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Like a Bat Out of Hell

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Like a Bat Out of Hell

Chapter One

In the end, it was a simple civilian who was responsible.

Naruto wasn’t even out of the Academy yet, and the attack took him by surprise. Maybe if he’d seen it coming and been able to dodge... or if he hadn’t been so reluctant to harm anyone, even the one attacking him... but even the Kyuubi’s chakra wasn’t enough to save him in the end – not from an attack that vicious.

The Kyuubi did not go gently into that good night, feeding Naruto as much chakra as possible and raging against what was happening... but what could he do, sealed away like he was?

“Don’t give up, brat! Fight!” Kyuubi howled inside his cage, on Naruto’s side for once, but it wasn’t enough.

As Naruto slipped away, Kyuubi felt himself being dragged into the dark along with him. There was a moment of unwilling regret, not merely for himself, but for the child who contained him, and then...

Nothing.


Kyuubi had known that humans were sometimes reincarnated after death. He’d just never expected it to happen to him.

But reborn he was, into a fragile, powerless human shell, so helpless that Kyuubi couldn’t even feed himself or walk around. His body didn’t even have the strength for Kyuubi to raise his head on his own; his neck muscles were far too weak and undeveloped.

Even sealed away, Kyuubi hadn’t been as helpless as he was now.

At least he’d had the good fortune to be born to good parents. Lily and James – for that seemed to be their names – doted on little ‘Harriet’ (as they called Kyuubi), completely unaware that he was actually a being of pure chakra trapped in human form. Kyuubi was too young to even radiate killing intent properly. The only one who seemed to sense it when he tried was ‘Uncle Wormtail,’ who always regarded Kyuubi with barely-veiled unease which everyone else – Lily, James, and the two men Kyuubi knew as ‘Uncle Padfoot’ and ‘Uncle Moony’ – attributed to a simple inability to deal well with children. Only Kyuubi knew that Uncle Wormtail was weak-willed enough that even the minute flares of Kyuubi’s malicious chakra were enough to affect him negatively.

After a year or so, Kyuubi more or less resigned himself – or rather, herself, she supposed, now that she had a female body – to the fact that she was stuck in human form, despite how much it grated. Grudgingly, she admitted that things could be worse: ‘Harriet’ was at least well-treated and loved. And while Kyuubi wasn’t sure exactly how her parents and uncles ‘magic’ worked, she’d observed enough to know that witches and wizards were the equivalent of chakra users in this strange new world. From the way Lily and James sometimes talked, they might not be shinobi (if shinobi even existed here), but they weren’t quite civilians, either: they were something different.

Kyuubi did her best to learn what she could, soaking up information like a sponge now that her infant vision and hearing had developed to the point where she could actually use them. If she often became frustrated, and howled out her fury, biting whoever came in range with her newly-emerged baby teeth, well, she was a baby. That was to be expected, and her parents seemed to think nothing of it.

The fact that like her parents Kyuubi now had magic, was somewhat unsettling. The strange energy was slowly encroaching on Kyuubi’s chakra, as though attempting some kind of unholy merger. Kyuubi didn’t know what to make of it. Was it dangerous to her integrity of self – which, after all, was composed of pure chakra? What would happen in her chakra and magic did merge? Kyuubi didn’t want to find out. But at the rate at which the magic was weaving its way through her, she didn’t think she had much choice.

It wasn’t much of a life she lived, but after a little over a year, it got worse.

Kyuubi had known that there was something her parents were afraid of. They spoke of a war, sometimes, of the strain of living in hiding. But Kyuubi didn’t understand what they were actually hiding from, until the night the wizard came.

Kyuubi knew the instant the wizard entered the house. His very magic was steeped in death and destruction, and while usually Kyuubi wouldn’t have cared about a human who had clearly killed many others, she couldn’t help but feel a sliver of concern, considering her current human state.

Lily, it’s him! Go, I’ll hold him off!” she heard her father shout, and then there were footsteps thumping down the hallway, and Lily came running into the nursery and shut and locked the door with a wave of her wand. She turned to look at Kyuubi, and her eyes were wide with fear, but also determination.

She turned back to the door as the sound of a battle came from downstairs, her fingers clenched tightly around her wand. Tense, breathless moment passed.

There was a sudden silence from downstairs. Lily’s breathing was loud in the silence.

Kyuubi didn’t mean to – had steadfastly refused to speak a word, too incensed at her situation to pander to the adults’ attempts to coax her into speech – but her mouth opened and a word tumbled out, rough and unpracticed.

“Mama?”

Lily’s head turned sharply towards where Kyuubi sat in her cot, and the expression that crossed her face would have been described as heartbreaking had any human been there to see it: joy and sudden realisation and grief, all mixed together, as Lily realised that her daughter’s first word had come in what might be their last moments.

There was a soft creaking of floorboards in the hallway, and Lily tensed again, head swivelling back towards the door, just as the lock turned without any key to open it, and the door swung silently open.

The man looked barely human: his skin was paper-white, his face almost noseless, and his eyes were scarlet, with slit pupils like a snake’s.

Lily levelled her wand at him, her hand shaking.

He told Lily to stand aside. She refused.

Avada Kevadra!

As the spell was spoken, a bright green light lanced out and outlined Lily for an instant. In the next she fell, wand clattering to the wooden floor as her body crumpled. Kyuubi couldn’t see Lily’s face from this angle, but she didn’t need to. She knew that her mother was dead.

Kyuubi’s ever-present rage spiked, and she tipped her head back to glare at the wizard in front of her, the wizard who was regarding her with a look almost of detached curiosity. Kyuubi would forever deny that she had become attached to her parents, but for all that she was the Kyuubi no Kitsune, she was also trapped in an infant’s body – buffeted by hormones that told her to love and adore her parents, even Kyuubi had been somewhat affected. Lily’s death, and presumably James’, left her furious.

The wizard tilted his head, still regarding her, and raised his wand.

Avada Kedavra.” His voice was barely more than a whisper. Green light gathered at the end of his wand, and lanced forward.

The light burned where it touched, hitting Kyuubi squarely in the forehead, and she screamed with fury and pain in equal parts. In the same moment the light rebounded, turning back to hit the wizard in the face.

Kyuubi had just a moment to appreciate the look of shock on his face before it hit him with all the force of an explosion, blowing out an entire wall of the nursery, and possibly part of the house.

The dust and debris slowly settled in the minutes that followed.

There was silence in the ruined nursery, but for the sound of Kyuubi’s screaming.

Kyuubi screamed so hard she sobbed, and angry tears poured down her face.

For what seemed like a long time, Kyuubi was alone. But finally, there was the sound of heavy footsteps on what was left on the stairs, and a looming shape filled the doorway. Kyuubi finally stopped screaming, partly from curiosity, and partly because her throat felt sticky and raw from screaming for so long.

The man who filled the doorway was enormous, and burly, with an overgrown beard and a long brown coat. He was also crying, and at the sight of Lily on the floor, limp and still, he let out a loud sob.

“Oh, Lily...”

But he edged past Lily’s body, towards Kyuubi’s cot.

The enormous stranger reached for Kyuubi, exuding a faint smell of strange, wild creatures which Kyuubi had never encountered before.

Kyuubi bit his hand on principle.

There was a teary chuckle, and the stranger spoke in a rough, deep voice that was nonetheless unmistakeable gentle.

“It’s alright, Uncle Hagrid isn’t here to hurt yeh, Harriet,” he said, making an attempt to pick Harriet up a second time. His hands were deft, and this time he dodged Harriet’s tiny teeth, picking her up with ease. Kyuubi squirmed, scowling like a thunderstorm, but Hagrid’s grip was firm.

Kyuubi tried to scream again, but her voice was so worn out from screaming already that she only let out a little choking sound.

“Yeh alright there?” Hagrid’s eyes were soft as he looked down at her, tucked into the crook of his elbow.

Kyuubi tried to stay awake, she really did, but she was tired and upset and trapped in a baby’s body, and Hagrid radiated warmth and safety, and to Kyuubi’s infant instincts that was enough.

She fell asleep as Hagrid carried her from the broken house, vaguely aware of Uncle Padfoot’s voice speaking somewhere nearby, but the sound was distant and muffled as Kyuubi slipped away into sleep.


The next ten years were far, far worse than Kyuubi’s first.

Kyuubi found herself dependent on the goodwill of two petty, mistrustful humans who seemed to regard her with equal parts suspicion and contempt. They spoke of her as though she were somehow contaminated, and it didn’t take Kyuubi long to realise that the contamination they spoke of was magic.

“Maybe we can stamp it out of her,” Vernon – Kyuubi refused to think of him as Uncle – suggested, unaware that Kyuubi understood every word he spoke.

“We can try,” said Petunia, glowering down into Kyuubi’s face. Kyuubi glared back in seething hatred, although it went unnoticed by either of the adults.

“Even if we can’t,” Petunia went on, “if we have to take in a freak like her, we might as well get our money’s worth out of her.”

Vernon nodded with grim approval.

“She owes for giving her a roof over her head.” he said, and if hatred had been flames, both adults would have been burned to ashes by now. Unfortunately, Kyuubi was only a baby, for all that she was also the Kyuubi no Kistune, and there was nothing she could do against the adults in front of her as they openly discussed the abuse they planned to heap upon her.

Whereas Vernon and Petunia’s son had an entire bedroom to himself, Kyuubi was made to sleep in a cupboard under some stairs. She was constantly scolded and berated, slapped whenever she screamed or cried, and never quite given enough food to grow. If it hadn’t been for the fact that her chakra in part sustained her, Kyuubi might not have even survived the lack of nutrition.

Vernon and Petunia treated her with hatred and contempt, making it clear that they considered Kyuubi a burden and a constant irritant, unworthy of care or affection. But the older Kyuubi got, the less helpless she became – and as Kyuubi’s body slowly learned to use the chakra contained inside it, Kyuubi gradually regained her ability to radiate killing intent.

By the age of five, she had perfected it.

It was at this point that the dynamic in the Dursley household began to change. Previously, Kyuubi had been the outlet for Vernon and Petunia’s frustrations, and had started to become Dudley’s, as well. But by the time Kyuubi was five, she was capable of reducing anyone in the house to unconsciousness simply by broadcasting her rage and hatred strongly enough. It wasn’t difficult; Kyuubi had more than enough reason to hate humans in general, and these particular humans had earned her hatred and her fury.

In the face of Kyuubi’s terrifying killing intent, the Dursleys’ contempt turned swiftly to fear.

Pretty soon, Kyuubi was allowed to do whatever she wanted. She slept in the spare bedroom – not in the cupboard under the stairs where they had originally stashed her – and ate reasonable meals, and when she wasn’t sleeping or eating she was training herself. Kyuubi hated feeling helpless, and was resolved to make herself less helpless in any way she could.

Her body was still too young to reliably use jutsus, but there was no reason why she couldn’t practice the movements. But first, she needed to improve her fitness level.

So Kyuubi went running every day, and climbed trees, and practiced her jutsus in the back garden where no one but the Dursleys could see her. For their part, they took to ignoring her unless there was something she wanted. It was probably their most sensible move so far.

When Kyuubi reached the age where she was due to begin school, Petunia haltingly told her that she needed to attend, blanching in anticipation of Kyuubi’s ire.

But Kyuubi only looked up, and said, “I know.”

“You know?” Petunia blurted, too surprised to keep silent.

“Mm. I assume there’s a legal requirement involved. I want to go. It’s about time I learned to read your ridiculous language,” said Kyuubi, who was used to the written languages of the Elemental Countries. She’d tried to learn to read English, but so far comprehension had eluded her. Well, at least she knew the alphabet.

Petunia stared, clearly taken-aback at hearing phrases such as ‘legal requirement’ from a child Kyuubi’s age. But the, Kyuubi thought, half-spitefully, half-drolly, Petunia was used to Dudley, so... Kyuubi let that thought trail off, and waited for Petunia to leave her alone.

But Petunia stayed.

“What?” Kyuubi growled. Petunia flinched at the sliver of killing intent.

“There will be other children there,” she said, and the reason for Petunia’s concern became apparent.

An unpleasant smile spread across Kyuubi’s face.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt the kits. At least,” she added ominously, “not unless they try something first.”

A few weeks later, and Kyuubi started school in a brand-new uniform, her Uzumaki-red hair tied back with a ribbon. Kyuubi had looked at herself in the mirror that morning and frowned reflexively at the sight of what looked like an innocent little girl, but she’d gone with the illusion as best she could.

Kyuubi sat back and didn’t interact with her teacher or any of the other children. She fulfilled the tasks given to her, but otherwise she stared into the distance, mulling over thoughts and memories from the past. It was a good thing she’d learned how to deal with boredom during her decades sealed away into the jinchuriki who had acted as her hosts, because school for children her age was boring.

At lunchtime she sat by herself, rebuffing any attempts by the other children to befriend her. While these children hadn’t personally done anything to her – yet – Kyuubi hated humans generally... but even if she hadn’t, what kind of companion could a child make for an ages-old chakra demon?

So Kyuubi ignored the other kids as they surged around her, laughing and chasing one another, right up until the moment some idiotic kid decided to pull her hair.

Kyuubi had a split second’s warning: Dudley, who had been boasting to some of the other boys about his prowess at some Nintendo game, suddenly turned white with horror as he looked at Kyuubi. No, not at Kyuubi – at something behind her.

Kyuubi was already moving, but her hair was long, and before she was out of range the boy who had been sitting behind her grabbed a fistful of hair and tugged. Hard.

Kyuubi howled, and let her rage surge to the fore.

Petunia was not happy to be called up to the school because her niece had broken a boy’s nose, but she knew better than anyone that Kyuubi’s response could have been far worse.

After that, the other children left Kyuubi alone. Occasionally someone new or from a higher grade attempted to pick on her, but all it ever took was a flicker of Kyuubi’s killing intent, and the would-be bullies would shrink back in fear, leaving her alone.

The next few years were both boring and lonely, but Kyuubi was used to that, after generations of being sealed. Probably the humans of her original reality would have been surprised to know that she was capable of feeling lonely, but she experienced that emotion all the same. Once, she’d been close to her brothers – the other bijuu – but in time they’d wandered away from one another and drifted apart... and then, of course, they’d gradually been sealed away, giving them no way to communicate even if they’d wanted to.

Sometimes Kyuubi wondered about the magical world her human parents had belonged to. Was it a separate place, or was it hidden in plain sight amongst the non-magical humans that surrounded Kyuubi? Kyuubi didn’t know. For now, she was too young to go searching for the magical humans, but when she was older, and less defenceless... well, it seemed like a useful goal.

In the end, however, Kyuubi didn’t need to go searching for the magical world. It came looking for her, in the form of an innocuous letter delivered on Kyuubi’s eleventh birthday.

No one in the Dursley household seemed to remember that it was her birthday, but that was nothing new – Dudley’s birthday was always lavishly celebrated, but Kyuubi’s was always ignored. Kyyubi didn’t mind; it was a pointless tradition as she far as she was concerned, and if she ever had wanted to celebrate her birthday it definitely wouldn’t have been with the wastes of space she was unlucky enough to have as her relatives.

So Kyuubi went down to breakfast as usual, ignoring her relatives while she ate, paying little mind to Vernon going to get the mail from by the front door. But his next words made her snap to attention.

