Harry descended the stairs to Spike's lair and, though he knew from experience how much easier it would be for Spike to penetrate his mind if he arrived angry and resentful, he fumed once more at Headmistress Sparkle for not making an effort to find somepony, anypony, other than Professor Spike to teach him occlumency. Everypony but her could see that the dragon wasn't just twisted and cruel - he was dangerous.
"You're late, Trotter," said Spike coldly, as Harry closed the door behind him.
Spike was standing behind his desk with his back to Harry, removing, as usual, certain of his thoughts and placing them carefully in Twilight's pensieve, which stood on a tripod in the corner behind his desk. He dropped the last silvery strand into the stone basin and turned to face Harry. Harry looked up into the glittering reptilian eyes for a moment, then quickly looked down at the legs of Spike's desk.
"So," Spike said, in a voice that could almost be called quiet, if it were not so deep and resonant that it set Harry's bones shaking. "Have you been practising?"
"Yes," Harry lied.
Spike grinned, showing rows of razor-sharp teeth. "Well, we'll soon find out, won't we?" he said smoothly. "Horn up, Trotter."
Harry moved into his usual position, facing Spike with the desk between them. His heart was pumping fast with anxiety about what Spike was about to extract from his mind.
"On the count of three then," said Spike lazily. "One - two -"
Spike's office door banged open and a smaller dragon sped in. "Professor Spike, sir - oh - sorry -" Malfeasance looked at Spike and Harry in surprise.
"Well, what is it?" asked Spike. "Trotter is here for a little remedial dragon magic."
"They've found Hoofbert, sir, he's turned up jammed inside a stall on the fourth floor."
"Very well, Trotter," said Spike, "we shall resume this lesson tomorrow evening."
He turned and swept from his office with majestic malevolence, as only a dragon could. Malfeasance mouthed, "Remedial dragon magic?" at Harry behind Spike's back before following the professor.
Harry looked over his withers, his heart pumping even harder and faster. He walked to the pensieve and stood over it, gazing into its depths. He hesitated, listening. The office and the corridor beyond were silent. He gave the contents of the pensieve a small prod with the end of his horn.
The silvery stuff within began to swirl very fast. Harry leaned forwards over it and saw it had become transparent. He was looking down onto a street… in fact, he was looking down onto Main Street in Canterlot.
He took a great gulp of air, and plunged his face into the surface of Spike's thoughts. At once, the floor of the office lurched, tipping Harry head-first into the pensieve…
And the first thing he saw was his father.
It was as though he were looking at himself, but with deliberate mistakes. The prince's eyes were blue, and there was no scar on his forehead; but they had the same long face, same flawless white coat; the prince's mane flopped between his eyes exactly as Harry's did.
"I'm bored," said Hoity-Toity.
"This may interest you," said Prince Blueblood quietly. "Look who it is…"
Hoity-Toity's head turned. He became still, like a dog that has scented a rabbit. "Oh, excellent," he said softly.
Harry turned to see what they were looking at. And there he was, walking down the path towards them. Harry stared. Spike-the-teenager was barely half the height of a pony, with scales that were rounded instead of dagger-like, and eyes larger than his mouth rather than the other way around. You could even call him cute. He had a naive, trusting, happy look, like a foal in a field on a summer day.
"How are you today, Spikey-wikey?" said the prince loudly.
"Uh... fine, I guess," Spike replied uncertainly.
"I don't think that's the correct answer," the prince responded.
"It isn't? I think I feel fine..." Spike raised a claw to feel his forehead.
"I think," Prince Bluebood said, "you meant to say, I'm fine, your highness."
"How would you know that?" Spike asked, puzzled.
Hoity-Toity let out an amused whinny. The Prince's horn glowed with a blue light, and Spike was unceremoniously hauled into the air by his tail, so that he was hanging upside down in the middle of the street. A yo-yo and a slightly-gnawed ruby fell out of his vest pockets onto the cobblestones. Several watching ponies laughed.
"Leave him ALONE!"
Blueblood and Fancy-Pants looked round. Blueblood immediately turned his attention to straightening - and then slightly dishevelling - his mane.
It was a unicorn mare. She was almost as pure white as the prince, with three blue diamonds for her cutie mark, and a thick, curled violet mane that fell past her shoulders, and startlingly blue eyes - Harry's eyes.
"Is everything all right, Miss Rarity?" asked the prince. His voice was suddenly pleasant, and deeper.
"Leave him alone," Rarity repeated. She was looking at the prince with every sign of great dislike.
"I might... for a kiss," said Blueblood. "One little kiss and I'll never point my horn at old Spikey again."
"I would rather kiss a diamond dog," said Rarity. But she looked at Spike, hanging in the air, and her eyebrows rose in worry, and then fell in resignation.
Spike, still hanging upside-down, called out, "No, Rarity - don't! I'm fine!" But she was looking at Blueblood, the way a pony might look at a lion it knew it could not escape, and took a hesitant step towards him.
The little dragon took a deep breath, and said as loudly as he could, "I... I don't need help from a FILLY!"
"A-and..." Spike added, "a sissy one, at that!" He looked away from her, hiding a tear, which rolled up his face as he hung upside-down, then dripped silently onto the cobblestones.
Rarity came to a halt and delicately stamped one rear leg. "Fine," she said coolly. "I won't bother in the future, Spike. And as for you - " - she turned to the prince - "messing up your hair because you think it looks cool, abusing anypony you please just because you can - You make me SICK." She turned and trotted away.
Spike crashed to the street as Blueblood turned to watch her go. The prince's brow furrowed in anger, but he said nothing. Harry could see the little dragon literally bite his tongue to keep from calling out as he, too, silently watched Rarity leave.
She didn't look back.
"How does a mare with such sartorial taste have such poor taste in love?" said Blueblood casually, as though the question were of no importance to him.
"Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited," said Hoity-Toity.
"I see," said Blueblood, who looked furious, and alarmingly calm. He bent his head downward, eyes narrowed, and snorted softly. Then he whipped his head around, and his horn glowed; and Spike, who had begun to scramble away, was once again hoisted into the air. "Who wants to see a dragon dance?" Blueblood asked the onlookers.
Suddenly Harry felt himself also rising into the air; the summer's day evaporated around him; he was floating upwards through icy blackness, a claw tight upon his upper foreleg with a pincer-like grip. Then his hooves hit the stone floor of Spike's lair and he was standing again beside the pensieve on Spike's desk in the shadowy, present-day dragon magic master's study.
"So," said Spike, gripping Harry's foreleg so tightly it was starting to feel numb. "Been enjoying yourself, Trotter?'
"N-no," said Harry.
Spike's jaw quivered, his teeth were bared, and his eyes were cold and intense and even narrower than usual. "Amusing pony, your father, wasn't he?" he said, shaking Harry so hard his glasses slipped down his nose.
"I - didn't -"
Spike threw Harry from him with all his considerable might. Harry fell hard onto the floor.
"You will not repeat what you saw to anypony!" Spike bellowed, and green flames licked at Harry's mane.
"No," said Harry, getting to his feet as far from Spike as he could. “No, of course I w-"
"Get out, get out, I don't want to see you in this office ever again!"
And as Harry hurtled through the door, a thrown jar smashed into the lintel over his head, and something black and powdery and nasty spilled from it onto his mane. He ran out the open door and galloped along the corridor, stopping only when he had put three archways between himself and Spike. There he leaned against the wall, panting, and rubbing his bruised foreleg.