And here's the sixty first chapter of "A Year Too Soon"! Enjoy!

* Review Response:
BMS, Yaw6113, PasiveNox, Urgazhi, RedOuroboros, TheGreatBubbaJ, DarkRavie, Aratherfluffyfatcat, Fuck Names, griffin blackwood, Agnes Fonta, thank you for your reviews, folks!
Brockster550, they'll manage somehow. At the very least, they have been to the Muggle London already and have seen how non-Magical people dress and the like. And Harry had talked about other things they would need to know to 'survive' out there. Perhaps that is not exactly what the actual class teaches, but they definitely know enough not to fail the exam. As for the ritual to bring back Voldemort... well... I have some ideas on how spectacularly it will fail.
magitech, the 'education' during Voldemort's rule during the seventh book aside, I have always had the impression that the main purpose of this course is to teach the Magical kids how not to stick out like a sore thumb if they ever find themselves out of their nice and proper Magical world. Basically, a course on how not to break a Statute of Secrecy by walking around in neon-pink robes with animated patterns. Or not to sound like a complete idiot who doesn't know how to ride a bus.
Luiz4200, I'm sure he will come up with something.
erbkaiser, if I remember the books correctly, Professor Burbage was both more up-to-date with non-Magical world - still outdated in her knowledge, but definitely better than most Magicals - and held rather pro-Muggle views. Basically, I think of her as a less bumbling version of Arthur Weasley.

* AN: This chapter has not been beta-read.

Disclaimer: I DO NOT own "Harry Potter" franchise. No profit is being made. Same goes for any books, video games, anime or manga I may or may not use for ideas.

written text

A Year Too Soon
Chapter LXI:
A Picnic on the Hillside

The rest of March passed without anything truly noteworthy happening in Harry's life. Well, he did get a letter from the Finewoods saying that they were ready to start working on the new Potter manor. He also received a missive from Gringotts with the goblins asking him to approve a transaction - some galleons were needed for clearing the debris of the old, burnt down building as well as for the preliminary earthworks. The requested sum looked reasonable enough, so the young Potter sent a response with his approval as soon as he could make his way to the Hogwarts' owlry.

Other than that… Well… Neither Professor Snape nor Professor Burbage have contacted him or the twins about their Muggle Studies OWLs applications, meaning the Ministry was still processing those. And so, while they waited for the Magical bureaucracy to - unhurriedly - do its thing, Harry focused on giving Flora and Hestia those extra lessons Professor Burbage thought they needed in order to get good marks for the exam.

And while they certainly did spend a lot of their 'free' time doing this extra studying, that wasn't the only way they spent their evenings when not doing their normal homework. They were teens in love with each other, so it was only natural that they would occasionally disappear to their private hideout to engage in a more physical aspect of their relationship.

It was well over a month since they took that mock exam, when Harry, Flora and Hestia finally got some news about their applications for the real one. One evening, while the three of them were relaxing in 'their' corner of the Slytherin common room, a seventh-year prefect approached them:

"Potter, Misses Carrow." The older boy said. "Professor Snape would like to see you in his office. Do not make him wait." And having said that, he walked away.

"Let's go?" Harry asked the twins as he stood up. His girlfriends nodded and too got up from the big armchair the three of them had been sharing. A short walk later, they were in front of the Head of the House's office.

"We were told you wanted to see us, Sir." The green-eyed teen said after knocking on the door.

"I presume Misses Carrow are with you, Mr. Potter?" The Potions Master asked back. Then, not waiting for a response, he invited them inside: "Come in." Quickly stepping inside the man's office, the trio took seats in the guest chairs. Once they did, Professor Snape continued: "Earlier today, the Department of Magical Education of our illustrious Ministry has finally decided to give you three admissions to the Ordinary Wizarding Level exam for Muggle Studies this academic year. That means, you will be taking the exam with the current fifth years."

"Thank you for informing us, Sir." Harry said.

"Don't thank me yet, Mr. Potter." The Potions Master replied. "Just because you and Misses Carrow here were given an opportunity to sit the exam without taking the course and a year earlier doesn't mean I'm not expecting anything less than excellence from you. I will be very disappointed if you get anything less than Exceeds Expectations."

"Yes, Sir." The three teens chorused.

"Good." Professor Snape said then. "Now leave, I have business to attend to." And he indeed had: there was a large number of essays to be graded stacked on his table while five cauldrons of various sizes were simmering in the 'laboratory' portion of the room - probably a request from Madam Pomfrey.

