You got onto the Quidditch team? Harry, I can't say that I'm not impressed, but that's very dangerous! First-years aren't allowed to play on the teams for a reason. I suppose that you're not my son, so I can't demand that you quit the team, but I insist that you be careful.
Now then. A Blood feud with the Malfoy's? No, your friend Draco is right. There's no feud. Yes, my husband and Lucius Malfoy hate each other, and our families have opposite views on just about everything, but there isn't a blood feud. The problem with a blood feud, you see, is that all of your family is brought into it; and all pureblood families are related relatively closely. Narcissa Malfoy was a Black, and Arthur's mother was a Black too (she was disinherited, though), so we're not that far away. The Malfoys would be dragged into a feud-by-proxy with themselves, and that's impossible. So it's really rare for there to be a blood feud between two pureblood families. It does happen occasionally, though. I believe that the last time was between the Tau and Dumont families; it only ended when the Dumont family was entirely wiped out, and the Tau family had only one branch left, and that was nearly a century ago.
Now, you wanted to know what happens after wizards finish school. Well, most wizards go into either the Ministry of Magic or into retail of some sort. We don't have a large population, and so a good half of the population is working in Diagon Alley or one of its branches, like Knockturn Alley, where you should never ever go. I'm counting Quidditch players and their associates among Diagon Alley too, by the way. About another third of us are in the Ministry, and most of the rest are all unemployed, being supported by a member of the family or just homeless. I don't have a job, for example, and we get along on Arthur's salary. Caring for seven children is a full-time job, after all. I'm thinking of getting a job for the school year, though; I used to work as a teacher in Hogsmeade, you see.
And then there are the people who work at Hogwarts. The Professors. It's one of the most prestigious jobs in Britain. You need to have gotten an 'O' on your OWL for that subject, and an 'O' on the NEWT, and you need to pass an extremely difficult test to get a Mastery in that subject, and you have to have passed three other NEWTs at minimum. So any professor at Hogwarts is better at magic than just about anyone. Professor Snape actually has two Masteries, in Defense and Potions. Professor Flitwick has two as well, Charms and Defense, but most of the others have just the one. Headmaster Dumbledore, though, has three Masteries! Defense, Transfiguration, and Charms. There are only four people who've ever gotten three Masteries, ever. Professor Dumbledore is probably one of the best wizards in history, so you should be glad to have him as a Headmaster.
And please, write to me just as Molly.
PS: I'm sending you a book of common household charms. It includes common cleaning spells, like Scourgify, tooth-brushing spells, like Dentimuno, and even spells to clip your toenails. It's very useful, and I encourage you to read through it.
Harry read the letter before opening the package Mrs. Weasley – Molly, he corrected himself – had sent him along with it. It was indeed a book, called 101 Simple Charms No Wizard Can Do Without. He flipped through it for a minute or so, and found several spells he resolved to master as soon as possible, like the umbrella charm and the one which would style your hair for you; although, he mused, it probably wouldn't work on him. Still, it would be funny to cast it on Ron when he wasn't expecting it. And he had somehow gotten the mental picture of Draco in pigtails, and just couldn't get rid of it. He chuckled.
"What did she say?" asked Ron. It looked like he was still harboring some resentment about Harry's correspondence with his mother, judging by his expression, but at least he was keeping a hold on his temper this time. Harry made a mental note to try and spend more time with him; that might help with his burgeoning jealousy issues. He wondered what kind of games wizards played; he would ask Ron in the common room that night.
"She said that there's not a blood feud between the Malfoys and the Weasleys," Harry told him. "And she told me a little about wizarding jobs. Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?"
Ron sputtered. "No blood feud? I'm sure there is one. And I've always wanted to be a professional Keeper for Quidditch. How about you?"
Harry shook his head. "I've now got both a Weasley and a Malfoy denying the blood feud, so you're outnumbered. And I have no idea. What kind of jobs are there? Your mum was pretty general."
