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Eagle’s Flight

Chapter Text

Mr. H. Potter

The Cupboard under the Stairs

4 Privet Drive

Little Whinging

Surrey

Harry stared at the emerald-green ink with a mixture of excitement and confusion. How did they know where he slept?

"Hurry up, boy!" shouted Uncle Vernon from the kitchen. "What are you doing, checking for letter bombs?" He chuckled at his own joke, although what was so funny about that Harry did not know.

Harry stuffed the letter into his pocket and gave Uncle Vernon the rest of the mail.

"Took you long enough, boy," was the predictable response. "Go to your room."

For once, Harry gladly obeyed. He climbed into the cupboard and took out the letter.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

Headmaster: ALBUS DUMBLEDORE

(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Mr. Potter,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31. Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress

Hogwarts. The very same school his parents had gone to. For the first six years, Harry had been told his parents were drunks that were killed in a car crash. Almost three years ago, however, Harry had found some journals with the names James Fleamont Potter and Lily Rose Evans in them. The journals had been a real eye-opener, talking about magic- a word that Harry's aunt and uncle despised- and even mentioned a few spells.

Looking back at the letter, Harry wondered how he was supposed to reply. Shifting around in the cupboard, he found a piece of paper and some pens and wrote down his response.

"Now how am I supposed to send this?" Harry whispered. He reread the letter. It said, We await your owl... And I'm supposed to find an owl where?

He received his answer later that day. His aunt had ordered him that morning to water the flowerbed, and as he was working, a tawny owl landed on the mailbox. "You here for my letter?" Harry asked it. It hooted in reply. "Do you carry it or...?"

The owl held out a leg. Harry clumsily tied his letter to it, and then the owl was gone.

 

 

 

When a giant man by the name of Rubeus Hagrid came to take Harry to Diagon Alley, both Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia went into a state a panic.

"I'm Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts- yeh'll know all about Hogwarts, o' course."

"I know some," Harry said with a shrug.

"What?!" Aunt Petunia screeched. "But how? We never told you-" She broke off, but Hagrid was angered.

"Never told yeh!" he boomed. "Then how do yeh know 'bout Hogwarts?"

Harry didn't want his relatives to know about his parents' journals, so he just shook his head slightly.

Thankfully, Hagrid seemed to understand. "Well, I suppose that doesn't matter right now. Let's go, Harry."

 

 

 

"Bless my soul," whispered the old bartender, "Harry Potter... what an honor."

How Harry wished he had disguised himself somehow. He nearly jumped when the bartender grabbed his hands. "Welcome back, Mr. Potter. Welcome back."

Harry actually did flinch when several people crowded him.

"Doris Crockford, Mr. Potter, can't believe I'm meeting you at last."

"So proud, Mr. Potter, I'm just so proud."

"Always wanted to shake your hand- I'm all of a flutter."

"Delighted, Mr. Potter, just can't tell you, Diggle's the name, Dedalus Diggle."

Harry recognized the man, but didn't say so. Instead, he smiled politely, secretly wishing Hagrid would stop standing there beaming and do something!

"Professor Quirrell!" said Hagrid to a pale, shaky man. "Harry, Professor Quirrell will be one of your teachers at Hogwarts."

"P-P-Potter," stammered Professor Quirrell, grasping Harry's hand, "c-can't t-tell you how p-pleased I am to meet you."

"What sort of magic do you teach, Professor Quirrell?" Harry asked, trying not to get irritated by the constant stuttering.

"D-Defense Against the D-D-Dark Arts," muttered Professor Quirrell. "N-not that you n-need it, eh, P-P-Potter? You'll be g-getting all your equipment, I suppose? I've g-got to p-pick up a new b-book on vampires, m-myself." He looked terrified at the very thought.

To his relief, Hagrid announced that he ought to be going. "Told yeh, didn't I? Told yeh you was famous. Even Professor Quirrell was tremblin' ter meet yeh- mind you, he's usually tremblin'."

"I didn't like it," Harry muttered.

"Wha'? Whaddya mean?"

"Too many people touching me." The only physical contact Harry had received was when Uncle Vernon hit him.

"Why didn't ya say anythin'?"

"Didn't want to be rude."

 

 

 

They stopped at Gringotts, where Hagrid showed off his terrible acting skills and subtlety as he removed a small, deceivingly bland package from Vault 713.

Hagrid still looked greenish from the cart ride when they came out and sent Harry into Madam Malkin's alone. Another boy was already there, standing on a footstool.

They exchanged polite words, though Harry was reminded strongly of his cousin.

"I really don't think they should let the other sort in, do you?" the boy said. "They're just not the same, they've never been brought up to know our ways. Some of them have never even heard of Hogwarts until they get the letter, imagine. I think they should keep it in the old wizarding families. What's your surname, anyway?"

"That's you done, my dear," Madam Malkin said before Harry could answer.

Harry nodded his thanks before turning back to the blonde boy. "You can't blame them for being ignorant of the wizarding world," he pointed out. "It's not like they can control their blood status."

The blonde boy pondered over his words. "You have a point," he conceded. "Well, I'll see you at Hogwarts, I suppose."

Harry nodded once before rejoining Hagrid.

Chapter Text

"-packed with Muggles, of course-" a woman's voice exclaimed.

Harry whipped his head around, seeing a family of six redheads. He let out a resigned sigh. First Hagrid, now this strange woman. Did anyone know what subtlety was? Shouting about Muggles in front of Muggles- even if people were oblivious most of the time- was not a very smart thing to do.

He watched as they stopped not far from him.

"Now, what's the platform number?" said the woman.

"Nine and three-quarters!" piped a small girl, also red-headed, who was holding her hand, "Mum, can't I go... "

"You're not old enough, Ginny, now be quiet. All right, Percy, you go first."

The eldest boy marched toward platforms nine and ten. Harry watched as he ran straight toward the barrier and- disappeared. Obviously, Percy had been going to Hogwarts for a few years. How could his mother not know where the platform was? It didn't change, did it?

"Fred, you next," the plump woman said to a pair of identical boys.

"He's not Fred, I am," the second twin said.

"Honestly, woman, you call yourself our mother?" the first one said.

"Oh, I'm sorry, George."

The boy got into position. "Only joking, I am Fred," he said before disappearing.

Harry waited until they had all gone through before getting in position. Hoping he succeeded and didn't crash into the barrier like an idiot, he briskly walked forward. A moment later, he emerged on the other side, blinking.

 

 

 

There it was, the Hogwarts Express. He made it! Grinning a little, Harry began searching for an empty seat.

He found one near the end and tried to lift his trunk up with no success.

"Want a hand?" It was one of the twins.

"Yes, please."

With the extra help, Harry was able to lift his trunk and put it up. "Thanks," he said, wiping his hair out of his face.

"Blimey," said the other twin. "Are you-"

"He is," said the first twin. "Aren't you?" he added to Harry.

"What?" said Harry.

"Harry Potter, "chorused the twins.

"Unfortunately."

The twins gawked at him. Harry felt his face heat up.

"Fred? George? Are you there?"

"Coming, Mom!"

"Wait!" Harry said. "Can you do me a favor and not tell anyone?"

The boy looked confused. "I- I don't like the attention," Harry explained.

The two redheads grinned. "Don't worry, mate."

"Won't tell a soul."

Harry nodded, relieved, even though he had a feeling they were at least tempted to ignore his words. He quickly went to sit down before anyone else noticed.

Fred and George were left staring at the spot Harry had been a moment ago. "Blimey," Fred whispered. "It was really him!"

"Yeah. Come on, Mum's waiting." They went to rejoin their mother.

Harry watched as the mother spoke to her children. He breathed a sigh of relief when the twins kept their word and didn't give away Harry's identity, only saying that they were helping a first year with his trunk.

 

 

 

Harry was glad for the solitude, even if it were just for a little while. Excitement flooded his body. This was it. He was leaving the Dursley's for a whole school year.

It wasn't long before the compartment door opened and in came the youngest redhead.

"Anyone sitting there?" he asked, pointing at the seat opposite Harry. "Everywhere else is full."

Harry shook his head, though privately, he doubted that the train was completely full. He had seen plenty of empty and only partially filled compartments, and the train had only just left the station.

"Hey, Ron." It was the twins again.

"Listen," said the twin on the left, "we're going down the middle of the train- Lee Jordan's got a giant tarantula down there."

"Right," mumbled Ron.

"Oh, did we introduce ourselves?" the other twin said to Harry. "Fred and George Weasley. And this is Ron, our brother. See you later, then." They left.

"Well, you already know my name," Ron said. "What's yours?"

"Harry," Harry replied, hoping Ron wouldn't ask for his surname.

Unfortunately, luck was not on his side. "Harry Potter?"

Harry winced. "Yes."

Ron didn't notice the weary tone. "Do you really have the- the scar?"

"Yes." But Harry didn't make a move to show him.

Ron started going on about the houses and how they would both be in Gryffindor.

"Wait, wait, wait." Harry waved his hands. "You think I'll be a Gryffindor?"

"Well, yeah. What else would you be?"

"Why wouldn't I be anything else?"

"What? You think you're a Slytherin?" Ron asked, disgust laced in his voice.

"To be honest, I have no idea what any of the houses mean."

"Well, Gryffindor is the best house," Ron said in a superior tone. "Slytherin is where the evil ones go, Ravenclaw is where the bookworms go, and Hufflepuff's where the leftovers goes."

Harry blinked, feeling appalled by his dismissive tone of the last house. "We'll see," was all he said.

Noon had just come when an older woman opened the compartment door. "Anything off the cart, dears?" she asked.

Harry got up and went out into the corridor. He was slightly disappointed. Candy wasn't going to fill anyone up. Not wanting to say no, he bought a little of everything and rejoined Ron.

"Hungry, are you?" he said.

"Yeah. You want any?" It was only polite, plus Harry had never shared before.

Ron's eyes lit up.

 

 

 

When the door opened yet again, a round-faced boy came in. "Sorry, but have any of you seen a toad at all?"

"No, sorry," Harry said. "Maybe you should check with a prefect."

"Maybe I should." The boy disappeared, looking more hopeful now that he had a plan.

 

 

 

The fourth interruption was a bushy-haired girl who introduced herself as Hermione Granger. While Harry was pleased to meet another student who was raised in the Muggle world, he did not like her know-it-all attitude.

When Harry revealed his name, she got very excited.

"Are you really?" said Hermione. "I know all about you, of course- I got a few extra books. for background reading, and you're in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century."

"That sounds... interesting," Harry said. And a bit freaky.

"Do either of you know what house you'll be in?" Hermione went on. "I've been asking around, and I hope I'm in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best."

Harry was glad to see her leave after she suggested they get changed, but then he was dragged into a conversation about Quidditch with Ron.

 

 

 

For the fifth time that day, the compartment door opened to reveal three boys, one of them being the pale boy from Madam Malkin's. "Is it true?" he asked eagerly. "They're saying all down the train that Harry Potter's in this compartment. So it's you, is it?"

"Yes," Harry said warily. "And you are?"

"Malfoy. Draco Malfoy," the blonde replied haughtily. "And this is Crabbe and this is Goyle," he added carelessly, gesturing to the large boys that seemed to be acting as bodyguards.

Ron coughed under his breath.

"Think my name's funny, do you?" Draco said. "No need to ask who you are. My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford." He turned back to Harry. "You'll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there."

He held out his hand.

Harry glanced at it and back up at Draco. "I appreciate the offer, but to be honest, this is all a bit overwhelming. May I think about it?"

Draco retracted his hand. "I suppose you may," he said. "But I'd be careful if I were you. Make the wrong choice and you'll go the same way as your parents."

He left the compartment.

Ron was staring at Harry as if he had sprouted a second head. "You're not seriously considering it, are you?"

"Why not?"

"But his parents are big supporters of You-Know-Who!"

"And Draco's just a kid. He's not responsible for his parents' actions. I'm willing to give him a chance."

Ron was quiet the rest of the ride.

Chapter Text

"Potter, Harry!" The Great Hall went silent at the name whisper broke out.

"Potter, did she say?"

"The Harry Potter?"

Everyone was craning to get a better view of the Boy-Who-Lived. Thankfully, the Sorting Hat was large enough to cover his eyes, shielding him from the others.

"Hmm," said a small voice in his ear. "Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, A my goodness, yes- and a nice thirst to for knowledge... So where shall I put you?"

I don't know, Hufflepuff? It would be worth it just to see Ron's face.

The voice chuckled. "Interesting motive," it said. "Almost Slytherin-like. But I feel you would do best in- RAVENCLAW!"

Harry heard the hat shout the last word to the whole hall. He took off the hat and walked toward the Ravenclaw table. He noticed that he was getting the loudest cheer yet. The other houses, namely Gryffindor, were gaping at him.

"A Potter not in Gryffindor?"

"How is that possible?"

"We didn't get Potter?" the Weasley twins dramatically exclaimed, looking like they would start bawling their eyes out any second.

Harry rolled his eyes, though he was more amused by the twins' theatrics than annoyed. He watched as the remaining first years were sorted. Ron was put into Gryffindor, and as he went to sit down, he shot Harry a look of surprise.

Dumbledore gave a speech, ending it with a few random words that made Harry wonder what he was on, then food appeared on the tables.

Harry couldn't help but stare at the mass of food in front of him. Never had he seen so much at once, not even with Dudley as large as he was. He dug in eagerly, though he remembered his manners, unlike a certain redhead, who was practically inhaling everything on his plate.

When Harry had went to join the Ravenclaws, they had all looked at him, hoping he would sit down next to them. Having no choice, he had picked the seat next to Penelope Clearwater. He had made a good choice; Penelope didn't hound him about his scar like several others did.

When the questions finally subsided, Harry took the time to observe his surroundings. His first view of Hogwarts left him in awe, but the interior was just as amazing. The ceiling, which apparently had been bewitched to look like the night sky, gave the feeling of relaxation and comfort.

Harry knew that there were many people casting furtive glances at him, but it was one particular one that drew his attention. Lifting his head toward the staff table, his green eyes locked with a pair of black ones. At the same time, he felt a sharp, hot pain shot across the scar on his forehead and winced slightly.

"Hey, Penelope," Harry said, "who are the professors?"

Penelope looked a bit surprised by his question but answered readily enough. "Well, for starters, the short one is the Ravenclaw Head of House, Professor Flitwick. He'll help in Charms. There's Madam Hooch, who will be teaching you how to ride a broom. That one is Professor Sprout, the Head of Hufflepuff. She teaches Herbology. Professor Sinistra teaches Astronomy. Professor Quirrell is the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Rubeus Hagrid is the gamekeeper. Don't be fooled by his size. He's a big softy. And that's Professor Snape, Head of Slytherin and potions professor."

"Okay, thank you."

So that was the Severus Snape that his mother had mentioned in her journal.

 

 

 

The headmaster was surprised, yet pleased. It seemed as if Harry Potter had inherited more than just Lily's eyes; she had passed down her intelligence. He had expected for Harry to be a Gryffindor like both his parents, but he was very intrigued to see how the upcoming years would play out.

 

 

 

Minerva McGonagall was battling with disappointment that Harry wasn't in her house and pride in knowing that he would make his parents proud, regardless of his Sorting.

 

 

 

Filius Flitwick especially had been excited when Harry was announced in his house. Oh, yes. He was very intrigued what young Potter would achieve.

 

 

 

Pomona Sprout was happy for Harry regardless of his house. She had adored both Lily and James- even with the latter's mischief- and wished for the very best for Harry.

 

 

 

The fourth Head of House, Severus Snape, was somewhat put off by everything. When Harry Potter has been called, he had expected the Hat to immediately say Gryffindor, much like it had announced Slytherin for Draco. Instead, the Hat had taken a few minutes before ultimately choosing Ravenclaw.

And his eyes... Merlin, Dumbledore was right about that; Potter did have Lily's eyes. He watched as Potter spoke to Clearwater, who seemed to be showing him which professor was which. When she was done, Potter glanced back up at Snape with a pensive expression on his face. Snape shifted slightly in his seat, feeling a bit unnerved by the small boy.

 

 

 

Penelope led the first years up to the dorm. "Each House has their own way of getting into the dorm," she explained. "What we have to do is answer a riddle."

On the door was a bronze knocker in the shape of an eagle. "I weigh nothing, but you can still see me. If you put me in a bucket, I make the bucket lighter. What am I?"

Penelope answered, "A hole."

The door opened, and the students filed in. The prefects explained where the first years were to sleep and who they would be rooming with, then dismissed them for bed. "Professor Flitwick will hand out schedules tomorrow morning. Good night."

Harry found himself rooming with Anthony Goldstein, Michael Corner, and Terry Boot. While they chattered away, Harry put up his belongings and got ready for bed.

Chapter Text

As someone who had come into the magical world with no prior knowledge, Harry thought his first week wasn't too bad. One downside was the unfortunate and unnecessary pointing.

"There, look."

"Where?"

"Next to the blonde kid."

"Wearing the glasses?"

"Did you see his face?"

"Did you see his scar?"

To Harry's annoyance, some students even doubled back to stare. Harry had let his hair cover his forehead so his scar wasn't visible, much to the others' disappointment.

At least the classes weren't boring. The exception was History of Magic. It was being taught by a ghost, Professor Binns, who only went on about goblin wars.

Professor Flitwick had been very enthusiastic about Harry being in his house, and Charms was no different. In fact, when he was calling roll, he squeaked and toppled off the books he was standing on. Harry didn't know whether he was amused or irritated or a mixture of both.

Professor McGonagall was very strict, as Harry had predicted. Her first lesson involved changing a match into a needle. While no one had managed to completely succeed, Harry was able to make the match sharper and more gray in color. In his mind, that was a win.

Now, on to Potions.

 

 

 

"Ah, yes," Snape said softly during roll call, "Harry Potter. Our new- celebrity." Whatever house the boy was in didn't matter; in Snape's eyes, Potter would be just like his father given time. And he would not dote on him like the other professors seemed to already be doing.

A few Slytherins snickered, but Potter ignored them.

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking," Snape went on. "As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses... I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death- if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach."

"Potter!" he barked out, feeling a flash of satisfaction at the surprise in the boy's eyes. "What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

It was Snape's turn to be surprised when Potter answered promptly, "A sleeping potion called the Draught of Living Death."

Snape's lips curled into a sneer. One lucky answer won't save you, he thought. "And where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"

"The stomach of an animal. I can't remember what."

"What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"

"They're the same thing, sir."

Snape was silent for a moment. "Correct," he said grudgingly. "For your information, Potter, the bezoar is found in the stomach of a goat. And there's a third name for monkshood: aconite. Well? Why aren't you all copying that down?" he snapped at the class.

The class went by smoothly for the most part. Anthony accidentally melted his cauldron by adding porcupine quills before removing the cauldron from the fire, resulting in boils springing up on his arms and legs and a loss of five points.

When Snape dismissed them, he saw that Potter was deliberately taking his time packing his things. Once everyone was gone, he went up to Snape.

"What do you want, Potter?" he said sharply. Just because he had answered all three questions correctly didn't mean he was going to be treating him any different.

"Were you friends with my mother?"

Time seemed to still. Snape stared at him for a long moment before saying quietly, "Why do you want to know?"

Potter reached into his bag and took out a journal. "She wrote about you."

Snape stared at it but didn't take it.

"I know you stopped being friends," Potter went on, "and I don't know why, but..." He hesitated.

"Go on." Snape hated how desperate he sounded.

"She forgave you," Harry finally said. He held out the journal, which had been opened to the very last entry. "I think she was going to tell you, but then she had to go into hiding."

Snape took the journal and read it over. He remembered with a guilty pang everything that had led to that horrible day and wondered why, just why Lily would have even considered forgiving him. He was glad, of course, but he thought he deserved the cold treatment afterward. "Thank you," he murmured, handing the journal back.

"You're welcome, Professor." Potter gave a small smile before turning and leaving. Just as he got to the door, Snape decided to say something.

"Five points to Ravenclaw."

He watched with amusement as Potter tripped over his feet.

Chapter Text

GRINGOTTS BREAK-IN LATEST

Investigations continue into the break-in at Gringotts on 31 July, widely believed to be the work of Dark wizards or witches unknown.

Gringotts goblins today insisted that nothing had been taken. The vault that was searched had in fact been emptied the same day.

"But we're not telling you what was in there, so keep your noses out if you know what's good for you," said a Gringotts spokesgoblin this afternoon.

Remembering the package that Hagrid had taken out, Harry wondered again why it was so important.

Flying lessons were held on Thursday with the Gryffindors. Most of the other students that had grown up in the magical world had some knowledge on being on a broom. Neville Longbottom was one of the few that did not. Hermione looked almost as nervous as he did.

Madam Hooch, a woman with short, gray hair and yellow eyes, had to take Neville to the hospital wing after he had crashed onto the ground.

"Hey," Harry said, reaching down and grabbing a small sphere. "What's this?"

"That's Neville's Remembrall," Ron said.

"Oh, well, I'll give it to him later, then." Harry put the Remembrall in his pocket.

 

 

 

Neville was still in the hospital wing when Harry came in. "H-Harry Potter!" he exclaimed, sitting up so fast he jarred his injured wrist.

"Yeah, that's me." Harry raised his hands to calm him down. "No need to get so excited."

"Sorry, it's just- you're- I mean-" Neville was such a stuttering mess that Harry felt a bit sorry for him.

"I know who I am," Harry said tiredly. "Anyway, you dropped your Remembrall." He removed it from his robes.

"Oh, thank you!" Neville looked pleased. "My grandma would kill me if I lost it."

"Not literally, I hope," Harry tried to joke, but by Neville's expression he was probably only somewhat exaggerating. "You might want to put that away," Harry went on. "If it gets in the wrong hands..."

"Right. Thank you."

"No problem."

 

 

 

Later, in the Great Hall, Harry was somehow dragged into a fight between Ron and Draco.

"I'd take you on anytime on my own," Draco was saying. "Tonight, if you want. Wizard's duel. Wands only- no contact."

"Fine by me," Ron said. He spotted Harry. "Harry'll be my second."

"What?" Harry protested. He was ignored.

"Crabbe will be mine," Draco said. "Midnight all right? We'll meet you in the trophy room; that's always unlocked."

When Draco had gone, Harry turned to Ron.

"Why did you drag me into this?" Harry demanded.

"Come on," Ron said. "It's not a big deal."

"What if we get caught?" Harry said. "We'd lose so many points for our houses."

"Don't worry. We won't get caught," Ron said breezily. "Just meet me outside the Gryffindor common room."

 

 

 

Harry hated to admit it, but he was curious to see a duel played out. So with that in mind, he snuck out at quarter-past eleven and to the Gryffindor Tower.

Barely thirty minutes later, he was regretting being out. Between running from Filch and his cat, Mrs. Norris, and escaping Peeves, who loudly announced their presence, Harry was having a bad night.

Harry managed to get back to the Ravenclaw Tower, gasped out the answer to the riddle, and raced inside.

Terry Boot, who must've awoken to use the bathroom, looked startled. "Where have you been?"

"Doing something extremely Gryffindorish and un-Ravenclaw!" Harry gasped out.

Terry slowly blinked. "Okay... I'm gonna pretend I never saw you come in."

"Good idea." Harry climbed into bed and lay there, trying to get his breath back.

 

 

 

The next day, Draco was shocked to see Ron and Harry still at Hogwarts. Ron looked tired yet pleased for some reason. Harry looked mutinous and kept throwing Weasley angry glances. He pulled Draco aside outside the Great Hall to speak to him in private. "Next time you want to duel, make sure I am not involved, okay?"

Draco looked slightly alarmed for a split second. "I thought you and Weasley were friends." That was part of the reason why he had not questioned Ron announcing Harry as his second. Plus, he thought it would be good revenge to get the Boy-Who-Lived in trouble.

"Honestly, I don't think I have any friends," Harry said bluntly.

"You never did respond to my offer," Draco reminded him.

Harry looked at him, realizing that he was right. "Have you thought about why I told you back at Madam Malkin's?"

Draco shrugged. "A little. Why?"

"Because I would like to have friends here," Harry said, "but not if they're arrogant and think they're better than everyone else."

Draco bristled, but Harry wasn't finished. "You look down on Muggle-borns. My mother was one, remember that, and to insult Muggle-borns means you're insulting her. So do you promise to be more respectful?"

"I guess I can try."

Harry nodded. "Then I accept." He held out his hand and they shook.

Chapter Text

Ron and Hermione had never been on good terms from what Harry had observed, but their relationship had gone even more sour after their narrow escape. It didn't help that they were partnered up in Charms.

"Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing!" squeaked Professor Flitwick, perched on top of his pile of books as usual. "Swish and flick, remember, swish and flick. And saying the magic words properly is very important, too- never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said 's' instead of 'f' and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest."

It proved to be more difficult than Harry had anticipated, but after a few tries, he managed to get his feather to float in the air.

"Excellent, Mr. Potter!" Professor Flitwick said happily.

Ron was not having any luck. "Wingardium Leviosa!" he said, arms flailing.

Hermione put her hand on his arm. "Stop, stop, stop. You're going to take someone's eye. Besides, you're saying it wrong. It's Levi-O-sa, not Leviosar."

"You do it, then, if you're so clever," Ron snarled.

Hermione rolled up the sleeves of her gown, flicked her wand, and said, "Wingardium Leviosa!"

Professor Flitwick applauded for her as well, and Ron became even grouchier.

"It's no wonder no one can stand her," he said to Seamus Finnigan as they pushed their way into the crowded corridor, "she's a nightmare, honestly."

Harry rolled his eyes at Ron's words and was nearly knocked over as the aforementioned witch walked past, tears in her eyes. "What did you say that for?" he said to Ron. While he still wasn't overly fond of Hermione, he was currently even less of a fan of Ron.

Ron looked uncomfortable but said, "She must've noticed she's got no friends."

With a frustrated sigh, Harry headed to his next class and then to the Great Hall for the Halloween Feast. He looked around for Hermione, but she wasn't there. Instead, he overheard Parvati Patil telling Lavender that Hermione was crying in the bathroom.

He was just helping himself to a baked potato when Professor Quirrell came sprinting into the hall, yelling about a troll in the dungeon before fainting.

Dumbledore took charge. "Prefects, lead your Houses back to the dormitories immediately!"

"Ron!" Harry hissed to the Gryffindor as they were about to leave. "Tell your brother about Hermione. She won't know about the troll."

Ron didn't look keen on doing so, but he nodded and ran off.

Relieved, Harry followed Penelope as she led the Ravenclaws to their dorm.

 

 

 

Ron did not go tell Percy or a professor of Hermione's predicament. Instead, he went to find Hermione himself. He managed to hold off the troll long enough to keep them alive until Professors McGonagall, Snape, and Quirrell burst in. They managed to knock out the troll and McGonagall immediately demanded what they were thinking.

"It was my fault, Professor," Hermione said. "Ron was looking for me. I went looking for the troll because I- I thought I could deal with it on my own- you know, because I've read all about them."

Ron couldn't believe she was actually lying.

But Professor McGonagall bought it and took five points from her, then added eight to Ron for taking on the troll.

The next day, Harry noticed them sitting next to each other and hoped they would be more friendly now.

 

 

 

Quidditch season approached, and Harry heard that Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor captain, had booked the field even more for extra practice. Everyone was growing excited for the first match.

And Harry had reabsorbed himself in his homework. He found he had no interest in Quidditch, much to many people's shock, and preferred reading.

One day, he was sitting outside in the courtyard when he caught of Professor Snape limping. He hadn't spoken to him since showing him Lily's diary, but Snape had become slightly less biased against Ravenclaw, though he still remained as strict as ever with Gryffindor. "Professor!" Harry called, standing up and running over. "Are you okay?"

Snape stopped and looked over at him. "I am fine, Potter."

"But you're limping," Harry said. "Did the troll hurt you?"

"That is none of your concern, Potter. Run along before I take points."

Reluctantly, Harry turned away.

 

 

 

On the morning of the Quidditch match, Harry awoke to the sound of excited chatter from his dormmates.

"I still can't believe you aren't excited for this," Michael Corner said. "I mean, it's Quidditch!"

They continued to talk enthusiastically all throughout breakfast. Harry ran his hands through his hair with a groan.

"You'll be rooting for us, won't you, Harry?" Fred said cheerfully from the Gryffindor table.

"I'll be what?" Harry lifted his head, his hair sticking up even more than usual. "Oh, uh, sure."

Fred smiled before turning back around.

Harry followed Anthony and Terry to the top row of the stands.

As the game started, Harry had to admit it looked interesting, but not enough for him to actually want to play. Lee Jordan, on the other hand, was pretty entertaining.

"And the Quaffle is taken immediately by Angelina Johnson of Gryffindor- what an excellent Chaser that girl is, and rather attractive, too-"

"JORDAN!" Professor McGonagall scolded him.

"Sorry, Professor."

Harry tried to look like he was paying attention, but really he was thinking about Snape and his limp.

"-that's Adrian Pucey speeding off toward the goal posts, but he's blocked by a second Bludger- sent his way by Fred or George Weasley, can't tell which-"

Harry snorted at that.

The game ended with Slytherin winning 210-60.

 

 

 

Hermione and Ron pulled Harry aside afterward. Apparently, they, too, have noticed Snape's limp and have been discussing it on the days leading up the Quidditch match. "He must have tried to get past that three-headed dog on Halloween. It bit him. We think he was trying to steal whatever it's guarding."

"Why would Professor Snape steal the... thing?" Harry asked, confused.

"I don't know," Hermione said. "Hagrid overheard us, and he ended up blurting out about Nicholas Flamel."

Harry recognized the name, though he didn't voice this out loud. "Okay, and what am I supposed to do about this bit of information?"

"You're a Ravenclaw!" Ron said. "You should be able to find out who he is in a week at most."

"Look, Ron," Harry said tiredly, "I was already involved in one of your oh-so-bright plans. I'm not going to do anything about this. Alright?"

"But, Harry-"

"No! The last thing I need to do is land in detention. If you'll excuse me..." Harry turned away, ignoring their protests.

Chapter Text

Midway through December, snow fell, covering the ground with a thick blanket and leaving freezing classrooms and corridors. The dungeons were especially chilly, and many students kept as close to their cauldrons as possible.

"I do feel so sorry for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they're not wanted at home," Pansy Parkinson said one day.

Ever since Harry and Draco had started a tentative friendship, the Slytherin had backed off on teasing Harry. Parkinson, however, seemed to find it up to her to take his place.

The unlikely pair left the dungeons together and saw a fir tree blocking the corridor.

"Need help?" Harry asked.

"Nah, I'm all right, thanks, Harry," Hagrid said.

"So what are you doing for the holidays, Draco?" Harry asked.

"My father received an invitation from the Parkinsons," Draco replied, "which means I get to dress up all fancy and have to make polite talk."

It turned out that Draco did not particularly like the wealthier and extravagant parties his parents had forced him to attend. In fact, this year, Draco wouldn't have minded staying at Hogwarts with Harry, not that he would have been allowed.

Harry had described how Muggles adapted to a world without magic, like the television, the phone, and vehicles. Draco had been impressed despite himself, although he tried to play it off as mild interest. Slowly, Draco was beginning to appreciate what magic-less individuals could accomplish, and as a result began a growing grudging respect for Muggle-borns.

"And think about this," Harry had said once, "before all the cranes and bulldozers, they had to make everything by hand!"

"Whoa!" Draco had exclaimed. "I mean, that sounds cool, I guess," he added quickly.

"It's going to be pretty lonely," Harry said now as they walked around the fir tree. "Not a lot of people are staying."

"You'll be fine, Harry," Draco said. "The Weasleys are staying, I hear. Maybe they'll drag you into their mischief."

That didn't sound too bad, though privately Harry was worried Ron would go on about Nicholas Flamel.

 

 

 

Terry Boot was the only one in Harry's dorm that was staying at Hogwarts for the holiday. In the morning, he shook Harry awake. The first word that registered in Harry's tired mind was "presents."

"I've got presents?" Harry said.

Terry gave him a strange look. "Is there a reason why you wouldn't?"

Harry almost said yes, but then decided against yet.

The first gift- a hand-made wooden flute- was from Hagrid. His relatives were kind enough to send him a fifty-pence piece. A lumpy parcel revealed a hand-knitted sweater that came with a box of fudge.

"That would be from Mrs. Weasley," Terry told him. "I heard she makes one for all her children every year. It's a tradition for them, I guess."

The last one was a silvery gray sheet that fell to the floor in a heap. "What's this?"

"It looks like some kind of cloak. Try it," Terry said.

Harry threw it over his shoulders, and Terry gasped. "Whoa! Harry, look at yourself!"

Harry walked over to the mirror. Only his head was visible in the reflection, seeming to float in midair. "An invisibility cloak!" Terry said in awe. "Hey, there's a note."

The writing was unfamiliar and a smooth cursive.

Your father left this in my possession before he died.

It is time it was returned to you.

Use it well.

A Very Merry Christmas to you.

Harry shrugged and stuffed the cloak away.

He and Terry headed down to the Great Hall for dinner, where they were served a massive feast unlike any Christmas feast Harry had ever had.

"I see Mum made you a sweater," Ron said.

George leaned over. "I mentioned to Mum you'd be staying here."

"Oh, thanks." Harry felt oddly touched by George's words.

Fred nudged him. "Maybe she'll send you one next year, too."

"At least it's not maroon," Ron said mournfully.

"Um, Fred, George?" Harry said.

"Hm?"

"Is there a reason you're wearing each other's sweaters?"

"What are you talking about?" Fred said, feigning confusion.

"Yeah, you know it's me, Gred," George added.

"And Forge."

Harry exchanged a glance with Terry, who shrugged and helped himself to another serving of roast turkey.

They all spent the afternoon having a snowball fight; both Fred and George turned on Ron and pelted him with snowballs. Harry decided to take pity on Ron and stuffed a handful of snow in Fred's face.

"Oi! Get back here, Potter!" Fred shouted, abandoning Ron and chasing him around the courtyard.

Needless to say, Harry learned not to mess with Fred Weasley.

 

 

 

That night, as he was about to get into bed, Terry piped up. "Aren't you gonna try out that cloak?"

"Don't you remember when I came in that one night?" Harry said.

Terry shrugged. "Yeah, but that was before you had your cloak. Go on, I know you want to."

And yes, Harry did. But he didn't want to risk it.

 

 

 

But he did, anyway.

And now he was standing in front of a tall mirror with the words Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi carved into the top.

He read it backwards: I show not your face but your heart's desire. Slowly, he walked up to it. And then he gasped.

He could see himself, but there were also several people around his reflection. One of them was a beautiful woman with dark red hair and green eyes. "Mum," Harry whispered.

The man on his other side had unkempt black hair and glasses. "Dad."

This was his family. Harry slowly backed away. His family... Oh, how he wished they were still alive. A lump formed in his throat, and he forced himself to move away. Without looking back, he fled back to his dorm.

He never went back to that room again.

Chapter Text

When Hermione came back, she and Ron went back to searching up Nicholas Flamel. Ron was eating a chocolate frog and found his name mentioned on Dumbledore's card. Hermione excitedly ran to get a large book.

"I never thought to look in here!" she whispered excitedly. "I got this out of the library weeks ago for a bit of light reading."

"This is light?" Ron said in disbelief, only to shut up when Hermione gave him a look.

She scanned the pages for a few minutes. At last she found what she was looking for. "I knew it! I knew it!"

"Am I allowed to speak yet?" Ron said.

"Nicolas Flamel," she whispered dramatically, "is the only known maker of the Sorcerer's Stone!"

"The what?" Ron said.

"Oh, honestly, don't you read? Look- read that, there."

The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Sorcerer's Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.

There have been many reports of the Sorcerer's Stone over the centuries, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicolas Flamel, the noted alchemist and opera lover. Mr. Flamel, who celebrated his six hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred and fifty-eight).

"See?" said Hermione. "The dog must be guarding Flamel's Sorcerer's Stone! I bet he asked Dumbledore to keep it safe for him, because they're friends and he knew someone was after it, that's why he wanted the Stone moved out of Gringotts!"

"No wonder Snape is after it!" Ron said. "And Flamel isn't exactly recent if he's six hundred and sixty-five, is he?"

"We need to tell Harry. He'll have to listen to us now!"

 

 

 

After the second Quidditch match, with Gryffindor beating Hufflepuff, Harry spotted Snape sneaking off. He wondered about it briefly, then shrugged and turned away. Once more, he had enjoyed listening to Lee Jordan's commentary more than the actual game itself.

"Harry, guess what?" Hermione and Ron were running toward him, looking very eager.

"Yes?"

"We found Nicholas Flamel!" Hermione said breathlessly. She briefly explained her and Ron's findings.

"Uh, good for you?" Harry said, sidestepping around them.

"And that's why Snape went down there. Immortality!" Ron said.

"You're delusional," Harry scoffed. "Just because he's not the most pleasant person here doesn't mean he's after anything."

Neither Ron nor Hermione could understand why Harry was so stubborn in his belief that Snape was innocent in all this, but they could do nothing more as Harry went up to the Ravenclaw Tower.

 

 

 

Even with the exams ten weeks away, the professors piled more homework on the students, so much that the Easter holidays passed by uneventfully.

Gryffindor lost one hundred points in one night thanks to Hermione, Ron, and Neville, which dropped them down to last place.

Even still, Ron and Hermione were deadset on exposing Snape. Harry kept away from them, though, still not wanting to get caught up in their adventures.

 

 

 

The days of the exams were extremely hot. Harry felt he did well enough, even with the two Gryffindors badgering him about the Sorcerer's Stone.

Harry didn't know how they came to the conclusion that Snape would be stealing the Stone, but he couldn't persuade them to not go down.

He tried to fall asleep that night, but his mind kept replaying his latest conversation with the pair.

"Tonight?" Harry had said, arching an eyebrow.

"Yes, tonight. We're gonna stop him," Ron said.

Harry stared. "Look, can't you tell a professor?" Anything to get them to thinking straight.

"We told Professor McGonagall," Hermione said. "She didn't believe us."

"Are you joining us?"

"No," Harry said, taking a step back. "You already lost a bunch of points for your house. No need to drag Ravenclaw down as well."

"This is more important than house points!" Hermione had snapped. "Come on, Ron, we should go up to the common room. Avoid suspicion."

"Right."

Harry sat up. "I have to tell Flitwick." Maybe he could stop them before they got too far.

The small wizard-goblin Professor was very much alarmed by his words. "Thank you, Mr. Potter, for telling me. Don't worry. I'll get Professors McGonagall and Snape." Harry had not mentioned that the Gryffindors suspected the latter professor.

 

 

 

Ron had been knocked out during the chess game, leaving Hermione to go ahead alone. To say that she was shocked to see Professor Snape not already down the trapdoor would be an understatement. "But someone was here!" Hermione said. "The door was ajar."

"Minerva," Flitwick said, "take Miss Granger back up to the common room and Mr. Weasley to the hospital wing. Severus and I will see who's down here."

"And fifty points from Gryffindor," Snape added with a sneer.

Hermione began to protest, but she clamped her jaw shut at a stern look from her Head of House.

Snape and Flitwick went past an unconscious troll and through the purple flames.

On the other side, Snape was unsurprised to see who was there. "Quirrell."

