Harry flipped through his Divination textbook trying to come up with a reasonable interpretation of the mist within his crystal ball. He ran his hands through his hair. Though it was only Divination, Harry did not want to see Severus's reaction if he got a Troll on his final exam. Hopefully, he would consider the class as absurd as it truly was. Harry, however, did not want to take any chances. He watched the mist swirl around the ball once more, seeing nothing but shapeless gas. He found a list of example meanings in his book and took pieces from each, forming a coherent answer.
Handing in his paper, Harry was glad that this marked the end of Divination for the year. He bounced the small crystal ball in his hand absent-mindedly and followed his classmates out of the room. As they filed down the ladder, Harry realized that he had forgotten to return the crystal ball.
"Oh, I have to go put this back," he told his friends. "I'll catch up with you in a few minutes."
Already at the back of the line, it wasn't an issue for Harry to return to the classroom to set down his crystal ball in the back room where they were kept. When he stepped through the beaded curtain that sectioned off that part of the room from the remainder, Harry paused. Professor Trelawney sat in a chair, basket of crystal balls on the table in front of her.
"Uh, Professor?" Harry asked. There was no response. He touched her gently, tentatively on the arm.
As soon as he made contact, she jumped. In a creepy, raspy voice, she said, "THE DARK LORD AWAITS A NEW FOLLOWER, ONE THAT WILL AID HIS RETURN. TONIGHT, ONE WRONGED BY THE LIGHT WILL TURN TO THE DARK AND SEEK OUT HIS NEW MASTER. WITH HIS AID, THE DARK LORD WILL RISE, GREATER, MORE TERRIBLE THAN THE PAST HAS EVER SEEN. TONIGHT..."
She trailed off with a gasp. Harry stood in utter shock, staring at her as if she had suddenly taken on the appearance of a hippogriff. She looked at him much the same way.
"Can I help you, dear boy?" she asked.
"What did you just say?" Harry asked shakily.
She looked at him as if he were dense. "I asked if I could help you with something..."
"Uh, here," Harry said, thrusting the ball forward.
She accepted it. "Thank you," she said, but Harry had already gone. He hurried down the ladder and, finding the corridor empty, all but sprinted to find Severus.
With that odd occurrence weighing heavily on his mind, Harry had difficulty focusing on the last of his exams. Luckily, Defense Against the Dark Arts was the final one for the year and it was one that Harry had a natural aptness for. He went through Lupin's course easily, battling grindylows, kappas and red caps almost without thought. In the final stage when faced with a boggart, Harry came out grinning, having accomplished not only a perfect Riddikulus but had first tested out his Patronus shield. He received full marks.
Though his friends looked understandably shaken upon coming out of the encounter with the boggart, they insisted that they had done fine as well. All in all, it was actually a fun exam. Hermione was a little more unsettled than usual about the boggart, but Harry didn't pry.
Though normally his heart would have lifted at the thought of being finished with schoolwork for the year, a weight currently pressed on his spirit. Thinking about the prophecy made Harry's stomach churn and he felt dizzy. He grabbed the stone banister on the stairs up to the castle for support. As he drew in a deep breath, Harry's friends gathered, concerned.
"Are you okay, Harry?" Hermione asked. "You don't look so good."
"I'm fine," Harry insisted. "I changed my mind, I don't want to go inside. Why don't we go sit in the shade? I have to tell you guys something."
Harry had held off telling his friends about Trelawney's prediction in attempt to not add more stress until exams were over. Where Harry thought he was being considerate, his friends chastised him for holding back.
"You should've told us, Harry," Draco said seriously. "You think it was real?"
Harry nodded gravely. "That's what bothers me. I always thought she was a fake but... you should've seen it." Harry shivered despite the warm sunlight that lit the ground next to him.
"Have you told anyone else?" Hermione asked, concerned look upon her face.
"Severus," Harry said. "He didn't really offer anything but seemed concerned."
"We all are," Ron pointed out. "That's a pretty wicked prophecy."
Harry pulled up a clump of grass in frustration. "I just wish there was something I could do to stop it."
"You can't control everything," Draco pointed out. "There are some things even a thirteen year-old can't stop," he joked, trying to lighten the mood.
Harry produced a faint smile. A flash of orange caught his eye. Harry turned and saw a long, fluffy tail swishing from the edge of a bush. "Is that Crookshanks?"
"What?" Hermione asked. "Crookshanks!"
With an angry huff, she leaped up and grabbed her cat around the middle, keeping well away from her claws. In truth, she only needed to worry about the back ones because the front were otherwise occupied.
Ron squinted at the gray form in between Crookshanks's front paws. "Scabbers?"
He stood and extricated his rat from the talons with which it was contained. "Scabbers!" he cried happily, clutching the writhing form to his chest. The moment of joy and relief quickly turned to anger as he realized what had happened.
Hermione looked at him expectantly. "Well?"
"Your stupid cat almost killed my rat again!" he yelled.
Hermione's eyebrows shot up. "Again?" she asked incredulously. "He never killed him the first time! I think you owe Crookshanks and me an apology," she said airily.
"An apology? Scabbers is probably scarred for life!" Ron said in protest.
"At least he's alive!" she snapped back.
"Guys!" Harry said, stepping between them. "I really don't fancy the idea of another fight between you right now. Can you just drop it?"