Ron dusted some crumbs from his fingers. "Well, as far as Diagon Alley goes, shopkeepers and the people who make stuff," he said. "There's a few business that don't exist yet which I can see openings for, but mostly that's shut up tight aside from keeping a store or making stuff for one. In the Ministry, there's a bunch of different departments; the DMLE, that's magical law enforcement… the DIMC, that's international magical cooperation… Dad works in the DRMA, that's regulation of muggle artifacts…"
Harry listened to Ron explain jobs in more detail absently as he ate. Hogwarts was quickly becoming normal to him, despite how strange it was; and he liked it.
That night, Harry asked Ron about any wizarding board games, and five minutes later, he was being thoroughly trounced at chess. He stared down at the board, wondering how on earth Ron had beaten him so thoroughly in just a few minutes. "This," he said firmly, "is impossible. I could've been a Ravenclaw or a Slytherin, you were Gryffindor the moment the Hat touched your head!"
Ron laughed. "Don't feel bad, Harry. I beat everyone at chess. Fred and George say it's kind of ridiculous. Besides, you're probably not used to having the pieces argue with you."
"True," Harry admitted. "But even so…"
"Ah, it seems that Harrykins has discovered the wonders of chess–"
"–and of being trounced at it by our wonderful brother." Fred and George stood over Harry and Ron, wide grins splashed across their faces.
Harry arched an eyebrow. "Yes? What do you want?"
Fred, unless it was George, looked aghast. "Why, Harry! You assume that we want to rope you into something?" Harry just waited.
George, or maybe Fred, burst out laughing. "He's got us there, dear brother!" he exclaimed.
"Well, Harry, we were wondering how you'd feel about helping us with a prank."
"A particularly ingenious prank," the other added.
His brother gave him an annoyed look. "With us, are they any other kinds?"
Harry blinked. It was hard to keep track of them when they kept changing who was speaking. "What sort of prank?" he said cautiously.
"Well, young 'un, our much-loved potions master is quite taken with you," the one on the left began.
"We have no idea why, of course," the one on the right commented.
"Of course. In any case, he seems to like you, even though he hates the rest of Gryffindor."
"So we were wondering if you'd help us by distracting him, while we invade his private quarters."
"We’ll plant a rather special concoction we've cooked up."
"What does it do?" Ron asked, clearly hoping for something gruesome.
"Well, Ronnikins," began the one that Harry was pretty sure was Fred, "I'm sure you've noticed Snape's lustrous hair?" Ron nodded with a snicker.
Maybe-George smirked. "We're going to plant a potion in his shampoo that will turn his hair bright pink and make it form into… amusing shapes."
"But he doesn't use shampoo," said Ron.
"Right," agreed Fred. "So we'll also enchant it to spray at people, and to float around after him the whole day."
Harry wrinkled his nose. At least he didn't have Potions today. "And you need me to…"
"Merely ask him for a favor that requires him to leave his quarters," George said.
"Ask if he can explain how to brew an advanced potion," Fred suggested. "Pepperup Potion, maybe, or Dreamless Sleep Potion."
"Do dreamless sleep," George recommended. "Say that you've been having nightmares."
"But I haven't been having bad dreams," Harry protested.
"Actually," said Ron, "you keep shifting in the night, and moaning weirdly. It sounds like you're pleading with someone not to do something. I didn't want to say anything, but…"
Harry blinked. "Really?"
Ron nodded, and Harry tapped his cheek thoughtfully. "Well… give me some time to think about it, alright? It's… well, it could lose everyone involved a lot of points, so…"
Fred or George shrugged. "Just decide by this time next week," he said. "The potion will spoil in eight days, if we've brewed it right; and we have. And–"
"–there's a little something that Professor Flitwick helped us cook up."
"What?" asked Ron.
"We call it a Bloody Bomb," Fred said, flipping the little black sphere at Ron and disappearing, along with George. Ron began loudly complaining about them in an incredibly vulgar way, using many words that Harry had never heard before.
