As Harry expected, he slept through dinner and, to the next morning. He was woken up by Michael casting several screeching alarm clock charms and, feeling remarkably refreshed, he headed to the bathroom and got ready for the day.
Harry sent up a prayer to Mother Magic that the Minister stayed away for today (and the rest of his life) and left for breakfast with Hermione and Draco. He had Potions first thing in the morning (not double, thank Merlin, that was on Draco’s A days) with Hermione, Maisy, Anthony, and Terry. After breakfast, he walked to the dungeon classroom with them.
He shouldn’t have been surprised, he thought, resigned, by the unnatural shadows in the far left corner of the classroom, but he was, and Harry was very, very angry. Harry didn’t get angry often, but there was something about the Minister’s single-minded obsession with him that made icy cold rage fill his veins. This was the man responsible for his fucked up home life and James’ depression (Harry knew that James was an adult, yes, but the Minister shouldered some modicum of blame), and this was the man who slaughtered his mother.
At that moment, making eye contact with the Minister’s dark red eyes, Harry vowed to do whatever it took to take down that man in front of him. Whatever it took. (If a green orb in the Hall of Prophecies glowed even brighter at that thought, well, Unspeakable Larkspur wasn’t going to tell anyone).
Harry did not react outwardly other than a narrowing of his eyes as he shoved all his (icy, frigid, so cold it burned) anger behind his Occlumency shields. Hermione led him to their assigned table and waited for Professor Black to start class.
Hermione was worried. She had only ever seen Harry get angry (not annoyed, irritated, or mad) two times. The first was in their 1st Year, and Draco had called Hermione mudblood scum. Harry had gotten all stony, icy, wrong, and Draco had woken up drenched in mud, pigs’ blood, and pond scum from the Black Lake (all of his clothes and bed sheets were too).
The other time was much, much more terrifying. In 3rd Year, there had been a student in their 7th Year--a creep named Vivian Penmark--who had drugged Draco with Amortentia. Harry and Hermione had discovered them in a very, very compromising and very, very illegal position. Draco told Hermione once, late at night, that while she was vomiting, Harry had looked at Vivian dead in the eyes and cocked his head.
Nobody knew what happened to her other than that her family, three months later, received her jarred uterus and a note that read retributum est peccatum. Her family left the country and did their best to forget that they had a daughter. This was especially prudent given that people were coming forward on exactly what sins needed retribution (and there were many, many, many she had to atone for). Draco and Hermione wisely ignored the blood under Harry’s fingernails and the wild look in his eyes the three months before her family received that gift.
Hermione and Draco both knew that there would only be one victor in this deadly dance between Harry and the Minister and that Harry was not the one dangerously underestimating his opponent. While they were initially worried, given that the Minister was a very powerful, very violent man, they weren’t as much anymore; Harry was not a being to be trifled with. He may have been complacent to let the Minister walk all over him for a few days in hopes he’d move on and find another obsession, but his power plays? His blatant perversion and disruption of his learning? The Minister’s general disregard and the false sense of ownership? Harry was not going to roll over and show his belly.
If a Horcrux underneath Harry’s pillow became increasingly anxious as he mulled over the information he had been given, it was obviously due to his annoyance over how far his main soul piece had fallen. It was obviously not because Tom was the only other being who knew exactly what happened to Vivian Penmark or his fondness for Harry.
Back in the Potions classroom, Harry was listening to Professor Black call names for roll.
“Right!” Professor Black started, “Now after we went over the safety procedures on Tuesday, it’s time to start on our first project of the term. Ms. Brown, what can you tell me about Amarenovis?”
Lavender cleared her throat before saying, “Amarenovis has two main uses; the more common one is as an antidote to Amortentia, but if one uses a bloodstone rather than a sunstone, any feeling of romantic love can be erased. An overdose of Amarenovis makes it so the victim can never love again, romantically, platonically, or otherwise. It looks like onyx and smells exactly like Amortensia, but with an added scent of what you most hate.”
“Thank you, Ms. Brown, take 3 points for Gryffindor. Like many antidotes, the steps are exactly magically opposite of Amortentia, so we will be finishing it in this class and testing them in a controlled, private environment next class. There is a reason there are only 12 students in this class and 9 in my other. We are working with very dangerous potions.”
Professor Black looked at them sternly before continuing, “Amortentia is one of the worst potions out there, which is why we no longer teach you how to make it and focus on the antidote, instead. Now, I have posted the instructions on the board, so gather your ingredients and begin.”
Harry read the scrawl of chalk on the blackboard and, while Hermione set up their work station, went to their assigned cubby to grab:
[24 g] Terrafire Lizards, Whole
[16 g] Rose Stems, Diced
[2 mL] Peppermint Oils
[8 g] Sunstone, Loosely Crushed
[16 g] Rose Leaves, Smashed
When he returned with all the ingredients, Hermione smiled in thanks, and they began to make the potion. Hermione poured a liter of Standard Potioning Water in their silver cauldron and turned on a hot flame.
