Harry tapped his fingers on the desk, thoughts wandering. It had been over a week since he had sent that letter to Ron and he had not yet received a reply. Though he knew it was wishful thinking, Harry had hoped that it was lost in the mail. After receiving a letter from Ginny yesterday, Harry was forced to give up hope that Ron would write back.
Harry's head snapped up and his eyes regained focus. Professor Durus seemed to be waiting for an answer to a question that Harry had not heard.
"Sorry, sir, can you repeat the question?" Harry asked tentatively.
Durus raised a brow. "What does the addition of dragon blood do to a blood spell?"
"Intensifies it," Harry stated.
"And?""Uh, increases the range?" he guessed hopefully.
"It does," Durus agreed. He gave Harry a stern look before walking away. "Do try to pay attention in the future."
Durus strode to the front of the room.
"Quiz on monday," he announced. "Dismissed."
Harry gathered his books in silence. Draco walked over to his desk and they left the room together.
"What should we do now?" he asked as they walked along the now familiar corridor. "It's our free period."
Harry replied, "I still need to do that Transfiguration essay. What did you want to do?"
Draco shrugged. "Gregor and his friends are free now too. They asked if we wanted to hang out."
Harry gave him a sideways glance. "Don't you find them kind of...?" he trailed off.
"Kind of what?" Draco asked earnestly.
"Never mind," Harry breathed. "But I think I'll pass."
"Oh," Draco replied. "Do you mind if I still go?"
Harry was actually a little worried about leaving Draco alone with them but he was afraid to voice his concerns lest Draco get offended. "No," he said simply. "Be careful, though."
Draco gave him a look. "Of course."
That made Harry feel a little better. They parted ways before they reached the dorm and Harry entered alone. It was empty. Harry dropped his bag on the floor and slumped into a chair. He closed his eyes for a moment and let out a deep breath. When he again found the energy to move, Harry withdrew the letter from Ginny and scanned it once more. In it, she said that she was planning on trying out as Seeker. Harry was sure that she would make it; he had seen her play. Pushing down the twinge of jealousy, Harry pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment and wrote back to her.
Thanks for the update. You should definitely go for Seeker, I bet you'll get it. Since Ron never replied to me, I'll offer you the use of my Firebolt, if you want. Snape has it, but I'll let him know you'll be coming for it. I don't mean to fixate on this, but has anything changed with Ron? Thanks for your support, but I don't think I'm going to win this tournament. At this point, I'm shooting for surviving. Anyways, I'll tell Snape tonight that you're coming for the broom and you can feel free to make use of it.
Satisfied with that, Harry sealed it up and set it aside to mail later. With a groan, he pulled out his heavy Transfiguration book and half finished essay and began to write.
"Oh, please, Ron. Quit complaining," Ginny chastised her brother. "Everyone deserves a fair shot."
"But... family first!" Ron sputtered.
"You don't even have a broom," Ginny said, pointing at him with the crust of her toast.
"Neither do you," Ron shot back.
She popped the piece of bread into her mouth with a shrug. As she reached for her glass, a letter sailed smoothly onto her plate. Wiping off a mildly sticky hand on her robes, Ginny picked it up.
"Who's it from?" Hermione asked casually.
"Harry," Ginny replied happily, tearing it open. She glanced up at Ron's scowl. "Oh, grow up, Ron. I still don't know why you're mad at him."
Ron didn't reply so Ginny turned her attention to the letter. After reading it through, her face brightened.
"What was that you were saying about me not having a broom?" she asked Ron casually.
"You don't," he stated.
"Don't I?" Ginny asked with raised eyebrows, holding up the letter. "Harry's letting me use his Firebolt."
Ron spit out his mouthful of juice. "What?""Yep," she said smugly. "But there's more." Hermione shot Ginny a warning look which she promptly ignored. "In here, he says that he offered it to you first but you never replied. You blew your chance, then."
Ron looked appalled. "I...he...what?"
Hermione hit him in the arm. "You idiot! Did you really not reply to that letter? I gave it to you last week!"
Ron shrugged, looking surly.
"You didn't even read it, did you?" Hermione demanded.
Ron didn't reply.
"Ron," Hermione breathed in exasperation. "How are you ever going to make up with him if you won't even read his attempts to apologize?"
"How do you know he was going to apologize?" Ron demanded.
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Are you thick? What do you think he said? 'Oh, Ron, I still hate you but you can use my Firebolt if you want'," she said snidely.
Ron simply scowled.
"I have to go to class," Ginny announced, standing. With one last derisive look at her brother, she hurried to catch up with a group of third years. For once, she could not wait to go see Professor Snape that evening.