The next morning, Harry told the twins that he'd decided it would be better if he not help out. After all, Professor Snape could make his life difficult for him, and it wasn't a good idea to get on the wrong side of people in authority, especially so early in the year. At least, that was what he told them; actually, he rather liked Professor Snape. Perhaps they could meet again so that he could hear more about his Mum.
The twins were agreeable about him not helping, but only until he told them why. "Harry!" Fred said, seeming shocked. "What's wrong with ticking off authority figures?"
"We haven't done much else, and look how well we're doing!" George exclaimed.
Harry sighed. "Professor Snape is not the most… even-tempered of men," he said, trying to find a good word in his extensive vocabulary. "He…"
"He's a right bastard is what he is," Fred muttered.
"Why, brother!" said George, aghast. "Swearing in front of the little 'un! How rude!"
"Heard it before," Harry shrugged. "I did go to public school, after all." He made a face. "May I continue?"
"But of course," they said in unison.
"Professor Snape would be very upset with me if he found out my role," Harry said. "And I want to hear more about my Mum."
George blinked. "Snape knew your Mum?"
"They were friends in school."
"Well then, we can't let him not tell you everything he knows!" Fred declared. "Of course, you mustn't upset him."
Time began to pass quickly. Harry soon reached the top of most of his classes, reading theory books in his spare time and mastering, one by one, the spells in the book Molly had sent him. He continued to correspond with Molly, and continued to lose to Ron in Wizard chess. Beginning to get tired of being trounced, Harry searched the library for books on chess theory; however, the closest thing he found was about how to get the living chessmen to like you. This was surprisingly helpful; after he ordered a set of pieces for himself and befriended its chessmen, the length of his games with Ron nearly doubled. Of course, that was only another ten minutes, but Ron was quite impressed by how he did without the chessmen swearing at him.
Before long, Halloween was approaching. Mr. Lupin had confirmed that he had arrived in Britain and would be by during the feast. Decorations were beginning to appear, all throughout the school; a week or so before the date, Professor Flitwick filled his classroom with illusory bats and taught the class how to charm a pumpkin to empty itself on its own. On the 26th, Professor McGonagall taught them how to transfigure a wooden knife into a metal one, and had them demonstrate the knives by carving pumpkins. Professor Adams was rumored to have brought in a boggart for his third-years, and even Professor Snape seemed to be infected with a small amount of Halloween spirit, having his first-years brew a Draught of Dark Eyes, which just happened to have a base of pumpkin juice.
All in all, Harry was having a wonderful time at Hogwarts, marred by just two things; the continuing hatred from Ron for Draco, although Draco seemed to be merely indifferent towards Ron, and Hermione's mysterious behavior. She still avoided her Ravenclaw peers, choosing instead to spend her time either in the library or with Harry. But when he grilled her about it, she refused to explain, instead suddenly remembering about some piece of homework or extra credit that she had to do.
On Halloween morning, Harry sat bolt upright in bed the moment he woke; he would finally meet Mr. Lupin today! He couldn't wait.
"Oi!" Ron called, throwing a pillow at him from his own bed. "Wake up, lazybones. Oh, you're awake without me."
Harry grabbed the pillow and poked it with his wand. He had been having trouble with a transfiguration they had been learning last week; he had worked it out with Hermione's help, but until he had there was a tendency for objects to squish up into balls. He performed the wand motion, omitting the subtle twist at the end he had been missing, and it curled up into a sphere.
"Um, Harry?" Ron said, beginning to look confused and somewhat worried by Harry's actions. "What are you– oof!" Harry had flung the pillow-ball like a quaffle, sending it right into Ron's face. Ron began laughing, and flung it right back at his friend.
After half an hour, they gave up their pillow-ball fight, and went down to breakfast. Hermione was already at the Gryffindor Table, but Neville seemed to still be asleep.
"Hey Hermione," Harry said.
"Hello Harry," she said, pouring syrup over her pancakes. "How are you?"
"I'm excited!" he exclaimed, snatching a plate and loading it with waffles. He began to explain that Mr. Lupin would be there that day, but the Ravenclaw girl interrupted him before he could.
