She couldn't believe it. All the weird things that kept happening to her, and Uncle Vernon kept insisting that it was nothing. How could it be nothing? She spoke to that snake at the zoo! She knows she isn't wrong, but then again, that wasn't likely to really matter much.
Hari Potter was a quiet girl, though everyone seemed to intentionally forget the 'girl' part. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia called her 'boy' all the time, and Dudley too. All it seemed to take was baggy clothes, and none of the neighbors noticed. She hadn't even turned eleven yet, so there was nothing to really show that she wasn't, well except for a lack of a certain body part. There was no way she was going to drop her clothes to prove that bit.
Thank goodness for biology class, because otherwise she would have had no idea what kind of hell waited for her when puberty showed up. She'd asked Aunt Petunia about it once, but the woman had gone pink with embarrassment, and told her to go to her cupboard. After that, she only asked the librarian for help on biology books, it was just safer. She wondered idly if people were still going to think she was a boy once things started to develop.
She thought things were weird before, but that summer, the letters started showing up. Not that she was able to read any of them, but the mere sight of one made Uncle Vernon turn shades of purple she hadn't realized existed before. It was rather fascinating, or it would have been had she not been more focused on actually trying to read the letters. A part of her was fascinated at what could only be described as magic, considering whoever was sending these things even knew where she slept, but the other part of her was furious, because they knew where she slept. They knew how awful this place was, and yet they were just fine with her living there, whoever they were.
However, she supposed she couldn't be too mad at them. Whoever they were, they were desperately trying to get in contact with her. That had to account for something, she supposed. Her and Dudley both wondered at who could want to contact her this badly. The boy had never seen his father act this barmy, and Hari wondered if maybe seeing the man like this was an eye opener for him.
Dudley couldn't remember a time when he wasn't mean to Hari. It was simply what he was expected to do, so he did. But then the letters came, and kept coming, and no matter what his father did, the letters never stopped. He'd never seen his father act like this, and if there was ever a time he wondered about his father's sanity, this was it. His father was shouting at everyone now, demanding that they pack, that they were leaving.
If boarding up the mail slot didn't work, or any of his father's other ideas didn't work, Dudley seriously doubted the legitimacy of this new plan. Questioning this had resulted in him being hit over the head by his own father! The man had never once hit him, ever, but one question and the man was smacking him around like he was Hari. Now, the two sat in the back of his father's car, driving God only knew where.
A slight squeeze of his hand had him looking up. Hari sat next to him, an apologetic look in her eyes, and a piece of paper in her other hand. It had been her that squeezed his hand, either in comfort or to get his attention without speaking. Dudley took the paper in his grubby fingers, frowning at how they reminded him of his father now. He decided he was going to have to do something about that, as he opened the paper.
I'm sorry he hit you
He hadn't expected an apology, hadn't wanted one, but it was nice all the same. Was this what Hari had really been going through this whole time? How had he never noticed? He and his friends picked on her because their parents encouraged it, and without thinking, it had been fun. Now, looking back, he'd never been more ashamed of himself.
Does it hurt like this all the time?
Not all the time
I'm sorry too
It was a start, she thought to herself, though Dudley was still Dudley. He complained that he was missing his shows, that he hadn't blown anything up on his computer game, and that they'd not eaten all that day. That last one was a concern to Hari, though it hadn't been the first time she'd gone without food, it had been the first time the entire family did. Just who were these people that even Uncle Vernon was afraid of them? Just how many letters were they up to now?
At any rate, Uncle Vernon's plan seemed like a good one. They were now trapped on a hunk of rock, in the middle of a rain storm. There was no possibility of letters getting to her now. That was something Uncle Vernon seemed all too happy about. By Dudley's complaining of missing another show, Hari realized her birthday was tomorrow.
As each one of them fell asleep that night, she couldn't help but wonder if they would even remember it was her birthday. Last year had not been great, barely any different than any other day, but still. One did not turn eleven every day, after all. Wow, that storm was really picking up. It almost sounded as if it was banging right on their door!
Suddenly, the door wasn't there anymore. It had crashed onto the floor with a loud BOOM, and then all was silent as a giant of a man calmly walked into the place. It was hard to understand him at first, with how enthusiastically he was talking, but Hari liked him instantly. The moment his eyes landed on Hari, the man's face lit up with the greatest smile. That someone was happy to see her was something new for Hari.
“las'time I saw you, you was only a baby.” Said the giant. “You look a lot like yer dad, but yeh've got yer mother's eyes.”
“I demand you leave at once!” Uncle Vernon shouted, trying to look intimidating to the larger man, as he pointed a shot gun at him. “You are breaking and entering! Out! OUT! OUT!”
“Ah, shut up, Dursley, yeh great prune.” said the giant; right before reaching over, jerking the gun out of Uncle Vernon's hands, and bending it into a pretzel knot as easily as if it had been rubber, and throwing it to the floor.
“Anyway, happy birthday, Harry!” said the giant.
She tried not to wince at that, considering he looked genuinely happy about the day. He'd even given her a cake, though slightly smooshed, and she wasn't one to complain about that. It was even decorated, and it was dark chocolate! She had a secret weakness for dark chocolate, the darker the better. It even had her favorite colour on it, green!
Looking back at the giant, who was now in the process of making food for himself and a spot of tea of course, she thought she should say something. The man had traveled from…a good distance, at any rate. He'd told her happy birthday, even if he thought she was a boy. Should she correct that? It didn't really seem important right now.
“Who are you?” She asked, and the giant chuckled.
“True, I haven't introduced meself. Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts.” The giant stated.
“I'm sorry…” Hari said, unsure of how to say this without offending the man. “I still don't really know who you are.”
“Call me Hagrid, everyone does.” The giant, now Hagrid, said. “An like I told yeh, I'm Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts – yeh'll know all about Hogwarts, o' course.”
“Um…no.” Hari muttered, and then upon seeing his shocked face. “Sorry.”
“Sorry?!” Hagrid shouted, turning to glare at the Dursleys. Oh, dear, maybe she shouldn't have said whatever it was she said to upset him. “It's themas should be sorry! I knew yeh weren't getting' yer letters, but I never thought yeh wouldn't even know abou' Hogwarts, fer cryin' out loud! Did yeh never wonder where yer parents learned it all?”
She just had to open up her mouth again. “All what?”
That apparently was not the right thing to say, because Hagrid went into a tirade. As he shouted, Uncle Vernon shrank, if such a thing were truly possible. Aunt Petunia tried disappearing into the wall like she thought she could become part of it. Hari and Dudley shared a look because, once again, Hagrid had called her a boy. At least now she'd get to read that letter.
They got her name right, at least, which she was particularly happy about. They were an institute of learning for wizards, which were apparently a thing. One could only hope they could get a name right. Why would they await her owl? What were they going to do with it, and why did they think she had one?
“He's not going.” Uncle Vernon said sternly, choosing now of all times to face the giant.
Dudley, who was standing closest to Hari, whispered. “Dad doesn't really think you're a boy…Does he?”
“It seems everyone does. I thought Aunt Petunia changed my nappies, but maybe she paid a neighbor to do it.” Hari whispered back, as the two watched them argue about 'muggles' and her parents 'weirdness'. All of a sudden, they hear.
“Harry Potter not knowin' his own story when every kid in our world knows his name!”
“Apparently not well enough.” Dudley snickered quietly. She followed suit.
Hari laughed to herself, last night having seemed like a dream. Uncle Vernon had made one final mistake, insulting someone Hagrid respected. The results of which was Uncle Vernon was now sporting his very own little piggy tail. It was a good thing Dudley had been near her, or else it would have hit him instead. Before she'd left, she told him she'd find a way to talk to him while she was gone, maybe one of those owls these people went on about.
The whole trip, on a flying bike, she kept thinking these 'wizards' must have made some sort of mistake. She couldn't be someone important. If she was, she most certainly would not have been living in a cupboard for most of her life. Why had no one ever said anything? Why had her Aunt and Uncle treated her like this?
That was another thing. Everyone who met her automatically thought she was a boy. If she was famous, why did they think that? She did not have a dick last time she checked. Someone had to know that she was a girl.
One crowd, and a nervous professor later, and not one of them noticed. Diagon Alley was the greatest thing she'd ever seen, next to that talking snake she'd accidentally freed. Actual goblins controlled the bank! That was fantastic! Hari made sure to bow to them as she passed, and wondered if they knew, when they looked at her with more narrowed eyes.
She very much liked the warning that was on the doors inside 'Gringotts', sounded quite vindictive and a bit poetic. Hari had never been on a roller coaster before, but she imagined it would be very much like the trip down to her vault. That was something else she couldn't get over, that she had her own vault. When she saw just how much was in there, she scooped up a large amount into a pouch. She may not tell the Dursley's about this, but that didn't mean she wasn't going to use it.
Hari kept waiting for someone to say something. The robes maker surely should have said something, but she was given boys robes. They were nice ones, so she didn't feel like she should complain. Shopping for school supplies had been fun, and when Hagrid wasn't looking, she made sure to get slightly nicer things than the list suggested. She didn't want to go crazy, but quality over quantity was what was important. If it was true in the 'muggle' world, it would be more so here.
The wand maker was a curious sort of fellow, a bit scary, but enthusiastic. Even he didn't seem to point out that she was a girl. Everyone called her Harry. Was this some sort of spell or something? Did people actually 'see' a boy when they looked at her? She kept waiting for someone to point it out, but no one ever did, and here she was, standing in line a month later for something called the 'Sorting feast'.
Curious one, you are
Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes – and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting … So where to put you?…Better be...
She wasn't sure, because she was too nervous to really be certain, but she could swear there was a pair of red headed twins singing 'We got Potter! We got Potter!' She was fairly certain they were Weasley's, judging by the way Ron turned bright red at the sight. Hari took her place next to the quiet Gryffindor girl with the wild hair, Granger if she remembered correctly. While Hari's parents had been of magic, she'd lived with 'muggles' all her life. There was a sense of kinship, something which she suspected the Granger girl appreciated. Ron sat on Hari's other side not moments later, still looking a bit green.
Hari couldn't help but flinch at the sudden movement in front of her, as food appeared out of nowhere. This was all for them? And she didn't have to cook it? That was brilliant! Granted, she hadn't really thought they would make her work in the kitchens to earn her keep, as Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had snidely suggested on many occasion that summer, but the thought had persisted nonetheless.
There were ghosts floating around, and some guy named Nearly Headless Nick. She couldn't wait to tell Dudley about this, now that they were on possibly better ground. With so many conversations going on around her, it was hard to focus on any of them, though she occasionally heard that Granger girl talking with one of the older students about 'transfiguration', whatever that was. The girl already sounded scary smart, and Hari resolved to try to be serious about her studies. She didn't want to get stuck working for the Dursley's or any of the horrible places they had mentioned as her only means of making a living later on in life.
So worried about this was she, that Hari just shuffled along with everyone else when it was time to go up to their House. She didn't want to be stuck working for those two, or any of the other horrible places they'd mentioned. Most everyone else had already gone to their rooms by the time she'd managed to pull herself out of her internal panic, but then a new problem presented itself. She didn't know where her room was. Just then, Ron came bounding down the stairs, hollering for her.
“Harry, what are you doing?” Ron asked, when he found her. “All your stuff's up here.”
No, no, no! They had to be kidding! Wasn't Hogwarts sentient? That girl, Hermione Granger, she'd said it was, read it in a book somewhere. That had to mean that Hogwarts put her in the boys dormitory?! This could not be happening, but it was, and Hari Potter was going to have to get use to it. How could they expect her to room with boys?
As it turns out, there was a lot more to magic than waiving a stick about. They studied the stars, magical plants and fungi. She learned wand movement was important when casting a spell, and that Transfiguration was going to be a lot harder to learn than she thought; but Hari was bound and determined to be good at this wizarding thing, fearful of the future the Dursley's presented her with. She wasn't as behind as she thought she was, but she doubted very much that anyone else had a family like hers. So, she hunkered down and studied every chance she got, something that delighted Hermione, and made Ron whine.
“Ron, you have somewhere to go after all this, if things don't work out for you. I don't have that luxury.” Hari snapped one day, after a particularly bad bout of whining by Ron, completely forgetting that he had a family vault. “If things don't work out for me, I'll have to work for the Dursley's or end up with some other horrid job that they'll find for me.”
After that, Ron clammed up, but later on, Hari heard him ask Nevelle. “Don't the Potter's have a family vault?”
As it was, it was very lucky for Hari that she had been studying so much, because she was fairly certain the potions master hated her. The man made fun of her the second he called her name 'Harry Potter, our new…celebrity.' It had been awful, but even so, she was very much looking forward to learning how to brew potions. The way he spoke, when not talking to her, was oddly calming. She was pulled out of her thoughts, however, when the man turned quickly to face her.
“Potter!” Snape snapped. “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Hari crinkled her nose, thinking about this, thankful that Hermione had wanted to study with her.
“Draught of Living Death, I think, Professor. It's a really powerful sleeping potion, right?”
He'd clearly not expected her to answer it, or answer it correctly, but began firing questions at others in the class room. He always picked someone who didn't look like they knew the answer, completely ignoring Hermione with her hand raised, probably because she knew all of them. The rest of class wasn't a complete disaster, besides what happened to poor Longbottom. Hari found out early that Ron made for a poor partner in her studies, and had thankfully sat near Hermione. The girl was thankful for the better quality potions ingredients, and Hari was thankful for a willing study partner. After class, Ron complained about that, thinking Hari would have sat with him instead, but his complaints were lost as soon as lunch arrived.
“Hermione.” Hari said, quietly, while everyone ate lunch. “Why are you so desperate for the professors to only pick you in class?”
“I am not desperate.” She huffed, getting a helping of carrots.
“You stood up in class with your hand raised, even though you knew Professor Snape wasn't going to pick you.” Hari pointed out, making Hermione's face turn red. “You were practically bouncing on your feet thinking it would get you noticed. He was ignoring you on purpose, Hermione. So, I'll ask again.”
“Maybe for the same reason you want to study so much.” Hermione snapped back, angrily. “I have to prove I'm the best, because that's all I have.”
“I'm not saying you're not. You're obviously loads smarter than me.” Hari said, placating the girl. “I just wonder if maybe he was trying to teach you something by not picking you. I don't know what it could be, but it's something to think about, yeah?”
“Think I should ask him?” Hermione asked, having never considered the possibility before.
“Maybe? I don't know. This feels like one of those self discovery things.” Hari mused. “You'd probably have a better shot. The man hates me.”
The two consoled themselves about flying lessons later that day. It kept Hermione from spouting facts out of that Quidditch book she'd picked up. They went over theories, wondering if brooms could sense fear like a horse could. More than one person gave Hari a grateful look, knowing how mad Hermione was about facts, but they saw it like a sacrifice. Hari just saw it as someone who'd been alone for too long, and she would know; she'd been alone for too long as well.
Either way, when Neville shot up into the air in that rickety old broom, she knew that had not helped Hermione's confidence. On the other hand, she tried not to laugh out loud when Neville landed on the ground. She was still worried for the boy, but she had to make a considerable effort not to laugh till he was out of sight. By then, Malfoy was already cracking jokes, and though they were mean, Hari couldn't hold in her laughter anymore. It stopped Malfoy's jokes at least.
“What's with you, Potter?” Malfoy asked, snidely.
“I'm sorry…I hope he's okay…really…It's just…I was so worried…it would be me!” Hari admitted, between giggles.
“I dare you to try and catch me then.” Malfoy scoffed. “Surely you can't be as bad as Longbottom. Besides, how else are you going to get this back for him?”
He held up a clear crystal ball, something Neville had been clinging to earlier that morning. It had held a red fog within it then, but not now. Hari groaned inwardly, but Malfoy was already on his broom, and bolted into the air. Malfoy hadn't been lying, the boy really could fly. She was supposed to learn to do that? Without the teacher there?
Hearing Hermione's objections, and promptly ignoring them, Hari got onto the broom. She'd never really been good at turning down a dare, and Malfoy seemed to know how to push every button she had, regardless of not knowing each other well. She flew up into the air with ease, and then all of a sudden there was no nervousness. This was something she could do without studying her arse off. This was wonderful!
“Wow, no wonder you love this so much! This is amazing!” Hari exclaimed, not really noticing Malfoy's shocked expression right away. “You really do need to give that back, though. It's Neville's, and I'm sure you don't need it more than he does.”
“You can fly? I mean really fly?” Malfoy asked, and Hari finally realized how shocked Malfoy was.
“This is the first time I've ever been on a broom.” Hari admitted, her eyes wide.
“Well, don't freak out now, Potter. You're already up here.” Malfoy quipped at him, before looking down and seeing the shocked faces below. “Want to make a show of it? You're obviously a natural. Should be no problem, right?”
Hari's answering grin was absolutely feral.
“Alright, here's what we do.” Malfoy said, and laid out the plan for her. It was brilliant, it was crazy, and quite possibly the most fun she'd had in ages. “You got all that?”
“Yeah, but I have to ask, Malfoy, why are you doing this at all?” Harry asked, angling the broom just so to make it shoot forward like a javelin. Malfoy dodged her, but barely. “I thought you hated me!”
“No, I hate Weasley. Malfoy's and Weasley's just hate each other. It's what we do.” Malfoy replied, and the two proceeded to fly circles around each other like they were fighting it out or something. “You're actually pretty good at this, Potter!”
“Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you said that.” She said, laughing as she hugged the broom while it was spinning, before pulling out of the spin. “So what? Are we friends now or something?”
“As if.” Malfoy scoffed, before tossing up the rememberall. “I can just not go out of my way to hate you, or we can make fun of each other as a sport.”
“It's okay to have friends outside of your House, you know.” She teased, shooting towards him again. This time he dodged her, but it was too close a thing, as Hari could feel his robes as she passed.
“Potter, the Rememberall!” Malfoy shouted, having lost his chance to catch it.
Without thinking about it, Hari took a dive. Malfoy was shouting after her, but she couldn't hear what he was saying. She just knew she could catch it, and pushed the broom to give her all the speed it could. A foot off the ground, she caught it, and pulled out of the dive in time to roll onto the grass. She didn't even have time to move before Malfoy was standing over her. He looked furious, and even more pale than usual; Hari just held up the clear ball with a breathless chuckle.
“Caught it.” She said, wearing the biggest grin ever, still breathless.
“You're out of your mind, Potter, you know that?” Malfoy replied, surprising everyone by helping Hari up. “You could have died. Do you even know what move you just did? How many Seekers die doing that? We're lucky Hooch didn't catch that.”