"Me," Quirrell said without his usual stutter.

Snape wasted no time in firing off a spell. Quirrell responded, and soon the three professors were locked in a fierce duel.

With two formidable fighters, Quirrell was quickly defeated. Snape caught sight of a small red object broken in several pieces. It was the Philosopher's Stone.

Chapter Text

“Another year gone!" Dumbledore said at the End-of-Year Feast. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are all a little fuller than they were... you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts..."

Harry was barely listening. He was busy looking over at Ron and Hermione, who both looked put out by the fact that it had not been Professor Snape all along.

"... recent events must be taken into account," Dumbledore was saying when Harry drew his attention back to the High Table.

The room went very still.

"Ahem," said Dumbledore. "I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes..."

Harry's jaw dropped as the headmaster gave Ron and Hermione a ridiculously high amount of points each for what they did beyond the trapdoor. Then Neville received twenty points for standing up to friends. Gryffindor was in the lead. Dumbledore had taken Slytherin's victory right under their feet.

"And to Harry Potter," Dumbledore added, making Harry's head snap up, "for doing what he thought was best, thirty points."

This pushed Ravenclaw up to second place- and pushed Slytherin down to third.

With a clap of his hands, Dumbledore had the Slytherin colors replaced with Gryffindor red and gold, and even the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were celebrating, just because Slytherin had lost.

But Harry was not pleased. He shook off the congratulatory pats on the back and looked over at Draco, who looked rightfully furious.

 

 

 

The compartment door opened, and in came none other than Fred and George Weasley. "Hiya, Harry!" they greeted him cheerfully.

"Hey."

"Why the long face?"

"Nothing." Harry didn't even look up from the window.

George frowned. "What's wrong?"

Harry looked at them. "Aren't you glad that you beat Slytherin?" he said sarcastically.

"Not really," Fred said. Okay, he had cheered at first, only to realize later that Slytherin had basically been cheated.

"I feel bad now," George added.

"Well, you're the only ones who do," Harry said.

Draco opened the door, faltering when he saw the twins. "Congrats," he said ungraciously.

"No, Malfoy," George said.

"We don't deserve it."

Draco looked taken aback. "What?"

"That should have been another Slytherin victory," Fred said.

"Well." Draco cleared his throat. "I'm glad that there are some decent Weasleys out there." He nodded at Harry before turning away.

The rest of the ride passed by peacefully.

When they got off, Ginny Weasley pointed at him eagerly. "Harry Potter!" she squealed. "Look, Mom! I can see-"

"Be quiet, Ginny, and it's rude to point," Mrs. Weasley scolded her before smiling at Harry. "Busy year?" she said.

"Very," said Harry. "Thanks for the fudge and the sweater, Mrs. Weasley."

"Oh, it was nothing, dear."

"Ready, are you?" Uncle Vernon's voice sounded. Aunt Petunia and Dudley were standing a little way off, looking terrified.

"You must be Harry's family!" said Mrs. Weasley.

"In a manner of speaking," said Uncle Vernon. "Hurry up, boy, we haven't got all day." He walked away.

Both Fred and George stared at the man. He was huge. Very huge.

Fred's eyes ran up and down Harry's body, noticing for the first time just how skinny he was. Sure, he had filled out in his time at Hogwarts, but he was still unusually and probably unhealthily scrawny. He looked back at the two male relatives of Harry's; they were both huge. Lack of food was clearly not an issue.

He looked at George, who nodded slightly. His brother had noticed, too. Something was off about Harry.

Chapter Text

"Still thinking about Harry?" George asked.

He and Fred were cleaning their room- and by cleaning, I mean they went through random stuff and pretended to inspect them before haphazardly tossing them back into the mess.

"Yeah," Fred said. "I mean, bloody hell, did you see that other boy?"

"Yes, we've gone over this already."

Fred made up his mind and grabbed some parchment.

"What are you doing?" George asked quizzically.

"I'm sending him a letter," Fred said. "Even if we can't speak to him in person, we should be able to get updates."

George's eyes lit up. "Brilliant!"

 

 

 

Harry was having the time of his life back at the Dursleys. Not. As soon as he had arrived, Uncle Vernon grabbed his arm and forced him to meet his eyes. "Now, listen here, boy," he said, wagging a chubby finger in his face, "none of that freaky business with you, got it?”

Harry nodded. "Yes, sir."

Uncle Vernon grunted and threw Harry into his new bedroom, which happened to be Dudley's second one. Harry was so glad he had let Hedwig out, otherwise she would've been stuck in her cage for an indefinite amount of time.

It started out right enough, considering his treatment. Then an owl arrived, and unfortunately, Aunt Petunia saw it. "Get out!" she shrieked at it. "Shoo!"

The owl flew into a nearby tree and hit a branch, knocking itself out.

"Boy!" Aunt Petunia said. "There's a letter for you." She would've thrown the letter away, but she figured if Harry responded, he wouldn't get another one.

Harry took it to his room and opened it, smiling when he saw it was from the twins.

Hi, Harry

It's us, Gred and Forge. Listen, we asked Mum if you could come over, but she said you were probably busy with friends.

Harry snorted. Busy? Yes. With friends? What friends? He continued reading.

So for now, we'll just owl you. Unless that makes it worse for you. Do tell us if you get in trouble. We'd rather you stay safe.

Harry smiled. They really did care, didn't they? The next part was from Fred.

Okay, now that Gred is done with the serious stuff, it's my turn! First of all, how are your relatives? They being a bunch of gits?

 

Little Ron heard that we wanted to invite you over. You should've seen him, he got so excited. The idiot. Our sister, Ginny, went off into her head. I swear that girl thinks she's gonna marry you one day.

Anyway, we have to go. Things to do. Pranks to test. Send a reply, will ya?

Gred and Forge

Harry sent a reply and attached it to the owl, who had finally regained consciousness, and watched it leave, wishing that he could just fly away and be free.

 

 

 

More letters came and went, though the twins had to be careful when they sent it by judging how long it took for Harry to receive them. So far, it worked. Until Harry's twelfth birthday, that is.

The Masons were a rich couple that had the potential of being a high-paying customer for Uncle Vernon's company. Unfortunately, the Weasleys' owl, Errol, came flying in, crashing into the wall and sending Mrs. Mason into a panic, as she was terrified of birds. She and her husband left, and Harry was forced to stay in his bedroom without even sending a letter.

Three days passed, and Harry was getting more and more anxious. With a locked door with a tiny cat flap and bars on the window, Harry had no chance of sneaking out to send a message.

One night, he was awoken by the sound of bars rattling. "Stop it," he muttered. "Trying to sleep..."

The rattling persisted. Opening his eyes, Harry looked around and nearly jumped out of his skin. Moonlight was shining through the bars on the window. And someone was rattling them: two freckle-faced, red-haired someones.

Fred and George Weasley were outside Harry's window.

Chapter Text

"Fred! George!" Harry hissed. "What are you doing here?"

"Rescuing you, of course," Fred said. "What happened? Errol came back, but he didn't have a response. We thought he might've dropped it. Wouldn't be the first time-"

"Fred!" Harry interrupted him, casting a glance over his shoulder. "If the Dursleys wake up, I'm dead."

"Here." George threw him the end of a rope. "Tie that around the bars."

"And don't worry. We got this. Stand back."

Fred revved up the car, and in another moment, the bars were gone, pulled clean out of the window. "Where's your stuff?"

"In my- the cupboard," Harry said.

Neither twin commented on the near slipup. "No problem," George said. "Out of the way, Harry." He climbed in catlike and took out a hairpin.

"A lot of wizard's think it's a waste of time, knowing this sort of Muggle trick," Fred said, "but we feel they're skills worth learning, even if they are a bit slow."

George successfully unlocked the door. "I'll get your trunk, and you get whatever you need from your room."

"The bottom stair creaks," Harry warned him.

"Where's Hedwig?" George asked.

"Outside. If I hadn't let her out before we got on the train, she would never have been able to stretch her wings," Harry said.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Uncle Vernon stood framed in the doorway. "Harry!" Fred shouted.

George jumped into the car. "Hurry!"

Harry leapt in afterwards, feeling Uncle Vernon grab his ankle. "Petunia! He's getting away! HE'S GETTING AWAY!"

The twins gave one final tug and Harry's leg slid out of Uncle Vernon's grasp. "Put your foot down, Fred!" George yelled.

Harry couldn't believe it; he was free. He looked out the window to see his relatives staring dumbstruck at him. A short laugh escaped him as he settle back down in his seat. "I'm free," he said in a dazed whisper.

George grinned at him. "Yeah, you are." He became more serious. "So what happened?"

Harry told them all about the Masons and how Errol had frightened them off.

"So it was our fault you got shut up," Fred said guiltily.

"No! Don't blame yourself!"

"But it's true, Harry." George shook his head. "If we hadn't sent him..."

"They would've found a reason to do it anyway," Harry muttered. "It was inevitable." He changed the subject. "So does your dad know you've got the car?"

"No, he had to work tonight," George said. "Hopefully we'll be able to get it back in the garage without Mum noticing we flew it."

 

 

 

But luck was not on their side. The twins and Harry were currently standing in front of a very angry Mrs. Weasley.

"Beds empty! No note! Car gone- could have crashed- out of my mind with worry- did you care?- never, as long as I've lived- you wait until your father gets home, we never had trouble like this from Bill or Charlie or Percy-"

"Perfect Percy," muttered Fred.

"YOU COULD DO WITH TAKING A LEAF OUT OF PERCY'S BOOK! You could have died, you could have been seen, you could have lost your father his job-"

One long rant later, Mrs. Weasley turned and beamed at Harry. "I'm very pleased to see you, Harry, dear," she said. "Come in and have some breakfast."

Harry noticed as he sat down how he received eight of nine sausages, while the twins had three or four.

The twins tried to explain. "They were starving him, Mum. There were bars on his window," George said.

"You better hope I don't put bars on your window, George Weasley."

Just then, Ron appeared with the small girl, Ginny, behind him. "Mummy, have you seen my jumper?" Ginny asked.

"Yes, dear, it was on the cat."

But Ginny had seen Harry and was now staring at him with wide brown eyes. "Hello," Harry said, trying not to squirm with discomfort.

Ginny slowly backed away before rushing out altogether.

"You remember Ginny," said George in an undertone to Harry. "She's been talking about you all summer."

"Yeah, she'll be wanting your autograph, Harry," Fred added teasingly.

Harry shot him a displeased look but said nothing. Great, another fan.

Ron was staring at Harry with a confused expression. "When did you get here?"

"Just now," Harry said shortly.

"Your brothers-" Mrs. Weasley glared at Fred and George- "decided it was okay to fly the car into a Muggle town to pick him up."

"Blimey, you flew the car?" Ron said, turning his incredulous gaze onto the twins.

"Sure did," George said.

"Totally worth the trouble," Fred added, giving an affectionate glance to Harry, who looked away.

As punishment for flying the car, the twins were ordered to de-gnome the garden. Intrigued, Harry joined them, despite Mrs. Weasley's insistence that he slept.

Chapter Text

Life at the Burrow was much different than life at Privet Drive, but Harry embraced it. Here, he was not expected to finish more chores than physically possible ("Are you sure, Harry? George can manage it."), not expected to cook the meals- though he did enjoy cooking- not expected to eat the leftovers- in fact, Mrs. Weasley went about her way to make sure Harry had a bigger meal than the other children.

"You're so skinny!" she would fret.

"Are you sure that's all you want?" she would ask when Harry had only eaten two servings.

The twins, having glimpsed Harry's life at Privet Drive, were not surprised to see Harry like this, but it did make them feel bad.

When Fred and George spent time in their bedroom, Harry would hear an occasional boom that he quickly realized was perfectly normal within the Weasley household.

Ron was as enthusiastic as ever about Harry being over, but he hardly had any thing in common with the Ravenclaw and couldn't carry out a full conversation with him.

Percy spent most of his time in his room for some reason. The twins remarked how they couldn't figure out why; it was almost as if Percy didn't exist!

Ginny didn't say a single word around Harry unless she wasn't aware of his immediate presence. When she did notice him, she would shut up and become very clumsy and knock things over. It might've been cute if she wasn't looking at him with pure adoration.

Arthur Weasley, who Harry met after de-gnoming the garden, was also excited to see him, and sat down on Harry's other side to ask questions about the Muggle world.

"What is the function of a rubber duck?" he asked at one time.

Harry began questioning his very existence right then and there.

 

 

 

A week later, they received letters with their school supplies.

SECOND YEAR STUDENTS WILL REQUIRE:

The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 2 by Miranda Goshawk

Break with a Banshee by Gilderoy Lockhart

Gadding with Ghouls by Gilderoy Lockhart

Holidays with Hags by Gilderoy Lockhart

Travels with Trolls by Gilderoy Lockhart

Voyages with Vampires by Gilderoy Lockhart

Wanderings with Werewolves by Gilderoy Lockhart

Year with the Yeti by Gilderoy Lockhart

"You, too?" Fred said. "The new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher must be a fan- a witch."

"That lot won't come cheap," George remarked. "Lockhart's books are really expensive..."

"Well, we'll manage," said Mrs. Weasley, but she looked worried. "I expect we'll be able to pick up a lot of Ginny's things secondhand."

"Oh, are you starting at Hogwarts this year?" Harry asked her.

Ginny nodded, blushing as she always did whenever Harry looked at her, and put her elbow in the butter dish.

Harry tactfully ignored this move and looked back at his list. "What if you shared the books?" At the others' confused looks, he added, "I mean, it would save money."

"That's an excellent idea!" Mrs. Weasley beamed at him. She turned to the twins. "You better not lose them."

"What do you take us for?" Fred said in a hurt voice.

"Yeah, us? Losing books?" George piped up. "Never."

 

 

 

Harry's interest was piqued when he learned of the Floo system, but almost immediately that was squashed when he arrived, spluttering when he stumbled out. "That was not fun," he coughed out, dusting off the soot.

"It'll get easier," Mr. Weasley assured him.

They met up with Hermione and her parents, the latter of which were immediately bombarded with questions much like Harry was.

Harry quickly found that shopping was much more fun with the Weasleys and Grangers. What was not fun was the fact that Flourish and Blotts was packed with people. One look at the banner and Harry wanted to groan.

GILDEROY LOCKHART

will be signing copies of his autobiography

MAGICAL ME

today 12.30—4.30

"We can actually meet him!" Hermione squealed. Apparently, Mrs. Weasley wasn't the only person infatuated with Lockhart. "I mean, he's written almost the whole booklist!"

Most of the crowd seemed to be consisted of women around Mrs. Weasley's age. Harry almost felt sorry for the harrassed-looking wizard at the door.

Gilderoy Lockhart appeared, wearing forget-me-not blue robes that matched his eyes.

A photographer pushed by Ron. "Out of the way, there," he snarled. "This is for the Daily Prophet-"

"Big deal," Ron grumbled.

Lockhart looked up, hearing the voice, and saw Harry. "It can't be Harry Potter?" he shouted.

The crowd parted, whispering excitedly. Harry flinched as Lockhart seized his arm and pulled him to the front. "Let go," he said as his mind flashed back to whenever Uncle Vernon would grab him.

"Nice big smile, Harry," Lockhart said, ignoring Harry's plea. "Together, you and I are worth the front page."

Harry did the first thing that same to mind: He stomped down on Lockhart's foot and slipped away as the grip on his arm loosened, rejoining the Weasleys. Lockhart, trying to save face, said, "Looks like Harry is not used to the fame. But not to worry, as the Defense Against the Darks Arts Professor this year, I can help him!"

It sickened Harry how gullible everyone was.

"Harry!" Mrs. Weasley was aghast. "There was no reason to do that!"

"Famous Harry Potter," came the drawling voice of Draco Malfoy. "Can't even go into a bookstore without making the front page." Despite his words, there was a hint of concern that made Harry feel slightly better.

"Leave him alone, he didn't want all that!" Ginny spoke up for the first time.

"I see you've got yourself a girlfriend as well," Draco remarked.

"Oh, it's you." Ron gave Draco a disdainful look. "Bet you're surprised to see Harry here, eh?"

"Not really; he does need supplies, after all." Draco had been working on not insulting the Weasleys for their lack of money, knowing that Harry himself wasn't exactly high on the list of the wealthy living either. But that didn't mean he was going to be friendly with them.

"Ron!" Mr. Weasley said. "Come along. It's too crowded in here."

"Well, well, well- Arthur Weasley." A tall, regal blonde man had appeared, a sneer on his face.

"Lucius." Mr. Weasley's voice was cold.

"Busy time at the Ministry, I hear. All those raids... I hope they're paying you overtime?" Lucius was aware of Draco's and Harry's friendship and was pleased with his son for succeeding in attaining it, but unlike Draco, he had no problem with taunting the Weasleys' lack of money.

Harry watched as Mr. Malfoy continued to antagonize Mr. Weasley, leading to the latter starting a fight. He stayed back; fighting in front of a child who had had his fair share of being on the receiving end was not a good idea.

Hagrid broke them up, and Mr. Malfoy, who had been hit by an Encyclopedia of Toadstools, thrust Ginny's transfiguration book back into her cauldron and left with Draco.

"Yeh should've ignored him, Arthur," Hagrid said. "Rotten ter the code, the whole family, everyone knows that- no Malfoy's worth listenin' ter- bad blood, that's what it is- come on now- let's get outta here."

Harry had begun to bristle at the gamekeeper's words but held his tongue. Instead, he silently followed the Weasleys back to the Burrow, once again showing his distaste in Floo traveling.

Chapter Text

Harry stared at the barrier that led to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters in disbelief.

"I think we'd better go and wait by the car," he said. "We're attracting too much atten-”

"Harry!" said Ron, his eyes gleaming. "The car!"

"What about it?"

"We can fly the car to Hogwarts!"

"But I thought-"

"We're stuck, right? And we've got to get to school, haven't we? And even underage wizards are allowed to use magic if it's a real emergency, section nineteen or something of the Restriction of Thingy..."

"But your Mum and Dad..." said Harry, pushing against the barrier again in the vain hope that it would give way. "How will they get home?"

"They don't need the car!" said Ron impatiently. "They know how to Apparate! You know, just vanish and reappear at home! They only bother with Floo powder and the car because we're all underage and we're not allowed to Apparate yet..."

But Harry was still hesitant. "I thought maybe we should owl them."

Ron stared at him as if he had grown a second head. "Are you serious? That could take forever!"

"So could flying," Harry reasoned. "And I'm pretty sure we'd be in trouble for flying a car."

"Fine!" Ron said. "I'll go. Good luck getting to Hogwarts." As he was storming back to the car, he said over his shoulder, "No wonder you weren't out in Gryffindor."

The familiar jibe did little to affect Harry. He was proud to be a Ravenclaw, especially considering how Ron, a Gryffindor, had gotten into so much trouble during his first year. Most people viewed Gryffindor as the best House, the one where the light wizard's and witches went. Slytherin, of course, was the opposite, the "evil" House. And Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff seemed to fade into the background. Harry didn't like that at all. Intelligence and loyalty were very strong traits in his opinion, maybe even more so in some cases than bravery and cunningness.

He unlocked Hedwig's cage and attached a note. "Ready for your first message of the year, girl?"

Hedwig hooted and took off.

Harry found a secluded spot and sat down. Now to wait.

 

 

 

Professor Filius Flitwick was surprised to see the snowy owl come in. "Hedwig?" he said. He wondered if Harry was in trouble. He opened the letter and read it, eyes widening. The barrier closed off? How was that possible? He slowly shook his head as he read of Ronald Weasley's idea.

He went to Dumbledore and informed him of Harry's predicament and was then sent to pick him up.

 

 

 

"Professor!" Harry exclaimed, jumping up eagerly as the half-goblin popped into sight.

"Come, Mr. Potter. I'm here to take you to the school."

"Okay. Er... how did you get here? Was that Apparate?"

"Apparation, yes, it was. How did you know?" Flitwick didn't think Harry would've heard about that yet.

"Well, Ron mentioned how someone would just vanish and reappear somewhere. And that's what you did, so I figured you Apparated."

Flitwick smiled, pleased. "Well, you are correct, Mr. Potter. Now, since you are a minor, you are not allowed to Apparate yet. So just hold onto my arm and don't let go."

Harry did, and in the next moment, he felt he was being squeezed through a tube. "Ugh," he groaned as they appeared outside of Hogwarts. "I thought Floo was bad enough."

Flitwick chuckled. "Don't worry. You won't have to worry about Apparating until you're of age."

Harry followed the tiny professor into the Great Hall, where he sat down next to a dirty blonde-haired girl. "You're Harry Potter," she said. Unlike most students, she didn't say this with any awe and wonder. On the contrary, it sounded more like she was just stating a fact.

"Yes, I am. And you are?"

"Luna Lovegood." She smiled up at him, eyes focused on his head, but not at his scar. "Your head's full of Wrackspurts."

"Any way to get rid of them?" Harry asked, ignoring the odd looks he was receiving from a few students close by.

Luna shook her head and held up her necklace, which was made of Butterbeer corks. "No, but this keeps away Nargles."

"Well, if you have any extra corks, I'd be happy to have one myself."

Although her face had nothing away, Luna was thrilled to be able to talk to someone that didn't immediately turn her away for sounding like a maniac. She was used to hearing others call her Loony Lovegood, which did bother her, but she never reacted outwardly. Maybe Harry Potter could be her friend.

Percy leaned over from the Gryffindor table as Ginny took a seat and said, "Harry, where's Ron?"

"He's not here yet?" Harry said, looking down the table. "I thought he'd be here by now."

"Well, he's not," Percy said. "Do you know what happened? When you two didn't come through, Mum tried to go back through, but she couldn't."

"The barrier somehow closed," Harry told him. "So I owled Professor Flitwick. But Ron went and took the car."

Percy closed his eyes in annoyance. "He'll be getting a Howler," he muttered.

"A what?" But Percy had turned away. Harry looked at Luna. "What's a Howler?"

"You'll see," the first year replied.

 

 

 

Indeed, Harry did see what a Howler was. The next morning, a red envelope appeared in front of Ron and screamed at him in Mrs. Weasley's voice. Harry winced; he thought she was loud enough as it was when she was reprimanding the twins, but this was at least a hundred times worse.

Ron sank down in his seat until only his red hair was visible. Hermione was giving him an unsympathetic look, shaking her head.

Chapter Text

On top of Floo systems and Apparating and Howlers, there was Gilderoy Lockhart to deal with. The man was insistent on pulling Harry aside before Herbology to "reassure" him that he was in good hands, that he would teach Harry how to handle his fame. In other words, the new DADA professor was even less likable than the other three things.

Harry had hoped that Lockhart would be at least somewhat more tolerable, but alas, he was less. After taking a quiz on the most irrelevant information- who cared what Lockhart's favorite color was?-  the idiot released Cornish pixies into the classroom.

"What is wrong with this man?!" Draco shrieked as he ducked behind a desk.

Vincent Crabbe yelped as he was lifted into the air by the ears and hung on the chandelier.

"Peskipiksi Pesternomi!" Lockhart shouted. The spell did absolutely nothing but cause one pixie to throw his wand out the window.

Harry jumped to his feet and took out his wand. "Immobulus!"

Instantly, the pixies were frozen in midair.

The other students turned to look at him. "You're my hero," Draco whispered, then clapped a hand over his mouth.

Harry snickered at his friend's appalled face.

 

 

 

Saturday morning brought in some more trouble. Harry was walking through the corridor when he saw activity out on the Quidditch field. The Gryffindor and Slytherin teams were standing face to face. He walked over to see what was the issue.

"At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in," Hermione was saying. "They got in on pure talent."

Draco nearly spat at her, but one look at Harry and he stopped himself. Unfortunately, one of his teammates spoke up. "No one asked for your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood."

Harry knew at once that he had said something really bad because there was an instant uproar at his words. Alicia shrieked, "How dare you!" and Ron plunged his hand into his robes, pulled out his wand, yelling, "You'll pay for that one!" and pointed it furiously at the Slytherin's face.

But the spell that came out hit Ron in the stomach, causing him to puke slugs. The Slytherins roared with laughter; Draco was biting his lip to keep from laughing.

Harry rolled his eyes at them all.

Once the Gryffindors had gone, Harry turned to Draco. "What's a Mudblood?"

Draco sighed, knowing that Harry wouldn't like what he was about to say. "A term for Muggle-borns. A lot of pure-bloods use it."

Harry frowned. "My mother was a Muggle-born," he reminded him.

"I know."

The rest of the Slytherin team had the decency to look at least somewhat ashamed, though they didn't say anything.

"I'll see you later, Dray."

 

 

 

"Hermione!" Harry called.

"What do you want?" Ron snapped angrily.

Harry ignored him. "Look, Hermione, ignore them. You're a bright witch, one of the brightest that have ever come here. It doesn't matter that you're Muggle-born."

Hermione smiled. "Thank you, Harry."

Harry smiled back. "Just focus on your schoolwork and you'll be fine."

 

 

 

"Come... come to me... let me rip you... let me tear you... let me kill you..."

Harry gave a huge jump and a large lilac blot appeared on Veronica Smethley's street.

"What was that?" he said loudly.

Lockhart looked up. "What was what?"

"That voice!"

"Sorry?" said Lockhart, looking puzzled. "What voice?"

"That- that voice that said- didn't you hear it?"

Lockhart was looking at Harry in high astonishment.

"What are you talking about, Harry? Perhaps you're getting a little drowsy? Great Scott- look at the time! We've been here nearly four hours! I'd never have believed it- the time's flown, hasn't it?"

Thoroughly spooked, Harry rushed out of his office without another word.

In his panic, he almost ran into Professor Snape as he swung around the corner.

"Potter!" Snape snapped. "Watch where you're-" Then he saw Harry's wide eyes. "Potter?" he said in a gentler voice.

"Did you hear that voice?" Harry demanded, hoping that Snape would say yes and make Harry look less like a fool.

"No, I didn't. What voice?"

"It was saying, 'Come to me. Let me kill you.'"

Snape's face went pale- well, more pale than it already was. "Where did the voice come from?"

"It sounded like it was coming from the wall. Like inside it."

Snape frowned. "This isn't good," he muttered to himself.

"What should I do?" Harry asked plaintively.

The potions professor looked down at the undersized Ravenclaw, expression softening slightly at the terrified expression on his face. "I'm afraid there isn't anything you can do at the moment. Come, Potter. To the Ravenclaw Tower."

"But the voice-"

"I will keep an eye out for it," Snape promised.

He led the subdued boy to his dorms and watched until he had disappeared behind the door before making his way back down to his office, alert for any unusual sound. The only sound he heard was hissing.

Chapter Text

"...rip... tear... kill..."

Harry froze, fighting back panic. No! Not again! He had not heard the voice the past few weeks and had hoped that he had been imagining it.

His feet moved along with his classmates and they all stopped upon seeing something on the wall.

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.

"The Chamber of Secrets?" Harry whispered. "What's that?"

"What's going on here? What's going on?" Argus Filch came running over. He stopped and stared at the wall. "My cat! My cat! What's happened to Mrs. Norris?" he shrieked.

Harry followed his gaze and gasped upon seeing Mrs. Norris hanging by her tail on the torch bracket, eyes wide and staring.

"You!" Filch screeched at Ron, who had been standing underneath the writing with Hermione when the rest of the students had arrived. "You! You've murdered my cat! You've killed her! I'll kill you! I'll-"

"Argus!"

Dumbledore had arrived on the scene, followed by a number of other teachers. In seconds, he had swept past Ron and Hermione and detached Mrs. Norris from the torch bracket.

"Come with me, Argus," he said to Filch. "You, too, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger."

"My office is nearest, Headmaster- just upstairs- please feel free- "

"Thank you, Gilderoy," said Dumbledore.

The five, along with Professors McGonagall and Snape, pushed through the crowd and disappeared.

 

 

 

For the next few days, Harry, along with many other people did research on the Chamber of Secrets. He heard Hermione complaining that there was a two week waiting list for Hogwarts: A History.

Colin Creevey was the next person to be petrified, which terrified the rest of the students. The first years were now moving around the castle in tight knit groups, as though scared they would be attacked if they ventured forth alone.

Apparently Neville Longbottom had taken to buying some items to keep the attacker away. "They went for Filch first," Neville had said to the reassurances that he would not be petrified, his round face fearful. "And everyone knows I'm almost a Squib."

"Creevey was a Muggle-born, wasn't he?" Harry said worriedly.

"I believe so," Penelope replied. "I had hoped that Mrs. Norris being petrified was just a joke, but..." She shook her head. "On the bright side, there's that dueling club."

On the dark side, Lockhart was teaching that.

"Gather round, gather round! Can everyone see me? Can you all hear me? Excellent!" Harry wondered if his lips ever hurt from smiling so much. "Now, Professor Dumbledore has granted me permission to start this little dueling club, to train you all in case you ever need to defend yourselves as I myself have done on countless occasions- for full details, see my published works.

"Let me introduce my assistant, Professor Snape," he continued, flashing a wide smile. "He tells me he knows a tiny little bit about dueling himself and has sportingly agreed to help me with a short demonstration before we begin."

Sportingly? Harry snorted. Honestly, he was more interested in watching Snape knock Lockhart off the stage. Or knock him out.

"As you see, we are holding our wands in the accepted combative position," Lockhart told the silent crowd. "On the count of three, we will cast our first spells. Neither of us will be aiming to kill, of course."

"I wouldn't bet on that," Harry murmured, watching Snape baring his teeth.

"One- two- three-"

Both of them swung their wands above their heads and pointed them at their opponent; Snape cried: "Expelliarmus!" There was a dazzling flash of scarlet light and Lockhart was blasted off his feet: He flew backward off the stage, smashed into the wall, and slid down it to sprawl on the floor.

The Slytherins cheered; Harry grinned up at Snape, whose lips had quirked up slightly.

"Do you think he's all right?" Hermione asked.

"Who cares?" Ron said.

Lockhart attempted to have the students work in pairs. But that didn't really work out too well.

"Let's have a volunteer pair-Longbottom and Finch-Fletchley, how about you-"

"A bad idea, Professor Lockhart," said Snape, gliding over like a large and malevolent bat. "Longbottom causes devastation with the simplest spells. We'll be sending what's left of Finch-Fletchley up to the hospital wing in a matchbox."

"Not to worry!" said Lockhart. He looked around and gestured Harry and Malfoy into the middle of the hall as the crowd backed away to give them room.

"Now, Harry," said Lockhart. "When Draco points his wand at you, you do this."

He raised his own wand, attempted a complicated sort of wiggling action, and dropped it. Snape smirked as Lockhart quickly picked it up, saying, "Whoops- my wand is a little overexcited-"

Sounds like it could use a Calming Draught, Harry thought.

"Scared, Potter?" Draco teased.

"You wish," Harry retorted.

Lockhart cuffed Harry merrily on the shoulder. "Just do what I did, Harry!"

"What, drop my wand?" Harry said sarcastically.

Lockhart didn't respond to that. "Three- two- one- go!"

"Serpensortia!" Draco shouted.

The end of his wand exploded. Harry watched, aghast, as a long black snake shot out of it, fell heavily onto the floor between them, and raised itself, ready to strike. There were screams as the crowd backed swiftly away, clearing the floor.

"Don't move, Potter," said Snape, silently cursing Draco for using that spell. "I'll get rid of it..."

"Allow me!" shouted Lockhart. Instead of vanishing the snake like he probably intended, it flew ten feet into the air and fell back to the floor with a loud smack. Enraged, hissing furiously, it slithered straight toward Justin Finch-Fletchley and raised itself again, fangs exposed, poised to strike.

Instinctively, Harry shouted, "Leave him alone!" And miraculously- inexplicably- the snake slumped to the floor, docile as a thick, black garden hose, its eyes now on Harry. Harry relaxed a bit; the snake wasn't going to hurt anyone.

He looked up at Justin, startled to see anger and fear written all over his face.

"What do you think you're playing at?" he shouted, and before Harry could say anything, Justin had turned and stormed out of the hall.

Snape stepped forward, waved his wand, and the snake vanished in a small puff of black smoke. When Snape turned to Harry, there was a strange look in his eyes that made Harry nervous. He was also dimly aware of an ominous muttering all around the walls. Then he heard Ron's voice.

"You," he whispered. "It was you the whole time?!"

"What?" Harry looked around; students flinched as he faced them. He trembled. What did he do wrong?

"Potter." Snape was still regarding him with that unreadable expression. "Follow me." He looked at Draco. "You too, Malfoy."

Chapter Text

Snape led Harry and Draco into his office.

"What happened?" Harry asked. "Why was Justin so... so scared?"

"You spoke Parseltongue," Draco said. "You spoke to a snake."

"I know," said Harry. "I mean, that's only the second time I've ever done it. I accidentally set a boa constrictor on my cousin Dudley at the zoo once- long story- but it was telling me it had never seen Brazil and I sort of set it free without meaning to that was before I knew I was a wizard-"

"This wasn't the first time you had spoken in Parseltongue?" Snape said, surprised.

"No, and obviously this is a bad thing by everyone's reaction."

"It isn't necessarily a bad thing, Potter," Snape said. "But the reason why they're scared is because the only other people that can speak to snakes is Salazar Slytherin and the Dark Lord."

"You-Know-Who," Harry muttered, blood running cold. "Of bloody course."

Why couldn't he be normal for once?

 

 

 

Later, he went to find Justin to tell him what really happened. A group of Hufflepuffs were in the library speaking in hushed tones.

"So anyway," a stout boy was saying, "I told Justin to hide up in our dormitory. I mean to say, if Potter's marked him down as his next victim, it's best if he keeps a low profile for a while. Of course, Justin's been waiting for something like this to happen ever since he let slip to Potter he was Muggle-born. Justin actually told him he'd been down for Eton. That's not the kind of thing you bandy about with Slytherin's heir on the loose, is it?"

"You definitely think it is Potter, then, Ernie?" said a girl with blonde pigtails anxiously.

"Hannah," said the stout boy solemnly, "he's a Parselmouth. Everyone knows that's the mark of a Dark wizard. Have you ever heard of a decent one who could talk to snakes? They called Slytherin himself Serpent-tongue."

There was some heavy murmuring at this, and Ernie went on, "Remember what was written on the wall? Enemies of the Heir, Beware. Potter isn't exactly the warmest person around. Hell, he's friends with Draco Malfoy, of all people."

"He may not be exactly warm, but he's polite," said Hannah uncertainly, "and, well, he's the one who made You-Know-Who disappear. He can't be all bad, can he?"

"No one knows how he survived that attack by You-Know-Who. I mean to say, he was only a baby when it happened. He should have been blasted into smithereens. Only a really powerful Dark wizard could have survived a curse like that." He dropped his voice until it was barely more than a whisper, and said, "That's probably why You-Know-Who wanted to kill him in the first place. Didn't want another Dark Lord competing with him. I wonder what other powers Potter's been hiding?"

"You actually believe that?" Harry snapped.

The Hufflepuffs jumped. Ernie spoke first. "Is there a reason why we shouldn't?"

"I don't hate Muggles!" Harry said. "Forget it, where's Justin?"

"What do you want with him?" said Ernie in a quavering voice.

"I wanted to tell him what really happened with that snake at the Dueling Club," said Harry.

Ernie bit his white lips and then, taking a deep breath, said, "We were all there. We saw what happened."

"Then you noticed that after I spoke to it, the snake backed off?" said Harry.

"All I saw," said Ernie stubbornly, though he was trembling as he spoke, "was you speaking Parseltongue and chasing the snake toward Justin. "

"I didn't chase it at him!" Harry said, his voice shaking with anger. "It didn't even touch him!"

"It was a very near miss," said Ernie. "And in case you're getting ideas," he added hastily, "I might tell you that you can trace my family back through nine generations of witches and warlocks and my blood's as pure as anyone's, so-"

"I don't care what sort of blood you've got!" said Harry fiercely. "Why would I want to attack Muggle-borns?"

"I've heard you hate those Muggles you live with," said Ernie swiftly.

A bitter laugh escaped Harry's lips. "You would, too, if you met them."

The Hufflepuffs' jaws dropped. There was no way that what he was implying was true.

Without waiting for an answer, Harry whipped around and began to leave. "And for the record, my mother was Muggle-born, and while I don't know her personally, I do know that she was a wonderful woman that protected those she cared about fiercely."

Just then, there was a loud commotion. "What the-?"

"ATTACK! ATTACK! ANOTHER ATTACK! NO MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! ATTAAAACK!" It was Peeves.

"Please don't be Justin," Harry groaned. He didn't see the guilty looks from Hannah and Ernie, who were now convinced that Harry was not the person behind the attacks.

Unfortunately, it was. But it was also Nearly Headless Nick.

"Oh, Potter, you rotter, oh, what have you done, you're killing off' students, you think it's good fun-" Peeves sang out.

"That's enough, Peeves!" barked Professor McGonagall, and Peeves zoomed away backward, with his tongue out at Harry.

"It wasn't him!" Hannah said, surprising Harry with her defense. "He was in the library!"

Peeves just blew a raspberry in response.

Justin was carried up to the hospital wing by Professor Flitwick and Professor Sinistra of the Astronomy department, but nobody seemed to know what to do for Nearly Headless Nick. In the end, Professor McGonagall conjured a large fan out of thin air, which she gave to Ernie with instructions to waft Nearly Headless Nick up the stairs. This Ernie did, fanning Nick along like a silent black hovercraft.

Harry shivered. "How could a ghost be petrified?"

"I'm afraid no one knows, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said somberly.

Chapter Text

Hannah and Ernie quickly told the other Hufflepuffs that Harry couldn't have been behind the petrifications due to him being in the library. It had not been enough for some, who thought that Harry had an accomplice. Ron Weasley was especially suspicious, trying to convince his brothers to stop hanging out with Harry before they were petrified.

 

 

 

Speaking of Ron, the redhead was currently disguised as Vincent Crabbe via Polyjuice Potion. "This is unbelievable." He prodded Crabbe's flat nose. "Unbelievable." He banged on the door. "C'mon, we need to go-"

"I- I don't think I'm going to come after all. You go on without me," Hermione answered in a high pitched voice.

"Hermione, I know Millicent Bulstrode's ugly, no one's going to know it's you-"

"No- really- I don't think I'll come. You better hurry up, you're wasting time-"

Reluctantly, Ron exited the bathroom. "Excuse me," he said to a girl that was coming up. "I've forgotten the way to our common room."

"I beg your pardon?" said the girl stiffly. "Our common room? I'm a Ravenclaw." She walked away, looking suspiciously back at him.

Ron began to search for a Slytherin, only to run into Percy.

"What're you doing down here?" said Ron in surprise.

"That," Percy replied, "is none of your business. It's Crabbe, isn't it?"

"Wh- oh, yeah," said Ron.

"Well, get off to your dormitories," said Percy sternly. "It's not safe to go wandering around dark corridors these days."

"You are," Ron pointed out.

"I," said Percy, drawing himself up, "am a prefect. Nothing's about to attack me."

A voice suddenly echoed behind Ron. Draco Malfoy was strolling toward them, and for the first time in his life, Ron was pleased to see him.

"There you are," he drawled, looking at them. "Have you been been pigging out in the Great Hall all this time? I've been looking for you."