“Pet, there’s a letter here for the – for the girl,” said Vernon, changing his words from freak to girl at the last moment. He and Petunia still called Kyuubi ‘the freak’ when they thought that Kyuubi couldn’t hear; but they were at least intelligent enough not to do it to her face, anymore.

Kyuubi looked up in the same instant as Petunia’s face paled in recognition.

“What letter?” Kyuubi said sharply. “Give it to me!”

There was a spike of killing intent, and her relatives blanched.

“Here,” said Vernon, shoving the envelope at her roughly, his hand shaking. Kyuubi let her killing intent drop, and stared down at the envelope. Then she looked back at her aunt.

Petunia was staring at the envelope with a mixture of resignation and resentment. It was clear that she knew what the letter was about.

Kyuubi tore the envelope open and pulled out two pieces of thick, expensive paper, folded into thirds to fit into the envelope. She unfolded them and read them in silence.

The first was a letter inviting her to a magical school called Hogwarts, while the second was the school’s required equipment list for first year students. Kyuubi read them through twice, then slipped them back into the envelope and looked at Petunia.

“You knew about this.”

“Knew? Of course I knew,” said Petunia, and her bitterness was thick and choking, even if no one but the Kyuubi could sense it. “You’ve used your freakishness on us enough, even if both your parents hadn’t been – been magical.” She said the word like a curse. “My dratted sister got a letter just like that one and disappeared off to that – that school – and came home every summer talking about turning rats into teacups and who knows what else! And our parents – they were proud! It was Lily this and Lily that, as though she wasn’t a –” Petunia cut herself off, going silent.

Kyuubi narrowed her eyes at Petunia.

“If you knew about the magical world,” she said, “then perhaps you know who the wizard was who killed my parents.”

Petunia sucked in a breath and demanded, “How do you know about that? We never told you!”

“I was there,” Kyuubi pointed out.

“You were a year old, you can’t possibly remember –”

“He was a wizard with red eyes,” said Kyuubi, and Petunia’s jaw snapped shut. “He used the spell Avada Kedavra. He killed my mother in front of me, and then tried to kill me.” Kyuubi’s mouth curved into a smile of dark satisfaction. “He failed.”

Petunia and Vernon were both staring at her, Dudley looking between Kyuubi and his parents in confusion, and the look on Petunia’s face was one that Kyuubi had never seen before. It was somewhere between horror and what almost looked like regret.

“You saw my sister die?” Petunia asked finally, and her face was twisted. Kyuubi nodded shortly. It was clear that the woman’s feelings were conflicted, but Kyuubi felt no pity for Petunia.

“Do you know who the wizard was?”

Petunia gave a jerky shrug.

“Lily would never say his name. All I know is that there was a war, led by the – the Dark Lord,” Petunia said, infusing the phrase Dark Lord with disdain, and for once Kyuubi actually agreed with her: could you get any more ridiculously high fantasy? “He wanted to kill everyone like Lily – witches and wizards from normal families.” Petunia stopped to give a disapproving sniff. “There was a letter from the headmaster of that wretched school tucked into your blankets when we found you on our doorstep, telling us that somehow you’d defeated him.”

There was scorn in Petunia’s voice for the notion that a baby had ended the magical war.

Kyuubi mulled over everything she’d been told. Then she put it aside to further consider later.

“This letter from the school – it says they await my owl. What does that mean?”

Petunia’s nostrils flared in disgust.

“Wizard don’t use the post, like normal people. Instead they train owls to deliver letters,” she said.

Kyuubi sneered.

“And they expect me to find an owl, where?”

“As though I know,” Petunia snapped. “But that’s wizards for you: not an ounce of common sense!”

Kyuubi considered the problem.

“Is there any other way to communicate with the school?”

There was silence. Kyuubi looked at Petunia, whose lips were pressed together like she was holding something back. Kyuubi let out a growl, and her killing intent began to radiate.

Petunia caved.

“If you send a letter to the headmaster and address it to Hogwarts school, it’ll reach him via normal post,” she said unwillingly, hating Kyuubi with every word that slipped out.

“How do you know this?”

Petunia ‘s expression was venomous.

“That’s none of your business,” she said, and Kyuubi could tell that whatever she was holding back this time, it would take more than killing intent to drag it from her. Grudgingly, Kyuubi let the matter drop.

There was a moment’s silence, and then Vernon said loudly, “Well, enough with this – this magic nonsense!” and started reading the paper, lifting the pages up so that no one could see his face.

Kyuubi rolled her eyes and went back to eating her breakfast, resolving to write a letter to Hogwarts’ headmaster as soon as she was done eating.


Dear Professor Dumbledore,

I wish to accept the place I was offered at your school, however I am unable to do this by ‘owl,’ as I understand is the traditional method of response. I live with non-magical people and do not know any witches or wizards, and so I do not have access to the post owls which your people apparently use instead of a postal service. Hopefully this letter will reach you nonetheless.

As I do not know anything about the magical world (save for what I remember as a baby, which is not very much), I was hoping that you could send a representative of the school to explain the basics. As it is the summer holidays I can be found either at my aunt and uncle’s house, at the local park, or at the nearest library. If you could let me know when it would be convenient for Hogwarts’ representative to drop by and speak to me, I will make sure that I am at my aunt and uncle’s house whenever they wish to meet me.

Please note that my aunt and uncle hate magic or ‘unnatural’ behaviour of any kind, so I would appreciate it if the school’s representative could do their best to blend in and avoid attracting negative attention from the neighbours.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Regards,

Harriet Potter


Four days after Kyuubi dropped the letter into the nearest post box, she woke to the sound of something tapping on her window. It was an owl.

Kyuubi climbed out of bed and walked over to the window for a closer look. It was a perfectly ordinary owl, except that what looked like a pale blue envelope was tied to its leg. Kyuubi opened the window.

The owl ruffled its feathers and hooted nervously as Kyuubi reached out and untied the letter, and took flight the moment she was done. Animals never did like Kyuubi; their senses were in some ways far more acute than those of humans, and they could sense that she was something dangerous. The only exceptions were foxes and snakes, which seemed to like her regardless. The foxes were easily explained; the snakes less so, but Kyuubi had engaged in a number of interesting conversations with snakes over the years. She supposed that it was some kind of magical ability, enabled by the magic which was by now perfectly integrated with her demonic chakra.

Opening the letter, Kyuubi read Professor Dumbledore’s response. He spoke of being glad that she had chosen to attend Hogwarts, and said that the Deputy Headmistress, Professor McGonagall, would be happy to pay her a visit on Monday, at eleven o’clock. He assured her in his letter that the Professor was adept at dealing with non-magical people – or muggles, as the wizarding world referred to them.

Kyuubi mouthed the word muggles, and wondered if the wizarding world could make their contempt for the non-magical any more obvious.

On Monday morning Kyuubi waited until after Vernon left for work and announced, “The Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts will be stopping by to speak to me about the magical world today.”

Dudley looked up. He never had anything to do with Kyuubi if he could help it – he’d grown up afraid of her and her methods of expression her displeasure – but it was clear that he found the whole magic thing interesting, and might have asked more if he wasn’t so scared of Kyuubi and if his parents hadn’t so clearly disapproved of magic on principle.

“What?” Petunia said. “She’s coming here?

“Professor Dumbledore assures me that she’s adept at blending in,” said Kyuubi, her voice bored.

Petunia snorted dubiously, but didn’t say anything more, wary of rousing Kyuubi’s temper.

As eleven o’clock rolled around, Kyuubi hung around near the front door, waiting. The moment the doorbell rang, she moved forward to unlock and open the front door.

The woman who stood on the doorstep was an older woman in a grey tweed suit, her hair still raven-black despite her age. She was quite tall, with excellent posture, and a very stern face. Anyone else might have missed it, but Kyuubi saw the way her features softened slightly as she looked down into Kyuubi’s face. Kyuubi could sense her wistful nostalgia, and knew that the Professor was thinking about Kyuubi’s mother. Kyuubi had the same Uzumaki-red hair and green eyes as Lily, even if her usual expression of sullen fury was a world away from Lily’s kind, slightly mischievous smile.

“Miss Potter, I presume,” said the woman, her tone brisk, no hint of her feelings in her voice. “I am Professor McGonagall. I understand that you wish to know more about the magical world.”

“That’s right, Professor.” Much as it rankled, Kyuubi reluctantly used her manners. “Would you like to come in?”

Professor McGonagall followed Kyuubi into the sitting room, taking a seat on one of the chintz-upholstered armchairs. Kyuubi followed suit.

“What is it you wish to know?” the Professor asked. Kyuubi gave her a sharp look.

“What is it that I need to know?”

While the Professor blinked, Kyuubi said, “You’d have a better idea of what information I need to have in order to flourish in the magical world, Professor. But first things first – who was the wizard who killed my parents?”

Chapter Text

Like a Bat Out of Hell

Chapter Two

On September first, Kyuubi was dropped off at King’s Cross station, dragging a heavy trunk behind her. Despite its weight, Kyuubi manhandled the trunk easily. At eleven, her body’s ability to use chakra was now considerably developed, and her chakra control was as close to perfect as anyone could get. It wasn’t hard for Kyuubi to enhance her natural strength with some of her chakra.

As she stepped through the fake wall that led to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, wrinkling her nose at the crowds around her, she thought about what McGonagall had told her.

The Professor had been perturbed by their frank discussion of the Dark Lord, divulging his name reluctantly. Kyuubi could tell that the conversation was stirring up painful memories and emotions, but she needed to know the truth.

“Voldemort?” Kyuubi repeated the Dark Lord’s name in distaste, ignoring McGonagall’s barely-visible flinch. “That sounds suspiciously made-up for purposes of grandeur.”

“Don’t speak his name,” said McGonagall. Kyuubi looked at her directly.

“Why not?”

McGonagall’s lips pursed.

“In the last war, he laid a Taboo on his name,” she said, and then proceeded to explain what a Taboo was. Kyuubi had to admit that the explanation made McGonagall’s somewhat fearful reaction at hearing Voldemort’s name a little more understandable, even if the reflexive fear response was irritating.

“But he’s dead,” said Kyuubi – and then, “Isn’t he?”

“That is what the wizarding world generally believes, yes.” But McGonagall’s body language was tense, as though she believed differently.

Kyuubi eyed her.

“But you’re not so certain.”

“The headmaster is not entirely convinced that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is gone, and while he has not shared his reasons, his reasoning is generally sound.”

“The explosion when the green curse rebounded should have been enough to kill a normal human being,” said Kyuubi, and McGonagall’s strict control over her demeanour slipped for a moment.

“Are you saying that you remember?” she asked, looking shaken.

“Perfectly,” said Kyuubi. By then McGongall had regained her composure, but the look in her eyes as she looked at Kyuubi was horrified, and full of pity.

Kyuubi hated pity. A flicker of killing intent surfaced.

McGonagall jerked.

“Don’t pity me,” Kyuubi snapped. “I don’t need your pity.”

“What are you doing?” McGonagall asked sharply. Interesting – everyone else Kyuubi had met would have been pale and sweating under the onslaught, no matter how mild it was, but McGonagall seemed to be made of sterner stuff. Or perhaps magical humans were naturally more resilient against killing intent?

“Stop that – that effect this instant,” said McGonagall.

Kyuubi snarled, all attempt at manners forgotten.

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

Remembering what had followed, Kyuubi shook her head as she boarded the Hogwarts Express. McGonagall had not been impressed by what she saw as adolescent rebellion, and it had led to a stand-off of wills and escalating killer intent until the witch was almost ready to pass out under the strain. Only then had Kyuubi relented.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Kyuubi had said, infusing her voice with warning, and McGonagall had sent Kyuubi a wide-eyed look, pale and trembling even though she did her best to hide it.

It probably wasn’t the best first impression, and might have led to trouble if McGonagall had decided to strike back, but it was bad enough that Kyuubi was stuck in human form and surrounded by humans. She refused to bow to their will.

Kyuubi entered the first train compartment she came across, and pulled out one of the books she’d bought from a store in Diagon Alley. Petunia and Dudley had gone for a shopping trip in London, and had dropped Kyuubi off near the magical shopping district to buy her school supplies by herself.

Kyuubi had been warned by McGonagall that she was famous, and had avoided unwanted attention by getting her hairdresser to give her a fringe the last time she had gotten a haircut, neatly hiding the distinctive scar on her forehead.

For the most part people had left her alone. However, when she was being fitted for her robes, there had been a stuck-up blonde boy who had tried to make conversation with her. Kyuubi had disliked him on sight.

“Hallo,” the boy had said. “Hogwarts, too?”

“Obviously.”

Kyuubi’s tone of voice wasn’t exactly welcoming, but the boy didn’t seem to notice as he began talking about himself, like that was the only topic of conversation that mattered.

“My father’s next door buying my books and my mother’s up the street looking at wands. Then I’m going to drag them off to look at racing brooms. I don’t see why first years can’t have their own. I think I’ll bully Father into getting me one and smuggle it in somehow.”

Kyuubi growled at the obnoxious little twit, but instead of looking cowed, he turned up his nose at her.

“Do you always go around making noises like that? Only it makes you sound dreadfully savage.”

“Shut up before I punch you,” said Kyuubi, releasing a small amount of killing intent.

The boy rocked sideways, away from her, his face suddenly pale, and the woman getting the measurements for their robes let out a gasp.

After that, the boy didn’t say anything more, and the store clerk had hurried to finish fitting Kyuubi for her robes, clearly wanting to get away from her as soon as possible.

Thinking about it made Kyuubi sigh. She’d much rather not interact with any humans at all, but she doubted that was possible, considering the fact that she was going to be attending classes with who knew how many other students.

Well, the children at her own school had learned to leave her alone. Presumably these children could be taught the same thing.

Kyuubi curled her legs under her body and focused on reading her book.


The train ride was long and uneventful. At the end of it, all the first years, Kyuubi included, were shepherded into boats, to ride across the lake in front of them to the castle that sat on the other side of the lake, huge and imposing. The one doing the shepherding was familiar. With a thrill of recognition Kyuubi saw that it was the same enormous man who had taken her from her parents’ home after they had been killed. She wondered if he had been the one to leave her on the Dursleys’ doorstep, and decided that this bore further investigation.

When the first years reached the castle McGonagall was there to greet them. She gave a short speech about how the students Hogwarts house would be like their family (Kyuubi snorted in cynical disbelief), before leaving them alone for a moment.

As the students chattered nervously between themselves, the blonde boy that Kyuubi had met in the robe shop pushed through the crowd of students to where Kyuubi was lurking near the edges of the hall. The other students watched the unfolding scene curiously.

“You must be Harriet Potter,” he said, his expression a little wary. Good. “I’m Draco, Draco Malfoy.”

He paused as though waiting for a response. Kyuubi only glared at him.

“You’ll soon find out that some wizarding families are better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”

The boy held out his hand expectantly, obviously waiting for Kyuubi to smile and shake it.

“Sod off,” said Kyuubi. She had a pretty good feeling what the wrong sort meant.

Malfoy turned pink.

“I’d be careful if I were you, Potter. Unless you’re a bit politer you’ll go the same way as your parents–”

Kyuubi pulled her fist back and let fly. Malfoy dodged to the side just in time, and Kyuubi’s fist smashed into the stone behind him with chakra-enhanced force in an explosion of stone chips. In the same moment her killing intent surged, and between that and the small crater she’d left in the stonework Malfoy’s eyes widened in abrupt terror. Showing his first inkling of intelligence, he bolted.

