55 Chapter 55: Tic-Toc Goes the Clock

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24 May 1992, Hogwarts

The professor applauded and called for the other students to duel. Harry half-heartedly listened to him as he analyzed their match. What happened in the duel was dangerous. Harry was almost tempted to send actually dangerous spell at McLaggen. He really needed to get a grip on this and fast.

It was a beautiful day. The birds were singing, there was no cloud in sight. It was a rare hot in Scotland, where every single student would have loved to spend outside, swimming in the lake, or just relax on the ground. And yet there was no one in sight. It was expected after all, it was time for the end of the year exams and every single Hogwarts student has been desperately trying to cram as much knowledge in their head in the hopes of passing. Harry's friends were no different.

Yes, for the first time in the year, Harry was actually joined by his friends in the library to study. They weren't really bad students. Daphne, especially, was very diligent in her studies, but Blaise and Tracy tended to procrastinate when it came to their studies. It wasn't anything drastic, but they needed to work a lot to catch up on what they missed. Still, they were going to pass anyways; from the looks of it, Hogwarts isn't that strict when it comes to passing. In the past decade, barely one student was held back and that was because he had to leave school for personal reasons in the middle of the semester, and literally didn't know a single thing about his curriculum when he tried to pass the exams at the end of the year.

It was all fearmongering from the professors, to get the students to take things seriously. Still, if it got students to actually start studying, then Harry was all for it. It seemed to work very effectively. Any confrontation between Gryffindors and the Slytherins had ceased entirely. There were no more pranks, no more hexing, nothing really. This was what a school was supposed to be like. Hell, even, Ron Weasley of all people was going to the library to try to grasp a passing grade, at Hermione's behest. Speaking of the Muggleborn, she looked like she was having a mental breakdown from most of the studies. Her hair was constantly frazzled and looked suspiciously close to an afro. She was constantly walking around with a book in her hand, mumbling about one subject or another.

Harry didn't really know how to feel about her. Ever since they spoke after Christmas, they have been cordial with one another, but rarely ever spoke. Although Harry did notice that she was fighting with Longbottom after the whole detention thing, and when they made up, the boy who lived had cleaned up his act and stopped harassing people. Still, Harry couldn't really consider her to be nothing more than a friendly acquaintance at best, and in a way, he was glad for it. He wanted nothing to do with Longbottom and his cursed adventures. The events of his detention in the forbidden forest had taught him that.

Back to the tests, they were mostly divided into written and practical exams, except for History of Magic that is, each taking half the grade. It wasn't that difficult, since they're geared towards children, really. The written portions were insultingly simple. Harry had breezed through them without any trouble. Well, there were the flying exams too, but they didn't really count. Everyone had gotten their flying license without much trouble, even Hermione who was scared of heights.

They were already finished with their potion exams, which was a relief, really. Harry was thankful that he didn't have a partner while brewing. Yeah, Hermione was a competent brewer, at least for her age, but she always kept questioning Harry during lessons whenever he chose to alter or fix a potion using his Arcane Hearing, which could get irritating after a while. Thankfully, Snape didn't really harass Harry in the exams, choosing to stay by his desk and grade papers. He was probably overworked at that time of year. Weasley creating some sort of black slimy atrocity that seemed to come to life, where he should have made a simple bruise balm didn't help his patience.

For the practical Charms exam, they had to make a pineapple tap dance across a desk. Professor McGonagall watched them in Transfiguration turn a mouse into a snuff box – points were given for how pretty the snuff box was, but taken away if it had whiskers. These were textbook spells that they had taken in class. There weren't any curveballs in any of the exams, you were just required to redo what you had done in class. Harry honestly, didn't understand what the fuss was about.

Harry watched his friends celebrate as they finally finished their History of Magic exams. Tracy had a wide smile on her face and was singing, "It's finally over. It's finally over," repeatedly. Blaise was half asleep but looked more relaxed than he had seen him for days, even Daphne had a small smile on her face.

The Potter scion shrugged, "I don't know what you were so stressed about. It wasn't that bad."

"It was hell, Harry," Tracy answered with a glare on her face, "and I'm not going to let you bring our mood down. We're finally free. No more books for months."

Daphne seemed to come to Harry's rescue, "Come on, you have to admit that it was a lot easier than we thought it would be. There were just too many facts to memorize."

"I don't care," Tracy responded without losing her grin, "we're finally done with this hellhole."

"Speak of yourself, you lucky pricks," Harry grumbled.

Yeah, Harry was one of the last students to do his practical Defense practical exam and it kinda freaked him out. Not, the exam, of course, but the fact that he'll be alone with Quirrell, without any witnesses. The other Slytherins had done their practical exams the day before and Harry couldn't help but be slightly worried.

Before they could answer, Harry grabbed his friends and pulled them down. Immediately, a spell splashed at the wall behind them. Two Ravenclaws were duelling, and a stray spell had almost hit them. The young Slytherins slowly walked to the Great Hall while docking.

Blaise loudly complained, "They're still doing this? Exams are done."