Harry measured out 2 mL of peppermint oil and waited for the water to boil before pouring it into the cauldron. He crushed the sunstone, one gram at a time, while Hermione added each one, stirring clockwise four times between.
They waited for the potion to settle for precisely 24 minutes and 20 seconds before unceremoniously dumping the rose stems. After waiting 16 minutes and 12 seconds, Hermione added the rose leaves too.
Then came the tricky part, every 4 minutes--exactly--they had to stir 16 times clockwise and add a whole terrafire lizard that had been only fed may bells. Once they did that, their potion was thick and matte black and ready for the last step. Hermione took her mother-of-pearl dagger and slit her fingertip, squeezing four drops of blood into the potion. It swirled, and its matte color turned shiny and iridescent, like the oil spills Hermione had seen in pictures.
They lit up their work table button that let Professor Black know they were finished without disturbing their other classmates. Professor Black strode over and looked impressed by their results. He complimented their potion quietly, took several samples, and vanished the rest. Professor Black then told them to clear off their work table, decontaminate, and start on the assignment he had written in their notebooks.
Harry put all the excess ingredients back in their storage cubbies, making sure to put them next to non-reactive ingredients and that all of it was inside the container. Simultaneously, Hermione methodically scrubbed the work table with a cloth imbued with a tumus bene. She scoured the cauldron, table, knives, and other utensils. When Harry got back, they both got out their notebooks to check the assignment. Pulling out parchment, quills, and ink, they outlined their 6-sheave essay since they didn’t have enough time to write the whole paper.
Hermione and Harry got into a rhythm of writing and quietly conferring as the rest of their classmates finished up (they were the second group to have completed their potion). They pointedly ignored the hairs prickling up on the back of their necks and just outlined their body paragraphs.
Finally, the whole class was finished, cleaned up, and working on their essays, and Professor Black called for attention.
“Students, since we have 25 minutes left, we’re going to do a little exercise on what we smell in Amarenovis, since, as Ms. Brown stated at the beginning of the class, it smells like Amortentia with an undercurrent of your least favorite smell. It is prudent to know what Amortentia is like, and this is the safest way to learn all of its characteristics. Now! Who wants to go first?”
A Gryffindor, Sophie Roper, raised her hand confidently. Professor Black nodded at her, and she came forward to sniff at a vial. She said, “I smell salted caramel, limes, and dung bombs.”
“Thank you, Ms. Roper. Please take your seat. Who would like to go next?”
A Hufflepuff, Justin Finch-Fletchley raised his hand and at Professor Black’s nod came forward.
“I smell scorgio, strawberry chapstick, bergamot, and rotting fish.”
The rest of Harry’s classmates walked up, sniffed the vial, and reported their findings. Harry didn’t pay attention to them overly so (it felt almost like an invasion of privacy) except for Hermione’s (her’s was lemongrass, mint toothpaste, old books, and menstrual blood).
Then it was his turn, and he ambled over to Professor Black. He smelled the potion and told the class that he smelled, “Green apples, dark chocolate, masala chai, ink, and vomit.”
Professor Black thanked him, and Harry took his seat, ignoring the Thoth-damned Minister’s heavy gaze. There were 10 minutes left in class, and Harry was praying that class passed without incident, but of course, it didn’t as the Minister decided to materialize and walk over to the front of the class, where Harry was sat.
If Harry had less competent occlumency shields, he would have rolled his eyes so hard they would fall out of his head. But he didn’t, so he just narrowed his eyes and tightened up his shields. They weren’t good enough, though, to stop him from rolling his eyes at Hermione when the Minister opened his Hecate-damned mouth and started to spew dramatics and absurdities.
“As you know,” the Minister stated, “I was the one to ban Amortentia, but it does have its uses. Tell me, Mr. Potter, why is that you smell what you do?”
Harry internally groaned before politely replying, “I fail to see how that is any of your concern, Minister, and I ask that you respect my privacy.”
The Minister just raised an eyebrow and stood taller, but Harry was not cowed.
“I don’t see why you don’t wish to share with the class?”
“Why I don’t wish to share my personal stories is, again, none of your concern.”
Then the Minister got angry. “You will tell me why you smell green apples, dark chocolate, masala chai, ink, and vomit, Mr. Potter.”
Harry just stood up, put his hands on his desk, and hissed, long and slow. Well, he actually spoke parseltongue, if the Minister angrily hissing back was any sort of indication.
“Why are you ssso obsesssssed with me??” Harry asked the Minister.
The Minister’s face paled dramatically and quickly hissed back, “I didn’t know you were a Parsssselmage.”
“I don’t advertisssse my sssskills, m’Lord.”
