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The Incompetent Turn Competent

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Chapter 1 – A Slight Reunion
Chapter revised: Not Applicable

“Speech” | ‘Thoughts’ | ‘Tom’ | “Parseltongue” | Memories / Flashbacks / Letters


Harry sat at a table in the Leaky Cauldron, one that had been pressed the wall and allowed for a medium of privacy. He watched, his hands grasping around a cup of lukewarm tea, as people slowly trickled in and gaped, their eyes darting at the building and patrons inside in what appeared to be utter shock. He had, of course, done the same thing when he had entered the pub via the Floo.

The fresh new coat of paint, which seemed to be done in warm and inviting colours, was the first to catch the eyes of the patrons. Next was the new chairs and tables that looked like they had been mass produced by some kind of Muggle store. However, the most shocking thing was how clean the place looked. The entire building appeared as if it was brand-new.

Harry had spoken to Tom, the barkeep, about the pub and what the man’s plans were with it. It shocked him that the man now suddenly cared about how well kept the pub looked. It hardly took any probing to learn that Tom was improving the pub solely because of the Quidditch World Cup. The Ministry had decided that Diagon Alley is where all the foreign witch and wizards would appear and that they deserved to see how fine the magical side of London was.

He really should have known that the only reason that Tom had renovated was because the Ministry pushed. The man would sooner see the Leaky Cauldron collapse on itself than willingly tidy it up. Sadly, going into Diagon Alley at this stage was next to impossible. Too many people doing things to neaten and clean the streets, shops, and various accommodations that the alley had to offer.

It was a close decision between Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, the only two magical places in the United Kingdom. Hogsmeade was a great village, full of posh stores that were neat, tidy, and well-kept, but full of gossiping people that would sell your story to the Daily Prophet in a heartbeat. It was the hub for old crones and delirious teenagers thinking they were adults.

However, Diagon Alley was a better area that was bigger and allowed for a little bit more privacy. It didn’t offer much, considering the office of the Daily Prophet was there, but it offered enough to have a personal chat without throwing up spells, wards, or enchantments.

Naturally, whenever Harry had a plan regarding something, it went poorly.

He glanced around and reached into his jumper, searching for the letter his mother had sent him. He treasured the letter, knowing his mother was on his side and understood.

Dear Harry,

I hope you’re having a pleasant day. I’ll attempt to keep this letter as short as possible as I know you’re highly paranoid that your housemates will pry into your mail and pull your deepest and darkest secrets from you. Goodness if they know your mother writes to you. I’m kidding, of course. You really should put some more faith in them. I know that not all Slytherins are like that, and, hopefully, so do you.

I want to apologise for not writing as frequently as I promised. I do have some great news, though. It won’t excuse me for going quiet on you, especially at a time where you needed it, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate what happened.

The last time we wrote to each other, you were telling me that you were working on another spell. I do assume that this one is much like your cage and isn’t an original spell, but one you have (or will) been tweaking. I can’t wait to hear about it and see what you’re working on. Your silver cage was a brilliant idea, one that no one had ever thought about. Now that you have perfected it, it will save a lot of lives in the long run.

I am very, very proud of you, Harry.

I am rather curious, actually. I’m curious about what your results for this year, seeing as you kept them concealed and hidden from everyone. If you weren’t as smart as you were, I’d assume you failed a class! Maybe you just don’t want people to see your thirteen ‘Outstandings’.

If it’s alright with you, could we meet in the Leaky Cauldron? I heard a rumour, whether that’s true or not, that it was being renovated! How exciting. I know, Harry, why am I, the adult (and your mother), asking where we meet? Well, I know how you are.

Love you,
Lily.

Harry tucked the letter away after reading it over again and went back to watching the entrance from the Muggle street and the three fireplaces that people could use to Floo in. He had quickly accepted his mother’s request to meet in Diagon Alley, even though he had his concerns about meeting here. Even then, it was most likely going to be a casual discussion and not something the Daily Prophet would push their nose into.

He watched as a familiar set of hair barged out of the fireplace as if it contained his worst fears and barrelled into an old lady that was just walking through. He hardly felt any pity for the lady, who had been knocked over, because she shouldn’t have been walking there. The markers on the floor indicated it was the area that people used to Floo in.

“Daniel!” said a familiar voice, one filled with exasperation. “I asked you to stay where you were when you went through! You promised you wouldn’t run off, and you did. You’ve lost your big boy privileges.”

Harry couldn’t help but snort at the whole ‘big boy privileges’ statement, which he assumed was something his mother came up with to make his brother behave a little more maturely, despite his young age. Of course, Daniel losing his big boy privileges, as humorous as it sounded, was an indication that he was no longer allowed to do things on his own.

