Year Zero Arc
Harry woke up in the morning before the rest of his dorm mates and quietly walked past the sleeping students as he made his way to the washroom and got ready to do his training.
He couldn’t afford to slack off, especially now. While he never expected to beat Moody, he knew that he only did as well as he had due to a of a combination of luck and catching him by surprise. He would not have that same advantage next time.
His confrontation with Dumbledore had been even more one sided. He had a long way to go before he stood a chance against either men.
Having changed into his exercise clothes, Harry made his way into the common room. None of the other students were awake, yet it seemed. A quick glance at the clock told him it was just after 6 o’clock.
Harry made his way out of Gryffindor tower to the entrance hall of the castle, passing by the sleeping portraits on the way.
He stepped outside and spent a few minutes stretching before he jogged around the lake, guessing it was about two kilometers around.
Harry had made some improvements when he was training with Ben, but it still took him about 40 minutes to run around the lake twice, and on the second lap, he had to stop and walk for a few times to catch his breath.
Coming to a stop in front of the castle, Harry took a long drink of water and started doing his body weight training, going through his pushups, situps, and squats.
It was just after eight when Harry made his way back inside the castle and back up to the tower. When he got to his dorm, he found that his dorm mates were just starting to wake up.
Neville and Seamus were just coming out of the bathroom, Dean and Ron were just getting out of bed.
“Hey Harry, where are you coming from?” Ron asked.
“I went for a run around the lake,” Harry explained.
“Oh… why would you do that?” Ron asked in confusion. What was the point of running if you weren’t late for something?
“Physical training,” Harry explained as he made his way to the bathroom for a shower. “You better get up if you don’t want to be late.”
“Physical training?” Ron asked, as Dean just shrugged his shoulders, getting out of bed and stumbling to the bathroom, still half asleep.
A half hour later that the first years met in the common room to listen to Percy Weasley give an impromptu speech to them about Hogwarts.
“… And this is the student academic ranking,” Percy explained as he pointed to the large board in the common room.
“It ranks every student in Hogwarts by year, and academic achievement. Every assignment, every test, and every essay is not only graded, but ranked against the other students.”
“Even if you score an Outstanding, your work will still be compared to the other students and ranked accordingly. The better you do, the higher your ranking, and the more points you will earn towards winning the house cup.”
“In my third and fourth year I ranked in the top five,” Percy said proudly. “It was one of the reasons Professor McGonagall chose me as prefect for fifth year.”
Hermione’s hand shot up. “I have a question.”
“Yes, go ahead…” Percy said, looking at the first year.
“Hermione Granger,” she answered. “How many points do we earn based on our ranking?”
“There are forty first year students this year,” Percy explained. “The top ranked student will earn 200 points, the second will earn 150 points, the third 100 points, fourth will get 80, and fifth will get 60 points,” Percy rattled off.
“After that, the points start to drop off. The fifth through tenth students get 30 points, 11th to 20th get 20 points, 21st through 25th get 10 points, and anyone below 26th gets no points.”
“So the higher we rank, the more likely we are to be chosen as prefects, then as head boy and girl?” Hermione asked.
“Yes,” Percy answered, “but it’s also a lot more than that. Your ranking will open a lot of doors for you as well. There are various internships both in the Ministry and through private businesses that take notice of your rankings.”
“If you perform well enough, and consistently you could find yourself with a very lucrative job waiting for you after you graduate.”
A gleam entered Hermione’s eyes as she glanced over at Potter. This was absolutely perfect. What better way to prove that she was the better student than the ranking?
She could tell that Potter was just like all the other rich kids from her old school that were more interested in being popular than doing well in school. When the rankings came out, everyone would see that.
“If there are no more questions, I’ll take you to the Great Hall,” Percy explained. “Professor McGonagall will hand out your time tables during breakfast.”
Harry and the rest of the first year students followed Percy downstairs to the Great Hall as he kept a running commentary going about the various portraits and classrooms they passed along the way.
When they arrived, most of the other students had arrived, but their conversations came to a stop as they spotted Harry, then the pointing and the whispers started.