With a wordless snarl Kyuubi bounded after him. Before he could get away she grabbed him by the back of his robes and yanked him back. Hauling him up by the front of his robes she slammed him into the nearest wall, dangling helplessly.

Kyuubi glared up into his petrified face, and said in a low growl, “You ever talk like that about my parents again and I will skin you, you hear me, brat?”

Malfoy stared in mute terror.

Well?” Kyuubi leaned in threateningly.

Malfoy nodded frantically. Marginally satisfied with this response, Kyuubi dropped him on the floor in a graceless heap, and turned back to the crowd of students. They kept their distance, most of them wide-eyed.

McGonagall returned to see a strangely-silent group of first-years, Kyuubi standing alone some distance from the rest of them.

“Form a line and follow me,” she said, her eyes resting on Kyuubi suspiciously for a moment. The first-years did as she asked, and Kyuubi tagged along at the end of the line. Malfoy made sure he was nowhere near her. Wise of him.

The first-years followed MacGonagall into the Great Hall, which was vast, and lit by hundreds of floating candles. Hundreds of students filled the hall, all of them staring at the new students.

McGonagall had refused to share how the first-years were Sorted into their Hogwarts houses. Kyuubi felt oddly let-down to discover that all they had to do was try on a hat – and a rather frayed and filthy looking one, at that. Why it was enchanted to sing, of all things, she had no idea.

Eventually the name Potter, Harriet was called, and Kyuubi strode forward as excited murmurs filled the hall.

Potter, did she say?

The Harriet Potter?”

“She’s shorter than I expected...”

Ignoring the murmurs of the assembled students, Kyuubi sat on the stool, and allowed McGonagall to place the Sorting Hat on her head. There was a beat of silence.

The next second, terrified screaming filled the hall. It took Kyuubi a moment to realise that it was coming from the Sorting Hat.

The teachers all jerked at the sound, looking startled and confused, but the Sorting Hat continued its screams of wordless terror until finally, after a long minute or so, McGonagall snatched the Hat from Kyuubi’s head.

The screaming cut off, and was replaced by incoherent sobbing.

Dead silence filled the hall.

Kyuubi tilted her head up to meet McGonagall’s shocked gaze.

“Does this mean I get to choose a house?” she asked.


As it turned out, the answer was no. Instead, the teachers convened in a small antechamber off the Great Hall, and sat and debated what to do next while Kyuubi sat on a chair to one side, and was alternately ignored and asked intrusive questions, none of which she answered.

“Miss Potter, what would you say are your most prominent positive qualities?” a tiny man asked her.

“I don’t have any positive qualities,” Kyuubi replied, smiling a toothy smile that seemed to leave the teachers taken-aback.

One of them, a hook-nosed man with greasy hair, kept staring at her with a look she couldn’t quite interpret, his aura thick with confusion and... regret? Resentment? Sorrow? Self-loathing? It was hard to tell, honestly.

Finally the Headmaster, who had spent this time ignoring his staff and instead attempting to coax coherent sentences out of the Sorting Hat, straightened up from where he had been examining the Hat and spoke in a clear, carrying voice that cut through the babble and arguments.

“It appears that the Sorting Hat is incapable of continuing to Sort the students tonight,” he said. “We will have to finish the Sorting tomorrow, once it has recovered.”

“But Albus, what about Potter?” McGonagall asked.

“Yes, and what caused the Hat’s extraordinary reaction to her?” squeaked the tiny professor, the one who had wanted to know Kyuubi’s ‘most positive qualities.’

“I am afraid that is a question which only Miss Potter can answer,” said Dumbledore, and bright blue eyes, grave and piercing in their expression, met Kyuubi’s own.

Kyuubi grinned, all teeth, and said, “No idea, Professor.”

Dumbledore regarded her a moment longer, then said, “As the Hat refuses to attempt to Sort you a second time, Miss Potter, do you have a preference for a house?”

There were protests from the other teachers, and McGonagall began to say, “Albus, you cannot possibly–” but Kyuubi tuned them out, considering the question.

She was determined to learn, but in order to acquire strength, not because of any innate thirst for knowledge, which mean she probably wouldn’t fit in too well with the other Ravenclaws. Hufflepuff, the house of loyalty and hard work, was clearly out; Kyuubi was loyal only to herself, these days, and while she was willing to work hard to achieve her goals she didn’t see the point in expending effort at anything else.

Gryffindor was, she supposed, a possibility. Kyuubi was pretty fearless, which while not exactly the same thing as bravery, was close enough; and then there was a Slytherin.

“Well, snakes aren’t so bad,” she mused, deciding that if the Slytherins didn’t like her, radiating killing intent should be enough to manage them – it worked with everyone else. “Although if they give me any trouble for being the Girl-Who-Lived I reserve the right to retaliate.”

“That’s settled, then,” said Dumbledore. “Although I must ask that you refrain from harming your housemates. Severus, if you would escort Miss Potter to the Slytherin table?”

The hook-nosed teacher – whose emotions were still highly conflicted, although he hid it well – scowled, but nodded.

“Potter. Follow me.”

So Kyuubi followed the professor out of the antechamber and back into the Great Hall, where the house prefects were maintaining order.

Dozens of eyes fixed themselves to Kyuubi as she followed sedately after the hook-nosed professor, down between the tables towards the table where the Slytherin students sat.

“Potter. Join your housemates,” said the professor, while the entire Slytherin table gazed at Kyuubi with varying expressions. Some were curious, others assessing; others still looked resentful. No doubt they came from families which had followed Voldemort, and weren’t exactly happy to have the one who had ‘defeated’ him in their house.

Kyuubi gave the lot of them an evil grin, and sat at the nearest end of the long table.

Her housemates were still staring at her, but before they could speak to her, the teachers all filed out of the antechamber and most of them returned to the head table. Dumbledore gave a brief speech about how the Sorting Hat was currently indisposed, and the Sorting would continue tomorrow evening.

While he was talking, McGonagall was busy conjuring a table large enough to seat the remaining first-years.

Dumbledore, meanwhile, finished his speech with a benevolent smile, and advised the students to ‘tuck in.’

As he finished, platters of food magically appeared on all the tables. Kyuubi immediately reached for the platter of glazed ham that was in front of her.

“So,” said the boy next to her, finally deciding to speak after eying Kyuubi for several minutes. He was much taller than her, and maybe fifteen or sixteen years old. “What did you do to the Hat?”

Kyuubi shrugged carelessly.

“Nothing. It was unfortunately enough to glimpse my innermost reality.”

“Wait,” said one of the other students; this one appeared to be about twelve or thirteen. “Are you saying that your mind is what made the Hat start screaming?”

Kyuubi gave her a wolfish smile, and he shrank back a little under it.

“Exactly.”

“You’re a firstie,” said another student, this one older than the other two. “I’ll bet it wasn’t anything to do with you at all. I’ll bet the Hat just snapped or something. I mean, it’s from the time of the Founders, probably the enchantments are wearing out, and you just happened to be wearing it at the time.”

“Believe what you want. I just want to eat in peace,” said Kyuubi, spearing a piece of glazed ham with her fork.

“So, tell us,” said a girl further down the table. “Did you really kill You-Know-Who?”

A hush fell over the table.

Kyuubi paused her eating for a moment. This was an important question, which could have serious repercussions no matter how she answered it.

The question was... did she care?

“Did I, a mere infant, defeat an infamous Dark Lord who was trying to kill me at the time? Yes.”

Murmurs broke out amongst the Slytherin students.

Kyuubi’s restructuring of the question passed most of the other Slytherins by, but one boy picked up on it.

“You said defeat, not kill,” he said, gaze calculating and shrewd.

Kyuubi smiled at him. It wasn’t a nice smile.

“So I did.”

The murmuring grew more heated at her response, and the girl who had asked the original question leaned forward.

“Does that mean he’s still alive?” Her voice was eager.

Kyuubi only shrugged, and served herself another slice of glazed ham.

“Listen, firstie, I don’t care who you are–” one of the older Slytherins began.

Kyuubi instantly pinned him with a look, and allowed some of her ever-present fury to seep out as killing intent.

As one, the Slytherin student body reacted. Some of them gasped, others turned pale, while five or six reached reflexively for the knife by the side of their plate. Kyuubi paid particular attention to those students, ready to dodge and retaliate if the knives looked like they were about to head in her direction.

“Listen up,” said Kyuubi, her voice a growl low enough that her barely-adolescent vocal cords shouldn’t have been able to produce it. The boy next to her was leaning as far away from her as he could. “I don’t care what you think of me. I don’t care if some of you are holding some kind of petty grudge over your Dark Lord’s defeat. Get in my way, and I will crush you.”

A couple of students passed out, unable to tolerate Kyuubi’s oppressive killing intent. Kyuubi held it a moment longer, before reining herself back in. She returned to eating the glazed ham on her plate while her dazed housemates slowly recovered from the onslaught.

She was aware of several people at the head table looking in her direction, including the Headmaster, but ignored them, focusing on the deliciousness of the glazed ham.

After that, no one said another word to her.


Kyuubi’s first few days passed more or less in peace. Sure, people kept staring at her and whispering comments wherever she went (“I can’t see the scar, are you sure it’s her?”) and the other Slytherins mostly seemed torn between wariness and resentment at the fact that she was in their house... but overall, people left her alone.

For her part, Kyuubi sat and listened to the professors, doing her best to replicate the (pathetically simple) spells they demonstrated, and observed everyone around her, looking for their weaknesses.

In most of the classes Kyuubi was the first to achieve the spell results she wanted, but that wasn’t surprising: one, as a being of pure chakra (and now magic) she was far more aware of her magic and how it worked than most witches and wizards seemed to be.

Two, she was literally ages-old, whereas her competition in class was, at the oldest, twelve years old; Kyuubi brought all her intellect and experience at problem-solving to her attempts at magic, and the other first-years simply couldn’t hope to match it.

Three, Kyuubi had a drive to master magic that most of the other students lacked: for Kyuubi, learning magic wasn’t about picking up some cool skills, but a basic matter of survival. If she didn’t learn to use her magic to the utmost, others with greater skill and power would potentially overcome her if it came down to battle.

And Kyuubi knew that there were enough people out there with reason to hate her existence that someday, it probably would come down to that.

The only one who seemed to have anything like her drive was Hermione Granger.

One of the Gryffindors, Granger was clearly used to being at the top in academics, and to see Kyuubi besting her in class was obviously making her blood boil. Kyuubi almost approved. The girl was accumulating some serious resentment over Kyuubi’s superior performance in class and doubling her efforts in the hope of beating Kyuubi. But she had no way of knowing that Kyuubi was a generations-old chakra demon instead of just another adolescent girl; little though Granger knew it, she stood little chance of beating Kyuubi in anything.

On the morning of her fourth day at Hogwarts Kyuubi was on her way through the castle with the intent of going outside to do her usual morning exercise routine (which by this point was a mixture of physical training and the practice of remembered jutsus) when a figure ahead of her on the stairs turned and demanded, “What are you doing up this early?”

Kyuubi bared her teeth.

“I could ask you the same question, Granger.”

“I’m going to the library, obviously,” Granger retorted. “Like I do every morning. Where are you going?”

“Exercising.”

Granger’s eyes widened as though the answer was unexpected.

Exercising?

Kyuubi smiled, and watched Granger glare.

“Magic isn’t just about book-smarts, Granger. It’s reflexes, kinetics, the harmony between mind and body. So yes: exercising.”

Granger turned up her nose.

“There’s nothing about exercise in any of our books.”

Kyuubi rolled her eyes at the girl, uncaring of the way that Granger bristled.

“Look at the professors during breakfast. See how many of them look like they’re unfit.”

While Granger was blinking at that piece of advice, Kyuubi pushed past her and continued down the stairs towards the Great Hall.

“Wait!” Granger hurried after her. “You can’t just leave!”

“And why not?” Kyuubi demanded with a low growl.

“Why would you give me advice? We’re rivals!” said Granger, and looked taken-aback when Kyuubi laughed.

Howled, really. Kyuubi kept on laughing until her sides ached, while Granger turned steadily crimson with fury and embarrassment.

“Rivals, kit? In your dreams. You’re an eleven year old girl–”

Twelve, thank you very much!”

“–and I’m... not,” Kyuubi finished, grinning broadly. Granger stamped her foot.

“What are you, then?” she demanded, and Kyuubi had to give her points for aggression.

“As though I’d tell you,” said Kyuubi, and started walking again.

Granger made a sound not unlike a kettle boiling, and stomped after Kyuubi. Granger followed her all the way into the Great Hall, through the Entrance Hall, and out the main castle gates into the grounds.

“Why are you following me?” Kyuubi finally asked, more amused than anything. She shrugged off her robes and dropped them on the grass, leaving her wearing only a loose shirt and long pants that she could move freely in.

“Because I’m going to see what you’re doing, since you think you’re so clever!” Granger huffed, which was... actually fairly intelligent of her.

Kyuubi shrugged.

“Suit yourself.” She started jogging.

Granger tried to keep up at first, but soon ran out of breath and had to stop. Instead she went to sit on the castle steps, watching as Kyuubi finished jogging and began doing warm-up exercises, followed by some simple calisthenics.

Finally, Kyuubi was ready to practice her shinobi skills. Ignoring Granger’s presence, she walked straight at the nearest stone wall.

“What are you... doing...”

Granger’s voice trailed off in astonishment as Kyuubi simply walked up the side of the castle. Horizontally. Kyuubi continued walking until she was about twelve feet above ground, then turned and smirked at Granger, who was staring up at her open-mouthed.

Back-flipping off the side of the castle, Kyuubi landed in a crouch near Granger’s feet, and straightened.

“How did you do that?” Granger demanded, still staring.

“Chakra,” Kyuubi replied.

“What?”

But Kyuubi ignored her, and began walking away from the castle.

“What’s chakra?” Granger asked, frustration coming off her in waves.

“You like books so much, look it up,” was Kyuubi’s only response. She settled into the appropriate stance, and went through the hand seals for the Body Flicker Technique. An instant later she was moving at heightened speed, only coming to a stop at the edges of the forest that encroached on the school grounds.

She heard a shriek of surprise in the distance, and an angry, bewildered, “Where did she go?” from Granger. Kyuubi grinned.

She waited until the tiny, distant figure of Granger had stomped back up the castle steps and back inside the castle before she left the forest to continue practicing her various jutsus.

By the time she was ready for breakfast, Kyuubi was feeling energised and in a marginally better mood than usual. The sight of Granger glaring in furious confusion from the Gryffindor table only made things even better.

But the moment she walked into the Slytherin common room someone shouted, “There she is!”

“Let’s show her what we think of the Girl-Who-Lived in Slytherin!”

“Get her!”

At the cacophony of angry voices, Kyuubi swiftly went through a set of hand seals, even as wands were levelled in her direction.

The next instant, dozens of figures identical to Kyuubi in every physical aspect filled the common room.

There was a second of pure confusion from her attackers and the various spectators, but only a second. The next there was a furious roar from Kyuubi and her shadow clones, and they attacked.

Wands were snapped, noses were broken, students were knocked unconscious in the chaos that followed. Kyuubi bounced around the room with her clones, using simple taijutsu to incapacitate her opponents, torn between insulted rage and a kind of malicious glee.