Everyone jumped out of their skin.
“Not lucky enough, apparently.” Hari mumbled, as Professor McGonagall came storming towards them.
“Never…in all my time at Hogwarts.” She shrieked. “How dare you!…might have broken your neck…”
She would hear none of the objections from the other students, and made Hari march back into Hogwarts. Hari was too busy worrying about being expelled to say anything. She barely even noticed when Professor McGonagall got another student out of class. She was still in a daze when Professor McGonagall threw Peeves, the castle's poltergeist, out of an empty classroom. Nothing she thought of made sense of this.
Several hours later, she found that she still couldn't believe what had happened. The older student and Professor McGonagall had both looked so happy. She wasn't sure what Quidditch was, or what a Seeker actually did, but somehow she was good at it. She'd never played a sport before, and really hoped they weren't making some kind of mistake. Whatever it was, the Weasley twins seemed to be happy about it, Ron too; Hermione was the only one that looked like she was going to explode.
“Having a last meal, Potter?” Malfoy scoffed, snidely. She was almost hurt, considering she though they'd at least formed a truce, but then she remembered his words about making their insults a game. “When are you getting back to those muggles of yours?”
“You're a lot braver now that you're back on the ground, Malfoy.” Hari remarked, with a sly smirk. “Especially now that you have Tweetledee and Tweetledum with you.”
“I'd take you on anytime on my own.” Malfoy challenged. “Tonight, if you want. Wizard's duel. Wands only – no contact. What's the matter? Never heard of a wizard's duel, I suppose?”
“Actually, I think it's a brilliant idea, Malfoy, maybe your first one ever.” Hari contiued. She wondered if they should get together later and discuss some kind of scoring system later. “I was thinking, maybe we could get the teachers in on this. If we're going to duel, maybe we should get extra credit for it! What do you say, Malfoy?”
There was nothing Malfoy could say to that, and he left.
“You have to go.” Ron said. “He challenged you!”
“You're kidding me, right?” Hari asked, looking over at him. “Ron, did it ever occur to you that it could be a set up? That thing has trap written all over it.”
“It doesn't matter. This is about your honour as a wizard.” Ron insisted.
“I vanquished Voldemort.” Hari pointed out, making her best friend shudder (as well as those within hearing distance). “or at least made him disappear. I think I can pass up challenges to my honour as a wizard.”
“I think Harry's being smart not to go.” Hermione stated. “Just because he got lucky breaking one rule, doesn't mean he'll get that lucky twice in a row.”
“You would. Shouldn't you be with the Claws?” Ron asked, glaring over at Hermione. “You're not nearly brave enough to be a Gryffindor.”
“You mean reckless and inconsiderate?” Hermione shot back.
“Alright, that's it! Ron, if I go, and it's a trap, you'll owe me.” Hari stated, making sure Ron understood the severity of her threat. “Do you really want to owe me? I could ask for anything, and you'd have to give it to me, or do it, whatever the case may be. Are you sure you'd be willing to part with anything?”
Ron just took another gulp of pumpkin juice. Apparently this was going to require some more thought. Hari knew that this was something he couldn't understand. He had a family to go back to if things didn't work out for him, but Hermione and Hari were different. They would be thrown out of the wizarding world; Well, maybe not thrown out, but they certainly wouldn't be able to practice magic anymore.
“Was there a reason why you just had to wind up Ron like that?” He hears Potter ask from behind him.
He'd been in the library, looking for books on an essay, when he heard Potter walk in. The boy was in there almost as much as that Granger girl. Draco's personal goal was to beat that girl in his studies. His father was a constant ghoul on his shoulder about it, and they'd not been at school very long. Draco found the book he was looking for, and turned to Potter.
“I told you, Malfoy's and Weasley's just hate each other.” Draco said, as if this explained everything.
“And you just want to continue on the tradition?” Potter asked, incredulously. Draco sheepishly smiled in response. “Well now, thanks to you, I can't sneak away so we can work on this scoring system you had in mind. Ron is in a tiffy about 'the honour of a wizard'. He's my best friend, but he doesn't think. He's been drilling me on wizarding duel protocols for the last few hours.”
“Why are you friends with that blundering oaf anyway?” Draco asked, morbidly curious. “I remember offering my friendship too, you know.”
“After you knew my name. Before that, you were talking about 'that other sort' and how they shouldn't be allowed in, which my mother happened to be; if that matters at all, and I would kindly like for you to not insult Ron in front of me like this. He's not here, there's no reason to keep that up.” Potter scolded him. “Ron shared his food with me, chatted me up like a friend, before he knew who I was. That's why he's my friend.”
“Alright, alright, I get it. No insulting the Weasel.” Draco allowed, unable to help himself with that last one. Potter just arched an eyebrow at him. “Alright, and no insulting the mum.”
“Who taught you that it was okay to call people things like that anyway? Why is one group of people less than another? I get the money thing. Now that I know I have it, it's kind of nice, but ability? My mum was the best in her year. Hermione promises to be the same. That girl absorbs knowledge like a sponge. Both were the first to present magic in their family.”
“You live with my father, and then tell me this stuff doesn't come out of your mouth like word vomit.” Draco scoffed, before realizing he needed another book for his essay as well. “Besides, I've made it my personal mission to best that girl. Mud- Muggleborn or not, she's too uppity for her own good.”
“I'm sorry, Pot, what was that?” Potter asked, his eyes alight with laughter. “Were you talking about the Kettle just now?”
“Oh, shove off. If anybody around here gets to be called Pot, it's you.” Draco replied, with a snicker. “You finished with your essays for Professor Snape or what?”
“Nooo.” Potter groaned in dread, getting his papers out, and settling down to do them. “I swear that man hates me.”
“Maybe, but it's your own fault for not knowing what a bezoar was.” Draco pointed out, as the two got settled into working on the essays.
“I live in the suburbs, with every house looking like every other house. No animals as far as the eye can see. I don't think I've ever even seen a goat before.” Potter admitted, before rubbing at his scar. “You wouldn't happen to know anything about curse scars would you? This thing has been slowly getting worse since I got here. It hurts all the time now.”
“I could always ask Father about it. He's got that mark on his arm, the one the Dark Lord used to call his followers with. He doesn't know I've seen it, but if anyone knows about curse scars, it would be him.” Draco replied.
“Your father was a Death Eater?” Potter asked, looking up at him in shock.
“Said he was under the Imperius, but I've looked that thing up. The Mark is based off of the Unbreakable Vow, and those can't be done under the Imperius.” Draco explained. “Is this going to be a problem for our weird frienemy thing?”
“That depends. Is your father going to try to kill me at some point?” Potter asked, in much the same way.
“Not yet.” Draco replied, with a snort, something the two laughed at, before getting back to work.
“HARRY JAMES POTTER!” Hermione shouted, trying to catch up to him once he was far enough away from the library that no one would hear them. Harry clinched his fists to his sides, and Hermione could swear it got fifteen degrees cooler in that particular hallway.
“You've got a set of stones on you.” Harry said, his voice cold and even as he turned to face her. “Where do you get off assuming what my middle name is? In what world do you think you have the authority call out my name like you're about to chastise a small child? In what universe do you think you have the sanction to act like you're above me?”
“I-I didn't mean.” Hermione stuttered, seeing a side of her friend she hadn't seen before.
“Yeah, you did. You came up here to police me, to parent me, to tell you that you know better. Isn't that right?” Harry admonished her. She nodded. “Why…exactly…do you think you need to do that?”
“Professor Snape's essay.” Hermione stated, remembering why she'd chased after him. “You said we'd work on it together.”
“Hermione, if I know you, you've already revised it three times, and have annotated notes on it.” Harry teased, but returned to his serious expression. “You could have just asked, mentioned that I forgot or something. This isn't your old school, you know.”
“Sorry. It's just, if I don't get on to Ron like that, he never does anything.” Hermione explained.
“I'm not Ron, Hermione.” Harry pointed out, but then he grinned. “Besides, I already got my essay for Professor Snape done. I did just come out of the library, you know. Any chance you'd be willing to help me with the one for Professor Flitwick?”
“You forgive me just like that?” Hermione asked, as the two headed back towards the library.
“You're my friend, Hermione. Of course I forgive you.” Harry replied, offhandedly. “Besides, it's not like you'll guess what my middle name is anyway.”
“Is that a challenge, Mr. Potter?” Hermione asked, eyebrow raised, doing her imitation of Professor McGonagall.
“You know what, Hermione, it is.” Harry replied, with a big grin. “You guess my middle name, I'll tell you the biggest secret I have.”
“You're on, Pot.” Malfoy remarked, from the door of the library. Hermione was about to object, as the challenge had not been issued to him, but Harry stopped her with a look.
“Sure, Kettle, you too.” Harry replied, without missing a beat, and now Hermione had so many more questions. “Two of the smartest people in my year, trying to guess what my middle name is, what could possibly go wrong?”
“How did you two become friends anyway, Harry?”Hermione asked, at breakfast the next day.
“Flying.” Hari replied, as the owls began flying in with the mail.
“But you still insult each other?!” She asked, clearly not understanding.
“It's fun, and we keep score.” Hari replied, with a grin. “We really should come up with a prize or something for the end of the year.”
“How is insulting each other fun?” Hermione asked, still not getting it.
“Think of it like a battle of wits, Hermione.” Hari replied. “Besides, if I can get him around that ridiculous thought he has about muggleborns being inferior, you two can team up to guess my middle name. I'm sure the two of you would be absolutely scary.”
A rather long thin package was placed unceremoniously in front of her, having been carried in by no less than six owls. It was a broom, she knew without a doubt. Good lord, these people certainly weren't subtle. How was she supposed to keep being on a Quidditch team a secret for a week if they did things like this? It wasn't looking good, especially with Malfoy looking at it like he was going to kill someone.
She took it, and the letter that happened to drop on top of it, and bolted out of the room. Malfoy followed quickly after her, as she expected him to do. What she had not expected was for Ron to also follow her, though she should have. Ron knew what was in the package just like Hermione did, and he knew more about Qudditch than she did; even if she did have that big book of Quidditch facts from the library. For a split second, Malfoy looked happy for her, but he saw Ron following after him.
“That's a broomstick.” He spat, with a bit of real jealousy mixed in. “You're in for it now, Potter. First years aren't allowed them.”
“That's not just any broomstick.” Ron bragged, seemingly unwilling to help himself. “That's a Nimbus Two Thousand. What did you say you've got at home, Malfoy, a Comet Two Sixty?–Ow! What was that for, Harry?” Ron asked when Hari had hit him up side the head.
“Bragging about things that aren't your own.” Hari stated, angrily. “Rubbing someone else's nose in something that isn't even your good fortune. I get that you two don't like each other, but I will not tolerate my friends using me to hurt each other. You want to belittle each other like heathens? Fine, but do it without me!”
“You…You're friends with that git?!” Ron asked, angrily, losing any joy he had at taunting Malfoy.
“We're eleven! We're all gits!” Hari insisted, but that didn't make Ron any less angry.
“You can't be friends with us both, Harry.” Ron said, shaking his head. “You don't know him. You don't know what his dad did.”
“Ronald Weasley, you are not about to tell me who I can be friends with.” Hari stated, shaking angrily. “I'm not even asking you to stop your feud. Just don't put me in the middle of it.”
“You can't be friends with us both, Harry.” Ron repeated, looking about the colour maroon right now.
“Fine. Then you leave me no choice.” Hari said, and spun around to go back into the room.
She left a confused Malfoy, and an angry Weasley alone in the entrance hall. In hindsight that was probably not the brightest of ideas, but she was on a mission. They could beat the crap out of each other now that she was gone, and that would be just fine. She'd asked not to be put in the middle of their feud, a reasonable request. Hermione seemed to recognize the fire in Hari's eyes as 'do not ask', and left her alone. Hari stalked right up to Fred and George Weasley, both of whom looked like they'd never seen anything more entertaining in their lives.
“What can we do for you, Harry?” Fred…or George asked. She still couldn't tell them apart.
“Simple. You can give me the address of your mother.” Hari stated, with a tone that garnered no argument.
At one Ottery St Catchpole, Devon England, the Burrow, things had been rather dull since the boys had left. Ginny had had no desire to really learn kitchen magic, and knitting had been a disaster. Molly Weasley could do many things, but consoling her little girl was not one of them. She was loathed to admit this to anyone but her husband, but she feared her and her daughter would never share the kind of bond she felt a mother and daughter should. There was no one to teach the kitchen magic, especially if Ginny did not wish to learn; her boys were hopeless in that regard.
A beautiful snowy owl tapped on the window, distracting her from her thoughts. It waited patiently or her to open the window, and when she took the letter from it, it took a perch next to Earol. Molly took this to mean a reply was expected as soon as possible. Thankfully, Earol seemed not to mind, just hooted to the new arrival and went back to sleep. Molly opened the letter, already shocked by who it was from.
Let me start this off by saying you make the best corned beef sandwiches I have ever had, pairs greatly with the pumpkin juice we had on the train. That being said, your wonderful food is not why I am really writing you. I don't know if Ron writes, but he is my first friend in the wizarding world, but right now he is being the biggest bull headed prat this side of the world has ever seen. I completely understand that Weasley's and Malfoy's have hated each other for generations, something I doubt one generation could fix with friendship. I had asked only that I not be used as a weapon as a means to hurt one or the other, but your son is convinced that it is best that he choose my friends for me, since I am completely unable to choose them on my own.
I did not ask Malfoy or Weasley to get along with each other in any way, just that they don't insult each other while it's just me, and don't use me to hurt the other. Strangely enough, Malfoy has honoured this, but this morning your son attempted to use me as a means to brag to Malfoy about a broom that isn't his own. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the best time to reveal that Malfoy and I have struck up a bit of an odd friendship, but it happened just that way. Your advice on how to get him to see sense would be appreciated, as he has decided not to talk to me till I cut ties with Malfoy as a friend. Any help you could give would be much appreciated, as I miss my first friend in the wizarding world.
I'll be working on Slytherin's chapter next, before getting back to this one. I don't have an exact schedule for posts, but I'll try to stay consistent.
Chapter 3: Who knows?
The secret gets revealed, just not how Hari thought.
It had been a few days, and Ron had still not bothered himself with speaking to Harry. Of all the foolish things to do, he had to go and become friends with that git?! Malfoy's and Weasley's hated each other, and they did not share friends. How could his first friend treat him like this? Of course he had to make him choose, because that would make him see sense!
Only, Harry hadn't seen sense; he'd gone back into the Great Hall for something. He'd found out later, for he was not speaking to Potter at the moment, that Potter had gone to talk to Fred and George. Both brothers told him that he should make amends quickly before judgement was passed, whatever that means, and to simply deal with Harry's new friendship to the git. That Hermione Granger girl had discovered it before he had, and had tried to explain about insults and scoring systems, which he would have admitted as bloody brilliant under different circumstances. Now he was doubly angry, more so because Harry had already started practices and he was missing it, but also because the Granger girl found out about this all before him, and he couldn't understand why so many people were telling him just to let it go.
Potter was making a terrible mistake, how was he just supposed to let that go?! Malfoy's and Weasley's were not friends, and since Potter had become a Weasley's friend first, he could not be friends with a Malfoy. So, of course Potter would have to choose! Ron viewed himself as the better choice, not having a Death Eater for a father and all. So, imagine his surprise when a red envelope lands in his eggs the next morning.
Dread fills him, because he knows what it is. Only Howlers started steaming like that when you didn't open them. He didn't know the incantation to stop it, and it seemed no one was willing to help him out. Harry hadn't been eating breakfasts with the rest of them for the past few days, and wasn't around when Ron searched for him. The letter was sparking now, and Ron covered his eyes before it exploded and flew up into the air a bit.
“RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!!! HOW DARE YOU?! TELLING SOMEONE WHO THEY CAN BE FRIENDS WITH! EVEN IF IT IS THE MALFOY BOY, EVEN IF IT IS SOMEONE YOU MAY NOT LIKE, HOW DARE YOU?! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT! I THOUGHT I RAISED YOU BETTER THAN THAT! NOW I WANT YOU TO GIVE MALFOY AN APOLOGY, HARRY TOO! And do remember to write, dear, we miss you.”
With that, the letter poofs out of existence. Ron's face was as red as his hair, perhaps more so. For the first time ever, he's speechless. His mother just expected him to apologize? What had he done wrong?
After a moment, things in the room go back to normal. Howlers were a fairly common occurrence, but this was the first one Ron had ever received. She'd just had to use his middle name too. Now the whole school knew what it was. As if he needed more trouble in his life; the twins were already having a field day with this.
“So, ickle Ronnikins, how do you plan to apologize-” Fred started to ask.
“To both a stubborn lion-” George continued.
“And a scheming snake?” Fred finished up the question.
“Why do I have to apologize?” Ron objected petulantly. “I'm not the one that befriended that git!”
“No, you're just the one that told Harry Potter-” George started.
“Saviour of the wizarding world, might I add.” Fred pointed out.
“Too right, Oh brother of mine.” George stated, complimenting Fred.
“Too right indeed.” Fred agreed.
“-that he could not choose his own friends.” George added.
“If he can stop old moldy Voldy-” Fred continued.
“-picking friends should be easy.” George added.
“But he's a Malfoy!” Ron objected, stubbornly, used to how his brothers talked by now. “Weasleys' hate Malfoys' and Malfoys' hate Weasleys'. It's what we do!”
“And yet it seems Potters can befriend both.” Fred pointed out, much to Ron's annoyance. “Do you really want to be the one to make him choose?”
“What do you mean?” Ron asked, not liking that they were ganging up on him.
“It seems, ickle Ronnikens, that Malfoy has not objected to Potter's request.” George pointed out. “If the king of spoiled prats can share a friend-”
“-why can't you?” Fred finished the question.
They left him alone after that, and soon classes took over his thoughts. He'd see Harry in one of them, he knew, but he'd have to wait till near the end of the day. It would be potions with Slytherin House. Ron groaned just thinking about it. He didn't want to have to apologize to the bloody git, but if he didn't then his mum would find out and send another Howler, and who knew what that one would say.
“Malfoy, you got a minute?” He hears Ron Weasley behind him. “Alone, if you don't mind?”
Crabbe and Goyle both look to him to see if it's okay. Lackeys they may be, but they were loyal to him. He nodded, and the two went back to gathering their things. When they were gone, Draco turned around to face the Weasle. From the looks of things, he did not want to be here, but Draco had heard that Howler too and knew why the Weasle was here.