Malfoy glanced at Percy. "Weasley."

Percy gave a curt nod and walked away.

Malfoy led Ron into the Slytherin common room.

"Come on," said Malfoy, motioning him to an empty chair set back from the fire.

The first several minutes dragged on by with no evidence about the petrifications. Then Malfoy brought up the Chamber, catching Ron's attention. But what he said shocked him.

"Harry's still upset. Some are avoiding him still, even after Finch-Fletchley and Nearly Headless Nick. Honestly, how stupid can they be to think that he's the Heir?"

"You must have some idea who's behind it all..." Ron said, feeling that that was appropriate.

Malfoy shot him a withering glance. "You know I haven't, Crabbe, how many times do I have to tell you?" he snapped. "And Father won't tell me anything about the last time the Chamber was opened either. Of course, it was fifty years ago, so it was before his time, but he knows all about it, and he says that it was all kept quiet and it'll look suspicious if I know too much about it. But I know one thing- last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened, a Muggle-born died. So I bet it's a matter of time before one of them's killed this time... Hopefully, it doesn't happen," he added.

Ron's jaw dropped. He had not expected that. "So Potter isn't the Heir?"

If he was stunned before, nothing would have prepared him for Malfoy's rage.

"How many times do I have to say it?" he spat. "Harry would never attack anyone, regardless of their blood! Merlin, you're beginning to sound like Weasley!"

Ron was too bewildered to feel insulted.

"Has everyone forgotten that his own mother was Muggle-born? Harry was right. Wizards really don't use logic."

Ron rubbed his face, freezing when he felt his nose lengthening. "Er, I have to go. Medicine. Stomachache." Before Malfoy could say anything, Ron had jumped up and raced away.

 

 

 

Several weeks later, Ron was visiting Hermione in the hospital wing after she had accidentally used Bulstrode's cat's hair in the Polyjuice Potion. "So Malfoy and Harry are not behind the attacks, then."

"No, blimey, you should've seen Malfoy. I had never seen him look so angry." The fact that Malfoy liked Harry enough to defend him in the first place had been especially surprising.

Hermione sat back, thinking. Unlike the rest of the school, she had not immediately thought that Harry was behind the attacks, choosing to remain neutral. He had, after all, made sure she was okay after being called a Mudblood, and, like Malfoy had pointed out, his own mother came from a non-magical family. If anything else, this solidified her belief that Harry, and now Malfoy as well, was innocent.

 

 

 

Lockhart attempted to cheer the students up by having drwarfs give out Valentine's cards.

To Harry's absolutely horror, one came to him. He tried to escape, but the stubborn drwarf brought him crashing to the floor.

"His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled toad,

His hair is as dark as a blackboard.

I wish he was mine, he's really divine,

The hero who conquered the Dark Lord."

Everyone was laughing; Percy dispersed the crowd, much to Harry's relief. He rushed off to class, hoping to escape the embarrassment.

George and Fred teased Harry or the rest of the day, belting out the poem whenever he was around, until Harry finally made it to the Ravenclaw Tower.

Chapter Text

Four months passed, but there were no more attacks. Harry was slowly accepted again, much to his relief. But then Penelope Clearwater and Hermione Granger became petrified. Dumbledore was voted out, leaving the school to panic once again.

Desperate, Ron turned to Harry, asking what they should do. Harry suggested that they go see Hermione. "You said she had figured something out. Maybe she had something else besides that mirror on her."

"Potter! Weasley! What are you doing?"

It was Professor McGonagall, and her mouth was the thinnest of thin lines.

"We were- we were " Ron stammered. "We were going to- to go and see-"

"Hermione," said Harry. Ron and Professor McGonagall both looked at him.

"Ron hasn't seen her for ages, Professor," Harry went on hurriedly, "and I suggested we'd sneak into the hospital wing, you know, and tell her the Mandrakes are nearly ready and, er, not to worry-"

Professor McGonagall was still staring at him, and for a moment, Harry thought she was going to explode, but when she spoke, it was in a strangely croaky voice.

"Of course," she said, and Harry, amazed, saw a tear glistening in her beady eye. "Of course, I realize this has all been hardest on the friends of those who have been... I quite understand. Yes, Potter, of course you may visit Miss Granger. I will inform Professor Binns where you've gone. Tell Madam Pomfrey I have given my permission."

Once inside the hospital wing, Harry began searching Hermione's robes. Nothing was in the pockets, but her hand held a piece of paper tightly. He carefully wrestled it out and began reading. It was a passage from a book that spoke about a Basilisk, a giant snake that could kill with its red alone.

And beneath this, a single word had been written, Pipes.

"A Basilisk," Harry whispered. "That explains everything!" He turned to Ron excitedly. "The Basilisk is a snake. I'm a Parselmouth, so I could understand it."

He started to pace. "The basilisk kills people by looking at them. But no one's died- because no one looked it straight in the eye. Colin saw it through his camera. The basilisk burned up all the film inside it, but Colin just got Petrified. Justin... Justin must've seen the basilisk through Nearly Headless Nick! Nick got the full blast of it, but he couldn't die again... and Hermione and Penelope were found with a mirror next to them. Hermione had just realized the monster was a basilisk. I bet you anything she warned the first person she met to look around corners with a mirror first! And Penelope pulled out her mirror- and-"

Ron's jaw had dropped.

"And Mrs. Norris?" he whispered eagerly.

Harry thought hard, picturing the scene on the night of Halloween.

"The water..." he said slowly. "The flood from Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. I bet you Mrs. Norris only saw the reflection..." Harry pointed to the word pipes. "It must've traveled through the pipes. That's the only way it could've moved without being seen."

"The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets!" Ron suddenly said. "What if it's a bathroom? What if it's in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom?"

They went straight into the staff room to wait. But then Professor McGonagall was announcing the students to return to their dormitories.

Harry and Ron hid in the wardrobe and listened with growing horror as they learned of Ginny Weasley being taken down to the Chamber.

"D'you know what?" said Ron. "I think we should go and see Lockhart. Tell him what we know. He's going to try and get into the Chamber. We can tell him where we think it is, and tell him it's a basilisk in there."

Harry looked at him skeptically. "Lockhart? He can't even hold his wand correctly."

"Well, who do you think we should get?"

"Anyone else, really," Harry said. "Flitwick, McGonagall, Snape-"

"Snape?" Ron wrinkled his nose.

"He's a formidable wizard," Harry said defensively.

"Whatever," Ron grouched. "I'm still getting Lockhart."

Harry rolled his eyes. First the trapdoor, then the car incident, now this. Would Ron ever learn?

They went their separate ways; Harry didn't know who to look for, just that it could not be Lockhart. That bloody ponce.

The first professor he stumbled upon was Snape, who reared back in surprise. "Potter! What are you doing here? Didn't you hear Minerva's order?"

"I did, but Ron and I found out what had been petrifying the students," Harry told him. He quickly explained, and Snape's face went paler than normal.

"A Basilisk? And where is Mr. Weasley?"

"He went to get Lockhart."

A sneer replaced the shocked look on Snape's face. "That insipid ponce?"

"The one and only," Harry said dryly.

Snape swore. "Get back to your common room."

"But the Chamber of Secrets can only be opened by a Parselmouth," Harry argued. Well, he didn't know for certain, but it made sense.

"Fine, but stay close."

They made their way to Lockhart's office.

"Awfully sorry, Ron," Lockhart was saying, "but I'll have to put a Memory Charm on you now. Can't have you blabbing my secrets all over the place. I'd never sell another book-"

Harry reached for his wand just in time. "Expelliarmus!"

Lockhart was blasted backward, falling over his trunk; his wand flew high into the air; Ron caught it, and flung it out of the open window.

"Shouldn't have let Professor Snape teach us that one," Harry said. "And why were you about to do a Memory Charm?"

"Those books he wrote," Ron said, "they're all about other people's adventures. He altered their memories and took the credit."

Snape sneered. "Well, it seems like you can do something, Gilderoy."

"What d'you want me to do?" said Lockhart weakly. "I don't know where the Chamber of Secrets is. There's nothing I can do."

"Well, we do," Harry said. He turned to Snape. "What should we do with him?"

"He's not coming," Snape said. He pointed his wand at Lockhart. "Stupefy!"

Lockhart fell to the floor unconscious.

"Stupefy," Harry muttered. "I'll have to remember that one."

Ron had been looking at Lockhart with disgust in his eyes. Now he turned to look at Harry. "We're bringing him along?" he said as if Snape wasn't in the same room.

"You'd rather have the Blonde Git?" Harry countered.

"Well, no, but Snape?"

"Ten points from Gryffindor," Snape said. "Now where is the Chamber of Secrets?"

"In Moaning Myrtle's bathroom," Harry said.

Snape nodded curtly. "Let's go." He turned to Ron. "Mr. Weasley, you go back to your common room."

"But my sister's down there!" Ron protested.

Snape's expression softened ever so slightly, but Ron didn't know him well enough to notice. "I know," he said, "but she would not want you to be in danger, too."

Ron looked at Harry. "Good luck," he said awkwardly.

"We're gonna need it," Harry said grimly.

Together, he and Snape headed for Myrtle's bathroom to rescue Ginny.

Chapter Text

Professor Snape had heard Voldemort speak Parseltongue enough times before, but he still shivered as Harry hissed out, "Open."

The tap glowed with a brilliant white light and began to spin. Next second, the sink began to move; the sink, in fact, sank, right out of sight, leaving a large pipe exposed, a pipe wide enough for a man to slide into.

"After me," Snape ordered Harry. He disappeared from view, and after a moment, Harry followed.

He landed on damp floor and stood, cringing. "We must be miles under the school."

Snape cast Lumos and cautiously walked forward.

"Remember," Harry said, "any sign of movement, close your eyes immediately."

They walked over animal bones and came across a giant snake skin. Snape had a look of awe on his face, and Harry guessed that he was thinking of how he could use it in potions.

The next obstacle they came across was a wall with serpents carved into it. Harry hissed again, and they parted.

 

 

 

Ginny was lying at the end of the tunnel facedown.

Harry raced over and turned her over. She wasn't petrified, that much he could tell, but she didn't seem alive, either...

"Professor, what do we do?" he asked frantically.

Snape knelt down next to the inert body. "Is she alive?"

"She is," said a new voice. "But only just."

Snape and Harry whirled around. A tall, black haired boy was leaning against the nearest pillar, watching. He was strangely blurred around the edges, as though Harry were looking at him through a misted window.

"Who are you?" Harry demanded. "And what are you?" He couldn't be a ghost.

"Tom Riddle," the boy answered, eyes fixated on Harry. He didn't even spare Snape a glance. "And I'm a memory. Preserved in a diary for fifty years."

He pointed toward the floor near the statue's giant toes. Lying open there was a little black diary. Harry recalled seeing Ginny with it and wondered briefly how it got here.

Snape was staring at Riddle suspiciously. "How did she get like this?"

"Well, that's an interesting question," said Riddle pleasantly. "And quite a long story. I suppose the real reason Ginny Weasley's like this is because she opened her heart and spilled all her secrets to an invisible stranger."

"What are you talking about?" said Harry.

"The diary," said Riddle. "My diary. Little Ginny's been writing in it for months and months, telling me all her pitiful worries and woes- how her brothers tease her, how she had to come to school with secondhand robes and books, how-" Riddle's eyes glinted- "how she didn't think famous, good, great Harry Potter would ever like her..."

All this time, his eyes had never left Harry's, not even when addressing Snape.

Harry listened in horror as Riddle went on to explain how Ginny had opened the Chamber, releasing the Basilisk. Then he shifted the conversation to Harry.

"I have many questions for you, Harry Potter."

"Like what?" Harry spat.

"Well, how is it that you a skinny boy with no extraordinary magical talent- managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort's powers were destroyed?" There was an odd red gleam in his hungry eyes now.

Red eyes... Snape felt himself shiver. "You're him," he whispered.

Riddle finally removed his gaze from Harry and let it settle on Snape for the first time. "You must be Professor Snape," he said softly. "Yes, Ginny has spoken of you."

Harry finally caught on. "Voldemort."

Riddle nodded once, eyes back on Harry.

Music suddenly filled the air, causing a rush of warmth to rush through Harry. A crimson bird the size of a swan had appeared, piping its weird music to the vaulted ceiling. It had a glittering golden tail as long as a peacock's and gleaming golden talons, which were gripping a ragged bundle.

A second later, the bird was flying straight at Harry. It dropped the ragged thing it was carrying at his feet, then landed heavily on his shoulder, gazing up at Riddle.

"That's a phoenix," said Riddle, staring shrewdly back at it. "And that-" he eyed the ragged thing that Fawkes had dropped, "that's the old school Sorting Hat-"

Way to point out the obvious, Harry thought.

Riddle laughed. "This is what Dumbledore sends his defender! A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave, Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?"

Harry didn't answer.

"To business, Harry," said Riddle, still smiling broadly. "Twice- in your past, in my future- we have met. And twice I failed to kill you. How did you survive? Tell me everything. The longer you talk," he added softly, "the longer you stay alive."

Harry assessed the situation. Riddle had his wand, but if he called for the Basilisk, wands would be useless.

"No one knows why you lost your powers when you attacked me," said Harry abruptly. "I don't know myself. But I know why you couldn't kill me. Because my mother died to save me. My common Muggle-born mother," he spat Riddle's words back at him. "She stopped you killing me. And I've seen the real you, I saw you last year. You're a wreck. You're barely alive. That's where all your power got you. You're in hiding. You're ugly, you're foul-"

Riddle's face contorted. Then he forced it into an awful smile. "So. Your mother died to save you. Yes, that's a powerful counter charm. I can see now... there is nothing special about you, after all. I wondered, you see. There are strange likenesses between us, after all. Even you must have noticed. Both half-bloods, orphans, raised by Muggles. Probably the only two Parselmouths to come to Hogwarts since the great Slytherin himself. We even look something alike... But after all, it was merely a lucky chance that saved you from me. That's all I wanted to know.

"Now, Harry, I'm going to teach you a little lesson. Let's match the powers of Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, against famous Harry Potter, and the best weapons Dumbledore can give him..."

Riddle turned to the area between two pillars. "Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four."

Snape took out his wand. "Get out of here," he said to Harry. He shot a hex at Riddle, not knowing whether it would have any effect on him or not.

Regardless, Riddle conjured a shield using Harry's wand, and the two wizards began battling.

Meanwhile, Harry was trying to escape the Basilisk. He tripped at one point and waited for the giant snake to strike.

At that moment, the phoenix dived at it, gouging at its eyes.

"NO!" Riddle screamed, looking up momentarily from his duel with Snape. "LEAVE THE BIRD! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU. YOU CAN STILL SMELL HIM. KILL HIM!"

Harry saw the Sorting Hat and instinictively reached for it. He felt something hard inside and pulled out a gleaming silver sword.

The Basilisk lunged at Harry, who drove the sword into its mouth. One of its fangs pierced his arm, making Harry shout in pain.

He pulled the fang out and slumped on the floor. Snape was by his side in an instant, forgetting about Riddle. "Harry..."

"You're dead, Harry Potter," said Riddle's voice above them. "Dead. Even Dumbledore's bird knows it. Do you see what he's doing, Potter? He's crying."

He wasn't gloating for long.

"Get away, bird," said Riddle's voice suddenly. "Get away from him- I said, get away! Phoenix tears..." said Riddle quietly, staring at Harry's arm. "Of course... healing powers... I forgot..."

The phoenix came back and dropped the diary into Harry's hands. Without thinking, he took the Basilisk fang and slammed it into the diary.

There was a long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry's hands, flooding the floor. Riddle was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing and then-

He was gone.

Chapter Text

Professor Snape let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding. "That was close," he said, trying not to give away how devastated he had been when he thought Harry was dying.

Harry nodded. "Too close."

A faint moan reassured them that Ginny was alive and now awake. Her brown eyes took in her surroundings, then she burst into tears. "Harry- oh, Harry- it was me, Harry- but I- I s-swear I d-didn't mean to- R-Riddle made me, he t-took me over- and- how did you kill that- that thing? W-where's Riddle? The last thing I r-remember is him coming out of the diary-"

"It's all right," said Harry, holding up the diary, and showing Ginny the fang hole, "Riddle's finished. Look! Him and the basilisk. C'mon, Ginny, let's get out of here-"

"I'm going to be expelled!" Ginny wept as Harry helped her awkwardly to her feet. "I've looked forward to coming to Hogwarts ever since B-Bill came and n-now I'll have to leave and- w-what'll Mum and Dad say?"

"Quiet, Miss Weasley," Snape said.

She gave a start. "Professor! Am- am I going to be expelled?"

"I sincerely doubt it," Snape said. "Come on, you two."

"Any idea how we're supposed to get out?" Harry wondered as they exited the tunnel.

The phoenix waved his golden tail feathers. "You want us to hold on?" Harry said. The phoenix trilled.

"We've got to hold on to each other. Ginny, grab my hand. Professor Snape-"

"Yes, I know what to do, brat."

Harry grinned, unperturbed by his professor's sharp tone.

When they came back to the floor of the bathroom, Myrtle was still there. "You're alive," she said blankly to Harry.

"There's no need to sound so disappointed," he said grimly, wiping flecks of blood and slime off his glasses.

"Oh, well... I'd just been thinking... if you had died, you'd have been welcome to share my toilet," said Myrtle, blushing silver.

Snape couldn't help but smirk at the discomfort on Harry's face. "Riiight," Harry said. "Where should we go?"

The phoenix led them to Professor McGonagall's office.

"Ginny!" Mrs. Weasley shrieked, running up with her husband and hugging her daughter tightly. "You saved her! You saved her! How did you do it?"

"I think we'd all like to know that," said Professor McGonagall weakly.

Harry explained how Ron had come to him for help and their discovery of Hermione's research, followed by them going for help, Snape and Harry going down the Chamber, Harry killing the Basilisk, Ginny waking up.

"And where is Lockhart now?" McGonagall asked.

"Professor Snape Stunned him," Harry said. "He would've been no help."

Dumbledore had Mr. and Mrs. Weasley take Ginny to the hospital wing and told the professors to make sure Lockhart was okay, then turned to speak with Harry alone.

"First of all, Harry, I want to thank you," said Dumbledore, eyes twinkling. "You must have shown me real loyalty down in the Chamber. Nothing but that could have called Fawkes to you."

The phoenix, Fawkes, trilled.

Harry raised an eyebrow. Real loyalty? It had nothing to do with loyalty. He didn't correct the Headmaster, though.

They were interrupted by the arrival of a very disheveled Lucius Malfoy with a house-elf at his heels. "So!" he said. "You've come back. The governors suspended you, but you still saw fit to return to Hogwarts."

"Well, you see, Lucius," said Dumbledore, smiling serenely, "the other eleven governors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of owls, to tell the truth. They'd heard that Arthur Weasleys daughter had been killed and wanted me back here at once. They seemed to think I was the best man for the job after all. Very strange tales they told me, too... Several of them seemed to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn't agree to suspend me in the first place."

"So- have you stopped the attacks yet?" Mr. Malfoy sneered. "Have you caught the culprit?"

"We have," said Dumbledore, with a smile.

"Well?" said Mr. Malfoy sharply. "Who is it?"

"The same person as last time, Lucius," said Dumbledore. "But this time, Lord Voldemort was acting through somebody else. By means of this diary."

"I see..."

Harry wished he had left earlier to avoid this conversation. Thankfully, Mr. Malfoy left, his house-elf trailing after him.

 

 

 

The End-of-Year Feast was much different than the previous one.

Justin apologized for suspecting him, Hermione was ecstatic that Harry and Ron had figured it out, all exams had been cancelled- Harry and Hermione were the only ones who were upset by this- Ravenclaw won the House Cup for the first time in several years, Lockhart was exposed as a fraud, and Lucius Malfoy was sacked as a school governor, much to Draco's annoyance.

All too soon, they were getting on the Hogwarts Express.

Harry played Exploding Snap with the twins and retold the story of him and Snape rescuing Ginny.

When they were about to get off, Harry grabbed some parchment and a quill. "This is called a telephone number," he told the twins, scribbling it down, tearing the parchment in two, and handing it to them. "I told your dad how to use a telephone last summer- he'll know. Call me at the Dursleys', okay? I can't stand another two months with only Dudley to talk to..."

"Will do, Harrykins." George ruffled his hair.

"Who knows? Maybe we'll be able to rescue you again."

Harry laughed. "Let's hope not."

Chapter Text

Harry winced as the door slammed shut.

Fred and George have tried calling him on his telephone. Being wizards, they didn't know how Muggle technology worked, so they were yelling over the phone like they were caught in a storm. Uncle Vernon had answered, and as a result, he had gotten furious and grabbed a hold of Harry and slammed him into the wall. "HOW DARE YOU GIVE THIS NUMBER TO PEOPLE LIKE- PEOPLE LIKE YOU!" he roared before dragging Harry off into his room.

Now Harry was rubbing his shoulder, back aching. It had been a long time since Uncle Vernon had reacted so violently, and Harry had not missed it.

 

 

 

On the day of his birthday, a reporter on the television was talking about an escaped convict.

"... the public is warned that Black is armed and extremely dangerous. A special hot line has been set up, and any sighting of Black should be reported immediately."

"No need to tell us he's no good," snorted Uncle Vernon, staring over the top of his newspaper at the prisoner. "Look at the state of him, the filthy layabout! Look at his hair!"

He shot a nasty look sideways at Harry, but Harry barely registered it. He was staring at the gaunt man on the television, feeling like he had seen him from somewhere but not knowing what.

He was snapped out of his thoughts when Uncle Vernon mentioned Aunt Marge. Oh, how he hated her.

Harry had hoped that he could use Aunt Marge's visit to persuade Uncle Vernon to sign his permission form for Hogsmeade, but when she insulted his parents, he couldn't take it and ended up blowing her up.

Afterwards, Harry had taken the Knight Bus- he regretted that immediately- and went into Diagon Alley. He caught sight of a new broom in the window, the Firebolt. He had to admit that it looked tempting. But since he had no interest for Quidditch, he moved on.

He ran into the Weasleys, who greeted him enthusiastically. Percy shook his hand as if he were speaking to the mayor. "Harry. How nice to see you. "

"Hello, Percy."

"I hope you're well?"

"Very well, thanks-"

"Harry!" said Fred, elbowing Percy out of the way and bowing deeply. "Simply splendid to see you, old boy-"

"Marvelous," said George, pushing Fred aside and seizing Harry's hand in turn. "Absolutely spiffing."

Percy scowled.

"That's enough, now," said Mrs. Weasley.

"Mum!" said Fred, as though he'd only just spotted her and seizing her hand, too. "How really corking to see you-"

"I said, that's enough," said Mrs. Weasley, depositing her shopping in an empty chair. "Hello, Harry, dear. I suppose you've heard our exciting news?" She pointed to the brand-new silver badge on Percy's chest. "Second Head Boy in the family!" she said, swelling with pride.

"And last," Fred muttered under his breath.

"I don't doubt that," said Mrs. Weasley, frowning suddenly. "I notice they haven't made you two prefects. "

"What do we want to be prefects for?" said George, looking revolted at the very idea. "It'd take all the fun out of life. "

Harry stifled a laugh.

As they began to move, Fred and George fell into place around Harry. "So you blew up your aunt, hm?"

Harry sighed. "Yes. She was saying how my parents were drunks that got themselves killed, leaving me to be with my decent, hardworking relatives." He said this very bitterly, and Fred threw an arm over his shoulders.

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it," he said. "You have me and Gred here."

Harry grinned. "Shouldn't I be more worried?"

"Oi!" Fred removed his arm, feigning hurt.

 

 

 

Just before getting onto the train, Mr. Weasley pulled Harry aside to warn him about Sirius Black. Hearing the full name reminded him exactly who he was, but he did not share this with Mr. Weasley.

Hermione, Ron, and Ginny found an empty compartment and sat together, but Harry, never one for social interactions if he could help it, kept looking. Eventually, he came to the last compartment, which was occupied by a man with a shabby set of robes. His hair was brown, though it was flecked with gray.

The man's case had the name Professor R. J. Lupin on it. "Remus," Harry murmured out loud longingly.

It seemed as if Lupin wasn't really asleep- either that, or he was a very light sleeper- for his eyes shot open and he stared at Harry in astonishment. "Harry? You remember me?"

Harry nodded slowly. "Sort of. You were my dad's friend."

Lupin nodded, pain flashing across his scarred face. "I was." He looked as if he wanted to say more, but he looked down at his lap.

Awkwardly, Harry sat down across from him. "How have you been?"

Lupin- or should he say, Remus?- shrugged. "It's been quite rough," he admitted.

Harry nodded sympathetically.

At that moment, the compartment door opened and Luna Lovegood appeared. "Hello, Harry."

"Luna," Harry replied, smiling. "How was your summer? Meet any new creatures?"

"Oh, it was wonderful," Luna gushed. "Daddy and I went looking for the Crumpled-Horned Snorkack in Sweden, but we were unsuccessful."

"Well, you're not always successful on your first try," Harry said sympathetically.

"Very true." She noticed Remus. "Who are you?"

"Remus Lupin. I'll be your DADA Professor this year."

Luna smiled. "The wolf is no longer alone," she said.

Lupin stiffened slightly and cast an anxious glance at Harry, who looked baffled.

Mid-afternoon, the train started to slow down. "Are we there already?" Luna wondered.

"We can't be." Harry shivered. "Why is it so cold?"

Suddenly, the lights went out. Harry's mind flashed back to the cupboard, and he flinched. Luna, who sensed his fear, grabbed a hold of his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "What's going on?" Harry tried not to panic.

"I don't know."

"Quiet!" Remus said. He stood up and lit the compartment up with a handful of flames. "Stay where you are," he said.

The door slid open, and Harry could only stare at the dark cloaked figure with hands that looked to be decaying. The coldness Harry had mentioned suddenly intensified, and there was screaming, terrified and pleading. Harry felt his grip on Luna's hand slacken and felt his body give way...

"Harry! Are you all right?"

Someone was shaking his shoulder.

"W-what?" Harry opened his eyes to see that the lights have come back on and the train was moving again. Luna stood over him, her usual dreamy expression gone and replaced with anxiety. "What was that thing?"

A very pale Remus answered, voice wavering slightly. "A Dementor. One of the Dementors from Azkaban." He snapped off several pieces of chocolate. "Here. This'll make you feel better." He stood up. "I need to speak with the driver. Excuse me." He disappeared into the corridor.

"You were shaking," Luna said.

"Who was screaming?"

"No one was screaming, Harry. Dementors make you relive your worst memories."

Harry shivered. "Who could've screamed?" he murmured.

Remus reappeared. "I haven't poisoned the chocolate, you know..."

With a start, Harry realized he had completely forgotten about it. He took a bite and felt warmth return to his body.

"We'll be at Hogwarts in ten minutes," said Remus. "Are you all right, Harry?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks, Moony." His eyes widened when he realized what he had said.

Remus' eyes also widened. He cleared his throat. "Of course, Harry."

Luna smiled. "The wolf is no longer alone," she repeated.

 

 

 

When they got off the train, they climbed into a carriage. Harry assumed they were pulled by invisible horses since they couldn't see what was in front.

They stepped off, and Draco ran up to Harry and shook his shoulders vigorously. "You fainted, Harry? Is Lovegood telling the truth? You actually fainted?"

Harry awkwardly pushed his hands away. "Yes, it's true, Dray. But I'm fine. See?"

"If you say so. Merlin, those things are scary!"

Remus, who had gotten out of the next carriage, raised an eyebrow at the unusual sight of a Potter and a Malfoy talking amiably and not tearing each other's throats out. Then again, from what he had heard, Harry didn't seem to care if someone were in a different house.

They all headed inside for the Sorting.

Chapter Text

The look on Snape's face when Professor Dumbledore announced Remus as the DADA professor shocked Harry. It was deep loathing, one that Harry had never seen on him, even toward his least favorite students.

Harry was a bit unnerved about Hagrid being the Care of Magical Creatures teacher. He had nothing against him, but knowing how fond Hagrid was of creatures, it wouldn't be surprising if someone got hurt, all intentions aside.

 

 

 

The next morning, as Harry and Luna were passing the Slytherins, one of them made a swooning fit, making the others laugh.

"Hey, Potter!" Pansy Parkinson, a pug-faced third year, called. "The Dementors are coming, Potter! Wooooo!"

Draco, sitting next to her, shoved her angrily. "Knock it off, Pansy."

Harry completely ignored the Slytherins, walking by with a stony expression until he reached an empty seat at the Ravenclaw table. "Bloody gits."

"Don't listen to them, Harry," Luna murmured. "They're not worth it."

 

 

 

Divination was a joke; Harry didn't know why he had bothered taking it. Care of Magical Creatures, though, was bound to be interesting, despite Harry's previous misgivings.

"Everyone gather 'round the fence here!" Hagrid called. "That's it-make sure yeh can see- now, firs' thing yeh'll want ter do is open yer books-"

"How?" Harry said.

"Eh?" said Hagrid.

"How do we open our books?" Harry repeated. He had belted his book shut after several failed attempts to calm it down.

"Hasn'- hasn' anyone bin able ter open their books?" said Hagrid, looking crestfallen.

The class all shook their heads.

"Yeh've got ter stroke 'em," said Hagrid, as though this was the most obvious thing in the world. "Look-"

Hagrid took Harry's copy and ran a hand down its spine. It shivered and opened up, no longer trying to bite him.

"Oh, how silly we've all been," sneered Parkinson.

Hagrid showed the class hippogriffs, strange yet beautiful creatures that were half horse, half bird. "Who wants ter go first?"

Several students stepped back. Hagrid saw Harry and beamed. "Harry! Come up. Let's see how yeh get on with Buckbeak."

Harry approached the gray hippogriff and followed Hagrid's instructions to bow down, not breaking eye contact. The hippogriff seemed to scrutinize him for a long moment before bowing back.

"Well, done, Harry! Right- yeh can touch him! Pat his beak, go on!"

Harry tentatively lifted a hand and laid it on the sharp gray beak. Buckbeak relaxed and closed his eyes.

The class broke into applause, all except for Parkinson.

"Righ' then, Harry," said Hagrid. "I reckon he migh' let yeh ride him!"

Harry whipped around. "Ride him?" Part of the reason he wasn't interested in trying out for Quidditch was because of the extreme height.

"Yeh climb up there, jus' behind the wing joint," said Hagrid, "an' mind yeh don' pull any of his feathers out, he won' like that... "

Not wanting to let him down, Harry climbed onto Buckbeak's back.

"Go on, then!" Hagrid said, slapping his hindquarters.

Buckbeak's wings sprang up and he took off. At first, Harry clung on tightly. But after a few heartstopping minutes, he forced himself to lift his head. A laugh escaped him. This was amazing! He felt so free! The air was so clean, so fresh, and Harry inhaled it with relish.

All too soon, he landed, and Hagrid untied the rest of the Hippogriffs and had the students approach them.

Draco did the stupid thing and swaggered up to Buckbeak, ultimately ending up on his back, moaning. "I'm dying!" he yelled. "It's killed meh! It's killed meh!"

Harry rolled his eyes and knelt down by Draco's head. "Shut up, you dramatic dunderhead. You'll live."

"Are you an angel?" Draco whispered theatrically, reaching up with his uninjured arm and touching Harry's face.

"No, I'm the bloody devil."

Draco let out another moan and dropped his arm. "I knew it, I'm in hell."

"Mmm, Hogwarts, hell. Monkshood, aconite. Same difference."

Hagrid took Draco to the hospital wing, and the class was dismissed.

 

 

 

"You flew on a hippogriff?" Fred said.

Harry nodded.

"What was it like?" George asked.

A small grin spread across Harry's lips. "It was... not that bad. You'd probably enjoy it, playing Quidditch and all."

"That's different," Fred said.

"Hippogriffs look pretty dangerous," George added.

"They are," Harry said, "but it doesn't seem that much different than Quidditch."

Fred snorted. "And that, my friend, is where you're wrong."

"On a broom, you have all the control," George said.

"And on a hippogriff... well, let's hope they're trained."

Harry huffed. "Come on! At least on Buckbeak I didn't have to worry about Bludgers and other people flying around."

Fred shook his head. "I still think Quidditch is safer."

"Want to bet?" Harry shot back.

"Sure."

"Fine, if Hagrid's okay with it, you can take a ride on Buckbeak."

"And in return-" George said

"-we can teach you how to fly properly," Fred finished.

Harry looked at them. "Deal." He shook their hands.

"Great! We shall see you Saturday morning, then."

Maybe he should've not opened his mouth...

 

 

 

Sirius Black was spotted not too far from Hogwarts, bringing up the topic of Harry being in danger again.

Before Defense Against the Dark Arts that afternoon, Harry took some time to skim through his parents' journals. As he already knew, Remus and Black were his father's best friends in school along with Peter Pettigrew.

Remus was a werewolf- Well, that explains the wolf Luna mentioned- and to keep him company, his friends became Animagi. Harry's father was a stag, Pettigrew was a rat, and Black was a dog.

Harry recalled seeing the dog after he had blown up Aunt Marge. Could that had been Black?

As Harry continued to read, he felt puzzled.

Sirius Black had been put into Azkaban, that much Harry knew. He had asked Draco before leaving Potions why, and the blonde had reluctantly revealed that Black had been the Secret Keeper for the Potters but ended up going to Voldemort and telling him, resulting in their deaths and Harry being sent to the Dursleys.

But according to the journals, Black had changed at the last minute and had Pettigrew as the secret keeper. Which meant that Black couldn't have been the traitor. That Black was not the traitor. "Peter Pettigrew betrayed the Potters," Harry whispered hoarsely.

But why did Black escape now? He had been in Azkaban for twelve years and had obviously not bothered with getting out then. What had changed?

Harry checked the time and realized that he ought to get going to Defense Against the Dark Arts, which would be with the Gryffindors this year. Remus would be there; maybe Harry could ask him after class.

Chapter Text

Harry jumped back as the wardrobe gave a shake.

"Nothing to worry about," said Remus calmly. "There's a Boggart in there."

Nothing to worry about? Harry eyed the wardrobe warily.

"Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces," Remus continued. "Wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, the cupboards under sinks- I've even met one that had lodged itself in a grandfather clock. This one moved in yesterday afternoon, and I asked the headmaster if the staff would leave it to give my third years some practice.

"So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a Boggart?"

Hermione put up her hand.

"It's a shape-shifter," she said. "It can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most."

"Couldn't have put it better myself," said Remus, and Hermione glowed. "So the Boggart sitting in the darkness within has not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a Boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears.

"This means," said Remus, choosing to ignore Neville's small sputter of terror, "that we have a huge advantage over the Boggart before we begin. Have you spotted it, Harry?"

Harry opened his mouth to answer, then gritted his teeth as Hermione raised her hand again, so quickly she nearly slapped him in the face. "Do you mind?" he hissed.

Hermione lowered her arm, embarrassed.

"Because there are so many of us, it won't know what shape it should be," Harry said in response to the question.

"Precisely," said Remus. "It's always best to have company when you're dealing with a Boggart. He becomes confused. Which should he become, a headless corpse or a flesh-eating slug? I once saw a Boggart make that very mistake- tried to frighten two people at once and turned himself into half a slug. Not remotely frightening."

Harry had his own doubts. What if a Boggart turned into a combination that was even more frightening than the individual things?

'The charm that repels a Boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a Boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing.

"We will practice the charm without wands first. After me, please... riddikulus!"

"Riddikulus!" said the class together.

"This class is ridiculous," Harry heard someone mutter.

Remus ignored the rude comment and went on to demonstrate with Neville, who made Boggart-Snape suddenly have Neville's grandmother's clothes.

While waiting for his turn, Harry wondered what his greatest fear was. He first thought of Voldemort, but that didn't make too much sense considering that he couldn't remember his first encounter as a baby and second year was with the teenage version of him. Then the Dementor... Harry shivered. Now that he could believe would be his Boggart. Everything was so cold, so dark... so like his cupboard. No, Harry couldn't go. He refused to.

But unfortunately, the end of class had not come by the time it was his turn. "Harry!" Remus called.

Harry stepped forward. Behind him, he could hear the whispered words of "You-Know-Who" and "green lights." Neither appeared. Instead, the Boggart shifted into what looked like a harmless white door. The whispers grew confused; was the Boggart weakening? Was that why it was acting like this?

With his back to the students, Harry's face, which had paled slightly, was not visible to them. With a shaky hand raised, he chanted, "Riddikulus!" Instead of turning into something funny, the Boggart shifted into a large, dark cloaked figure...

Remus suddenly swept forward protectively in front of Harry. The Boggart changed into a silvery-white orb. Remus said, "Riddikulus!" in an almost lazy voice, and the Boggart exploded into a thousand tiny wisps of smoke before vanishing altogether.

"Excellent!" cried Remus as the class broke into applause. "Well done, everyone... Let me see... five points for every person to tackle the Boggart... five each to Hermione and Harry. Very well, everyone, an excellent lesson. Homework, kindly read the chapter on Boggarts and summarize it for me... to be handed in on Monday. That will be all."

Harry hardly heard him. He was still staring at the spot where the orb had been.

"Harry?" Remus' voice came from behind gently. "Are you alright?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. I'm fine."

He staggered back and all but bolted out of the room.

Remus frowned after him, then turned back to the wardrobe. What had frightened him so much like that?

 

 

 

Harry was very quiet after that. No one could understand what the big deal was. Some thought that maybe the door was symbolic, which was probably the closest thing to the truth than some of the other guesses. One was that Harry had some sort of accident with a door, which was ludicrous, yet somewhat amusing.

He jumped slightly as a hand touched his shoulder and turned to see Fred watching him with concern. "You okay, Harry?"

"Yeah, I think so," Harry said distractedly.

Thankfully, Fred did not press the matter. Then again, he was more aware of Harry's home life than the rest of the wizarding world, as was George. "You know," he said lightly, "I still haven't forgotten our deal."

"Oh, that." Harry looked at him. "You still up for it?"

"Hell, yeah. You up for a flying lesson on a broom?"

"Hell, no. But I'm still doing it."

"That's the spirit! Come on, let's go ask Hagrid if we can borrow Buckbeak for Saturday."

Chapter Text

Saturday came up, and Harry went down to meet up with the twins.

George was practically skipping alongside Fred and Harry, making the occasional teasing remark as he didn't have to ride Buckbeak- he and Fred had argued about who was going to do it the night before.

As they came to the clearing where Hagrid was waiting for them, Fred hesitated. "Maybe you should give me a demonstration," he said to Harry.

Hagrid waved his arm dismissively. "Now, Fred-"

"I'm Fred," George said.

"Oh, er, sorry-"

Harry rolled his eyes. "They're messing with you. This is Fred." He patted Fred's arm.

"Must you ruin the fun?" George grumbled mutinously.

Harry shot him a grin. "Yep."

"Well, then, Fred. Buckbeak's perfectly harmless," Hagrid said. "Trust me. Come here, Harry."

Harry stepped forward with much more confidence than the first Care of Magical Creatures class and bowed down. Buckbeak dipped his head in return almost immediately, obviously remembering him from before.

"Yer turn, Fred," Hagrid said.

