Chapter Eight

Gandalf strode into the Great Hall at around seven. He had not slept a wink last night. Indeed, he hadn't even left the library. After the incident with the dementors, Gandalf spent the rest of the night thinking through the whole matter, going over what he knew. He then spent the very early morning studying transfiguration, pouring through a shelf on the subject, rather glad for the nearly two thousand years he'd spent learning lore as quickly as he could.

Transfiguration truly was a fascinating subject, if a little at odds to how he knew the world worked. He had hoped to find some books, or even just one, on how transfiguration worked, but it would seem that would have to wait for another day. Perhaps McGonagall would be able to shed some light on the matter.

Gandalf had just muttered a meal into existence, when the very Professor came up to him.

"Professor Gandalf," said McGonagall, her voice quiet but stern. "When you are finished, I'd like to see you in my classroom. Do be quick." With that, she turned, not giving Gandalf a moment to respond.

Gandalf complied, finishing his meal, and a truly marvellous cup of coffee. When he was finished, he headed down the hallway, and out the doors…

And was greeted with a splash of icy water from above! Gandalf looked upwards, brandishing his wand and staff. The soaked wizard saw a ghoulish figure floating high above him, laughing with malicious glee.

"Ha-ha-ha! Stormy old Gandalf from another world's gotten soaked!" the spirit cackled.

Gandalf frowned, and pointed his staff at the spirit. "And who might you be?" he demanded.

"That would be Peeves, Professor. A poltergeist," said Harry, coming up beside him. "He has a nasty habit of pranking anyone and everyone. Mostly because he almost always gets away with it. There are only a handful of people he actually listens to."

"Does he hurt anyone?" asked Gandalf.

"Not really. Unless he bruises someone by throwing chalk at them."

Peeves swooped nearby, cackling the whole time. "Potty Wee Potter! Must be a terrible boy, getting detention so soon! Speaking parseltongue again?"

Harry was about to retort, Gandalf could see. He placed a quick hand on the boys' shoulder.

"What's parseltongue?" he asked quickly.

Harry sighed. "It means I can speak to snakes. It's not a good thing around here."

Gandalf nodded, knowingly. Then he turned back to a still cackling Peeves.

"Peeves," he called. Authority filled his voice. The strength and power of one of the White Council, and one of the five, one the chief of the Istari. A shadow filled the room, stretching down the corridor, and Gandalf seemed to grow. Thunder was in his eyes. "Come down here."

Peeves looked at him, confused. Then aghast. Then fearful. Fearful, for he found himself unable to defy Gandalf's demand, and begun floating down to meet Gandalf on the ground. When he finally touched the ground, he was paler and terrified. He turned invisible.

"I can still see you, Peeves," said Gandalf, staring down at the poltergeist, his voice booming, echoing against the walls. "Now, you know I come from another world. Do you know what is done with disruptive spirits in my world, Peeves?" The shadow darkened. "We bury them. Bind them to barrows and graves, so they cannot bother anyone ever again. Should I bury you, Peeves? I shall, if you do not listen to me. Now make yourself visible to the rest of the school!"

At once, the troublesome poltergeist became visible. Gandalf heard the rest of the onlookers' mutter amongst themselves.

"I will let you go free if you listen to me, Peeves," said Gandalf sternly. A hard light burned in his eyes. "Do not trouble Mr Potter here on the matter of what languages he speaks. And if ever I call upon your aid, you will listen and you will help. If you abide by those two conditions, I will let you go freely, as freely as my conscience will allow. Do you understand?"

Peeves nodded furiously. He was shaking, and the students around him were too, though for a completely opposite reason. Gandalf stared him down, silent. Then he nodded, and Peeves fled.

The rest of gathering looked at Gandalf, amazed. The students started cheering, clapping, and hooting. Gandalf looked down at a rather amazed Harry and winked. He then made his way through the crowd, and to the transfiguration class. He knocked on the door with his staff.

