Disclaimer: I do not own or claim to own any characters, places, objects, adjectives, or any other tangible items or ideas from the Harry Potter universe. In general, most familiar characters, places, etc. belong to Ms. Rowling; the unfamiliar ones are figments of my imagination (unless you haven't read the books very careful, in which case there is bound to be a margin of error). My original characters simply inhabit the brilliant universe that Ms. Rowling created. In any case, I own nothing and do not seek to gain any amount of profit, infamy, bribes, or political positions from the posting of this story, so please don't sue (I don't have the money anyway).

A note on canon and setting: This was largely written before the publication of Book 7. I don't know how the events in Book 7 will affect the outcome of this, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. This will follow book canon and not the movies (I don't know if this is as big a deal as it is in the LOTR fandom, but I thought I'd clarify just to be safe).

Author's Note: This has been in the making for nearly three years now, although there are several notable changes from the original concept. I would love to hear what you think—it's my first Potter fic and I would to hear any constructive feedback you would like to give me. Flames will be laughed at and used to roast marshmallows.

A Fair Amount of Courage

By Blue Kat

Chapter 1: Into the Lions' Den

Before I left for my first year at Hogwarts, my grandfather and my dad placed bets on which house I would be in. Dad was certain that my industriousness would make me a Hufflepuff. Grandfather claimed that my cleverness would win me a place in Ravenclaw. Mum just rolled her eyes and gently scolded them both for setting a poor example.

Well, as it would happen, both Dad and Grandfather were wrong.

"Let's see…" muttered the Hat in my ear, "honest, clever, loyal…oh…wait a moment…there's a fair amount of courage to account for as well…"

"Courage? You must be joking," I thought, suppressing a snort of laughter. The Hat was apparently unaware of how much my hands were trembling.

"I'm afraid not, Miss Fletcher," said the Hat with a hint of amusement in its voice. "Plenty of courage but not a lot of confidence…well, that can be changed, of course. Yes…yes, I think it had better be GRYFFINDOR!"

There was a decent amount of applause as I pulled the Hat off my head and handed it back to Professor McGonagall. I dazedly made my way over to the Gryffindor table and sat down next to a girl called Vivian Archer, another first year who I had met on the train.

"Congratulations!" she squeaked excitedly. "This is going to be great."

I nodded absentmindedly as "Harrison, Daniel" sat down on the stool. I was rather confused—next to Slytherin, Gryffindor was the house that seemed least like me. 'Courageous' and 'brave' were certainly not adjectives that I used to describe myself. I sat through the rest of the Sorting pondering the courage that Hat thought I possessed.

Dad was shocked when I wrote to tell him the news.

"Well, this is certainly unexpected!" he wrote. "The Sorting Hat knows better than I do, of course. Although your grandfather doesn't like losing bets, I imagine that he will be very pleased to have another Gryffindor in the family."

Grandfather wrote me shortly afterward to congratulate me and pass on a small amount of pocket money.

"As neither your father nor I won the bet," he wrote, "it seems fair that you get the winnings."

Being in Gryffindor was different, to say the least. It became immediately clear that I was one of the quietest members of the house (rivaled by Betty Markwell, a fifth year who rarely spoke to anyone). At first, this was slightly daunting. Everyone else was so bold and colorful, which often made me feel as though I didn't quite belong. I was the sort of person who preferred reading about adventures, whereas most other Gryffindors preferred to experience adventures firsthand. I eventually voiced my concerns to Vivian, who was fast becoming my best friend at Hogwarts.

"Oh, Sophie, of course you're meant to be here," she said. "Being brave isn't about being loud and having people notice you. It's about the quality of your actions and thoughts, not who notices your actions and thoughts."

"Do you think so?" I asked quietly and rather hopefully.

"Of course!" she exclaimed with a smile. "You don't need bravery—you just need some confidence. Now come help me with this box of Chocolate Frogs—I can't eat them by myself, you know."

And so with Vivian's encouragement and the echoing words of the Sorting Hat, I began to feel a little more at home in Gryffindor, keeping a close watch for my so-called courage and waiting for the day when it would become a little more plain to me.

During my sixth year, I began to question my courage once again with the announcement of the Triwizard Tournament. The gasps of excitement rang throughout the entire dining hall, but they were particularly audible at the Gryffindor table. There was a twinge of excitement in the pit of my stomach, but not in anticipation of participating in the tournament—rather, I was more excited about watching it than taking part in it.