"Who taught you to block like that?" Thornberg demanded of Harry during Defense Against the Dark arts. "It is completely improper."
Harry gritted his teeth. Severus had taught him that specialized block and Harry was certain it wasn't wrong. Luckily, Professor Thornberg didn't seem to be expecting an answer. Forcing out a polite tone, Harry said, "What is the proper way, then?"
Thornberg considered him. "Shoot something at me. A jinx or something."
Without hesitation, Harry shot a powerful Jelly-Legs Jinx at him. Thornberg waved his wand in the exact opposite motion of Harry's and a different color block sprung up.
"See?" Professor Thornberg asked forcefully.
"That was the same as mine, just a different movement and different color," Harry challenged.
Thornberg's eyes narrowed and a few of the practicing pairs of students glanced over at them. Draco looked nervous.
"Detention for your attitude. Tomorrow at eight," he snapped. Without addressing Harry's block any further, he strode off to another group.
Draco shook his head. "Why couldn't you just let it go?"
"Severus taught me that block," Harry said defensively. "He isn't wrong."
Draco raised his wand. "Let's keep going then."
Scowling, Harry raised his wand as well to block Draco's attack. Harry met Professor Thornberg's eyes just before he raised the block Severus taught him. His professor's dark eyes narrowed.
Ginny tried to still her beating heart as she stood in front of Professor Snape's door. It went against her every instinct to come down alone and of her own free will. Ginny reminded herself that Snape had been Harry's father for three years now and he wasn't so bad as he seemed. With this thought in her mind, Ginny raised her hand and knocked on the door.
"Enter," a voice said immediately.
Ginny twisted the knob and entered a bit hesitantly. Stepping inside, she was surprised to find both Severus and Sirius.
"Professor Snape, Professor Black," she greeted with a nod at each.
"Ms. Weasley," Snape replied. "I assume you are here for the broom?"
"Yes, sir," Ginny affirmed.
"I will get it for you. Wait here."
Snape whispered something and disappeared into a back room.
"The broom?" Sirius asked, brow furrowing.
"Harry offered to let me use his Firebolt," Ginny explained, feeling much more at ease with Sirius.
"Ah, take care of it."
"I will," Ginny promised.
"After all, I'd hate to have to buy him another one," Sirius said in a light tone.
Ginny grinned. "So that was you last year? You really had Harry and Professor Snape freaked out."
"Freaked out?" Sirius asked with a tilt of the head.
"Well Professor Snape thought it was cursed. Harry was just worried he'd miss another match," she said with a smile at the memories.
Sirius smiled as well. "Enjoy the broom."
"I will, assuming I make the team."
"Right," Sirius said as Snape came back in holding the shiny, sleek, black broom.
Snape offered it to her and Ginny grasped the handle almost reverently. "Thank you, sir."
Snape nodded and returned to his seat. Ginny edged toward the door.
"Um, good evening, then," she said awkwardly. Snape gave her a curt nod which she took as dismissal. Ginny left, cradling her precious new broom.
"The students' grades go in this column, not that one," Snape said, pointing. "That one is for attendance."
"Attendance, right," Sirius muttered.
"Have you not been taking it?"
"Er," Sirius replied. "I didn't think it was especially important."
Severus gave him a flat stare. "You astound me, Black."
"Thanks," Sirius quipped. He used a spell to transfer the grades to the correct column.
Severus leaned back. "Are you becoming more comfortable with teaching?" he asked.
"Yeah. It's easier when the students do spells. More fun too," Sirius said.
"Any hospital wing cases yet?" Severus asked snidely.
Sirius hesitated and Severus raised a brow. Sirius gave in. "Well, one, but it honestly wasn't my fault. This kid tripped and broke his nose. He's okay though, I think."
"Did you not follow up on it?"
"You ought to," Severus said. "It is always a good idea to check on them a day or two later."
Sirius looked at Severus. "You check up on your students?"
"Yes," Severus said dryly, challengingly.
Sirius's brows raised. He let out a low breath. "You're killing your reputation here."
"Adopting Harry did that," Severus said dismissively. "Not that I haven't tried to re-establish it."
"Was it worth it?" Sirius asked, head cocked.
Severus gave him a narrow look. "Of course."
"How is Harry doing?" Sirius asked.
"Do you not speak with him?" Severus replied dryly.
Sirius shrugged. "He seems to talk more to you. I think he tries to seem happy when he talks to me."
"I think he is worried, lonely and homesick but otherwise alright," Severus stated factually. "I do not believe he likes Durmstrang much."
"He hasn't said much to me about Durmstrang. Is it the people?" Sirius asked.