Fred gulped and walked up to the hippogriff, copying Harry's movement and lowering his head, making sure to keep eye contact. Buckbeak eyed him for a moment before bowing back to him.

"Woo!" George cheered. "That's my brother!"

Fred would've turned around and stuck out his tongue or some other mature act, but he did not dare to turn away from Buckbeak.

"Okay, on yeh go, Fred."

Harry had already climbed on. Fred hoisted himself up behind him. "So, you're sure this is safe?"

"Safe enough," Harry replied. "You're gonna need to hold onto me."

Behind him, Fred coughed. "Hold onto you?"

"Well, there aren't any reins or anything like that," Harry pointed out. "So just put your arms around my waist or something."

"Er-"

"Honestly, Fred," Harry said with an exasperated glance back, "are you a Gryffindor or not?"

"Yeah, Fred, aren't you?" George called.

Stung, Fred put his arms around Harry's waist. "Satisfied?"

"Very."

Fred glared at George, who was grinning knowingly.

"Ready, Freddie?" Harry asked enthusiastically.

"No."

"Me, neither," Harry said with the same enthusiasm. "Let's do this!"

The hippogriff lurched forward, making Fred's light hold on Harry tighten as he let out a startled yelp.

Harry let out a whoop as Buckbeak soared into the air. "You can relax a bit," he said once they were no longer ascending.

Fred realized with a sheepish grin that he was now pressed against Harry's backside, his arms completely wrapped around his torso. "Whoops."

Harry laughed. "Feels good, doesn't it?"

Fred let himself straighten up slightly and felt the wind hitting his face. He inhaled the clean air and laughed. "Not bad, Harry."

"I told you!" Harry exclaimed triumphantly.

"Alright, Buckbeak, let's circle back now," he said after a while.

The hippogriff flew back and landed. Fred hopped off first. "That was fucking awesome!"

"Yep," Harry said smugly as he let Fred help him down.

"I felt so free!"

"Like riding a broom?"

"Yeah!"

George cleared his throat, reminding them of his presence. "Speaking of brooms, we need to show Harry how to fly like a pro."

Fred suddenly realized that he was holding both of Harry's hands in his own and released them, feeling very self-conscious.

Harry felt slightly disappointed by the loss of contact but didn't outwardly react. "Broomsticks. Well, maybe I'll change my mind about them." He began walking back to the castle.

George smirked at Fred, who glared back. "Don't. Say. A. Word," he hissed out through clenched teeth.

"Don't need to," George said. "Your face says it all." He glanced over at Harry and back at Fred, still smirking.

Fred grumbled as they went back up to the castle and tried to push George's teasing all the way.

 

 

 

Later, they were out on the Quidditch field. Harry eyed the broom with as much wariness as Fred did with Buckbeak, but he didn't dare to back down. He went to mount it, only to slip off and landed on the ground with an undignified "Oof!"

"Didn't you take flying lessons in your first year?" Fred said.

"I did, but that was two years ago," Harry retorted, scrambling to his feet. He tried again, this time managing to stay on.

"Okay, now to get up into the air, you have to kick off the ground, hard," George instructed from his perch a few feet in the air.

Trying not to think of Neville's unfortunate injury back in first year and thinking of nothing else, Harry did as he was told. He rose into the air a few feet until he was about the same height off the ground as the twins.

"Nice!" George smiled, pleased.

"Ugh, I feel like I'm gonna fall off any second now," Harry muttered.

"I'll catch you," Fred quickly reassured him. "Promise."

Harry nodded. "Okay, now what?"

"Easy. Just follow us," George said. "We'll fly around the field for a bit until you get the hang of it, then you can tell us what you think."

"No Bludgers?"

"No Bludgers," George said.

"-or other players-"

"- or Snitches-"

"- or Quaffles-"

"Okay, I get it," Harry said before they could continue.

Hovering only a couple yards off the ground wasn't too bad if Harry were to slip and fall. But the twins began increasing the height until they were probably a good twenty feet high.

"Well, Harry?" Fred prompted. "What do you think?"

"I can see what you mean," Harry replied, keeping his eyes fixed on Fred's face and not the ground. "It is pretty cool. But the broom is so much skinnier than, like, a horse."

"Still more stable, I think. Hey, loosen your grip a bit," Fred said, gliding forward to help him. "You don't need to hold on so tight."

Harry glanced down at his hands- and ultimately the ground- and yelped. He didn't realize he was this high! Harry lurched sideways and nearly lost his balance. But he didn't plummet toward the ground like Neville had. No, something behind him righted him up again. "See?" Fred's warm breath hit Harry's neck. "I told you I'd catch you."

It was Harry's turn to go pink in the face as he realized just how close their faces were to each other. "Thanks. But how do we get down?" he asked as he straightened back up.

"Lean forward ever so slightly," George told him. He was enjoying this way too much, Fred could see.

Fred hovered underneath Harry as he lowered himself, just in case he slipped up again. Thankfully, they all made it with no issue.

Harry let out a relieved sigh. "Not the worst thing I've done," he said. "But I'll leave the brooms to you two."

"That's alright, Harrykins," Fred said with a wide smile. "And we'll leave the books to you."

"Maybe that's what I should've taught you," Harry grumbled. "How to read a book all the way to the end."

George let out an exaggerated gasp. "How dare you assume we don't know how to read?"

"Oh, I know you can read," Harry shot back. "But have you ever read a full book?"

"Of course!" the twins said.

"That was at least 200 pages?"

"Er..."

Harry laughed.

On their way in, Hagrid passed by. "I heard yeh was tryin' out a broom, Harry."

"Yeah, I was."

"Aye! That's great! Good for you!" Hagrid clapped him on the back.

Caught off guard, Harry fell forward- right into Fred, face buried in his neck. Harry blinked, looking up at the Gryffindor with a very pink face. "Sorry!" he squeaked.

"That's the second time you fell for me," Fred joked, trying to ease his racing heart.

"Yer father was a great Chaser back in his days," Hagrid said, oblivious to the tension between Harry and Fred. He lumbered off, mind still on James Potter.

Harry pushed himself off of Fred. "We should-" he began.

"I'm gonna-" Fred started to say.

"Common room," they both said in unison.

"Bye." Harry all but ran back to the Ravenclaw Tower, leaving the twins alone.

George sidled up to his brother's side and rested his elbow on his shoulder. "Well, well, well, Freddie. It seems like like you aren't the only one with a crush."

"Don't be ridiculous," Fred scoffed.

"You were totally checking out his arse when he was bowing down to the hippogriff," George teased.

Fred went red but didn't deny this, making George laugh as they headed to the Gryffindor common room.

Chapter Text

On the first day of Hogsmeade, Harry watched as Filch checked off names against a list for a while before turning back.

"Harry," Draco called, running up to him, "aren't you going?"

Harry shook his head ruefully. "My uncle didn't sign my permission form."

"Oh, bad luck," Draco said.

"Staying here, Potter?" Parkinson sneered as she passed. "Scared of passing the Dementors?"

"Pansy, shut u- oh, forget her," Draco grumbled. "Don't worry, Har. I'll bring you something."

Harry stood there awkwardly for a moment, trying to think of what to do. He was finished with his homework and he didn't feel like going to the library, so what should he do? He thought of Hedwig and started heading for the Owlery when he heard a voice. "Harry?"

It was Remus.

"What are you doing?"

"Not going to Hogsmeade because my uncle didn't sign the form," Harry said.

"Ah," said Remus. "Why don't you come in? I've just taken delivery of a Grindylow for our next lesson."

A Grindylow happened to be a water creature with green skin and horns.

"We shouldn't have much difficulty with him, not after the Kappas," Remus said. "The trick is to break his grip. You notice the abnormally long fingers? Strong, but very brittle."

The Grindylow buried itself in the weeds.

"Cup of tea?" Remus said, looking around for his kettle. "I was just thinking of making one. "

"All right," said Harry.

Remus tapped the kettle with his wand and a blast of steam issued suddenly from the spout.

"Sit down," said Remus, taking the lid off a dusty tin. "I've only got teabags, I'm afraid- but I daresay you've had enough of tea leaves?"

Harry looked at him. Remus' eyes were twinkling.

"How did you know about that?" Harry asked.

"Professor McGonagall told me," said Remus, passing Harry a chipped mug of tea. "You're not worried, are you?"

"No," said Harry.

An awkward silence filled the air. Remus cleared his throat. "So how have your classes been, Harry?"

"Pretty good. DADA this year isn't so bad," he added with a grin.

Remus let out an amused snort. "Really? How do?"

Harry tilted his head, pretending to think. "Well, the professor really seems to know what he's doing, for one thing. Doesn't stutter like a fool or talk about how great his hair is."

"Sounds like a cool guy."

"He is."

Harry took a sip as he contemplated what to say next.

"Um, about Sirius Black-"

"You are not going to go after him, are you?" Remus said seriously.

"Why does everyone keep asking me that? No! Did you know Mum and Dad had journals?"

For some reason, Remus tensed up. "No, why?"

"Draco told me that Black was inprisoned for telling Voldemort where my parents were. But it said here-" he flipped near the end of his mother's entries- "that they changed it at the last minute."

Remus read the passage over several times before whispering hoarsely, "Do you know what this means?"

"Black is innocent. At least of giving the location away. It makes sense that he would try to get revenge on Pettigrew, wouldn't it?"

"It would." Remus shook his head, feeling horror climb up inside him. "Merlin!" he exclaimed. "My own mate!"

"Mate?" Harry repeated. "Like boyfriend? Lover?"

"Erm, yes. We are- we were lovers."

"I didn't think it was accepted here." Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia certainly wouldn't have.

"Oh, it is. The only downside is that we wouldn't be able to have children. Well, there is a potion for that, but it's complicated to come across," Remus added. "Merlin!" he repeated. "He didn't betray them."

The door opened, and Snape came in, holding a goblet. He saw Harry and blinked. "Harry?"

"Hello, sir," Harry said.

"Ah, Severus," Remus said. "Thanks very much. Could you leave it here on the desk for me?"

Snape set the goblet down.

He looked at the goblet, which was smoking faintly. "What's that?"

"Well, I haven't really been feeling well," Remus said evasively. "Professor Snape has very kindly concocted a potion for me."

"Not feeling well because of your furry little problem?" Harry said casually.

"I- yes," Remus said, sounding resigned.

"Cool, what's it do?" Harry asked.

Remus looked at Snape in confusion. The Potions professor merely raised an amused eyebrow. "It helps me retain my mind during my transformations."

"Fascinating." Harry stared at the goblet with wide eyes.

Remus blinked a few times, not used to anyone reacting so casually to hearing of his lycanthropy. "You're taking this awfully well," he said.

Harry shrugged. "So?"

"Most people would be frightened."

Harry snorted. "You grow fur out of your arse once a month. Forgive me for not wetting myself."

Remus chuckled and even Snape let out a small snort. "Watch your language," he said as he turned to leave.

"Sorry."

"Brat," was the muttered retort.

Chapter Text

That very same night, Sirius Black broke in to Gryffindor Tower. All the students were to sleep in the Great Hall. The next few days, Sirius Black was the focus of every conversation.

"Why do you think he targeted Gryffindor? Potter's in Ravenclaw."

"Well, he is a Potter. Black probably expects that he's a Gryffindor."

"He's a complete lunatic."

"He's a Black. What do you expect?"

Professor Snape was teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts one day.

"Professor Lupin has not left any record of the topics you have covered so far-" he began, only to be interrupted by Hermione.

"Please, sir, we've done Boggarts, Red Caps, Kappas, and Grindylows, and we're just about to start-"

"Be quiet," said Snape coldly. "I did not ask for information. I was merely commenting on Professor Lupin's lack of organization. "

"He's the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever had," said Dean Thomas boldly, and although Harry didn't disagree, both Quirrell and Lockhart were so incompetent that even a first year could probably teach better than them. There wasn't much to compare with.

"You are easily satisfied. Lupin is hardly overtaxing you- I would expect first years to be able to deal with Red Caps and Grindylows. Today we shall discuss-"

Harry watched him flick through the textbook, to the very back chapter, which he must know they hadn't covered.

"- werewolves," said Snape.

Harry's eyes widened. He was doing that deliberately. Of course, he was the only one who knew of Remus' condition, so no one else gave any reaction other than surprise.

"But, sir," said Hermione, "we're not supposed to do werewolves yet, we're due to start Hinkypunks-"

"Miss Granger," said Snape in a voice of deadly calm, "I was under the impression that I am teaching this lesson, not you. And I am telling you all to turn to page 394." He glanced around again. "All of you! Now!"

"Which of you can tell me how we distinguish between the werewolf and the true wolf?" said Snape.

Hermione's hand shot up. So did Harry's.

"Mr. Potter?" Snape pointedly ignored Hermione.

Hermione, not liking how Snape hadn't called on her, said, "Please, sir, the werewolf differs from the true wolf in several small ways. The snout of the werewolf-"

"That is the second time you have spoken out of turn, Miss Granger," said Snape coolly. "Five more points from Gryffindor for being an insufferable know-it-all."

Despite his irritation at Hermione, Harry couldn't help but feel bad. She was enthusiastic about learning; Snape shouldn't find fault in that!

 

 

 

The next day was the first Quidditch match of the year. Harry did not understand why they would be holding it in this storm, but at least he wasn't playing.

The Gryffindors were giving all they got, but the rain was proving to be a major obstacle.

Harry had to cast Impervius on his glasses so he could watch without worrying about the rain blurring his gaze and found himself looking out toward the opposite stand.

There! On the topmost empty seats was a large black dog. Sirius? But then he looked away for a moment, distracted by a passing broom, and when he looked back, the dog was gone.

Cedric Diggory was now after the Snitch. As Harry followed the movement, he suddenly realized that all was quiet. And then the coldness came. Dementors were in the sky, and Dumbledore and a few other professors cast a spell that shot out silvery-white mists, some in the form of animals.

While the Dementors were being pushed away, Cedric had managed to catch the Snitch, enabling a fair victory to Hufflepuff, despite the circumstances.

 

 

 

Harry had not been close enough to feel the full effects of the Dementors, but in the back of his mind, the woman's voice could be heard pleading for Harry's life. Still feeling off, he went by the hospital wing.

He was heading back to his dorm eating some chocolate Madam Pomfrey had given him when someone joined him. It was Fred, who looked as if he had come straight over if his dirty clothes were anything to go off of. "Hey," he said.

"Fred," Harry greeted him. "You okay?"

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" Fred pointed out, glancing back at the hospital wing meaningfully.

"Fair point. What are you doing here anyway?"

"I was a bit worried about you," Fred admitted. "You took off almost immediately after the game."

If Harry thought it was strange that he had noticed this detail in the midst of the chaos, he didn't comment on it. "How's Wood holding up?" It was common knowledge that nothing mattered to him more than winning Quidditch. Harry remembered the previous year when a match had been cancelled; Wood had vehemently exclaimed that it shouldn't be possible.

"Pretty sure he's drowning himself in the showers," Fred told him with a wry grin.

"Course," Harry muttered, taking another bite.

"Ooh, chocolate." Fred broke off a piece of Harry's bar. "Don't mind if I do."

"Hey, that's mine," Harry lunged for it, but Fred easily moved out of reach. "Get your own."

Fred almost cooed at his pout and had to resist the strange urge to kiss it away. "Come and get it," he teased.

Harry pulled out his wand. "Accio chocolate."

The chocolate wrenched itself out of Fred's grasp and into Harry's hand. It was his turn to pout as Harry smirked victoriously. "Thanks." He popped the piece in his mouth.

"No wonder you're a Ravenclaw," Fred grumbled. "Little smartypants." He noticed something. "You got some chocolate on your..." He trailed off and reached up without thinking to wipe it away.

Harry's heart began racing a mile a minute as Fred's smooth, gentle hand touched his face. His thumb lightly brushed against the corner of Harry's lip, and it took all of his willpower not to react. He was sure he failed; his neck was most definitely at least a little pink.

A quiet cough made Fred retract his hand quickly and left Harry blinking in confusion. George Weasley stood behind them with a not-so-innocent smile on his face. "Hope I'm not interrupting anything."

Fred glared at him. "No, you're not." He turned to Harry. "See you later?"

Harry nodded, still slightly dazed. "Yeah."

Fred began to walk away, then darted back and snagged the last bit of chocolate out of Harry's hand.

"Hey!" Harry yelped indignantly, but Fred merely winked and skipped away.

Harry scowled and crossed his arms over his chest mutinously. "Your brother's mean," he whined to George.

"I know," George said.

"Tell him to go buy his own damn chocolate at Hogsmeade."

"Will do. Anything else?"

"Tell him to fuck off."

George snickered. "Got it."

Chapter Text

Remus came back for the next DADA class and showed the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws a Hinkypunk, a strange, one-legged creature that looked relatively harmless.

After the bell rang, Remus held Harry back. "Are you all right, Harry? I heard you went to the hospital wing."

"Yeah, I think so. Why? Why do they affect me like that? Am I just-?"

"It has nothing to do with weakness," said Remus sharply, as though he had read Harry's mind. "The Dementors affect you worse than the others because there are horrors in your past that the others don't have.

"Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can't see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself- soul-less and evil. You'll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life. And the worst that happened to you, Harry, is enough to make anyone feel sick. You have nothing to feel ashamed of.”

"When they get near me-" Harry stared at Remus' desk, his throat tight. "I can hear Voldemort murdering my mum."

Remus reached out and laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "I think it's critical for you to learn the Patronus Charm."

"The Patronus Charm? Is that that white misty thing Dumbledore used?"

"Yes. That white misty thing." Remus chuckled at Harry's choice of words. "Now," he added more briskly, "I believe you have homework to attend to."

 

 

 

To everyone's delight except Harry's, there would be another Hogsmeade trip on the last weekend of term. Once again, Harry had to look for something to do.

He started to head for the library when he was stopped by the twins.

"What are you doing?" said Harry curiously. "How come you're not going to Hogsmeade?"

"We've come to give you a bit of festive cheer before we go," said Fred, with a mysterious wink. "Come in here..."

He nodded toward an empty classroom to the left of the one-eyed statue. Harry followed Fred and George inside. George closed the door quietly and then turned, beaming, to look at Harry.

"If you brought me here to make out, I'm afraid you'll be sorely disappointed," Harry said dryly.

"Oh, darn," George said, snapping his fingers.

"There goes that plan," Fred added, though he did not really having to feign his disappointment. "But there is something we have." He brandished a piece of parchment to Harry. "Early Christmas present for you, Harry."

Harry stared, feeling baffled. "A bit of old parchment. Wow, how thoughtful of you."

"A bit of old parchment!" Fred grimaced as though Harry had wounded him. "Explain, George."

"Well... when we were in our first year, Harry- young, carefree, and innocent-"

Harry snorted. "You two are as innocent as I am social."

"Well, more innocent than we are now- we got into a spot of bother with Filch."

"We let off a Dungbomb in the corridor and it upset him for some reason-"

"For some reason," Harry muttered.

"So he hauled us off to his office and started threatening us with the usual-"

"-detention-"

"-disembowelment-"

"-and we couldn't help noticing a drawer in one of his filing cabinets marked Confiscated and Highly Dangerous. "

"Don't tell me-" said Harry, starting to grin.

"Well, what would you've done?" said Fred. "George caused a diversion by dropping another Dungbomb, I whipped the drawer open, and grabbed- this."

"It's not as bad as it sounds, you know," said George. "We don't reckon Filch ever found out how to work it. He probably suspected what it was, though, or he wouldn't have confiscated it."

"And you know how to work it?"

"Oh yes," said Fred, smirking. "This little beauty's taught us more than all the teachers in this school."

"You're winding me up," said Harry, looking at the ragged old bit of parchment.

"Oh, are we?" said George.

He took out his wand, touched the parchment lightly, and said, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

 

Harry's eyes widened as words appeared.

Messrs. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs

Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers

are proud to present

THE MARAUDER'S MAP

The Marauder's Map! Harry's jaw dropped. This was the very item that his father and his friends had used!

"Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs," sighed George, patting the heading of the map. "We owe them so much."

"Noble men, working tirelessly to help a new generation of lawbreakers," said Fred solemnly.

"Right," said George briskly. "Don't forget to wipe it after you've used it-"

"-or anyone can read it," Fred said warningly.

"Just tap it again and say, 'Mischief managed!' and it'll go blank."

"Wow," Harry whispered. He looked at the map and watched the dots move around. He had to show Remus! "Remus will be pleased," he muttered.

"Professor Lupin?" Fred said. "What does he have to do with this?"

"He's one of the Marauders," Harry told him.

The twins' eyes went wide. "He is?!"

"Yep. Moony."

"And the others?" Fred demanded.

Harry grinned. "I don't know if I should tell you..."

"Oh, come on, Harry!" Fred moaned. "Don't leave us in suspense!"

"Well, I mean you know Lupin's Moony. Maybe you should ask him."

"Great idea." Fred grabbed George's arm and dragged him away.

"See ya later, Harry!" George called over his shoulder.

Harry shook his head. He could only imagine Remus' reaction to the pair.

 

 

 

Remus was in his classroom when two red-haired boys burst inside. "Ah, gentlemen, what can I do for- oof!"

Both twins had jumped on top of him, hugging him and knocking him over. "We are not worthy of being in your presence!" they chorused.

Remus pushed them off and stood up, blinking. "I'm sorry. What?"

"You are Moony, one of the creators of the Marauder's Map?" George said.

"You have the map?" Remus said. "Wait, how did you-" he broke off with a sigh. "Harry told you, didn't he?"

He was answered by two enthusiastic nods. "But he wouldn't tell us who the others are," Fred grumbled.

"Where did you even get it?" Remus was almost afraid to know.

"From Filch," George said.

"Detention in first year."

"When we were young and innocent."

"So, Moony," Fred said, propping an elbow on Remus' shoulder, "who are the other Marauders?"

"Ask Harry."

"But he said to talk to you," George protested. "He wouldn't give anything away."

"So stubborn," Fred grumbled, though his eyes had a fond look that Remus had been very familiar with seeing in James' eyes when he thought of Lily.

"Well, I'm afraid I cannot help you with that," Remus said.

"But-"

"I am a professor," Remus reminded them. "I do not have to tell you anything. Keep bugging Harry about it, okay?"

 

 

 

When Remus next saw Harry, it was in the Great Hall. The twins were on either side of him, both pouting and making pleading gestures. Harry caught Remus' eye and stuck out his tongue. Remus just chuckled.

Chapter Text

Over the holidays, Professor Trelawney freaked out about the thirteen people at the dining table and the first to rise who would die. Harry, of course, stood up when he was finished, making her panic again. At this point, death didn't seem like the worst option.

 

 

 

Harry's anti-Dementor lesson with Remus came up on the Thursday they came back from the holidays.

He took out his own wand and indicated that Harry should do the same. "The Patronus Charm I am going to try and teach you is highly advanced magic, Harry- well beyond Ordinary Wizarding Level."

"Okay."

"Do you know what it does?" Remus knew that Harry would've done some research before coming.

"It acts as a shield against the Dementor," Harry said promptly.

"Correct," Remus praised. "The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the Dementor feeds upon- hope, happiness, the desire to survive- but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the Dementors can't hurt it. But I must warn you, Harry, that the charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it."

"What does yours look like? I know they're different for everyone."

A displeased expression crossed Remus' scarred face. "A wolf."

"Ah." Harry could understand his reluctance to answer. "And how do you conjure it?"

"With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with all your might, on a single, very happy memory."

A very happy memory? Somehow, that seemed more difficult than actually casting it. The Dursleys were a source of bad memories, and despite his happiness at Hogwarts, there were plenty of moments that Harry would not want to dwell on. Finally, he settled on the first time he received an O on an assignment.

"The incantation is this: Expecto patronum!"

"Expecto patronum," Harry repeated, waving his wand. A wisp of silvery gas whooshed out of his wand. "Did you see that?" Harry said excitedly.

"Very good," said Remus, smiling at the childlike joy on his face. "Right, then- ready to try it on a Dementor?"

The excitement dimmed, but Harry nodded.

Remus released the Boggart.

The Boggart, in the form of a Dementor, rose from the box slowly and floated toward Harry, who raised his wand. "Expecto patronum! Expecto-"

But his mother's words rang in his head. "No! Harry! Not Harry! Please- I'll do anything!"

Harry jolted awake, sweat trickling down his face. Remus helped him up.

"It's alright," Remus said, handing him some chocolate. "I didn't expect you to do it the first time."

Harry stood up shakily, gratefully taking the chocolate. "Wait a second. Was that a pun you just made?"

Remus grinned. "Sirius may have rubbed off on me. In more ways than one," he added more quietly.

"What do you mean?"

Remus coughed. "Er- nothing. Are you ready to try again?"

Harry's next memory, of him riding Buckbeak, didn't work either. "Bet you didn't expect me to get it right the second time, either," he tried to joke.

"Listen, Harry- perhaps we should leave it here for tonight. This charm is ridiculously advanced... I shouldn't have suggested putting you through this..."

"No!" Harry jumped to his feet. "I'll have one more go! I'm not thinking of happy enough things, that's what it is... hang on..."

The moment when he'd received his Hogwarts letter, and would be leaving the Dursleys for Hogwarts! If that wasn't a happy memory, he didn't know what was...

"Ready?" said Remus. "Concentrating hard? All right- go!"

"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" Harry shouted.

The screaming started up again, but this time it was softer, as if it were underwater. The Dementor had stopped, and then a silvery shadow burst out of Harry's wand.

Remus put the Boggart back into the box with a "Riddikulus!" and Harry slumped, panting. "Excellent, Harry! That was definitely a start!"

Harry smiled, immensely pleased with himself. "Can we have another go?"

"Not now," Remus said. "You've had enough for one night. But how about next week, this time?"

"Okay."

Chapter Text

Over the course of the month, Harry practiced the Patronus Charm with Remus. He could produce the shadow but grew frustrated as nothing else happened.

"You're expecting too much of yourself," said Remus. "For a thirteen-year-old wizard, even an indistinct Patronus is a huge achievement. You aren't feeling too bad anymore, are you?"

"No, but isn't a Patronus supposed to drive Dementors away?"

"The true Patronus does, yes. But you've achieved a great deal in a very short space of time. If the Dementors put in an appearance at the next Quidditch match, you will be able to keep them at bay long enough to get away. Here- you've earned yourself a drink. Something from the Three Broomsticks. You won't have tried it before-"

He pulled two bottles out of his briefcase.

"Butterbeer!" said Harry, nose wrinkling. "Yeah, I've tried it."

Remus raised an eyebrow.

"Don't worry, I didn't sneak out," Harry said. "But Draco brought some in." And he refused to leave until he had.

"And what did you think?"

"Not the worst thing I've drank. But a bit too sweet for my liking."

Remus shook his head. "A Potter that doesn't like Quidditch or Butterbeer," he said in mock horror. "I must be in another universe."

"Hey!" Harry punched his arm lightly. "That's mean."

Remus laughed as Harry pouted. "Sorry."

They drank in silence. Harry decided that he liked this version better; Draco seemed to really like Butterbeer when it was at least half sugar.

"Ravenclaw's playing Gryffindor," Harry spoke up.

"Yes, they are."

"We're totally going to win."

"Yeah, right. Not that I'm supposed to take sides, as a teacher... " Remus added hastily.

"Uh huh. You, a former Gryffindor, is not secretly hoping that they will win."

"Hush, you."

Despite his frustrations with the Patronus Charm, Harry had enjoyed his time with Remus. The man was not any different than how his parents had described him: strict yet funny, especially with Sirius as an influence, an extreme bookworm much like Harry. Remus seemed like a shy person back in school, but he cracked plenty of witty comebacks and jokes under his breath that would get the other Marauders laughing at seemingly nothing.

"The twins are still begging me about you Marauders," Harry grumbled.

"Really? I wonder why." Harry gave him a deadpanned look, making him laugh. "When did they give it to you again?" Remus asked.

"Before going off to Hogsmeade. Early Christmas gift." For some reason, the memory made Harry's face flush slightly.

Remus looked at him. "Any particular reason why you're blushing?"

Harry's cheeks went even redder. "No?"

"Hm."

"What do you mean by that?"

Remus deliberately took his time taking another few sips of his Butterbeer before answering. "It seems to me that you like at least one of the twins."

"Of course I do," Harry said, puzzled. "They're my friends."

"But you want them to be more than that."

"You mean like- like you and Sirius?"

"Exactly."

"But I don't even like boys! I think," Harry added more uncertainly.

"There's nothing wrong if you do," Remus said. "Hello, you're talking to a bisexual werewolf here!"

"Bisexu-? And I know there's nothing wrong with that. But the Dursleys hate anything freaky, and if they even thought I liked boys..." He trailed off and suddenly seemed really interested in his Butterbeer.

Remus frowned. "Harry," he said, "they don't... hurt you, do they?" He had been meaning to ask, but the topic never cropped up.

Harry shook his head. "No. Well, not really. I mean, Uncle Vernon would throw me into the cupboard whenever I did something wrong, but that's normal, right? To punish your children when they misbehave?"

"Putting a child in a cupboard is not something I'd do as punishment," Remus said dryly. "And what is your definition of misbehaving?"

"Well, one time, Dudley ate several cookies and said that I ate them," Harry recalled. "Aunt Petunia got really mad at me."

"Your cousin lied," Remus growled.

"Yeah, but I'm used to it. Don't worry about it."

Far from placating the werewolf, Harry's words fueled his anger. "You cannot go back there," Remus said.

"But Professor Dumbledore said-"

"Fuck what Dumbledore said," Remus broke in. "I don't care. There is no excuse for him to put a child back in an abusive home. None."

Harry stared at him, unwilling to hope but unable to stop it from rising in his chest. "Really?"

"Yes. And we'll start by locating Sirius and getting him proven innocent."

Chapter Text

"... I was asleep, and I heard this ripping noise, and I thought it was in my dream, you know? But then there was this draft... I woke up and one side of the hangings on my bed had been pulled down... I rolled over... and I saw him standing over me... like a skeleton, with loads of filthy hair... holding this great long knife, must've been twelve inches... and he looked at me, and I looked at him, and then I yelled, and he scampered."

Harry wondered why Sirius had actually broken in. What was in Gryffindor that he wanted?

"He's looking for Harry," someone said. "But if he saw that he wasn't there..."

Several eyes turned away from Ron and gave Harry a worried glance.

Poor Neville, Harry thought as he watched his friend take off with a Howler. It had been his list of passwords that Sirius had picked up, and now he was being ostracized from his house.

He noticed that Ron and Hermione were avoiding each other like the plague. Something about a missing rat.

On the day of Hogsmeade, Harry went to see Remus again. "Any idea what Sirius is up to?" he asked after greeting him.

Remus shook his head. "Not a clue. Get out the map, Harry, and let's see if we can spot him."

Harry pulled out the map. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

Remus felt a pang of sadness as he remembered James first uttering those words all those years ago. Together, he and Harry peered at the map. They could see Albus Dumbledore in his office, students leaving for Hogsmeade, Professor Snape stalking through the corridor-

A sharp exclamation from Remus made Harry jump. "What is it?" He followed Remus' line of sight and gasped. Peter Pettigrew's dot was moving around not far from them.

Remus growled. "He's here, of course he is."

"Pettigrew's Animagus form is a rat, right?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I overheard Ron and Hermione arguing earlier," Harry said. "Hermione's cat ate Scabbers, according to Ron."

"You think Scabbers is Pettigrew?" Remus said. "It could be."

"That's why Sirius was in the Gryffindor Tower," Harry realized. "Because Pettigrew was in there."

"He's gonna get himself killed if he keeps doing stupid things like that," Remus grumbled, though his words held a trace of warmth that belied his annoyance.

"There's no sign of Sirius," Harry said.

"He could be hiding in the Shrieking Shack," Remus said. "It doesn't appear on the map."

"Then we should go there. Tonight!" Harry said, jumping up excitedly.

"You, Harry, will be sleeping," Remus said sternly. "Leave this to me."

Harry grumbled under his breath. "Alright, fine."

Remus smiled. "Good, now off you go, Harry. Go finish your homework or something."

"I'm already done with my homework," Harry muttered as he left.

 

 

 

Remus had been correct: Sirius was in the Shrieking Shack. "Well, well, Sirius," he said as he walked in. "Looking rather ragged, aren't we? Finally the flesh reflects the madness within."

Sirius grinned. "Well, you'd know all about the madness within, wouldn't you, Remus?"

Before Remus could react- a pun? Really?- he was grabbed and pulled forward, lips against Sirius'. Too long. It had been too long since they had last kissed, and it felt amazing.

"I found him!" Sirius whispered as he pulled away.

"I know."

"It's him!"

"I understand. We'll figure it out, okay?" Remus looked into his lover's gray eyes. "We'll get him."

"I don't think so."

Snape's voice made them whirl around. His wand was pointed at Remus.

"Severus, listen-"

"I've just been to your office, Lupin," Snape said. "You forgot to take your potion tonight, so I took a gobletful along. And very lucky I did... lucky for me, I mean. Lying on your desk was a certain map. One glance at it told me all I needed to know. I saw you running along this passageway and out of sight."

Remus inwardly winced. He had forgotten to close the map in his haste to see Sirius. "Severus-" he tried to speak, only for Snape to interrupt again.

"I've told the headmaster again and again that you're helping your old friend Black into the castle, Lupin, and here's the proof. Not even I dreamed you would have the nerve to use this old place as your hideout-"

"Severus, you're making a mistake," Remus said. "I can explain- Harry and I-"

"Oh, yes, Harry." Snape's eyes gleamed and he looked almost pitying. "What will he say when he hears the very man he trusts has been working against him the whole time?"

"Harry?" Sirius spoke up. "Since when did you refer to him as Harry?" It was almost as if Snape cared about him...

"Sirius, not now," Remus hissed.

"It's Snivellus," Sirius muttered. "He doesn't care about anyone but himself."

"Sirius, be quiet!"

"Be quiet yourself, Remus!" Sirius retorted.

"Listen to you two, quarreling like an old married couple," Snape drawled. "Dumbledore was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin... a tame werewolf-"

"You fool," said Remus softly. "Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?"

Thin cords shot out from Snape's wand and wrapped themselves around Remus' mouth, wrists, and ankles, causing him to fall to the floor.

Sirius made a move to lunge at Snape, only to stop when the wand faced him. "Give me a reason," Snape whispered. "Give me a reason to do it, and I swear I will."

Sirius paused. "You- you've got to hear me out," he said, begging now. "There's a rat- it's Pettigrew."

But Snape wasn't about to listen. He brought the ends of the cords that bound Remus in his hand. "Come on," he said. "I'll drag the werewolf. Perhaps the Dementors will have a kiss for him too-"

But at that moment, two figures appeared at the doorway. "Professor, wait!" It was Harry that had spoken, and behind him was Luna.

"Harry!" Sirius rasped, taking in the sight of his godson for the first time in twelve years.

Chapter Text

"Harry," Snape said quietly, almost hesitant. Sirius had never heard him sound like this. "What are you doing here?"

"I couldn't sleep." Harry shrugged. "Luna came out to the common room and told me to come here." He looked down at Remus, eyes widening in alarm. "What's going on?"

"Lupin here-" Snape sent a scorching glare down at the bound werewolf- "has been helping Black all along. Get back to your dorm. I can deal with them."

"Are you sure, sir?" Luna asked. "Your head is not very clear."

"Professor," Harry said, "there's a misunderstanding. Sirius is innocent."

Sirius gaped at him. "You believe that?"

Harry nodded. "Peter Pettigrew was the Secret-Keeper, wasn't he?"

"Yes, we switched it at the last minute."

"How do you know that's true?" Snape demanded, feeling very out of place.

"It was in Mum's journal," Harry said.

Snape dropped his wand to his side. "Is there anything she hasn't said?"

"I'm sure there is," Harry said. "But that's not important right now."

Luna had knelt down by Remus and was running her hand over the ropes. "These look very tight, Professor. Do they hurt?"

Sirius reached down and untied Remus. As soon as Remus was mobile, Snape pointed his wand at him again. "Explain. Now."

So Remus did, and Snape listened silently.

"Why did you only escape recently?" Snape said to Sirius.

Sirius pulled out a picture from his pocket. "Look at this."

It was from the Daily Prophet, featuring the Weasley family in Egypt. Sirius pointed at Ron's shoulder, where a rat was perched. "Look at its foot."

"It's missing a toe," Luna remarked.

"So Scabbers is Peter!" Harry exclaimed.

"Unfortunately, yes," Sirius said grimly. "That's why I broke into the Gryffindor Tower that night." He snorted in amusement. "Imagine my surprise when I didn't see you in that dorm."

"Ron thought Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, ate him," Harry told him.

"No, well, I hope not. I've been speaking with him."

"You? Conversing with a cat? As a dog?" Harry asked.

"Crookshanks is a smart fellow. Willing to help."

Harry didn't disagree that Crookshanks was smart; in fact, that was probably why he and Hermione were such a good match. "Does the Summoning Charm work on animals?" he asked.

"Only small ones, I believe," Remus said. "You think we should try it?"

Harry shrugged. "Doesn't hurt."

Remus raised his wand. "Accio Peter Pettigrew!"

For a moment, there was silence. Then a small brown shape came hurtling into the shack. Sirius snarled. "Peter."

The rat squeaked and tried to run away, but Remus cast another spell, one that revealed his true form.

"Remus," Peter said. Even his voice was squeaky. "My old friend."

Harry snorted.

"And Harry Potter!" Peter turned to him. "You look just like your father, you know."

"So I've been told," Harry said. "But because of you, I can't make the comparison for myself."

"It wasn't me!" Peter seemed to curl into himself. "It was Black! He was the one who-"

"Silence!" Snape snapped. He pointed at him accusingly. "Thanks to you, Harry does not know his parents more than what he's been told."

"Sirius' got dark powers the rest of us can only dream of!" Pettigrew shouted shrilly. "How else did he get out of Azkaban? I suppose He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named taught him a few tricks!"

Sirius laughed bitterly. "Voldemort, teach me tricks?" he said.

Pettigrew and Snape flinched as though they had been struck.

"What, scared to hear your old master's name?" said Sirius. "I don't blame you, Peter. His lot aren't very happy with you, are they?"

"Don't know what you mean, Sirius-"

Harry scoffed. "Drop the act, Pettigrew. It's not very convincing."

He jumped back as Pettigrew grasped his shoulders with his shaky hands. "You must believe me, Harry. Oh! Those eyes. So much like your mother's."

"Get away from him!" Snape threw Pettigrew off of Harry and towered over him.

Sirius was staring at Pettigrew eagerly. "We should kill him now."

"You wouldn't... you won't..." gasped Pettigrew. He scrambled over to Luna. "Sweet girl... you- you won't let them... Help me..."

Luna backed away, eyeing him warily. Pettigrew turned back to Harry, who had pushed Luna behind him protectively.

"Harry... Harry... James wouldn't have wanted me killed... James would have understood, Harry... he would have shown me mercy..."

Harry stared down at him coldly. "Fine."

This took Sirius and Remus aback. "Harry, this piece of vermin is the reason you have no parents," Sirius said.

Snape shifted uncomfortably but didn't speak.

"I know," Harry said. "We'll take him up to the castle. We'll hand him over to the Dementors... He can go to Azkaban... but don't kill him."