“Well then? We're alone.” Draco sneered. “What do you want?”
“We're not friends.” Ron stated, seething.
“Obviously.” Draco remarked, crossing his arms and waiting. “Your point?”
“I don't like you, and I don't like you being around Harry.” Ron stated, clenching his fists at his sides.
“Well that's not really up to you, is it?” Draco asked, with a sneer. “For the record, I don't exactly like you either, Weasel. You're loud, and obnoxious, and you have absolutely no manners.”
“You're one to talk.” Ron scoffed. “You're a spoiled, pretentious, bigot. There can't possibly be anything good or descent about you.”
“Oh, and you think you're sooo good, don't you?” Draco sneered. “You're all for being good and kind, but only when it suits you.”
“Same as you.” Ron pointed out, and then looked green as he thought about that.
“Hurts doesn't it.” Draco scoffed. “To think I've got something in common with you of all people.”
“What Harry's asking…is it even possible?” Ron asked, before shaking his head. “You annoy me with your stupid git face. How am I not supposed to insult you?”
“Potter and I haven't stopped insulting each other. It's just fun now. We're going to work out a scoring system, maybe even some kind of prize at the end of the year.” Draco allowed, still suspicious of him. “Personally, I think Potter's crazy, but I've agreed not to insult you while you aren't present. It's much more amusing to insult you while I have you in front of me like this, because then I can see if your head will explode or not.”
“Fine…I will…agree to this…this…whatever this is.” Ron grudgingly replied. “Bloody hell, that was painful.”
“Don't look now, Weasley, but I think you might have matured a little.” Draco said, snidely, then realized something. “Say, has that Granger girl told you about our competition? (Ron was even more green now) We're trying to guess Potter's middle name. He offered up the biggest secret he has as prize. You in?”
“We're eleven. What kind of secret could he have that's worth keeping his middle name secret for?” Ron wondered, but then looked at him suspiciously. “I'll get in on this competition, but don't think this makes us friends or anything.”
“Merlin forbid, the day a Malfoy becomes friends with a Weasley.” Draco agreed, with disdain. Neither acknowledges the soft chuckling that can be heard just outside of the classroom.
“Jameson!” Ron shouted, at dinner that evening.
“What?” Hari asked, not sure if she'd heard him right.
“Jameson. Your middle name is Jameson.” Ron declared, looking so sure of himself.
“Good lord, Ron, I guessed Jameson ages ago.” Hermione stated, not even looking up from her food as she handed him a piece of paper. “Here's a list of all the one's I've guessed so far. Not sure if Malfoy has his own list, though I suppose you could ask.”
“Merlin! You've guessed all these? How long have you had?” Ron asked, in shock, seemingly forgetting about the spoon of mashed potatoes he'd been about to eat.
“About as long as you were mad at Harry.” Hermione replied, without missing a beat. Ron turned a little red at that.
“She's been quite thorough.” Hari admitted, with a small grin. “Just think though, you and Malfoy have known about magic all your lives. Wizards must have all kinds of middle names.”
“Just how many people are in on this, Harry?” Fred asked, out of curiosity.
“Yes, and why haven't we heard about it before now?” George added.
“We could start a betting pool.” Fred realized, turning to his brother in excitement. “Can you imagine it?”
“All of Hogwarts trying to guess Harry Potter's middle name?” George asked, realizing a potential. Both turned to Hari.
“What are the rules?” Fred asked, with a grin.
“What do they get if they win?” George added.
“Guys, this is a thing between friends.” Hari insisted, internally hyperventilating. “I don't expect the entire school to get involved. This is just so Malfoy, Ron, and Hermione can have a common goal and realize they can be friends.”
She was more surprised when Hermione popped her head up, and looked over to the twins. With a no nonsense attitude, she stated. “No looking for official records; That includes school records, birth records, medical records, anything from school, or anything from Gringotts. No asking for hints, from him, his muggle family, or anyone who knew his parents.”
“You're forgetting the prize, Hermione.” Fred tsked at her.
“Oh, well…um…” Hermione said, looking a bit embarrassed, realizing why Harry hadn't put this to the whole school; a little too late in Hari's opinion, but it was done now.
“We hadn't actually thought of one.” Hari lied.
“That's not true, Mate! You said it was a secret.” Ron objected, making Hari scrunch her eyebrows in dread. She was beginning to wonder about the tactfulness of her friends.
“What's all this then?” Malfoy asked, scaring the shit out of Ron. “Opening up the competition to the public? I thought this was exclusive, Pot.”
“It was. It is! It's just, the twins, they heard, and I don't know how to stop them!” Hari insisted.
“Didn't you vanquish the Dark Lord?” Malfoy asked, with a dismissive scoff. “Surely you can think of something that can scare those two.”
“I don't think he ever met anything like them.” Hari denied, making everyone around them chuckle. The twins grinned conspiratorially at that.
“I suppose we could just open a betting pool as to which of the three will guess it.” Fred suggested. “It's not as fun, but potentially interesting.”
Hari had never been more relieved for gambling than that moment.
As it turned out, it did just what Harry had hoped it would do. As Halloween grew closer, so did the four of them. Even some of his friends joined in. Granger, who he was trying to outrank in school, hosted study groups. It occasionally had a few Ravenclaws and a 'Puff or two, but usually it was just the three Gryffindorks and a few Slytherins. Even Longbottom joined occasionally.
As expected, his father was not happy about his hanging around mudbloods and blood traitors. When he found out, he sent a Howler of his own, and Draco hid away for a few days. When they saw him again, he acted just as cold as he had before, but they saw through it. Eventually, Potter asked for permission to write to the man. He hadn't asked Weasley for permission, something that made him smirk just a little; and then proceeded to ask how to send a Howler.
In hindsight, that was his warning sign, but instead of being filled with dread, Draco was wildly amused. Lucius Malfoy, untouchable as he thought he was, receiving a Howler from Harry Potter? Such an opportunity was too good to pass up. It was fun to plan, but that night when he went to sleep, he couldn't help but think he was going to die. He took a small comfort in the fact that they had not been able to actually work out how to make a Howler; but then again he had forgotten about how resourceful Gryffindors could be.
Hari waited that night till she knew the others were asleep, and made her way to where Fred and George slept. She'd had to go through the common room, and a painting, but eventually she found her way. They were expecting her, because they were them, and they smelled mischief a mile away. Their room was just as messy as she expected it to be, and yet it felt orderly. It was certainly a comfortable room.
“So, Harry, to what do we owe the pleasure?” George asked, with a crooked grin, sitting next to her on the bed.
“Do you two know how to make a Howler?” Hari asked, hopefully. “I can pay for it, if you need supplies or something.”
“We'll take that under advisement, but it's a bit of tricky magic.” Fred explained. “While you might be able to make one-”
“-it might not come out the way you need it to.” George finished the sentence. Hari began to get disheartened. “Don't worry though. While we can not help you make a Howler-”
“-We can take you to someone who does.” Fred said, trying to make her feel better.
“Really?” Hari asked, now excited again. “Let's go. I need to get this done quickly.”
“You'll have to come back here before the Hogsmeade trip tomorrow.” George said. Hari wasn't sure why that was, but she supposed she would have to trust them. “Now go to bed-”
“-and be prepared to drink anything in the morning.” Fred added, with a wicked grin.
She didn't know why, but that made her wary. To be fair, there were several things stacking up to make her feel like that. She was enlisting the twins help on this. She hadn't asked Ron if it was a good idea to talk to the twins about it. Hermione would definitely think it was a bad idea, because only God knew how many rules she was going to have to break to get this done, and none of those thoughts helped her sleep that night.
That morning had not found her feeling any better about enlisting the twins help, but she was at their room right and early. The two were brewing something disgusting smelling in their room. She almost wished she hadn't stepped in there, when they pulled her further into the room to stop her from bolting. Was a Howler really worth this? Ugh, that stuff smelled absolutely foul!
“Polyjuice Potion.” George answered her.
“Had to steal some of the ingredients from Professor Snape's supply.” Fred continued, before laughing at her shock.
“You stole ingredients from Professor Snape?” Hari asked, both nodding in reply. “And you didn't get caught?…(Both nodded again)…I bow to your creative genius. Now, what does Polyjuice potion do?”
“It changes you to look like the person who's hair is in it.” George replied.
“I'll look like you, and you'll look like me.” Fred continued. He laughed when Hari paled. “Don't worry, I'm not going to look at your privates.”
“That's just not very gentleman like.” George added.
“There's no need to panic, Harry.” Fred tried to console her, seeing that she was setting herself up to do just that. “Whatever it is, we won't say a word about it.”
“Really?” Hari asked, hopeful. “You won't say anything? Promise?”
“Promise.” Fred replied. He looked truthful, and something in her decided that maybe she could do with an ally in the twins if they did find out.
“Alright.” Hari said, deciding to trust them. “Let's do this.”
“Need a bit of your hair.” George stated, before cutting a small bit out of it.
“Put these clothes on.” Fred added, pointing to the other bed which had some of Fred's clothes on it. “When you're done, put your clothes on the bed for me to put on. We can each drink the potion behind a curtain, if you like, before stepping out. I'll be behind this other curtain here, so George, make sure to hand me the clothes.”
“Oh, and Fred?” Hari said, before she disappeared behind the curtain, unable to resist. “Don't worry when things start to…disappear.”
The look on their faces before she'd disappeared behind the curtain had certainly been worth that. She quickly got changed into Fred's spare clothes, throwing out her own when she was ready. She couldn't imagine his mortification when he figured it out, though she wasn't quite sure how that would happen. George handed her the potion to drink, which she did behind the curtain, and then she realized just 'how' Fred would discover Hari was not in fact Harry. It certainly tasted as fowl as it smelled, and a horrible feeling hit her stomach as things rearranged themselves and grew; She was fairly certain she was going to throw up before this was over.
A loud squeak from 'Fred now Hari' made her snicker to herself. A moment later, a very Fred like Hari came out from her curtain, and a very Hari like Fred came out from behind his curtain. He, or rather she now, looked rather green. Hari 'now Fred' and Fred 'now Hari' stared at each other for a moment before bursting into laughter. Poor George was left wondering what all the fuss was about.
“Merlin's saggy balls! This is what you were talking about?” Fred-Hari asked, still laughing. “This has to be the biggest prank ever! I love it!”
“So I can trust you to keep this a secret?” Hari-Fred asked, nervously biting 'his' lip.
“Yeah, we can keep it.” Fred-Hari answered, before 'Hari's face split into a wicked grin. “Besides, watching this play out will be too much fun. To think…Harry Potter is pranking the whole of the Wizarding world.”
“This stuff only lasts an hour, so I'll remind you to drink another dose then, oh pretend brother of mine.” George stated, bringing the two back to the matter at hand. “Now, we should all head down to the Great Hall before anyone suspects.”
“A prank within a prank within a prank.” Fred-Hari mused. “Isn't it just lovely?”
“It is.” Hari-Fred agreed. “It really is.”
“So, who's the Howler going to?” Fred-Hari asked, as they all began walking towards the common room. “I'm going through a lot here for this.”
“Lucius Malfoy.” Hari-Fred replied, and 'his' face split into a malicious grin. George couldn't stop laughing all the way to the Great Hall.
AN: I'll get started on the Slytherin one.
Chapter 4: Hogsmeade Howler
“This stuff only lasts an hour, so I'll remind you to drink another dose in an hour, oh pretend brother of mine.” George stated, bringing the two back to the matter at hand. “Now, we should all head down to the Great Hall before anyone suspects.”
“A prank within a prank within a prank.” Fred-Hari mused. “Isn't it just lovely?”
“It is.” Hari-Fred agreed. “It really is.”
“So, who's the Howler going to?” Fred-Hari asked, as they all began walking towards the common room. “I'm going through a lot here for this.”
“Lucius Malfoy.” Hari-Fred replied, and 'his' face split into a malicious grin. George couldn't stop laughing all the way to the Great Hall.
Hermione had noticed Harry's new interest in the twins. The three were talking in hushed whispers at breakfast that morning. It made her suspicious, because she saw the twins as a corruptible influence on Harry. He had already gotten into so much trouble this year, never mind that he hadn't actually gotten punished for any of it. Though she didn't realize it, she was making the same mistake Ron had; thinking she knew what was best for Harry, but she was trying really hard to be a good friend, and could only hope that she was doing it right.
“What are you three whispering about over there?” She asked, trying to sound curious while remaining blasé about it all.
“Nothing!” Fred said, a bit too quickly. George snickered in the background.
“Really, Hermione, investment opportunities wait for no man.” Harry replied, smoothly, patting her on the head (Something he never did). “I was just about to suggest to the boys that I invest in their future endeavors.”
“Now that is quite the idea.” George remarked. “What do you think of that, oh brother of mine?”
“I quite like the idea, myself.” Fred replied, with a wicked grin. “Perhaps we should take this discussion elsewhere, away from prying eyes.”
“Now I know you're up to something.” Hermione insisted. Fred and George both grinned mischievously, while Harry shook with barely resisted laughter.
“Why are you so focused on catching us in mischief, Hermione?” George asked.
“The way she carries on like that, one would think she wants to get in on the mischief herself.” Fred suggested, before wiggling his eyebrows at her.
“What do you say, Hermione? What to get into some mischief with us?” George asked, now solely focused on her.
“I promise we'll take good care of you.” Fred added, making her face turn a bright shade of red it has never been before.
“I can't believe you said that.” Hari-Fred said, snickering as they made their way towards the carriages.
“Me? I'm not the one who was all like 'I promise we'll take good care of you'.” George objected, laughing as well. “That was all you, oh temporary brother of mine.”
“I didn't know it was possible for someone to turn so red. I mean Ron can't even turn that shade of red…can he?” Hari-Fred admitted in a hushed whisper. The two were unable to stop laughing for a bit after that.
The carriage ride was quick, though she'd had to slip a drink of polyjuice before the end of it. They made sure to go to all the usual places Fred and George would go during a trip like this one, laughing and goofing off the entire time. Their last stop was to the book shop, where George politely asked after the Howlers. After promising that this was not going to be sent to a teacher or something like that, Hari-Fred was taken to the back. It wasn't long till 'he' came back, and the two went on their way.
Meanwhile, Fred-Hari was trying to do anything and everything to get rid of Hermione. The girl was on him like a fox on a hen. She was livid when she couldn't figure out what they were up to, and demanded he tell her at once. She refused to accept the fact that he really wanted to invest in the ideas of 'the twins', and lit into him for his behavior. Finally, he'd had enough.
“Hermione, you are not my mother! I don't have to tell you anything if I don't want to.” Fred-Hari pointed out. Her face got red with anger. “No, Hermione! Lighten up. The twins were putting you on, and you fell into their trap just like they said you would. You're smarter than this, Hermione. You get so caught up in how people should be, that you don't take the time to understand how they are. Just take a deep breath, and let it go.”
Realizing he'd have to leave or else she'd dog him some more and see that he was in fact not Harry, he bolted for his room. Harry and George would be back soon, and they could all switch back. Fred was really looking forward to that. He missed being himself for a change, though it had been nice walking around as Harry for a little while. So here he was, hiding out in his room, waiting for George and Harry to show up. Thank Merlin that he didn't have to wait too long.
“You said that to him? Merlin! The look on his face when he hears that!” George said, laughing as he and Harry entered the room.
“I know, right?” Fred-Harry said, following right behind him, adding with a sigh. "I'm going to miss being this tall."
“Right, behind the curtains, you two.” George said, getting down to business. “Harry, your potion is about to wear off. We'll do the clothes switch, and then catch each other up on our stories for the day.”
Once everyone was in their rightful bodies and clothes, they all sat on the rugs in the floor which were rather comfortable.
“So, what gives Harry?” Fred asked. “I think I'm owed an explanation after I walked around today without my bits.”
“It's Hari actually, and I have no idea.” Hari admitted, with a grin. “It's the weirdest thing. Madam Milkins fitted me for boys robes, then Hogwarts gives me a boys dorm. I even introduced myself as Hari Potter, and I don't know how it happened but everyone thinks I'm a boy. I've not even gone out of my way to act like a guy. I think Hogwarts is trying to give me a complex.”
“Fred and I won't say anything till you give the okay.” George stated, surprising her.
“Besides, think of the bragging rights we'll get when this all comes out that we knew first.” Fred said, with a wicked grin. “Hermione has been on my case all day today. It was hard for me to keep up the hourly doses because of her. Does she harp on you that often?”
“When she thinks I'm about to do something bad? Yeah, but she means well.” Hari replied. “It's not been easy getting her to see that she needs to loosen up a bit.”
“Well I may have yelled at her for it.” Fred admitted. “She was like a terrier, that girl.”
“I'll talk to her when things have calmed down.” Hari said. “You two can apologize to each other after that, and maybe you and George can help me loosen her up. Being that high strung can't be good for her health, and she's so nice once you get through her shell. I have a feeling she's had a lot to prove for a very long time, and she expects this place to be the same as everything else she's known. Can you imagine how irate she's going to get when she realizes what we did?”
“Now that's a lecture I'd pay to watch.” George admitted with a snicker.
One Lucius Abraxus Malfoy was at that moment enjoying a nice evening meal when an owl came into the room. It was carrying a Howler. At that, Lucius did a double take. It was really a Howler! Who in the bloody hell would send him one of these? Certainly no one with any sense of self preservation, something he intended to remind them of as soon as he heard their voice and figured out who sent it.
“MR. MALFOY! DID IT EVER OCCUR TO YOU THAT BEFRIENDING THE LAST OF THE POTTER LINE, THE FUCKING BOY-WHO-LIVED, COULD ONLY BE GOOD FOR YOUR SON?! MIGHT WANT TO GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ARSE BEFORE IT GETS STUCK UP THERE! THAT IS, IF IT ISN'T ALREADY! IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW, PURE BLOOD MEANS INBRED, YOU COCKY IGNORAMUS! MARRYING YOUR COUSINS FUCKS WITH THE NEXT GENERATIONS D.N.A, WHICH IS PROBABLY WHY THE WIZARDING WORLD HAS A SQUIB PROBLEM, BUT NO! GO ON AHEAD, AND IGNORE THE PROBLEM! I'M SURE THAT ONE DAY YOUR SON WILL HAVE NICE SQUIB CHILDREN, AND THANK YOU FOR IT! MAYBE, INSTEAD OF TRYING TO CRIPPLE YOUR SON'S CHILDHOOD AND HIS FUTURE, YOU MIGHT WANT TO ACTUALLY MEET THE CHILDREN HE'S BEFRIENDING! BUT WHAT WOULD I KNOW? I'VE JUST BEEN LIVING IN THE WORLD YOU'RE AFRAID OF FOR THE PAST TEN YEARS! OH, and tell Mrs. Malfoy that those boxes of sweets and fruit are the highlight of our collaborative study groups. I'd love the recipes if she is willing to part with them.”