"Me too!" she exclaimed. "Professor Flitwick said that we'll be starting on levitation charms today, I can't wait!"
Harry blinked. "Actually, I was excited because Mr. Lupin is supposed to come for the feast."
"Oh, right." She pokes at her pancakes for a moment before looking up. "Harry, this Mr. Lupin…"
"How well do you really know him?" he stared at her uncomprehendingly, not knowing what the girl was getting at. Hermione sighed. "Harry, there are loads of people who supported You-Know-Who. Not all of them went to jail, either. Some of them are still running around… like Malfoy's dad, for example." She scowled. "Imperius curse… yeah, right."
"Hermione," Harry interrupted, "Draco's my friend. Please, don't bad-mouth him or his family. At least, not in front of me."
"All right, Harry, but still. Do you know this Lupin fellow well enough to be sure that he didn't support You-Know-Who? What if he's under the Imperius?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Hermione, I'm sure that Dumbledore wouldn't have agreed to let him come if he was under the Imperius."
"But that's just it!" she exclaimed. "Dumbledore isn't happy about it! He wouldn't let this Lupin fellow come until you said that you wanted to meet him!"
"Hermione," Ron butted it, "leave it be, will you? The bloke knew Harry's mum and dad, do you really want Harry not to meet him?"
"Well, of course not, but–"
"Hermione!" Harry said sharply. "I'm going to meet with Mr. Lupin tonight, and that's final. Understand?"
But it seemed that Hermione did not understand. She stormed off, sitting with Ginny and her friends at the Ravenclaw table, and refused to speak to any of them, even Neville, who came down several minutes later. When they went to Charms after breakfast, Ron could be heard complaining loudly.
"She thinks she knows what's good for everyone, better than they do! What right does she have to control your life for you?" Ron fumed. Meanwhile, Draco entered and gave Ron a strange look, then raised an eyebrow at Harry.
"Excuse me, Ron, I'll be back," Harry said, sliding out of his chair and hurrying over to Draco.
"What's Weasley going on about?" Draco asked as he sat.
Harry ran a hand through his hair absently. "I told you about Mr. Lupin, right?" the Slytherin boy nodded and Harry continued. "He's coming to visit tonight, and–"
"Oh, good for you!" Draco interrupted enthusiastically. "Maybe he'll be willing to tell you about your dad; I know Uncle Severus hated him."
Harry gaped at Draco. "Uncle Severus?"
Draco shrugged. "Hey, he's my godfather."
Harry chuckled. "I know, but still; Uncle?" Draco looked uncomfortable, and Harry laughed.
"Can we get back to what you were saying, please?"
"You were the one who interrupted," Harry pointed out. "But all right. As I was saying, Mr. Lupin is coming tonight, and Hermione thinks that I shouldn't talk to him."
Draco looked puzzled. "Why on earth would Granger think that?"
Harry shrugged. "She's worried that he's under the Imperius or supported You-Know-Who or something. I don't know why either of those would be possible…"
Draco nodded. "All of the Dark Lord's followers were either under the Imperius or are now in Azkaban. Or dead. Besides, Hogwarts is the safest place in all of Wizarding Britain."
"And on top of that, Dumbledore will there the whole time," Harry agreed. "There's no reason to think–" but he was cut off by Flitwick's entrance and had to return to the desk he shared with Ron.
A few minutes into Flitwick's lecture on the charm they were to start practicing today, the Hover charm, Ron poked Harry's arm and pointed to his parchment.
What do you see in that guy? Ron had scrawled.
Which guy? Harry wrote back. Draco?
He's not that bad you know, Harry scribbled. We both like Quidditch, we both have similar talents…
He's a rich twat. This was followed by a tiny doodle of someone – probably Draco – flying on a broom. Ron poked the paper with his wand and the broom turned a shiny golden color.
Harry smothered a chuckle and drew his own doodle; himself, flying on another golden broom with a silver set of robes. I'm even richer, or so I hear, he replied. Am I a twat?