"Harry!" gasped Pettigrew, and he flung his arms around Harry's knees. "You- thank you- it's more than I deserve- thank you-"

Harry took out his wand. "Stupefy," he said, knocking the man out. Four pairs of eyes stared at him. "What? He was getting on my nerves."

Luna patted his head. "It's okay, Harry. He was getting on Professor Snape's nerves, too."

"Where did you learn that spell?" Sirius asked, impressed.

"Professor Snape used it once," Harry said, giving the potions master an appreciative look. He looked down at Pettigrew. "Er- how do we move him?"

"Levicorpus!" Remus chanted. Pettigrew's inert body was lifted into the air.

Harry smacked his forehead. "The Levitating Charm. Of course. I forgot."

"You? A Ravenclaw?" Snape drawled. "Forgetting a spell?"

Harry grumbled under his breath.

It wasn't until they were all inside the tunnel when Sirius realized something. "Wait, you're a Ravenclaw?“

 

Chapter Text

Pettigrew's head kept bumping along the roof of the tunnel, but when Luna pointed this out, Remus just said, "Who cares?" Luna simply shrugged and continued walking alongside him.

"You know what this means?" Sirius said to Harry. "Turning Pettigrew in?"

"You're free," said Harry.

"Yes..." said Sirius. "But I'm also- I don't know if anyone ever told you-"

"You're my godfather," Harry finished for him.

"Yes, well... your parents appointed me your guardian," Sirius went on. "If anything happened to them..."

Harry stared at him, unable to stop the hope from rising.

"I'll understand, of course, if you want to stay with your aunt and uncle," said Sirius. "But... well..."

"He wants to know if you'd live with him," Snape said, growing impatient.

"What- live with you?" Harry said. "Leave the Dursleys?"

"Of course, I thought you wouldn't want to," said Sirius quickly. "I understand, I just thought I'd-"

"Are you insane?" said Harry. "Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can I move in?"

Sirius turned right around to look at him. "You want to?" he said. "You mean it?"

"Yeah, I mean it!" said Harry.

A wide smile broke across Sirius' face, making him look younger, more like the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding.

They finally emerged into the clearing and began heading for the castle.

Then Remus froze. Following his gaze, Harry saw with horrified realization that the moon was creeping out from behind a cloud.

"He didn't take his potion," Harry said.

"Run," Sirius whispered. "Snape, take Harry and Luna and get to the castle."

Harry leapt forward, but Sirius pushed him back. "Go!"

There was a terrible snarling noise. Lupin's head was lengthening. So was his body. His shoulders were hunching. Hair was sprouting visibly on his face and hands, which were curling into clawed paws. Luna pressed herself against Harry with a scared whimper as a now transformed Remus stalked toward them.

Sirius transformed into his Animagus form and leapt at Remus. They fought, claws ripping into each other, snarling and biting viciously. They disappeared from sight, but the sound still echoed.

Harry yelped as Snape grabbed his arm. "Don't just stand there. Move!"

But then they heard a whimper. "Sirius!" Harry wrenched free and raced toward the sound.

"Harry, get back here!" Snape shouted. He hesitated for a moment, looking between Pettigrew and Harry, who was rapidly getting smaller. Pettigrew was still unconscious; there wasn't anything he could do about him. "Miss Lovegood, stay here." No use in putting everyone in danger.

Luna nodded. "Be careful," she said as Snape took off after Harry.

He reached the lakeshore, where he saw hundreds of Dementors circling like vultures. Sirius was back to his human form and crouched on all four, head in hands. Harry was standing over him, shouting, "Expecto Patronum!"

To Snape's amazement, a large silvery shape spring from the end of his wand and charged at the Dementors, which flew away from the Patronus. Harry slumped back down, all his strength gone.

Snape made sure they had really gone before running to Harry's side. To his relief, he was okay, if not exhausted.

"What do you know?" Harry said. "My Patronus is a doe. Like yours and Mum's."

Snape felt a lump in his throat. "Indeed."

"Is Sirius okay?"

Snape looked at the other man, who was stirring. "He's alive."

"Good." Harry was fighting to keep his eyes open. "Pettigrew?"

"Miss Lovegood's with him." Snape conjured up two stretchers and put Harry and Sirius onto them before going back up to the castle.

 

 

 

When Harry regained consciousness, he was in the hospital wing. The first thing he heard before he opened his eyes was the sound of arguing.

"Sirius Black? Innocent the whole time?" That was Cornelius Fudge, sounding very dazed.

"Apparently so," Snape said, sounding irritated. "As he had just said- under Veritaserum- Peter Pettigrew is the real traitor."

Harry opened his eyes.

"Ah, you're awake!" Madam Pomfrey said. She was breaking apart the largest block of chocolate he had ever seen.

"Where's Sirius?"

"Don't worry. Professor Snape made sure the Minister did not call up the Dementors. Peter Pettigrew has been taken in."

"Oh, good." Harry went limp with relief. "Where's Luna?"

"In her dorm. She was relatively unharmed, just shaken."

"So Sirius is free?"

"He is."

 

 

 

Harry's relief was short-lived, unfortunately. He learned of Remus resigning and headed to his office as soon as possible.

"I saw you coming," he said as Harry came in. The Marauder's Map was lying on the desk.

"Hagrid said you'd resigned. It's not true, is it?"

"I'm afraid it is," Remus said.

"Why? You were trying to prove Sirius innocent."

"Yes, But Sirius and Peter revealed my... condition. It won't be long before the owls start arriving from parents... They will not want a werewolf teaching their children, Harry. And after last night, I see their point. I could have bitten any of you... That must never happen again."

"You're the best Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher we've ever had!" Harry exclaimed. "Don't go!"

Remus shook his head and didn't speak.

"Where will you go?" Harry asked, knowing he wouldn't be able to convince the man. "Sirius is free now, you could live with him." His mind was racing; he couldn't stop the words from spilling. "I'll be living with him now."

Remus threw the last few books into his case, closed the desk drawers, and turned to look at Harry. "You'd want me to live with you? Even after last night?"

"Yes!" Harry said. "Of course I do! I don't care about your lycanthropy, you know that!"

"What will others say when they hear you're living with an ex-criminal and a werewolf?"

"Screw what others think," Harry snapped vehemently. His anger vanished almost instantly and his shoulders sagged. "I just got you back in my life, Moony. Don't leave."

Remus still looked conflicted, but before he could say anything, Dumbledore came in. "Your carriage is at the gates, Remus."

"Thank you, Headmaster." He picked up his suitcase and the empty grindylow tank. "Well- good-bye, Harry. It has been a pleasure teaching you."

Harry nodded, feeling a lump in his throat, preventing him from speaking.

Chapter Text

Harry approached Ron Weasley as he was leaving for the train. "Hey, Ron. Sorry about your rat."

Ron waved it off. "It's fine. Actually, I'm glad you found out. Keeping a killer in my own dorm..." He brightened up. "Black sent me an owl," he told Harry. "To replace Scabbers- er, Pettigr- him."

Harry grinned. "That's great." He glanced over at Hermione. "Have you apologized?"

Ron followed his gaze. "Oh, no. I haven't. Not yet." He walked over to Hermione and said something to her. She smiled and nodded, clearly accepting his words and the two went to find a compartment.

Watching them, Harry felt a pang of envy. He could tell that they liked each other, even if they themselves were not aware of this fact, and couldn't help but yearn for that kind of relationship. A flash of red caught his eye and Harry looked up to see Fred and George coming his way.

"Looks like Sirius Black wasn't trying to kill you after all, hm?" George said.

Harry groaned. "Not you, too." He had been dodging students all morning, asking about Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. As the latter had predicted, owls had come in demanding that Remus get sacked, unaware of the fact that he had already resigned.

"Don't worry, Harrykins," Fred said. "We won't ask about that."

"But," George added, "we would like to ask you something."

"And that is...?"

"Is Sirius one of the Marauders?" they said in unison.

"Perhaps."

"Come on, Har, don't keep us in the dark." Fred pouted hopefully.

And Harry could not resist it for some reason. "Okay, yes. He is."

"Can we meet him?" they asked.

"Yeah, he'll be waiting at the platform," Harry said.

They boarded the train.

To Harry's utter delight, as he was getting off the train, Remus was with Sirius. "You're here! Both of you!"

Remus laughed. "Sirius convinced me to move in."

Fred and George were staring at Sirius, not even trying to hide their awe. "So you are-" George began.

"-another legendary Marauder?" Fred finished.

Sirius nodded and ended up staggering as the twins hugged him and fake cried.

"We are not worthy!" they said.

"Um, Harry," Sirius said as he patted them on the backs, "care to introduce these two gentlemen?"

"I'm George," Fred said.

"And I'm Fred," George added.

"They're messing with you," Harry said. "It's the other way around."

"Wait, what?" Sirius looked confused.

"I'm George, this is Fred," George said.

"Also known as Gred and Forge," Fred said, successfully confusing Sirius even further.

"Anyway!" Harry said, slightly louder than necessary. "Fred, George, as you know, this is Sirius Black also known as Padfoot and you've already met Moony."

"Oh, did Harry tell you?" A wicked gleam shone in Sirius' eyes. "Prongs was James Potter."

Harry barely had time to shoot a scorching glare at his godfather before the twins turned to him. "Why didn't you tell us?!" they exclaimed.

"I don't know!" Harry said. "I forgot?"

"You're lucky you're cute," Fred said, arms wrapped around him and chin resting on Harry's shoulder. "Otherwise, I might not forgive you for 'forgetting' to tell us."

"Boys!" Mrs. Weasley called. "Stop bothering Harry and come here!"

"Bothering Harry?" George grumbled as he reluctantly stepped away.

"As if!" Fred scoffed, not moving from his position. "He loves us, right, Harry?" He turned his head, face mere inches from Harry's.

Sirius watched with interest as Harry became a flustered mess and stuttered out a chain of incoherent words. Are they going to kiss...? he wondered hopefully. He was somewhat tempted- okay, really tempted- to "accidentally" nudge Harry forward. Remus grabbed his arm to prevent him from doing so.

To Sirius' disappointment, Fred finally detached himself and went to join the rest of his family.

"Come on, you two," Sirius said to Harry and Remus. "Let's go."

"So how did my aunt and uncle react to you?" Harry asked, trying not to think about just how tempting it had been to lean in just a little bit closer to Fred and thinking of nothing else.

A grim expression crossed Sirius' face. "Let's just say that your relatives were very quick to hand you over."

Harry wouldn't have expected anything else.

 

 

 

Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place was situated between Muggle houses. Harry followed Sirius and Remus inside, staring around at the dusty place.

"Not my favorite place, but I grew up here," Sirius said.

"Well, once it's cleaned up, I'm sure it'll look okay," Harry said optimistically.

"Kreacher!"

There was a pop, and an elderly house-elf appeared. He glared up at the occupants in the room. "Master has returned with werewolf. What would my poor mistress say?" He turned to Harry. "There's new boy, Kreacher doesn't know his name. What is he doing here? Kreacher doesn't know..."

"This is Harry Potter," Sirius said. "He'll be living here now."

"Is it true? Is it Harry Potter? Kreacher can see the scar, it must be true, that's the boy who stopped the Dark Lord, Kreacher wonders how he did it-"

"That's enough, Kreacher," Sirius snapped impatiently. "Now what have you been doing while I was... out?"

"Cleaning," Kreacher said evasively.

"Yet this place looks blacker than ever."

"Master always like his little joke," Kreacher muttered. "Master was a nasty ungrateful swine who broke his mother's heart-"

"My mother didn't have a heart, Kreacher," snapped Sirius. "She kept herself alive out of pure spite."

"Sirius," Remus said in a warning tone.

"Right, right. Kreacher, you are going to help get this place clean. And I mean actually clean, not whatever the hell this shit is."

"Sirius!" Remus hissed as Kreacher popped away, gesturing to Harry. "Language!"

"Oh, please. Remember when you babysat Harry?"

"That was one time!"

"What happened?" Harry asked.

"Moony here lost the pacifier and got really irritated."

"I may have broken the record for most curse words in a minute," Remus admitted.

Harry laughed. "I wish I remembered that."

"No, that's probably not a good idea. Anyway, we better show you your room."

"My room? I get my own room?" Harry blurted out.

Sirius winced a little. Remus had filled him in on what little he had gleaned of Harry's life at the Dursleys. A cupboard. They put his godson in a damn cupboard! "Of course you do, pup."

"And... what about meals? I can cook-"

"No, Harry." Sirius leaned in close so he could look directly into Harry's eyes. "Forget about the Dursleys. They did a sh- bad job with you," he quickly amended at the warning cough from Remus.

"You were going to say shit, weren't you?"

"Harry!" Remus groaned. "Great job, Padfoot. You've already started courrupting him."

"Hey!"

 

 

 

For the first week, Harry had to be careful of moving around Grimmauld Place. The lack of care meant that the entire building was filthy and creatures could have gotten in. He also met Sirius' mother's portrait and did his best to avoid her at all costs. She was... loud, to put it lightly.

He was walking past the stuffed elf-heads- he shuddered every time he saw them- only to stop when he heard a noise. Harry looked into the drawing room and gasped.

Remus Lupin's dead body was lying in a patch of moonlight. But Harry had just seen Remus...

Sirius raised his wand. "Riddikulus!" he chanted in a slightly shaky voice.

Remus' body turned into Harry's. "Riddikulus!" Sirius shouted again.

Dead Lily. Dead James.

Sirius' eyes squeezed shut upon seeing his best friend. "No, no, no," he moaned.

Remus raced inside, took one look, and pulled out his wand and said, "Riddikulus!"

It turned into an orb, then vanished in a puff of smoke with another wave of his wand.

"Padfoot," Remus said gently. "Look at me."

Sirius looked up. "I'm such an idiot," he said. "I just took off that night. I gave up my godson to go after Wormtail." He spat out the name like it was poison.

Harry watched as Sirius broke down in front of him, feeling helpless as Remus brought him into his arms.

Chapter Text

As expected, Harry spent a lot of time in the Black library. More than once, Sirius would have to drag him out so he could eat. When Sirius had first done this, he had been shocked to feel just how skinny and light Harry was. This only made him more determined to get him into the kitchen.

It was Remus who noticed something else that was off. As a bookworm himself, the werewolf was often in the library with Harry. Remus would occasionally glance up to look at the smaller boy and caught him reaching up and rubbing his eyes. Once, Harry even put down his book and stopped reading for a good five minutes.

"Harry?" he decided to speak up.

"Hm?" Harry mumbled, pushing his glasses back up.

"How long have you had those glasses?"

"Mmm... for as long as I can remember," Harry said. "One of my teachers saw that I was struggling with reading things on the board and suggested to my aunt and uncle to get my eyesight checked."

"And did they?"

"Sort of. Aunt Petunia found a pair and gave them to me. But they weren't prescribed and I hadn't changed them since."

Remus frowned. "It's recommended everyone gets a checkout at least once a year," he told Harry. "Tomorrow, we'll go to Diagon Alley and see what can be done."

"Really?" Harry perked up.

"Course. Let me go tell Sirius."

 

 

 

"This is so weird," Harry whispered as he looked around. "It's like a whole new world!"

It turned out that there was a place that could fix Harry's eyesight permanently. The fee was a fairly large one, but the Black family was very wealthy, so it barely made a dent.

"Your eyes don't hurt anymore?" Sirius asked.

"Nope!"

"And you don't have to worry about your glasses falling off during battle," Remus added optimistically.

 

 

 

"So, Harry," Sirius said, sidling up to his godson as they walked back into Grimmauld Place, "I couldn't help but notice that you are growing up."

"Wow, really? I never realized," Harry deadpanned.

"Funny," Sirius grumbled. "You know, it isn't uncommon for kids your age to start... experimenting."

"Experimenting? With what?"

"Oh, you know, other kids."

The baffled look on Harry's face made Remus wonder if he actually ever had thoughts of doing so. "Padfoot, I think you're confusing him."

"Then I think it's time, don't you think?" Sirius said.

"Oh, no. You are not having the... the talk right now!"

"Of course not now! Tonight!" Sirius skipped away, happy with his plans.

"Moony, what did you mean by the talk?"

"The sex talk," Remus said bluntly.

"Oh." Harry's face paled. "That's- wow. Okay."

"Don't worry about it. Go find something to do."

"I'm already worried."

 

 

 

Later, Sirius dragged Harry and Remus into his room for the dreaded talk.

It became apparent almost immediately that Harry didn't even know the basics. "Mastur-what?"

"Masturbating. It's a form of relief."

"But I've never needed... relief before."

"Hm, that's interesting. Most boys do around this time. But there's nothing wrong if you don't!" he added quickly at Harry's worried face. "Every person's different."

"Most teenagers get crushes here and there," Remus added.

"Anyone in mind?" Sirius asked eagerly.

An image of flaming red hair flashed in Harry's mind, but he shook his head. "No."

Sirius grinned at the faint blush that had coated his godson's cheeks. "Really?"

"Sirius," Remus chided.

"Come on, Moony! Haven't you been paying attention?"

"Yes, but you need to be more serious." Remus realized what he said too late. "Don't you dare-"

"But, Moony, I'm always Sirius."

Remus groaned and thumped his head against the wall.

"This is so embarrassing," Harry groaned.

"Alright, alright," Sirius relented, "I won't ask you who you like, but-" he jabbed a finger at Harry sternly- "if you're gonna invite someone over, it better tell us first. Okay?"

"Got it."

"Good."

Chapter Text

"It's the full moon tonight," Harry remarked, staring out at the sky.

"Mhm." Sirius looked exhausted. With the full moon came a very cranky Remus. Sirius used to tease him about his tendency to act like a person on their period.

"It's that time of the month, isn't it?" he had said once during seventh year.

"Sirius," Remus had replied in a deadly calm voice, "I am this close to strangling you."

Sirius leaned over, smirking. "That sounds kinky," he said, warm breath hitting Remus' neck.

"You dirty-minded shit."

"Sirius- hey, Siri! Wake up!"

Sirius jumped as Harry swatted his face. "Ow."

"Sorry, but you were daydreaming again."

"Who's daydreaming?" Remus came in in time to hear Harry's last words. He looked even more worn down than ever, his face pale and drawn.

"Just remembering seventh year," Sirius said, grinning. "Your time of the month."

"One of these days," Remus said, "I will strangle you. And not in a kinky way."

Harry blinked. "Ew."

Sirius covered his godson's ears. "Shh, Moony. You'll scar the kid."

"I'm already scarred," Harry pointed out.

Remus rolled his eyes. "Where's the damn chocolate around here?"

"Remy!" Sirius, who had begun to remove his hands from Harry's ears, slapped them back over. "What happened to no swearing in front of Harry?"

Remus leaned forward, looked Sirius straight in the eye, and said in a loud, clear voice, "Fuck you."

Harry giggled at Sirius' appalled face. "That's it! You're in timeout!"

"You can't do that. I'm an adult!" Remus whined.

"So am I, Moony. Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done!"

Remus protested, but when Sirius didn't relent, he grumbled and stomped away, slouching in the corner.

"And you say you two are responsible adults?" Harry teased.

"Shush, you." Sirius shoved Harry. "I am extremely responsible."

There was a loud unconvinced snort from the other man.

"I don't think Moony agrees," Harry said in a stage whisper.

Sirius waved his hand dismissively. "He can think what he wants. Now, where is the fucking chocolate?"

Harry burst out laughing as Remus spun around, spluttering with indignation.

 

 

 

"Ready, Moony?"

"Ready as I'll ever be," was the tense reply.

The moon slowly made its way from behind a cloud. Sirius watched as Remus transformed in front of him for time in twelve years into his other form before changing into Padfoot.

Padfoot stepped up to the werewolf cautiously and nudged his side. Moony faced him, scrutinizing him with his dark golden eyes. Then he licked Padfoot's face happily.

 

 

 

Harry watched as the large black dog and the werewolf chased each other around, an occasional happy yelp slipping out. He smiled. How long had it been since Remus had changed with someone besides him? It must've been very lonely, he realized with a pang.

But seeing Remus now, carefree and alive again, filled him with happiness. In school, before Harry had approached him, Remus had been fairly distant with the rest of the school. He did obviously enjoy teaching, and did it well, but he was still alone. Then Harry had revealed what he had known and a tentative bond started, eventually growing into true friendship.

The past few weeks had shown just how childlike Remus could be at times, especially with Sirius. Pouting, sitting in the corner, whining. Yes, he was still a kid at heart, even if he had matured otherwise.

And as for Sirius, Harry had quickly picked up on his tendency to over exaggerate everything. For example, that time Sirius had asked if dinner was ready.

"Can't you wait?" Remus had said.

"I did my waiting!" Sirius had bellowed.

"Not again," Harry groaned, forehead thumping against the table.

"Twelve years of it!"

"Sirius-"

Thump.

"In Azkaban!"

Thump. Thump.

Both Remus and Harry had to be very careful about saying the word wait after that.

Snape was still providing Remus with his Wolfsbane potion. It was clear that he would rather not, but seeing as Harry was there and Snape was very protective of him (not that he'd admit it), there was no way he was going to let an untamed werewolf roam around free.

When he had first come over, Sirius had run to greet him and Harry and Remus came out to see Padfoot lying on top of Snape, front paws planted on his chest, and licking him happily.

"Get. Him. Off," Snape had deadpanned.

Both Harry and Remus had done their best not to laugh at his predicament.

Sirius finally removed himself from the potions master, and Snape sent a Stinging Hex at Sirius' butt on his way out.

"Ow! Harry, Snape just hexed me!" Sirius whined.

"Did he? I didn't notice," Harry said, book in hands.

"Remus?"

"Yes?" Remus looked up from where he was sitting across from Harry, drinking tea. Clearly, he wasn't going to help, either.

With that, Snape left, a victorious smirk on his face.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter woke up in a cold sweat, hands pressed against his forehead. Fumbling for his glasses- he was still adjusting to not needing them any longer- he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed and exited his room.

His room. Not the cupboard. Not Dudley's second bedroom. His room. Despite the dream, Harry couldn't stop the smile from spreading across this lips. It had been a wonderful summer, much better than being back at Privet Drive. There, Harry had been forced to do all the chores and was only able to eat scraps and leftovers. Neither Sirius Black nor Remus Lupin, who Harry often called Padfoot and Moony respectively, had liked hearing that. They treated him more like the way the wizarding world had presumed the Dursleys had been, more pampered and spoiled. But even then, there were limits. But that was a small price to pay, and Harry thought they were fair, so he never complained. Not that he would; no matter how much Harry wanted to forget, the Dursleys had ingrained it in him that complaining would earn a punishment. For Harry, that meant being thrown into his cupboard, and later the second bedroom, and not eating for at least a day. At Grimmauld Place, though, Harry was starting to fill out, looking less scrawny with the healthier and more filling meals.

Harry knocked on Sirius' door. "Padfoot? You awake?"

"No, but I am," came Remus' voice. "Come in."

When Harry poked his head into Sirius' and Remus' room, Remus was sitting up with Sirius snuggled up into his side, hair covering his face and drool dripping out of the corner of his mouth. "Something wrong, cub?"

"I had a weird dream," Harry began. "Actually, I don't think it was a dream. It seemed more like a- a vision."

"A vision?" Remus said. He gently shook Sirius' shoulder until the man snorted awake.

"Morning already?" he mumbled. Then he saw Harry. "What happened?"

"I think I had a vision."

"Oh." Sirius patted the spot between him and Remus and Harry gratefully clambered onto the bed. "Do you remember what it was about?"

"It was Voldemort," Harry said. "And- and Pettigrew."

Both Remus and Sirius tensed up. Pettigrew had been sentenced to Azkaban after being testified under Veritaserum, only to escape weeks later. To hear that he was with Voldemort again filled them with dread.

"Voldemort wasn't in his own body. I don't know, I didn't get a good look. But he mentioned not doing anything until after the Quidditch World Cup. And then Pettigrew said, 'It could be done without Harry Potter.'"

"What is that bastard planning on?" Sirius growled.

Remus had given up reprimanding his lover on his language, especially after Harry had come into the kitchen to see Remus on the floor, swearing up a storm after stubbing his toe. Sirius had mimicked Remus for the next hour. "Remus! Stop swearing in front of Harry! The next thing you know, he'll be using that language, too!" Only the threat of no cuddles had shut him up. Sirius needed his cuddles, dammit!

"So this year will be another one of those years, huh?" Harry said.

"I'm afraid so, cub."

Harry yawned.

"Want to sleep with us for a bit?" Sirius suggested.

"Aren't I a bit old for that?" Harry wondered, although the thought wasn't unwelcoming. He had never dared gone to Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia when he had a bad dream.

"Nah, age is just a number," Sirius said, scooting over.

"That explains you," Harry teased as he settled down between them.

Sirius spluttered in protest while Remus laughed. "Moony! He's being mean to me!"

"I can see what you mean, Harry. He's definitely still a kid."

"I see how it is." Sirius narrowed his eyes. "You're both teaming up on me. Well, fine." He turned on his side, back facing them.

"Padfoot," Harry whined, shaking his shoulder. "I'm sorry. Forgive me?"

"Ugh, fine. You're too irresistible," came the grumbled reply.

"Yay!"

Remus smiled at the two fondly. It had been so long since either of them, and him as well, have had time to act so carefree. Harry was naturally more solemn and was definitely much more mature than many of the other students, even those older than him- the Weasley twins were a prime example of that!- so seeing him acting his age was refreshing.

Harry fell back asleep almost immediately, a small smile on his lips.

Sirius ran a hand through Harry's hair. "Can you believe it, Moony?"

"What do you mean?"

"Just all this." Sirius gestured to them. "Us. I didn't think we'd ever be reunited."

"Neither did I, Pads. Neither did I."

 

 

 

They received their tickets to the Quidditch World Cup the next morning. Although Harry was not a Quidditch fan, he was interested in seeing professional players.

"The Weasleys will be there," Remus said.

Harry's eyes noticeably brightened at that, and he punched Sirius' arm when the older man whistled.

Throughout the summer, Fred and George had exchanged letters with Harry as usual. Sirius had sent one of his own to Fred, asking if he had a crush on a certain messy-haired, green-eyed boy. Fred had not answered, but George replied that he had gone very red and threw the letter away.

Chapter Text

"Is there any method of transportation that does not involve having me land on my face?" Harry groaned, voice muffled from being faceplanted on the ground.

He had been holding onto Sirius when they Apparated, only for Harry to slip upon landing.

"You could learn to ride a broom," Sirius said.

"Ugh," was the intelligent reply.

Sirius' antics had been rubbing off on Harry, and Remus didn't know whether he should feel amused or exasperated.

"Apparation sucks!"

Or both.

"And you suck!"

Definitely both.

 

 

 

They met the Weasleys while exploring the surrounding tents.

Charlie and Bill had joined their family as well. Having met Percy, Harry had thought that Bill would've been rule-abiding and serious, but he seemed pretty laidback.

"How're you doing, Harry?" Charlie said.

"Great. I-"

"Harrykins!" George threw himself at his friend. "It's been ages!" he cried dramatically.

"I sent you a letter yesterday morning, George."

"Too long!"

Fred was trying not to drool as Harry turned to him. His eyes stood out even more now without his glasses obscuring his face. "You look great."

Harry beamed at him.

Sirius cleared his throat, drawing Fred's gaze away from Harry's. With an audible gulp, Fred followed him and Remus. "So, Fred," Sirius began in a light tone, "George told me you threw the letter I sent away."

"I did? Must've not been paying attention."

"Uh huh. Really? So you wouldn't mind if I asked you in person, then?"

Fred blinked several times. "Asked me what?"

"What do you think of my godson?"

"He's- well- er-" Fred stumbled over his words. He looked back over at Harry, who was conversing with Charlie, probably about dragons if Fred knew his brother. Harry was listening very intently, biting his bottom lip, a habit Fred noticed he had whenever he was studying. His eyes were wide with curiosity and wonder as Charlie spoke to him, and at one point he started bouncing up and down excitedly.

A quiet cough made Fred whip back around. "Adorable!" he blurted out. "He's... adorable."

Sirius nodded, face not showing any of his amusement. "I see. So, tell me. What are your intentions with Harry?"

Fred looked back at Harry again to see that he was speaking with Bill now. "I've wanted to- er- ask him out for Hogsmeade last year. But he wasn't able to go." Here, he gave Sirius a pointed look.

"Whoops," Sirius said sheepishly. "But now that I am free and have taken my rightful place as Harry's responsible godfather-" Remus snorted- "he is allowed to go."

Fred perked up. "You approve?"

"Of course. But as a responsible parent-" Remus snorted again- "I must say this." Sirius cleared his throat and became more... well, serious. "If you hurt my godson, I will not hesitate to take action even if I end up back in Azkaban for it."

"I would never!" Fred exclaimed indignantly.

Satisfied, Sirius grinned. "Glad we had this talk." He patted Fred's head like he was a small child and went back to the others.

Fred groaned. "Please don't tell me you're going to threaten me, too," he begged Remus.

"Sirius'll expect me to, but I'll keep it short. Don't make us regret giving you our blessing. Okay?"

Fred could practically hear Remus' inner wolf growling at him. "I won't."

"Good." Remus smiled. "And don't try to corrupt him too much. We already have Sirius for that."

 

 

 

"So what did you want with Fred?" Harry asked Sirius as he and Remus rejoined him and led him away.

"Nothing important," Sirius said. "Don't worry."

"Okay..." Harry trailed off uncertainly.

"Harry!" A pale blur came rushing at him. It was Draco. He leapt into Harry's arms enthusiastically. "How are you? Are Lupin and Black taking care of you? They must be; you look much better. How annoying is Black? Mum said that he's always been a bit-"

"Draco." Lucius Malfoy stepped up, giving his son a disapproving glance. While he was glad that Harry was clearly a great friend of Draco's, Lucius did not like how he seemed to lose all decorum when it came to the young Ravenclaw.

"Sorry, Father." Draco untangled himself from Harry.

"Hello, Mr. Malfoy," Harry said.

"Mr. Potter." Lucius inclined his head. "This is Narcissa, my wife."

"What have you been saying about me, cousin?" Sirius broke in.

Narcissa just smiled. "The truth."

Draco was very noticeably jittery with excitement. "The Minister invited us," he told Harry. "Top Box. Great view. Are you joining us?"

"Yeah," Harry said.

"Great! Hey, where are your glasses? Never mind, you can tell me later."

He grabbed Harry's hand and dragged him off to look at the souvenirs, leaving the adults watching with varying degrees of amusement and exasperation on their faces.

"I swear Draco is acting like Sirius in a sugar rush," Remus commented.

"Hey!"

"You should've seen his letter when Potter finally accepted his friendship," Narcissa said.

"Don't remind me," Lucius groaned. He was honestly surprised Draco hadn't sent a Howler, his words were full of enthusiasm.

 

 

 

Lucius led his family and Harry's to the Top Box, where Cornelius Fudge greeted them. "Ah, Fudge. How are you? I don't think you've met my wife, Narcissa? Or our son, Draco?"

"How do you do, how do you do?" said Fudge, smiling and bowing to Narcissa. "And allow me to introduce you to Mr. Oblansk- Obalonsk- Mr.- well, he's the Bulgarian Minister of Magic, and he can't understand a word I'm saying anyway, so never mind." He saw Sirius and stiffened slightly.

"Ah, Mr. Black," he said nervously. "I do hope you're enjoying your freedom."

"Very much so. It's too bad I wasted twelve years of it, isn't it?" He caught Remus' expression and went on more civilly. "And how are you doing?"

"Splendid, splendid." Fudge looked at Harry eagerly. "Mr. Potter, I see you've finally gotten an interest in Quidditch." It was a well-known fact that Harry would rather read a book than watch any sport.

"Not really, but this kind of event only comes around once in a lifetime."

"I'm sure you'll change your mind once the game starts."

Fudge was wrong. Harry didn't change his mind about Quidditch. But he did gain more appreciation for it. And seeing Draco cheering along with everyone else was just as entertaining.

And, of course, watching him trying not to drool over the Veela was a bonus.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Harry was woken up by a very panicked Remus. "What's going on?"

"No time to explain. Grab your jacket and let's go!"

Harry obeyed and followed him outside, where Sirius was waiting. People were racing by, away from something that was moving toward them. He couldn't see what or who it was, but he could hear jeering and laughter that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Then a bright green light illuminated the scene.

A group of hooded wizards were slowly marching across the field. Above them were four figures struggling in vain to get free.

"Come on!" Sirius grabbed his hand and began dragging him away from the strange wizards.

Wizards and witches jostled the group, and Harry stumbled several times. At one point, he was knocked over, losing Sirius and Remus.

"Harry!" They struggled against the tide but were pushed back.

"Get out of the way!" Remus shouted.

A leg smacked against Harry's head, and he blacked out.

 

 

 

When he opened his eyes, the wizards were gone. Actually, everyone was gone. The fires Harry had seen were out, leaving a deserted gray landscape with torn up tents and the tang of smoke filling the air.

Then he saw a lone figure standing several yards away. He watched as it pulled out a wand and pointed to the sky. "MORSMORDRE!"

A skull appeared in the sky, a serpent protruding out of its mouth. Harry looked back to the man, but he had gone.

He shakily stood up, staring at the skull in horror. There was only one person he could associate it with: Voldemort. Was that group of wizards those Death Eaters Sirius had mentioned? If so, was Voldemort back? He recalled his dream/vision and shuddered. The Death Eaters couldn't have been acting on his orders, not unless Voldemort had changed his mind about not taking action until after the Quidditch World Cup.

"STUPEFY!"

Harry ducked as a red light came hurdling toward him.

"Stop!" yelled a voice. "STOP! That's my godson!"

Sirius rushed over and pulled Harry to his feet.

"Harry! Are you okay? Merlin, we were so worried about you!" he exclaimed, hugging him tightly.

"Out of the way, Mr. Black," Mr. Crouch said coldly. "How did you do it?" he demanded Harry.

"I didn't do it," Harry said, taken aback by Mr. Crouch's implications.

"Do not lie, sir! You have been discovered at the scene of the crime!"

"Barty," whispered a witch in a long woolen dressing gown, "he's a kid, Barty, he'd never have been able to-"

"Where did the Mark come from?" Remus demanded.

"Over there," said Harry shakily, pointing at the place where they had heard the voice. "There was someone there... they shouted an incantation-"

"Oh, stood over there, did they?" said Mr. Crouch, disbelief etched all over his face. "Said an incantation, did they? You seem very well informed about how that Mark is summoned-"

"Do you really think that Harry Potter would summon the Mark?" Sirius said, voice cold.

Mr. Crouch finally seemed to realize who he was talking to. "Er... no, I- sorry."

"May we leave now? Harry needs to rest."

"Of course, of course." Crouch led the other wizards and witches in the direction Harry had indicated.

"Come on, pup. We need to get home."

 

 

 

For once, Harry was not looking forward to Hogwarts. Between his dream and the Death Eaters and the lone man that shot the Dark Mark into the sky, he was quite nervous.

"Worry about that later," said a very tired Sirius. "For now-" he yawned- "focus on getting on the train."

Harry took his usual seat in the back, and not a moment later, Fred and George came in. "Hey, Harry."

Harry smiled. "Hi, guys."

"Morning, Harrykins," Fred said.

"It's gonna take some time getting used to you not wearing glasses," George said, staring at Harry's face. "I can just see the Daily Prophet. 'Harry Potter: the Boy-Who-Threw-Away-His-Glasses.'"

"Oh, Merlin, no!" Harry exclaimed. "The last thing I need is another ridiculously long, hyphenated moniker for myself."

The twins laughed.

Their next guest was Luna. "Hello, Harry," she said, smiling at him with that familiar vacant expression. "Have the Nargles stolen your glasses?"

"No, I actually don't need them anymore," Harry said.

"That's good to hear. Now we can see your eyes much better. Isn't that right, Fred?"

Fred cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah. Very pretty." His face went red as he realized what he had just said.

Harry grinned. "For the record, your eyes are pretty, too."

George learned in. "What about mine?"

Harry looked at him and pretended to examine his eyes. "They look like Fred's- shocking, isn't it?"

"Really?" Both Weasleys exchanged surprised looks. "I never would have guessed."

"But I still more handsome," George said.

"In your dreams!" Fred retorted.

Luna giggled and began reading her magazine upside-down.

Chapter Text

Upon entrance, Harry was nearly hit with a water balloon. He jumped sideways, careening into Fred. "Sorry!"

"What's with you and falling for me these days?" Fred joked as he righted Harry back up. He laughed when Harry slapped his arm.

"Peeves!" Professor McGonagall shouted. "Stop this at once!"

Peeves just cackled and threw another water bomb.

"Move along!" McGonagall said. "Into the Great Hall."

Harry took a seat at the Ravenclaw table and looked up at the staff table. He spotted Professor Snape, who caught his eye and seemed to do a double take. Harry grinned at the surprise the potions professor had not managed to completely hide, then slid his gaze to the other seats. Professors Flitwick, Harry's own Head of House, and Sprout, who was speaking to Professor Sinistra of the Astronomy department. Two seats were empty; Professor McGonagall was most likely drying off the second years. He guessed that the other one was for the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.

 

A pant shot through him. It would've been nice to have Remus come back, but he had to admit that perhaps it was for the best. Some people were still voicing their concerns over Harry's living arrangement.

The Sorting passed and Headmaster Albus Dumbledore stood to give his announcements. The usual was said- Filch's list of forbidden objects, the forest was out of bounds- but then he informed everyone that Quidditch would not be taking place. Cries of outrage answered back. "This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy- but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts-"

At that moment, the doors of the Great Hall burst open and a man came in, limping heavily. Lightning illuminated his face, which was horribly scarred, and an electric-blue eye that was clearly fake, rolling around at the students and even into the man's head.

He came to a stop in front of Dumbledore. A quick hushed exchange happened, then Dumbledore said, "May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? Professor Moody."

Only he and Hagrid clapped, but they quickly stopped as no one else joined in.

"As I was saying," Dumbledore went on, seemingly unaffected by the unusual response, "we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year."

"You're JOKING!" said Fred loudly.

The tension that had filled the Hall ever since Moody's arrival suddenly broke. Nearly everyone laughed, and Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively.

"I am not joking, Mr. Weasley," he said, "though now that you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag, and a leprechaun who all go into a bar."

McGonagall cleared her throat.

"Er- but maybe this is not the time... no... " said Dumbledore, "where was I? Ah yes, the Triwizard Tournament... well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those who do know will forgive me for giving a short explanation, and allow their attention to wander freely.

"The Triwizard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school, and the three champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took it in turns to host the tournament once every five years, and it was generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities- until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued."

Death toll? Harry felt queasy at those words and could not understand why anyone would want to compete. Looking around, he caught Hermione's eye and raised a skeptical eyebrow as he flicked his gaze to the enthusiastic students surrounding him. Hermione shrugged, clearly sharing his uneasiness.

"Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts," Dumbledore said, bringing Harry back to focus, "the heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year. Only students who are of age- that is to say, seventeen years or older- will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration." With that, Dumbledore dismissed the students to bed.

"A thousand Galleons..." Ron was saying dreamily from the Gryffindor table. "That would be amazing."