He reached out and snatched his brother’s arm, pulling him into the seat. He ignored the shout from his brother and the betrayed expression, but it was worth it. He glanced at Tom, who appeared deathly pale at almost being run into while holding a tray full of hot tea.

“Slow down,” he said to his brother, pulling him onto the seat next to him, boxing him into the wall. He waved his mother over with a smile. “You know, you really should listen to our mother when she tells you to do something. You can’t be running off, not in Diagon Alley, especially because people might grab you from the street.”

“Harry,” said Lily, breathing out in relief. “He’s been so eager today, even more so when he realised we were coming to meet you.”

Harry allowed those few words to bounce around his head. He nodded as his mother spoke, but he was so focused on those words that couldn’t remember a single thing said. He knew the words were true. His mother never lied to him, whether intentional or not.

“You know, it’s kind of funny,” he said after a period of silence. He saw his mother’s head lift, surprise etched onto her face. “A year ago, in the very same spot, you told me about Daniel.”

“Oh.”

“Do you know how I felt after hearing about him?” said Harry, frowning. “I was… angry? Frustrated? I actually have no idea what I felt. Perhaps both of them merged into one large mass of emotion.”

“I did assume you would be angry,” said Lily. “I hope you’re not beating yourself up over it.”

“I did for a while,” said Harry. “Poor little sickly Harry, who couldn’t speak, no matter how much he screamed and thrashed silently about it. Being unable to speak at a time where curiosity was at its peak was very tormenting, a torture I would never wish to inflict on another. Longbottom would be the perfect son… I thought I was, once again, being replaced.”

The tense conversation continued and was unable to move onto other things, which was a very bad thing. Both of them were stubborn and refused to allow a conversation go unfinished, so it caused some minor tension between them. However, a few truths were revealed, nothing too incriminating, but it aided in moving the conversation forward.

Lily gave her son a hard look and sighed. “As for James,” she said as softly as she could. “I think he will come around when he’s thought about it and calmed down. I can see that look you’re doing. Don’t doubt his love for you, even if it seems like the love is gone.”

“Is it, though?” said Harry, a bitter expression on his face. “It’s very hard to remember a time where he showed me genuine love. He keeps me out of what he’s doing at work, he keeps me out of everything. We have to do Transfiguration the exact same way, something no one else does, and he didn’t respond to my letter about it. I had to beg Professor McGonagall for help else I’d have failed Transfiguration.”

“I can’t make excuses for him –”

“Then don’t.”

“– but I’m sure he has his reasons,” said Lily, glaring at her son for interrupting. “James, while being an adult, is still very much like his young adult personality. He loves to make jokes, awful ones that no one laughs at, laugh, and just mess around. He never was, and most likely never will be, a mature person. It’s just not who he is.”

“He never attempted to tell me any jokes,” said Harry. “He told them to everyone else, but never me.”

“Because we both know that you wouldn’t have understood or appreciated the jokes,” said Lily, smiling. “You’re a lot like me. You wouldn’t see the veiled humour in the jokes and you would quite simply just frown, trying to understand the concept of the joke, not the actual joke. I never really appreciated James’s sense of humour, and, according to his thought process, if I didn’t understand, you wouldn’t either. Let’s move onto another topic.”

“What’s the next topic?” said Harry, surprised by the rapid conversations witch. “I guess we do have a lot to catch up on.”

“Don’t think like that,” said Lily, frowning. “I know that the previous topic was wearing you thin, I could tell by how one-sided the conversation appeared. I would speak to you all day if I knew we could do it. I heard a rumour about a young boy who was hit by a curse.”

“You mean Theodore Nott?”

“A truly remarkable case,” said Lily. “As you know, I sometimes do some small work for St Mungo’s. Well, a boy about your age was moved into my care and I was rather shocked. I can see your mind, I will be discussing St Mungo’s next. Anyway, Mr Nott’s symptoms are rather weird and highly obscure.”

“Oh?”

“I assume you’re aware of the room in the Slytherin common room that has been dubbed as the Duelling Pit?” said Lily, smiling when her son gave a slight nod. “Well, when Poppy was unable to treat the boy’s injuries, he was shifted to St Mungo’s and a reasoning had to be given. The Duelling Pit was exposed, but not who the other duellist was.”

“What happened to Nott?” said Harry, leaning forwards. “I heard there was a duel, but I was doing some last minute studying with Draco in the common room.”

“The spell he was hit by isn’t known,” said Lily, frowning. “Which means that the spell had been handed down and not registered to the Ministry. I’m sure you know this as you would have received some form of form or letter about the spell you created… It’s mandatory for a spell creator to hand in the spell they created, whether it has good purposes or nefarious ones.”