He just sat there staring at it after it fizzled out, unsure of what to think. Had he just been told off by an eleven year old? Harry Potter had actually sent him a Howler in defense of Draco? Looking over to his wife, he could see that Narcissa was having a hard time deciding what reaction to take, but one look at her and she burst out laughing in a way he had not remembered her openly laughing in years. Every time she tried to calm down enough to talk, she looked at him again, and then she burst into another round of laughter.
Really, it was getting rather ridiculous. Finally, she calmed down, but the smile and the light in her eyes did not leave her. Instead of talking though, she walked over and wrapped her arm around him before kissing him on his forehead, and walking out of the room. The snickering he could hear following her was not appreciated, but then again he could not decide whether to be insulted by this mere boy, or marvel at how his wife's laughter had seemed to brighten the room all because a boy decided to defend her son in his own childish way. He resolved to write a reply addressing the issues the Potter boy had presented, maybe meeting these minds that were influencing his son, but maybe after a few days; there was his pride to consider, after all.
“What did you do?” Malfoy asked, sitting in front of her at the Gryffindor table as he plopped a box on it, raising the eyebrows of everyone in the Great Hall.
Hari looked up at him in shock. Malfoy looked like he'd seen something impossible, like his whole world had shifted or something, or he'd had an epiphany. She began to get worried. Had his father written back finally? Had he disowned his son? She hadn't thought about that when she'd sent the Howler. Oh, dear God, she'd called him an ignoramus!
“Malfoy, are you alright? Did something happen?” She asked, whispering. Leaning in a bit, she continued. “Are you aware that you're probably committing social suicide with the whole of Slytherin House right now? The entire Great Hall is staring at you.”
“I don't care. I'm pretty sure the world is ending.” Malfoy replied, with a still blank sort of shocked look on his face. “Father apologized to me. That's never happened before. Ever. Apparently anyone with the stones to send him a Howler in defense of his son must be someone worth talking to. He said Mother couldn't look at him without laughing, like outloud belly laughing, the whole day. I don't think I've ever seen her laugh like that. I didn't think it was possible. He wants to meet you, meet all of the people I've been hanging about with that he'd previously insulted. Apparently he wants to meet the minds that are influencing his son, judge for himself if maybe his previous assumptions were too hasty. Potter, you made my father rethink his previous position on something. What. Did. You. Do?”
“Nothing much. I just borrowed someone else's stones.” Hari replied nonchalantly, and Fred face planted into a plate of sweet potatoes as his shoulders shook with silent laughter. His almost immediate coughing fit was to be expected, all things considering.
“What?…” Malfoy asked, looking between the two. He leaned in as well. “Are you telling me you actually managed to send a Howler to my father?”
“If I say yes, will you tell me what's in the box?” Hari asked, pointing to said box that Malfoy brought with him
“Oh! Right! These are for you. Mother sent them. I imagine she'll keep sending them now.” Malfoy replied, pushing the box towards her. “There's a letter from mother, and another from father, in there as well. Apparently, she's under the impression that I bring the box of sweets she sends me to the study group to share. I've never done that. Why is my mother under the impression that I share, Potter?”
Hari's feral grin was back.
“I lied.” She admitted, completely unapologetic about it. “You don't bring the box with you to study group, but you did have it with you that day when we worked on Professor Snape's essay in the library. I may have also stolen several pieces of dark chocolate bon bon looking things. You didn't even notice. I thought you were a Slytherin. I didn't even think I was being all that stealthy about it. The librarian definitely noticed. I may have a weakness for dark chocolate, and no, I won't apologize for it. I didn't lie to your mother. I lied to your father, who then told your mother, after I yelled at him, insulted him, and told him you were going to have squib children if he didn't get his head out of his bum. I think that about covers it. Oh. No, wait. I forgot. I cursed at him too.”
Malfoy looked at her liked he'd never seen her before, just stared in shock, before standing up and putting out his hand.
“Draco Malfoy.” He said, as if introducing himself again. when Hari stood up as well and took his hand.
“Hari Potter.” She returned. They shook hands, and let go. “So, Malfoy, think the Great Hall can breathe now?”
“Draco.” He corrected, before looking casually at the rest of the Great Hall; all of whom were quickly all too interested in their own food. “I think by this point, you can call me Draco, Pot.”
“I suppose, Kettle, long as you call me Hari.” She replied.
“So, lunch with the snakes?” Draco asked, trying to sound slightly disinterested. “You can tell them what you did. They'll never believe a Gryffindor out Slytherin'd them.”
“Lunch is almost over though.” Hari pointed out, but then suggested. “Supper instead? You can help them brace for it a little.”
Draco let out an uncharacteristic snort. “They'll probably need it.” He made to leave. “Got to get out of here before they think I need resorting or something.”
“Did we actually see that?” Minerva asked, still trying to process what she'd just witnessed.
“Obviously, Minerva.” Severus replied, before remarking. “The two have been carrying on some sort of infantile insulting competition for weeks now. It was bound to result in a friendship. The only thing we have to worry about is Lucius discovering this, and then trying to poison the boy.”
“Now you've gone and done it!” She hissed at him. “Albus is going to insist on checking the box! You know what a sweet tooth he has!”
“Exactly.” Severus remarked, with a sly grin. “I want to see how Potter handles this.”
It's about this time that they hear a resounding smack. Some of the Great Hall had emptied, but not all, and they had just witnessed Harry Potter slapping Albus Dumbledore's hand away from his box of sweets. Even Severus and Minerva are looking upon the scene with gaping expressions. The boy was looking at the headmaster like he'd just tried to steal everything from him, and to be fair, he was trying to steal from him.
“Don't even think about it, old man.” Harry hissed, glaring at him. “These are mine. Go get your own.”
“Now, Hari, they could be poisoned.” Albus reasoned, his eyes alight with mischief, and Harry pulled the box closer to his person.
“Then you definitely shouldn't be trying them. Being old means a weakened immune system, and the poison could kill you faster. I'm young. I can make it till Professor Snape or Madam Pomfrey finds a bezoar. I'll be fine.” Harry replied back, holding the box tightly now. “You can't possibly expect me to believe you're doing this because you're concerned for my safety. I've heard that line before, and then the whole box is gone, and suddenly it wasn't meant for me anyway so why should I be upset?”
“Something's wrong.” Severus said, seeing something she hadn't yet. “You get Potter, I'll get Albus. This has gone on long enough. This isn't normal behavior for a stolen treat.”
“No. You get Potter. I'll get Albus.” Minerva replied, sternly, as they made their way down to the pair. “I've been meaning to reprimand him for years now.”
By this time, Malfoy was standing by Potter as he tried to calm him down. Severus could swear he was trying to convince the boy to give the headmaster a piece of chocolate, but the boy refused. He held onto that box with a death grip, even as Longbottom, Granger, Malfoy, and several Weasley's tried to console him. Even Zabini, Nott, Crabbe and Goyle had come over to help Malfoy to help Potter. Albus was looking particularly uncomfortable, as he had obviously meant only to tease the boy or assess if the box was filled with poisoned sweets, but something about the situation had taken a turn he had not expected, and now they were going to have to get to the bottom of this. While Minerva made a showing of taking the old man by the ear, and marching him out of the Great Hall, though everyone else had left upon fear of whatever was about to happen, Severus guided Potter and his sudden entourage to a side room where they could discuss this.
“Alright, Potter, explain yourself.” Severus demanded. That had apparently been the wrong stance to take, because Potter descended into tears, and Severus didn't know what to do with a crying child of any age. “Someone calm him down. I can't make sense of him if he's crying like this.”
“Harry, it's not that bad.” Granger said, softly, rubbing on the boy's back to try to soothe him. “I'm sure the Headmaster was only teasing. It's just candy, there's no need to get this upset. It'll be okay.”
Potter made some kind of noise Severus couldn't translate.
“What do you mean it isn't just candy?” Malfoy asked. “You haven't even opened the box yet.”
More untranslatable noises from Potter.
“That can't be true. You're Harry Potter, the boy who lived! How can that possibly be the first gift you've ever been given by a friend's family?” Malfoy asked, then looked between Potter and Severus as if he couldn't believe what he'd just heard.
“Aunt Petunia…Uncle Vernon…muggles…hate magic…freak…………no gifts…birthdays…christmas…” Potter tried to explain, half his words still untranslatable to Severus. “…Cupboard…no meals…Dudley's better now…”
“They did what?!” Granger suddenly shouted, the lights in the room flashing before she got her magic under control. “He said…Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon are muggles that hate magic, call him a freak, told him nothing about what he was or what his parents were. They didn't give him any gifts, no birthday parties, no christmas presents. Anything weird happened and he was locked up in his cupboard under the stairs without meals for however long they decided. His cousin Dudley is better now, said they write each other about school.”
“You live with Petunia?” Severus asked, looking to Potter now. The boy looked at him in confusion. “Now is not the time. Take a few minutes to compose yourself before heading out. I've got to go make sure Professor McGonagall doesn't kill the Headmaster.”
He was out of there before anyone could ask him any questions. He had to get to the Headmaster before Minerva killed him. Severus hadn't been joking about that part, especially if she'd known where Albus had placed the boy. There was no way for Potter to know that, which was probably the only reason he hadn't exploded at the headmaster himself about it, given how he'd just reacted at the man trying to tease him about chocolate. After giving the password to the gargoyle at the bottom of the staircase, Severus went up to the office, where Minerva could be heard shouting at the man already.
“You could see how upset he was! Why didn't you stop after the first no!” Minerva shouted, angrily. “Those foul Dursley's probably never gave him anything! That you would leave him with such people, is-”
“Minerva, that is enough.” Severus interjected, bringing their attention to himself. “Albus, I'm afraid she's right. This goes beyond a simple child's tantrum over a stolen treat. Petunia and her husband hate magic, locked him up in his cupboard under the stairs without meals when something happened. They gave him no gifts. No birthday's. No christmas. To him, what you tried to steal wasn't just a sugary treat, it was literally the first gift from a friend's family that he has ever received in his entire life. Other than the broom, it is probably the first real gift he's ever been given.”
“It's worse than I thought, it would seem.” Albus sighed. “I'd left a note with them, telling them to treat Hari like their own, that it would keep them safe, keep Hari safe. The Blood Wards would ensure Hari's safety.”
“The blood ward couldn't protect him from neglect, Albus.” Minerva admonished him, with a tired sigh. “If it was just that you didn't want Potter to grow up spoiled, you could have placed him with any number of people. There are plenty of people with excellent security wards that would have accepted him. Those blood wards are not infallible, and neither are you.”
“They are the best protection from those that hunt him most.” Albus insisted.
“That can't really be why you tried to take the box from him.” Severus countered. “Lucius wouldn't risk killing the boy now, not when Draco has made a friend of him.”
“But later? When Hari's usefulness has run out to Lucius, can you say the same?” Albus asked. Severus shook his head, and sighed.
“Aren't you always the one trying to save the unsaveable?” Severus countered, raising an eyebrow at him. “You can not make his decisions for him. Life is risk, Albus.”
The gargoyle signaled an alert that several someones wanted entry, and Albus waved the okay. Not two minutes later, Potter, Malfoy, Weasley, and Granger walked up. If anyone was surprised by such a combination of students, they didn't say anything. Potter wasn't looking at anyone, more subdued than he had been earlier. Minerva glared at Albus from the side of her eyes, before softening her gaze at the boy who was trying to speak.
“I'm sorry, Professors. That was rude of me.” Potter stated, his voice was scratchy, and Severus suddenly had a flashback moment where he saw himself doing this exact thing. The whole experience was most uncomfortable. “I shouldn't have reacted like that, and I'd like to forget the whole thing ever happened, so here.”
Albus stopped him from opening the box.
“Hari, no. It has been explained to me, and I am most sorry for not asking your permission first.” Albus stated, surprising Potter. “What I don't understand is the cupboard. What did you mean by that?”
Potter just looked at him in shock, as if what he was about to say was perfectly normal to him, and replied. “Professor, that's my bedroom.”
Her friends kept an eye on her the rest of the day, and it was the weirdest thing she'd ever experienced in her life. She was used to caring for other people, not the other way around, and now she wondered if she was going to have to protect the Dursley's. If she was willing to send Draco's father a Howler, what were they willing to do? She'd asked them not to do anything, but that didn't mean they would. More than likely that just meant they'd be more stealthy about it.
She actually had a free period in between Charms and Supper, so she took that time to find a nice alcove. Once there, she got comfortable, and opened the box. It was filled with dark chocolate candies of all kinds, along with various fruits, all preserved with some kind of cooling charm. There were two letters as well, one of which she was happy to note had several recipes inside. She didn't know why she'd reacted so strongly earlier, but she just wanted to forget about it, and so she looked at the letters that were sent to her.
Dear Harry Potter,
Thank you for the entertainment. Hearing my husband be shouted at via Howler has to be the funniest thing that's happened in quite some time. I couldn't keep a straight face all day. Still, undoing centuries worth of thinking will take more than the shouting of an eleven year old boy, but I suppose one must start somewhere. Maybe I'll take the time to right up my sister Andromeda, if she doesn't burn the letter the second she sees it. You've given me a lot to think about, young man. As you requested, the recipes for the treats that are usually in Draco's box of sweets. The house elves make them, but upon hearing that the famous Harry Potter loved their food, they insisted on sending you a box of your own.
Lady Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy
Then she looked over the one Mr. Malfoy sent.
I will be quite frank with you, boy. When Draco told me he'd failed to befriend you, I'd written you off as a lost cause. Yet here you two are, friends of your own accord. You bring with you the stench of blood traitors and muggleborns, people had told my son never to associate with, and yet you tell me that it is because of this that my son will have a brighter future. I'm not sure I believe a word of this, but my wife insists it might be worth looking into, anything for the sake of our son.
Since he insists that these people are worth spending his time with, I will have to meet them. That includes you, and that Granger girl, in case you were wondering. You will send with you a list of available times to meet, and I will reply with a time I will be visiting Hogwarts. I'm sure the Headmaster will be most accommodating. This had better not be a ploy of some kind to waste my time.
Lord Lucius Malfoy, of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy.
“There you are, Hari.” Draco called out, surprising her, then scrunching up his nose. “That sounds weird. Anyway, Supper with the snakes, Pot. You've got to tell them what you did. Personally, I'd love to hear how you got away with it.”
“I don't know if I can reveal my accomplices.” She replied, with a wicked grin.
The two proceeded to head to the Great Hall, where everyone else seemed to be waiting for them. The whole thing made Hari a bit self conscious. Did they have no decorum at all? They could at least try to act like they weren't spying on them. Surely Draco had not been the first Slytherin to sit at the Gryffindor tables, and she wasn't the first Gryffindor to be sitting at the Slytherin tables.
“Alright, Hari Potter, these were the one's I wanted you to meet.” Draco said, and then started pointing to each one as he introduced them. “Theodore Nott, Blaise Zabini, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and Daphne Greengrass.”
“Nice to meet you all.” She replied, with a polite but nervous smile. They all gave cautious but agreeable hello's in return.
“Okay, Potter, Draco insists you've out Slytherin'd us.” Nott remarked. “After what I saw at lunch, I'm not sure my heart could take the shock. What did you do?”
“I managed to find a way out of the Castle during the Hogsmeade weekend, and commissioned to send Lucius Malfoy a Howler.” Hari replied, nonchalantly, as she scooped small portions of everything she liked within reach. Nott nearly chocked to death, and Zabini spit up his pumpkin juice. “How was it I said it to you, Draco? I insulted him, cursed him, yelled at him, and told him Draco was going to have squib children if the man didn't pull his head out of his arse, and quit being squeamish about muggleborns and supposed blood traitors. Oh, and then I lied to him, in order to get Mrs. Malfoy to give me the recipes to Draco's sweets boxes, all while using someone else's voice to say it all.”
“Not to mention he stole sweets out of my own box, in front of me, without me seeing it.” Draco added, with a snort.
“You sent Drakey's father a Howler?” Parkinson asked, looking at her with shock. “Are you insane?”
“Ugh, that's never going to go away is it?” Draco asked, looking at Hari's mischievously evil grin.
“Not on your life, Drakey.” Hari replied, doing her best impromptu Parkinson impression. Crabbe and Goyle both snickered behind napkins at that. Zabini didn't bother hiding it. “She calls you Drakey-poo sometimes, doesn't she? Has she planned your wedding yet?”
Parkinson starts laughing too. “Yes. He absolutely hates it too, but his parents and mine have been in contact for a marriage contract ever since we were in nappies.”
“Marriage contract?” Hari asked, frowning. “That hardly seems sporting, does it?”
“What do you mean?” Parkinson asked. “I know it's not the most romantic thing in the world, but-”
“Oh, I'm not talking about romance. We're eleven. What do we know about that rubbish anyway?” Hari asked, waving that off no nonsense like. “I'm talking about sporting. Here he is, at eleven years old, and he's already got a wife waiting for him. He doesn't have to worry about manners, or proper courting etiquette, or those horrible visits to Madam Puddyfoot's Tea shop that girls like so much, and why? Because he's already got a marriage contract. He doesn't even have to work to be worthy of you, or to even be nice, so he's bound to start taking you for granted now. It's not an exclusive contract is it? I mean, you and your parents are looking at other options, aren't you?”
Parkinson suddenly looked outraged at the thought of being taken for granted, and ran off, no doubt to write to her mother and father about this.
“And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you get rid of a marriage contract.” Hari announced, taking a mock bow. “Thank you. Thank you.”
“That's just not right.” Draco remarked, looking a bit put out. “I've been trying to get rid of that marriage contract forever, and here you come along, and just…ugh…”
“Well, yeah, but if you hadn't done all that, my bit would have never worked.” Hari pointed out. “She would have just looked to you to make things more sporting.”
“Are you sure you got sorted into the right House, Potter?” Nott cracked.
With that said, things seemed to flow more smoothly. No one asked about the incident at lunch, for which she would be forever grateful, though a few looked at her with narrowed eyes from time to time. Daphne and Millicent both told her she could refer to them by their first names, and soon after Theo, and Blaise followed. Crabbe and Goyle didn't seem too interested in becoming friendly, but they were quite civil to her, and she figured that was as good a start as any. By the time supper was ending, Hari had a good feeling about her ever larger group of friends.