Harry shook his head. A thousand Galleons sounded great and all, but at the risk of death? Not worth it in his book.

He looked up as Professor Snape passed, cloak billowing behind him.

"How do you manage to look so damn graceful?" Harry grumbled.

"Language, Mr. Potter. How was your summer?"

Harry grinned enthusiastically, eyes lighting up in that way so much like Lily. "It was great! Sirius is a bit of a drama queen at times, but-"

"At times?" Snape echoed with an undignified snort that was quite unlike himself. "Black has always been a drama queen. Especially with your father." He managed to keep his contempt of James out of his voice for once.

"And Remus isn't a whole lot better in that regard. In school, did he curse a lot?"

"Not that I know of. Why?"

"Because a few days before the full moon, he was wondering where the chocolate was and he swore. Sirius put him in timeout."

Snape pinched the top of his nose. "I cannot believe you are living with two overgrown children."

Harry shrugged. "Me, neither. Goodbye, sir."

Chapter Text

Time to add Blast-Ended Skrewts to Harry's ever-extending list of things he did not like in the magical world. He shuddered a little at the memory of the lobster-like creatures with no heads and the tendency to explode without warning. But Thursday was coming up, which meant DADA with the Gryffindors. The twins had been full of enthusiasm about Moody's teachings, so obviously this wouldn't be another Lockhart. Man, that guy was an idiot.

"You can put those away," Moody said as he came into the classroom, "those books. You won't need them."

He delved straight into curses, specifically those most heavily punished by the law.

"Er," said Ron tentatively, "my dad told me about one... Is it called the Imperius Curse, or something?"

"Ah, yes," said Moody appreciatively. "Your father would know that one. Gave the Ministry a lot of trouble at one time, the Imperius Curse."

He took out a glass jar with spiders in it- Ron flinched away- and took one out. "Imperio!"

The spider began doing ridiculous stunts like back flips and tap dancing. The class started to laugh until Moody said, "Think it's funny, do you? You'd like it, would you, if I did it to you?"

"Total control," said Moody quietly as the spider balled itself up and began to roll over and over. "I could make it jump out of the window, drown itself, throw itself down one of your throats..."

Ron gave an involuntary shudder.

"Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse. Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act, and who was acting of their own free will.

"The Imperius Curse can be fought, and I'll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character, and not everyone's got it. Better avoid being hit with it if you can. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" he barked, and everyone jumped.

"Anyone else know one? Another illegal curse?"

Surprisingly, Neville Longbottom raised his hand.

"Yes?" said Moody, his magical eye rolling right over to fix on Neville.

"There's one- the Cruciatus Curse," said Neville in a small but distinct voice.

Harry could understand his fear; Sirius had shown him a picture of him with several others, including Neville's parents, who had been tortured into insanity.

"Your name's Longbottom?" he said, his magical eye swooping down to check the register again.

Neville nodded, looking apprehensive.

"The Cruciatus Curse," said Moody. "Needs to be a bit bigger for you to get the idea," he said, pointing his wand at the spider. "Engorgio!"

The spider swelled. It was now larger than a tarantula. Abandoning all pretense, Ron pushed his chair backward, as far away from Moody's desk as possible.

Moody raised his wand again, pointed it at the spider, and muttered, "Crucio!"

Harry watched with morbid fascination as the spider began to jerk in horrible spasms. Merlin, this was a spell that he would not wish on anyone, not even his greatest enemy. He turned his gaze to Neville, whose eyes were wide with horror.

"Stop it!" Hermione shrieked, having seen Neville's expression as well.

Moody raised his wand, leaving the spider to fall still, though it still twitched.

"Pain," said Moody softly. "You don't need thumbscrews or knives to torture someone if you can perform the Cruciatus Curse... That one was very popular once too.

"Right... anyone know any others?"

Harry felt a sense of dread as he recalled the third Unforgivable. Hermione's hand shook slightly as she raised it into the air.

"Yes?" said Moody, looking at her.

"Avada Kedavra," Hermione whispered.

"Ah," said Moody, another slight smile twisting his lopsided mouth. "Yes, the last and worst. Avada Kedavra... the Killing Curse. "

He put his hand into the glass jar, and almost as though it knew what was coming, the third spider scuttled frantically around the bottom of the jar, trying to evade Moody's fingers, but he trapped it, and placed it upon the desktop. It started to scuttle frantically across the wooden surface.

Moody raised his wand, and Harry felt a sudden thrill of foreboding.

"Avada Kedavra!" Moody roared.

Harry stiffened as the bright green light came out and struck the spider, causing it to go ominously still.

"Not nice," Moody said calmly. "Not pleasant. And there's no countercurse. There's no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he's sitting right in front of me."

All eyes turned to Harry, who looked almost as shaky as Neville did.

The rest of the class went by in silence as they took notes over the Unforgivable Curses. But when they left, they were full of excitement.

"Did you see it twitch?"

"- and when he killed it- just like that!"

Harry saw Neville standing alone and went to join him. "Hey."

"Some lesson, huh?" Neville said in a voice much higher than usual.

Harry nodded. He didn't want to bring up Neville's parents, so he stood there awkwardly.

The sound of clunking made them turn to see Professor Moody. "It's all right, sonny," he said to Neville in a less gruff voice. "Why don't you come up to my office? Come on... we can have a cup of tea..."

Neville looked pleadingly at Harry, who shrugged helplessly, and followed the professor.

 

 

 

Two weeks later, Moody actually cast the Imperius Curse on them.

Hermione started to protest, but even she was interested, and she would never actually leave a class, with the exception of Divination.

Dean Thomas hopped three times around the room, singing the national anthem. Lisa Turpin imitated a squirrel. Neville performed a series of quite astonishing gymnastics he would certainly not have been capable of in his normal state. Not one of them seemed to be able to fight off the curse, and each of them recovered only when Moody had removed it.

"Potter," Moody growled, "you next."

Harry stepped in the center of the room.

"Imperio!"

Peace flooded Harry's mind. He relaxed, then heard a voice telling him to jump. Harry bent his knees, then paused. Why should he?

Jump onto the desk...

Seriously? I could hurt myself!

Jump, NOW!

No!

Harry wrenched himself out of his stupor and backed away, the calm that had invaded his mind gone.

"Now, that's more like it!" growled Moody's voice. "Look at that, you lot... Potter fought! He fought it, and he beat it! We'll try that again, Potter, and the rest of you, pay attention- watch his eyes, that's where you see it- very good, Potter, very good indeed! They'll have trouble controlling you!"

Harry was forced under the Imperius again to show how he did it. Well, if anything went wrong this year, at least Harry knew he could throw off one Unforgivable.

Chapter Text

The arrival of the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang during dinner had everyone talking. Harry could hear several girls rummaging around for their quills and makeup at the appearance of Viktor Krum, who settled over at the Slytherin table. Draco looked very smug.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and- most particularly- guests," said Dumbledore, beaming around at the foreign students. "I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to Hogwarts. I hope and trust that your stay here will be both comfortable and enjoyable. The tournament will be officially opened at the end of the feast. I now invite you all to eat, drink, and make yourselves at home!"

Although there weren't that many more people, the Great Hall felt crowded.

"Excuse me, are you wanting the bouillabaisse?" a Beauxbaton girls asked. A long sheet of silvery-blonde hair fell almost to her waist. She had large, deep blue eyes, and very white, even teeth.

Ron went purple. He stared up at her, opened his mouth to reply, but nothing came out except a faint gurgling noise.

"Yeah, have it," said Dean, pushing the dish toward the girl.

"You have finished with it?"

"Yeah," Ron said breathlessly. "Yeah, it was excellent. "

The girl picked up the dish and carried it carefully off to the Ravenclaw table. Ron was still goggling at the girl as though he had never seen one before. Hermione had to nudge him to jog Ron back to his senses.

"She's a veela!" he said hoarsely.

"Of course she isn't!" said Hermione tartly. "I don't see anyone else gaping at her like an idiot!"

But as the girl made her way through the hall, many boys turned to stare, looking as dumbstruck as Ron had.

She came over to the Ravenclaw table. "Would you like to have some bouillabaisse?" she asked.

The boy sitting next to Harry gawked at her, but Harry merely nodded. "Sure, thank you." He took a bite. "Delicious."

Dumbledore came back up and began speaking about the tournament. Harry stared at the Goblet of Fire as Filch brought it up. So that was what they used to choose. He heard Dumbledore warm the students of the Age Line and wondered if Fred and George would be trying anything.

"You'll try to get in, won't you, Harry?" Michael Corner asked as they were heading to bed.

"No way," Harry replied honestly. "All I want is a normal year."

"Good," said Terry Boot. "Let someone else have a moment of fame, huh?"

Harry didn't say anything. He'd love to give up a lifetime of fame if it meant he was safe.

 

 

 

Just as Harry had suspected, the twins had made something to trick the Goblet of Fire.

"It's not going to work!" Hermione said in a sing-song voice.

She was ignored.

It seemed to have worked at first. But a moment later, both twins were thrown out of the circle, hair growing longer and whiter.

"I did warn you," said a deep, amused voice, and everyone turned to see Professor Dumbledore coming out of the Great Hall. He surveyed Fred and George, his eyes twinkling. "I suggest you both go up to Madam Pomfrey. She is already tending to Miss Fawcett, of Ravenclaw, and Mr. Summers, of Hufflepuff, both of whom decided to age themselves up a little too. Though I must say, neither of their beards is anything like as fine as yours."

Harry laughed. "Don't worry," he whispered to Fred as they passed. "You still have your handsome looks."

Fred grinned and winked back before following his brother.

 

 

 

"The champion for Durmstrang," Dumbledore read, in a strong, clear voice, "will be Viktor Krum."

"No surprises there!" Ron said.

A second piece of parchment came out of the goblet.

"The champion for Beauxbatons," said Dumbledore, "is Fleur Delacour!"

The veela girl stood up gracefully and swept up between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables. Looking around, Harry noticed that just about every guy was drooling. Why, though? Was it the Veela allure he had read about? He remembered how Fleur had tried to use it on him, but it just made him uncomfortable.

And last but not least...

"The Hogwarts champion," Dumbledore called, "is Cedric Diggory!"

Harry grinned, pleased with the choice. Yes, Cedric was a great choice.

"Excellent!" Dumbledore called happily as at last the tumult died down. "Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real-"

But then the fire in the goblet was turning red again and it spat out another slip of parchment.

Oh fuck, Harry thought. Please don't me me. Please don't be me.

Dumbledore caught it and stared for a long moment.

"Harry Potter."

Dammit!

Harry's rather brilliant response was to thump his forehead against the table.

 

Chapter Text

"My name came out," Harry said, still reeling. "My name came out of the bloody goblet."

The other champions stared in shock but didn't get a chance to speak because Ludo Bagman appeared.

"Extraordinary!" he muttered, squeezing Harry's arm. "Absolutely extraordinary! Gentlemen... lady. May I introduce- incredible though it may seem- the fourth Triwizard champion?"

"You make it sound like I planned this," Harry growled.

"He is too young," Fleur said.

"Exactly!" Harry agreed, not offended at all by her words.

"It's down in the rules, you're obliged... Harry will just have to do the best he-"

Just then, the Headmasters, along with Mr. Crouch, and Professors Snape and McGonagall, came in.

"Madame Maxime!" said Fleur at once, striding over to her headmistress. "They are saying that this little boy is to compete also!"

"What is the meaning of this, Dumbly-dorr?" Maxime said.

"I'd rather like to know that myself, Dumbledore," said Professor Karkaroff. "Two Hogwarts champions? I don't remember anyone telling me the host school is allowed two champions- or have I not read the rules carefully enough?"

"C'est impossible," said Madame Maxime, whose enormous hand with its many superb opals was resting upon Fleur's shoulder. "Hogwarts cannot have two champions. It is most injust."

"We were under the impression that your Age Line would keep out younger contestants, Dumbledore," said Karkaroff, his steely smile still in place, though his eyes were colder than ever. "Otherwise, we would, of course, have brought along a wider selection of candidates from our own schools."

Dumbledore turned to Harry. "Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?" he asked calmly.

Harry shook his head. "No, sir."

"Did you ask an older student to put it into the Goblet of Fire for you?"

"No."

"Ah, but of course he is lying!" Madame Maxime said.

"He could not have crossed the Age Line," said Professor McGonagall sharply. "I am sure we are all agreed on that-"

"Dumbly-dorr must have made a mistake with the line," said Madame Maxime, shrugging.

"It is possible, of course," Dumbledore said.

"Dumbledore, you know perfectly well you did not make a mistake!"Professor McGonagall snapped. "Really, what nonsense! Harry could not have crossed the line himself, and as Professor Dumbledore believes that he did not persuade an older student to do it for him, I'm sure that should be good enough for everybody else!"

"I swear on my magic that I did not intend to be picked in any way, shape, or form," Harry said. There was a brief flash of light as Magic accepted his word. "There, undeniable proof that I am not lying."

"That is all very well," Crouch said, "but we must follow the rules, and the rules state clearly that those people whose names come out of the Goblet of Fire are bound to compete in the tournament."

Harry groaned to himself. Great, there goes another year of peace.

He waited impatiently as Mr. Crouch gave them the champions their instructions and was very glad when Dumbledore dismissed them.

"This is just perfect," Harry muttered to Cedric. "An opportunity for someone other than me to get the glory comes up and I steal it."

"Hey, it's not your fault," Cedric said. "And I'll make sure the Hufflepuffs know the truth."

"Thanks, Cedric."

Cedric separated and went into the Hufflepuff common room. Harry braced himself and entered the Ravenclaw common room.

All the Ravenclaws were waiting for him. "Harry!" Luna called, running up to him. "Are you okay?"

Harry looked around. "I didn't want to enter. You know that, right?"

"Don't worry, Harry," Anthony Goldstein reassured him. "We believe you."

Harry sagged in relief. "Really?"

"Of course." Cho Chang smiled at him. "But I don't think the Gryffindors do."

"Yeah, you should've seen Ron. He looked so mad."

"Of course he was."

 

 

 

The next morning, Harry felt much better. He knew he would still have to compete, but at least not everyone believed he cheated.

He was approached by a very worried Fred as he was sitting down. "How did that happen?" he demanded.

"I don't know."

"You didn't even want to enter," Fred went on frantically. "I believe you, don't worry."

Any remaining tension in Harry's shoulders faded at his words. "Thanks."

"Ron, on the other hand..."

"How did you do it?" the aforementioned Weasley said as he stormed up.

"I didn't do it."

"Sure." Ron was not convinced.

Fred stood in front of Harry, blocking him from Ron's view. "Ron, use your brain. Why would Harry put his name in the goblet?"

"Why wouldn't he?" Ron glared up at him. "A thousand Galleons. Who wouldn't want that?"

"You don't know him," Fred snapped.

"And you do?"

"He's my- my friend," Fred faltered.

Ron scowled at Fred before turning and sitting with the Gryffindors.

Fred shook his head and turned to Harry. "Don't listen to him, Harry. He's never been the brightest."

"It's fine, Fred. I'll be okay. And, for the record, I made a vow saying that I didn't intend to participate. So, hopefully, no one will be mad about that."

 

 

 

"You don't think he put his name in the goblet?" Ron said in disbelief later in the common room.

"No, I don't," Hermione said firmly. "You should have seen him when Professor Dumbledore mentioned the death toll. He looked very umcomfortable."

"Not to mention," Neville added from where he sat not far from them, "Harry swore a wizard's oath, according to Diggory. He never entered himself."

Ron felt a little sheepish at his outburst. "But it's always him," he protested weakly.

"And why is that?" Fred said icily, still unhappy with Ron's earlier display. "Because he's Harry Potter; he gets put in the limelight whether he likes it or not."

"Okay, okay!" Ron leaned away, alarmed by the anger in his brother's eyes. "Blimey, you're acting like an overprotective boyfriend or something."

He had turned away, so he missed Fred knocking over his ink bottle in surprise. Lee Jordan managed to snatch his parchment away before the ink could damage it- not that there was much written on it to begin with.

Hermione eyed Fred keenly before turning to correct Ron on his own essay.

Chapter Text

Sirius and Remus were eating breakfast when Hedwig came flying in. "Harry's written to us!" Sirius bounced in his seat.

Remus took the letter and read it out loud.

Dear Moony and Padfoot,

I'm pretty sure you knew the Triwizard Tournament happening this year. You're not very subtle (especially you, Sirius!). Anyway, my name came out of the Goblet of Fire. What a surprise, I can't ever get a normal year, can I? And of course I can't withdraw without losing my magic because that would be too easy. Do you think this is what Voldemort has planned? It would explain what he said in my dream.

Love, Harry

PS- the real Hogwart champion is Cedric Diggory, from Hufflepuff

"Fuck!" Sirius shouted. "Dammit, why is it always Harry?"

"Padfoot, calm down."

"Calm down?" Sirius repeated, almost hysterical. "Our son is being forced to participate in that tournament, and you expect me to calm down?!"

"I know, but there's nothing we can do."

"Oh, but there is." Sirius laughed bitterly. "Be right back." He hurried off.

Remus sighed loudly. "Please don't be a Howler," he groaned.

 

 

 

Harry thought that perhaps today would be normal enough. It wasn't; although Cedric and several Hufflepuffs believed he didn't enter himself, the Hufflepuffs were still acting strange around him. The Slytherins, as usual, were either neutral or sneering at him. And then there was Draco Malfoy.

"Who do you think did it?" he demanded during Care of Magical Creatures.

"I don't know. I can barely comprehend that I was chosen."

"Got your autograph books?" Pansy Parkinson sneered. "Better get a signature now, because I doubt he's going to be around much longer... Half the Triwizard champions have died... how long d'you reckon you're going to last, Potter?"

"Pansy!" Draco snapped.

Hagrid distracted them with instructing the class to take the Blast-Ended Skrewts on a walk.

"So," he said to Harry, "yer competin', Harry. In the tournament. School champion."

"One of the champions," Harry corrected him.

Hagrid's beetle-black eyes looked very anxious under his wild eyebrows.

"No idea who put yeh in fer it, Harry?"

"None."

He glanced over at the other students.

"Look like they're havin' fun, don' they?" Hagrid said.

Yeah, that sure looks like fun, Harry thought as he watched Lisa Turpin being dragged along on her stomach.

Double Potions was after lunch, and that was its own form of torture. Pansy Parkinson had made badges with the words  SUPPORT CEDRIC DIGGORY-

THE REAL HOGWARTS CHAMPION! on them.

"Like them, Potter?" said Parkinson loudly as Harry approached. "And this isn't all they do- look!"

She pressed the badge , and the message upon it vanished, to be replaced by another one, which glowed green:

POTTER STINKS!

The Slytherins howled with laughter. Each of them pressed their badges too, until the message POTTER STINKS was shining brightly all around Harry.

Far from being affected, Harry just stared. "How long have you been working on that?"

"All night."

Harry slowly clapped. "Wow, brilliant. 'Potter stinks.' Phenomenal," he drawled. "Ten points to Slytherin."

"Why, you-" Parkinson drew her wand and shouted a spell.

The spell missed as Harry ducked, but it hit Michael in the face.

"And what is all this noise about?" said a soft, deadly voice.

Professor Snape had arrived. The Slytherins clamored to explain, but Snape silenced them. "Explain," he said to Draco.

"Pansy attacked Harry, sir, and hit Corner."

Michael's face was covered in boils.

"Hospital wing, Corner," Snape said calmly.

"But, sir-" Parkinson began.

"Detention, Parkinson," Snape said coldly.

Parkinson gaped, then turned away fuming. It wasn't often that Snape took points from his own house; in fact, it wasn't until Harry arrived that he started treating the other houses more equally. Gryffindor, though, he was still fairly biased against.

About an hour into class, Colin Creevey appeared for Harry.

"And here I was hoping for a normal day!" Harry groaned as he followed Colin.

He arrived in a small classroom. Viktor Krum was standing off to one side, but Cedric and Fleur were talking.

"Ah, here he is!" Bagman announced. "Champion number four! In you come, Harry, in you come... nothing to worry about, it's just the wand weighing ceremony, the rest of the judges will be here in a moment-"

"Wand weighing?" Harry repeated nervously.

"We have to check that your wands are fully functional, no problems, you know, as they're your most important tools in the tasks ahead," said Bagman. "The expert's upstairs now with Dumbledore. And then there's going to be a little photo shoot. This is Rita Skeeter," he added, gesturing toward a witch in magenta robes. "She's doing a small piece on the tournament for the Daily Prophet... "

"Maybe not that small, Ludo," said Rita Skeeter, her eyes on Harry.

Harry slowly inched away from her. No way, he was not doing anything with this woman.

"I wonder if I could have a little word with Harry before we start?" Rita said to Bagman, but still gazing fixedly at Harry. "The youngest champion, you know... to add a bit of color?"

"Certainly!" cried Bagman. "That is- if Harry has no objection?"

"Yes, I do have an objection."

"But, Harry-"

"No. Can we just get the wand weighing over with?"

Mr. Ollivander looked at Fleur's wand first. "Yes," he said quietly, "nine and a half inches... inflexible... rosewood... and containing... dear me..."

"An 'air from ze 'ead of a veela," said Fleur. "One of my grandmuzzer's. "

So Fleur was part Veela, Harry noted. He figured as much from other boys' reactions, but he wasn't absolutely positive.

"Yes," said Mr. Ollivander, "yes, I've never used veela hair myself, of course. I find it makes for rather temperamental wands... however, to each his own, and if this suits you..."

Next was Cedric. Mr. Ollivander was much more enthusiastic since he had made this wand. "You treat it regularly?"

"Polished it last night," said Cedric, grinning.

Harry had a vague feeling that the older boy had made an innuendo.

Viktor stepped up and handed over his wand.

"Hmm," said Mr. Ollivander, "this is a Gregorovitch creation, unless I'm much mistaken? A fine wand-maker, though the styling is never quite what I... however..."

He lifted the wand and examined it minutely, turning it over and over before his eyes.

"Yes... hornbeam and dragon heartstring?" he shot at Krum, who nodded. "Rather thicker than one usually sees... quite rigid... ten and a quarter inches... Avis!"

Small birds burst from the end of the wand.

Mr. Ollivander spent the most time with Harry's wand, much to the latter's chagrin. The photoshoot afterward just furthered his irritation.

 

 

 

After the champions were released, Dumbledore went up to his office. He saw a red letter and paled. But he had no time to move before it went off.

ALBUS DUMBLEDORE, HOW DARE YOU ALLOW MY SON TO COMPETE IN THE TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT. CLEARLY YOUR AGE IS CATCHING UP TO YOU IF A FUCKING AGE LINE ISN'T ENOUGH TO KEEP HARRY SAFE. Oh, and one more thing- PPFFFFFTTTTTT!

The Howler dissolved itself.

Dumbledore sighed ruefully. If he had the power to remove Harry from the tournament, he would have, but there was only so much he could do.

Chapter Text

 

Despite not interviewing with Rita Skeeter, the woman made sure to write exclusively about him.

Luna was especially angry on Harry's behalf. "Can you believe this?" she snapped, slamming the Daily Prophet onto the table, unusually irked. "You said she didn't interview you."

"She didn't!" Harry said. "But that doesn't mean she can't write about anything."

"She's slandering you," Luna said. "You can be fined for that."

One particular part had really annoyed them.

Harry has at last found love at Hogwarts. His close friend, Colin Creevey, says that Harry is rarely seen out of the company of one Luna Lovegood, a stunningly pretty girl in third year.

Luna was actually closer to Neville, though the latter would deny that he had a crush on her. Harry knew Neville wouldn't believe the Prophet, but it would still hurt to even think Luna was not interested.

Parkinson, of course, had something to say. She glared at Luna. "Stunningly pretty? Her? What was she judging against- a chipmunk?"

"If she was, then she's clearly blind," Luna said coolly. "Chipmunks are adorable animals."

 

 

 

Fred Weasley was in his own state of unhappiness. Ever since the article had come out, he had been less than cheerful.

"You're not worried about the article, are you?" George said. "You know Harry and Luna are just friends."

"What makes you think it has to do with Harry and Luna?" Fred protested.

George raised a disbelieving eyebrow.

"Okay, maybe I am worried," Fred conceded.

"Harry doesn't even like girls, you know? Not like he likes you."

"Don't be ridiculous."

But he immensely perked up after that.

 

 

 

"Dragons. I have to face bloody dragons."

"Breathe, Harry," Remus murmured.

Harry had been called up after dinner and was delighted to see his guardians waiting for him.

"People actually want to do this?" Harry groaned.

"Indeed," Snape spoke up from where he stood to one side.

"Look, Harry, I think I may have an idea of who put you in," Sirius said.

Instantly, Harry's head snapped around. "Who?"

"Kakaroff," Sirius answered.

"He wouldn't," Remus growled.

Snape stiffened. "What makes you think that, Black?"

"Harry, did you mention your dream to Snape?"

"No, I've been trying to forget about it."

"What dream?" Snape demanded.

"It was about Vol- er, You-Know-Who," Harry said. "He had something planned for me."

"And this tournament is perfect for that," Snape muttered.

"But where does Karkaroff fit in to this?"

"He was a Death Eater," Sirius said. "But he was released. Something about seeing the errors of his ways and shit."

"For fuck's sake, Sirius, mind your language!" Remus snapped, exasperated. He clapped a hand over his mouth. "Fuck," he whispered. "I mean, shit! Shoot!"

"Moony!" Sirius gasped. "What did I tell you? You're a werewolf, not a swearwolf!"

"Not that again!"

"Will you both knock it off?" Snape snapped, though he was glad to hear Harry's laughter.

"Right, right. Anyway, this all can't be a coincidence. Your dream, the Death Eater attack at the Quidditch World Cup, the Goblet of Fire fiasco."

"So he's trying to kill me." Harry frowned. "That's not new information."

"But the question is he what is he planning on doing." Remus shook his head. "Is he hoping Harry will die one of the tasks?"

"I don't think so," Snape said. "The Dark Lord has wanted to kill Harry himself."

"How do you know?" Harry asked. He knew Snape had been a Death Eater, but to what extent he never found out.

Snape hesitated. Should he tell Harry that he was the reason he was in the situation he was in? As much as he would deny it, he had come to care for the little brat, and to lose him like he did Lily would cause more pain than the Cruciatus Curse.

"You should probably get to bed," Remus said quietly, sensing Snape's inner turmoil. "We'll talk more later."

"Okay." Harry sent a concerned look at Snape before standing up and leaving.

Snape wondered if he would ever look at him that way again if he knew.

 

 

 

"What?" said Cedric, staring at Harry.

"Dragons," said Harry. "They've got four, one for each of us, and we've got to get past them."

"Are you sure?" Cedric said, panic flickering in his gray eyes.

"Dead sure. I've seen them."

"But how did you find out? We're not supposed to know..."

"Never mind," said Harry quickly. "But I'm not the only one who knows. Fleur and Krum will know by now- Maxime and Karkaroff both saw the dragons too."

"Well." Cedric cleared his throat. "Thank you for telling me."

"Of course. You are the Hogwarts champion, aren't you?"

A grin appeared on Cedric's face. "We are, aren't we?"

The familiar clunking alerted them of Professor Moody's presence.

"Come with me, Potter," he growled. "Diggory, off you go."

Harry stared apprehensively at Moody. Had he overheard them?

"Er- Professor, I'm supposed to be in Herbology-"

"Never mind that, Potter. In my office, please..."

Harry followed him, wondering what was going to happen to him now. He followed Moody into his office. Moody closed the door behind them and turned to look at Harry, his magical eye fixed upon him as well as the normal one.

"That was a very decent thing you just did, Potter," Moody said quietly. "Sit down."

Harry did, waiting.

"So... found out about the dragons, have you?"

"Apparently so."

"Got any ideas how you're going to get past your dragon yet?" said Moody.

"No," said Harry.

"Well, I'm not going to tell you," said Moody gruffly. "I don't show favoritism, me. I'm just going to give you some good, general advice. And the first bit is- play to your strengths."

"Play to my strengths," Harry repeated.

"Yes. What are you best at?"

Harry tried to concentrate. What was he really best at? The first thing that came to mind was-

"I'm good at research," Harry muttered to himself.

"My second piece of general advice," said Moody, "is to find something that will enable you to get what you need."

Harry ended up in the library all afternoon.

Chapter Text

The other three champions were just as nervous as Harry was. Fleur was pale and clammy, Viktor was even surlier than normal, and Cedric was pacing.

"Psst!" The hissed word came from outside the tent.

Harry walked over. "Fred?"

"Yeah," Fred said. "How are you feeling? All right?"

Harry couldn't even nod his head.

"Look, you can do it," Fred went on, sounding like he was trying to convince himself as much as he was Harry. "All you have to do is concentrate and then-"

"Battle a dragon," Harry finished.

He was caught off guard when Fred threw the tent flap open and pulled him into a tight embrace.

The sound of a camera flashing made them break away. Rita Skeeter walked in, as casually as if she were at home. "What good friends you two are!" she gushed. "If everything goes unfortunately today," she said, smiling sickly, "you two may even make the front page." She looked at Fred's clothes with clear disdain. "I'm sure your family would love that."

Fred's gaze darkened, and he looked like he was seconds away from hexing her.

"You have no business here," Krum said. "This tent is for champions and friends."

Rita turned to him and gave him a more appreciative lookover. "No matter," she said sweetly, "we've got what we wanted."

She walked away a few feet as Dumbledore came in with the other headmasters and Ludo Bagman. "Good day, champions," Dumbledore said, "gather round, please." He waited until the four champions had come over. "Now, you've waited, you've wondered, and at last, the moment has arrived, a moment only four of you can fully appreciate."

It was then he noticed Fred, who still lingered by Harry's side. "What are you doing here, Mr. Weasley?"

Fred blinked, looking startled. "Oh, um, sorry. I'll just go." He left quickly, and Harry wished he could follow.

"Bagman," Dumbledore said, "the bag."

Ludo Bagman held up a purple silk sack. "Ladies first," he said.

Fleur put a shaky hand into the sack and pulled out a Welsh Green dragon. By her expression, Harry knew that Madame Maxime had informed her of the task.

Viktor and Cedric pulled out a Chinese Fireball and Swedish Short-Snout respectively. Harry took the last one, the Hungarian Horntail, which happened to be the most lethal. Because of course he would have the most difficult dragon.

"Well, there you go!" Bagman said. "You have each pulled out the dragon you will face, and the numbers refer to the order in which you are to take on the dragons, do you see? Now, I'm going to have to leave you in a moment, because I'm commentating. Mr. Diggory, you're first, just go out into the enclosure when you hear a whistle, all right? Now... Harry... could I have a quick word? Outside?"

"Sure." He followed Bagman a few yards away.

"Feeling all right, Harry? Anything I can get you?"

"What?" said Harry. "I- no, nothing."

"Got a plan? Because I don't mind sharing a few pointers-"

"No, I'm fine. Thank you," Harry said shortly before returning to the other champions.

"Good luck," Harry said to Cedric.

"You, too."

For fifteen minutes, Harry listened to the commentary, which didn't reassure him at all.

"Oooh, narrow miss there, very narrow"... "He's taking risks, this one!"... "Clever move- pity it didn't work!"

Way to induce confidence, Harry thought morosely.

"Very good indeed!" Bagman shouted as Cedric finished. "And now the marks from the judges!" There was a pause as the judges gave their marks, though Harry didn't hear anything. "One down, three to go!" Bagman yelled as the whistle blew again. "Miss Delacour, if you please!"

The process repeated with Fleur and Krum, the nerve-racking comments just making Harry more and more anxious.

Now it was Harry's turn. On shaky legs, he exited the tent and emerged, seeing the Hungarian Horntail at the end of the enclosure. She was hunched over her eggs protectively, her spiked tail leaving gouge marks in the ground.

Here goes nothing, Harry thought to himself.

The Hungarian Horntail snarled as Harry approached but did not move from her position. Another filthy human! Stay back!

Harry raised his hands in a placating manner. It's alright, he said. I'm not going to hurt you.

A speaker? The dragon looked curious, though she remained wary. What do you want?

One of your eggs is a fake, Harry told her. I am to retrieve it.

A fake? How do you know? the dragon demanded.

Because that's what I've been told. I can see it, right there. He pointed to the center egg in the nest.

The dragon sniffed her eggs. I see. They have put this fake here. Why?

It's part of this stupid-ass tournament that has resulted in death, Harry told her bluntly.

The dragon made what might have been equivalent to a laugh. You are an amusing human, speaker. Here. She grabbed the fake egg and tossed it to Harry, who quickly took out his wand to stop it from smashing into the ground. Or into his face.

Thank you. And I am sorry you have to put up with all this.

You are welcome and don't worry about it.

"Amazing!" Bagman shouted as Harry walked away with the egg. "Will you look at that! Our youngest champion is quickest to get his egg! Well, this is going to shorten the odds on Mr. Potter!" He sounded very pleased, as if it were his idea.

Even though he hadn't been injured, Madam Pomfrey checked him over. "Good thing you didn't try to catch the egg with your hands," she said. "It would have broken some bones."

Fred and George burst in as she went back to Cedric. To Harry's surprise, Ron was trailing behind. "That was brilliant!" Fred exclaimed, admiration shining in his eyes. "You're brilliant."

Harry smiled, then turned to Ron.

Ron looked uncomfortable. "Harry, whoever put your name in that goblet- I- I reckon they're trying to do you in!"

"Caught on, have you?" Harry said coldly.

Ron winced. "I'm sorry. I know you don't like your fame. I- I was just-"

"-being a prat," Harry finished.

"Yeah..."

"Whatever. I can tell you mean it, so forget it. We're good."

Ron smiled, relieved, and turned away.

"I didn't know dragons could understand you," George said.

Harry shrugged. "Me neither. But I read that dragons and snakes can both speak the same language."

"Seems like being a Parselmouth has its perks," Fred said.

Harry watched the judges as they shot his scores into the air. An eight from Madam Maxime, a nine from Dumbledore and Mr. Crouch each, a ten from Ludo Bagman, and an obviously-biased five from Karkaroff. He was one point ahead of Krum, though he didn't really care. He was just glad he made it out alive.

Fred, however, was not satisfied with this. "Oh, come on! You deserved at least a nine!"

But Harry didn't care; Karkaroff could've given hm a zero. Fred's compliment and his indignation on Harry's behalf meant more to him than any points.

Bagman spoke again to the champions. "Well done, all of you!" he said, bouncing into the tent and looking as pleased as though he personally had just got past a dragon. "Now, just a quick few words. You've got a nice long break before the second task, which will take place at half past nine on the morning of February the twenty-fourth- but we're giving you something to think about in the meantime! If you look down at those golden eggs you're all holding, you will see that they open... see the hinges there? You need to solve the clue inside the egg- because it will tell you what the second task is, and enable you to prepare for it! All clear? Sure? Well, off you go, then!"

Harry left the tent with the twins, only to run into Rita Skeeter.

"Congratulations, Harry!" she said, beaming at him. "I wonder if you could give me a quick word? How you felt facing that dragon? How you feel now, about the fairness of the scoring?"

"Yeah, you can have a word," said Harry savagely. "Good-bye."

Chapter Text

 

If Harry thought that Aunt Petunia was loud when she screeched, that was nothing compared to the shrill wailing that exploded from the egg.

"Turn it off!" Anthony shouted.

Harry slammed it shut. "What was that?!"

"It sounded like a banshee," Padma Patil said. "Maybe you have to get past one of those."

"You might want to borrow Professor Sprout's earmuffs for that," Cho said.

Harry chuckled. "That would be a good idea."

 

 

 

The number of Blast-Ended Skrewts has dwindled down to ten. Despite Hagrid's efforts, they had not been satisfied and started killing each other. Hagrid brought enormous boxes for the skrewts to sleep in, but the scorpion-like creatures didn't appreciate that and the students had to round them up.

All but one was caught when Rita Skeeter made an appearance. She seemed unusually keen on asking Hagrid about the skrewts, which filled Harry with unease. If Skeeter was able to write horrible stuff about him without an interview, what would she do with one?

But he couldn't convey this without Skeeter getting suspicious, so he watched in silence as they came up with a time and place to meet up.

 

 

 

"Again, Hermione, I am not joining Spew."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's not Spew, it's S-P-E-W, the Society for-"

"-the Promotion of Elfish Welfare," Harry finished. He had heard this at least a million times.

"Please, Harry. There aren't that many members from Gryffindor, so I was hoping you could help get some people in Ravenclaw to join."

"I'll mention it," Harry said reluctantly, "but I seriously doubt there's going to be any volunteers."

"Oh, thank you!" Hermione said, seeming to choose to ignore the second part of Harry's statement. "It's the least you could do."

Harry nodded as she turned away. Yes, he'd be mentioning it, but he wouldn't be trying to persuade them. Besides, the topic slipped his mind as he focused on other things.

 

 

 

Professor Flitwick called a meeting in Ravenclaw and informed them of the upcoming Yule Ball. As champion, Harry was required to participate.

And who was Harry supposed to go with? Throughout the entire day, he was aware of girls giggling as they wondered which boy would ask them or which boy they themselves should ask. They weren't being very subtle, so Harry could hear his own name being mentioned.

No way, he thought. He didn't even know these people. Hell, even within his own house he didn't know many of his classmates' names, save for his dormmates and Luna. If there was any girl he would be interested in going with, it would be her, but he knew Neville would be gathering up the courage to ask her, so he didn't.

Besides, Luna gave Harry a confusing message. "Don't worry. He'll come around."

Harry instinctively looked toward the Gryffindor table, where Fred was chatting with George and Lee. Fred lifted his eyes and met Harry's gaze briefly. Harry smiled and ended up spitting out pumpkin juice, which dripped down his chin. He ducked his head down, embarrassed, not seeing Fred's grin.

Harry was asked a few times, but he always politely declined. Sometimes, he received an anonymous letter, which he would write back with a negative.

With all of this going on, the egg was all but forgotten. Harry had it safely put away in his trunk, wary of the wailing.

"Professor?" Harry approached his Head of House one evening. "I have a question about the Yule Ball."

"Yes?" Flitwick looked at him expectantly.

"Do I have to go with- with a girl?"

"All the champions are required to open, Mr. Potter."

"No, no, I know that. I mean, does it have to be a girl I ask out?"

Flitwick seemed to catch on to what Harry was implying. "Mr. Potter, the only rule is that third years and below cannot attend unless they had been invited by an older student."

Harry felt relieved. "Okay, thank you." He went to rejoin Luna and the pair headed to the Ravenclaw Tower.

Flitwick smiled. It seemed like he might win this bet...

 

 

 

"Evil, he is," Ron said bitterly from where he was making a castle out of his Exploding Snap pack. "Springing a test on us on the last day. Ruining the last bit of term with a whole load of studying."

"Mmm... you're not exactly straining yourself, though, are you?" said Hermione, giving him a disapproving glance.

Ron placed two cards on top of his card castle, and it promptly blew up, singeing his eyebrows.

"Nice look, Ron... go well with your dress robes, that will." Fred and George had arrived.

"So," said Fred, "you got a date for the ball yet?"

"Nope," said Ron.

"Well, you'd better hurry up, or all the good ones will be gone," said Fred.

"Who're you going with, then?" said Ron.

