for first classes."
"You sound like Hermione," Harry laughed.
"He does not," said Hermione, huffily.
"I do not," said Ron, in the same tone.
Harry laughed again, and the three of them hurried the rest of the way to Charms, just getting there in time.
Tiny old Professor Flitwick was sitting on his usual stack of cushions, smiling around at them all as Harry, Ron and Hermione found seats at a table with Neville. "Hi," he whispered, as they sat down.
"Hey," said Ron. "Has he said what we're doing today?"
"Something important," said Neville. "It sounds dangerous."
"Good enough for me," said Ron, taking out his wand and kicking his bag under the table.
Professor Flitwick took the register as Lupin had done, and when he was finished, he sat up on his pillows and smiled around happily. "It's nice to see you all again after the holidays, very nice... I hope you all had a nice break and are all ready to study hard this year!"
There was a generally unenthusiastic murmur throughout the class, and Flitwick chuckled.
"Good good. Now, for everybody who's just arrived, we're doing some conjuring today, so everybody get out your wands and loosen up your wrists. I want to see some hard work today for your first lesson." He smiled and took out his own wand, watching them all rolling their wrists out. "Good, that's it. Make sure you give them a proper stretch there, Weasley, not just flopping them around... yes, that's better, good good. Now, has anybody done any conjuring before?"
Hermione's hand rocketed into the air, though hers was the only one.
"Never mind," said Flitwick. "There's a first time for everything, so they say." He chuckled. "I'm going to see if anybody else can do conjuring without being given a lot of practice, just to have a look see... the thing with conjuring is to keep your thoughts clear and clean, that's the key thing. Clear and clean. You have to concentrate completely on what you want to conjure, then swish your wand like so -" He demonstrated a little swirling motion and a flick "- and imagine that object appearing before you. Are we ready? I want you to try and conjure me... hmm... apples. Everybody ready? Off we go then, at your own pace."
Harry practised the wand motion one last time, making sure he had it right, then close his eyes and thought. Clear and clean. Apples, apples, I want apples. Conjure apples. He opened his eyes, and still thinking as hard about apples as he could, he swirled his wand, flicked and -
There was a very painful sensation as something hard hit him on the head. "Ouch!"
"Oh, look everyone, Potter's done it! Oh, marvellous, marvellous," Flitwick squeaked eagerly. "It's a little big, mind you Potter, but for a first attempt that was good, very good."
Harry opened his eyes, still rubbing the back of his head. The largest apple he had ever seen was lying on the floor behind him. It was the size of a Quaffle, and could easily feed about fifty people, but it was an apple all the same. He smiled, picking it up and placing it carefully on the table, glad he'd found something magical he could do without trying.
"Everybody keep going, and shout if anything happens," Flitwick called, as he clambered down off his stack of cushions and hurried over to Harry. He could hardly see past the apple, it was so big. "Very good, Potter, very good indeed. Let's try that again, and try to concentrate now... ready? Go on."
Harry closed his eyes. Small apple. Small apple. I want a small apple. He went to move his wand, but Professor Flitwick said quickly,
"Open your eyes, Potter, never ever try to conjure something with your eyes shut! That's very important. You wouldn't believe some of the damage wizards have done to themselves by conjuring something which has nowhere to go. An apple in the brain is probably not a pleasant sensation."
Harry opened his eyes very quickly. "Yeah, you're probably right, Professor... shall I try again?"
Apples. Apples. I want apples. Small apples. Not in my brain. He swirled his wand twice in the air, and gave a flick. There was a bang as an apple appeared from nowhere and bounced loudly off the table. Professor Flitwick applauded, beaming proudly at Harry.
"Good, good! I think you've got it, my boy, and only five minutes! Marvellous, this is marvellous... yes, I think we'll have ten points to Gryffindor for such good work. And how is everybody else doing?"
Hermione already had a fruitbasket worth of apples laid out in front of her, all delicately arranged in a neat pattern of red and green. Neville wasn't doing so well. Everytime he swirled and flicked his wand, something completely random appeared, and so the desk was scattered with fir cones and batteries and rocks and something that looked like one of the plastic moustache combs out of Christmas crackers. Ron wasn't having much luck either, and was simply conjuring slips of paper that read "apple" on them.
"Try to focus your minds more, boys," said Flitwick. "And keep your eyes open. I'm guessing that a moustache comb in the brain would possibly be nearly as bad as an apple, Mr Longbottom. In your own time then..."
Ron stared at a patch on the table, swished his wand and at a flick, there was a puff of smoke and another slip of paper fluttered down. He sighed.
"We'll try and sort that out in the minute, Mr Weasley. Alright, Longbottom, your turn. Think clearly now. Visualise an apple, and hang onto that image, don't let anything else enter your mind... ready? Go on then."
Neville closed his eyes for a moment, visualising an apple, and when he opened them, he looked determined to do it this time. He gave his wand a swish, a flick, and -
The table collapsed with a heart-stoppingly loud BANG as an apple the size of an armchair swelled from thin air and crashed down. They all scrambled out of the way, and the apple rolled over onto its side, snapping one of the chairs like it was made of matchsticks. Professor Flitwick blinked. "A little too big, I think, Mr Longbottom."