"D'you think I should have a go?" whispered Viv, her face glowing in excitement.

"Yeah…sure," I replied offhandedly, far more preoccupied with my inner thoughts.

Not only did I not want to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, I also would not be of age until May, so I could not participate even if I wanted to. My role was quickly reduced to spectator, which allowed for considerably less excitement than the role of potential participant. Consequently, my attention was quite free to settle on schoolwork. This proved to be rather difficult, as mentally I was still on summer holiday and not particularly keen on working. This was not a particularly helpful mindset to be in, as I had just begun N.E.W.T level classes and it tended to make the days drag on rather tediously.

The first week of term was a rather terrible one, beginning Monday with my first N.E.W.T level Defense Against the Dark Arts class. There was always some level anticipation about the first Defense Against the Dark Arts class of term because we almost always had a new professor. Although there was a good amount of curiosity about the new professor, there was also a certain amount of anxiety that accompanied it. We could get someone competent, like Professor Lupin, or we could get stuck with someone who had little to offer on the subject, like Professor Lockhart.

Professor Moody was quite unlike any teacher any of us had ever had. He certainly knew what he was talking about and I had no doubt that he would provide us with a decent education despite his eccentricities. However, his habit of barking "Constant vigilance!" at random intervals was not my favorite quality. This was especially so after he startled me so badly that I knocked my bottle of ink into my lap.

Everyone else in the class thought this was quite funny. To his credit, Moody was fairly understanding, but he assigned me extra reading on Sneak Attacks and informed me that this sort of jumpiness would not help me when I'm being attacked by various Dark wizards. Not wanting to test his humor, I decided not to tell him that I didn't think such a situation would ever arise.

Herbology wasn't much better. Professor Sprout, apparently bereft of anything else to do during her summer holiday, had been experimenting with cross-breeding several varieties of poisonous plants, one of which thought my index finger would be a nice afternoon snack. The bite wouldn't have been so bad if the poison didn't cause my finger to break out in painful blistering boils. Luckily, Professor Sprout had some of the antidote on hand and Madam Pomfrey was able to repair most of the damage.

The rest of my classes continued on in such a manner. Although the whole first week was a trial, Wednesday back was the worst day by far.

Wednesdays have always evoked a particular animosity in me. As a child, I struggled constantly with the spelling, adding or omitting letters until the word itself was a hideous string of nonsensical syllables that always merited a disapproving red mark from the teacher. As I grew older, Wednesdays held additional torture for me as I quickly discovered the true value of the weekends.

However, during my sixth year, I found an entirely new reason to hate Wednesdays.

N.E.W.T. level Potions.

To say that I was stunned to receive an 'Outstanding' on O.W.L. level Potions would be an understatement. I wasn't terrible at Potions, but I had certainly struggled with it and my best work never merited more than 'Exceeds Expectations'. I didn't want to continue with the class, but Dad wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. I signed up for the class with the promise that it would "build my character."

In short, the class was nearly unbearable. It was held in the dungeons and as a result, the temperature always dwelt somewhere between 'cool' and 'frigid', the latter mostly reserved for winter when the atmosphere inside the room seemed colder than the icy gusts that whipped against the outer walls of the castle. In warm weather, it was cool—but unpleasantly so, chilling sweaty skin to a level that bordered on horrid discomfort.

Despite the fact that it was horribly disagreeable, the Potions classroom could also be described as 'fascinating' or 'unusual,' though the unpleasantness of the environment caused almost everyone to resent the area in general. Many curious instruments were displayed on the uppermost shelves and the cabinets could be opened to reveal hundreds of vials filled with powders and liquids of every imaginable color and texture, each labeled with precise, neat lettering. Other cupboards were host to a variety of dried plants and flowers, while some were filled with pickled animal parts. Any of these articles could be seen as beautiful, horrific, disgusting, or even all at once; but there was no denying that as a whole, it was a rather remarkable display.

Had it not been for the blackboard at the front of the room and the desks lined up in neat rows, it would have been very easy to mistake it for the lair of a very powerful wizard instead of a classroom.

This was where Severus Snape reigned supreme.

In that classroom he was in his element. He was well-suited to his environment, his tall and imposing figure looming large in the confines of the room, his sallow skin possessing a ghostly glow against the dark backdrop of the dungeons. His eyes were cold and dark and a condescending sneer was almost always present in lieu of a smile, an expression which had not dared to grace his countenance in years.