"Angelina," George said.

"They're... not in Gryffindor," Fred said haltingly.

Hermione gave him a look. "Which house are they in?" she asked.

"Ravenclaw," Fred answered.

Hermione didn't seem surprised by this answer as she nodded and turned away.

Fred stood up and yawned. "I'm going to bed. Come on, George."

George followed his brother, grinning all the way. "So who is the lucky Ravenclaw, hm?" he teased.

"You know who!" Fred groaned, wishing he had not brought up the topic.

"Last time I checked, You-Know-Who was a Slytherin." George let out an exaggerated gasp. "Oh my gosh! You're going with You-Know-Who!"

"No, you dummy! Harry!" Fred clapped his hands over his mouth.

"So when did you ask him?"

"I- er- haven't yet."

George coughed in surprise. "But you said-"

"I know what I said! But would he say yes? Everyone's saying how he's declined all those girls."

George slung an arm around Fred's shoulders. "And what, dear brother of mine, does that tell you?"

"Er-"

"Either A: he's not interested in the ball or B: he's not interested in girls."

"So A?"

George facepalmed. "No, you stupid great prat. Well, probably, but he has to go since he's a champion. He likes boys."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes! Tomorrow, you are going to ask him. No ifs, ands, or buts, got it?"

"Okay, okay!" Fred shoved his brother. "No need to shout."

"There's always a need to shout!" George shouted.

"George!"

"Fred!"

"Oi!"


 

 

Chapter Text

George could hear his brother as he went over how he was going to ask out Harry as they made their way down to the Great Hall. "You know, Freddie, I'm sure Harry won't care if you don't ask him out in the most extravagant way possible.”

"But this is Harry we're talking about," Fred protested. "He deserves everything to be perfect, including the way I ask!"

George rolled his eyes as Fred continued his mantra of "Want to go to the Yule Ball with me?" under his breath. A couple times, Fred messed up, causing him to squeak and moan about Harry laughing at him.

"Want to Yule to the Ball with- no, that's not it. Ball Yule- what the fuck?"

"Calm down there, Romeo," Lee said as the twins took a seat. "You'll do fine."

Fred looked over at the Ravenclaw table, where Harry sat with Luna as usual.

Harry suddenly laughed at something Luna said, and Fred inwardly melted at the sight.

When breakfast was over, Harry stood and began heading for class. Luna, however, walked right up to Fred and said, "Now's a good time."

Fred could only stare in bewilderment at the third year as she smiled and skipped off after Harry. He jumped as George nudged him.

"You heard her," he said. "Go!" He laughed as Fred scrambled to his feet, knocking over a goblet in his haste.

To Fred's relief, Harry and Luna were alone. "Hey, Harry!" he called.

They both turned. Harry gave Fred a warm, brilliant smile. "Hey, Fred. What's up?"

"Uhh-" Fred looked at Luna.

"I'll leave you two alone," Luna said. She wandered off, humming a little.

"Got a date yet?" Harry asked.

Fred was so startled he answered. "No."

"Me, neither. Have you seen all those girls, though? Pretty overwhelming." Harry shuddered.

"Oh, so you don't want to go to the ball?" Well, there goes my chance, Fred thought ruefully.

"Not really, but as a champion, I have to open it. Yay me," Harry said, voice heavy with sarcasm. He looked up at Fred. "Do you want to go with me?"

Fred, who had been about to say "Do you Ball to the Yule with me?" (which would not have made any sense whatsoever), was caught off guard. "Us?"

"Sure, why not? We've been friends since my first year here, and-" here, Harry paused and gathered up his courage- "I've had a crush on you since third year, so why not?"

"Oh!" Fred had definitely not been expecting that and he was definitely blushing. "Sure. I'd love to."

"Great. Can't wait." And then Harry gave Fred a warm smile. "See you later."

Fred was left staring after him with a gobsmacked expression on his face. Then he stumbled back into the Great Hall.

When he reunited with George, Fred still had that dazed smile on his face. "I take it he said yes?" George said.

"Actually, he asked me," Fred said. "And I said yes."

George grinned. "Nice."

 

 

 

Ron was walking down the entrance hall when he saw Fleur talking with Cedric. As he passed, he suddenly blurted out, "Do you want to go to the ball with me?"

Fleur turned to him and eyed him up and down dismissively but gave no response.

A moment later, Ron snapped out of his daze and, with an extremely embarrassed squeak, turned and sped off.

Ginny found him in the common room with his head in his hands. "What's wrong, Ron?"

"I asked Fleur out to the ball," he moaned. "I don't know what came over me!"

"She's part Veela," Ginny said. "You must've gotten affected by her allure."

"This is mad," said Ron. "We're the only ones left who haven't got anyone- even Neville asked out someone!"

At that moment, Hermione came in. "Why aren't you two at dinner?"

"Ron was turned down," Ginny said.

"Thanks," Ron snapped.

"All the good-looking ones taken, Ron?" said Hermione loftily. "Eloise Midgen starting to look quite pretty now, is she? Well, I'm sure you'll find someone somewhere who'll have you."

Ron was suddenly staring at her as if he had never seen anything more interesting. "Hermione, you're a girl..."

"Well spotted."

"Well, you can come with me."

"No, I can't," snapped Hermione.

"Oh come on," Ron said impatiently, "I need a partner, I'm going to look really stupid if I haven't got any, everyone else has..."

"I can't come with you," said Hermione, "because I'm already going with someone."

"No, you're not!"

"Yes, I am!" And then she stormed off.

"She's lying," said Ron flatly, watching her go.

"She's not," said Ginny quietly.

"Who is it then?" said Ron sharply.

"I'm not telling you, it's her business," said Ginny.

"Right, this is getting stupid." Ron then spotted Parvati and Lavender coming through the portrait hole. "Hey, will either of you go to the ball with me?"

Both girls giggled. "Lavender's going with Seamus, but I'll go with you," Parvati said.

"Great."

"Wait, what about Hermione?" Lavender asked.

"She said she's going with someone else," Ron said, still not believing her.

"Oooh- who?"

"I don't know. Doesn't matter. Thanks, Parvati."

 

 

 

Meanwhile, a letter had been sent off.

Remus nearly leapt out of his skin when Sirius let out a whoop. "What got you so happy?"

"Luna said Harry asked Fred to the ball," Sirius said, grinning widely.

"That's great," Remus said, a grin of his own forming.

"Hell, yeah!"

"But it also means you lost the bet."

"What bet?"

"You said Fred would ask Harry. I said the opposite would happen."

Sirius blinked a few times, his grin vanishing. Muttering under his breath, he handed Remus a Galleon. He cheered up when Remus gave him a small kiss on the cheek.

Chapter Text

"You ready, Harry?" Terry asked.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Don't worry. I'm sure that she'll think you look great."

Everyone, and I mean everyone, assumed that Harry had found a girl to go with. While the presumption was understandable, it still irritated him just a little bit.

Ever since it got out that Harry had found someone, people have been observing the girls, particularly in Ravenclaw, to see if they would say or do anything that would give them away. But it became apparent that none of them were Harry's date.

As Harry headed to the Great Hall, he could hear people whispering in hushed voices. Some took note that he was alone.

"Where's his date?"

"Maybe she's not ready yet. You know how girls are."

Harry spotted the Slytherins being led by Draco Malfoy, who looked handsome in black velvet robes, and Pansy Parkinson, who wore frilly pink robes and clung to Draco's arm. Draco caught Harry's eye and mouthed, Help me.

Harry grinned and shook his head to say, You're on your own. He received a wordless Fuck you in return.

"There you are, Harry," said Fred from behind.

Harry turned and smiled at him. "I was beginning for wonder when you'd get here."

Fred grinned. Like most of his things, his robes were hand-me-downs, but they fit him well. "Well, I'm here. So, are you ready to scare the pants off everyone?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Why am I not surprised to see you looking forward to that, of all things?"

"Well... there is one other thing."

"And that is?"

Fred grinned, looking somewhat nervous. "You'll see."

Harry pouted slightly before turning to look at the other champions. Fleur was with Roger Davies, who seemed to be captivated by her mere presence, Cedric was with Cho, and Hermione stood with Krum, her usually bushy hair in a sleek and shiny bun.

"Champions, over here, please!" Professor McGonagall called.

Both Fred and Harry made their way over to her. They could hear the whispers getting louder as they realized who Harry's mystery date was.

"Weasley?" Parkinson sneered from where she stood with Draco. "Potter's going with him?"

"Obviously," Draco drawled, unsurprised. Everyone else may have been oblivious, but he had often noticed Fred stealing glances at Harry.

"I didn't know Harry was gay," someone else said.

"Why him? He hardly has any money!"

Harry bristled at that one.

Even Professor McGonagall was stunned to see them (apparently, Flitwick had been right), though she didn't say anything. The doors opened and the students walked in. Once settled, Professor McGonagall had the champions in line behind her and follow her. The audience applauded as they made their way to where the judges sat.

"So this is the mysterious person you went with," Hermione said to Harry, not sounding particularly surprised.

"Yes," he said.

"Well, I think you both look good together," Hermione said before turning back to Krum.

While they ate, Harry made light conversation with Fred and tried to ignore the eyes that flickered over to them between words.

Fleur was criticizing the decorations to Roger, but he seemed to be too entranced to be able to hold a proper conversation.

Hermione had started trying to teach Krum how to say her name. "Her-my-oh-nee," she said slowly and clearly.

"Herm-own-ninny."

"Close enough."

When everyone was finished eating, Dumbledore moved the tables off to the sides and raised a platform for the Weird Sisters to perform.

Fred held out a hand. "Shall we?"

Harry blushed and took it. Fred's other hand went around his waist and he began to lead them.

It didn't go too badly; in fact, Harry found himself enjoying the dance. Fred moved with a grace that Harry had not known for him to have and kept his eyes on him. Harry, never one to be good at eye contact, let his gaze roam around the other dancers.

Neville and Luna waltzed by; Luna didn't seem to know or care that he kept stepping on her feet. Dumbledore and Madame Maxime were also together; Harry didn't know how they managed with such a height difference. Moody and Professor Sinistra were dancing together, though the latter seemed nervous about the wooden leg.

"Not too bad of a dancer," Fred teased. "I was worried I would have to pick some protective charms on my shoes."

"You're so mean, you know that?" Harry said.

"But of course. I don't go around handing out flowers to everyone I meet."

"No, you just give them canary creams."

Fred chuckled, remembering how Neville had accidentally eaten one and turned into a canary for a minute. "Guilty."

They continued to dance, lost in each other's presence, and- cliche as this may sound- forgot everyone around them.

 

 

 

George was grinning as he watched his brother with Harry. They were so in love, yet so oblivious. Maybe that Muggle phrase, Love is blind, has some truth to it after all.

"You knew, didn't you?" Angelina said.

"Mm-hm. Did you?"

"I suspected something was distracting him."

 

 

 

Snape was not surprised to see Harry and Fred walk into the Great Hall together. In one of the sixth year classes, he had had them identify a few potions, including Amortentia. George had nudged Fred and whispered something about Harry. Fred had blushed and shoved his brother, clearly embarrassed. Snape could harbor a guess as to what he had smelled.

Not far from the potions master, Professor Flitwick looked up at McGonagall smugly and cleared his throat.

McGonagall sighed and handed him two Galleons.

And Dumbledore had that all-knowing expression on his face.

 

 

 

Draco was also watching Harry. The only reason he really wanted to come was to make sure Fred didn't pull any stunts on him. He was glad to see that, as troublesome as Fred may be, he was serious about wanting Harry. And Draco knew that Black and Lupin would have already threatened him if he hurt Harry. But as one of Harry's best friends, Draco was obligated to do the same.

So when the lovesick couple came and sat down next to him, Draco grabbed Fred by the collar of his robes and said in a low voice, "You better take good fucking care of my friend, you hear me?"

Fred nodded vigorously, eyes wide.

Draco released him and straightened up. "See you later, Harry."

Harry laughed at Fred's expression. "Hey, what do you know. Draco approves of you."

 

Chapter Text

After some time, Harry suggested they go for a walk. Harry breathed out a sigh of relief as they escaped the majority of the people. The sound of splashing water, a fountain, helped calm him down a little.

"You having fun, Harry?" Fred asked, sounding anxious.

"Hm? Oh, yes! Most definitely. I didn't think I would enjoy the ball this much."

Fred relaxed. "Me, neither."

They heard a familiar voice coming from nearby.

"... don't see what there is to fuss about, Igor."

"Severus, you cannot pretend this isn't happening!" Karkaroff's voice sounded anxious and hushed, as though keen not to be overheard. "It's been getting clearer and clearer for months. I am becoming seriously concerned, I can't deny it—"

"Then flee," said Snape's voice curtly. "Flee— I will make your excuses. I, however, am remaining at Hogwarts."

Snape and Karkaroff came around the corner. Snape had his wand out and was blasting rosebushes apart, his expression most ill-natured. Squeals issued from many of the bushes, and dark shapes emerged from them.

"Ten points from Ravenclaw, Fawcett!" Snape snarled as a girl ran past him. "And ten points from Hufflepuff too, Stebbins!" as a boy went rushing after her. "And what are you two doing?" he added, catching sight of Harry and Fred. Karkaroff began nervously winding his goatee around his finger.

"Just getting some fresh air," Fred said.

"Well, get it somewhere else!" Snape snarled. He brushed past them with Karkaroff trailing behind.

"Wow," Fred muttered, watching them go. "Wonder what got him in a mood."

Harry shrugged. He had a good idea, knowing Snape's history, but he didn't think it would be appropriate to mention it here. "Can we just go back inside? I'm a bit thirsty."

"Well, we can't have that!" Fred said dramatically. "To the Great Hall!"

They headed back in, where they spoke to a few people here and there, then midnight came and ended the ball.

"Hey, Harry!" Cedric was running up to him.

"Hey, Cedric," Harry said. "What's up?"

Cedric's eyes flicked to Fred, who got the message and went off to give them privacy. "Listen..." Cedric lowered his voice as Fred disappeared. "I owe you one for telling me about the dragons. You know that golden egg? Does yours wail when you open it?"

"Yeah," said Harry.

"Well... take a bath, okay?"

"What?"

"Take a bath, and— er— take the egg with you, and— er— just mull things over in the hot water. It'll help you think... Trust me."

Harry stared at him. Mull things over in the hot water...?

"Tell you what," Cedric said, "use the prefects' bathroom. Fourth door to the left of that statue of Boris the Bewildered on the fifth floor. Password's 'pine fresh.' Gotta go... want to say good night—"

He grinned and went off to where Cho stood waiting for him.

"What did he want?" Fred asked as Harry rejoined him.

"He gave me a hint about the egg."

"You mean you hadn't figured it out yet?"

"No. He mentioned taking a bath with it," Harry said.

"A bath?" Fred raised an eyebrow. "Maybe I should join you," he joked.

Harry coughed a bit, face going very red.

Fred laughed. "I'm joking. Come on. I'll walk you back to the Ravenclaw Tower."

They walked in companionable silence until they reached the entrance. "Harry?" Fred said as Harry was about to step up to the eagle knocker.

"Yes?" Harry turned around and was completely taken aback by the pair of lips that gently but firmly pressed against his.

Fred broke away after a few seconds. "There," he murmured. "That's the one other thing I've been looking forward to." Without another word, he disappeared, off to his own dorm.

Harry blinked in shock and touched his lips. Kissing was something he had seen plenty of people do, but never did he expect to be kissed himself. Remus and Sirius would be pleased.

Remus and Sirius... Harry had almost forgotten he was to tell them about the ball. He gave the answer to the riddle— it took him a bit longer than usual to answer— and rushed inside to write a letter.

 

 

 

Fred entered the Gryffindor Common Room in a daze. Tonight had been the best night of his life. He felt his face heat up as he remembered the kiss. It had taken every single ounce of courage to do so, and it felt incredible.

"Well, if you don't like it, you know what the solution is, don't you?" he heard Hermione yelling; her hair was coming down out of its elegant bun now, and her face was screwed up in anger.

"Oh yeah?" Ron yelled back. "What's that?"

"Next time there's a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!"

Ron mouthed soundlessly like a goldfish out of water as Hermione turned on her heel and stormed up the girls' staircase to bed. Ron turned to look at Fred.

"Well," he sputtered, looking thunderstruck, "well— that just proves— completely missed the point—"

Fred shook his head. Personally, he thought Hermione had made a much better point, not that he knew exactly what that was.

"Blimey," Ron whispered. "I didn't know you were gay, Fred."

Fred quirked an eyebrow challengingly. "Got a problem with that?"

"Well, no, I'm happy for you," Ron said seriously. "It just surprised me."

Fred nodded, appreciative of his words. "Thanks for the support, Ron."

"So, how was it?" George asked as Fred came up the staircase and to bed.

Fred looked at him with a goofy grin on his face. "It was amazing..." He flopped onto his bed, not bothering with his robes. George took out his wand and changed Fred into his pajamas before getting into his own and settling down in bed.

"Night, Freddie."

"Nguh," was all he received.

Chapter Text

Harry woke up on Boxing Day feeling very content with himself. If he could go back in time and redo the Yule Ball, he would. He went down to breakfast with Luna as usual and asked her how was the ball.

"It was very magical. We got ourselves underneath a mistletoe," she said.

"Do you think there were any Nargles in it?" Harry asked.

"Possibly. I couldn't find my shoes this morning. And how was your night?"

A dreamy smile crossed Harry's lips. "Amazing."

"I thought so," Luna said. "Do look now, your boyfriend is staring."

Harry turned around and caught Fred's eye. Fred smiled at him, and Harry turned back around, biting his lip.

 

 

 

Instead of Hagrid waiting for them for Care of Magical Creatures, there was an elderly gray-haired witch named Professor Grubbly-Plank. She led them past the paddock and to the edge of the forest where a unicorn was tethered.

Many of the girls "oooooh!" in awe.

Harry had to agree; the unicorn was a beautiful animal, with its bright white coat and golden hooves.

"Boys, keep back!" Professor Grubbly-Plank said. "They prefer the woman's touch, unicorns. Girls to the front, and approach with care, come on, easy does it..."

She and the girls made their way forward, leaving the boys by the paddock fence.

"I wonder where Hagrid is," Harry muttered.

"You haven't heard?" Draco said.

"What d'you mean?"

Draco pulled out a folded page of newsprint. "It's not good."

Harry took it and looked it over. Hagrid was on the front and in big letters was the headline: DUMBLEDORE'S GIANT MISTAKE.

It talked about how unsafe Hagrid's classes were, albeit in a twisted, overly exaggerated way- what was this about Crabbe being bitten by a flobberworm; they didn't even have any teeth!- and his blood status as a half-giant. Giants were notoriously aggressive creatures, but Hagrid wasn't aggressive. Harry would concede that the creatures he showed were not entirely safe, but then again, a lot of the things they did were not safe- just look at Potions! One wrong move and there could be an explosion.

"Rubbish, the lot of it," Harry said flatly, crumpling it up and tossing it back to Draco, who only just managed to catch it.

When they returned to the castle for lunch, George and Fred came over and plopped down next to him, ignoring the stares he was getting. "Hey, Har," he greeted him.

"Hey." Harry smiled at them. "Are you allowed to sit at other tables?" He never heard of such a thing.

"No rule against it," Fred replied nonchalantly.

"You only sit at your table during the feasts at the beginning and end of the year," Luna said, sliding in on Harry's other side.

"I wish I had known sooner," George said. "Imagine how fun it would have been."

Harry groaned at the thought of the twins wreaking havoc at individual houses.

"Have you figured out the egg, Harry?" Luna asked.

"Not yet."

"Well, you should take up Cedric's offer tonight," Luna suggested.

"I can join you," Fred said, eyebrows wiggling.

"Sure, why not?"

"Really?" Fred perked up.

"That's what I said, isn't it?"

"Do spare me the details," George said, though he was grinning. "We don't need to know everything about each other."

"Oh!" Harry squeaked in surprise once he understood. "We're not- there's no- George!"

"Sorry."

"I'll meet you at your common room," Harry said to Fred. "We can both fit under my Cloak."

 

 

 

That night, Fred exited the Gryffindor common room. "Harry?" he whispered.

"I'm here." Harry's head emerged. "Come on."

Fred ducked down, his taller height making it slightly awkward under the cloak. "Do you want me to hold something?" he asked.

"Here." Harry handed him the egg as he looked at the map. Fred thought back fondly to when he and George had given Harry the Marauder's Map. Good times...

They crept down the hall carefully and reached Boris the Bewildered. Harry said the password- "Pine fresh-" and went in.

The bathroom looked lovely, with its marble floors and white linen curtains. A painting on the wall featured a mermaid asleep on a rock.

"Any idea what to do?" Fred asked as Harry removed the cloak.

"Not exactly. Cedric just said to take a bath and mull things over in the water," Harry answered as he turned in the tap, which started to fill the tub with hot, foaming water.

"Well, no time like the present." Fred began stripping off his pajamas. "Let's go."

Harry didn't move for a moment, just stared owlishly at Fred's lean frame. He snapped out of it and looked away, suddenly hesitant to take off his own pajamas. But he didn't want to back out now, so he reluctantly removed his clothes. With his back to Fred's, he didn't see the brown eyes boring into him just as intently as he had a moment ago.

By now, the tub had filled, so Harry turned the tap off and slid in. Fred did as well, egg in hands. "Now what?"

"Maybe we should put it under the water?" Harry suggested, remembering how the egg had screeched while above.

"Worth a shot." Fred lowered the egg until it sank beneath the water and opened it. The wailing was replaced with a gurgling song, but neither could understand a word. "Shall we?"

Harry nodded. They took a deep breath and lowered their heads.

 

"Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

And while you're searching, ponder this:

We've taken what you'll sorely miss,

An hour long you'll have to look,

And to recover what we took,

But past an hour– the prospect's black,

Too late, it's gone, it won't come back."

 

Harry and Fred burst out from the water.

"All right," Fred said, running a hand over his face to wipe away the excess water. "I did not understand that at all."

It took a few repetitions for them to understand.

"You have to retrieve something within an hour," Fred finally said.

"From the lake," Harry added thoughtfully, looking at the mermaid.

"Which has mermaids in it?" Fred guessed, following Harry's gaze.

"Probably. How the hell am I supposed to breathe underwater for an hour?"

"You'll find a way," Fred reassured him. "You're brilliant at research." He smiled softly at Harry. "You're brilliant at everything."

"Except Quidditch," Harry replied. He had tried playing the sport a couple times with his guardians, but only Sirius really had any skill. Remus hadn't been terrible, but he clearly preferred having both feet on the ground. Harry had decided to stop playing after he caught the Snitch in his mouth. Yuck.

"Almost everything," Fred corrected himself, and then he leaned in.

Their second kiss was just as wonderful as the first, if not a bit damp. Fred ran his hand through Harry's wet hair, pulling him in closer.

"Let's go," Harry said, pulling apart first.

He let out a squeak when Fred got out, exposing his full front side. Okay, he did not need to see that.

Fred looked at Harry curiously when he heard him squeak, belatedly realizing he was still stark naked. "See something you like?" he teased.

Harry turned away, face red. "No?" What was he supposed to say?

"Harry," Fred said, realizing what was troubling him, "if you're ever uncomfortable with something I do, tell me. I won't be offended."

"I'm fine," Harry said. "It's not a big deal."

Fred nodded unconvinced as he watched Harry hurriedly grab his pajamas and put them on. Only when they were both dried and dressed did Harry relax. "Ready?"

"Let's go."

And back under the cloak they went.

Chapter Text

Having understood the egg's clue so early, Harry decided to focus on his schoolwork for a while before looking for something to help him breathe underwater.

He and Luna spent much of their time in the library in the last few weeks. They came across some possibilities, but none of them would be easy to obtain.

"Need help there, you two?"

Harry jumped as Fred's voice came from directly behind him. "You prat!" he yelped. "You startled me."

Fred grinned. "Sorry, love. So, the egg? Trying to look for a way to breathe underwater?"

"Yep. Luna found a Drought Charm, but it wouldn't work on something as big as the lake."

"Something about nose hair, too," Luna added, looking at Weird Wizarding Dilemmas with interest.

Fred sat down next to Harry and grabbed a book. "Well, we still got time," he said cheerfully. "Let's get to it!"

Even with the additional help, though, no one found anything useful. "There must be something," Harry said desperately. The library had never failed him before.

"I'm sure there is," Fred said, looking as exhausted as Harry felt. "But even the Hogwarts library has its limits."

"There you are, Fred." It was George.

"What're you doing here?" Fred asked.

"Looking for you. McGonagall wants you."

"Me? Why? I haven't done anything."

"For once," Harry muttered. He received a small shove in response.

George's lips quirked up slightly. "Dunno," he answered. "She was looking a bit grim, though."

"Maybe the Nargles told her about that faulty canary cream," Luna suggested.

"Faulty canary cream...?" Harry said.

"Not important!" Fred said hastily. "Keep looking. I should be back soon." He kissed the top of Harry's head before following his brother out of the library.

Fred did not return. Harry and Luna continued to look through the books until Madam Pince sent hem to their dorms. Then he thought of something. "Kreacher!"

The house-elf popped into view in front of him. "Yes, Little Master?"

"I've been searching for days," Harry explained, "but I can't find anything that would help me breathe underwater. Do you know of anything?"

"Yes." Kreacher disappeared briefly and when he came back, he held up a ball of what looked like slimy, grayish-green rat tails. "Gillyweed. It will make Little Master breathe underwater."

"Are you sure about this?"

"Kreacher is certain. Master Smells has Gillyweed. Little Master cannot lose his Wheezy."

"Smells? Wheezy?" Then Harry remembered how George had come into the library and led Fred to Professor McGonagall's office. "Fred?"

"Yes, Little Master."

"Thank you, Kreacher! Bye!"

Kreacher nodded and popped away.

 

 

 

Bagman cast Sonorous and announced, "Well, all our champions are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely an hour to recover what has been taken from them. On the count of three, then. One... two... three!"

The whistle echoed shrilly in the cold, still air; the stands erupted with cheers and applause. Harry pulled off his shoes and socks, pulled the handful of gillyweed out of his pocket, stuffed it into his mouth, and waded out into the lake.

He waited for a few minutes, hearing the laughter as he stood there doing seemingly nothing, then felt pain in his neck. Without hesitating, Harry dived into the water. He took a gulp of water- doesn't that sound strange?- and took out his wand.

"Point me!" he said, though no words actually came out. He followed the trail, avoiding the clumps of weed that could hide dangerous creatures, until he came across what poked to be a village.

A statue stood with four people bound to it: Fred, Hermione, Cho, and a girl who must be Fleur's sister. Harry swam up to Fred and began untying the ropes. They were so strong, Harry wondered if he should use his wand. Then he saw the sharp rocks lining he bottom and used one to cut the ropes.

Without another look at the the other hostages, Harry headed for the shore with an unconscious Fred in his arms. As soon as they appeared, Fred's eyes snapped open. "Hiya, Harry. Miss me?"

Harry let out a short laugh and threw his arms around him tightly, kissing him eagerly.

"Gabrielle! Gabrielle! Is she alive? Is she 'urt?" Fleur was whipping her head around desperately. When she saw her sister being carried out by the mermaids, she rushed for her. "It was ze grindylows... zey attacked me... oh Gabrielle, I thought... I thought..."

After a quick discussion, the scores were announced. Fleur received twenty-five points- "I deserved zero"- Cedric with forty-five, Krum earner forty, and Harry received fifty.

"The third and final task will take place at dusk on the twenty-fourth of June," said Bagman. "The champions will be notified of what is coming precisely one month beforehand. Thank you all for your support of the champions."

Chapter Text

The aftermath of the second task led to Fred's fifteen minutes of fame, as Harry called it. Everyone seemed to be very keen on getting the details of the lake. Fred had to remind them that he was unconscious the whole time and wouldn't know, but he did share what Dumbledore had done: put the hostages into a bewitched sleep that would last until they were back above the water.

When Fred, George, and Lee went down for breakfast one week later, they spotted Pansy Parkinson and her group of Slytherins sniggering at something they couldn't see. Parkinson saw Fred and said, "There he is, there he is!"

"You might find something to interest you in there, Weasley!" she said loudly, and she threw the magazine at Fred, who caught it.

Harry Potter: The Boy-Who-Lived-to-be-Gay?

"What a mouthful," George grumbled with a derisive snort.

Fred nodded in agreement, remembering Harry's derisive comment about how important people seemed to always have long names. Voldemort was You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Harry was the Boy-Who-Lived, and the Headmaster was Albus too-many-middle-names Dumbledore.

A boy like no other, perhaps— yet a boy suffering all the usual pangs of adolescence, writes Rita Skeeter. Deprived of love since the tragic demise of his parents, fourteen-year-old Harry Potter thought he had found solace in his steady boyfriend at Hogwarts, Fred Weasley. But is the love truly reciprocated?

Mr. Weasley was seen with Harry at the Yule Ball, which left many suitable ladies devastated and heartbroken. He said he was looking forward to something, and after the ball was finished, Mr. Weasley and Harry Potter shared a tender kiss.

However, it might not be Mr. Weasley's doubtful natural charms that have captured our hero's interest.

"He's not particularly handsome," says Pansy Parkinson, a pretty and vivacious fourth-year student, "but he has a knack for pulling pranks. Maybe that's why he did it. Perhaps he used a love potion. He and his twin brother are quite good with potions, even if their marks don't show it."

Love Potions are, of course, banned at Hogwarts, and no doubt Albus Dumbledore will want to investigate these claims. In the meantime, Harry Potter's well-wishers must hope that, next time, he bestows his heart on a worthier candidate.

"What the hell?" Fred said. "Love potion? Puh-lease! As if I'd waste my time with that rubbish!"

 

"It's Rita Skeeter," Lee reminded them. "You know she'll do anything for publicity."

Fred turned toward the Slytherins, who were watching him closely for his reaction, and flipped them off with his wand as an extension of his middle finger. "Although," he added more thoughtfully, "how did she know...?"

"About what?"

"The kiss. There was no one around!" Fred said. "At least, we didn't see anyone."

George frowned, catching on. "Well, you were both pretty much oblivious to your surroundings. Maybe she was watching from around the corner."

"Maybe." Fred shook his head and dug into his food.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Harry had reached the dungeons where Potions was held and was listening to his dormmates read the article to themselves. Truthfully, while Harry was irritated with it, he wasn't surprised by Rita's obvious dislike of Harry's choice in partner, even if he was insulted on Fred's behalf. "'Not particularly handsome'?" he grumbled. "Sounds like Parkinson needs glasses more than I ever did."

But what was really bothering him was the fact that she knew about their kiss. How? Harry would readily admit that he was not paying attention to his surroundings, but Skeeter couldn't be that good at hiding, could she? Oh, who was he kidding? That woman was notorious for writing extremely inaccurate articles; this was probably nothing compared to the other things she might've written about.

A week passed, and then the hate mail came. One of the envelopes had undiluted bubotuber pus that would have spilled over Fred's hands if it hadn't been for Harry yanking him back away from it.

Girls began eyeing Fred with pure hatred as they passed him in the hall. "Harry, don't you want to sit with your own house?" one girl asked during lunch.

"No, I'm perfectly fine where I am," Harry said coolly. Luna, who had taken to joining him in silent support, merely blinked up at the girl, almost daring her to say something else.

The girl didn't say anything, just sent Fred another heated glare that he did not acknowledge and left.

"I hate that Skeeter woman!" Harry suddenly spat, making Fred jump; Harry was normally very mild. "I'll get her back for this if it's the last thing I do!"

Over the course of the next week, Harry and Luna continued to sit with Fred, pointedly ignoring anyone who had something negative to say. The hate mail did not subside, and Fred even received Howlers, which screeched their insults and promised vengeance.

"How is she listening to private conversations when she's supposed to be banned from the grounds?" Harry wondered after one particularly nasty one.

He asked Professor Moody if he had seen her, but the ex-Auror had not. "She couldn't have used an Invisibility Cloak," he said. "Moody said he hadn't seen her anywhere near the lake."

"Well, that eliminates that," Lee said.

"Maybe she had us bugged," Harry said to himself.

"Like fleas?" George said, confused.

Harry started explaining about hidden microphones and recording equipment, then realized something. "No, it can't be that. Magic makes those Muggle stuff go all haywire, so she must be doing this magically."

It amazed Fred how Harry was able to research possible ways Skeeter could've known on top of doing his own homework and studying and worrying about the Third Task. "He's amazing, isn't he?" he said dreamily when George commented on it.

"Yes, very," George said dryly. All the hate mail had not deterred Fred from being hopelessly mushy when it came to Harry.

"Back off, he's mine," Fred snarled halfheartedly.

Not to mention, extremely possessive.

 

Chapter Text

On the last week of May, Harry was informed to head down to the Quidditch field for information on the third task.

"What d'you reckon it's going to be?" Cedric asked Harry as he joined him. "Fleur keeps going on about underground tunnels; she reckons we've got to find treasure."

"That wouldn't be too bad," said Harry. "But it sounds too easy to be true."

They walked down the dark lawn to the Quidditch stadium, turned through a gap in the stands, and walked out onto the field.

"What've they done to it?" Cedric said indignantly, stopping dead.

"Hedges!" Harry said, staring at the walls that now covered the once-smooth ground.

Apparently, they were building a maze on the field.

"There will be obstacles," Bagman said happily, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Hagrid is providing a number of creatures... then there will be spells that must be broken... all that sort of thing, you know. Now, Mr. Potter will get a head start into the maze." Bagman grinned at Harry. "Then Mr. Diggory... then Mr. Krum will enter... then Miss Delacour. But you'll all be in with a fighting chance, depending how well you get past the obstacles. Should be fun, eh?"

Very, Harry mentally deadpanned. Especially with Voldemort on the loose.

 

 

 

HARRY POTTER

"DISTURBED AND DANGEROUS"

Harry stared blankly at the article, wondering how the hell Rita knew about his scar hurting. He had been in Arithmancy when he was suddenly aware of his scar bursting in pain and being on the floor. Not wanting to worry anyone, he had swiftly left for his dorm and remained there until he could think more clearly.

"Hey, Potter! Potter! How's your head? You feeling all right? Sure you're not going to go berserk on us?" Parkinson shouted, pushing away Draco as he tried to shut her up.

"This woman," Fred muttered, shaking his head. "When will she learn to stop bugging you so much?"

Bugging... Harry suddenly recalled seeing Parkinson seemingly talking into her hand like it was a walkie-talkie. There was also no way Rita Skeeter would have been able to have seen Harry without him noticing her unless she had something to help conceal her.

"Harry, Harry!" Fred nudged his boyfriend, looking concerned. He looked awfully calm for someone who had been slandered— again.

"Hm?" Harry mumbled calmly.

"You all right? You don't even look like you're affected."

"Oh, I am. But Rita Skeeter will regret ever writing this."

Fred blinked at the scheming expression on Harry's face. "Remind me not to get on your bad side."

Harry snorted, raising an eyebrow. "Says you, Marauder-in-training."

At that moment, Professor Flitwick approached them. "Mr. Potter, the champions are congregating in the chamber off the Hall after breakfast. Your families will be there."

Harry nodded, inwardly wincing. Remus and Sirius were not likely to be happy that he had not told them about his vision.

"I'll see you later," Fred said, kissing Harry's cheek.

"Bye." Harry stood up and went into the side chamber.

To his surprise, the Weasleys were also there.

"Surprise!" Mrs. Weasley said excitedly. "Thought we'd come and watch you. Harry!"

Harry grinned at her, then turned to Remus and Sirius. "You made it," he said, hugging them both.

"Course we did, pup," Sirius said.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Remus added.

They all took a tour around Hogwarts, though Remus and Sirius eventually separated from the Weasleys and pulled Harry aside.

"What was the vision about?" Remus asked.

Harry didn't even try to pretend he didn't know what he meant. "Voldemort got a letter from an owl. He said something like, Wormtail's blunder had been repaired. He said someone was dead. Then he said, Wormtail wouldn't be fed to the snake— there was a snake beside his chair. He said— he said he'd be feeding me to it, instead. Then he did the Cruciatus Curse on Wormtail— and my scar hurt," Harry said.

"Your scar hurt," Sirius repeated anxiously. "Why would your scar hurt?"

Harry shrugged.

"You should have told us, kiddo," Remus said.

"I didn't want to bother you."

"Harry, we talked about this," Remus said, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder. "You are never a bother to us."

"The Third Task," Harry said. "Do you think it has anything to do with that?"

"It most likely does. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in the first two." Sirius' eyes were shadowed with concern. "Stay alert. Do what you have to do to survive."

Harry nodded solemnly.

They rejoined the Weasleys and headed back into the Great Hall for lunch.

"Mum— Bill!" said Ron, looking stunned, as he joined the Gryffindor table. "What're you doing here?"

"Come to watch Harry in the last task!" said Mrs. Weasley brightly. "I must say, it makes a lovely change, not having to cook. How was your exam?"

"Oh... okay," said Ron. "Couldn't remember all the goblin rebels' names, so I invented a few. It's all right, they're all called stuff like Bodrod the Bearded and Urg the Unclean; it wasn't hard."

Fred, George, and Ginny came in and sat down with them.

"Hey, Mum," Fred said. His grin faltered upon seeing her face.

Harry frowned. "You didn't believe what Rita Skeet wrote, did you?"

"No, of course not," Mrs. Weasley said.

"Fred really likes Harry," George said.

"Yeah, you should hear him in the common room," Ginny added. "He goes on and on about Harry's eyes."

"And his hair," Ron chirped.

"Ginny, Ron!" Fred exclaimed. "Are you serious?!"

"No, but he is." Ginny pointed to Sirius, who let out his bark-like laugh.

Mrs. Weasley didn't say anything else, but Harry noticed that she was no longer staring at Fred disapprovingly.

"So, did you figure out Skeeter yet?" Remus asked in a low voice.

The vindictive gleam Fred had seen earlier reappeared in Harry's eyes. "I believe so. I think she may be an Animagus."

"But what kind?" Sirius asked eagerly.

"A bug of some sort," Harry said. "The problem now is finding her."

"Do you have the map on you?" Remus asked.

"No, I'd have to go get it."

After he did that, the three spent the afternoon walking around the castle, partly focused for any insect, but mostly talking about what had been going on back at home. Harry laughed as Sirius recalled rather grumpily when he had woken Remus up by turning into Padfoot and licking him like he often did, only for Remus to lash out and kick him in the groin.

"It's not funny, I couldn't sit down for like five hours!"

"It was barely one."

"Ten hours!"

 

 

 

"Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin!"

As Bagman listed off the points each champion had, Harry concentrated on taking deep breaths. He turned to look back at the stands. Fred waved at him, then blushed as Sirius leaned over and said something in his ear. Harry turned back around, rolling his eyes. No doubt that Sirius had said something rather... mature.

"So... on my whistle, Harry!" said Bagman. "Three— two— one—"

As the whistle sounded, Harry raced forward and disappeared into the maze.

Chapter Text

The first fifty yards or so were in a straight line, then diverged. Harry went to the left. He had his wand on him, but so far nothing attacked. That couldn't be right, he thought anxiously.

Just as he was thinking this, a Dementor appeared. "Expecto patronum!" he shouted.