“That’s… I have no words.”

“The creation of spells slowed massively as a whole because the rules and demands were too imposing,” said Lily. “You were paid a small sum and your spell was placed in books around the world, if it was useful enough.”

“What’s the punishment?” said Harry, genuinely curious. “If you know, that is.”

“If the spell is considered harmless,” said Lily, a frown appearing on her face as she shook her head. “If it’s harmless, a large fine of a hundred Galleons. If the spell could be used in combat, five years in Azkaban.”

“Is this just a thing our Ministry does?”

“No, this is a worldwide choice that has been in effect ever since the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy was introduced,” said Lily. “All the lists are kept up to date and are publically available. James had been planning on taking you sometime this month, but decided that it wouldn’t be ideal with what happened.”

“I guess that’s why Voldemort was so interested in controlling the Ministry in the previous war,” said Harry, taping his chin. “Having control over the list would be a game changer. A list that constantly updates, adding rare and obscure spells from all across the world? I can imagine.”

“Voldemort will never be able to claim the Ministry,” said Lily. “Even with his power and followers, it has too many protections in place.”

“I never understood that,” said Harry, muttering. “Hogwarts is the same. I assumed Hogwarts was impenetrable because of the centuries of lingering magic that had been seeping into the walls, but the Ministry? It’s not as old and ancient and it isn’t on a ley line.”

“Ley lines are a myth,” said Lily, laughing at the appalled expression on her son’s face. “No evidence has been found.”

Harry stared ahead of him with a curious expression. He wasn’t sure if his mother was simply messing around or if she really believed that magic came from nowhere and just simply existed. He blinked and realised that she was serious.

“Magic is a churning river that flows beneath our feet,” he said, leaning forwards. “It flows and surges and it can’t be tamed. It’s wild and free. Magic is not controlled by some deity or a singular person, it’s all around us. It’s in the trees, the wind, the mountains. We all should know and embrace magic.”

“Many of us embrace magic,” said Lily. “We embrace it by practising it every day of our lives, always honing it. Nothing about any study has proven ley lines to exist.”

“Using it is different from embracing it,” said Harry. “When you think of your magic, what do you feel?”

“I just feel magic,” said Lily. “It feels magical, that’s all.”

Harry made a humming sound and nodded, knowing that he couldn’t argue against how someone else felt regarding magic because it was a magical feeling and it was correct. It was an insanely difficult feeling to explain.

“Did you know that magic is in our souls?” he said softly, taking a small sip of his tea. “It essentially makes us purely magical. It’s not like how Muggles portray magic in their fiction novels. There’s no core that we draw magic from – a core that is larger in some people. It’s silly, isn’t it? Witches and wizards are all equals, it just depends on the emotion and desire of the caster.”

“I do believe that.”

“And, believe it or not, Dementors are slowly killing magic,” said Harry, frowning. “Because magic is in the soul, so, when a Dementor sucks out a soul, they keep it for eternity and don’t allow for the soul to pass on, keeping it from being recycled and reused in the future.”

“You should petition to the Ministry with what you know,” said Lily, smiling at her son. “I’m sure they would love to hear what you have to say.”

Harry had simply shaken his head and said that it would be pointless as the Ministry would have already known. Surely he wasn’t the only person to figure such things out. Not only that, but was thirteen, almost fourteen. No one would take him seriously with whatever he said, no matter about his school records or his awards and merits he held.

He wasn’t sure if it was simply ignorance on the Ministry or if they were in a whole different game of Quidditch and that caused them to just ignore everything that was happening. It really was the blind trying to lead the blind while the people that could see were waving instead of speaking. No disrespect to Lucius, of course, but there was a reason why the man never ran for Minister for Magic, despite having all the qualifications and support for it.

The entire world is intent on ignoring issues,’ said Tom. ‘Muggle or wizard, it matters not.’

And Harry, who believed that Tom knew all, simply agreed. He would have agreed even if it came from some else because humans were exactly like that. People would rather just ignore all the issues unless it revolved around them, then it was a serious issue.

Despite how calm he felt, the words simply took him off-guard and he had to end the meeting with his mother and brother. Of course, he had learned a lot about what had been happening at home, and he was thankful, despite how quickly it seemed he wanted to just leave.

His mother was now working at St Mungo’s on a more permanent schedule, which was astonishing considering that she lacked the proper qualifications and expertise of a Healer. It both amazed and intrigued him that St Mungo’s was hiring, especially considering they had a fierce requirement that had never once been lowered or slighted in any manner. There was no war happening and there was no upcoming event that required Healers or Mediwizards to be present, so the recruitment confused him greatly.