Within five minutes, the group of older students who had decided to attack her were lying either groaning on the floor, or unconscious and drooling into the rugs that covered the bare flagstones, while Kyuubi and her clones stood in ready stances, happy to go on the offensive with anyone else who might decide to attack her.

It was quiet enough that Kyuubi could have heard a pin drop; only the faint sounds of pain from her incapacitated attackers broke the quiet. Those Slytherins who hadn’t entered the fray sat or stood in frozen silence, staring in horrified astonishment. A few of the younger students peered out from behind the furniture where they’d taken shelter, eyes wide at the sight in front of them.

Kyuubi glared around the room, her expression hard. The other Slytherins averted their eyes. No one said anything.

Kyuubi dispelled her shadow clones, leaving her standing in the middle of the common room surrounded by downed figures. Pausing only to smile in private satisfaction, Kyuubi headed for the stairs that led to her dormitory. No one tried to stop her.

Kyuubi hummed all the way to her first class and while she waited outside the classroom for the professor, earning her a few odd looks from the Gryffindors who were also waiting, the Gryffindors being entirely ignorant of what had transpired down in the Slytherin common room. After a few minutes the group was joined by the other Slytherin first-years, who sent Kyuubi looks full of fear and respect.

Granger arrived only a minute or so before the class was due to start, with an armful of books. She eyed the group of Slytherins keeping a cautious distance from Kyuubi, then looked at Kyuubi with suspicion.

“What did you do to them?” Granger demanded loudly.

Kyuubi smiled lazily, feeling much better after the opportunity to vent her rage and negative emotions. The sight made a couple of the Slytherins ‘eep’ in fright.

“Who said I did anything?”

“There’s blood on your knuckles,” Granger pointed out, and Kyuubi glanced down, and saw that this was true.

“So there is.” She gave Granger a grin.

“...and on your teeth,” said Granger, in horrified fascination. “What did you do?

“It’s their own fault for ambushing me,” said Kyuubi, and fell silent as a tall, dark figure swept down the hallway.

Professor Snape had arrived.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

Snape swooped over to where Kyuubi and Granger were standing.

Potter,” said Snape, his voice low and silky and somehow twice as dangerous for it, “did you attack eleven of your housemates and put them in the hospital wing?”

“Professor, I’m a first-year. I only just started at Hogwarts a few days ago. What could I possibly have done?” Kyuubi carefully didn’t smile.

Snape’s gaze didn’t waver. His emotions were somewhere between hatred and self-loathing as he looked down at her. For a long moment he and Kyuubi looked at each other, black eyes boring into green.

“Very well,” Snape said suddenly, and he whirled on the rest of the class who still were waiting outside the classroom. “What are you all standing around for? Get inside!” He swept into the classroom, robes billowing behind him. The students followed him inside.

Kyuubi smirked, and scrubbed the back of her hand against her teeth in the hope of removing the blood from them.

To Kyuubi’s surprise, when she sat down, Granger joined her at the same table. At Kyuubi’s look, Granger said, “Well, we’re both at the top of our classes – we might as well work together.” Her tone of voice dared Kyuubi to make something of it.

“No talking,” snapped Snape. As the room settled into silence, he began to call the roll. When he got to Potter, Harriet, he paused.

“Ah, yes,” he said softly. “Harriet Potter, our new celebrity.”

Malfoy looked like he wanted to snigger, but Kyuubi just looked at him, her eyes narrowed, and he shrank down into his seat.

Snape went on with the roll, and when he’d finished, he gave a short, sinister speech about the possibilities of Potions as a discipline that had most of the class enthralled.

“Potter!” said Snape, his eyes once again fixed on her. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

Kyuubi had read the first few chapters of Magical Drafts and Potions, but not the entire thing: it was a monster of a book, containing the entire list of potions from the first-year students’ curriculum up to the seventh-year students’ curriculum. She had no idea what powdered root of asphodel and infusions of wormwood created.

“No idea, Professor.”

Granger’s hand shot up in the air, and she looked delighted to know something that Kyuubi didn’t.

Snape tutted, sneering, and completely ignored Granger.

“Clearly fame isn’t everything. Let’s try again. Potter, where would you look if I told you to find a bezoar?”

Kyuubi frowned. That was a third-year question.

“In the stomach of a goat.”

Snape’s sneer deepened.

“A lucky guess,” he said, dismissing her correct answer.

Kyuubi’s relatively good mood was starting to dissipate under the interrogation. A wisp of killing intent made itself known.

Snape’s gaze abruptly intensified, even though he was seemingly unaffected. That was more than could be said for the students, who were glancing around with a sense of sudden impending doom.

“For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death,” Snape said. He looked around the room. “Well? Why aren’t you all writing that down?”

As the other students scrambled for parchment and ink, Snape sent Kyuubi one last glance. It was undeniably calculating. Kyuubi glared back at him.

As it turned out, Kyuubi wasn’t as good at Potions as she was the other, ‘wand-waving’ classes. Preparing the ingredients was exacting, finicky work, which Kyuubi couldn’t be bothered with.

“Oh, give me the knife!” Granger said with a huff, snatching it from Kyuubi’s hands and taking over the cutting and crushing of the different ingredients. Kyuubi devoted herself to adding the ingredients to their potion at the correct time.

Near the end of the class there was a sudden hissing sound, and a moment later there were alarmed shrieks from the students as noxious liquid began bubbling across the stone floor. One of the Gryffindor boys had added the ingredients to his potion in the wrong order, and it had eaten through his potion partner’s cauldron and splashed all over him. As the class stood on their stools, the boy moaned in pain as angry red boils sprang up all over his arms and legs.

“Idiot boy!” Snape’s snarl almost rivalled Kyuubi’s for viciousness as he vanished the potion gone wrong. “I suppose you added the porcupine quills before taking the cauldron off the fire?”

Without waiting for an answer he turned to give an order to the stricken boy’s potions partner.

“Take him up to the hospital wing.”

The other Gryffindor boy nodded, and he and the affected child slowly left the classroom.

Snape spun to face Kyuubi and Granger, still snarling.

“You – Potter – why didn’t you tell him not to add the quills? Thought he’d make you look good if he got it wrong, did you? That’s a point from Slytherin.”

There were surprised murmurs from the other Slytherins. No doubt they, like Kyuubi, had heard how Snape usually favoured his own house.

But Snape glared at them all until they fell silent.

As the Slytherins and Gryffindors packed up their things and left the classroom an hour later, Kyuubi’s bad mood was back, and she left the potions classroom scowling.

Granger cut through the crowd after Kyuubi, catching up to her in the hallway.

“That was so unfair of Professor Snape to take points over what happened to Neville. You were busy watching our potions, not his.”

Kyuubi glowered.

“What do you care?”

Granger turned a little pink, and snapped, “How are we supposed to be rivals if our accomplishments aren’t judged equally? It’s not fair.”

Kyuubi scoffed.

“Nothing is.”

“Well, school should be,” Granger declared, and for a moment Kyuubi was reminded of her last, loudmouthed jinchuuriki. It was the sense of conviction. Kyuubi shook off the impression as Granger went on to add, “Otherwise, what’s the point?”

“Survival,” said Kyuubi immediately.

Granger sent her a baffled look.

“Survival is the point,” said Kyuubi irritably. “If our accomplishments aren’t judged equally, the only point is to survive no matter what, through whatever means necessary.”

“That seems very...” Granger searched for a way to word her objection in polite terms. “Cynical,” she decided on. “Is that why you’re in Slytherin?”

Kyuubi only shrugged.

“I’m in Slytherin because the Hat wouldn’t Sort me, so they made me choose one.”

“You – you chose Slytherin?” Granger exclaimed. “Why? Everyone says Slytherin’s full of dark wizards! Why would you want to go there?”

Kyuubi found that the words rubbed her the wrong way. She stopped walking and turned to face Granger, who shrank back a little at the look on Kyuubi’s face.

“Use your brain, Granger. Do you really think a bunch of eleven year olds are inherently evil just because they’re Slytherin? That when the Founders came up with the house system, they thought, ‘oh, we need a house for all the evil students so we can tell them apart from the virtuous ones?’ Do you really think that every dark wizard in history happened to come from Slytherin, instead of Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, or even Hufflepuff? For that matter, who ever said that dark wizards and evil wizards were necessarily the same thing?”

Granger had been growing steadily read in the face during Kyuubi’s little speech. She stammered, “Yes, well...” in a way that made it clear she didn’t have any kind of rebuttal.

Kyuubi snorted, rolled her eyes, and continued walking to her next class, leaving Granger standing there looking flustered and embarrassed.

Maybe it was petty, but Kyuubi’s mood lifted a little at being able to deliver the scathing set-down.

Humans , she thought bitterly, ignoring the fact that was technically one of them.


After that, to Kyuubi’s bemusement and irritation, Granger started following her everywhere. In class. In the library. Kyuubi would be there minding her own business, and then Granger would suddenly be next to her, book bag overflowing, chattering about their homework as she took a seat.

Kyuubi didn’t understand it. The other students were all terrified of her, her reputation having spread from Slytherin via word of mouth to the other houses – after all, Kyuubi had taken down a group of upper-year Slytherin students, during her first week at Hogwarts, all without a wand, and had done enough damage to put all eleven of them in the hospital wing – but somehow, Granger didn’t seem to be intimidated by Kyuubi at all.

Kyuubi was grudgingly impressed.

Maybe that was why she tolerated the child’s presence most of the time. But she drew the line during her morning workouts. She could tell that the girl would demand to be taught the different jutsus Kyuubi practiced, no doubt about it, and Kyuubi didn’t have the patience to teach D-rank and C-rank jutsus to someone with less understanding of chakra than a civilian from a shinobi village.

So she performed her workouts in private, near the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where no one was likely to see her first thing in the morning.

And yet, Granger still brought it up.

“You know, I tried to find information on chakra, and there was nothing in the library about it,” she said, while Kyuubi was doodling in the margins of her textbook and Granger was supposed to be researching for their essay.

Granger still couldn’t understand why Kyuubi’s essays kept getting better marks than hers when Granger’s were on average two feet longer. Kyuubi had told her that it was about quality, not quantity, and suggested that Granger should try turning in shorter essays, but Granger had said, “How else am I supposed to cover everything?” and Kyuubi had given up trying to explain that essays were supposed to be discriminating and succinct in their material instead of simply regurgitating everything that the writer knew on the topic.

When Kyuubi continued doodling instead of responding, Granger huffed loudly.

“None of the books so much as mentioned walking up walls, either,” she went on, apparently determined to wrest answers from Kyuubi. “But I saw you do it! So how did you do it?”

Kyuubi chewed on the end of her quill for a moment in thought, while Granger made a revolted face.

Granger had no right to the information she wanted, and yet it was Kyuubi’s own fault she was looking for it. Granger after information was like a dog after a bone, and Kyuubi knew she wouldn’t give up easily.

Besides which, it could be amusing to watch Granger try and learn a thing or two about chakra talents. While there was an important mental component, chakra skills required a lot more than book learning. They were physical skills, reliant on the integration of mind and body.

So Kyuubi spat out the end of her quill, and began to explain.

“Chakra is a kind of life energy, made up of both spiritual and physical energy combined,” she said.

Granger listened intently.

“All human beings have chakra. It circulates through the body through the chakra pathway system, which is a little similar to the cardiovascular system. Chakra can be increased by increasing the amount of spiritual and physical energy you have. Exercise and training increases physical energy, while meditation and studying can increase spiritual energy. Chakra itself can be manipulated through various techniques in order to achieve a particular result. Walking up vertical surfaces – such as the castle walls – is possible by feeding chakra to your feet. Too little chakra however and you’ll fall off; too much and you’ll accidentally send yourself flying.”

Kyuubi grinned a bit at the thought.

Granger was frowning.

“If such things are possible using chakra, why haven’t I found any reference to them?”

“Because everyone here relies on magic, instead,” said Kyuubi.

“That might explain witches and wizards, but why doesn’t the muggle world know about chakra, then?”

“Some parts of it do, but they don’t seem to be trained to use it in the same way,” said Kyuubi, who had wondered the same thing.

“Then how do you know about it?” Granger demanded.

Kyuubi eyed her for a moment.

“That’s one of my secrets,” Kyuubi said. Granger made a frustrated noise, and levelled her quill at Kyuubi.

“You’re a mystery, Harriet Potter,” she said. “And a menace.”

Kyuubi grinned at the last part.

“Guilty as charged,” she said, and Granger huffed and went back to taking notes.


In class the next day, Kyuubi sat and wondered if the Defence Professor was aware that there was something leeching off his magic and chakra.

Resting her chin on one hand and gazing at him unblinkingly, she thought that he had to be. That kind of drain was too big to go unnoticed by the victim, and the leech itself radiated an aura of twisted-dark-wrong that was difficult to miss, and made Kyuubi want to burn it with fire.

There was something similar (although nowhere near as strong as the leech feeding off Quirrell) attached to Kyuubi’s scar. Fortunately, it was dormant, rather than actively feeding from her chakra and magic like Quirrell’s leech was...

But Kyuubi had still screamed in rage and clawed at her forehead when she’d first realised it was there. If she hadn’t been human, getting rid of it would have been easy; just the touch of Kyuubi’s pure chakra would have burned the thing to nothing. Being embodied in human form made things more difficult. Kyuubi had tried to research magic-leeches in the library, to see if other witches and wizards had ever dealt with a similar issue, but she found nothing that seemed useful. So Kyuubi tolerated the leech for now, even though she was furious about it.

Quirrell shifted nervously under Kyuubi’s relentless stare.

“Is there a problem, Potter?” he asked finally. The rest of the class – the other Slytherin first-years, combined with the Ravenclaw first-years – turned their heads to stare at Kyuubi.

Kyuubi wondered what would happen if she mentioned the leech.

“I’m just listening to what you’re saying, Professor.”

“Very intently,” the Professor muttered, probably too low for anyone else to catch, but Kyuubi’s keen ears picked up on it.

Once Defence was over, Kyuubi was walking alone by herself to her next class, the other students having gone ahead. She was deep in thought, uncaring of the fact that she was going to be late for Charms.

The hairs on the back of her neck prickled in sudden warning, and Kyuubi threw herself forward just as a bright red spell whizzed silently over her head.

Kyuubi didn’t stop moving. She used the momentum from her fall to roll to her feet, facing the direction she’d just come from. Her acute hearing picked up the sound of quiet footsteps about ten feet away, and drawing closer, even though there was no one in sight.

The twisted-dark-wrong presence of Quirrell’s leech was nearby, and Kyuubi guessed that it was Quirrell who had sent the spell her way.

“Show yourself!” Kyuubi said with a snarl, unleashing her killing intent.

The sound of the footsteps faltered, and then there was a high-pitched chuckle. Kyuubi pinpointed the sound easily, and was ready to dodge when the next spell came her way.

This time, it was sickly green. Kyuubi didn’t need to hear the murmured Avada Kedavra to know what spell it was. She remembered it all too well.

As the Killing Curse went past her right shoulder, Kyyubi went through the hand seals for the Shadow Clone Technique. A moment later there were ten versions of her standing in the hallway.

There was a surprised hiss from somewhere in front of the original Kyuubi. When she looked in that direction, she could just make out the outline of a human being, blending in with their surroundings almost to the point of invisibility. But it wasn’t quite good enough.

With a low, inhuman growl, Kyuubi and her shadow clones charged.