Nodding, Harry, Flora and Hestia quickly vacated the man's office.

~/ *** \~

The next few days were rather uneventful but, Hogwarts being Hogwarts, that didn't last for very long. At least, this time it wasn't the young Potter or his friends who were at the epicenter of the events… Harry, Flora and Hestia, along with their yearmates, were on their way back to the Slytherin common room after a morning in the greenhouses when they pretty much ran into Lucius Malfoy. The man was coming from the Hospital wing and the scowl on his face made it clear that his reason for coming here wasn't exactly a pleasant one. Nevertheless, Harry decided to greet him.

"Good morning, Lord Malfoy." He said. That seemed to jolt Lucius out of whatever thoughts were occupying his head.

"Ah, Heir Potter, good morning." The Malfoy Patriarch said. There was a brief pause, before he added under his breath: "I hope your day has been better than mine so far." That statement made Harry raise an eyebrow.

"What happened, Sir?" He asked.

"Oh, nothing too serious. Just a schoolyard fight that got a bit out of control. Nothing that Madam Pomfrey can't fix, though I'm certain that Draco didn't enjoy vomiting slugs for almost an hour." The man fell silent for a moment before continuing: "From what I've been told, my son made a rather unflattering comment about the… Care for Magical Creatures Professor, and some Gryffindors with the youngest Weasley boy as their leader took offense to that. And it escalated from there. Now, I've always advocated that only fully-trained and properly-equipped wizards should hold teaching positions at Hogwarts." The man was definitely not a fan of Hagrid, but at least he was superficially-polite about it. "But even when it is not the case, one still should pay the members of the staff token respect. At least when within their earshot. Or that of their supporters. Alas, it seems that Draco has yet to learn this lesson."

"I see…" Harry said. The young Malfoy heir indeed had an unfortunate tendency to speak his mind out, with all of the offensive labels he put on the people, when it was the least appropriate. Meanwhile, the Weasleys were known for their rather fiery tempers and Gryffindor-ish tendency to jump into action at the slightest provocation. It was actually kind of surprising that it took so long for a fight this big to occur between Draco and Ronald. "I hope Madam Pomfrey brings him through." Then, in his mind, he added: 'And, hopefully, Draco learns some lessons from this confrontation and stops running his mouth when he shouldn't.' Perhaps, that was too much to ask for, but…

"Thank you, Heir Potter." The Malfoy patriarch said. Then he glanced at the clock on the wall. "Now, if you excuse me, I do have some business in the Ministry that I need to attend to soon."

"Of course." Harry said with a nod, before stepping aside to let the other man pass. "It was nice to meet you here, Lord Malfoy."

"Likewise, Heir Potter, Misses Carrow." He paused for a moment, before adding: "I wish you a good day." And with that Lucius Malfoy walked away to the castle's front doors.

Deciding to take a little detour, Harry then peeked into the Great Hall and took a look at the 'hourglasses' that kept track of House points. And, apparently, whatever had happened between Malfoy and Weasley was indeed a serious fight: Slytherin had lost forty points and was now in danger of being overtaken by Ravenclaw with just five points of lead; Gryffindor, meanwhile was down by sixty points and fell to the very bottom of the ranking and would have a really hard time reclaiming their previous position from Hufflepuff.

The fact that Slytherin was still in the lead, however small it might be now, Draco and his cohorts would probably survive this mess without getting roughed up too much, but people aren't going be happy about the lost points, and… The Snakes could be very creative with the ways they showed their displeasure.

Apparently, Madam Pomfrey decided to keep Draco under her care for a bit because Harry didn't see the blonde boy in the Great Hall at lunch. He was back with Slytherin in the afternoon, moaning to anyone in the common room who would listen about how terrible and biased the teachers were for punishing him when the morning incident was entirely Weasley's fault.

It didn't look like many actually believed his word, though, and instead were treating this tirade as free entertainment. Meanwhile, a handful of the older students, these ones definitely not happy with Draco, were impatiently waiting for him to finish his tearful story so that they could punish him for losing Slytherin so many points. It didn't look like it would be pretty either, so Harry decided not to stick around and quickly made his way towards his room in the dormitories. He even made sure to stay there for some time to be certain this whole mess would be over by the time he returned to the common room.