A silver shield erupted from the end of Harry's wand and advanced toward the Dementor, which fell back and tripped over the hem of its robes. "Riddikulus!"

With a loud crack, the Dementor-Boggart was gone.

"Point me!" Harry said and headed in a direction.

He came across a golden mist and paused. What was this? None of the spells that came to mind seemed to fit this predicament.

A scream suddenly pierced the air. "Fleur?"

He turned and headed away from the mist. For ten minutes, he met nothing, just hit dead ends that forced him to double back.

A Blast-Ended Skrewt— a full-grown one— blocked his path when he came around a corner.

Harry waited for a moment, then aimed at its belly. "Impedimenta!"

While it was distracted, Harry turned away. He found a path and began running down it, only to stop when he heard a voice.

"What are you doing?" It was Cedric. "What the hell d'you think you're doing?"

And then Harry heard Krum's voice.

"Crucio!"

"Reducto!" Harry shouted. A hole appeared in the hedge and after a few more Reductor Curses, he made it big enough to get through.

Cedric was on the ground, writhing in pain, with Krum standing over him. Krum took one look at Harry and ran.

"Stupefy!" Harry shouted, and Krum fell down unconscious.

"Are you all right?" Harry demanded.

"Yeah," panted Cedric. "Yeah... I don't believe it... he crept up behind me... I heard him, I turned around, and he had his wand on me..."

"Right. Did you hear Fleur?"

"Yeah, do you think Krum got to her, too?"

"I don't know." Harry sent up red sparks for Krum. "There. Someone should be here soon."

Cedric gave Krum's body a disdainful look. "Well... I s'pose we'd better go on..."

"Yeah."

A sphinx blocked Harry's path next. "You are very near your goal. The quickest way is past me."

"All right, so how do I get past?"

"You must answer my riddle. Answer on your first guess— I let you pass. Answer wrongly— I attack. Remain silent— I will let you walk away from me unscathed."

"Okay," Harry said. "Can I hear the riddle?"

"First think of the person who lives in disguise,

Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.

Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,

The middle of middle and end of the end?

And finally give me the sound often heard

During the search for a hard-to-find word.

Now string them together, and answer me this,

Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?"

"A spider," Harry answered after a few minutes of thinking out loud.

The sphinx smiled and moved aside. He moved past her and took off running.

The Triwizard Cup was gleaming on a plinth a hundred yards away. Harry ran  up to it and reached out. Then he paused. Something was wrong. He had expected whatever it was Voldemort had planned to begin, but so far, there had been nothing out of the ordinary.

Harry stared at the cup, which stood proudly on the plinth. If he took it, he'd risk himself. But if someone else came along and grabbed it, then what?

As if his thought had been a summon, footsteps were heard pounding behind him. Harry whipped around; it was Cedric. The seventh year slewed to a halt not far. "What are you waiting for?" he said. "Aren't you going to grab it?"

"I'm— I'm not sure," Harry said.

"Well, you made it here first," Cedric pointed out.

"I know, but I don't think it'd be a good idea."

"Why not?"

"Because—" A figure suddenly appeared behind Cedric. "Look out!”

Cedric whipped around, only to fall as a beam of red hit him. Before Harry could make out the newcomer, he felt a jerk on his navel, and the maze disappeared.

 

 

 

His feet slammed into the ground, and the cup thudded next to him. Lifting his head, Harry looked around. He was in a dark and overgrown graveyard, far away from Hogwarts.

Wand out, he slowly crept forward. Footsteps alerted him of another presence, and he paused to watch. The figure was short and carrying a bundle of robes, and Harry looked at him quizzically.

At that moment, his scar burst in pain. Voldemort, he realized. He had to get back to the cup.

But the figure grabbed him and dragged him to a marble headstone. Harry struggled, and the man hit him. "Wormtail!" he spat, recognizing him by his missing finger.

Wormtail did not respnd, just bound Harry to the headstone and stuffed a rag into his mouth. Harry continued to struggle as Wormtail pushed forward a large cauldron.

The bundle that Wormtail had been carrying was beginning to stir. Harry let out a choked sound as he saw what was inside for the first time. It looked like a human child, yet at the same time, it didn't. Wormtail lowered it into the cauldron.

"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!"

The surface of the grave at Harry's feet cracked, and a fine trickle of dust rose into the air and fell softly into the cauldron.

Next, Wormtail pulled a long, thin, shining silver dagger from inside his cloak.

"Flesh— of the servant— w-willingly given— you will— revive— your master."

Harry squeezes his eyes tightly as a scream pierced the air. A thud, followed by a splash sounded as Wormtail's severed limb was added into the cauldron.

"B-blood of the enemy... forcibly taken... you will... resurrect your foe."

The dagger broke into Harry's skin, and the blood trickled out. Panting, a Wormtail poured it into the cauldron and slumped over, cradling the sumo of his arm.

Sparks flew from the cauldron, nearly blinding Harry, then abruptly stopped. White steam billowed thickly, obscuring Harry's view of Wormtail.

Through the mist, Harry watched, horrified, as a tall, thin man rose from the cauldron.

"Robe me."

Wormtail scrambled to pick up the black robes from the ground and pulled them over his master's head.

The man climbed out of the cauldron and faced Harry, who could only stare back helplessly.

Lord Voldemort had risen again.

Chapter Text

The first time red sparks had been shot into the air, Fred's heart nearly stopped. He relaxed marginally when it turned out to be Krum, who looked very confused as to whatever had transpired. Fleur appeared next, shaken but otherwise all right. Cedric and Harry were in the maze, still in the game.

Beside Fred, Sirius was muttering under his breath, not quite as calm as he had at the beginning of the task. Remus wasn't much better; the werewolf was patting Sirius' arm absently, but it was obvious his mind was elsewhere.

Red sparks shot into the air once more, and it turned out to be Cedric, who immediately ran to speak to the Headmaster. Fred was too far away to hear him, but Dumbledore's face grew somber.

"Where's Harry?" Fred wondered. George shrugged, looking just as uneasy.

They waited for several agonizing minutes. Fred willed someone to do something. "Something's wrong. Why isn't anyone doing anything?" he demanded.

Before anyone could respond, there was a loud pop, and Harry landed in the grass with the cup tightly clutched in his hand.

There were cheers all around them; no one seemed to notice the state he was in. No one except for Sirius, Remus, and Fred.

Sirius launched himself out of the stand with Remus close behind. Fred went to follow, but George held him back. "Let me go! I have to get to Harry!"

"You'll only get in the way," George snapped back. "It's already crowded enough as it is."

He wasn't wrong; between Dumbledore, Fudge, Madam Pomfrey, Snape, and the two Marauders, Harry had disappeared.

 

 

 

"Where's Harry?" Sirius demanded as he reached Dumbledore.

"Moody said he was taking him to the hospital wing," Fudge said.

That didn't appease Dumbledore. "Go find them," he ordered.

"What's wrong?" Remus asked.

"Moody wouldn't just remove Harry without anyone noticing," Dumbledore said.

Sirius immediately turned into Padfoot and raced away, following Harry's scent. Whatever had happened in the maze was because of Voldemort, he was sure of it. With the vision Harry had had, who else could it be?

He reached Moody's office and slammed open the door just in time to see Moody with his wand pointed directly at Harry.

"Stupefy!" Sirius shouted, throwing Moody back.

Harry stared at Moody, shock written across his face.

"Are you all right?" Sirius demanded, wincing a little at the stupid question. "Did he hurt you?"

Harry buried his face into Sirius' chest, body shaking.

"Harry?" Sirius prompted. Harry shook his head, still trembling, from pain or fear, Sirius couldn't tell. "What's wrong? Harry, pup, you're scaring me."

Harry lifted his head, expression somber. "Voldemort's back," he whispered.

Just then, Remus burst in along with Dumbledore and Snape.

Remus ran to Sirius' side. "Come on, we need to get him to the hospital wing."

"No," Dumbledore said sharply.

"Albus!” Remus looked aghast. “He's had a rough night! Let us take him—"

"He will stay," Dumbledore said, "because he needs to understand."

"Understand what?" Harry said. "That he—" he pointed at Moody's unconscious form— "was the reason I got into this tournament? That he is the reason I faced Voldemort? Who the hell is he?"

Dumbledore bent down over Moody's limp form and put a hand inside his robes. He pulled out Moody's hip flask and a set of keys on a ring. Then he turned to Snape.

"Severus, please fetch me the strongest Truth Potion you possess, and then go down to the kitchens and bring up the house-elf called Winky."

As Snape left, Dumbledore opened the trunk to reveal...

Harry gasped as he saw the real Moody, lying unconscious some ten feet below.

Dumbledore climbed into the trunk, lowered himself, and fell lightly onto the floor beside the sleeping Moody. He bent over him.

"Stunned— controlled by the Imperius Curse— very weak," he said. "Of course, they would have needed to keep him alive. Remus, throw down the imposter's cloak— he's freezing. Madam Pomfrey will need to see him, but he seems in no immediate danger."

Remus did as he was told, staring between the two Moodys with wide eyes.

"Poliyjuice Potion, Harry," Dumbledore said, looking at the hip flask. "You see the simplicity of it, and the brilliance. For Moody never does drink except from his hip flask, he's well known for it. The imposter needed, of course, to keep the real Moody close by, so that he could continue making the potion. You see his hair..." Dumbledore looked down on the Moody in the trunk. "The imposter has been cutting it off all year, see where it is uneven? But I think, in the excitement of tonight, our fake Moody might have forgotten to take it as frequently as he should have done... on the hour... every hour... We shall see."

Sure enough, a moment later, the impostor revealed himself, Moody's appearance disappearing to be replace by a younger man with straw-colored hair.

Snape arrived in time to see the last of the transformation. "Crouch!" he said, stopping dead in the doorway. "Barty Crouch!"

Filthy, disheveled, Winky peered around Snape's legs. Her mouth opened wide and she let out a piercing shriek.

"Master Barty, Master Barty, what is you doing here?"

She flung herself forward onto the young man's chest.

"You is killed him! You is killed him! You is killed Master's son!"

"He is simply Stunned, Winky," said Dumbledore. "Step aside, please. Severus, you have the potion?"

Harry, who was still clinging onto Sirius as if he were afraid he would disappear, watched as Dumbledore questioned Crouch and listening with growing horror as the pieces fell into place.

"I offered to carry the Triwizard Cup into the maze before dinner," whispered Barty Crouch. "Turned it into a Portkey. My master's plan worked. He is returned to power and I will be honored by him beyond the dreams of wizards."

Dumbledore then turned to Harry. "Come."

"Albus," said Remus, "can't it wait?"

"No, it cannot. Harry?"

Harry refused to move until Dumbledore said that Remus and Sirius could come. Then he followed the Headmaster to his office.

"I need to know what happened after you touched the Portkey in the maze. Harry," said Dumbledore.

"We can leave that till morning, can't we, Dumbledore?" said Sirius harshly. He still had not released Harry. "Let him have a sleep. Let him rest."

"If I thought I could help you," Dumbledore said gently, "by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened."

A shudder ran through Harry's body as he relived the event. When he got to Wormtail taking his blood, Dumbledore had Harry show him his arm.

"The wands connected?" Sirius said a few minutes later. "Why?"

"Priori Incantatem," Dumbledore muttered.

"The Reverse Spell effect?" Remus said.

"Exactly," said Dumbledore. "Harry's wand and Voldemort's wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. This phoenix, in fact," he added, and he pointed at the scarlet-and-gold bird, perching peacefully on Harry's knee.

When Dumbledore finally led Harry to the hospital wing, they were greeted by Harry's friends.

Fred jumped up first. "Harry!" he cried in relief. He almost ran over, but Dumbledore stopped him.

"Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore said, "please listen to me for a moment. Harry has been through a terrible ordeal tonight. He has just had to relive it for me. What he needs now is sleep, and peace, and quiet. If he would like you all to stay with him," he added, looking around at George, Draco, and Luna, "you may do so. But I do not want you questioning him until he is ready to answer, and certainly not this evening."

"Yes, sir," Luna said. Draco and George nodded in acception.

Harry took a potion for dreamless sleep and was out like a light.

Chapter Text

 

Harry watched as the Minister left the hospital wing, unable to believe what he just heard. Fudge didn't believe Voldemort was back. Snape's Dark Mark, which was considerably more noticeable now, failed to convince him. So did Harry's suggestion of making a vow; Fudge insisted that since he believed it to be true that magic would deem it truthful.

Looking down at the bag of Galleons that had just been tossed onto the table next to him, Harry felt a wave of revulsion. It wasn't worth it, it wasn't worth any of this.

Arms wrapped around him, comforting and strong. Fred rested his chin on the top of Harry's head, feeling him trembling underneath.

"Voldemort's back because of me," Harry whispered.

"No, it's not. It's no one's fault but You-Know-Wh— Voldemort's." Fred's voice shook on the name, but he didn't recoil.

Harry swallowed a lump in his throat as the impact of the night fully hit him. Screwing his eyes shut, he tried to hold back the tears.

A loud slamming sound made him jump, accidentally banging his head against Fred’s chin. Remus was standing by the window, hands cupped around something. "Sorry."

Sirius handed Harry the vial. "Here, more dreamless sleep potion."

Harry drank it in one gulp. Instantly, his eyelids grew heavy. He was vaguely aware of Fred lowering him back down into the bed before darkness enveloped him.

 

 

 

Over the course of the next month, students were avoiding Harry in the halls. Harry guessed they all believed Rita Skeeter's articles, which didn't surprise him one bit. Only his friends stayed with him, giving glares to anyone who spoke badly about Harry. The Gryffindors especially were wary with Fred there. He had been tempted to alter the canary creams into doing something slightly more malicious than just transforming the consumer into a canary for a minute, but George pointed out it wouldn't change anything.

The Leaving Feast was its own kind of awful, with Dumbledore announcing Voldemort's return and mentioning Harry's escape. Not everyone seemed inclined to take Dumbledore's words seriously, and Harry would wager that their parents would be the same.

As the students were headed for the train, Harry heard his name being called. It was Cedric, who had separated from his friends and was now running over.

"Hello," Harry said.

"Hey, look, I don't think this will make much of a difference, but I believe you. About You-Know-Who bring back. And I know my parents do, too."

"Thank you." He was right; it wouldn't make a large impact, but after all the suspicious stares, Harry was more than happy to hear this.

"I tried to talk to the other Hufflepuffs," Cedric added. "Some of them looked like they might believe you, too. Anyway, that's all. Bye."

"I'm surprised Rita Skeeter hasn't said anything," George commented as he turned away.

Fred noticed the old vindictive gleam in Harry's eyes. "What did you do?" he asked.

"Me? Nothing." Harry looked up at his boyfriend innocently. "But remember how I was talking about the Muggle electronics and bugging?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I mentioned it to Moony and Padfoot. Remember that night in the hospital wing? Remus saw a beetle on the windowsill and caught her."

"A beetle?" Luna said. "I bet she's a very pretty beetle. Too bad her personality isn't."

"Blimey, Harry! You're brilliant!" Fred said.

Harry grinned. "I'm gonna have to ask him where she is now."

They found a compartment on the train and sat down.

"Oh, before I forget," Harry said, dumping the bag of Galleons into the twins’ hands, "here."

"What?" Fred said.

"I don't want it. So here, take it. You know, for your joke shop."

"You're mental," George said.

"So I've heard. Now take it. Consider it a late birthday/extremely early Christmas gift or something."

"But—"

Harry took out his wand. "I will hex you if you don't accept."

"Okay, okay," George said quickly. In a loud whisper to his brother, he said, "Your boyfriend is scary."

"I know," Fred whispered back.

"And he can hear you," Harry said, beginning to braid Luna's hair.

“That’s one good thing that came out of the tournament,” she said.

“What’s that?”

“You learned more spells. They’ll be very handy, I’m sure.”

Eventually, they reached King’s Cross. Harry had barely stepped off the train when Sirius lunged forward and scooped him up in his arms. "Padfoot!" Harry yelped, laughing. "Put me down!"

“But I missed you!” Sirius whined.

“I miss you, too. Now let me go so I can hug Remus.”

Remus laughed. "Ready to go?"

"Wait!" Fred said. "One more kiss?"

"Wha—?" Harry was cut off by Fred's lips on his own.

"I'll miss you, Harrykins. Remember to write, okay?" Fred ruffled his hair and skipped back to his family.

"Yeah," Harry said dazedly. He turned back to Remus and Sirius. "Let’s go.” He grabbed onto Sirius’ arm and King’s Cross disappeared from view.

Chapter Text

Harry was no stranger to nightmares, but when he first slipped into bed back at Grimmauld Place, they plagued his dreams every night for the first two weeks.

In the first one, nothing extraordinary happened; it was basically just Harry reliving the events in the graveyard, and he did not tell Sirius and Remus. But in the second one, when he was Portkeyed away from the maze, he was shocked to see Voldemort there, already with his full body. At his feet lay a familiar shape. Harry's stomach lurched as he stared into Sirius' blank gaze. That was when Harry, in his panicked state, leapt out of bed and ran to the other bedroom, startling the occupants awake.

"Sirius!" Harry had sobbed when he spotted him, very much alive and very alarmed.

"Harry!" Sirius caught his son's body as he launched him to his arms. "Pup, what happened?"

But Harry had been too hysterical to hear, so Remus called for Kreacher to bring him a Calming Draught. Strangely, the elderly house-elf had grown to be more protective of Harry; he didn't necessarily like the young Ravenclaw, but he didn't hate him like he did Sirius. Although even their relationship was getting a little better.

"It was you," Harry said once his crying had ceased. "You were dead. Voldemort—"

"Hey." Sirius lifted Harry's chin so their eyes met. "Look, you see me. I'm still here."

"For now," Harry whispered brokenly.

"Do you want to sleep with us, Harry?" Remus asked gently.

"Please."

The next few nights, Harry had gone to his own bed, but on the fourth night, he joined Remus and Sirius again. He didn't even say anything; he just crawled into the bed between them. They didn't mind.

Harry slowly got better over time, his nightmares becoming less frequent. Sirius would constantly say or do things that would make Harry laugh and shake his head with amusement. Like that time he tried to cook while Kreacher was busy cleaning.

"The water just disappeared!" Sirius said, waving his hands around theatrically.

"Padfoot," Harry said, "it evaporated."

"It did what?" Who knew wizards and witches didn't know the basics of the states of matter?

Or that time Remus came into the bedroom to see Harry with his messy hair a mixture of red and gold. "Help. Me," Harry had deadpanned.

So Remus did, and Sirius found himself blue and bronze from head to toe an hour later. "Fuck you, Remus," Sirius growled.

"Not now," Remus said with a glance at Harry.

Harry went back to his room, muttering about hormonal adults.

Even with them there to cheer him up, Harry was quieter and mostly secluded in his room.

One day, Remus walked in to find Harry sitting on the floor. "What are you looking at, Harry?" he asked.

Harry jumped slightly. "What? Oh, hi, Moony. I was just looking through Mum's journal." He hadn't opened it much the previous year, but lately that was all he was able to read, it seemed. "Were they buried?"

It was Remus' turn to be caught off guard. "Yes, they were."

"Can we go see them?" Harry didn't think he succeeded in going for a casual tone very well.

"Yes. Of course we can."

So it was early the next morning when the three Apparated to Godric's Hollow. No one was awake, so they walked without meeting anyone. They passed the war memorial, and Sirius was the one who spotted it turn into a statue of three people: a man with untidy hair and glasses, a woman with long hair and a kind, pretty face, and a baby boy sitting in his mother's arms.

Harry felt Sirius' hand give a gentle squeeze before they moved on. Remus pushed the kissing gate open as quietly as possible, shoulders tense.

One of the first gravestones Harry saw was an Abbott. A relative of Hannah's, perhaps? A little farther back was another familiar name: Dumbledore.

"Professor Dumbledore had a sister?" Harry said.

"Maybe," Sirius said, perplexed. "I've met his brother, but neither of them mentioned an Ariana."

Remus was crouched in front of a headstone two rows beyond the Dumbledores. "I found them," he said softly.

Harry and Sirius approached the headstone. Its white marble surface made it easy to read.

JAMES POTTER

BORN 27 MARCH 1960

DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981

LILY POTTER

BORN 30 JANUARY 1960

DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Tears threatened to spill over Harry's face, and when Remus turned to him, he didn't hesitate to push his face into Remus' shoulder. Both Remus and Sirius wrapped their arms around him like a cocoon.

Despite the summer heat, Harry shivered. His parents laid barely feet away, and only now, thirteen years later, were they reunited with their son and remaining friends.

Abruptly, Harry stood up. He couldn’t take sitting here much longer. “Can we go home?” he said, wiping his eyes.

Sirius nodded. His eyes were damp as well, though he seemed to be trying to hold strong for Harry. Remus lifted his wand and conjured a small bouquet of flowers, levitating it against the headstone.

They made their way back to Grimmauld Place in silence.

Chapter Text

 

In the midst of all this, Remus and Sirius were very busy with the Order of Phoenix. Harry wasn't allowed to attend meetings since he was underage, and frankly, he was fine with letting the adults handle things.

It was toward the end of the summer when he received a delightful surprise.

A loud crack sounded directly in front of him, and Harry found himself being smothered in someone’s arms.

“Surprise!” a familiar voice said.

"Fred!" Harry exclaimed happily. "I see you passed your Apparation test."

"With distinction," Fred said proudly.

"Let me guess, you Apparate everywhere you go now."

"No," Fred denied. "Almost everywhere."

"Eh, same difference." Harry sat down on the bed. “So how is everyone? You and George driving everyone nuts?”

“Of course!” Fred looked offended that Harry even thought to ask. “Bill applied for a desk job so he could come home and work for the Order. He says he misses the tombs, but there are compensations..."

"Compensations?"

"Fleur Delacour’s got a job at Gringotts and Bill's been giving her a lot of private lessons.”

“What about Charlie?”

"He’s in the Order, too, but he's still in Romania. Dumbledore wants as many foreign wizards brought in as possible, so Charlie's trying to make contacts on his days off."

"And Percy?" Harry asked.

At once, the smile on Fred’s face dropped.

"He doesn't believe Voldemort's back, does he?" Harry guessed, more resigned than surprised.

"No, he doesn't," Fred said heavily. "He and Dad had a row. Never seen anything like it. Percy was promoted, but Dad thinks it’s only to keep an eye out on us. Make sure we aren’t in contact with Dumbledore.”

"Oh." Harry rolled his eyes. He was very aware that the Daily Prophet was making him out to be an attention-seeking person that couldn't tell the truth if it bit him in the arse.

The sound of footsteps hailed the arrival of Mrs. Weasley. "The meeting's over, you can come down and have dinner now. Everyone's dying to see you, Harry. Come along.”

Fred grabbed Harry’s hand and they walked out onto the landing. “Wait,” Fred said. “They’re still in the hall.”

They looked over the bannisters. A group of wizards and witches were whispering excitedly in the hallway, clustered around Professor Snape.

A thin piece of flesh-colored string descended in front of them. Raising his head, Harry saw George with Ginny, Ron, and Hermione.

“An Extendable Ear,” Fred whispered as the knot of people moved out the front door. “Very useful. Unfortunately, Mum put an Imperturbable Charm on the kitchen door. Wouldn’t be able to hear anything.”

They made it to the first floor and headed for the kitchen. Harry winced as Tonks tripped over the umbrella stand, causing the portrait of Sirius’ mother to begin her caterwauling. Sirius came running up and scrambled to shut the curtains.

“Well, there’s that one for the week,” he said in false cheerfulness.

“For the week?” George whispered.

“She likes to remind us of her presence,” Harry replied.

Ginny snorted. “Sounds like a lovely woman.”

“You’d get along wonderfully,” Harry joked.

Dinner was much noisier with the guests. The twins tried to save time by betwitching several items. Unfortunately, that backfired and had Harry, Sirius, and Mundungus diving away from the table.

Tonks spent most of dinner entertaining Hermione and Ginny with her Metamorphmagus abilities. At one point, she made a pig snout that reminded Harry of a female Dudley. Mundungus, meanwhile, was telling the twins and Ron about his dealings, sending them howling with laughter.

Afterward, Mrs. Weasley sent the children off to bed.

“Have Sirius and Remus told you anything?” Hermione asked. “About the Order?”

“Just that they’re all trying to gain support about Voldemort without the Ministry knowing,” Harry replied.

“We heard them mention a weapon,” Ron said in a hushed tone.

“Like what?”

Ron shrugged. “Dunno. That’s when Mum found out about the Extendable Ears. Maybe it’s some particularly painful war of killing people.”

“More painful than the Cruciatus?” Harry said, remembering all too well how much he wanted to die that day.

He separated from the others and headed for his own room. Sleep didn’t come easily, and he tossed and turned in his bed.

Crack.

Harry jumped as Fred practically Apparated on top of his legs. “Ow! Couldn’t you have Apparated anywhere else but the bed?” he said crossly.

“Sorry.” It was too dark to see clearly, but Harry had a feeling Fred had a sheepish grin on his face. “I, er, wanted to ask you something.”

“What’s that?”

“Can I sleep with you?”

Harry blinked. “Yeah,” he said, unable to fully repress the eagerness from his voice.

There was some shuffling, and Fred slid under the covers and pulled Harry close to him. “Night, Harry.”

“Night.”

This time, Harry managed to fall asleep. No nightmares haunted his dreams.

 

 

 

On the last day of the holidays, the booklists arrived.

“Only two new ones,” Harry said. “The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5, by Miranda Goshawk and Defensive Magical Theory, by Wilbert Slinkhard.”

“Dumbledore must’ve found a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher,” Fred said.

George Apparated into the room. “Ron’s been made prefect.”

“What?” Fred stared at his brother as if he had grown a second head. “You’re joking!”

“Not this time.”

“There’s been a mistake,” Fred said, looking dazed. “No one in their right mind would make Ron a prefect...”

“Why not?” Harry glared at him. “From what I’ve heard, he’s done pretty well in most of his classes.”

“Well—” Fred blinked, surprised by Harry’s words. “I— he—”

“He’s your brother. You should be proud.” Turning back to George, he asked, “What about Hermione?”

“She’s prefect, too,” he responded, equally stunned. “That doesn’t come as a surprise, though. Mum’s gonna get him a new broomstick.”

 

 

 

To celebrate Ron and Hermione becoming prefects, Mrs. Weasley suggested having a small party.

“Your father and Bill are on their way, Ron, I’ve sent them both owls and they’re thrilled,” she told Ron, beaming.

Fred rolled his eyes. But then Harry’s words echoed in his ears: “He’s your brother. You should be proud.”

“Hey, Ron?”

Ron turned to him, slightly wary.  “What?”

“Congrats,” Fred said, and he meant it.

Ron raised an eyebrow. “Harry talked to you, didn’t he?”

Fred shrugged. “He might’ve said something.”

“Well, thanks.” Ron paused. “You’re turning into a really softie with Harry around, you know that?”

“Am not,” Fred protested weakly.

“Yes, you are,” Harry said from behind, walking up and slinging an arm over his shoulder. He faced Ron. “What kind of broom did your mum get?”

The grin on Ron’s face spoke volumes. “The new Cleansweep.”

He turned away as Mad-Eye Moody came lumbering in.

Fred avoided Harry’s gaze. “Don’t say a word.”

“Fine, I’ll say five words.” Harry kissed him on the cheek. “Now, come on. There’s a party going on.”

Chapter Text

"Remember to call us if anything goes wrong," Sirius reminded Harry again.

"I will, I will. Don't worry." He hugged him and Remus and rejoined the Weasleys to board the train.

Ron and Hermione separated from the group to go to the prefect carriage, leaving Harry with the twins and Ginny.

"Come on," said Harry, grabbing Fred's hand, "let's go find a compartment."

They ended up in the last compartment where Luna sat.

"Hi. Good summer?" Harry asked. "Nargles staying away?"

"Very good, and yes. Oh, that reminds me." Luna set aside her magazine and rummaged through her bag. "I made one for you."

"Thanks." Harry put it on. He knew others would find it silly, but he didn't care. He looked at Luna's magazines on the floor. "May I take a look?"

"Of course."

The one he picked up depicted a cartoon of Cornelius Fudge holding a bag of gold in one hand and strangling a goblin in the other. It was captioned:  How Far Will Fudge Go to Gain Gringotts?

Fred, who was leaning over to get a look, snorted. "'Cooked in pies?'" he read.

Harry just shrugged, used to the strangeness of The Quibbler.

The food trolley and come and gone by the time Ron and Hermione turned up.

"There are two fifth-year prefects from each House," Hermione said. "Boy and girl from each."

"And guess who's a Slytherin prefect?" Ron said, taking a bite of a chocolate frog.

"Draco?" Harry replied.

"And that complete cow Pansy Parkinson,” Hermione added.

Harry rolled his eyes. Draco had more or less given up on keeping Parkinson from running her mouth, not that Harry could blame him.

"Anything good in there?" Ron asked, looking at the magazine.

"Of course not," Hermione butted in. "The Quibbler's rubbish, everyone knows that."

"Excuse me," Luna said in a cold voice that was very unlike her. "My father's the editor."

Hermione stuttered out a weak apology, looking embarrassed, and went red at Harry's glare.

"It may be 'rubbish,' but at least it doesn't mindlessly slander people," he said, handing the magazine back to Luna.

They reached Hogwarts and headed for the carriages. Luna walked up to the front of one of them and reached a hand out to seemingly empty air. "Luna, what are you doing?"

"Petting the Thestral," she said.

"A what?" Fred squinted. "I don't see anything."

"That's because you haven't seen death," Luna told him, smiling sadly.

Looking slightly spooked, Fred tightened his grip on Harry's hand as they got into a carriage.

 

 

 

Upon arrival, Fred reluctantly separated from Harry as went to the Gryffindor table. Harry followed Luna and took at seat at their own table.

He looked up at the staff table and spotted a woman with a fluffy pink cardigan. "Dolores Umbridge," he murmured to himself. Sirius had spoken of her once with disgust evident in his tone. During his trial, Umbridge had made it clear in her belief that, while Sirius may be innocent, he and Remus were not fit to raise Harry. Remus himself had a few words to say about her, telling Harry that she was against anyone who wasn't a pureblooded wizard or witch, and creatures like werewolves should be cleansed from society. Harry immediately disliked her from those two reasons alone.

Still... the fact that someone from the Ministry was here at all spelt trouble.

Umbridge gave a long, dull speech and Harry's worries increased. It was just as he had suspected: The Ministry was interfering at Hogwarts.

As he headed to his dorm, he could feel the first years sending glances at him. But this was different; their gazes were full of terror instead of awe. Unsurprising, considering the third task that had taken place two months ago.

Terry, Anthony, and Michael avoided his gaze as they got ready for bed.

"Harry?" Terry was the first to speak, pausing as he was pulling out his pajamas.

"Yes?" Harry looked at him expectantly.

Terry didn't return his gaze. "What happened that night?"

"Exactly what I said happened," Harry replied.

"So You-Know-Who is back?"

"Unfortunately." Harry watched Terry for a moment. "If you don't believe me, just say so."

"I want to believe you. But my parents don't."

"Mine don't know what to think," Michael piped up.

"I believe you," Anthony announced. "Come on, guys, Harry said he would have sworn a Vow like he did when his name was pulled. You know how Vows work."

Terry and Michael still looked uncertain.

"Don't push it, Anthony," Harry said. "It's fine. Better than some of the other students, anyway." He has seen Seamus Finnigan glaring after him, and the whispers had followed him as soon as he had stepped onto the train.

Anthony changed the subject. "What did you think of that Umbridge woman?"

"Trouble," was all Harry said as he slid into bed, and Michael and Terry let out murmurs of agreement.

"Let's hope she isn't as bad as Lockhart," Michael said, only half joking.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, Umbridge was worse than Lockhart. Way worse. Harry stared at his copy of Defense Against the Dark Arts: A Return to Basic Principles gloomily and began reading. Dear Merlin, this was going to be a dull class!

"Did you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?" he heard Umbridge ask.

He looked up to see that Hermione had her hand raised. "Not about the chapter, no."

"Well, we're reading just now," said Professor Umbridge, showing her small pointed teeth. "If you have other queries we can deal with them at the end of class."

"I've got a query about your course aims," said Hermione.

Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrows.

"And your name is?"

"Hermione Granger."

"Well, Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read them through carefully."

"Well, I don't," said Hermione bluntly. 'There's nothing written up there about using defensive spells."

"Using defensive spells?" Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. "Why, I can't imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren't expecting to be attacked during class?"

"We're not going to use magic?" Ron exclaimed loudly.

"Students raise their hands when they wish to speak in my class, Mr.—?"

"Weasley," said Ron, thrusting his hand into the air.

Professor Umbridge, smiling still more widely, turned her back on him. Hermione immediately raised her hand again.

"Yes, Miss Granger? You wanted to ask something else?"

"Yes," said Hermione. "Surely the whole point of Defense Against the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?"

Harry continued to listen, silently agreeing with Hermione's arguments, though he didn't raise his hand. At least, not until he heard Umbridge say that they've been taught by "extremely dangerous half-breeds."

"Remus is not dangerous!" Harry snapped.

"Hand, Mr. Potter!"

Harry could take the anger at him, but when his parents were slandered, he would not remain silent.

"If we aren't using our wands, how are we supposed to defend ourselves?"

"As long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions," Umbridge said.

"And what good's theory going to be in the real world?"

Professor Umbridge looked up.

"This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world," she said softly.

"So we're not supposed to be prepared for what's waiting for us out there?"

"There is nothing waiting out there, Mr. Potter."

"Really?"

"Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?" enquired Professor Umbridge in a horribly honeyed voice.

"Well, in second year, there was the Chamber of Secrets incident," Harry pointed out. "Third year, Sirius Black escaped, and although he was innocent, he did spread panic. And then fourth year, Professor Moody was an impostor.

"Not to mention," he added, "Voldemort."

He heard several sharp intakes of breath, but Umbridge just looked at him with a grimly satisfied expression on her face. "Ten points from Ravenclaw, Mr. Potter. Now, let me make a few things quite plain."

Professor Umbridge stood up and leaned towards them, her stubby-fingered hands splayed on her desk.

"You have been told that a certain Dark wizard has returned from the dead. This is a lie."

"No, it isn't!"

"Detention, Mr Potter!" said Professor Umbridge triumphantly. "Tomorrow evening. Five o'clock. My office. I repeat, this is a lie. The Ministry of Magic guarantees that you are not in danger from any Dark wizard. If you are still worried, by all means come and see me outside class hours. If someone is alarming you with fibs about reborn Dark wizards, I would like to hear about it. I am here to help. I am your friend. And now, you will kindly continue your reading. Page five, 'Basics for Beginners.'"

Harry gritted his teeth furiously. Fan-fucking-tastic.

 

 

 

Word spread of Harry's detention. Students would whisper loudly, hoping to elicit a reaction from Harry.

Hermione and Ron sat down to begin their potions essay. Ron looked at Hermione expectantly, waiting for her to explain the properties of moonstone, but Hermione was distracted by the sight of Fred, George, and Lee. Fred was holding a large paper bag and was scowling.

"Wait here," Hermione said, standing up. She walked over. "What are you doing?"

Fred stifled a groan of annoyance and turned to face her. "Nothing."

"Nothing?" she repeated scathingly. "Then what's that?" She pointed at the bag in his hand.

"It's for Umbridge," Fred admitted through gritted teeth.

"Umbridge?" Hermione looked surprised. She had expected it to be for the first years that were crowded around George a little way off.

"She gave Harry detention for speaking up."

"And pulling a prank on her is the reasonable answer?" Hermione said.

Fred sighed, his anger evaporating as quickly as it had come. "What else am I supposed to do?"

"Nothing right now. And before you turn on me," she added as Fred was opening his mouth, "think for a moment. It's public knowledge that you and Harry are together. Umbridge will think he sent you after her and put him in deeper trouble. You don't want that, do you?"

"No." Fred was reluctant to admit that she had a point.

"Besides, it's just lines. It won't be that bad of a detention."

At that moment, the first years slumped over, unconscious.

"Oh, for crying out loud!" Hermione groaned. "George, that's enough!"

Fred tuned out her scolding and looked at the sweet in his hand. He wouldn't do anything about Umbridge now, but if she did anything, she would pay dearly.

 

 

 

Friday rolled around, and at five to five, Harry went to Umbridge's office.

"Come in," she called in a sugary voice.

Harry thought that Lockhart had been bad enough with all those self portraits, but this was worse. Way worse. Lacy covers and cloths draped every surface, and plates with kittens on them lined the walls.

"Evening, Professor Umbridge," he said stiffly. "What am I doing tonight?"

Umbridge handed him a long quill. "I want you to write, I must not tell lies," she told him softly.

"How many times?" Harry asked.

"Oh, as long as it takes for the message to sink in," said Umbridge sweetly. "Off you go."

"You haven't given me any ink."

"Oh, you won't need ink."

Uneasiness wormed its way into Harry's stomach at her words.

He wrote down the sentence she had given him and gasped in pain as the words appeared on his right hand. Blood quill, he realized. She was making him write with a blood quill. He remembered Remus telling him that he and Sirius used them to sign the adoption papers.

Harry looked up to see Umbridge smiling at him like a cat that had cornered a mouse. "Yes?" she said sweetly.

"Nothing."

After what seemed like hours, Umbridge checked his hand. "Tut, tut, I don't seem to have made much of an impression yet," she said, smiling. "Well, we'll just have to try again tomorrow evening, won't we? You may go."

Harry left, cursing in his head. He had to do something about his hand.

He made it to the Ravenclaw dorms and was about to head up when he saw Luna.

"How was detention?" she asked.

"Shouldn't you be asleep?" Harry questioned back.

"I should, but I was worried about you," Luna replied, meeting his gaze unwaveringly. "What did she have you do?"

"Nothing," Harry said. "She just had me write lines."

Luna stared at him for a long moment. "Lines," she repeated dully.

"Yeah, nothing that bad. Good night." He quickly made his escape, feeling her eyes on his back log after he had disappeared from view.

 

 

 

Detention continued for the rest of the week, but Harry never mentioned what went on during it and he refused to talk about it. Even Luna didn't know about the scars on his hand, although how long he would be able to keep it from her he did not know.

Inevitably, she did find out when they were doing their homework. A sharp gasp made Harry look up. Realizing his scarred hand was exposed, he instinctively went to cover it up.

"You said you wrote lines," Luna said, eyes wide.

"I did. Just... not with my own quill."

"You need to tell someone," Luna said fiercely. "Professor Flitwick, or Snape."

"They're busy enough as it is with OWLs and NEWTs," Harry said.

"Sirius and Remus, then," Luna said almost desperately. "Harry, you can't let her do this to you."

Luna looked close to tears, and Harry winced. He didn't mean to upset her. "All right, I'll go to Professor Flitwick."

"As soon as possible."

"As soon as possible," Harry agreed.

Luna modded, relieved. "You should tell Fred," she said after a moment. "I think he knows something's off. You've been avoiding him all week."

Harry grimaced. "Yeah, I know. Fine, I'll talk to him as well. After Flitwick."

"Good."

Harry turned back to his essay and sighed deeply. He hoped he wouldn't be wasting his breath.