Quirrell was not expecting to be dogpiled by a crowd of angry Kyuubis with enough force to break bones. He went down like a ton of bricks.

“Tell me, before I punch you into oblivion,” Kyuubi snarled, pulling back a fist while nine of her clones did the same, the tenth busy snapping Quirrell’s wand, “why the hell did you just try and kill me?”

Kill her, my servant!” hissed a muffled voice that wasn’t Quirrell’s.

“Shut up, leech!” Kyuubi said, and let fly, only pulling her punch enough to avoid killing Quirrell.

Quirrell’s body went limp under her, but the muffled voice continued to speak.

You shall pay for this, girl!

Kyuubi just pulled her wand out of her pocket and tapped Quirrell’s disguised body with it, muttering, “Finite Incantem,” in the hope that it would break whatever enchantment was making him nearly invisible.

Quirrell’s body faded back into view, and Kyuubi rolled him over onto his face and tugged at the turban he was wearing. The voice continued issuing threats.

As Kyuubi unravelled Quirrell’s turban, an inhuman face came into view on the back of Quirrell’s head. Its eyes were open, revealing crimson irises and slit-pupils. Kyuubi recognised those eyes easily.

You!” Kyuubi’s killing intent filled the hallway, thick and choking. “You killed my parents!”

Any other human would have been unconscious under the weight of Kyuubi’s intense killing intent, but Voldemort’s eyes were still open and aware. But then, whatever Voldemort was, Kyuubi suspected that he wasn’t human. Not anymore.

Harriet Potter,” the remnant said, its voice high-pitched and hissing. “See what I have become? Mere shadow and vapour... I have form only when I can share another’s body...”

“Shut up,” said Kyuubi, and punched.

There was a sickening crunch as her fist impacted Voldemort’s face/the back of Quirrell’s head.

A few seconds later a black cloud emerged from Quirrell’s body, and Kyuubi could just make out the shape of a humanoid face amid the fluttering smoke-like tendrils. Before she could try and do something to it, however, the black cloud drifted through the nearest wall and out of her reach.

Kyuubi snarled in frustration, and punched the wall. The surface of the stone shattered, stone chips flying everywhere. Then Kyuubi turned, and went to check on Quirrell.

Kyuubi’s punch shouldn’t have been enough to kill him – injure him, yes, kill him, no – but he was dead, all the same.

Still snarling, Kyuubi dispelled her irritated-looking shadow clones and stomped back down the corridors.

She was more than half an hour late for Charms class.

“Miss Potter, why are you late?” Flitwick asked, looking unusually stern.

“No reason.”

“Twenty points from Slytherin,” said Flitwick, as though Kyuubi had some kind of emotional investment in the points system. Kyuubi just took her seat and said nothing, still feeling angry over her encounter with Voldemort.

When classes finished for the day, Kyuubi went straight down to the edge of the Forbidden Forest to practice jutsus and punch things. By the time dinner rolled around, she felt a little bit better, but not much. Seeing her furious glower, the other Slytherins did their best to stay out of her way.

That night, as she lay in bed, Kyuubi wondered why she cared so much that Voldemort had killed her parents. They had been human, after all. And yet... it had been nice, having someone who cared about her so deeply, who didn’t hate and mistrust her just for being a bijuu, or want to use her as a weapon. And despite Kyuubi’s best efforts not to get attached, she had been in a baby’s body with a baby’s hormones. Of course she had gotten attached to her parents.

The thought made Kyuubi angry, but although she never would have admitted it, it also made her sad. Gently punching her pillow, Kyuubi rolled over and tried to get to sleep.

The next morning, a grave-looking Dumbledore stood up at breakfast and announced that Quirrell had been found dead late the night before.

Kyuubi waited for him to announce that the man had been attacked, but instead the Headmaster said, “As a matter of course Professor Quirrell was tested for traces of dark magic, and it appears that before his death he was the victim of a very strong supernatural possession.”

A flurry of murmurs broke out throughout the Great Hall, and Dumbledore said, “The professors will be performing a sweep of the castle in search of malevolent spirits, however I ask you not to feel alarmed. It is highly unlikely that the spirit which possessed Professor Quirrell is still present.”

Kyuubi stabbed her bacon with unnecessary force. Her housemates edged nervously away.

“If you have reason to believe that Professor Quirrell behaved inappropriately towards you or any other student, I urge you to confide in your Head of House,” said Dumbledore.

Kyuubi thought of Quirrell trying to kill her, then imagined trying to ‘confide’ in her own Head of House. She snorted at the thought.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

For the next few days, Quirrell’s death was all anyone was talking about. Even Granger, whose usual babble was about class assignments, homework, and obscure magical theory, kept speculating about what might have possessed Quirrell, and why.

“Words alone cannot express how much I don’t care,” Kyuubi said, after tolerating Granger’s speculation for the last half hour.

“Well, you should care! We could all be in danger!” exclaimed Granger. “Professor Dumbledore said that Professor Quirrell’s possession was strong, which means that the spirit that possessed him must have been powerful.”

Kyuubi yawned, only listening with half an ear.

“Spirits can usually only possess you if you offer some kind of invitation,” she said. “Even it’s only implicit. If Quirrell’s possession was that strong, he must have invited the spirit in somehow.”

Granger pounced on Kyuubi’s reply.

“How do you know that?”

Kyuubi shrugged absently, wondering why she was even bothering to write her potions essay. So far, Snape had ‘lost’ one, deliberately spilled someone’s potion over another, and failed all the others that Kyuubi had handed in. If Kyuubi had actually cared about Potions class, she might have been upset. But Kyuubi had written off Potions as a waste of her time from the beginning, and didn’t really care if she failed that class. After all, she’d read most of the textbook; it was a far better teacher than Snape was.

So far, Snape hadn’t quite crossed the line that made Kyuubi lose her temper, but sooner or later that man was going to be punched into the middle of next week. It was only a matter of time.

“Harriet!” Granger insisted on an answer. “How do you know that Professor Quirrell must have invited the spirit in?”

Kyuubi twitched in annoyance.

“Secret,” she said shortly.

Granger made a sound of exasperation.

“You and your secrets! Half the time I’d think you were making these things up, if I hadn’t seen you use your knowledge.”

“I’ve known you all of a month, Granger. Why would I tell you my secrets?”

Granger looked hurt. Kyuubi only looked back at her, unimpressed.

“Still,” said Granger, after a moment. “Aren’t you even a little curious about how and why Professor Quirrell is dead?”

“No.”

Granger sighed, but let the matter go – for now.

It wasn’t long before Halloween rolled around, and the day seemed to put the rest of the students into a festive mood. Not Kyuubi. Her human parents had died on this day, and as usual, the anniversary of their deaths put her in a bad mood.

She didn’t speak to anyone during class, avoided Granger afterwards, and only went to the Halloween feast long enough to bolt down some food before leaving the Great Hall.

As she made her way back to the dungeons, an older boy in Hufflepuff robes stopped her.

“Hey – it’s Potter, right? Harriet Potter?”

“What’s it to you?” Kyuubi demanded, whirling to face the boy.

“Nothing, nothing.” The boy put his hands up in the air to show that he meant no harm. “It’s just... are you okay? You looked kind of... upset.”

Kyuubi glared at him for a moment, but deigned to answer.

“My parents died today, ten years ago,” she said shortly. “Everyone else remembers it as the day Voldemort was vanquished. I don’t.”

The boy had flinched at the use of the Dark Lord’s name, but at Kyuubi’s words he looked suddenly sympathetic.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That must be hard. Do you have any friends you can talk to about it?”

Kyuubi scowled.

“I don’t do the ‘friend’ thing.”

The older boy watched her carefully, his gaze still sympathetic.

“That sounds lonely.”

“What do you care?” Kyuubi was beginning to feel genuinely riled. “Who are you, anyway?”

The boy gave a self-deprecating laugh.

“I guess I just care when people are upset,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. “And my name’s Cedric – Cedric Diggory.”

“Well, Cedric Diggory, why don’t you mind your own business?”

“If that’s what you want,” said Diggory. “But if you ever need anyone to talk to, I’m willing to listen.”

Kyuubi snorted, and resumed walking. Diggory shrugged, and headed in the opposite direction, towards the Great Hall.

“Hufflepuffs,” Kyuubi muttered, although it lacked disdain. Instead, Kyuubi felt oddly wistful.

Shaking her head, Kyuubi headed down to the Slytherin dormitories with plans to curl up in a chair near the fireplace, even if it meant scaring the chair’s occupant away.

“Why weren’t you at the feast last night?” Granger asked the next day. “It was almost as good as the feast at the beginning of term. They even had blancmange for dessert, which is one of my favourites–”

“I don’t care about the feast,” Kyuubi interrupted the girl’s chatter.

“Well, obviously,” said Granger. “Otherwise you would have been there. But why not?”

“Figure it out.”

“I don’t see why you can’t just tell me,” Granger argued, looking annoyed. “Just because you like being mysterious and enigmatic–”

Kyuubi’s quill snapped in her grip.

“My parents died ten years ago yesterday,” Kyuubi said with a snarl, completely out of patience. Granger flinched at the snarl, and then looked stricken as Kyuubi’s words actually sank in.

“Your parents – oh, I’m so sorry! I can’t believe I didn’t think! Of course you wouldn’t want to celebrate on the day of your parents’ death.” Granger looked genuinely distressed. “Are you okay?”

“Of course I’m okay! Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You just accidentally snapped your quill,” Granger pointed out, looking a little worried, but determined to speak up anyway. “That’s not the action of someone who’s okay.”

“I’m fine.”

Granger looked dubious, but let it go.

“Well, I’m still sorry for being insensitive about your parents,” she said. Kyuubi only grunted in acknowledgement, and grabbed another quill out of her bag.

They sat there for a while, Granger darting semi-concerned glances at Kyuubi, as though worried about the state of Kyuubi’s feelings. Eventually Kyuubi tired of this, and said shortly that she was going back to the Slytherin dungeons. Granger looked crestfallen. Kyuubi pretended that she didn’t notice, gathering her books and stalking out of the library where the two of them had been studying.

To Kyuubi’s relief, people stopped bringing up Halloween and/or Quirrell’s untimely death after about a week or so, and Granger stopped looking concerned over Kyuubi’s feelings about her parents and went back to being the annoying brat she usually was.

The next month passed quickly, and before Kyuubi knew it, it was almost Christmas.

It was about a week and half before the students were due to go home to their families that Granger started asking prying questions about Kyuubi’s living arrangements. Kyuubi saw no reason not to be truthful.

“My relatives hate me,” she told Granger bluntly.

Granger looked uncomfortable.

“I’m sure they don’t really–” she started, and then stopped as Kyuubi’s killing intent filled the air.

“Until I was old enough to fight back they kept me in a cupboard under some stairs,” Kyuubi shot back. “I was cooking and cleaning for them from the moment I was old enough to walk. If I hadn’t perfected the ability to radiate killing intent by the time I was five, I still would be.”

Granger looked horrified. Kyuubi tamped down the killing intent.

“That’s terrible!” she said, and then frowned. “Wait – what’s ‘killing intent?’”

“This,” said Kyuubi, and deliberately let some of her killing intent loose again. “Feel that? The fear, the sense of impending doom pinning you to the spot?”

Granger nodded, turning pale. Kyuubi stopped radiating malevolence.

“You do that on purpose?” Granger said, when she regained her voice. “I thought it was just... some kind of natural magical ability you had.” Her voice was accusing.

“Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes I just lose my temper,” said Kyuubi, with a shrug. She refrained from sharing the fact that in her true form, not emanating killing intent was more difficult than letting it loose. “Anyone with enough chakra and desire to kill can do it. Snape has a low-level version. I think it’s unconscious. He must really hate teaching children.”

“Professor Snape desires to kill?” Granger repeated, her voice rising in pitch.

“On some level. Again, probably not consciously,” Kyuubi assured her. It didn’t seem to help. Granger sat there looking aghast for a few moments. Kyuubi had just gone back to reading her book – not a textbook, for once, but a wizarding novel about a magical pirate ship that was surprisingly engrossing – when Granger spoke again.

“Your relatives,” she said, and her voice was hesitant. “They don’t still... mistreat you, do they?”

“As though I’d let them.” Kyuubi made her contempt for the Dursleys clear in her tone of voice. “They still hate me, of course – probably even more so than they did before – but they don’t dare try anything.”

Granger said nothing in response to that, brow furrowed and expression troubled, and Kyuubi thought that was the end of it.

At least, until a few days later, when a letter arrived addressed to Harriet Potter. It was from Granger’s parents, and it invited Kyuubi to stay over the Christmas break.

Kyuubi stared at the letter for a long time. Then she went to find Granger.

“What’s this?” she demanded, waving the letter in Granger’s face.

“What’s what?” Granger asked in confusion, then caught sight of the familiar handwriting. Her brow cleared, and she beamed. “Oh, good! You got the invitation!”

Kyuubi stared at her, bereft of words.

“Why would you invite me to your house for Christmas?” Kyuubi finally asked.

Granger looked at her like the answer was obvious.

“Because you’re my friend, Harriet.”

“I don’t do friends,” Kyuubi said immediately. Granger actually rolled her eyes, cheeky brat that she was.

“If you say so.”

While Kyuubi was glaring at her for that, Granger went on.

“I thought that you wouldn’t want to go home for Christmas, if your relatives are as terrible as you say, and it won’t be very interesting here over the break, with all the students gone.”

“It will be quiet and peaceful,” Kyuubi retorted, by no means won over. Granger’s smile faltered.

“Well, you don’t have to visit, if you don’t want to...” said Granger, her veneer of confidence cracking.

In that moment, Kyuubi realised two things: one, Granger was teetering on the edge of hurt and uncertainty; Kyuubi’s acceptance of the invitation clearly meant more to her than she was letting on, and she would be genuinely, deeply upset if Kyuubi didn’t accept it.

Two: Kyuubi realised... she didn’t want to upset Granger. Somehow, at some point, the brat’s feelings had become important enough that seriously wounding them was something that Kyuubi wanted to avoid.

Kyuubi glowered at Granger, waited until Granger’s shoulders slumped in dejection...

...and gave in with a bad grace.

Fine. I’ll go.”

Granger’s face lit up, and she broke into the widest smile that Kyuubi had ever seen her give, even if it was a little shaky around the edges.

Really?

“Don’t push it,” Kyuubi grumbled, and then froze as Granger threw her arms around her. Kyuubi stood stock-still, eyes wide, as Granger hugged her.

No one had embraced Kyuubi since her parents and uncles had when she was a baby, and before that... well, who ever thought of hugging a bijuu?

Kyuubi had known, intellectually, that she was probably touch-starved – humans needed a certain amount of physical contact for good mental health – but the feeling of Granger’s arms around her gave Kyuubi an aching, yearning feeling deep in her chest.

Granger broke the hug, still smiling widely, and didn’t appear to notice Kyuubi’s wide eyes or frozen posture.

“We’re going to have so much fun, honestly,” Granger said, clearly already making plans inside her head.

“Whatever,” said Kyuubi, still feeling deeply unsettled by the moment of raw emotion she’d experienced during the hug.

Granger babbled on about her family’s Christmas traditions, and slowly, Kyuubi regained her equilibrium.

But her reaction to the hug was still troubling.