With a faint huff, they both sat down with their respective pets. Draco mouthed a "thank you" at Harry who nodded once. Then, he resumed staring across the lake, wondering if this would be the last day of peace within the wizarding world.
Severus sat at his desk after returning from administering the last potions exam. He knew that he should be grading those tests so that he would not have to later but the map was so mesmerizing. He squinted to see the names on the map. Out of habit, his eyes searched for Harry's dot.
After a few moments, he found it out on the grounds. It took a moment to make out the other names surrounding him for they were overlapping each other. Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley. As he was about to dismiss it, he noticed something else. There were a few extra letters behind everyone else's. Willing everyone to move farther apart, Severus stared at the jumble of words.
It took a few minutes before the group seemed to decide to head up to the castle. In the meantime, Severus thought over what Harry had told him of the prophecy. It sent chills not only up his spine but through his Dark Mark when he considered the Dark Lord truly returning to power. Greater and more terrible than before. Despite his brave façade, Severus's gut twisted in trepidation. If this came true, he would face horrible retribution at the hands of the Dark Lord. Severus could only hope that it was contained to him and that Harry would be left unscathed. He admitted that the possibility of that was rather slim. Perhaps he should have thought of that before adopting Harry.
Severus shook away his thoughts and realized that the group had broken up and were heading to the front doors of the castle. He could see Draco, Hermione and Harry's names clearly but Ron's had something else in behind. His mind filtering out the words "Ron Weasley", Severus thought that he could make out the longer name behind it. Using the few pieces he could gather, he put together the rest. Peter Pettigrew. That was impossible. Everyone knew that Sirius Black had killed him. The map must be lying. Intending to find out, Severus rose and headed for the door. He watched as the group headed up to the almost empty common room. Vaguely, he wondered why they had not stayed outside to enjoy the beautiful day. Having gotten a head start per say, they reached the common room before Severus.
Severus got to the portrait hole and just realized that he didn't have the password. He cursed and looked at the map which showed Pettigrew just on the other side of the door, still with Ron. Severus looked around, hoping someone would come along to let him in.
"Mr. Longbottom!" he snapped as he spied the round-faced kid coming up the stairs. "What is the password?"
Longbottom's face turned white. "Uh, I um... I don't know? Sir?" he amended quickly.
Severus's brow furrowed. "Are you not a Gryffindor?"
Neville's face went from white to red. "Professor McGonagall won't let them tell me," he muttered.
Severus almost asked him why but then realized that this conversation was wasting precious time. His son was in that room with what was supposed to be a dead person.
"Fine, find me someone who knows," he snapped.
Neville looked relieved that he had not been forced to explain and nodded quickly. "Yes, sir."
He hurried off. Severus tapped his heel impatiently against the stone.
"You look bored, good sir. Care to duel?" Sir Cadogan asked from the portrait on the wall. Severus gave him a dark glare. The knight was unperturbed. "In my time, it is customary to at least acknowledge a challenge," he huffed, "you lot are not very polite, I have noted."
Furthering the image of impoliteness, Severus turned his back to the picture to wait for the delivery of a knowledgeable Gryffindor. He folded the map, still activated, so that only the common room showed on the front. It was less conspicuous that way. In a few moments, Neville returned, face flushed, with Ms. Weasley in tow.
"Ms. Weasley, care to tell me the password?" he asked.
She gazed at him boldly, eyes narrowed. Severus did not seem to intimidate her quite as easily as the others.
"How do I now it's you?" she asked. "You could be Sirius Black in disguise."
That was a valid point. Nevertheless, Severus huffed, glared and enhanced the menacing look on his face. "Would Sirius Black know that you were Harry's second in his duel with Nott at midnight on the Astronomy tower?"
She frowned. "I guess not. The password is 'Finelesca'," she said with a sidelong glance at Neville.
"Right you are, fair maiden!" Sir Cadogan cried from the wall. "You have leave to pass."
"Is he always like that?" Severus asked darkly.
Ms. Weasley gave him a long suffering look. "Always."
Severus was once more astounded at how undisturbed she was by his presence. However, that was no matter, at least at the present time. He stepped through the portrait hold and raised the map casually, checking to see where Pettigrew was now. He was in the same place.
Severus stepped over to the group in the corner. Besides the new additions of Ginny and Neville, the common room was otherwise empty. Four surprised faces looked up at him as he surveyed the group. There was no Pettigrew to be found. He especially looked over Ron but nothing seemed amiss. There definitely was not another person on top of him. Ron looked nervous.
"Is something wrong?" Harry asked.
"I saw something rather interesting," he said conversationally, gesturing to the map, "and came to look. It seems as if it were a false interpretation by the map."
"Can I ask what you saw?" Harry asked.
Severus hesitated. It seemed as if there was no truth to it and Severus did not want to alienate Harry by keeping things from him as he did last time. He weighed his options and determined that it could not do much harm to tell him. Anything he told Harry almost inevitably made it to his friends so he supposed it wouldn't hurt to tell the group. "Peter Pettigrew."
Harry froze. "He's dead."
"That is what makes it interesting," Severus said calmly. "In any case, I believe the map to be lying somehow unless you are all consorting with a dead man?"
They all shook their heads in rapid denial. "Very well, I will go," Severus said. Before turning to leave, he studied Harry's face for a moment. He looked unduly worried. Trying to put reassurance in his gaze, they locked eyes before Severus left with the swishing of his long, dark robes.