It's not the richness, Ron quickly wrote, it's that he won't shut up about it. He proceeded to draw Draco again, with his mouth wide open and a speech bubble filled with a huge $.
Actually, Harry corrected him, it's more like this. Harry drew his own speech bubble for the doodle, filled with a quick sketch of a Quidditch field. And for you too.
"Any questions?" called Professor Flitwick. Harry quickly turned away from his paper and began rereading the section on the Hover charm.
"Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing!" squeaked Professor Flitwick shortly afterwards, perched on top of his pile of books as usual. "Swish and flick, remember, swish and flick. And saying the magic words properly is very important, too - never forget Baron Baruffian, who said 's' instead of 'f' and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest."
It was very difficult. Harry and Ron swished and flicked, but the feather they were supposed to be sending skyward just lay on the desktop.
Seamus, at the next table, wasn't having much more luck. "Wingardium Leviosa!" he shouted, prodding the feather, and it burst into flames.
"You're saying it wrong," Harry heard Draco snap. "It's Wing-gaar-dium Levi-oo-sa, with a long 'gar' and 'o'. Honestly, you're a disgrace to the name of wizardry."
"You do it, then, if you're so clever," Ron snarled.
Draco rolled up the sleeves of his robe, flicked his wand, and said "Wingardium Leviosa." The feather rose slowly, then suddenly shot up and slammed repeatedly into the ceiling. Harry winced.
"Prat," Ron said smugly, turning back to their own feather. "Now then–"
"Wait, I want another go," Harry said. He concentrated fiercely, and flicked his wand. "Wingardium Leviosa!" he said, trying to imagine the feather floating, as though in water. He concentrated on the air acting like water, buoying the feather up, and…
Nothing happened. Harry sighed. Clearly, the universe had no sense of drama.
Their History lesson that afternoon went no better. Unable to pay attention to Professor Silas’s story about Herpo the Foul, they instead played hangman on a bit of scratch parchment. Hermione, sitting behind them, glared constantly and whispered about how irresponsible they were being. Ron was in a very bad mood by the end of the class. "It's no wonder none of the Ravenclaws can stand her," he said to Harry as they pushed their way into the crowded corridor, "she's a nightmare, honestly. I need my Gryffindor bravery to deal with her, I swear."
Someone knocked into Harry as they hurried past him. It was Hermione. Harry caught a glimpse of her face; and was startled to see that she was in tears. "I think she heard you."
"So?" said Ron, but he looked a bit uncomfortable. "She must've noticed she's got no friends."
Harry blinked. "What?"
"Well, us, I guess," Ron said. "And Ginny too. But none of the other Ravenclaws can stand her. She's even more bookish than they are, and that's saying something."
Harry considered this, and realized that it made sense. She avoided her housemates because they didn't like her; she hung out with them because he was nice to her. Hermione didn't turn up for Herbology after lunch, when she had sat alone at the Ravenclaw table again, and wasn't seen all afternoon. On their way down to the Great Hall for the Halloween feast, Harry and Ron overheard Lisa Turpin telling Padma Patil that Hermione was crying in the girls' bathroom and wanted to be left alone, but that Ginny had gone to comfort her after 'her prat of a brother upsetting her'. Ron looked still more awkward at this, but a moment later they had entered the Great Hall, where the Halloween decorations put Hermione out of their minds.
A thousand live bats fluttered from the walls and ceiling while a thousand more swooped over the tables in low black clouds, making the candles in the pumpkins stutter. Harry glanced at the Head Table; sitting on Dumbledore's left side was a ragged looking man with dark blue robes and faint scars on his face. It must have been Mr. Lupin, as the man glanced at him, smiled, and mouthed ‘after dinner’. The feast appeared suddenly on the golden plates, as it had at the start-of-term banquet.
Harry was just helping himself to a baked potato when a bright silvery crocodile suddenly came swimming through the air into the Great Hall. Everyone stared at it, but before anyone could panic it opened its eyes and said, in the clear, carrying voice of Professor Adams, "There is a troll in the dungeons. It has eluded me, but only for now. The students may be in danger."