Not that he was diminishing his mother’s achievement at all. Becoming a Healer was a feat most would never achieve. Madam Pomfrey had years of medical training, studying, and experience and she didn’t meet the criteria.

Not only that, but as he was parting ways with his mother, he learned that James was working on the case with Nott. It surprised him because he assumed it would simply be a lost cause, leaving the boy to suffer the effects for his lifetime. Then again, Nott was a child and the magical populace put children on a pedestal.

However, the spell he had cast on Nott could not be replicated, no matter what they did or attempted. James was smart and able to see things that most wouldn’t, but he wasn’t as smart as his mother and he wouldn’t be able to connect the dots. It would take a Muggle or a Muggle-born to even put a dent in what made Nott slip into a coma.

It was hardly his issue if Nott woke up, which he would eventually. He would be safe from consequence, though. It was pretty common knowledge that trying to pry information about a duel out of someone was considered to be a very bad thing. It was just dishonourable and there was always a vow of silence between the duellists, not that it often mattered as the loser would never talk about it and the winner had an audience, who would also remain silent.

Even then, it wasn’t like the Ministry would barge into Hogwarts and demand Veritaserum be used. Maybe they would if it was for the Minister for Magic’s son, but not the son of a known Death Eater.

Seeing as it was the first day of the summer holidays, he quite expected Diagon Alley to be deserted or at least somewhat empty. He did not expect to see groups and groups of foreign wizards that were pointing and laughing at signs and objects, nor did he expect the scattered Aurors that were trying to be discreet.

He pulled his heads out of the pocket on his jumper and glanced around, his left-hand clenching as he only just managed to sidestep a wizard that seemed to be preparing to enter some kind of Muggle triathlon.

“Excuse me, laddie!”

Harry glared at the man’s head and let out a frustrated sigh. He managed to avoid one person then be nearly thrown off his feet by another. Before he could even think of moving from the street, an Auror, who appeared to be rather attractive, approached him.

“May I help you?” he asked as politely as he could, his eyes watching as the woman’s hair turned from a slight red into a dull brown, which surprised him greatly. He took it as some kind of alert, whether she was searching for her partner using her hair changing or what. It was hard to place. “Are you there?”

“Sorry,” said the Auror, a slight smile appearing on her face as she looked up from her fingers. “I was just checking something before I spoke to you. I’m sure you’re aware, but there’s been a crime.”

“I had no idea,” said Harry. “With all these people around, I shouldn’t be too surprised.”

“This just wasn’t a petty crime,” said the Auror. “This was – well, I can’t say too much, but everyone that’s in the Alley is a suspect and no one can leave.”

“That’s lovely to know,” said Harry, staring at the woman with a confused expression. “I just got here, so I wasn’t going to be leaving for a few hours.”

“What my partner is getting at,” said a voice roughly, “is that we would like to issue a search. We believe that you are hiding something.”

“That’s nice,” said Harry, turning to look at the dark-skinned man. “I’ll have you know that I am a minor and, as such, means I am protected from all kinds of searches unless my parent or guardian is present. As for calling me suspicious, I just got here. Go speak with Tom, if you don’t believe me.”

In the end, he didn’t get to say or argue about it anymore before the dark-skinned man grabbed his hand, wrenched open his fist, forced something into it, and then shut his fist and smiled as a Portkey whirled the three of them into the Ministry. He was promptly silenced and easily led into what appeared to be a room that had been disguised as a holding cell.

He was roughly pushed into the room and was barely able to turn and face his captors before the door slammed shut and the sounds of footsteps echoed away.

“Aurors get you too?” said a man that was leaning against the wall in the next room over. “I was in Flourish and Blotts when some pretty witch came up to me, explaining that she was an Auror and there was some kind of crime – took me by surprise, let me tell you. Anyway, I told her that I would be on my way as I wanted a new book and –” he smacked the wall as loudly as he could, shouting ‘bam’ in the process. “– her partner put a Portkey in my hand, and here I am.”

“Was there really a crime or are they simply abducting people off the street?”

“There was,” said the man, laughing. “Attempted assassination on the Minister for Magic. Aurors are going sparse.”

“Jesus,” said Harry. “Well, I doubt I’ll be in here for long –”

“You’re not leaving,” said the man. “They’ve already used Veritaserum on me.”

“And?”

“And I am still in here,” said the man. “My story matched, as well as anything else I have ever done, and they refuse to let me leave ‘cos I’m supposedly a reliability. They have hundreds of cells in here and they can easily double up on ‘em, too. I hope you haven’t got anything planned for the holidays, boy, because it’s not getting done.”