Only a few days before Christmas, Kyuubi found herself disembarking from the Hogwarts Express onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters with Granger. Both of them were rugged up in a beanie and scarf and gloves, underneath which they wore muggle clothing instead of their school robes. Granger wore a blue woollen overcoat over her jumper and jeans, and all her accessories had clearly been chosen to match it, with the exception of her black high-top sneakers.

Kyuubi, on the other hand, wore a mish-mash of assorted clothing: a black knitted jumper with an image of a red fox on the front (needless to say, it was her favourite jumper), jeans, a red jacket, a green beanie, gloves the same colour as her jacket, and a scarf in Slytherin colours that she’d bought off an enterprising fourth year, who had turned her knitting hobby into a profitable business. Sturdy black boots completed the erratic ensemble.

The moment their feet hit the platform, Granger was searching the faces in the crowd. Suddenly she smiled, and darted forward, dragging her trunk behind her.

Kyuubi stomped after Granger as the girl let go of her trunk and threw herself at a couple in muggle clothing who looked slightly nervous to be surrounded by so many witches and wizards.

Granger’s parents looked perfectly ordinary, although Kyuubi could immediately see where Granger’s hair had come from. Granger’s mother had thick, wavy hair that was more elegantly styled than Granger’s, but was clearly the origin of Granger’s bushy mess of brown hair.

“Mum, Dad, this is Harriet,” said Granger, beaming at them all. “Harriet, these are my parents.”

“We’re so happy to meet you,” said Mrs Granger, smiling warmly.

“Thank you for inviting me to stay,” said Kyuubi gruffly, a little off-balance in the face of the sincerity of Mrs Granger’s welcome.

“Hermione tells us that you’re famous,” Mr Granger remarked.

Kyuubi scowled.

“Dad, Harriet’s parents died in the attack that left her famous.” Granger sent her father a look. “She doesn’t like talking about it.”

Mr Granger had the grace to look embarrassed.

“My apologies. Emma and I are still trying to get our heads around this magical world of yours.”

“But we’re so glad that Hermione has made a friend,” said Mrs Granger, looking fondly at her daughter. “She’s told us all about you in her letters home.”

Kyuubi looked at Granger, who turned a little pink but otherwise maintained her composure.

“Hermione’s never met anyone who could match her in academics before,” added Mr Granger, with an amused grin.

Granger gave her father a betrayed look.

“Dad!”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Kyuubi. “She’s convinced we’re rivals.”

“We are!” Granger insisted. “You’re not that far ahead of me in classes!”

“Not everything is about schoolwork,” Kyuubi told her. Besides, you’re a child. We’re not on the same level.”

“You’re a child too, you know,” said Granger, looking rankled.

“Only in body,” replied Kyuubi.

Granger threw her hands in the air.

“You’re impossible!”

“Do you two usually argue like this?” asked Mrs Granger.

“Only because Harriet insists on being difficult,” said Granger, her nose in the air.

Kyuubi didn’t dignify that with a response, but both of Granger’s parents were smiling at the by-play.

“Well, come on, kids,” said Mr Granger. “You can tell us all about the things that were left out of your letters on the way home, and don’t protest, Hermione, because we can tell when you are carefully talking your way around something instead of about it.”

Granger looked a little alarmed, and shot a glance at Kyuubi, who only eyed her curiously.

“This way,” said Mrs Granger, and the small group left Platform Nine and Three Quarters.

Once they were all settled in the Granger’s car, their trunks in the boot of the car, Mrs Granger said, “So what is it you’ve been keeping from us, dear?”

“Nothing,” said Granger, still looking alarmed. “What would I possibly be keeping from you?”

“Well, that’s what we’d like to know,” said Mrs Granger dryly, while her husband focused on navigating London traffic. “The tone of your letters changed about a month after you started at Hogwarts.”

“Nothing happened,” said Granger. “Everything is fine.”

Mrs Granger glanced over her shoulder to where Kyuubi sat behind Mr Granger’s seat.

“Is she telling the truth, Harriet?”

Granger’s wide eyes met Kyuubi’s. She didn’t dare shake her head, not when her mother was eyeing them in the rear-vision mirror, but it was clear what she was trying to convey, all the same.

Obviously, Granger wanted to keep certain facts from her parents, even though that clearly wasn’t going to work – or if it did, it would no doubt backfire later.

“That was about the time Quirrell was killed, wasn’t it?” Kyuubi asked, because lying about things was too much trouble.

Granger sent her a deathly glare, at the same time as Mr Granger demanded, “Who was killed?”

“One of our professors,” said Kyuubi, smirking at Granger’s ire. “He opened himself up to a malicious possession, and died because of it.”

Possession?” said Mrs Granger, slewing around in her seat to try and stare between Granger and Kyuubi. “What do you mean, possession?”

Mr Granger was glancing at them in the rear-view mirror in-between watching the traffic, just as concerned as his wife.

Kyuubi took a deep breath.

“Malevolent spirits are not entirely unheard of in the wizarding world, although they seem to be rare. Poltergeists are more common – Hogwarts even has one in residence – but they’re nowhere near as dangerous, mostly relying on pranks and the like. For whatever reason, Quirrell allowed himself to be convinced to share his body with a malevolent spirit. As I said, it killed him.”

Mr and Mrs Granger were silent and aghast.

“The professors performed a sweep of the school and made sure that the spirit was no longer there,” Hermione hurried to add. “Hogwarts is perfectly safe!”

“It doesn’t sound it,” said Mr Granger grimly.

“If it helps, most beings know not to lay a finger on Granger,” said Kyuubi, who had blocked the occasional bullying attempt, and terrified Peeves into giving both herself and Granger a wide berth.

“And why is that?” asked Mrs Granger.

“Because they’re all scared of Harriet,” said Granger, rolling her eyes. “Honestly, I don’t know why.”

Kyuubi bristled.

“Just because I’m stuck in human form doesn’t mean that I’m any less terrifying for it,” she said, even though it did.

Stuck in human form?” Mr Granger repeated. “What does that mean?”

“It’s a secret.”

Granger let out a groan of irritation.

“It’s no use asking her any more, that’s her standard reply whenever she refuses to answer perfectly reasonable questions. She thinks it makes her more mysterious,” Granger complained.

Mr and Mrs Granger exchanged glances.

“So possession isn’t... normal, in the magical world?” asked Mrs Granger carefully.

Kyuubi shook her head.

“As I said, it seems to be rare.”

Mrs and Mr Granger relaxed a little, although they still looked perturbed.

Granger seemed inordinately relieved, as though she’d expected her parents to pull her from Hogwarts the moment they found out about the possession. She quickly began telling her parents about her experiences at the school, trying to distract them. Her parents allowed the change in subject, although Kyuubi doubted that Quirrell’s possession and death was far from their minds.

“So tell me, Harriet,” said Mr Granger, once Granger finally ran out of words. “What do you like best about Hogwarts? Do you have a favourite subject?”

Kyuubi considered the question.

“Probably Transfiguration,” she said.

“That’s the Deputy Headmistress’ subject, isn’t it?” Mr Granger asked. “She was the one who introduced us to the magical world. Watching her turn into a cat and back was fairly convincing,” he added with a wry chuckle.

“Apparently the process to become an animagus is a long and difficult one,” Granger put in, her voice eager. “But we start learning about it in third year. I’d love to become an animagus. I’m sure I’d be a cat, just like Professor McGonagall. What do you suppose you’d be, Harriet?”

“A fox,” said Kyuubi immediately.

Hermione gave an exaggerated sigh.

“You don’t simply become your favourite animal, you know. Your form is determined by your personality.”

Kyuubi gave a low growl that startled Granger’s parents, but not Granger; the girl had heard it numerous times.

“I said a fox, Granger.”

“You sound convinced.” Mrs Granger’s voice was amused.

Kyuubi was silent for a long moment.

“I have reason.”

“What reason?” Granger insisted.

“Maybe one day I’ll tell you.”

Granger made a frustrated noise, but said, “Well, at least that’s progress from it’s a secret.”

Kyuubi scowled.

They arrived at the Granger family home not long afterwards, and Granger darted ahead, leaving her father to get her school trunk out of the book of the car.

“Come on, Harriet!” Granger called, her face briefly appearing in the front doorway before disappearing again.

Kyuubi lifted her trunk out of the car boot, ignoring Mr Granger’s evident surprise as she handled the heavy luggage easily, lifting it onto one shoulder and following Granger inside.

“This way!” Granger said from the top of the stairs, before disappearing down the hallway. Kyuubi followed her up the stairs and down the hallway to the other end. Granger was standing in front of an open door.

“This is the guest room, where you’ll be sleeping,” said Granger. “You can put your trunk down in here,” she added, and so Kyuubi did so. Granger immediately grabbed Kyuubi’s hand and pulled her back down the hallway, opening one of the other doors to reveal a room painted in eggshell-blue.

“This is my room,” said Granger unnecessarily, as Kyuubi looked from the tidy desk to the neatly-made bed, to the large bookcase filled with both fiction and non-fiction works. A poster on the wall showed a tattoo-like image of a rose that was intertwined with gothic script which read, Born to Read. On the opposite wall was a framed print of an art nouveau painting.

“What do you think?” asked Granger. She looked a little nervous, twisting her fingers together.

“It’s very you,” said Kyuubi dryly. Granger frowned, clearly not sure whether that was intended as a compliment or not.

“Thank you, I think.”

“Hermione, why don’t you let Harriet get settled in,” suggested Mrs Granger, popping her head through the doorway as she went past.

“Yes, of course,” said Granger. She followed Kyuubi back to the guest bedroom.

“You can hang your clothes in the wardrobe, if you like,” Granger offered.

Kyuubi frowned.

“I only have my school robes and the clothes I’m wearing,” she admitted. “Besides my pyjamas and some underwear, that is. All my other muggle clothing is back at my relatives’ house.”

“Oh,” said Granger, looking startled. “Well, you can borrow some of my clothes, if you like. They’ll be a little big on you because I’m taller, but it shouldn’t be too bad.”

“Thank you,” said Kyuubi grudgingly. Granger beamed.

“You’re welcome,” she said, and went to unpack her own trunk as her father dumped it on the floor of her bedroom.

Dinner that night was surprisingly peaceful. Granger and her parents chatted a little as they ate, while Kyuubi dedicated herself to eating, answering the occasional question as it was asked.

“Girls, tomorrow is my day off work, and we thought you might like to go on an outing,” said Mrs Granger, when dinner was almost over.

“Christmas shopping?” Granger asked, but Mrs and Mr Granger both shook their heads, smiling.

“We can do that in a couple of days’ time,” said Mr Granger. “Your mother thought you might like to see the new Disney movie tomorrow.”

“Really?” Granger asked dubiously. “Disney?”

“You loved The Little Mermaid,” said Mrs Granger.

Granger turned pink, and darted a glance at Kyuubi, who grinned at her embarrassment.

Mother,” said Granger, in a please don’t embarrass me voice.

“What do you think, Harriet?” asked Mrs Granger. “Would you like to see Beauty & the Beast?”

Kyuubi only shrugged. She knew very little about Disney films, as Dudley mostly watched videos that featured episodes of cartoons like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

She knew of The Little Mermaid through hearsay, of course, because it had been the favourite video tape of some of the girls at her muggle school, but she’d never actually seen it herself. Vernon would never have tolerated Dudley watching a ‘girl’s movie,’ even if Dudley had wanted to see it (which he hadn’t), and there was no way that the Dursleys would have bought a copy on VHS tape just for Kyuubi alone.

Not that Kyuubi was particularly interested in anything aimed at children. She was an adult in a child’s body, after all.

“You’ll love it,” said Mr Granger. “Apparently the main character loves books, and there’s an enchanted castle in it. It should be right up your alley.” He winked at Kyuubi.

Granger missed the wink. She said in a long-suffering, superior sort of voice, “Dad, I hardly think that the representation of magic in a children’s film is going to resemble real magic.”

Her father pretended to be clueless.

“Really? So witches and wizards don’t just go around cursing arrogant royalty?”

Kyuubi grinned as Granger finally realised that her father was teasing her.

Dad.” Granger glared at Mr Granger, who only smiled, unrepentant.

“Regardless, Hermione, I’m sure it will be an enjoyable film,” said Mrs Granger briskly. “And no doubt Harriet would like to see it.”

Granger sent Kyuubi a doubtful glance, well aware that Kyuubi didn’t have much time for anything featuring the softer emotions. Kyuubi knew nothing about Beauty & the Beast, but if it was anything like The Little Mermaid, there was bound to be a mushy romance in it.

Still, at worst Kyuubi would be bored. And who knew, maybe there would be some swashbuckling adventure or a fight to the death in the film, or some such thing.

Granger bit her lip, looking undecided. Kyuubi could tell that she wanted to see the movie, but didn’t want to say so for some reason.

“For Merlin’s sake, Granger, just admit you want to see it,” said Kyuubi in annoyance. “If it gets too boring I’ll just take a nap, like I do in History of Magic.”

Granger sent Kyuubi an outraged glance.

“You what? Harriet!”

Mr Granger laughed at Granger’s ire. She puffed herself up, offended.

“Dad, History of Magic is a very important subject!”

“It’s all just goblin rebellions,” Kyuubi disagreed. “Which ought to be interesting, considering how bloody they were, but somehow Binns makes even the goblin rebellions boring.”

“I had a university professor like that,” said Mrs Granger reminiscently. “And his class was first thing in the morning, so everyone was sleepy to begin with. One of my classmates actually brought a pillow to class every morning for when he inevitably fell asleep half-way through the lecture.”

Kyuubi filed that away as a good idea for future use, while Granger howled, “That’s terrible!” in genuine horror.

Kyuubi grinned.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

As it turned out, Granger enjoyed Beauty & the Beast a lot. When the film reached its darkest point she couldn’t hold back her tears despite her best efforts, something she was very embarrassed about later.

As for Kyuubi, her feelings were a whirl of conflicting emotions. At its heart, Beauty & the Beast’s central narrative was that of a raging monster who slowly learned to love another person, while he in return came to be loved by someone who saw past the frightening exterior to the lonely being beneath.

Before she became Harriet Potter, the Kyuubi no Kitsune had never known love – or at least, not how it felt when it was directed at him. That had changed after he was reborn as a human infant, but the love and care she’d known thanks to Lily and James had been only brief, cruelly ripped away with the untimely death of her parents. Deep down, Kyuubi still missed their love and affection.

She was in an eleven year old’s body, after all, and that was still young enough to want a parent. Kyuubi told herself that was all it was, and that the heart of her – the part of her that was a bijuu alone – hadn’t been affected by the time spent with Lily and James, basking in their love and attention. But she knew, deep down, that that was a lie. Knowing their love had forever changed her, although whether it was for the better Kyuubi couldn’t say – her desire for love and affection was a weakness, one that Kyuubi would forever deny.

The fact that Granger knew Kyuubi well enough to be familiar with her irritability and violent nature and still wanted to be her friend, still accepted her... it made some secret, lonely part of Kyuubi feel... closer to whole than Kyuubi had ever felt. She wondered if this was what friendship felt like: like some missing part of you had somehow been restored.

Needless to say, Kyuubi was incredibly conflicted over the whole thing as she emerged from the cinema, while Granger discreetly wiped her eyes and face with a handkerchief.

“I saw you crying near the end,” Kyuubi informed Granger, to make herself feel better.

“You did not!” Granger denied, although she turned pink.