Simply put, he was not a man to be crossed. This was doubly advisable if he happened to be your teacher.

Potions was a very difficult class where, regardless of the teacher, there was simply no room for mistakes. With Snape, it became doubly demanding, as he tended to make even the most confident student nervous. Schedule a class like that right before lunch on your least favorite day and you've got yourself a living hell.

It seemed that the very purpose of the first Wednesday of my sixth year was to make me regret signing up for Potions in the first place. I was drowsy, having spent the majority of the previous night reading A Tale of Two Cities, which Mum had given me to read on the train. I had spent most of the train ride gossiping with Vivian, Angelina Johnson, and Alicia Spinnet and I didn't get much of a chance to read it. Later, I decided that putting off homework was enough of an excuse to begin the book and quickly became engrossed with the story for the remainder of the evening. I ended up going to bed at an extremely late hour.

Noticing my lethargic state at breakfast that morning, Vivian had suggested that I have a cup of coffee with my breakfast to wake me up. And although Viv is my best friend, she, like everyone else, is prone to error. While she was correct about the coffee giving me enough energy to remain semi-alert during class, she had failed to predict that the drink would additionally make me incredibly jittery.

And having Snape swoop around the classroom like an overgrown vulture did absolutely nothing to calm my nerves.

The noise in the classroom, or, rather, the lack thereof, was becoming increasingly annoying as time slowly passed. The soft murmur of the bubbling mixtures, the clink of glass, and the occasional whispered instruction combined with the steady click of Snape's boots against the stone floor produced an edgy sound that was more irritating than a ticking clock or a leaky tap.

In my caffeinated state, it was almost intolerable.

I tilted my head toward Vivian, who stood quietly at our cauldron observing the developing potion with a watchful eye. She inclined her ear in return ever so slightly, a technique perfected through years of quiet gossip behind the teacher's back.

"If this class doesn't end soon..." I whispered quietly.

There was a clink of glass.

"...I'm going to go..."

Papers rustled and someone scratched hurried notes.


A chair scraped against the stone floor as someone rose from their seat.


"Click," went Snape's boots.

Before I could form the 'm' in 'mad', the sound of shattering glass punctured the air. Startled, I knocked all my notes to the floor, and let out a short scream.

My hand flew to my throat as I turned toward the source of the noise. Alicia was standing over the shattered remains of a glass flask, which had thankfully been empty when it had slipped from her hands.

However, all initial feeling of relief vanished as I realized that most of the people in the room were openly staring at me and those who bore green and silver crests on their robes were smirking smugly.

Without missing a beat, Snape swooped down on the mess and after assessing the damage, flicked his wand and muttered a simple incantation that restored the flask to its original unbroken state.

"Ten points will be taken from Gryffindor for your clumsiness, Miss Spinnet," the Potions Master drawled.

Alicia flushed and muttered an apology as Snape forcefully set the glass down on her desk. His sneer became decisively nastier as his gaze flicked toward me.

"And as for you, Miss Fletcher, if you cannot learn how to act in my class, I will see to it that you are removed at once. Do I make myself clear?"

"I'm sorry, Professor, I just—" I began, my face burning.

"I did not ask for an excuse," he snapped.

The smirks of the Slytherins grew wider as I nodded, embarrassed. I hate to be made an example of.

"Yes, sir, I understand."

"An additional ten points from Gryffindor for your operatic behavior, Miss Fletcher."

The words were accompanied by the customary glare, as well as a few scattered sniggers.

"I want a sample of your completed potions on my desk in a marked flask," Snape continued sharply, finally moving his gaze from me to the rest of the class. "Hopefully there will be some improvement from your last pathetic attempt…but I doubt it. Class dismissed." With that, he stalked to the front of the room, leaving the rest of us to frantically scramble to add the last ingredient or carefully ladle completed potions into an empty container.

"I'll take this—you clean up," Vivian said, preparing a flask. Completely forgiving her erroneous advice that morning, I flashed a weak, but grateful smile for volunteering to brave the wrath of Snape and thought her the most wonderful person on earth.