"Come in," replied McGonagall, sharply. Gandalf entered, and found a room with all the tables and chairs pushed to the side, except one, which had a quill and some ink on it. McGonagall gestured towards it. "Have a seat, professor."

When he sat down, McGonagall produced from her desk three papers. She set them on his desk. "How go your classes, professor? I'm aware they can be an unruly bunch, especially considering how nearly all of their defence classes have been. They tend not to think much of it anymore."

Gandalf chuckled. "They can certainly be an interesting bunch. But I have had little trouble with them. I have captured the attention of far more stubborn people."

McGonagall chuckled. "If that is so, then I certainly do not envy your job." Her smile faded. "But tell me, professor, have you spoken to Dumbledore on the matter of calling the professors together for a meeting regarding your… nature of origin?"

Gandalf frowned. He had not. That slipped his mind last night. He would bring it up tomorrow.

"I have not, no," said Gandalf, using a tactful voice, which proved oh so useful when it came to placating people such as Saruman or the lords of Men. "I intended to do so tomorrow, however."

Minerva blinked, then nodded. She took out some sheets of paper. "Very well then. Here you are. This is to gauge your knowledge of the theory. I want to know how far ahead you've read, professor."

"Certainly," said Gandalf. Minerva went back to her desk and began going through papers. Gandalf looked at the test, and set about answering the questions. It took only an hour. The answer to them were all in the first shelf he'd gone through. And there were concepts he was quite familiar with.

It seemed he'd impressed the Transfigurations teacher, for she raised her eyebrows slightly. "And you're quite certain you were thorough? Mistakes are often dangerous in this subject."

"I'm quite certain," answered Gandalf. "I believe most, if not all, had their answers found on the first shelf in the transfiguration section of the library, which I read through already. My memory, while not infallible, is better than most. And mistakes are oft a luxury I cannot afford in my profession."

"Indeed?" asked McGonagall. "Well then, I see we shall progress quicker than expected. I'll take these then, and see you tomorrow. Keep reading whatever you can get your hands on, professor."

Gandalf raised his eyebrows. The class was over already? That was a pity. Of course, the Transfiguration professor likely needed time to set up a class.

"Certainly, Professor McGonagall," said Gandalf. "Enjoy the rest of your day." With a bow, the old Istar left.

The rest of the day passed rather quietly. Gandalf spent a few hours reading through books on transfiguration, before returning to the fauna of this land. There were a particular flying horse, a Thestral, which were oft seen as omens of death. They, of course, were not. But only those that have seen a death could see them.

They were also amongst the swiftest steeds in the magical community, capable of travelling great distances in a short amount of time. They would be most useful in times of great need, decided Gandalf.

But there was something else, Gandalf noted, that was of great interest to him. The book mentioned something about Thestral hair being a difficult substance to master. It was said to be used only once, in a wand, but it did not mention any specific wand.

Gandalf kept reading, delving deep into the lore of the wizarding world, the history of Hogwarts in particular. He was reading the history of Helga Hufflepuff, when Slughorn approached him.

"Excuse me, Gandalf," began the old potions master. "How are you? Oh, I see you're reading up on old Helga." He chuckled.

"Professor Slughorn," said Gandalf, looking up from the book. "I'm quite well. Yes, I am. All the founders of Hogwarts, in fact. I thought it wise to learn the history of Hogwarts. There is much one can learn from history, if one only knows how to apply to the present."

Slughorn nodded. "Wise words, Gandalf, wise words indeed. But to the matter at hand: I was here simply to make sure you haven't forgotten about our little party. I'm quite eager to see you there. First party of the year, and all."

"I haven't forgotten, Horace," answered Gandalf. "I make it a point never to forget or forsake a meeting, much less a party." He gave a small chuckle.

"Oh, good, good," said Slughorn. "I'm glad to hear it."

"Yes, and I dare say I have one or two stories I could tell, quite a few of my own," informed Gandalf. "If you think that might help?"

"Oh, Gandalf that would wonderful," answered Horace cheerfully. "What kinds, might I ask?"