"Not for the upper years, they aren't," Tracy responded.

Harry did notice that Ravenclaws tended to be very vicious when it came to the end of the year exams. Apparently, there was some kind of prize for the top Ravenclaw student every year. At least, according to Tracy, that is. It had to be something big. It would explain why they kept constantly trying to sabotage each other, and curse their housemates in the back, and so forth. It was pretty toxic, but the Ravenclaws seemed to like it for some reason.

Daphne mumbled, "Ravenclaws are weird." Yeah, he wasn't going to refute that.

With a quick 'tempus', Harry was able to see the time. His practical Defense Against the Dark Arts was in a few minutes, and he didn't want to be late. He excused himself and started walking towards the classroom.

On his way, he thought about his trauma from the forest incident. After his duel with Flitwick, Harry decided to focus on his Occlumency which had a calming effect on him. Over time, he stopped hyperventilating anytime he saw a green spell, and he didn't get lost in his duelling sessions anymore, but every time saw Quirrell, he couldn't help but panic.

The Potter scion found that just spending time with his friends and practising magic in peace was a good way for him to relax. He had developed a routine of a sort. Every day, he would wake up and practice his Occlumency, and then join his friend at breakfast. They would go to class together, and then study in the library for a few hours, before going to an empty classroom to practice their spells. At night, Harry would sneak up to either the restricted section of the library or the Room of Requirements for his self-study. There was something comforting to the monotony of it. There was nothing unexpected, like unicorn attacks, or baby dragons, and he loved it. Yeah, it might be a bit cowardly to just stay away from the whole mess, but Harry wasn't a Gryffindor. It wasn't his job to protect the castle, it was Dumbledore's.

Still, it was an improvement to how he felt before. He had decided to just not involve himself with anything to do with Longbottom and prayed that Dumbledore and the Dark Lord left him alone. He knew it was a desperate hope, but it had worked for months. Now, the possessed asshole just needed to get exorcised by Longbottom's super blood protection and Harry would be perfectly happy.

With every step towards the Defense classroom, Harry's feeling of dread grew. Quirrell had singled him out and he didn't like it. He couldn't exactly say that he refused to attend an exam without any valid justification. For fifteen minutes, Harry and a possessed Quirrell were going to be alone in an empty classroom.

He felt like he was walking toward the maws of the beast, which was going to swallow him whole. Harry waited until the very last second before knocking on the door. He wanted to delay this as much as possible. It was a vain hope that the man would forget about it or something.

For a few seconds, Harry hoped the man wouldn't be there, but he heard the quivering voice of his defence professor, "Come in, Mr Potter."

Harry gulped and opened the door. The Room didn't look any different, but he still wanted to run away as far as possible from this place. The man let out a slight smile and asked, "Good, you're ready. Put your bag to the side and take out your wand. We'll get started when you're ready."

Harry did what he was instructed, and slowly but surely put his bag to the side and instinctively took a duelling stance. The professor must have noticed, "I see you're taking your duelling sessions seriously. I have to say that the other professors and I were very shocked when Flitwick allowed you entry into the club. Although, with Longbottom joining the Quidditch team, a precedent was made in breaking the age restriction to extracurricular activities."

"Yes," Harry nodded, "I am very grateful for him giving me an opportunity like this."

The man gave him a slight smile and clapped his hand, "Well, this is not the time for these types of talks. This is supposed to be an exam. Now, it's a fairly simple exam. I will give you a list of five spells that we have covered in class. You will cast these spells on the dummy at the end of the room. You will be graded on how effective your spells will be. Do you understand the assignment?"

Harry nodded and the professor gave him a list of spells. It wasn't really anything impressive, just the basic cast, a knockback jinx, a tripping jinx, a petrifying curse, and a jelly-legs jinx.

In a single minute, Harry had cast these spells in succession. They were fairly simple spells that he had mastered a month after being in Hogwarts in the first place. Perhaps, with this done, he would have been allowed to leave the classroom. Quirrell hadn't killed him yet, so that was a good sign.

Of course, that hope was dashed when he turned around to see the glowing red eyes the man had. Before he could react, Harry could feel a spell coming his way with his Arcane Hearing. He dodged it immediately and sent a stunning charm by reflex. The man deflected it easily enough. The Potter scion decided to take away his opponent's sight. He could make do with his Arcane Hearing, to cast, but Quirrell who was far more experienced and skilful didn't have that luxury. With that done, Harry tried to send a lightning piercing hex at his head. It was one of the deadliest spells he had known and had a relatively small magical cost. It was like a small drill made of lightning that could actually easily kill someone. It was designed to pierce, nothing more.

He had aimed it at where he sensed Quirrell was. For a second, he felt like it worked, that he had taken the man by surprise. Unfortunately, in a fraction of a second, chains came out of the wall behind him and bound Harry. A disarming charm hit his hand, sending his wand away, and the smoke faded very quickly.

A smirking red eyed Quirrell slowly made his way to him, twirling his wand, "That was far more entertaining than I thought it would be. I believe that we have many things to discuss, Mr. Potter."


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