By the time I had gathered my scattered notes and cleaned up the cauldron, nearly half the class had departed. Viv had returned the remaining ingredients to the supply cabinet and had been occupying herself by fiddling with the clasp on her bag. Eager to be free from Snape's scornful eye, I shoved the rest of my things into my bag and hurried from the room, tailed closely by Viv.

Alicia was waiting for me outside the classroom.

I knew Alicia fairly well, mainly because we happened to live in the same room together. Our interests didn't really overlap—she was a prefect; I was probably too timid to tell someone off for misbehaving. She was Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team; I was the only student in our year to have successfully got stuck in a tree twice while learning to fly a broom (I was fondly referred to as "Tree Girl" thereafter). Despite our differences, we were still fairly good friends and we had a good time together.

"Sorry, Sophie, I didn't mean to startle you," she greeted, her expression softening in apology.

"Don't worry about it," I replied, smiling slightly. "It wasn't your fault."

"Twenty points, though..." continued Alicia, falling into step beside Vivian as we made our way out of the dungeons and to the Great Hall for a lunch that was long overdue according to my growling stomach. "It seems rather excessive for an accident, don't you think?"

"Has Snape ever been fair?" asked Viv, not waiting for an answer. "And besides, we ought to 'be grateful it isn't more.'" She gave a rather good impression of the Potions Master, her tone sharp and clipped, the effect enhanced by a familiar sneer. Alicia and I burst into laughter, which was shortly interrupted.

"Alicia Spinnet! Losing points for Gryffindor!" Fred Weasley had suddenly popped up next to Alicia, accompanied by a cheeky grin. "I thought I'd never live to see the day."

"And Sophie Fletcher!" Fred's twin, George had fallen into step next to me, an identical smile on his lips. I had finally worked out how to tell them apart near the end of fourth year, mostly through small clues that weren't glaringly obvious—the way Fred's eyes crinkled in comparison to George's, the small differences in their voices, smiles, and expressions. Fred, I had noticed, was more of a leader than his counterpart and perhaps slightly more mischievous (but not by much). With time, it became easier to see them as two separate entities rather than a blur of red hair and freckles.

It also helped that George had sat behind me in most of my classes with Fred on his left.

"Quiet little Sophie, the Amazing Tree Girl, screaming in class! It's unheard of!" George clapped me on the shoulder for emphasis.

I really wish people would forget about that nickname and focus on my better qualities. Like my neat handwriting. I really have lovely handwriting—I even put the nice little flourishes on the capital letters—but no one ever says anything about that.

"Oh, honestly," Alicia said, rolling her eyes. "It was an accident; Sophie was startled, that's all."

Fred shook his head with mock sadness.

"No, I think they intend to outdo us, George," he informed his twin, who shook his own head in response.

"Unseat us from our thrones."

"Beat us at our own game."

"Outshine and surpass our good deeds."

Alicia and Vivian both burst into laughter at this last declaration.

"'Good deeds?'" I repeated, not even trying to conceal a disbelieving smile. George looked shocked.

"Why, Fred, they think us no better than common criminals!" he exclaimed, looking insulted. Fred placed his right hand over his heart.

"I am shocked and offended," he informed us, wagging his left index finger at me. "I have half a mind not to speak to you ever again!"

"Fred, when was the last time either of you did something for the greater good?" Vivian inquired, an eyebrow raised skeptically.

"Yesterday," replied Fred promptly.

"McGonagall overheard you calling Snape a slimy git, she docked ten points, and you barely scraped by without a detention," Alicia reminded him with a wry smile. Fred shrugged.

"I will brave any repercussion, so long as the real truth is known." He raised his eyes toward the ceiling, an expression of sad resignation upon his face.

"It's a burden we must bear," added George, attempting to look equally blameless. I laughed again, causing George to shake his head. "It's always the quiet ones you've got to watch out for. Sophie's plotting against us."

"I've always suspected it," Fred declared, shooting me a suspicious glance as we entered the Great Hall.

"We're on to you," George informed me as he plopped down in his usual seat at the Gryffindor table.

I sat slightly further down on the other side, opposite Viv, as Alicia rolled her eyes.

"You two stretch the meaning of the word 'ridiculous,'" she sighed in exasperation, taking her own seat next to Angelina Johnson, who had left Potions earlier than the rest of us.

"Indubitably," Angelina put in, nodding thoughtfully, and receiving a few blank stares. "Sorry. I've wanted to use that word all day. What was it you were going on about?"

And that was the end of that conversation.