Harry did his best to ignore it as he sat down at the Gryffindor table and plated his breakfast, but the pointing and whispers weren’t just restricted to the other houses. Some of the older Gryffindor’s were doing the same as well.
Harry was not sure what to do as he overheard small snippets of what they were saying.
“Did you see what happened yesterday at the train station?”
“… Never thought a first year student could cast a shield spell that fast.”
“That’s the kid that solved Merlin’s Cypher?”
“Can you believe what his father said?”
“What about what he said?”
Harry put down his fork with a sigh as he looked at his fellow Gryffindor’s, making eye contact with some of the louder ones. This was only going to get worse if he didn’t address it now.
“You obviously have something to say,” Harry spoke to the students at his table, and clearly overheard by the rest of the hall. “Let’s have it.”
One of the older students stared at him for a moment before speaking. “I was there… when your parents showed up. I saw you use the shield spell on him.”
“And you want to know why I would do that?” Harry asked.
The older student just nodded.
“… I don’t have the best relationship with my family,” Harry explained. “We had some words, and things escalated.” He said, not wanting to go into too much details about his personal issues with his family.
“You fought on the platform? With your own family?” Hermione asked, aghast. She knew her first instinct about him was right. He was just like the spoiled and entitles kids she came to Hogwarts to get away from.
“It wasn’t like that,” another one of the first year girls, Lavender interrupted. “I heard what they said to him. They were completely out of line.”
“But it was Potter that resorted to violence,” Hermione rebutted. “There’s no room for that in a civilized society.”
“You weren’t even there,” Lavender denied. “I saw it clear as day. He cast a shield spell, not some dark curse.”
The two girls glared at each other, looking like they wanted to continue arguing, but held their tongues as Professor McGonagall started dropping off their timetables.
Albus watched the exchange from the teacher’s table. Just like everyone else. He heard the entire conversation and couldn’t help but smirk. James Potter, taken down by a single shield spell. He knew he made the right decision by cutting times with him, and this was only proof of that.
It was bad enough to fight publicly with your own family, but then to lose the fight so decisively, Albus could only shake his head.
A different thought was running through Harry’s head as he thought about what Hermione had said, the same thought he had yesterday. Did he let his anger get the better of him?
He knew he had to use the shield spell. It was clear what would have happened to him if he didn’t, and not for the first time he considered if he should have said what he did. Would it have been better to walk away? Or was it better to give his father something to think about the next time he tried something?
It was times like this he really missed Ben. He always knew the right thing to do.
The rest of the conversations going on around Harry returned to normal after the students digested the latest piece of gossip.
Harry and the rest of the first year students made their way into the dungeons to start their first class of the year, double potions.
Their teacher was already there, waiting for them. He started by taking a roll call of the Gryffindor and Slytherin students, coming to a stop at Harry’s name. “Ah yes… our new celebrity, Harry Potter,” he said, looking pointedly at Harry.
A few of the Slytherin students hid their chuckles at the dig, while Harry wondered if the comment was based on what he did at the Vault, or what happened at breakfast.
“You are here to learn the subtle art of Potion making,” he began, his voice easily carrying throughout the classroom, effortlessly holding all the student‘s attention.
“There will be no foolish wand waving in my classroom, and you will hardly believe you are performing magic, but I assure you, for those of you capable of understanding, this is the truest form of magic there is.”
“The subtle beauty of a brewing potion, the ability to confound the senses, bewitch the mind… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stop death itself…” He said to the students now hanging on his every word. “IF you are not like the usual rabble of dunderheads, I have the misfortune of teaching.”
Silence filled the classroom at the end of Snape’s speech as the students looked at each other, wondering if they were supposed to respond. All except for Hermione, who was at the edge of her seat, looking desperate to prove herself.
“Potter!” Snape barked. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Harry, without missing a beat, replied. “A sleeping potion… the draught of the living dead.” His memory recall ability helping him with the details.
Snape’s lips curled into a sneer, “correct… but perhaps just a luck guess. Let’s try again. Where would you look if I asked you to find me a bezoar?”
“They are most commonly found in the stomach of goats, cattle, and porcupines,” Harry answered.
“And its use?” Snape pressed.