The Minister let out a raspy, sibilant ki-ki-ki, and it took the class a few seconds to realize that the Minister was laughing.
“I had forgotten ssssnakessss call me m’Lord.”
“I am not a sssssnake, m’Lord.”
“But I am the older Parsssselmage, sssso you are automatically ssssubssservient to me, in a Parsssselmagic ssstandpoint. Now you have sssufficiently disssstracted me, but you will tell me why you ssssmell green applesssss, dark chocolate, massssala chai, ink, and vomit.”
“And why sssshould I do that?”
“If you do, I will let you and your friendsssss be for 72 hours.”
“I am a man of my word. Now, why do you sssssmell those?”
“I ssssmell green applessss becaussssse of Draco, dark chocolate becausssse of Uncle Moony, massssala chai becausssse it’sss ssssoothing, ink becausssse of Hermione, and vomit becausssse of Jamessss.”
“And who issss thissss… Jamessss?”
“Don’t play coy; it doessssn’t ssssuit a man of your ssssstatus.”
“Ki-ki-ki, you are right. And you alssso lied about the ink.”
“I didn’t lie; I jusssst omitted the whole truth. I think I’ll take my leave now. I have to get to class.”
At that last statement, Harry grabbed his stuff and Hermione’s hand and dragged her out of the Potion’s classroom, leaving a stunned group of students behind. The Minister took a deep breath and swept out of the room, going straight to his office; he did, after all, make a promise. Harry groaned and ran a hand through his hair, making it stand up almost vertically as Hermione patted his arm sympathetically. It wasn’t common knowledge that he was a Parselmage, but it wasn’t like he would receive negative backlash. Harry was more worried that all of his Merlin-be-damned secrets would get out before he finished his NEWTS.
Thankfully, the Minister kept his promise, and Harry spent the rest of the day and the subsequent weekend blessedly Minister-free. He caught up on all his work, finished his assignments, studied ahead, and finally, finally, got started on his house project. Each house had a final project that students had to create to showcase their talents and skills: Hufflepuffs did service projects, Slytherins had ‘if I had to change the world’ proposals, Gryffindors did impossible tasks from a list (ranging from retrieving three fae fruits to finding Atlantis), and Ravenclaws did research projects.
Innovation was the name of the game, and the winner from the end of the year fair received 1,500 ⅁ . Throughout the event, hundreds of Ministry officials from all different departments scouted for new ideas and promising candidates. It was a marvelous opportunity, and Harry had his eyes on one department specifically: the Department of Mysteries.
You couldn’t apply to it. Instead, you had to be scouted at graduation, get one mastery and four years of experience or two masteries, and then go through the cryptic application process. Harry had only known two other people who had been scouted as Unspeakables, and he was determined to be the third. That’s why it was so important to do so well at the Novo Novus Showcase (especially given his status as the child of a war criminal).
Harry didn’t know much about his housemates' projects, just enough to know what he shouldn’t do for his. He knew a little more about Hermione and Draco’s, but it was mostly cursory information rather than actual explanations. And anyway, it didn’t matter because Harry was much more focused on his own project: predicting chaos. In his youth, he had formed a fascination with predicting everything (hence why he took Arithmancy and Divination), and that had snowballed into a near obsession in predicting chaos. There were plenty of muggle studies on that sort of thing, but Harry wanted to know the true way to predict chaos, and that is why he needed to get scouted to become an Unspeakable. Being an Unspeakable would allow him to study chaos and eventually learn to predict it.
But Harry was getting ahead of himself, so instead of musing what it would be like as an Unspeakable, Harry spent six hours researching alongside his fellow 7th years on his Novo Novus Showcase project. They didn’t talk the whole time, but there was a sense of companionship, and it was nice to research next to all his friends, with the only sounds being quills scratching and pages turning.
The house-elves, bless them, brought up food and water during lunchtime, as they were accustomed to Ravenclaws elbow-deep in research, and knew that nothing could make them leave before they were done. Dinner, though, was a different story, and the house-elves gave them an hour's warning to wrap up before unceremoniously kicking them all out, to the amusement of the 1st years who had never seen anything like that before.
At dinner, while eating the beef stew, rice, and fried plantains, Harry thought of his week, and it was quite the week. This was not how he expected his 7th year to go, but oh well, at least it was interesting. Pushing all thoughts of the Minister and the past week away, Harry tuned back into the conversation bouncing between his year mates and joined in the light-hearted teasing, joking, debates, and storytelling.
When he was back in his room, he told Tom all about his research, and then they discussed the week and what to do when the 72 hours were up (it would be in the middle of Charms class). As always, Tom was remarkably helpful, and Harry was extremely glad he had Tom as a resource and a friend.
Soon enough, though, he succumbed to sleep, and he slept till the next morning, unaware of what the future held for him.