She thought about it while they practiced for quidditch over the next few days, though Wood drilled them all constantly. Her and Hermione went over homework so she wouldn't get behind, and she managed to get in contact with Mr. Malfoy again to tell him the class times she could meet with him that coincided with everyone else's schedules. Oh, and she figured out why she'd had such an emotional reaction to her headmaster trying to steal her box of sweets, other than it really being the first gift she'd ever been given by a friend's family. Madam Pomfrey, bless that woman's soul, had been an absolute angel when it came to explaining the magical ways women dealt with that particular issue, and didn't once question why she was hiding her gender from everyone.
Thanks to that woman, her roommates had no idea there'd been anything wrong, though maybe it was just where quidditch fever was starting to set in. Their first game was set in a few days, and the closer it got, the more nervous, Hari became. She couldn't eat but a bit of toast in the mornings, though things were usually better come lunch time. With Wood holding practices at all hours, Hari was wondering when the team would mutiny, and they hadn't even played their first game yet.
Chapter 5: The meet
Hari was more nervous than she'd ever been in her life. They were going to play this crazy sport, up in the air, in front of hundreds of people. Draco had stopped by the locker room to wish her luck ~It's not like I'm going to be cheering for you to win, Pot, you're playing my house! Honestly.~ He did, however, tell her about the banner her Gryffindor friends had made up, that he had pranked without their knowledge. Her attention was brought back to Wood, who looked like he was about to prepare them for battle.
“Okay, men.” He said.
“And women.” Chaser Angelina Johnson called out.
“And women.” Wood agreed. “This is it.”
“The big one.” Fred popped in.
“The one we've all been waiting for.” George continued.
After a bit of ribbing from the Weasley twins, Wood wrangled everyone back together, and they marched out onto the field. She barely heard Madam Hooch talk about fair games, and keeping things clean, too busy staring at the troll that was Marcus Flint. Out of the corner of her eye though, she saw the banner her friends had made, along with the flying snake the lion seemed to be chasing (Draco's addition, she knew) and it made her feel a bit better. Once she was in the air again, her worries went away. She couldn't help but feel this was always where she was meant to be.
Unfortunately, other than a few bludgers to dodge, there was really nothing for her to do! She lazily circled the pitch, looking out for signs of the snitch, but there was nothing. Dodging Flint became some kind of personal challenge, because that boy decided to make it his mission to mess with her. Wasn't that the Slytherin Seeker's job? Suddenly, she realized what he was trying to do, and faked him out so she could gain some distance between them.
He'd been trying to keep her busy so that Higgs, the Slytherin Seeker, could look for the snitch without her. She was all over the place then, and he had to pay more attention to his team, or risk running a foul with her. Madam Hooch was already shouting warnings at him. Finally with enough wiggle room to really look again, she thought she'd caught a break, when her broom gave a jerk.
She thought it was nothing, until a few minutes later it did it again. Suddenly, she was in a fight for control of the broom. If she fell this high up, magic or not, she was dead! Catching the snitch didn't matter now. Finding a way to get her broom to stop this madness was the only thing that mattered, but she didn't know what could affect a broom.
“You alright there, Hari?” Fred asked, hitting a bludger away from her.
“No! My broom! It-” It jerked again, and just like that she was hanging off of it with only one hand holding onto it.
“You're going to have to fall, Hari.” George shouted up to her.
“The bloody hell I do!” She shrieked, as she reached up to try and grab hold of the broom with her other hand, a feat her broom did not seem willing to grant her as it moved about.
“Don't worry. One of us will catch you.” Fred insisted, not looking very confident about that.
“Actually, now seems like a great time to worry to me, thank you very much!” Hari shrieked, right before the broom bucked again.
Her fingers couldn't hold onto the broom anymore. She fell past Fred and George, falling so fast that she only had time to close her eyes as the wind rushed past her. After a second, she jerked as if stopping. Cautiously, she opened her eyes, and was surprised to see grass really close to her face…right before she fell onto it. All of a sudden, she felt like she was going to be sick, and try as she might she just couldn't keep it down.
The snitch that plopped into her hand was a surprise, but she only numbly registered it or that her fingers had wrapped around it so that it couldn't escape as she looked for the person who'd cast the spell that saved her life. She should be dead. Fred and George had not been able to catch her like they'd hoped. Searching the crowd was hard to do, considering her teammates were surrounding her, and she could faintly hear Madam Hooch and Marcus Flint arguing in the background. Finally her eyes connected with one Professor Snape, who was looking even more pale than usual, with wand raised as if he'd been frozen that way; both staring at each other with a mixture of shock and confusion.
She didn't even hear the people around her, was barely aware of anything outside of that moment as her mind tried to process what it knew to be true. Professor Snape, a man she was sure actively hated her, had saved her life. Eventually, her eyes adjusted to the change in scenery. Ron and Hermione were argueing with Hagrid about something, but all she could hear was raised voices. The more insistent Hermione became, the louder she got, and the more red-faced she got.
“It was Snape!” Hermione insisted, once they were inside Hagrid's hut.
“I'm tellin' yeh, yer wrong!” Hagrid objected, hotly. “I don' know why Harry's broom acted like that, but Snape wouldn' try an' kill a student!”
“I know what a jinx looks like, Hagrid. I've read all about them! You've got to keep eye contact, and Snape wasn't blinking at all, I saw him!” Hermione cried, vehemently.
“It wasn't Snape.” Hari said, so quietly she wondered how anyone heard her, but Hermione did.
“It was! I saw-”
“Hermione, what does a counter jinx look like?” Hari asked, just to get her to shut up. She loved her friend, but sometimes when the girl thought she was right, she bulldozed you until you just agreed with her. The trick was to cut her off at the pass.
“Well, it…it looks the same, but, Harry, I saw-”
“Did either of you happen to look for anyone else doing the same thing he was?” Hari asked, calmly interrupting her again, something she could see was riling up her friend.
“No, there wasn't time!” Hermione insisted, red faced.
“Did you also see him with his wand out at the match?” Hari asked, stopping Hermione from another round of insistence. The girl paused, and suddenly got a very thoughtful look on her face. “You don't need one for a jinx, but you would need one for a levitation spell.”
“What are you saying, Harry?” Ron asked. “You can't possibly be insisting that Snape saved your life, can you?”
“That's exactly what I think he did.” Hari said, shocking them both. “Professor Snape saved my life.”
“But why would he do that?” Ron asked, incredulously.
“I haven't the faintest idea.” Hari admitted. "I'm fairly certain he hates me as a general rule."
“Alrigh' now, you lot get back to Gryffindor tower.” Hagrid replied, looking grateful that the fighting was over, as he gently shooed them out of the hut. “I expect there'll be quite the party goin' on about now.”
Lucius stepped through the Floo and into the office of on Severus Snape. His long time friend already had tea waiting for him, but he always found himself momentarily distracted by the odd bits and bobs lining the potions master's shelves. The man himself often found this to be amusing, and the slight uptick smirk told him this was still the case. Taking the offered tea, Lucius for once found himself at a loss of what to say; a first for him. This was a fact not lost on his long time friend.
“What is he like, this Potter boy that aims to influence my son?” Lucius asked, after a moment and a few sips of tea. “What of the others he has surrounded himself with?”
“They're eleven, Lucius. At this point they're all pretentious and insufferable.” Severus grumbled.
“My son keeps regular company with three Gryffindors specifically.” Lucius stated, not in the mood to deal with his friend's ill temperament regarding his students. “One of whom managed to send me a Howler in Draco's defense. Considering that would either require a great deal of magical ability or more cunning than is expected of a Gryffindor, that shows promise. I want to know about these children, Severus, do not test me.”
“You aren't going to like it.” Severus warned.
“I am aware of the blood status of each of them already, Severus.” Lucius remarked, dryly. “After all, I had already warned him to stay away from them, which I believe, is the reason for the one in his defense.”
“If you insist.” Severus relented, with a sigh. “Ronald Weasley is ill mannered and hot headed, often acting without thinking; completely incompetent in my class, if that matters at all. And yet…since the beginning of this strange friendship, he has shown to have a remarkable talent for strategy, and has calmed down slightly in regards to his temper. He still acts without thinking, but if one of the others catches it in time, he easily correct it. I can not say if there is anything more to him.
Hermione Granger is impatient, clearly has no respect for her betters, and is an insufferable know it all. She insists on shoveling her knowledge in people's faces at every opportunity, and half the time I'm not sure if it's her speaking, or a book. And yet…She is still impatient, and an insufferable know it all, but just the other day she asked if there was a reason I did not call on her in class, if I was trying to teach a lesson that could not be learned in books. She has expressed an interest in wizarding culture, something I did not expect of a muggleborn, and is quick to defend her friends if she feels it is needed. The girl outright lied to several professors in order to keep your son out of trouble, something I was only just made aware of, during the Troll incident on Halloween.”
“And Potter?” Lucius asked. “What of him?”
“Harry Potter is…nearly completely clueless about the world around him, has nearly died at least twice this year, and is nearly as insufferable as Granger.” Severus replied, looking more troubled now. “And yet…he is obviously a great deal more Slytherin than he lets on. He has befriended your son using some kind of infantile game of insults, has brought in Granger and Weasley into it by way of a guessing game, and has proven that the three of them can get along as friends. He somehow managed to talk Molly Weasley into making her son apologize to Draco. The boy actually refused Dumbledore when the man wanted to take the box of sweets Narcissa sent. It was apparently the first gift a friend's family has ever given him.”
“But he's…” Lucius made to object, but Severus stopped him by shaking his head.
“Tuney raised him completely ignorant of what he was, and his place in wizarding society, punished him for any bouts of accidental magic and called it unnaturalness. No gifts of any kind. She and her foul husband made him cook and clean for them like some kind of under cared for house elf, and his bedroom is a cupboard under the stairs.” Severus explained, for the first time showing how much this bothered him. “If that boy isn't emotionally traumatized, I don't know who is. He practically burst into tears when I demanded an explanation from him about Albus and the box of sweets, clung to it like it was a lifeline.”
“I am to meet them this afternoon.” Lucius stated, with some amusement, surprising Severus. “You should be there. You can bet Dumbledore or McGonagall will be, maybe even the Weasley Matriarch.”
“Watching students squirm has become something of a pastime for me.” Severus remarked, in agreement, and the two made to leave.
“Alright you three, this is it.” Draco warned, facing the three crazy Gryffindors in front of him. They have to be crazy for considering this. “There's no backing out after this. We go in there, and that's it. As long as we're on this side of the door, we can all go back to hating each other and no one gets maimed or injured.”
“Really, Malfoy, we're not helpless.” Granger stated, lightly admonishing him. “Those books on wizarding culture were quite helpful.”
“Figures you would manage to read all of them.” Weasley grumbled.
“At least you already know most of this stuff, Ron.” Hari pointed out. “The rest of us had to play catch up on years worth of information in the span of hours. I think my brain might explode from information overload.”
“That's impossible.” Granger scoffed. “Your brain can't explode from information overload.”
“No, it just seeps out into your hair.” Draco remarked. “I always wondered where you kept your excess brains, Granger.”
“Dear Lord, could you imagine it?” Hari asked, before Granger could retort. “Draco's hair as big as Hermione's?”
“Maybe that's why he uses so much hair gel.” Granger noted, with amusement.
“If that's true, then you're missing out, Granger.” Draco replied, unable to resist. “Just think of what this hair gel could do for you, tame that unruly mess you call hair at any rate.”
“Alright, you lot.” Professor McGonagall said, interrupting their nervous camaraderie. “If you're going, you'd better do it now.”
“Lord, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death eaters.” Hari murmured as he passed him, and entered the room.
“I shall fear no Malfoy.” Granger continued, murmuring as she too entered the room.
“For there will be hair gel.” Weasley finished them up, entering the room.
Draco rolled his eyes, and took a deep breath before following them in. He is not brave like a Gryffindor, can see the million ways this could blow up in their faces, and yet they walk in with jokes. Professor McGonagall follows them in, and so he couldn't pull a runner even if he thought he could get away with it. The room they enter is plain, with a small dining table and chairs for them. His father is already in there, along with Uncle Severus, and Draco can not think of a worse place to be than here in this moment.
“Glad to see the four of you could make it.” Lucius begins. His tell tale smirk tells Draco that he heard everything, and plans to use it, but he is nothing if not proper. “I am Lord Lucius Malfoy of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy. I know my son, but who will speak for the three of you?”
Draco groans internally as he realizes his father has gone for nuances that he had not had the time to teach the Gryffindorks, so he is surprised when Hari takes one step forward.
“I will speak for us.” Hari states, and gestures to each one as he speaks of them. “I am Hari Potter of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Potter. This is Hermione Granger, of the notable and rising House of Granger. And This is Ronald Weasley, of the ancient and noble House of Weasley. We are pleased to make your acquaintance Lord Malfoy, and hope that you will dine with us this fine evening.”
Professor McGonagall's eyes widen slightly at that, and Uncle Severus merely raises an eyebrow at Hari. Lucius only nods at them, an allowance to step forward and sit with him. Draco can't believe what he's seeing, can't school his features enough to not show that, but simply goes along with it all. He had not taught the finer bits of formal wizarding manner to Hari, hadn't thought they would be necessary as those particular bits of manners were from so long ago that he hardly considered them relevant. His father was obviously impressed that at least one of them had decided to pick up the old mannerisms, but he doubted Hari or the others could see that.
Uncle Severus and Professor McGonagall sat at the ends of the table, as for the sake of the meeting, Lucius and the children would be sitting in the middle. Weasley sat down first, followed by Granger; who only hesitated slightly when Hari pulled out the chair for her before sitting down himself. Only then did Draco sit down beside Hari. Food instantly appeared in front of them, and now Draco was really worried. Weasley was not known for his table manners, and he dreaded to see how horribly this would go.
Hari and Weasley each took the opportunity in turn to put a bit of Grangers favorite foods onto her plate. They'd had many long discussions about this with her, to the point where Draco was afraid she would blow up the room for women's rights. This was not about that, as he knew good and well that a woman could kick his arse just as easily as a man could. This was about courteousness; not that women couldn't provide for themselves, but that men wanted to prove their worth as a provider. Granger adapted this, because of course she would, by helping to plate a bit of Hari and Weasley's food as well.
This raised eyebrows, as if they could be raised any higher than they already were, so Draco was not expecting it when Hari started putting food into his plate for him. Not to be outdone, he returned the gesture before both he and Weasley put a bit of food into their own plates. The whole thing was way more convoluted than it needed to be, in Draco's opinion, and he thinks he's going to go into shock at any moment anyway so he figured it was just best to roll with it. Weasley was eating with his mouth closed! No elbows on the table, or shoveling food in his mouth so fast he was breathing it in, or anything! Draco was half tempted to check for Polyjuice.
“Draco, your mother sends her love, and regrets that she couldn't be here.” Lucius stated, after dabbing his mouth with the napkin. There hadn't been any food on his face, and Draco's eye starts twitching. “She unfortunately had a prior engagement.”
“Tea with the Parkinsons?” Draco dared to ask, in a formal and indifferent air, because the world was ending anyway so why not?
“Yes, actually.” Lucius replied, his eyes darting over to Hari. “It seems someone impressed upon young Pansy the need to make things 'sporting', and the dangers of being taken for granted.”
“It did seem only proper.” Hari replied, with only the slightest tone shift to give him away. “One would not wish for the Heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy to become lazy and ill mannered in the hopes that it would rid him of such a contract.”
Draco's eye twitches some more.
“Indeed.” Lucius acknowledged, the tiniest of smirks now attached to his face. “Have you been approached for a marriage contract as of yet, Mr. Potter?”
“Please. Call me Hari, and no, Sir, not as of yet.” Hari replied, his tone now showing how amusing he found this. “I'm afraid I wouldn't appreciate the effort, and I am hardly mature enough to handle such a contract, let alone a trip to Madam Puddyfoot's.”
“That wouldn't happen for a few years yet though, Harry.” Weasley pointed out, sounding polite and well spoken. “You and Hermione might make a good match.”
“My parents might not take to such a thing at this age, Ron.” Granger admonished lightly. “They have stressed the importance for an education and a career before such things.”
“That doesn't mean the talks couldn't happen before then, Hermione.” Hari pointed out. “Those are simply conditions to be hammered out during such talks.”
“Making an offer, Harry?” Granger asks, and Draco knows by the tone of her voice that her eyebrow is raised in challenge.
“Wouldn't dream of it. Besides” Hari remarks, humour still very much in place. “If I ever made you angry, you'd never help me with my homework.”
“And it would serve you right.” She replied, with humour as well. Was there some joke going on that he didn't know about? His eye had never twitched so much in such a short time.
“It is good you have the foresight to think of such things, Hari.” Lucius acknowledged, and now Draco just knows something is wrong. This can only end in blood, he fears. “I am a little curious as to which one of you thought to send the Howler to my place of residence, and how it made it through the wards.”
“It is amazing the things one can learn with the right questions.” Hari replied, the smirk getting just a touch bigger now, as dinner continued. “One only has to wait for the right circumstances. For instance, a young boy will talk about almost anything to keep his mind occupied, if one directs the conversation with a few gentle nudges; family histories, protection magic, security wards. After that? Why, it would be nothing to find out how to send a Howler, but then I suppose the problem would be in actually sending it. If one were…say...eleven…it would be against the rules to go on a Hogsmeade visit. Of course it doesn't have to be a particular person that sends it, but then again, one could always disguise themselves as someone else…someone older, perhaps?…though that would require an accomplice or two. Well then, getting to someone who could send a Howler would be easy, and I imagine the right amount of galleons would make it so a Howler could go anywhere really, if one knows a thing or two about protection magic and security wards, but this is all speculation, of course. Besides, were I or any of my friends here actually able to break such rules, we certainly wouldn't admit to it in front of our Head of House.”
At that, Professor McGonagall doesn't look like she knows what to say. It's obvious that Hari's broken some rule or other to send the Howler to Lucius Malfoy, but the way he said it was as if one were trying to figure out how to do it, as if it were all speculation. He hasn't actually admitted to anything, and without proof, there's no way she can punish him. Uncle Severus looks like he can't decide whether to be impressed or outraged, meaning he's figured out in part a piece of Hari's not quite confession, and it has something to do with his potions lab. Draco chance a glance at his father and is floored by how impressed the man looks now, and his eye twitches some more.