“I did.” Kyuubi looked pointedly at Granger. Granger turned steadily redder, glaring at Kyuubi.

“What did you think of the film, Hermione?” Mrs Granger interrupted their argument, trying to change the subject.

Granger suddenly smirked.

“Actually, the Beast rather reminded me of Harriet.”

“You take that back!” Kyuubi said immediately, her emotions somewhere between revulsion and horror at the thought that Granger, somehow, had picked up on certain parallels between her and the Beast.

Granger only folded her arms and looked superior, still smirking.

“I shan’t. The resemblance is uncanny.”

“I will punch you,” Kyuubi growled, balling up a fist and waving it threateningly. A tendril of killer intent leaked out from under her control.

“GIRLS!”

Both Kyuubi and Granger looked automatically to Mrs Granger. She looked a little pale under the effects of Kyuubi’s killing intent, minor though it was. Her voice trembled slightly as she said,

“Hermione, be nice to your friend. Harriet... I understand that accidental magic happens when you’re upset, but...”

Granger realised what was going on with her mother in that instant.

“Harriet! Stop using killer intent!” she yelled, kicking Kyuubi hard in the leg.

Kyuubi snarled at her.

“Did you just kick me?” Kyuubi growled, unsure whether to be angry or impressed at the girl’s daring.

Granger only glared meaningfully.

Grudgingly Kyuubi reeled her killing intent back in. Mrs Granger put a hand to her chest and breathed for a moment.

Finally she asked, “What was that?” Her voice was surprisingly calm.

“Nothing,” said Hermione quickly. “Just a thing Harriet can do. Sometimes she forgets she shouldn’t.”

Mrs Granger gave Kyuubi a long look, a new awareness in her eyes.

“I see,” was all she said, however. “Harriet, I would appreciate it if you would refrain from using that... particular ability... in my presence in future.”

Kyuubi scowled, and didn’t answer.

But Mrs Granger seemed to take Kyuubi’s silence as agreement. Kyuubi had to give Mrs Granger one thing, though: while she’d been affected by Kyuubi’s killing intent as much as any non-magical human was, she seemed to be made of sterner stuff than most of them were. Kyuubi couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of respect for Mrs Granger.

The next few days passed quietly. Mostly Granger and Kyuubi stayed at the Granger family home, either reading, or doing homework assignments, or watching videos on the Granger’s VHS player. Mr and Mrs Granger spent their time at work, and were only around early in the morning and in the evening once they finally arrived home.

“Mum went back to work once I started school,” said Granger, when Kyuubi asked about it. “She used to pick me up after school, but once I got into Hogwarts she extended her working hours, since I wouldn’t need to be collected from school in the afternoon anymore.” Granger shrugged a little. “I do wish she and Dad were home more, now that I’m home for the holiday, but I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself, you know.”

Granger did seem to be very self-sufficient, keeping herself organised and on-task no matter whether she was at home or at Hogwarts. But Kyuubi heard the wistful note in Granger’s voice, and saw how eagerly the girl spoke to her parents once they arrived home for the evening. She could tell that Granger wished her parents were around more often during the day.

But the Grangers didn’t work on the weekends, and on the Saturday before Christmas they took Granger and Kyuubi out to do some Christmas shopping. Granger made her parents leave her and Kyuubi alone for a few minutes when she found something she thought that they might like, taking it to the counter and purchasing it with her saved pocket money. Somehow, Kyuubi was not surprised to discover that Granger was a saver, not a spender.

“Although I do sometimes splurge a bit on books,” Granger confessed.

“What a surprise.”

“I didn’t think to ask before Mum and Dad took us shopping,” said Granger, ignoring Kyuubi’s remark. “But you do have pocket money, don’t you?”

“I have all the money my parents left me,” said Kyuubi shortly. “I had some of it converted to muggle money when I bought my school things.”

“Yes, but you don’t have access to all of it, surely?” Granger protested.

Kyuubi only raised her eyebrows.

“You mean, the goblins allow an eleven year old to manage it all on your own?” Granger sounded scandalised.

“It is my money, Granger.”

“But you might – you might spend it on too many books, or toys, or – or an entire trunk full of chocolate! Something ridiculous! I mean, you’re eleven!

“I don’t think the goblins care,” said Kyuubi, amused. “And an entire trunk full of chocolate? Are you projecting, Granger? Is that what you’d buy if you had access to a family fortune?”

“I would never do something so irresponsible,” Granger said primly, and then sighed. “Although I do sometimes wish my parents weren’t both dentists. They never let me have chocolate.”

Because of that, Kyuubi deliberately bought a fancy box of chocolates for Granger while the girl’s back was turned, along with the book on ancient Egypt that Kyuubi had found elsewhere in the department store. She’d give Granger the chocolates once they were on their way back to Hogwarts, away from Granger’s parents’ influence.

Grinning wickedly at the thought, Kyuubi hurried back to where she’d left Granger a few minutes ago.

Granger’s parents had re-joined her by then, and as Kyuubi walked up to them Mr Granger asked, “Is there anywhere else you want to go today, Harriet?”

Kyuubi thought for a moment.

“Is there a store around here that might sell music and music players?”

Mr and Mrs Granger’s eyebrows went up a little in surprise, but Mr Granger said, “There’s a hi-fi shop not far from here. We can go there once we’re finished here, if you would like.”

Kyuubi nodded, and so once they were finished at the department store they walked the short distance to the hi-fi store.

“What do you want to buy?” Granger asked, as nosy as usual. Kyuubi shrugged.

“A Walkman and some cassette tapes,” she said, seeing no reason to lie.

“Should you really be buying something that expensive if you don’t really need it?” Granger asked, her voice disapproving. “Besides, a Walkman won’t work at Hogwarts, you know. Nothing electrical works there.”

“Then I’ll only use it while I’m not at Hogwarts,” said Kyuubi, getting annoyed. “It’s my money and no one’s business but mine, Granger.”

Granger huffed, but stopped objecting.

Once they reached the hi-fi store, both Mr and Mrs Granger wandered off to look at records, and Granger followed Kyuubi around the shop as Kyuubi browsed the available cassette tapes.

Kyuubi had never owned any music before, but her cousin had, and at one point he’d played all his cassette tapes through Vernon’s stereo (at least until Vernon had complained about ‘that godforsaken noise’ and bought him a Walkman, so that Vernon and Petunia didn’t have to listen to the ‘noise.’) Kyuubi had listened, and even enjoyed some of it. She’d made a point at the time to remember what her favourite albums were called so that she could buy them sometime in the future.

Back in Black? The Razors Edge? Bat Out of Hell?” Granger demanded, peering over Kyuubi’s shoulder as she picked out various audio cassettes. “What kind of music is this?”

“The best kind,” said Kyuubi with a sly smile, as she made her way up to the counter to ask the sales assistant for one of the Walkmans on display in the glass cabinet.

She made a mental note to let Granger listen to some of the tracks on her cassettes later. The look on Granger’s face was bound to be amazing, Kyuubi thought, and smirked.


Christmas at the Granger’s was a fairly quiet affair.

Kyuubi was woken early in the morning by Granger asking, “Are you up yet?”

Kyuubi wriggled around until she was no longer lying on top of her pillow, and threw it at Granger without bothering to open her eyes. There was an indignant sound from Granger, but Kyuubi was already curling herself into a ball, much like a fox asleep in its den.

Unfortunately, before Kyuubi could properly get back to sleep, someone whipped back the covers and hit her with a pillow. Kyuubi let out a menacing growl.

“Mum and Dad are already preparing Christmas dinner,” Granger informed her. “If you want any breakfast, now is the time to have it, before they completely take over the kitchen.”

Kyuubi let out another growl, but sat up, reluctantly opening her eyes. Granger looked self-satisfied.

She was also wearing a hideous red-and-green jumper. Kyuubi stared.

“I’m going to go and have breakfast,” said Granger. “I’ll see you downstairs once you’re dressed.” She left the room, leaving Kyuubi alone.

Kyuubi quickly got changed into some of the clothing Granger had let her borrow, before pulling on her own jumper, the black one with the red fox knitted on the front. She headed downstairs.

Sure enough, Mr and Mrs Granger were distracted and busy, while Hermione sat at one end of the kitchen table eating cereal. Kyuubi got herself some cereal, and took a seat next to Granger’s.

“That is a hideous jumper.”

“Don’t be rude,” said Granger, her voice frosty. “My Nana made it for me.”

“It’s still hideous.”

Granger pointedly went back to eating her cereal, deliberately ignoring Kyuubi.

After breakfast the two of them went upstairs again, out of the way of Granger’s parents. Kyuubi borrowed a book from Granger’s room and curled up on the end of Granger’s bed to read it, while Granger sat at her desk and read a different book.

It was a few hours before dinner was ready, but eventually Mrs Granger called both Kyuubi and Granger down. A sumptuous spread covered the dining room table, which was decorated with a festive tablecloth and various decorations.

Kyuubi perked up at the sight of the roast turkey, and as though on cue her stomach rumbled. Loudly.

Kyuubi sat next to Granger at the dining table, and the two of them pulled open a couple of Christmas crackers together. Inside Kyuubi’s was a set of tiny screwdrivers, a piece of paper with a riddle printed on it, and a crown made of gold-coloured paper. Before Kyuubi could stop her, Granger grabbed the paper crown and placed it on Kyuubi’s head.

There was a flash of light, and Kyuubi looked up to see Mr Granger holding a camera. He was grinning. Kyuubi glared between him and Granger, who was busy shoving the paper crown from her Christmas cracker onto her own head.

“Hermione, Harriet – give me a smile!” said Mr Granger, raising the camera a second time. Granger immediately beamed in his direction, while Kyuubi sent him her nastiest look.

Mrs Granger laughed, while Mr Granger said, “Noooo, that is not the smile I was looking for.”

Granger glanced at Kyuubi, and said, “Honestly, that’s better than her usual smile.”

“What do you mean?” said Mrs Granger, while Mr Granger began a count-down. Granger hurriedly resumed her beaming smile.

“Three, two, one –”

Just as the flash went off, Kyuubi bared what would have been fangs if she’d been in her true form, but which in human form were instead nicely-rounded incisors. The effect was still much the same.

Mr Granger lowered the camera with a frown, looking a little perturbed.

Kyuubi was about to serve herself some turkey when Granger slung an arm around Kyuubi’s shoulders. As Kyuubi went stiff with surprise, Granger said, “Take another one of me and Harriet, Dad. Harriet, will you smile, please? I’d really like a nice picture of the two of us.”

Granger’s eyes were huge and hopeful.

Grudgingly, Kyuubi gave a proper smile, and waited for the shutter-click and the flash going off. Immediately she reverted to a scowl.

“There, you have your picture,” she told Granger. “Can I eat now?”

“Go ahead and tuck in,” said Mr Granger, putting his camera to one side. “I’ll take some more photos when we open presents.”

Dinner was frankly delicious, and Kyuubi ate more than anyone else at the table. Dessert was a large plum pudding, and Kyuubi ate some of that, too.

Afterwards, the Grangers cleared the table of dishes and put away the left-overs, before the group made their way into the living room, where everyone’s presents sat under the lavishly decorated, plastic tree.

Granger squealed in delight at the book on ancient Egypt that Kyuubi had gotten her, while her parents appeared pleased with the healthy food cookbook that Kyuubi had bought for them on Granger’s advice.

Kyuubi had expected a present from Granger, and was not disappointed. Granger handed her a package wrapped in silver paper, and Kyuubi tore the paper open to find herself holding a scarf...

Which had been knitted into the shape of an elongated fox. At one end was a tail; at the other, its head. Little flaps stood up representing the fox’s ears.

Kyuubi stared at it. There was the sound of Mr Granger’s camera taking a picture.

Kyuubi had mixed feelings. On the one hand, Granger had bought her a scarf designed to look like a fox. On the other hand, it was cute.

“...thank you,” Kyuubi said finally, still unsure what to make of the thing.

“Do you like it?” Granger asked anxiously. “I know you like foxes, and when I saw it, I thought it was perfect. It took all of my left-over pocket-money, but I thought that if you liked it...”

Kyuubi stared at the fox-scarf. Part of her wanted to snarl, to denounce the thing as too cute, but... Granger had spent all her pocket money on this, for her, simply because Granger wanted her to be happy with it. Granger had seen the scarf, and thought that it was the sort of thing that Kyuubi would like, and hadn’t cared about the cost even though it had no doubt been ridiculously expensive.

There was suddenly a lump in Kyuubi’s throat, and to her bewildered horror, her eyes were beginning to sting.

“No one’s bought me a present since my parents died,” said Kyuubi, her voice strangely hoarse. “This is... this is nice.” She blinked away the blurriness gathering in her vision, and carefully didn’t look at anyone as she hung the fox-scarf around her neck.

“No one?” said Granger, sounding strangely stricken. “Not... I know about your relatives, but... not even your friends?”

“I told you. I don’t do friends,” said Kyuubi, staring down at the head of the fox-scarf.

The next second there were arms around her, and Kyuubi went still as Granger wrapped her arms around her.

“Well, you have me,” said Granger into Kyuubi’s ear, her voice oddly fierce.

Kyuubi didn’t answer. There was a strange swelling sensation in her chest, something hot and strong unfurling there, some emotion that was dangerously close to bursting.

Kyuubi had never felt this before. She didn’t like it.

After a moment Granger broke the hug, her eyes suspiciously shiny.

“Well,” she said, with deliberate brightness, “I’m glad you like it.”

Kyuubi stared down at the fox-scarf where it was draped over her shoulders, and wondered what was happening to her.


A few days later, and Kyuubi was back at Hogwarts, much to her relief. Being at the Grangers had been nice, but it had unleashed several uncomfortable, horribly human emotions inside Kyuubi. Those emotions had led to a state of unease in which Kyuubi wondered if somehow, being human was slowly changing her into something that other than the mighty bijuu she still thought of herself as.

The thought was a terrifying one, and Kyuubi had rejected it immediately. But sometimes the thought would surface anyway, oddly persistent. It was unsettling. Kyuubi tried to put it out of her mind, all the same.

As soon as Kyuubi was back inside the castle, she began heading downstairs towards the Slytherin dungeons, glad to be back with people she had no soft, fragile feelings for. She paused as the distant sound of screams made their way to her ears, but after a second continued on her way.

The closer she got to the entrance to the Slytherin common room, the louder the faint screams became. Finally, Kyuubi reached the hidden doorway, hesitated, and spoke the password. As the doorway made itself known, she stepped through.

The source of the screaming immediately became visible. Students were cowering behind furniture and lying on the floor with their arms over their heads while a large black ball zoomed around the room, ducking and weaving towards anyone who tried to stand up or lift their heads.

As the doorway closed behind Kyuubi the ball did a 180 degree turn and headed straight for her face at considerable speed. On instinct, Kyuubi punched it with chakra-enhanced strength.

The ball bounced off her fist and shot across the room, narrowly missing a third year who was trying to make a run for it, and prompting another round of screams as it rocketed over students’ heads.

“Potter!”

Kyuubi looked around. The voice belonged to an older student named Flint, and there was a light in his eyes that Kyuubi had never seen there before.

“Can you do that with a Beater’s bat?”

“A what?” Kyuubi sent Flint a confused glare.

Flint didn’t bother to explain.

“Catch!” he said, and tossed an object that looked like a cross between a cricket bat and a baseball bat in Kyuubi’s direction. She caught it easily.