"They are in awe of him," Severus said with a light sneer. "But I don't think that is it."
"Hm," Sirius said. "What do you think the first task will be?"
Severus said darkly, "I try not to think about it." He straightened. "Can we return to your teaching problems?"
"Sure," Sirius said, scrutinizing Severus. Though he wouldn't say it to his face, Sirius was not only worried for Harry but also for, dare he call Severus, his friend.
"Draco!" a voice shouted from behind Harry and Draco as they walked along the corridor. They both turned.
"Draco," Gregor repeated with a sneering grin. "We just stole a restricted potions book. You want to help us brew this really neat potion? You're better than all of us."
Draco glanced at Harry. "Harry's better than me," he said, as if trying to deflect attention and weasel out of helping.
Gregor looked at Harry in consideration. "Well, then. You're not all fame, are you? Come along, then. We'll meet Dian down in the room that I showed you the other day," he said, speaking to Draco.
Gregor set off down the corridor. Harry and Draco shared a look and didn't move. After a few steps, Gregor looked back. "Coming?"
"Um, no," Harry said. "I have detention with Thornberg."
Gregor huffed in acceptance. "Come on then, Draco."
Harry grabbed Draco's arm after Gregor turned back around. He shook his head slightly.
"I'll be fine," Draco whispered. "I kind of want to get a look at that book."
"Draco-" Harry protested but Draco had already pulled away and hurried after Gregor.
Harry bit his lip and watched his friend head off. As much as he would have liked to go after them and drag Draco back, he did have detention to get to. Cursing lightly, Harry turned down an adjacent corridor and headed to Thornberg's office.
Harry knocked brusquely.
"Come in," Thornberg said from inside. Harry followed his command. "Mr. Potter," he said, less than welcomingly.
"Professor Thornberg," Harry said evenly. Thornberg's lip twitched.
"For your detention, I would have you bring me a branch off of one of the pine trees at the edge of the grounds."
Harry's mind raced, trying to remember the landscape of the outside.
"You heard me," Thornberg replied.
"Yes, sir," Harry said, stifling the questions that leapt to his lips. Harry left the office and went to the dorm to retrieve his heavy cloak. Then, he made his way to the door to the outside and stepped into the snow. The wind blew, biting the exposed skin of Harry's face. He squinted against the blinding white of the landscape. Even though the sun had gone down, the snow provided its own sort of light. Harry trudged forward, eyes searching for the nearest tree. Unfortunately, it seemed that the closest was near the lake; a decent distance away. Resigning himself to a cold and miserable detention, Harry started forward, pulling the hood of his cloak up and clutching the fur tight. Within minutes, the snow had somehow made its way over the edge of his boots to saturate his feet with its chill. Harry could see his breath.
At last, Harry made it to the copse of trees, cheeks numb and feet tingling. He fumbled with a branch before it came loose in his hand. Tucking it into his wand pocket, Harry realized that he had his wand. Berating himself for his stupidity, Harry cast a warming charm on his clothes and boots and instantly felt better. He stuffed the wand away and felt a little more positive, though no more favorable towards Thornberg. The uphill climb was less than fun. The warming charm wore off partway up and Harry was reluctant to stop and recast it. He pushed on, extremities going numb once more.
After what seemed like an eternity, Harry stepped foot in the castle, breathing a sigh of relief. He was so exhausted that he was unwilling to go out of his way to drop off his cloak at the dorm. Instead, he headed straight to Thornberg's office, coated with snow and red faced from the cold. Once he was acknowledged, Harry laid the branch upon Thornberg's desk with more force than necessary.
Professor Thornberg tilted his head at Harry. "You're quite a sight."
"Thanks," Harry muttered, unable to keep the sarcastic comment to himself.
"Watch the attitude, Potter."
Harry ground his teeth. "May I speak freely sir?"
Thornberg looked intrigued. "Go ahead."
"What was the point of sending me to get you a pine branch?"
Thornberg smirked. "I thought it might make my office smell nice."
At that comment, Harry was forced to employ Occlumency to keep from saying what came to his tongue.
"And I wanted to see how you would go about it," Thornberg continued. "It seems you chose the muggle way. A simple Summoning Charm would have had you finished in minutes."
Harry's pride was hit hard by this but Thornberg did not stop there.
"Apparently, fourth years at Hogwarts do not know summoning charms. They are taught third year here. You best do some catching up. Dismissed."
Harry spun on his heel, snow flying off of his cloak onto Thornberg's desk. Harry didn't care. He vowed to learn a summoning charm, even if it took him all year. He refused to give Thornberg the satisfaction of seeing him accept being inferior when he most definitely was not.