“Miss Granger, have you given any thought as to what type of career you would be interested in?” Lucius asked, letting Hari's statement sit back for a bit.
“Something within the Ministry, I suspect.” Granger replied, looking thoughtful. “From the reading I've been able to do, there are a lot of laws that limit non-purebloods, women, creatures of the magical world, and what are called half wizards.”
“A good barrister could do that, challenge the laws within the Ministry.” Lucius noted, though his tone sounded thin. “One who made sure to study up on each law and why it was enacted so that they would know which ones needed to be updated or eliminated. Of course, one would need people skills to be able to convince those in the Wizengamot that these laws needed to be changed. It does not always matter what you know to be right. Sometimes it matters what you can talk people into. Human nature is fascinating that way.”
“I suppose it is.” Granger replied.
“What about you, Weasley?” Lucius asked, looking over to him. “Any thoughts about what you'll do after Hogwarts?”
“I'd thought about quidditch, but throwing my lot in with one of my brothers wouldn't be so bad.” Weasley replied. “Charlie works at a dragon preserve, and Bill is a curse breaker for Gringotts. I'm sure Fred and George will end up owning their own joke shop one day or something, and Percy's bound for the Ministry. Right now though, I think it's best I focus on my studies.”
“Alright, that's it. Who are you, and what have you done with the Gryffindorks that are my friends?” Draco demanded, looking to them. “Weasley has the worst manners out of anyone I've ever seen eat anything in my life. Granger reads so much, the knowledge oozes out of her hair and she can't help but blurt bits of it out all the time, and Potter hasn't insulted Father once since sitting down.”
Hari's head thunks and hits the table, barely missing his food. Granger is shaking so hard from trying to hold in her laughter, and Weasley just stares at him incredulously.
“Bloody hell, Malfoy, you couldn't have held off for at least five more minutes?” Weasley asked. “I had a galleon on Hermione blowing her top about something.”
“Language, Mr. Weasley.” Professor McGonagall admonished.
“What?” Draco asked, looking to the three of them. “You mean to tell me that the three of you were betting on this? Who won?”
Hari's hand shot up, his head still on the table, his shoulders still shaking.
“Of course it was you, Pot.” Draco scoffed. “Alright, what were the bets? I think I should know since I just helped you win.”
Hari looked up, and tried not to laugh, as he replied. “I bet it would be you that would lose it, because you never expected this to work, and you reacted with pure shock when your father apologized to you. Hermione bet it would be Ron because he has the table manners of a pig; no offense, Ron. And Ron bet it would be Hermione because your father was bound to say something degrading towards muggleborns, and he knew she had a problem understanding why some of the old manners were in place. When your eye started twitching, I knew I'd won; it was just a matter of pushing you over the edge. It was a good thing I read up on some of the more obscure manners.”
“And what is your prize, Hari Potter?” Lucius asked, quite amused by all of this.
“A favor from each, to be used as I see fit. The only conditions being no physical harm, and nothing that would go against their morals.” Hari replied.
“Such a loose ended favor?” Lucius asked, in surprise. “The possibilities…”
“Are endless, I know.” Hari admitted, with a grin.
“Very Slytherin of you. Are you sure you got sorted into the right house?” Lucius mused.
“You know, that's not the first time that's been said to me.” Hari remarked.
“So how is it that you got my son to be friends with those two?” Lucius asked. “Weasley's and Malfoy's don't get along as a general rule, and muggleborns were strictly on Draco's 'do not associate with' list.”
“A bet, or it started out that way.” Hari admitted. “They had to guess what my middle name was, and I would give them the biggest secret I had, and then Ron got in on the bet, and since then they've teamed up against me. Hermione's the smartest person I know. Her and your son often compete for top marks. To be fair, I've never actually asked them to get along with each other, just that they try to refrain from insulting each other if the other one isn't present, and not to use me for it. Draco and I still insult each other all the time. It's just fun now.”
“A game of insults?” Lucius asked, knowingly.
“Eventually, we'll work out some sort of scoring system.” Hari replied, unable to resist that feral grin of his. “I believe I am in the lead so far.”
“As if, Pot. That insult I delivered this morning puts me ahead of you.” Draco scoffed.
“Ugh. The owl post? That was you?” Hari asked, with a groan. “How was I supposed to know we could insult each other via owl post?”
“You never said we couldn't.” Draco pointed out, to which Hari conceded his point.
“I will be frank with you, Hari Potter.” Lucius began, but Hari just nodded.
“Alright Frank, but my name's still Hari.” Hari replied, with a cheeky grin. Both Uncle Sev and Professor McGonagall had their napkins covering their face coincidentally at this moment.
“I an uncertain of this friendship my son has developed with you and your friends.” Lucius continued, narrowing his eyes at the boy. “You have shown promise, all three of you, I'll give you that, but I am still uncertain if I should allow this to continue.”
“Have you ever played chess, Lord Malfoy?” Hari asked. “Specifically, chess by owl post?”
“Not by owl post, no. Why do you ask?” Lucius asked, suspiciously.
“There is a muggle pastime of playing chess by mail, between friends or opponents who live long distance and can't travel.” Hari answered. “Both will have chessboards at their own homes, and move the pieces that their opponent tells them to move against them before sending a move of their own. Is this something that would interest you? Owl post is much faster.”
“This could be adapted to wizarding chess, if you play.” Lucius remarked.
“I don't, but I assume that the moves that can be made by the pieces are all the same.” Hari admitted, and then shocked them all. “I suggest a challenge then. Chess by Owl Post. Same stakes as the bet from earlier, an open ended bet to be owed to the winning player; so long as it doesn't go against their morals or involve harming someone. Do you accept? Think about it. Hari Potter owing you a favor, an open ended favor at that. It certainly has possibilities.”
“Are you out of your mind, Harry?” Weasley hissed. “You just said you've never played! Let me face him.”
“I can't believe I'm agreeing with Weasley on something…again, but listen to him this time, Hari.” Draco said, quietly, leaning in to keep the conversation as private as possible.
Hari just rolled his eyes. “I played chess all the time. There's a park near my house where people like to play chess, and they taught me.”
“Muggle chess isn't the same as Wizard's chess!” Weasley insisted.
“And you know this how, Ronald?” Granger asked, warningly. Draco knew that tone, and if Weasley didn't back off, he'd end up with her boot shoved up some place very unpleasant. “For your information, it is exactly the same. The only difference is in Wizarding chess, the pieces move on their own and give you advice.”
“Alright then.” Lucius stated, somewhere in the middle of disbelief and dismissal. “I will agree to your terms. Get yourself a chessboard, if you haven't got one, Hari. First move is yours. I will await your owl. Good evening, Professors, children, Draco.”
He took his leave, and all faces turned to Hari.
“What?” He asked, looking around at everyone.
“Are you certain that was wise, Potter?” McGonagall asked, looking a big green.
“Not even a little bit.” Hari admitted, making Draco groan. “Relax, Draco. The man wanted a challenge, a reason to engage me himself, and now he has it.”
“You're forgetting that if he wins, you will owe him an open ended favor, Potter, one with no expiration date.” Uncle Sev pointed out.
“How else was I suppose to get him to accept it, other than giving him something incredibly open like that as if I haven't thought about it first?” Hari asked, in a huff. “I'm eleven, and precocious, so of course he thinks I haven't thought of that. It's not like I actually think I'm going to win, you know.”
This results in Hari having to listen to Ron talk about Wizarding Chess for hours. It sounded exactly like regular old muggle chess, but the second she said that, it was like he flew into some kind of indignant tantrum. That usually began a round between him and Hermione, and as Hermione had actually seen both wizarding and muggle chess be played, her opinion was the one Hari held to on this one. Not to say Hermione didn't have hours of advice of her own. Her hair was usually frizzier on those days, and sometimes Hari wondered about Draco's hair gel theory.
Fred and George had brought her an owl order form for chessboard, not that she was going to ask how they got it, and she began looking through which one's she liked. This resulted in more advice from Ron and Hermione. The decision was ultimately hers, as the chess pieces would be responding to her commands. She found herself enthralled with a beautiful opal chess set, with dragons breath opals and white opals. It was shiny and ridiculous, and she was getting it because she'd never bought anything so frivolous in her life.
Ron sees it when it comes in, and rolls his eyes like he knows this is going to go bad. 'You can't buy a chess set because you think it's pretty, Harry',which she ignores, because she can do whatever she damn well wants because it's her chessboard, and if she wants a pretty one then she'll get one. She doesn't miss how envious he looks at it when he thinks she's not looking. She spends time with the chess pieces, getting to know them after quidditch practices and doing homework. It's charmed with an anti theft spell, so she doesn't worry about leaving it in the room on the table by her bed.
Lucius Malfoy had no illusions that the boy would actually contact him for the match. He scoffed at the very idea, a boy that young thinking to challenge him at wizarding chess, a game the boy openly admitted to never having played. He refused to believe that the muggles had an equivalent of this, and until the boy sent in his owl, Lucius was not going to ever believe it. It was bad enough that Narcissa was trying to talk to that sister of hers, but she did seem happier of late. He supposed he could deal with the new changes, slowly if they let him; hoping that maybe a good game of chess would distract him from them.
At that moment, a rather regal looking snowy owl flew into the room. It thankfully did not have a Howler attached to its leg. He didn't think he could live through the embarrassment, even if his wife's laughter made up for it. The owl was quite well mannered, most definitely not a school owl, so he was quite pleased with it. Lucius took the letter from it's leg, and could swear that it bowed it's head a little before flying off, but his surprise turned to amusement when he opened the envelope and read the letter inside.
King's pawn to E4
Alright guys, I'm going to start working on the Slytherin take. Should have that up soon!
Chapter 6: The Trouble with Sleeping
Hari is very confused, as she had no idea how she somehow managed to find her way into the forbidden 3rd corridor. The last thing she remembered was going to bed, so she should not be here. If someone catches her out here, she has no way to explain herself. Who would buy a sleepwalking story in a school full of teachers with students who tried to use that excuse daily? As soon as she saw Mrs. Norris round the corner, Hari knew that she was in trouble; Filch was never far behind, and he prided himself on catching students doing things he felt they shouldn't.
She runs into the first unlocked room she can find, and prays that Filch won't check this one. He's trying to open all the doors, and she manages to hold the door knob just well enough that he thinks it's locked. She was too frantic to have thought of magic, but at least Filch was gone now. Strange that it smelled like dog in here though. Hesitantly, she turned around, and was face with a sight she couldn't quite grasp; a giant three headed dog was looking at her like it was trying to decide if she was friend or foe, and she did not want to be there when it more than likely decided she was the later.
Too late, she realized, when the center head licked her whole face. All of a sudden, the other heads were vying for attention, and her arms were too short to reach them. As if sensing this, the giant three headed dog sat down and rested all three heads on the ground. Now it was much easier to try and pet all three heads at once, even if it was still physically impossible to do that exactly. There was always one head that was jealous of the others, and she knew that at some point she'd have to sneak back to Gryffindor Tower, but the giant tail that had been quietly thumping in happiness was too adorable to leave; Not to mention that every time she tried, she was suddenly hit with three pairs of the dreaded puppy eyes.
“You were in the third corridor last night.” Fred said, his voice low as he leaned in to make sure no one heard him, as everyone began eating breakfast in the Great Hall.
“How do you know that?” Hari asked, in complete shock, her voice matching the quietness of her own.
“Nevermind that, Hari. What did you find?” George asked, unable to hold in his curiosity.
“Fred and I haven't tried it ourselves, you see.” Fred commented.
“You are Fred.” Hari said, with a snort.
“Ah, but how can you tell?” George asked, his eyes filled with amusement.
“Oh, no. I tell you lot that, you'll change it, and then it will take me weeks to figure it out again.” Hari said, with a huff, to which the brothers laughed. “Either of you know who would be crazy enough to give Dumbledore a giant three headed dog?”
The two looked to each other for a moment, and back to her, before both of them replied in unison. “Hagrid.”
Now that she thought about it, that actually made sense. The man was larger than life, and dealt with dangerous creatures as if they were harmless. He respected them, but he could handle them with the strength most normal sized wizards could not, and so it did not surprise Hari that Hagrid could somehow come into possession of a giant three headed dog. She would have questioned the safety and practicality of having such a creature inside of a school filled with children, but last night had been the best nights sleep she'd had in ages. At least if she ended up there again, she would be safely guarded by the creature in question.
“So, how did you end up in the forbidden corridor?” George asked.
“Sleep walking.” Hari replied, with a frown. “I've never done that before.”
“You should tell Dumbledore.” Ron insisted, before getting back to his food.
“I think I'll pass on that.” Hari grumbled, still very much annoyed with the man. “Anyway, I have tea with Professor Snape this afternoon. He wanted to talk to me about something.”
“What? You can't go alone. He tried to kill you!” Ron shouted, turning pink when he realized everyone had stopped to stare at him.
“For the last time, Ron. He saved my life. I think the man is owed the benefit of the doubt.” Hari chastised him. “No, you are not invited. Fred and George will make sure you don't follow me either.”
“But Harry?!” Ron insisted. “What if you need backup?”
“It's just tea, Ron.” Hari pulsed, completely unimpressed. “It's not like he's going to poison me.”
“Famous last words, Hari.” Fred chuckled.
Oh, this was just too good! Harry Potter was wandering alone in the Dungeons! The famed Boy-Who-Lived really had no sense of self preservation, but that was true of most Gryffindorks. She'd thought that Draco had become friends with him for political reasons, but it was becoming painfully clear that he actually liked hanging around the boy. When Pansy had found out about how Potter had tricked her out of the marriage contract with her Drakey, she was furious; waiting and planning on the perfect time to strike.
That moment came when she found out that her Head of House had contacted Potter for a meeting under the pretense of tea. Surely it was a pretense? Who would want to have tea with Potter?! It was the perfect time for her to strike, and so she had plotted and planned, and managed to get a few other Slytherins with her. She would enjoy this very much, and then her Drakey would call for the marriage contract to be reinstated.
“I was surprised that you agreed to meet with me so easily, Potter.” Severus stated, seeing the boy standing nervously at his door. He looked around the boy, noting that he was alone. “I am surprised your fellow Gryffindors are not with you.”
“Not for lack of trying, Professor.” The boy admitted with a sheepish grin. “Ron is convinced you plan to poison me with some untraceable potion. Hermione, Fred, and George have restrained him for now. He may be a brilliant wizarding chess player, but he doesn't think before acting sometimes.”
“Well then. Come in. I have a few questions for you, and a spot of tea.” Severus replied, stepping aside to allow Potter entry.
His living quarters were by no means grand, but he had made it as comfortable as his own home. So why is it that Potter looks around at the place like he's never seen anything so grand? The boy tried to school his features when he realized he was being watched, but it was too late by that point. The boy really was an open book Gryffindor. It was a wonder how he'd managed to draw in his friends with games, and bets, and promises of a secret; even luring in Lucius with a chess game by owl post.
“Did you have bets placed on what you thought was in here, Potter?” Severus asked, deciding to misdirect the boy's apprehension.
“Could have, but no.” Potter admitted. Severus set up the kettle, and then returned to the boy, who had been standing over by the bookshelves in his living room, and gestured for him to find a seat. When he did, the boy started asking questions. “Not that I'm not grateful, but why did you ask me to tea? You've made it pretty clear that you hate me, think I'm spoiled, and an idiot.”
“I think after that display with Lucius, it would be safe to say you are not an idiot, Potter.” Severus allowed, with a small nod to the boy. “That is precisely one of the reasons for this visit. How is that going by the way?”
“I'm taking a while to respond so he thinks I don't know how to counter his move. In reality I'm set to challenge him with King's Gambit.” Potter replied. Severus actually stared at him for a moment, trying to reconcile this scheming Slytherin like boy with the foolish Gryffindor he'd been dealing with. It was clear that the boy was getting uncomfortable too. “Oh, sorry. Should I dial it back a bit? I don't realize how Slytherin I sound until someone gives me a face like that. It's just that I wasn't kidding before about the park with people who taught me how to play chess. Give it a few minutes, and I'm sure I'll do something foolishly reckless. If it's dangerous enough, I might even land myself in the Hospital Wing again.”
“We can hold back the theatrics for at least a day.” Severus said dryly, in order to hide his amusement. “I suppose, since you asked, we'd better get down to it then. It has fallen to me, though I do not know why Professor McGonagall couldn't do this, to ask you about the Dursley's.”
The look of sheer horror on the boy's face would have been comical if the subject had not been such a serious one. Severus had meant what he'd said to Lucius before. Something about Potter screamed that he was emotionally traumatized, but the man had so few clues that he hadn't bothered to mention them till the fiasco that was The Sweets Box incident. It had become clear to him early on that the boy knew nothing, but to actually see it in his own classroom was something else. He'd raged at the arrogance, but it hadn't been, and he knew it.
Potter had seemed twitchy at the beginning of the year, but that was true of every first year, but even now there were times when Severus would catch him flinching at something most would not. The boy looked tiny, much smaller than one should at his age. Madam Pomfrey had confirmed that Potter suffered from severe malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, insomnia, and a host of other things she was trying to get the boy to seek help with. The Sweets Box incident had synched it for him that the boy was being neglected by the Dursleys, and as much as he hated all things Potter, Severus could not turn a blind eye to the abuse. He knew all too well what that felt like.
“How do you know Aunt Petunia? You said her name before. I never asked.” Potter hedged, clearly not wanting to discuss this.
“Your mother and I were childhood friends. Tuney was already unpleasant to be around, hating that Lily had magic and she didn't. She called her a freak often, among many other things.” Severus allowed, knowing that the boy was stalling. “Do not think that will be enough to sway me from finding out about the Dursleys, Potter. I am an adult, and as such, I know better than you.”
“Forgive me if I don't believe you.” Potter said with a snort, dismissively. Severus actually raised his eyebrow at the boy, and waited for him to clarify. “It was an adult that placed me with the Durlseys, that had to watch how those people were before placing me with them, that had to see the type of people they were. An adult saw this, and they left me there. No matter what you ask, no matter what I say, I will still have to go back there. I know this, because an adult told me so, because an adult knows better than me.”
“If you tell me, I can help you, you foolish boy.” Severus insisted, becoming frustrated with the boy. How was he supposed to reach him?