Gandalf smiled. "Oh, some of adventure, some of romance. I know stories of mystery, of magic, of terrible danger. And some… some of terrible sorrow and regret." Gandalf's voice had gone quite, and his eyes turned away from the potions master, as if looking afar. Then he blinked, and turned back to Slughorn, saying, "Tell me, will the party be indoors, or outdoors. If it's outdoors, I might be able to quickly put together a small firework or two."

"Oh, no, no," said Slughorn quickly, as if waking out of his own stupor. "No, I'm afraid it'll be all inside this time. There'll be a few outside, though, later on."

Gandalf nodded. With that, Slughorn bid Gandalf a good day, and hoped to see him that evening. For his part, the Istar finished his encyclopedia on wildlife, and searched for a map, then made for the edge of the Forbidden Forest. It was a little while past midday, and there was a cool breeze.

Before long, he made his way to Hagrid's hut. He rose his staff to knock on the door, but as he did, he heard voices. There was Hagrid's voice, and as he listened he could make out three other voices. He smiled, and decided it would be better to leave them to their business.

So, with that change of plans, Gandalf headed to the lake once again. He took to blowing smoke rings, and setting them about, chasing one another, turning them into all different colours, and creating one massive ring over the lake once again.

Soon enough, many a bird came to Gandalf, bearing news of all sorts. It was a little confusing, because they spoke all at once, and all in their native tongues, which were slightly different in a few words than at home, but Gandalf managed well enough. They were terribly excited about the news of Aragog's illness, but it brought Gandalf many concerns, the more he asked them.

"Where did Aragog come from, might I ask?" questioned Gandalf.

"Hogwarts!" exclaimed an old mistle thrush.

"Aragog was brought to the Forbidden Forest from Hogwarts in the humans' year 1943!" spat one goshawk. "He was brought by Hagrid, when the half-giant was still in school. I overheard him speaking about it a few years ago, while he was fixing up my wing."

"Hagrid?" asked Gandalf, momentarily caught off guard. But it made a certain sense. The poor half-giant had been plagued with trouble by society for his giant ancestry. It would only make sense that he would gravitate towards beings that were viewed similarly.

Some of the birds gave low chuckles. "Poor old Hagrid will be in for a nasty surprise when Aragog dies," they said. "It was only on Aragog's order that he was able to speak with them. With him gone, who knows?"

Gandalf then was troubled. The chances that the giant spiders would attack grew immensely. This, however, was not very surprising information to Gandalf. He asked the birds to speak of other matters in the forest.

"What can you tell me about the centaurs?" he asked.

"The centaurs are getting restless," croaked a raven.

"They keep muttering on about the stars," commented another bird. "Never making a lick of sense."

"They make perfect sense," said the raven. "Centaurs can read the future in the stars, which you would know if—"

"The future?" interrupted Gandalf suddenly. "Are you certain?"

The raven cocked its head at him. "Centaurs are well known for this skill. They certainly have more power than that lady teaching divination in the school. I believe one of them teaches divination in Hogwarts as well now."

"Does he now? I must speak with him," said Gandalf, a sudden eagerness to return back to the castle sparking up. "We would have a great deal to speak about, I dare say. The future!"

He did not, however, leave for a few more hours, even though the birds all flew off. They told him that the centaurs were determined to stay out of the affairs of humans. They seemed to be a stubborn and prideful race. He sat deep in thought, smoking. The thoughts of spiders attacking was troublesome, but they were merely giant spiders. Ordinary fire would harm, or at least deter, them, and he was capable of whipping up more than ordinary fire. And the students here learnt how to wield fire at a young age.

The problem of the dementors, however, was worrisome. They would be less easy to deal with, and would have a similar effect upon any defending forces that the Nine would have.

"But they have met me, and proven themselves weak against Narya," muttered Gandalf. "And they are not the Nine. And I suspect they would find me too much to chew, if they tried to consume my spirit."

"Dementors consume souls, not spirits," said a sudden voice behind him. "They are classified themselves as spirits."

"Severus! Excellent," said Gandalf, turning around. "I am glad to see you. Spirits, you say?"

