The transition between summer and school was rough for Harry. While he was glad to be back with his friends, his classes had become harder than in previous years. This fact was stated outright by several teachers and reflected in the very first day. It was several days before Harry had his first Care of Magical Creatures class and he was anxious to see how his friend would adjust to teaching. If the assigned book was any indication, it was going to be a rough year.
Harry shoved his snapping book, bound tightly with a belt, into his bag and latched it shut. He hurried down the stairs to the common room, not wanting to be late for his first lesson with Hagrid. Harry arrived just as Hermione did, which was odd because he had thought that she had Herbology which was very close. He shrugged and pushed to the front to give Hagrid an encouraging smile.
“Ever’body here?” he asked. No one said differently so he grunted and continued. “Welcome to yer first Care of Mag’cal Creatures class, I’ve got a surprise fer you.”
Harry and Draco shared a glance. With a flourish, Hagrid pulled the cover off of a cage that sat behind him. Inside was one of the most hideous things that Harry had ever seen, apart from Aunt Marge.It looked like a monkey covered in frog skin and it sported horns and a sharp-toothed mouth. As if that were not enough to make someone throw up, it had a big pustule in the center of it’s forehead that was glowing bright red. It seemed to grin at everyone while simultaneously hissing at the nearest, of which Harry was one.
“Um, Hagrid, what is that?” Harry asked, tentatively.
“It’s a Clabbert!” he said proudly. “Caught it myself in the forest the other nigh’.”
Harry looked at the Forbidden Forest with renewed respect.
“See how it’s little pimple is glowing red?” Hagrid asked. To Harry, it looked like a bit more than a “little pimple” but then again, he had never seen Hagrid in his acne days. Hagrid continued, “That means he’s sensing danger. You guys must be freakin’ him out.”
“I think he is freaking us out,” Draco muttered, loud enough for most of the class to hear. The Gryffindors chuckled but the Slytherins were adamantly silent.
“Anybody wanna feed him?” Hagrid asked “I saved a bird and a lizard fer you.”
No one volunteered. Hagrid looked around, disappointed. Harry sighed, feeling bad for his friend.
“I will,” Harry spoke up.
Hagrid’s eyes lit up. “Alrigh’, Harry! Come on over.” He held out a medium sized lizard.
Harry took it with an air of disgust and dropped it in between the bars of the cage. The Clabbert’s wide mouth opened to reveal several sets of razor sharp teeth as he swallowed it. The thing on its head no longer flashed red.
“Yeh have to watch their teeth. Sharp things, they can take yer whole hand off in one bite,” Hagrid said.
“Who wants the bird?” Hagrid asked, as if it were an honor. Harry stepped back quickly.
A Slytherin boy, thin and relatively tall pushed his way to the front.
“Can’t let Potter have all the fun,” he said snidely. “He always gets fist pick. I’ll take the bird.”
“Yer name is...?” Hagrid asked, still unfamiliar with most of the class.
“Blaise Zabini,” he said, looking Hagrid up and down in disgust.
“Okay, Blaise, just drop it in the cage and watch yer fingers.”
Blaise took the bird and with an air of confidence, walked over to the cage. He held it by the foot and dangled the head in the cage. The Clabbert tugged on it’s head but Blaise didn’t let go. He pulled back on the feet. The pustule on the Clabbert’s head turned freshly red. With an apparent snarl, it’s mouth opened its widest yet and it leaped up, enclosing the entire bird in its mouth and also the tips of two of Blaise’s fingers. He screamed. The Clabbert swallowed the bird and spat out the tips of his fingers in disgust.
Hagrid looked horrified, as did most of the class, as they watched Blaise clutch his hand. Hagrid pulled out his new wand and levitated the two tips, unwilling to touch them.
“Class dismissed,” he said, leading Blaise to the hospital wing.
Harry joined his friends, eyes wide. “That is not good.”
“I know,” Hermione said worriedly. “Hagrid will be destroyed.”
“Is Blaise one of those ones with rich, snotty parents?” Ron asked.
Draco looked a little uncomfortable. “Yes. His mother is a famous and beautiful witch who married something like seven wizards? Each one died and they got richer.”
“Great,” Harry said sarcastically. “What a way to start the year.”
“Come on,” Hermione said. “There’s no use standing here when there is work to be done.”
The other three groaned simultaneously.
“Hey, Severus, do you have a minute?” Harry asked, standing in the doorway.
“Of course,” he said. “Come on in.”
Harry closed the door and took up his customary seat in front of Severus’s desk. It brought up so many memories of the past years when he had sat in this very spot, talking to Severus. Or at least, talking to someone who looked like Severus. This time, he was sure that his guardian was the one who sat in front of him, waiting for Harry to address his reason for coming.
“I just wondered if you knew why the dementors affected Draco and me like that,” Harry said. “You know, passing out.”
“Mr. Malfoy as well?”
“Interesting,” Snape commented. “I believe, Harry, that it is because you have more...bad experiences for the dementors to dredge up than do others.”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“You must consider this from another standpoint. You are used to a difficult life, you know no other way. Take your friend Ms. Granger, for instance. From all that you know of her, what do you suppose is the worst thing that has ever happened to her?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said. “Her parents are dentists and she seemed like she had a nice childhood. Maybe getting petrified or seeing Ron get hurt in the chess game?”
Snape nodded. “Good. Now what do you suppose is the worst thing that ever happened to you?”
“My parents getting killed,” Harry said immediately. “Or living with the Dursleys or fighting Voldemort or finding out that you had been petrified.”