Potter just shook his head, and stared into his tea, looking morose. “They sent you because you saved my life, and they thought I would be more open to talking to you because of that. Professor Dumbledore refuses to have me removed from the Dursleys, no matter how many times I've asked, and I have a feeling he knows more about my home life than I've said to anyone here, even before that disaster with the sweets box. Professor McGonagall would fight for me, because I'm one of her Gryffindors, but she would bow to Dumbledore's wishes at the end of the day, no matter how much she hates it. And you? You saved my life, but you have no vested interest in it. Why would I tell you anything?”
“Because, while I may not have the ability to convince the Head Master to remove you from the Dursleys, I can show you how to make their lives as miserable as discrete and subtlely as possible.” Severus offered, pointblank, making the boy open his mouth in shock. “That's certainly not something your Head of House will offer you.”
“You would really do that?” Potter asked, in surprise.
“I am in Slytherin for a reason, boy.” Severus replied, coolly.
“But I'm Hari Potter. You hate me.” Potter pointed out. “There hasn't been a time when I've been in class that you haven't docked House points for something I may or may not have done, doesn't matter that I have no idea what a goat looks like, let alone where to find a bezoar. You look away when the Slytherins mess with my potions, but the second I try to retaliate, you dock points again. Because of your snide 'newest celebrity' remark, I get to deal with gangs of Slytherins trying to jump me; kick me to put a celebrity back in their place, and you turn a blind eye to it because it's your House. You should know; you've walked upon several attempts already, and all you did was scatter the students. No House points docked from them, no detentions given, nothing. You make snide comments about a man I'll never get the chance to meet, because somehow I look just like him, and you can't handle it. Why should I trust you, when you actively try to make my life miserable?”
Both Minerva and Albus were waiting back in the office of the Headmaster. Ronald Weasley had already been by there once to ask after Harry Potter. Hermione Granger, and Fred and George Weasley followed after him, quickly pulling him from the office. The whole scene had been rather amusing, but when Severus did not show up for a long time, they began to get worried. There was nothing to do but wait, something both hated but seemed to have to do a lot.
When Severus finally walked into the cozy–if not cluttered–office, he looked worn thin. He certainly did not look like the brooding professor they had sent to talk with the boy. He looked like he wasn't sure how to voice his thoughts. Minerva wasn't sure what had happened, but it was like Severus had been faced with a life altering truth or something. In all likely hood, he probably had.
“There is something I have to ask, Albus.” Severus stated, only slightly acknowledging Minerva beforehand. He knew her thoughts on this matter. “Was what we discussed earlier enough to change your mind on the matter of removing Potter from the Dursleys' home?”
“I'm sorry, but I can't, Severus. You and Minerva both know why.” Albus said with a sigh. “The boy has to stay with them to keep him as safe as he can be.”
“Then you do not deserve to know what he told me.” Severus replied, and made to leave.
“Severus! If there is something that Albus needs to know, something that will help change his mind, surely you should tell him.” Minerva insisted, hopeful. “Please?”
“No. What was said before is more than enough grounds for Potter's removal from the Dursley household, and you know it; or to at least open up a full investigation into the home. Something! Since it is not enough, it is not necessary to say more.” Severus stated. He is more angry than she can ever remember seeing him, even as he works to remain calm for the moment. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have a special assignment to work on.”
He was out of the office before they could stop him.
“What do you think he meant by that?” Minerva asked, wondering about the extra curriculum.
“Something very Slytherin, I'm sure.” Albus sighed. “I fear I have not handled this well. If it had been James to sacrifice himself at the end, maybe I could have found some distant relation to place Harry with, but it was Lily. The Dursleys are the only ones that can protect him.”
“Even as they abuse him, Albus?” Minerva scolded, but it was a tired anger that would not win the argument now. “I'm calling it a night. If two teachers and a student can't make you see reason, I doubt anything will.”
It's at this moment that Hari finds herself surrounded by Pansy and a few of the other first year Slytherins. They had backed her up into a corner, having shoved her into it. From the shouting, she gathered that Pansy was angry about the contract thing, and that her father now had to renegotiate with Lucius Malfoy for the marriage contract; only now it seemed like the Malfoy patriarch wasn't interested. So Pansy was out for revenge or blood, either would work at this point from the looks of it, and it was pretty much the same thing, right? What she hadn't counted on was the Potions Professor to find them all like that.
“What have you done now, Potter?” Professor Snape demanded, then looked around at the others. “Well? Someone care to explain this to me? Ms. Parkinson? How about you? Would you like to explain this?……Well?……I see. Five points from Slytherin for each of you. Potter, with me. I thought I told you to head straight back to the Gryffindor common room.”
Hari wasn't sure what was happening. This didn't feel like when Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia shouted at her, but there was still the tightness in her chest. She looked down in fear and shame, thinking herself betrayed by yet another adult she'd taken the chance to put her trust in. It wouldn't be the first time. The others had scrambled away, afraid to lose house points, and Professor Snape had grabbed her shoulder lightly as if to march her back to Gryffindor Tower himself; it was her flinch that stopped him…stupid involuntary bodily response things.
“I see you were not completely forthcoming with me before, Potter.” Professor Snape stated, before letting go, moving his hand to her upper back to keep her going. “You were right about one thing. Albus will not move you from the Dursley household. I assume you are staying at Hogwarts for Christmas?”
“Yes, Professor.” She replied, keeping her head down.
“Good. You will report to my office after breakfast on the first day of break.” Professor Snape informed her. “By then I will have a curriculum set out for you to follow. If anyone asks, say it is extra credit assignments for Potions.”
“Yes, Professor.” Hari answered, with a groan, not sure what was going on just yet.
“I mean it. The portraits spy for the headmaster, so even if you think a conversation is private, it isn't.” Professor Snape grumbled. “Be mindful of that in the future, Potter.”
“You mean like this one?” Hari asked, and pointed to several portraits that were trying their best to pretend they weren't listening in as the two walked along.
“Exactly.” Professor Snape replied, with a curt nod. “Try not to get cornered by my Slytherins again. I can not always help you.”
With that, he turned around and left her at the portrait of the Fat Lady. Hari stumbled into the Gryffindor Common Room, still unsure of how she'd gotten there so fast, much to the relief of Fred and George Weasley. Ron had been magically restrained with a full body bind, but even then it had been hard to hold him. His magic kept breaking him out of it, as he was convinced that Professor Snape was out to kill his friend. To see said friend standing there looking at him like he'd lost his mind, Ron looked like he felt very foolish indeed.
“Okay, fine. So he didn't kill you.” Ron grumbled, by way of some obscure apology. “What did he want?”
“To talk about extra credit for Potions.” Was all Hari said.
Hermione looked thrilled about it, happy for the opportunity presented to her friend, but Ron looked like someone had kicked a puppy. All that worrying, and trying to get out of Fred and George's magic, and all the old bat had wanted to do was give his friend homework. Fred and George each smacked him up the back of the head before heading back to their room. Hari herself went back to her dorm, and was looking over the chessboard when Ron and Hermione walked in. While Ron had over-worried, Hari knew that Hermione had had her concerns as well.
“Harry? Harry, we wanted to ask something, but…” Hermione said, stumbling. She was never this nervous, not now, but to see it again… “It's just…the things you said before…about the Dursleys…and I haven't asked…How…How bad is it? I mean…”
“I don't really want to talk about it. It's all Snape and Dumbledore have wanted to talk about for ages, but it doesn't matter. I still have to go back to them, something about protections on the house, I think.” Hari said. Something about how tired her voice sounded must have stopped Hermione, but not Ron.
“Mate, there's got to be something that can be done.” Ron insisted. “Maybe you can stay with us some over the summer, get you away from them for a bit. I know it's not much, but…”
“That…That would be great actually.” Hari admitted, with a sigh of relief. She had been thinking he'd object more, like there was something she could do about her situation. “I'm sure we can work something out with Dumbledore.”
Ron knew that there was a lot that he didn't know when it came to his friend. He himself came from a loving home, with a mother who smothered him with how she looked after him, and a father who was always proud of him. He could not imagine being so starved for affection that he would cling to a box of sweets sent by people he had never met, never mind them being Slytherins and Death Eaters. However, he had seen the look in his friends face when Dumbledore had tried to tease him out of a sweet, how broken his friend had appeared as he made noises Ron could not translate even though Hermione could. The idea that his family could hate him so much sent a blind fury through Ron, and he still didn't understand half of what Harry had said.
All he knew was that he suddenly became very protective of Harry, as if he could actually do something to help his friend. If he could figure out how to curse those foul muggles without getting sent to Azkaban, Ron would seriously consider it. Fred and George were almost as bad as he was, and just as ready to go to Azkaban for it, something Ron didn't question because they were family, and he needed them to be just as angry as he was. However, this resulted in his over-protectiveness against any and all threats, including Snape (who turned out to not actually be a threat, but that didn't mean he trusted the slimy git), and so Ron did the only thing he could think of to do without getting himself locked away for the rest of his life; He owled his mother.
If there was one thing everyone knew about Molly Weasley, it was that she knew how to love and care for children, whether they were her own or not. When Ron wrote to her, he described what had happened in the Great Hall, and how he didn't think the muggles Harry lived with were going to send Harry anything for Christmas. His mum wouldn't be able to get Harry removed from there, but he hoped that she would be willing to let him visit over the summer. Then again, she'd let Lee Jordan stay over even when the twins had pulled some prank or other, so there was hope. The reply he got back was simple, that she was proud of him for wanting to give his friend a good Christmas, and that even though they couldn't give him lots of things, she was more than willing to make sure the boy knew he was loved.
Normally, seeing the Weasley Twins out of bed would be a cause for docking house points, but something made him pause. They were talking in hushed voices, each sounding urgent. What made him pause was that they had mentioned the three headed dog,...and Potter. There was no way that boy had gotten himself killed, not after all the work he'd put into keeping the boy safe. Yet the twins stood at the door, both trying to peer into the room, looking unsure of what to do.
“How did she even get in there?” Fred or George hissed.
“I don't know. She said she'd been sleepwalking lately.” George or Fred replied, in a similar fashion. “I didn't think she'd been cuddling with it!”
“Who, may I ask, is in there?” Severus asked, effectively knocking off at least five years off of their lives. They slowly turned to face him. “You said something about sleepwalking?”
“Y-Yeah, us!” Fred or George insisted. “We sleepwalk!”
“Terrible habit really.” George or Fred remarked, going along with it.
“We should really do something about that.” Fred or George insisted.
“Strange. Neither of you looks like a she.” Severus commented, rather enjoying making the Weasley Twins sweat. He's absolutely certain they are the ones who steal from his storage supply from time to time, though he can never catch them at it; knows they throw their potions marks. “Who is it?”
“We can't.” George or Fred stated, blocking the way when Severus made to get to the door.
“Unless you'd like for your friend to be mauled to death by a Cerberus, I suggest you move.” Severus stated bluntly, and the boys paled further.
“There's not much danger of that.” Fred or George admits, and cautiously steps aside. “See for yourself.” The other one glares at them. “What? He's going to figure it out now anyway.”
“Yes, but I'd rather it not be now.” George or Fred insisted, but by then it was too late to stop him.
Severus wasn't sure what he had been expecting, maybe Potter's head being caught in one of the mouths of the cerberus, but certainly not this. Potter was curled up fast asleep right along with the cerberus. At least now he understood why the Weasley Twins had been freaking out. A cerberus rarely attached itself to a human like this, and there was no end to what they would do for them when they did. That Potter wandered down here in his sleep, that the cerberus saw fit to guard him, Severus had no words, and he was more than a little confused as to how he was supposed to get Potter out of this potentially dangerous situation.
“So?” Fred, or was it George, asked.
“Any ideas, Professor?” George or Fred asked, both the picture of innocence, so much so that Severus had no choice but to not believe it.
“I suggest we leave things till morning. The boy is obviously not in any danger, strange as that may be, and we would be in more danger if we tried to retrieve him.” Severus said, after a moment. “I will leave a note for him though, and as tomorrow is the start of break, he will have no reason to avoid me.”
“Are you sure, Professor?” Fred or George asked, looking nervously back at the sight of Potter snuggling into the cerberus.
“Unless you have a better idea, Mr. Weasley, yes. I'm sure.” Severus stated, coolly. They seemed to accept that, and made their way down the corridor back to Gryffindor Tower. The two were almost at the end of the corridor, when Severus added. “Oh, and twenty points from Gryffindor…each.”
Hari looked around bleary eyed, unsure of where she was till she saw a giant paw. It seemed this time that she'd even managed to bring down a blanket and pillow with her. She'd been lucky so far, as no teacher had caught her, but Fred and George always seemed to know. A piece of paper caught her attention, and at first she thinks it's from them, until she sees the writing on it. Her heart went into her throat as she realized her streak of not getting caught by a professor was over.
Of all the people to find her, it had to be Professor Snape? At least it hadn't been Filch; that was a definite plus. Though, to be fair, it would probably be worse if Professor McGonagall had been the one to leave the note. Then again, maybe she would have just drug Hari out by her ear, giant three headed dog or no. If anyone could have done it, it would be her.
The middle head nudged her with its nose, something she'd learned meant it was worried about her. So she got up, and stretched a bit, before turning to pet each head. It had become almost a daily ritual for them now. She didn't bother taking the pillow and blanket back with her anymore, and decided to head straight to breakfast…which in hindsight was probably a bad idea. Her bed head, despite a complete lack of 'bed' was insane, and it was only when Professor Snape arched an eyebrow at her did she remember that he'd left the note.
Ron didn't even bat an eye as he sat beside her, the two sharing a bleary eyed look over pumpkin juice. Neither of them looked ready to form words yet. There were few people that had stayed over the holidays, so it wasn't a surprise that they had all sat in a more close knit kind of setting. What Hari had been hoping to avoid happened anyway, as Professor Snape had taken to moving his place to sit in front of her. This time, Ron just eyed him like he was a rogue chess piece or something, before getting back to his pumpkin juice.
“Can you wait till after my pumpkin juice to eviscerate me?” Hari asked, eyeing the man who now stared at her in mild surprise and…was that amusement?
“It's just as well. We'll need to head to my office after this anyway.” Professor Snape replied.
Time doesn't really have meaning in the mornings for Hari, because she's never been a morning person, despite having had to wake up early and clean for the Dursleys for years. It's how a lot of her punishments happen, because she doesn't have a filter then either, and she tends to tell Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia exactly what she thinks of them. Also, she's learned to cook breakfast on autopilot, so there's that. Fuck. She's going to have to get in the habit of that again in the next few months. It's only after her internal monologue that she's realized the two of them are in Snape's office, and Ron's walking away giggling like a loon; like he's never seen her this loopy in the mornings before.
“Potter, perhaps you can explain to me why I found you sleeping on a cerberus last night.” Professor Snape started out.
“The three headed dog?” Hari asked, still not quite awake enough to be considered human yet. She spots a chocolate treat she's never been allowed to have, and grabs a few. “Sure, just as soon as you can tell me why it's in a school full of children. I'll get right on that. Are these dark chocolate covered espresso beans?…Brilliant, that…could lace them with truth stuff…wonder if that's why Professor Dumbledore keeps offering lemon drops…think I could move mountains with this stuff. Absolutely fantastic. Do you mind if I take a few dozen of these?”
“Potter…” Professor Snape grumbled in warning. There's a nerve ticking in his forehead, and for a brief moment, Hari wonders if she can make it worse. “The Headmaster gave explicit instructions to everyone not to go to that corridor.”
“He also told a group of children that there was a death corridor in their school, and to not freak out about it, before spouting a bunch of random words that I'm pretty sure he made up on the spot. So, there's that.” Hari pointed out. The man did not look impressed, though it did look like he agreed with her logic, even if it only showed slightly. “I don't know. I've been sleep walking, okay? It's never been a problem before, but then again, I've never really had the room to move about at night either. Then, somehow, I wound up waking up in that room. I thought the three headed dog was going to kill me, but it sniffed me, and decided I was it's best friend or something.”
The dark chocolate covered espresso beans get taken away, but Hari makes a face as she tries to reach back for them, and Professor Snape falters a bit. He doesn't give them back, and Hari isn't even sure what made him react like that, but it's certainly something to think on later. He also doesn't seem to notice that she's secretly stashed a bunch of them in the pockets of her robes, not that she was going to bring attention to that. Hari is certain that should she push the man further, she might actually see him explode out of repressed annoyance. She's just not sure if that's a good idea or not.
“Do you even realize how much danger you were in?” Professor Snape demanded.
“Three headed dog, lots of teeth, sharp claws. Yeah, I can imagine.” Hari replied, which seemed to take the wind out of his sails. “It's just…I can't figure out why I'm sleep walking, or why the giant dangerous three headed dog likes me, or why it's even there.”
Professor Snape sighs, and in a rare open display of frustration, pinches his nose as he's obviously thinking of how crazy Hari is for all this.
“Alright, Potter, we will work on something for the sleep walking. Although, given your history with Parkinson, sleeping near the cerberus might be good for you.” He said, shaking his head about it. “Get cleaned up, and dressed for the day. We're going to Hogsmeade, and maybe Diagon Alley. If anyone asks, it's for Potions, and no, Weasley may not follow.”
“You're not going to be this weirdly nice to me when school starts back, are you?” Hari asked, looking at him with slight suspicion and amusement.
“No. If you like, I'll even dock points and give detention on the first day.” Professor Snape replied, with an uncharacteristic snort. “Now go, before McGonagall tries to figure out what the plan is.”
“I don't even know what the plan is, so I think you're safe.” Hari said, snickering as she left.
Ron almost doesn't believe her. Snape being uncharacteristically nice is just…well, weird. She doesn't tell him about the man's plans for the Dursleys, just that he has decided she's getting tutored in potions because her grades are abysmal. Ron just snorted, grumbled about how Snape was the reason her grades were abysmal, and went back to his wizarding chess match with Seamus. Her chessboard had moved slightly, but the pieces were ridgedly still in place, letting her know that Ron had made yet another unsuccessful attempt to move her pieces. One day, the boy would learn not to touch her stuff.
Hogsmeade wasn't quite like Diagon Alley. It felt comforting, and inviting in a way that the busy place wasn't. It was a picturesque little place, but it seemed to have everything you could ever need. Both made it a point to avoid Madam Puddyfoot's, barely hidden cringes between the pair of them. Neither one of them acknowledged it.
“So, you haven't really explained it, Sir.” Hari said, as they walked along. “Why are you being nice to me?”