Neville blushed. "Sorry."
"Not to worry," said Flitwick. "A minor mishap... and I'm sure the house elves will enjoy restocking the fruit supplies after yesterday's feast. Potter, Weasley, could you help Longbottom levitate this to the kitchens please?"
Harry and Ron nodded, and all three of them pointed their wands at the massive apple. "Mobiliarbus," they all said, and it rose gracefully into the air.
"Alright, straight down the corridor and turn right," said Professor Flitwick. "Down the staircase, through the portrait, and... well, you know where to go from there. Off you go, and mind your don't knock anybody over on the way there."
"Alright, but we can't promise anything," said Ron. "Not with both Neville and an apple three times the size of Neville."
They squeezed it out through the door, having to hammer on it a few times to whack it through that last inch or so, and then trained it all the way down the corridor without any major problems, until suddenly, it wouldn't move anymore.
"What's wrong with it?" said Ron, frowning, flicking his wand at it vaguely.
"I think it's stuck on something," said Harry. "I can't see past it."
"We're going to have to hit it and hope whatever's in our way gives way," said Ron, stuffing his wand in his top pocket. "Ready?"
"Yep," said Neville.
The three of them raised their fists and started to beat as hard as they could on the massive apple. Every few moments, it slipped a few centimetres forward with a creaking noise. "Come on," Harry panted. "Harder." They all threw themselves at it, hammering as hard as they could, and with a noise like metal being twisted, the apple popped free and started to roll.
"Oh no!" Harry gasped. "Stairs! We've got to catch it!"
They sprinted after the apple rolling its way down the marble staircase at a surprisingly fast speed for something so big. "Hurry!" Neville panted, running two steps at a time, though it was no use. The apple bounced about ten stairs at a time until it launched into the entrance hall and crashed straight through the doors of the castle, rolling away across the grounds like a huge Quaffle.
Ron sat down on the bottom step to wipe his forehead, panting. "Well, this is great. It's our first day and we've already unleashed some mad giant apple into the grounds."
Harry sighed. "Yeah. I'll go and get it back to the school, you two go and tell Professor Flitwick, I'll be alright on my own."
"Are you sure, Harry?" said Neville.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Go on."
Neville and Ron hurried away up the staircase as Harry made his way across the entrance hall and out into the grounds. It was cold morning, and Harry found himself wishing he had his cloak to keep him warm. Still, levitating the apple should warm me up, he thought exhaustedly, jogging over to it and putting it quickly under another charm.
It took about twenty minutes to push the apple all the way back up to school, and he had just squashed it in through the doors as a voice came floating down from the dungeon corridors.
Harry looked up to see Snape coming towards him, glaring suspiciously at the apple.
"What is that?"
"It's an apple, Professor."
"I can see it's an apple, Potter, what is it doing in the entrance hall? And why aren't you in class?" Snape snapped.
"Professor Flitwick told me to levitate it down to the kitchens," Harry panted, wiping the sweat off his forehead.
"So what was it doing outside?" said Snape, eyes narrowed.
"It got away," said Harry. "And rolled down the stairs."
Snape snorted. "A likely story. Five points from Gryffindor." He pointed his wand at the apple and muttered, "Reductio," shrinking it down to a normal size. "Now tell me what you were really doing."
"I already have!" said Harry, angrily. "It rolled down the stairs and outside, so I levitated it back up here."
"Wouldn't shrinking it have helped, perhaps, Potter?" Snape drawled, raising an eyebrow.
"Professor Flitwick told me to just take it down there like this," said Harry. He frowned. "You can go and ask him if you don't believe me."
Snape's eyes flared darkly. "Detention," he said. "And do not try to patronise me Potter. Get back to class and don't ever talk back to me again. I expect you in my office at end bell to arrange your detention." He handed the apple vaguely back to Harry. "Let it be a lesson to you."
And before Harry could argue anymore, Snape swept back down the dungeon corridor, his black robes billowing behind him as he walked. Harry felt his blood boiling. A detention? For talking back? He hadn't even done anything. Professor Flitwick had told him to take the apple to the kitchens, and still Snape unfairly punished him? Angrily, he threw the apple into a nearby bin and hurried back to Charms, in a very bad mood now.
As he sat back in his chair, Ron noticed the scowl on his face. "What's up with you?"
"Snape gave him detention," Harry spat. "For nothing. He didn't believe that I was moving the apple for Flitwick and so I told him to go ask him, and he just gave me detention 'and do not try to patronise me Potter'. I don't believe that guy."
"Go to McGonagall," Ron suggested, shrugging, absent-mindedly conjuring another bit of paper.
Harry sighed. "No, it won't do any good..." He scowled into the table and crumpled up a handful of Ron's paper, pretending it was Snape's vile face. "You're right. I hate Mondays too."
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