And while whatever the older students had in store for Draco was indeed over by then, the entire drama wasn't. Not quite yet. Harry barely had time to settle in his favorite armchair in the far corner of the common room before the Malfoy heir was upon him:

"This is all your fault, Potter!" The blond boy proclaimed accusingly as he glared at his 'rival'.

"How exactly is your inability to bite back insults to people is my fault, Malfoy?" Harry asked.

"It is because of you and your stupid policies, the lesser witches and wizards, and those who aren't even worthy of Magic, now forget their place and dare to argue back with their betters!" Draco spat.

"Re-e-e-eally?" The green-eyed Potter drawled, clearly unimpressed by the presented argument. "Do you honestly think that it is how it all really works?" He asked then. "If so, I have some bad news for you."

"Listen here, you half-blood bastard!..." The blonde began.

"I'll have you know that my father and my mother were happily married when I was born." Harry interjected, interrupting the other boy's would-be tirade. Letting out an angry growl, the Malfoy heir switched his track to, unfortunately, even more pathetic one:

"When my father hears of this…" He began, only to be interrupted by Harry again:

"Funny thing, I actually met him today. And he wasn't all that impressed with you." He didn't take that well at all and with another growl reached for his wand. Unfortunately for him, Harry was a quicker draw and had his wand trained on him first. "Do you really want to try this, Malfoy?" The Potter heir said. "A second visit to Madam Pomfrey's today can certainly be arranged for you. I can even use the slug-vomiting Curse for the full experience."

"You'll regret this, Potter." Draco said after several long, tense seconds of silent glaring. Then he turned around and stomped away.

"Did you really need to antagonize him like that?" Hestia asked Harry as she and her sister took seats next to him. The said teen shrugged in response.

"Probably not, but…" He trailed off. Why exactly did he feel the need to handle this in the way he did? Sure, Malfoy was an annoying brat, but blowing him off like that was not the usual for him. And he wasn't sure why. Was he simply fed up with Draco's attacks against him? Or was there something else going on here?

Either way, he hoped that Malfoy's threat was an empty one.

~/ *** \~

Spring this year came pretty late, but by the second week of April almost all of the snow was gone with just a few stubborn patches remaining in the ravines and trenches that were always covered in shadows. Young grass was sprouting eagerly, painting the Hogwarts' grounds lively-green, and the first flowers could be spotted here and there on the sunlit hills.

It wasn't exactly warm just yet, but that was barely an issue when one could use Magic, so Harry decided it was a good time to have the first picnic of the year already. Flora and Hestia definitely liked the idea and the school's house elves were more than willing to provide them with food.

Unfortunately, not everything went perfectly well as Draco Malfoy, apparently, had overheard them planning the picnic and decided that it was the perfect opportunity for him to exact his revenge. And he chose the moment that Potter menace and the Carrow twins sat down to eat their lunch as the time to launch his attack.

Harry was about to take a bite of his sandwich when he heard someone shout the incantation for the Furnunculus Curse, alerting him to the fact that he and his girlfriends were under attack. It took less than a moment for his combat training under Professor Flitwick to kick in and, whipping out his wand, he summoned a fairly-strong shield to block the incoming spell as well as the couple of fairly-weak Jinxes that followed it.

Turning around to face his attackers, the young Potter saw none other than Draco Malfoy as always accompanied his two lackeys, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. Quite honestly, he sometimes felt pity towards those two for always hanging around the blonde and suffering the consequences when one of his 'brilliant' schemes failed. Other times though… Well, those two weren't always the nicest people.

"Malfoy." Harry hissed angrily. "This is a private outing and you weren't invited here. Get lost."

"I don't think so, Potter." Draco replied. "You've embarrassed me previously, and I will make you pay dearly for that now. Let me show you the power of a real wizard, something a filthy half-blood like you will never have!" Harry, unable to stop himself from expressing his thoughts about this, let out an exasperated sigh. Meanwhile, Draco leveled his wand at him and fired a moderately-powerful Knockback Jinx, perhaps hoping that it would make Harry fall back and squash the food.

"Protego!" The green-eyed teen called almost-lazily, intercepting the spell with his Shielding Charm. Several moments later he was forced to put a lot more of his power into the shield so that it could also stop a few blobs of mud Crabbe and Goyle sent his way with the Oppugno Jinx.