Severus raised a brow at the last assertion. “That is quite a more substantial list. The dementors have more awful memories to make you relive when they come near you and your happiness is all the more valuable for it. They feed off happiness, and thus are attracted to you.”
“Hang on,” Harry said. “If the worst thing that ever happened to me was my parents getting killed...” Harry’s eyes grew wide. “That scream...the pleading...” his eyes started to water.
“Harry?” Severus asked in concern, leaning forward. “What is it?”
“I heard Voldemort killing my mother and her trying to protect me,” Harry managed, albeit shakily.
Harry could see the change in Severus’s face. He stood up and walked over to Harry, setting a comforting hand on his shoulder. Harry wiped his eyes and attempted to compose himself.
Severus was horrified. He could scarcely imagine what it would be like to hear such a thing relived in such a terrifying manner. He would have passed out too if he were forced to hear Lily... He squeezed Harry’s shoulder.
“No one should have to go through that,” Severus said with conviction.
“Not even Sirius Black?” Harry asked, wiping his eyes.
Severus considered that. “Well, perhaps. But he at least did something that truly deserved it. You on the other hand, are innocent.”
Harry frowned. “Even if he is guilty that seems harsh.”
Severus did not comment.
“Severus, do they affect you like that?” Harry asked.
He paused. Severus had a lot of horrible memories, horrible things he had said and done, regrets beyond measure. Very little happiness pervaded his spirit, at least before Harry came along. He was certain that they would affect him that way.
“I have never had the misfortune of encountering one,” he said honestly. “But there is no doubt that they would.”
Harry nodded. “Can you teach me how to defend against them?”
This really caused Severus to hesitate. “I can teach you the concept.”
“The concept?” Harry asked, looking confused. “Is there not a spell?”
“There is a spell,” Severus said cagily. “I can teach you the theory behind it.”
“Why can’t you just show me?” Harry asked.
Severus looked down. “I have never successfully cast it.”
Harry tilted his head. “I didn’t realize there was anything you couldn’t do.”
Severus could tell that he was being his usual blunt, honest self and felt a small glow of satisfaction. He felt that it was every father’s, or guardian’s, goal to be viewed in this way by their child.
“But that’s okay,” Harry continued. “We can learn it together.”
Severus gave him a soft look. “That sounds good.”
Though he was worried that he would fail in front of his son, Severus had the feeling that now he would be able to produce a perfect patronus.
“Does everybody have a teacup?” Professor Trelawney said from the corner of the room. “Oh, what am I saying, I know you all do. Mr. Longbottom, there are extras in the cabinet.”
“What?” Neville asked. “I already have on-” Shattered china flew across the floor. He had gone to gesture with his hand and knocked it off his desk. “Oh.”
Trelawney looked at him and nodded wisely. “Now, everyone should have teapots at their table. Go ahead and have a cup.”
Harry and Ron looked at each other. For their first Divination lesson, this was not exactly what they had expected. Harry shrugged and poured water into both of their cups, tea leaves already inside. Ron took a sip.
“Ugh,” he said, making a face. “We have to drink a cup of cold tea?”
From the next table over, Hermione gave him a look. “Heat it up then. You do know a basic warming spell, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” Ron said, warming up his cup. Harry followed suit.
“While you drink your tea, I-” Trelawney began, then her eyes grew wide and she looked up at the ceiling. “The inner eye is active, very active. I see...grave danger for four of our students in this very room, one of which shall leave our number, never to return. And Ms. Patil, the day you have been dreading is coming soon at hand, best prepare...” she trailed off.
Harry rolled his eyes, though Draco looked to be taking her seriously.
“There are four of us,” he said mouthed at Harry.
And one would die. According to Trelawney at least. As far as Harry was concerned, it was a harmless prediction. He drank his tea. The rest of the class did the same, then waited for further instruction.
“Open up your books and interpret the symbol in your tea leaves,” she said in a mystic voice.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Mine looks like a blob. Does that mean I’m going to fall in the lake?” she asked quietly and sarcastically.
Ron snickered, flipping the pages in his book. Trelawney floated behind them, observing his progress. Then, she turned her attention to Harry who sat, head on his hand, staring at the tea leaves in boredom.
“Oh dear!” she cried, starling everyone in a three seat radius. “The grim! Oh, dear boy, poor boy!”
“Uh, what’s that mean?” Harry asked a little freaked out by her antics but not by the prediction.
“Death!” she shrieked. “This dog is an omen of death!”
“Wait, what dog?” Harry asked.
For a moment, Trelawney slipped in her dramatics. “In the cup. The dog in the cup. It’s a grim!”
“Oh, huh,” Harry said to mask the lurch in his stomach. “I didn’t get a dog out of that.”
Trelawney moaned and floated off. Harry’s chest was tight. He looked at the picture in Ron’s book of a large, black, shaggy dog, remarkably similar to the one he had seen on two occasions now. But that dog had seemed so nice...perhaps Harry had been mistaken in thinking it so.
“Is there really any truth behind that, though?” Hermione asked skeptically.
Ron shrugged. “My Uncle Bilius said that he saw the grim. He died within twenty four hours.”
Harry felt a pit of growing trepidation in his stomach. He was generally not one to believe in such things but he had seen it. Twice. Touched it, even.
“Back me up, here, Draco,” Hermione said with a nudge.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I wouldn’t take it too lightly. We all know that Trelawney’s a fraud but some of Divination is legitimate. I think so, anyways.”
Harry looked at his friend. Draco was generally the one to denounce such claims and this made Harry pause.
“I think I want to be alone for a bit,” Harry said, retreating to his room.
No one protested as he climbed the stairs to his dorm alone. Perhaps Harry did not want a dog quite so badly anymore.