“It can neutralize certain poisons,” Harry replied, noticing that the professor had clearly singled him out.
“Let’s try another. What is the difference between Monkshood and Wolfsbane?” Snape asked.
This was when Harry realized that the professor Snape was not just singling him out, but also wanted to discredit him. “I don’t know, sir.”
“Evidently fame is not everything,” Snape said to the snickers of a few of the Slytherin students. “In the future, don’t expect to come into my classroom unprepared.”
By this point Hermione was waving her hand as high as she could without actually getting off her seat.
Harry narrowed his eyes at the professor. “I have read 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi from cover to cover, and while it talks about Monkshood, it does not mention Wolfsbane anywhere.”
Snape glared down at Harry, his eyes burning with anger. “Are you suggesting that I, a Potions Master, do not know what I’m talking about?”
“No, Professor,” Harry denied. “What I’m telling you is Wolfsbane is not listed anywhere in the first year textbooks,” Harry replied, unfazed by his glare. He had certainly been on the receiving end of far worse. “But if you think I’m wrong, please show me the page about Wolfsbane, and I will be more than happy to apologize.”
Snape returned Harry’s glare, staring down at him. He knew they were the same plant, but wasn’t certain it was spelled out in the first year textbooks. As much as he wanted to put the up jumped Potter in his place, it would certainly backfire on him if he was wrong. “For your information, Potter, they are the same plant.”
“Sit down,” Snape snapped, switching targets to the easier target of Hermione who was doing everything she could to get his attention. “Why aren’t all of you writing this down?” He demanded of the rest of the students.
The rest of the students quickly pulling out parchment and quill, writing the answer as quickly as they could
Hermione slowly dropped her hand back down as her cheeks flushed in embarrassment and frustration. She had read the first, second, and third years text books already. Of course, she knew they were the same plant. She even knew that it was also called Aconite,and used in the Wideye Potion and the Wolfsbane Potion.
Potter had cost her a chance to earn some house points and improve her standing in the rankings.
Things didn’t improve from there as Snape told them to brew the boil curing potion. He waved his wand at the chalkboard, producing a list of instructions and snapped at them to get to work.
He then spent the class stalking between the rows, watching them weigh dried nettles, and crush snake fangs, criticizing everyone, only stopping occasionally to praise Malfoy’s work.
He was just in the middle of praising the way Malfoy stewed his horned slugs when there was a loud bang, followed by a hiss of green smoke.
Snape immediately rounded on Longbottom and Finningan, who were staring down at the melted blob that used to be Finnigan’s cauldron.
The potion had covered Longbottom from head to toe. He moaned pitifully as Snape, deducing their mistake in seconds, yelled at him. “Idiot boy! You added the porcupine quills before you took it off the fire!”
“And you, Potter, why didn’t you warn them?” Snape demanded, turning around and facing Harry. “10 points from Gryffindor!”
“Take him to the hospital wing!” Snape ordered Finnigan.
Harry wanted to argue that it was Snape that should have been watching, not him, but thought better of it from the look Ron was giving him, realizing it would only make things worse.
It was another hour later before they could finally leave the potions classroom. Harry was relieved. He had no idea how he was supposed to handle an entire year of this.
Hermione glared at Harry, finally able to speak her mind, now that she was out of class. “What were you thinking, challenging the Professor like that Potter?” She demanded. “It’s the first class of the year and we’re already down ten points.”
Harry looked back at her in surprise. Did she really not see what Snape was doing? “Look Hermione… I stand by what I said. Wolfsbane is not in the first year textbook. If you don’t believe me, look it up yourself.”
“Fine, I will,” Hermione huffed as she pushed past him. Not only would she prove him wrong, she would do it in the common room for everyone to hear.
Harry sighed as he watched her go, wondering why a few lost house points were enough to get on her bad side.
After lunch the first years moved onto their next class of the day, Charms with professor Flitwick on the third floor. The half goblin teacher was waiting for them, standing on a stack of books so that he could see over the top of his desk.
He taught them the Wingardium Leviosa spell that allowed them to levitate objects.