Flint ducked back down behind the chair where he’d been taking cover, mere seconds before the black ball zoomed through the space where his head had been just a moment ago.

Kyuubi didn’t have to wait more than a couple of seconds, as the black ball shot towards the only figure still standing.

Kyuubi gripped the handle of the bat, and swung.

The black ball went careening off towards Flint again, who cursed and ducked back down behind the top of his chair.

When he popped back up, he was grinning nastily.

“Potter!” he called out. “I don’t care how scary everyone thinks you are, from now on you’re playing Quidditch!”

Just then, the door opened behind Kyuubi and Snape stepped through, a thunderous expression on his face.

“What is the meaning of–” he started, then saw the black iron ball heading in his direction.

Kyuubi watched with interest as Snape ducked hastily. When he straightened up, he aimed his wand at the ball and shouted, “Arresto Momentum!

The ball’s speed rapidly slowed. Sluggishly, it rounded the room again, and headed back towards Kyuubi and Snape.

Before it quite reached them, Flint tackled the ball to the floor and wrestled it into a large wooden case. Finally, the black ball was strapped into the case beside a couple of other balls, and sat vibrating faintly beneath the leather straps holding it in place.

“Flint,” said Snape.

“It was Belby, sir,” said Flint, climbing to his feet. He was a little out of breath. “He wanted to show off the Quidditch kit his uncle gave him for Christmas. The bludger wasn’t secured properly.”

Belby, whose head had been slowly rising above the table he and some other students had been sheltering under, gulped at the look Snape shot him.

“By the way, sir, I recommend we add Potter to the Quidditch team,” Flint went on. “She’s a natural with a Beater’s bat. Knocked the bludger clear across the room. She’s far more competent than Smith.”

Snape looked down at Kyuubi, who was still holding the bat. Contempt warred with interest across his face, as Snape wrestled between his desire not to give Kyuubi any positive treatment and his desire to have someone better than Smith playing Quidditch for Slytherin.

“Potter,” he finally spat. “You’ll be representing Slytherin in Quidditch. I expect you to excel.”

Kyuubi glared.

“I don’t know anything about Quidditch.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you everything you need to know.” Flint’s grin was nastier than ever.

Snape nodded, and then rounded on Belby.

“Belby! Twenty points from Slytherin for sheer idiocy!” he barked. “And I’ll be confiscating that Quidditch kit until the end of term.”

“But sir–”

“Be quiet!” Snape ordered, picking up the Quidditch kit and snapping the case closed. He swept out of the dungeon, taking Belby’s Quidditch kit with him.

“Potter,” said Flint. “Let me tell you all about Quidditch.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

The morning of Kyuubi’s first Quidditch match dawned clear and bright, a beautiful blue sky stretching overhead as Kyuubi walked out onto the pitch with the rest of her team. If you could truly call it a ‘team’ – its members were a disparate group, not particularly fond of one another, and united only by their desire to completely trounce whatever team they were playing next.

Kyuubi didn’t even care about that – she’d only bothered to turn up because she’d discovered that hitting a large iron ball towards schoolchildren who were balanced precariously in mid-air on a flying broom, dozens of feet above the hard ground, was exactly the kind of pastime that brought her joy.

She probably looked an odd sight next to the rest of the Slytherin team, who appeared to have been selected on the criterion of size rather than skill. Kyuubi didn’t even come up to their shoulders. She cut a dainty figure next to the huge and hulking figures of the rest of the Slytherin team, but anyone on the Gryffindor team who thought that meant she was less of a threat than the others was in for a nasty surprise.

“Now, I want a nice, clean match,” said Madam Hooch, as the two teams stood facing one another. Flint was smiling his nasty grin and cracking his knuckles, while the captain of the Gryffindor team glared at him suspiciously.

Next to Kyuubi, her fellow Slytherin Beater muttered out of the corner of his mouth, “Give them hell, Potter.”

Kyuubi didn’t spare him a glance, only smiling menacingly at the Gryffindor team.

The moment Madam Hooch blew her whistle, Kyuubi was in the air.

Foxes were not meant for air travel, but Kyuubi (in this form, at least) was surprisingly good on a broom, ducking and weaving between players and performing neat turns whenever necessary.

Kyuubi chased the bludger through the air the entire game, hitting it away from the Slytherin players and towards the members of the Gryffindor team. Her ducking and weaving alone left a trail of destruction in her wake, as players were forced to halt hard in mid-air to avoid her, or swerve out of her path. Kyuubi didn’t care, too busy hitting the bludger towards her opponents.

Kyuubi’s aim was excellent. There was a shrill scream as the bludger collided with one of the Gryffindors, knocking her clean off her broom. Kyuubi didn’t stay to watch as the girl’s fall was slowed by one of the teachers in the stands, already on her way, chasing after the bludger again.

The whole game went more or less like that, the members of the Gryffindor team dropping like flies as they failed to avoid Kyuubi’s vicious serves. By the time Higgs finally caught the snitch and ended the game, there were only a few players on the other team left uninjured.

As the Slytherin players landed on the pitch, Flint was smiling beatifically. The rest of the team sent him worried glances.

“Nice work, Potter,” Flint announced, resting a heavy hand on Kyuubi’s shoulder for a moment.

“Touch me again and I’ll rip your arm off,” said Kyuubi.

“You know, you’re alright,” Flint said, still smiling, and walked off to taunt the Gryffindor captain over losing the match.

Kyuubi went to take a shower and get changed. By the time she emerged from the women’s section of the Slytherin team’s changing rooms, Granger was waiting impatiently in the hallway outside.

“That was brutal!” Granger exclaimed, without bothering with pleasantries.

Kyuubi grinned widely at her. For once, she was in a good mood. Senseless violence did that to her.

“I know. I had a brilliant time.”

Granger only shook her head, and joined Kyuubi in walking back towards the castle proper.

Abruptly Granger asked, “Will you teach me?”

“What?” asked Kyuubi, drawn out of happily replaying the violence of the Quidditch game in her head.

“I want you to teach me about chakra. I want to be able to walk on walls the way you do, and punch things –”

You want to punch things?” Kyuubi raised her eyebrows.

Granger flushed.

“You never know, someday I might need to. So will you teach me? Please?”

Kyuubi considered the request as she walked.

“Fine,” she said at last. “But it’s going to be hard work, and you’re going to need to join me in my exercises in the morning.”

Granger made a slight face at that, but nodded eagerly. Kyuubi shook her head, amused in spite of herself.

“Normally, it takes several years to get a student to the point where they can walk on walls. Punching things the way I do takes even longer to learn. We’ll probably be graduating from Hogwarts before you can perform half the chakra techniques I can.”

But Granger’s eyes were alight with determination, and she said resolutely, “I’m going to prove you wrong.”

Kyuubi laughed, and for once her laughter wasn’t mean or menacing.

“I look forward to it, kit.”


The next few months passed in a blur of Quidditch practice, classes, and time spent with Granger, exercising and practicing chakra techniques outside the castle in the mornings, and sometimes sitting either in the library or in the castle’s courtyard on weekends or in-between classes. None of it was particularly remarkable. There was the occasional incident with another student where Kyuubi lost her temper, however – and of course, the inevitable blow-up with Snape.

Snape had spent all year trying to get a reaction from Kyuubi during Potions classes, and eventually he succeeded.

“You’re just like your father,” Snape had declared one lesson, and Kyuubi’s eyes had narrowed, rage instantly rising, killer intent making itself known.

Snape smiled unpleasantly.

“Oh, yes, a terrible bully, was James Potter,” Snape said, his voice silky-soft. “Always picking on others – especially anyone who got in the way of what he wanted–”

“Shut up,” Kyuubi snarled, a shout of ‘Lily, it’s him! Go, I’ll hold him off!’ echoing through her mind. Her nails dug grooves into the surface of the desk.

The rest of the class watched their interaction, wide-eyed. Granger was slowly edging away from Kyuubi, while Longbottom had already ducked beneath his desk in preparation, like Kyuubi was a potion ready to explode.

“One point from Slytherin,” Snape said idly, his eyes gleaming. “He fancied himself one of the popular crowd, James Potter. Always there with his crowd of hangers-on and admirers, telling himself that they stayed with him because they liked him, and not because they were afraid of what he’d do to them if they didn’t laugh and go along with his mean-spirited pranks –”

Kyuubi started fumbling through her book-bag for the Quidditch gloves she’d left in there earlier after Quidditch practice, never taking her eyes from Snape. She found her gloves a moment later and slipped them on.

“In the end, they betrayed him, of course,” Snape went on relentlessly. “One of his dearest friends – the one he trusted most – betrayed him to the Dark Lord. I wonder how he felt, when he realised–”

Kyuubi picked up her slowly-simmering cauldron in her gloved hands, stood up on her chair, and before Snape knew what she was doing she emptied it over Snape’s head.

The class gasped as one.

Snape hissed in pain and incoherent fury as he was drenched in Kyuubi’s potion. He staggered, reached out blindly with an uncertain hand, and then his legs folded. He crashed to the ground, and was still.

The classroom was still and silent.

“You killed Professor Snape,” Malfoy whispered, somewhere between terrified awe and horror.

“Don’t be stupid!” said Granger, as the class erupted into screams and shouts. “You can see his chest moving up and down! He’s still breathing, of course he’s not dead!”

Her words fell on deaf ears. The other students were scrambling to leave the classroom, some of them pausing to grab textbooks and quills, some leaving their supplies behind in their rush to get out.

“Great job, Potter!” one of the Gryffindors boys shouted on his way out of the room, giving Kyuubi a thumbs-up as he went past. Granger swelled with wrath, but the boy was out the door a moment later before she could berate him.

The Slytherins were leaving the room with the Gryffindors, but as they left most of them sent Kyuubi looks of horrified respect.

Only a few minutes later, and Kyuubi and Granger were left standing alone in the Potions classroom. Snape lay a few feet away, apparently deeply unconscious.

“You’re going to be in so much trouble,” Granger whimpered.

“We should get out of here,” Kyuubi said, dragging Granger out of the room.

“You attacked a teacher! You’ll be expelled!” Granger chanted over and over, as Kyuubi physically hauled her down the corridors, away from the Potions classroom.

Finally they stopped several hallways away.

“Granger! Snap out if it!” Kyuubi barked.

“But he’s a teacher! I can’t believe you attacked him!” said Granger, near tears. “You’ll be expelled for sure!”

“As though I care,” said Kyuubi, even though the thought of leaving Hogwarts and returning to the Dursleys made something twist uncomfortably in her chest.

“They’ll snap your wand!”

“So I’ll use chakra,” Kyuubi said with a shrug. “Granger, listen. Go to your next class, okay? I’ll deal with whatever happens. You don’t want to get caught up in this mess.”

“But you’re my friend,” said Granger, lifting her chin defiantly.

Granger,” Kyuubi snarled. She abruptly realised that she’d been radiating killing intent ever since Snape had first mentioned her father. Taking a deep breath, she stopped the flow of malevolence.

“Granger, I don’t want to bring you down with me,” said Kyuubi, uncomfortably honest, and annoyed about it. “So just go.”

Granger’s eyes filled with tears, and she flung her arms around Kyuubi for a moment and hugged her tightly.

“Good luck!” said Granger, and fled.

Kyuubi was sitting by the lake, contemplating the nature of eternity when the one of the staff found her.

“HARRIET POTTER!” McGonagall’s voice roared, and Kyuubi turned her head to see the Deputy Headmistress walking across the grass towards her. “Never – in all my years at Hogwarts–” Her voice was trembling with rage.

Kyuubi yelped in surprise and pain as McGonagall grabbed her by the ear and dragged her back to the castle. McGonagall didn’t let go, dragging her by the ear through the castle corridors and upstairs into the Headmaster’s office.

Dumbledore glanced up as McGonagall entered the room, pulling Kyuubi in behind her, so angry that Kyuubi’s killing intent was having little effect on her. McGonagall finally let go of Kyuubi’s ear.

What do you have to say for yourself?” the professor demanded.

Kyuubi only sneered at the two professors, and said nothing.

“I heard it all!” piped up one of the portraits on the wall. “My portrait’s just outside the Potions classroom, you know. Professor Snape was taunting her about her father, going on about his betrayal and death at You-Know-Who's hands. The next minute he went quiet, and then all the students began screaming.”

There was a horrible silence in the Headmaster’s office.

“No matter what he said – attacking a teacher–” said McGonagall, although there was a minute softening of her expression.

“Quite so,” said Dumbledore. He looked at Kyuubi, his expression grave. “Harriet, what you have done is very serious.”

Kyuubi’s hands curled themselves into fists, and the next minute she was pumping out so much killing intent that even Dumbledore turned pale.

I don’t care! I hate you! I hate you all! I wish Snape was dead!

Dumbledore only looked at her, surprisingly calm. McGonagall was nearly fainting from the abundance of killer intent.

“And precisely why do you wish he were dead, Harriet?”

So Kyuubi told him. It took quite a while to list all the things Snape had done that year, and by the time she was done, Dumbledore’s expression had turned pensive and McGonagall’s had become reluctantly disapproving, while Kyuubi’s overwhelming killer intent had subsided to more manageable levels.

When Kyuubi stopped talking, Dumbledore steepled his fingers, and said, “I see.”

“Albus – Severus’ behaviour...” McGonagall said, and then stopped, reluctant to run down a colleague in front of Kyuubi.

“Indeed.” Dumbledore eyed Kyuubi. “Harriet. You will have detention with Professor McGonagall every evening, until such time as she deems it no longer necessary. You are also banned from the Quidditch team from now until the end of the school year. And I think it is best – both for your safety, and Professor Snape’s – that you no longer take Potions class.”

There was a beat of silence.

Fine,” Kyuubi snarled, arms crossed over her chest.

“Professor Snape himself is expected to make a full recovery within the next few hours, despite his exposure to the potion you were brewing during class. I will be discussing with him the way that he has behaved towards you over the course of the year.”

Kyuubi’s expression didn’t change. She strongly doubted that Dumbledore having a talk with Snape would change anything.

Dumbledore sighed, just a little, and looked every one of his many years.

“While you are here,” and his voice gentled a bit, “is there anything that you wish to talk to me about, Harriet?”

Kyuubi glared at him unblinkingly, and didn’t answer.


Flint had been furious that he’d lost his favourite Beater from the Quidditch team, of course, but although Kyuubi rather liked hitting bludgers at people, she hadn’t really been all that sorry to lose her place on the team. Being on the team meant regular, scheduled practices with other people, sometimes as early as five in the morning. Kyuubi didn’t miss it, even if hitting things with her Beater’s bat had been a nice outlet for her ever-present temper.

Leaving Potions wasn’t much of a bother, either. The only annoying thing was the detentions, in which McGonagall had Kyuubi writing lines – phrases such as I must not attack professors no matter what the provocation – over and over again.

Before Kyuubi knew it, term was over, and she found herself on Platform Nine and Three Quarters, surrounded by children being greeted by their families.

“You simply must visit during the holidays,” Granger said, hugging Kyuubi goodbye. “I can’t believe the school year is over!”

Kyuubi said her farewells, watched as Granger was reunited with her parents, and then turned and walked out into the muggle section of Kings Cross Station, where her relatives were waiting.

As she approached them Kyuubi smiled, wide and sinister, and spoke.

“Guess who learned all kinds of interesting magic this year...”