Flora and Hestia weren't idle either and quickly returned fire with a lightning Curse and an overpowered Stinging Hex respectively. Vincent barely managed to avoid the former at the very last moment, but his 'partner' was not so lucky and the yellowish spell connected with his shoulder, making him let out a grunt of pain as a burst of electricity shocked him rather badly. A couple of moments later, a Body-Binding Curse ensured that he will not be participating in this fight anymore. Left alone against the Carrow twins, Crabbe didn't last for much longer and soon was put out of the fight with a well-aimed Stunner.

Meanwhile, Harry was busy dealing with the Malfoy heir. While definitely better than his two 'lackeys', the blond boy was still no match for him and so once Harry went on offensive, he didn't last for more than a handful of spells. Unfortunately, the young Potter needed him awake to deliver the message, and mobile enough to go away - and take Messers Crabbe and Goyle with him - so it did limit his options a bit. Not that it was a big challenge for him to overcome…

"Incarcerous!" Harry called as he bound Draco with summoned ropes. He was still in the process of mastering silent casting, and this particular spell wasn't exactly a priority for him, so he needed to speak its incantation. For now. "Malfoy." He addressed his now-immobilized opponent. "Listen here and listen well. Your pathetic attempts at petty revenge for your failings that are of your own making have become most annoying and I'm losing my patience with you. Don't test me further or I will retaliate in the ways that you will find most unpleasant. Understand me, Malfoy?"

"Why you?.. When my father hears of this-..." The blonde's little tirade was cut short by the Potter scion.

"I asked you, do you understand me?" Harry repeated, pinning the other boy with his glare alone. Faced with someone he couldn't best in Magic or intimidate with words, Draco was left with no option but to swallow his pride and nod in defeat. "Then take your two friends and leave." And with a flick of his wand, Harry released the ropes binding the other boy. The Malfoy heir briefly contemplated cursing the Potter now that he could use his wand again, but deciding that the risk of going alone against him and his wenches was not worth it. So he did as told and undid the Magic on Crabbe and Goyle before dragging them away.

Once the troublesome trio was out of his sight, Harry let out a tired sigh and sank onto the ground. After several long seconds of silence, he finally spoke:

"Flora, Hestia, I'm sorry…"

"What for, Harry?" The girls asked him, speaking almost in unison. They paused for a moment before Hestia continued: "It's not your fault that Heir Malfoy decided to come and confront you here."

"Yeah… You're right about that… But… That's not it." Before the girls could ask him for clarification, Harry spoke again: "I'm sorry you had to see me… riled up like that, especially because of him. I should've been better than this."

"It's alright, Harry." Hestia said. "Everything's alright. Now calm down and let's finally have our picnic. Please." Finally turning to face his girlfriends, the green-eyed teen asked:

"You… still want to have it?" The twins nodded. "I… Very well. Just give me a moment." It wouldn't be especially easy for him to recompose himself and return fully to the pleasant mood he was in before the Malfoy showed up but for his loves, he would absolutely do his best.

~/ *** \~

Sirius Black, currently hiding from the soul-sucking coldness of passing-by dementors in his animagus form, looked up at the tiny window near the ceiling of his prison cell. It was not possible for him, even as a human, to really see what was happening outside through it, but he could still tell that the winter has come to an end and the spring has begun. Before long, it will be warm enough for him to escape from this hellish place and…

Why was he escaping now? - aside from not wanting to spend any more time locked up in Azkaban for crimes he didn't even commit, of course. There was something important he wished to do outside of these accursed walls… Damn, his mind has gone numb and empty after spending so much time as Padfoot with nothing to do but sleep or stare at the bare stone walls while enduring the dementors and the aura of cold despair those monsters enveloped themselves in.

So… What was it that he wanted to do that made him, after so many years, finally decide to jailbreak?

Thinking hard about that, he eventually recalled something about his godson… Ah, right, Harry was in danger of being corrupted by evil Slytherins and needed to be saved. Yeah, that was it, Sirius thought. He needed to save little Prongs from the clutches of those slimy bastards before it was too late. Hopefully, it wasn't yet. No, it couldn't be too late! There was no way James's son would succumb so easily. He still had time!

He still needed to wait for a week or two before the seas stopped being too cold to swim across even as Padfoot. And then he'd escape from this dreadful place - he had already checked that he could, with some effort, squeeze between the bars - and go save his godson.

For now, though, he needed to rest and gather strength. Crossing the Northern sea would be no small feat, and that would be just the first leg of his journey. He'll definitely need lots of strength for that. But, saving Harry from the evil influences… He really must do that, whatever the cost. It was his duty as Harry's godfather.

That's all, folks!
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