Harry had already read about it before the start of school and learned how to cast it successfully. He watched as the rest of his classmates attempted the spell, most of them getting the feather to roll over and move side to side, but not float into the air.
Hermione looked down at her feather, then glanced at Potter, who hadn’t even pulled out his wand yet. She already knew the incantation, and practiced it on the train, so she knew she wouldn’t have any trouble with it.
Pointing her wand at the feather, she clearly enunciated her words. “Wingardium Leviosa,” and watched triumphantly as the feather rose into the air.
“Oh look there,” Professor Flitwick said excitedly. “Miss Granger has done it, and the first one too!”
Pulling out his wand, Harry repeated the spell, sending his feather up to join Hermione’s, completely missing the glare that was being directed at him.
“And Mr. Potter has done it too! 5 points to each of you,” Professor Flitwick said happily.
After Charms class, the first years returned to the tower, talking excitedly about their first day of class.
Harry turned to walk up the stairs. There was still time to get in some more exercise before the sun went down.
“Hey Harry, where are you off to?” Dean asked curiously.
“I’m getting in some more training,” Harry explained.
“Again? Didn’t you already do that this morning?” Ron asked.
“Yeah, but a friend of mine gave me an exercise routine to follow. I don’t want to slack off now,” Harry answered.
“That’s a waste of time,” Hermione interrupted with a scoff. “You’d be better off studying ahead.” She said, pointedly reminding him of what happened in potions class.
“Why is that?” Harry asked, wondering why Hermione seemed to have it in for him. Now that he thought about it, it started long before potions.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” Hermione asked. “This is a school of magic. That’s what we need to focus on, not seeing who’s the strongest or fastest.”
“… And you don’t see any connection between our magic and our bodies?” Harry asked, challenging her.
The rest of the students watched the back and forth between them. It was strange seeing Hermione, and Harry who had both been polite with everyone else, take such issue with each other.
“No,” Hermione denied. “I don’t see any connections between being able to lift heavy things, and running a little faster with learning magic. Why don’t you enlighten me?” She asked sarcastically.
Harry did his best to keep his temper under control, but Hermione was certainly making it difficult. Taking a deep breath, Harry paused for a moment. “… Our minds and our magic exist inside our bodies. They are directly linked to each other,” he said, repeating what he had learned from Merlin.
“Our bodies produce the magic we use, and our minds direct where it goes and what form it takes. If we want to perform at our absolute best, we can’t neglect one for the other.”
“And where did you learn that?” Hermione demanded. “It certainly wasn’t in any of our school books.”
“It wasn’t in any of the school books,” Harry agreed. “I met someone before the start of school that explained it to me.”
“If it was worth doing it would already be in our textbooks,” Hermione denied. The idea that some random person would know more than their actual professors seemed ridiculous to her.
Harry sighed, looking away. How was he supposed to explain that it was Merlin himself that taught him with out looking crazy?
“That’s what I thought,” Hermione smirked as she went up to her dorm room to study in peace.
Ron took in Harry’s and Hermione’s words, listening carefully. He could see where Hermione was coming from. Why wasn’t excercise mentioned in any of their school books? If it was true, wouldn’t they have a class on physical activity?
Then he thought about what Harry had done. Could that have been at least partly responsible for how Harry solved Merlin’s Cypher? Did it somehow give him a deeper understanding of magic that everyone else had missed? Was it how he performed so well in classes today?
“… Is it ok if I join you Harry?” Ron asked, coming to a decision.
“Sure Ron,” Harry replied as they both went up the stairs, leaving the rest of the first years to think about what Harry and Hermione said.
Hermione smiled at finally getting one over on Potter. She would prove he was just making up all that stuff just to look important.
Remembering what Potter had said during potions she went to her trunk and pulled out her textbook. She flipped open the glossary of 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi, going down the list, looking for Wolfsbane.
She was annoyed to find there was no mention of Wolfsbane or even Aconite in the glossary. Opening the entry for Monkshood she skimming through it, but none of the other names were even mentioned.
She growled in frustration. There was no way that Potter could have remembered that. It must have been some kind of trick.
Ron followed along with Harry, doing some stretches before he watched Harry mark off two lines a couple of hundred meters apart from each other.