"Yes," said the morose wizard. "They are classified as un-beings, and spirits."

"Indeed? Come, sit, tell me more," said Gandalf. "I have read on them a fair deal, but I suspect you would be able to tell me more."

Snape raised an eyebrow, still standing. "And why do you suspect that?" he asked, a strain in his voice.

"You have the air of someone who knows more than what is put in the books," reasoned Gandalf. "Am I wrong?"

"Not entirely," confessed Severus. "Although my expertise comes mostly in the form of potions, which I have studied in great depth for the better part of my life. I have not studied dementors for most of my life."

"I see," muttered Gandalf. "Then may I ask where I might find the most information, if it is not already Hogwarts?"

Severus thought for a while, before telling Gandalf, "The greatest horde of information on un-beings and spirits resides in the ministry library. You would need a pass to get in there."

The old wizard heard a note of suggestion in the younger wizard's voice. "And how might I acquire such a pass?"

"I have never tried," drawled Snape. "I know a certain, bearded headmaster who holds a lot sway in the ministry. If anyone could get a pass, he could."

"Indeed? I'll be sure to seek him out, when I have the time," said Gandalf. "But for now, Severus, sit. I'm afraid I don't have my other pipe with me right now. I could ask one of the birds to get it, but they seem a touch temperamental."

Reluctantly, Snape sat down. "I don't smoke," he said.

Gandalf nodded, and continued to blow smoke rings. He created a rather impressive many sailed ship, turning it brown, and set it across the lake. When it came to the middle, a giant tentacle came out of the water and struck the ship with a great splash, causing Gandalf to laugh merrily.

"Is your pipe enchanted as well, Gandalf?" asked Severus.

"Enchanted? No, not enchanted," he denied. "It's my own little spell, as you might call it. But never mind that; how go your classes?"

Severus slowly began to speak, detailing what he'd taught; he'd gone into depth about the dark arts with his classes, chiefly theory work, with a few practical classes. As it was the beginning of school – by Gandalf's standards, at least – there was little of either done. But Snape had set a good deal of homework. Also, if Snape's side of the story was to be believed, the students were almost all lazy, stupid, and not paying attention.

"And what about you?" asked Snape.

And so Gandalf spoke, but he had only begun when Severus stopped him.

"Occlumency?" he asked, incredulously. "That's one of the most difficult forms of magic known. How would you expect a bunch of delinquents like them to even begin learning it?"

Gandalf raised an eyebrow at the wizard. It was hardly a surprising outburst, but it was disappointing, nevertheless.

"I teach them occlumency, Severus, because your enemy, your Voldemort, uses legilemency to great effect," said Gandalf slowly and sternly. "And they would need every chance they can. And I expect them to, Severus, because I help them. I do not belittle them at the first mistake."

Snapes jaw tightened. Gandalf saw he hit a nerve of sorts. He decided to press the matter.

"Why are you here, Severus?" asked Gandalf, softer. "You are not here for money; they would not pay well enough, nor do you have such a character. Nor are you here because you enjoy teaching. This position does not offer much prestige, either. So I must ask, why?"

Severus didn't answer, instead looking over the lake. Perhaps five minutes passed, with no answer forthcoming. Finally, Severus stood and walked off.

Gandalf muttered to himself, berating himself. He was being far too hasty, even if he could guess the true reason for the morose teacher's being her.

"This is not Middle-Earth, Gandalf you fool," he grumbled. "You have not spent a millennium or two with them."

It was then that Gandalf noticed the sun begin to dip down. Shaking his head, he sprang up and headed swiftly back up to the castle. It would not be at all polite to be late for a party.

Hello everyone, and thank you for your patience. Sorry that this is so late. I won't make promises to update sooner. I'll try, though.

Thank you all for reading, and please review. All reviews are welcome, and constructive criticism most of all. Please, if you notice something out of place in a story (that is, a continuity error, or something like that) do tell me. Luna Lovegood was in an entirely wrong class for months before I was told.