“I usually do sprints in the evenings,” Harry explained. “We just have to run from end to end as many times as we can without stopping.”
“Seems easy enough,” Ron replied, confidently. It was just a bit of running. How hard could it be?
Harry set the pace as they ran back and forth. At first it seemed easy to Ron, and he didn’t have any problems keeping pace with Harry, but after the fifth set he had broken out into a sweat.
By the seventh set he was lagging behind Harry, and by the time he reached the 10th, he was on the ground gasping for breath.
He watched as Harry continued on. He was slower than at the start, and sweating as much as he was, but he still forced himself to keep going.
When Harry reached the eighteenth set he dropped to the ground, gasping for breath, but happy that he had imporved on his personal best and was able to get in another two set today.
Harry got up a moment later, rembering what Ben warned him about for sitting down too long. He walking back and forth, getting his breathing back under control. He followed it up with more pushups, situps, and squats.
After Ron caught his breath he did his best to follow along with Harry, wondering what he had got himself into. It had all seemed so easy when Harry explained it, but the reality of doing the exercises was completely different. He reminded himself about what Harry told him. This was not going to be easy, it wasn’t supposed to be. He had to put in the work, just like Harry did.
After everyone went to sleep, Harry slipped into his mindscape to meet up with Merlin. He looked around the stone room of his mind. He could already see the improvements that had come about after he started eating better and exercising.
The floors and wall of his mind had smoothed out a little and were no longer jutting out in random places.
“It’s an impressive start,” Merlin conceded. “For most it would take weeks, if not months to show these kinds of improvements.”
“It’s still looks pretty rough though,” Harry replied as he looked around at the uneven floor and walls.
“Perhaps, but now you’re ready to take control of your mindscape,” Merlin explained. “All this has been happening involuntarily, just like when you’re breathing or recovering from an injury. Your body just acts on its own.”
“Reach out with your mind, feel the walls, the floors, the ceiling,” Merlin instructed.
Harry closed his eyes and concentrated, feeling the rough and uneven texture of the stone around him.
“Good,” Merlin said, “now press on the walls, feel them smoothing out, becoming like glass.”
Harry concentrated. It was difficult, the walls resisted the change. He exerted more force, pushing harder with his mind. Then he felt it, the walls started to give, ever so slightly.
Harry opened his eyes, gasping for breath. He felt like he had run ten laps around the lake without stopping.
“Very good Harry,” Merlin praised as he and Harry examined the walls. They were still made of the same fieldstone as before, but were now noticeably smoother.
“You have taken the first step, when you wake in the morning you will be ravenous, but you will also find that your magic is much more fluid and efficient than it used to be, and it will require less of your magic to perform spells.”
“What else can we do?” Harry asked, already feeling the difference in his magic.
“Nothing else tonight, probably not for the next few days,” Merlin replied. “Your body needs energy to perform these changes, that energy comes from the food you consume. You will need to build up your reserves again before we can make any more changes. For now go to sleep and continue your physical exercises.”
Harry felt the world go dark as he drifted off into a fitfull sleep.
Seven shadowed figures gathered together in an unused classroom, their faces obscured by their hooded robes.
“What are your assessments of the new students?” One of them asked.
“Harry Potter is an obvious candidate,” another answered. “The vault alone qualifies him.”
“Hermione Granger has shown herself to be quite intelligent as well,” another replied. “We will need to watch her closely over the next few days to confirm, but she would make an excellent candidate.”
“What of Draco Malfoy?”
“He is a difficult choice. He may have the intelligence, but his family is… problematic. We can’t be certain of his loyalties.”
“Continue to watch him carefully…”
We are officially in arc 2 now, which should be about 40 chapters give or take. What did you think of Hermione’s interactions with Harry?
I know that’s she’s out of character compared to the books, this is because she sees Harry as an intellectual rival. Her previous interactions with him also involved Harry getting special treatment which she associates with the kids that bullied her, resulting in a combination of jealousy and competitiveness from her.
Did it comes across that way when you were reading the chapter, or do you think it needs a little more work?
Thanks for reading!