“Because, Potter…I've been exactly where you are now.” Professor Snape said, after a moment. “Whether you ever tell me what really happens at the Dursleys, or stick to the misdirection and vague answers like you did earlier, I would know the signs of neglect anywhere. I've been that scared little child that was trapped in a closet with no food or water for however long it was decided I be there, the one to cook and clean for a family that did not love them, the one to be beaten when it suited those that were supposed to care for them. Your mother was my saving grace growing up, my only friend, and though your father was one of my greatest tormentors in Hogwarts, it was my own fault that I lost her friendship.”
“You keep saying things like that, like you feel guilty for something.” Hari pointed out, noticing how his eyes shifted away from her just then.
“That is…a most astute observation, Potter. It is a wonder I do not see this kind of attention to detail in my Potions class.” He replied, but she wasn't about to give this up. He must have seen that, because he sighed. “That is a complicated subject, Potter, one I am not comfortable discussing in public. For now, we will get what we need for the plan. We'll stop somewhere for lunch, and I'll explain there, if you still want to know.”
“Alright.” She said, seeing that he wasn't going to discuss it here. “What's the plan?”
“We're going to walk into this trunk shop. You are the heir to the Potter fortune, and you're going to pretend that price tags don't exist.” Professor Snape stated. This didn't feel like a plan yet, but she didn't say anything as he held the door open for her to walk into the shop. “Did you know, Potter, that there are trunks with multiple compartments, that can be bigger on the inside? They can even fit enough space to support a house, a garden, almost anything really. You can make them look like anything you want, shrink them down, ward them against intruders; all kinds of things.”
“Like Doctor Who?” Hari asked, in confusion. It didn't seem like Professor Snape had watched that particular program on the telly. “You know. Bigger on the inside, multiple dimensions in a single space. The Tardis that looks like a phone booth. Aliens from another planet!”
“Maybe without the aliens, Potter.” Professor Snape replied, after a thought. “We wouldn't want to get too carried away.”
“So, why are we looking at trunks with all that stuff anyway?” She asked, wondering just what he was getting at.
“Because, Potter, this part is the escape plan.” Professor Snape replied, as if she should have known that.
AN: I'll get started on the Slytherin take now
Chapter 7: Plans and More Plans
“Escape plan?” She asked, sounding a bit stupid.
“Yes. Escape plan.” Professor Snape replied, as they wandered through the aisles. He was writing things down as they went. “You can't tell me you haven't thought about it.”
She went to deny him, but she couldn't do that, because she had thought about it; many times in fact. Mostly she thought of some smart adult coming to rescue her, one who would conveniently not believe a word the Dursleys said. Of course, the longer things had gone on, the less hope she had for it. Then someone had shown up, had taken her away, but she would still have to return to them. She didn't know what time with the Dursleys would be like now that her and Dudley were getting along, so she couldn't know that she would need an escape plan.
“But you're a teacher! You're not supposed to help me run away!” She hissed, trying to make sure the clerk didn't hear her.
“This is not running away. This is making sure you have an escape plans should things turn…violent.” Professor Snape explained. “You need to know you have an escape plan, an option to leave should you ever need it, even if you never do. Many children, wizard or muggle, in the situation you're in stay because they feel like they're trapped, that there is no place for them to go. You need to know you have that option, even if you have to create the space yourself. The adults around you have proven to be untrustworthy in many cases, and misguided in others, but this is not the go to plan. This is for when or if everything else goes to shit. That's why it's important to plan that first. Now, full house or London flat? Garden or no? Do you want a full kitchen, or a kitchenette? Bathing facilities? Potions lab? Library? Food storage should be important, cooling charms, stability charms. We'll work out the security of it after we figure out what you want in it. Well, Potter?”
“Can a trunk really have all that?” She asked, trying not to sound hopeful.
“That's not even the half of it, Potter.” Professor Snape replied. “Now, we only have so much time for this part of the plan. I suggest we get started.”
Severus had to admit that he was rather impressed, not that he would be telling Potter that. By the time that she was through, she'd customized a house trunk that rivaled most actual houses. She's made sure to include a garden, a potions lab, and one of the most luxurious bathing facilities. He can't even begin to fault her for that one, because if there's anywhere that shouldn't be skimped on as far as luxury, it's the bathroom. Instead of a library, she'd chosen a few revolving bookshelves and a reading nook. The bookshelves themselves would never run out of space, and one only needed to think of the section required for it to find it. The kitchen is so specific, the clerk ends up taking notes. It will be the most storage capable kitchen in all of Britain, capable of handling any kind of food, and with just about every food prep tool available, and it's inside of a trunk.
She refuses to let him help her pick the furniture for her trunk house, but once he sees everything, he is impressed by her choices. Simple, elegant, practical. So much so that he wonders if she'd been planning for this at some point, or if she really is taking his advice to heart. The security features alone are astounding. There were a variety of muggle repelling charms, notice me not charms, all designed to make it so the Dursleys never paid attention to it. There were anti tracking wards, and security wards that were designed to repel anyone who tried to break in, and he suspected there were a few that were more than lethal, if the hushed whispers of the clerk were anything to go by.
Then again, this was Harry Potter; Of course the security wards would need to be far beyond that of even the Ministry or Hogwarts, and easier to ward because of how small it was. There was even a goblin warding option, something the girl was quick to go for, to the highest degree she could. He watched with ever growing interest, as one of the goblins from Gringotts walked through the Floo, took one look at Potter, and immediately summoned a team. Before they left, the goblin assured her that they had placed the very best wards on that trunk. No one would be breaking into it without severe consequences. As a final security measure, the clerk charmed the trunk with weightless and shrinking charms, along with an transfiguration charm.
By the time they were through, the most secure home in all of wizarding Britain, looked like her glasses. After paying an insane amount of galleons he didn't even want to think about the amount of, she just…put them on. Apparently they were functional glasses too. He didn't remember being there for that conversation, but they had been there for a while, so he probably just tuned it out. That had taken longer than he'd thought it would, but the results were worth it.
“Alright, Potter, now for food.” Severus insisted. “You were oddly specific for someone who'd never thought of that before.”
Because he was morbidly curious about what her reaction to the place would be, he took her to madam puddyfoots. She was not impressed, but she tried to be subtle, only wrinkling her nose at all of the frill. After they got their drinks, Potter took it as a personal challenge to try and order the least frilliest thing the place had. She was mildly successful. He on the other hand somehow managed to order something so filled with frilliness that it came with its own song and dance number. Potter didn't even try to hide her laughter at that.
“Muffliato.” Severus muttered, casting the spell so that their conversation would not be overheard.
Potter looked up upon hearing the buzzing sound that slowly faded out, a byproduct to ensure no one would hear them.
“Now that you've had your laughs, Potter, I think it's time you tell me why you're hiding as a boy.” Severus stated, causing her to go silent as she gaped like a fish. “You should know that even if Fred and George had not drawn attention to themselves while trying to get you out, I would have realized it the second I saw you curled up asleep as you were with the Cerberus. They will serve men, they will stand by them and guard whatever is needed, but they protect women like nothing else, and that Cerberus was protecting you.”
Potter sort of deflated at that, and looked down at her food. “It wasn't on purpose, but I figured if Hogwarts allowed it, there must be a reason.”
“One would assume so.” Severus allowed.
“It's just…I've always been called 'boy'. I thought that was my name for a while until grade school.” Potter said, with a shrug. “I've never lied, I just…never corrected anyone. Madam Milkins made me boy robes. Hogwarts gave me a boys dorm. No one's noticed. Fred and George only know because they helped me out. Am I in trouble?”
“Propriety being what it is, you should not be in the boys dorms. However, if Hogwarts put you there, you're in even more danger than I thought.” Severus realized, then sighed. This was going to be so much more work than he'd had planned. “Alright, first we plan for the Dursleys, then we plan for everything else. After this, we'll hit the apothecary's. There are a number of potions and tinctures that will disuade and discomfort, nothing lethal. I am sure you're friends in the Weasley Twins can also help you there, should you ask. I am aware they throw their grades. Tell them I believe they are not dunderheads, and they'll never believe you, Potter. Also, you will be limited over the summer because you aren't allowed to practice magic outside of school. It would be different if you could get a tutor, and a waiver, but…”
“They'd never allow such unnaturalness in the house.” Potter sighed, then perked up. “I might be able to work around that though. It's not like I've never forged their signature before.”
“As a professor, I did not just hear you say that, Potter; and if you're smart, you'll never say that to anyone else either.” Severus admonished her. “However, should you attempt to do so in the future, make sure you use a pen and note paper. Quill and parchment can leave traces of your magical signature on the pages. It's why signed contracts are so binding in the wizarding world, even more so if it is signed in blood. What? (She was giving him a shocked expression) I told you there were things I would be able to offer in way of help that your head of house will not. Knowledge counts, I believe.”
The visit to the apothecary was exhausting, and nowhere near as fun as designing her own 'trunk house' had been. Professor Snape said this stuff was necessary though, and she begrudgingly agreed. He was a potions master. He kept saying he had been that kid that had gone through what she was going through, but he couldn't help get her out of it, not legally. She was listless as they gathered things they would need, and quiet on their way back to the castle.
“Are you going to tell me what's running through your skull or not?” Professor Snape asked, with a huff. “I am not a patient man outside of potions, and waiting on you to organize your thoughts is most annoying.”
“What did you do?” Hari asked, before looking over and up at him. The question seemed to catch the professor off guard. “You did something, and now you watch over me, but you were mean to me before. It couldn't be the quidditch thing. You felt guilty before that. So what is it? Why are you really helping me?”
“Stubborn as always, Potter.” Professor Snape grumbled, before sighing. “I was not smart after I lost your mother's friendship. You've seen the mark on my arm, I know you have, despite my efforts to keep it to myself. I have no doubt you know what it means. My actions lead me on a dark path for a long time, and then one day they lead me to an incomplete discovery. I took that discovery to the Dark Lord. Your mother was my first friend, my only friend for a long time. I knew that she no longer considered me her friend, and to discover that the Dark Lord was going to kill my oldest friend was too much. I went to the Headmaster for help, but it ended up not being enough. Do not ask me of this again, Potter. I will not speak of it.”
“I'm sorry I made you talk about it, Professor.” Hari said, genuinely apologetic. “I should have realized it would be painful for you. It's a bit suffocating, really.”
“Suffocating…” Professor Snape murmured, before suddenly coming to attention. “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, I feel it. Your sadness, your guilt. It eats at you.” Hari replied, before realizing that maybe he was asking for another reason. He had discovered something else, something alarming. “Why? What's wrong?”
“How long has this been going on?” Professor Snape asked, not answering her question. "How long have you been able to feel the emotions of others?”
“I don't know. Since I got to Hogwarts? Probably before.” Hari replied, thinking back on it. “I wasn't really aware of it before, but since coming to Hogwarts, it's been going full blast. Is this not a normal magic thing?”
“No, it is not, and you would do well to keep it to yourself. There are people who would use you for such a gift, and it is often misused by the people who can wield it. On that note, you should also not tell that Dudley anything about your plans for the Dursley parents. You two may be on better footing now, but those are his parents, and he may feel a misguided need to protect them. Understand?” Professor Snape warned. “We may need to train you in Occlumancy as well, to protect your thoughts from being invaded; and before you ask, yes that is a skill I have; it is called Legilimency, and no it is not one I thought to use on you before…though in hindsight it would have helped discover a few things earlier.”
“Which you would have taken to Dumbledore.” She teased, glad that things were looking up if only slightly.
“Which I would have taken to Dumbledore.” Professor Snape agreed, completely deadpan.
That conversation had prompted a visit to the local book shop. He had not realized the girl was an Empath. She would need a variety of information to begin training herself, and protecting her mind. He didn't even talk to her during this, because he needed to stay focused to get every book that would help her deal with all of this. Only, when he looked up, she wasn't there.
At least she hadn't left him without paying a large sum to the store clerk, for which he was grateful, but the fact of the matter was she was a child that had wandered away from the adult that was supposed to have been watching her. If anything clued him in to the fact that he shouldn't be a father, it was this. When he found her again, he worked himself into such a state of anger that at first he didn't register what it was he was seeing. She was in the pet shop, looking at familiars,……and talking to the snakes. The girl had one of them wrapped around her arm as she rubbed its head gently, and to be fair, the snake actually looked pretty happy about it.
“Potter, what are you doing?” Severus asked, trying to sound casually interested. Now that he new she was an empath, he was going to have to work even harder to hide his emotions than he already did from the Headmaster.
What came out of her mouth was some sort of hissing sounds, as she was still looking at the snake, and then looked up at him thinking she'd heard him…only to see the expression on his face. “Did I do something wrong? You have that look again.”
“Why didn't you tell me you were a parselmouth?!” Severus hissed, keeping his voice down. Somehow the clerk hadn't seen them talking yet. Potter just looked clueless again. “You can talk to snakes, Potter, it means you can talk to snakes. It's viewed as very dark, because the Dark Lord was one. Now, put the snake back, and we'll be on our way.”
“I can't.” She stated, quickly, before rushing to explain. “She's mine now. I bought her, and I'm just waiting on the clerk to come back with everything I ordered. You said I could buy anything I needed to in order to deal with the Dursleys, as long as it wasn't fatal, and I am. She'll be able to stay in my new trunk, and she won't cause any trouble, and please don't make me give her back!”
“The Dursleys have rats.” He realized, and then looked at her incredulously. “Weasley has a rat, Potter! How have you lived with him in the same dorm all this time, and not had a panic attack because he has a rat?!”
“Honestly?” She asked, nervously, to which he just glared. “I didn't want to tell him, because his family can't afford much, and I didn't want him to feel bad that I was afraid of his familiar. It's the laziest rat I've ever seen, and I don't think it would actually hurt me. It sleeps all the time, but…There are days when I swear it watches me, and I just…I'd feel better if I…”
“Alright, Potter, enough.” Severus said, gruffly, cutting off her rambling just as the clerk came into view with a small box filled with things. “We will take this, and we will go. No need to linger here. Now pay the clerk, so we can leave.”
“Father, if I asked you something, would you be able to help me?” Draco asked, somewhat nervous about doing this at all.
“Of course, Draco. What is it?” Lucius asked, looking up from the chessboard. “It appears your friend Potter is a better chess player than I gave him credit for. I could use a break.”
“Well, it's about Potter…” Draco admitted, and then plowed ahead because he knew his father wasn't going to ask again. “I told him I'd ask you about curse scars. He said the one on his forehead bothers him, more so since he's come to Hogwarts.”
“He survived an Avada, something that's never been done before. I'm sure it will come with it's share of pain.” Lucius allowed, without sounding completely dismissive of the subject. “His symptoms?”
“Nightmares, headaches. It keeps getting worse. He nearly passed out in D.A.D.A. I just thought…” Draco listed, before trailing off.
“You thought that because I possess the Dark Mark, I would know about curse scars.” Lucius realized. “Draco, why do you think I took the Dark Mark in the first place? I did it to protect my family, to keep the future of the Malfoy line secure. Do you really think Potter will be able to do any of that, should the Dark Lord return?”
“I don't know.” Draco admitted, silently wondering if his father knew what he had just confirmed for him. “I do know that I am a Malfoy, and Malfoy's are leaders, not servants or slaves to do another's bidding. I know that Potter would rather chew off his own arm than demand his friends be marked and made to follow him. I know that he took up reading about old obscure pure blood manners I didn't even think would matter, just to try and impress a man he knows has wished him dead at one point, because he's my friend. I know that he wouldn't crucio me to the point of near insanity if I did something he didn't like, but your Dark Lord would, but what do I know? I'm just your son.”
He left before his father could say anything, mainly because he wasn't sure he wouldn't get his arse handed to him for that. He'd never dared talk like that to his father before, couldn't imagine what the punishment would be. The conversation had been going well, starting out, but his father had just confirmed two very real things to him, and Draco wasn't sure how to handle that without going into a full blown panic attack, and Malfoy's didn't have panic attacks. One, that his father really had volunteered to take the Dark Mark, something that Draco had been hoping he'd been wrong about even though he knew he wasn't, and Two; that there was the very real possibility that the Dark Lord could return. If that was true, Potter was nowhere near prepared enough, and that thought almost had him running back to his father to beg for forgiveness.
Instead, he began scouring the libraries for information. All the while, he prepared for the scolding he was going to get for this, and the scolding he was going to give Potter for influencing him into acting like such a Gryffindork. He'd been hoping for a father son bonding moment over trying to help his friend, not…whatever this had ended up being. He passed on having lunch with his family, choosing instead to take lunch in the library so he could eat and research at the same time. What he wouldn't give to have Granger's brain in here, even with all her wild hair, as he knew she was mad about research; though he wasn't sure which books would actually be safe for her to touch in here.
“Are all my family turning against me now?” Lucius huffed, at the dinner table that evening, not willing to admit that he was pouting. Draco had yet to dine with them all day, choosing to sequester himself in the library to do research.
“Our Dragon is growing up.” Narcissa replied fondly. “You had to know one day he would begin to become his own man. He's not quite there yet, but he's going to question your decisions.”
“His questioning my decisions could put him at risk.” Lucius insisted, but his wife just looked at him with that knowing smile of hers as she let him vent his frustrations. “He doesn't even know what he's asking of me.”
“He knows you made a choice, my dear, the one you thought was right at the time. I doubt he faults you for that, but tell me something, Lucius.” Narcissa said, kindly. “If he decides that his path leads elsewhere, will you keep him to the old ways and risk losing him, or help him forge new paths? There is no denying that it is a possibility, Darling, that he will not choose the path you desire for him, and there is no guarantee that the path you want for him will keep him safe. Think on this before you make your choice. He will always be our son, but he will not always look to us for answers.”
It was this thought that had him wandering about the Manor that evening. Draco did not know what he was asking, not with such a simple question, and yet…in that precociousness, he was right. Malfoy's were leaders, not servants or slaves. They wielded influence like a weapon, but there at the end of the last war, most of them had just been trying to stay out of the Dark Lord's way. With every step he took in his plans, the Dark Lord had been that much closer to madness. With him spending the last decade in some state between life and death, if the Dark Lord came back now, he'd be little better than a deranged mad man. He would give nothing, and demand everything, punishing those that had not sought him out in his weakened state. He would demand their children. No.
With that thought firmly in mind, he silently cursed the Potter child as he went to go find his son in the library. While this may be the right decision, the one that kept Draco alive and free of the Dark Lord in the future, that didn't mean that Lucius had to like it. In fact, he planned to complain about it as often as possible. His own wife seemed to be more for this than she had been for their quest to preserve pureblood values. Then again, several pureblood families had been lost; traditions gone, knowledge lost forever, and those that were left and opposed were considered blood traitors.
“There's no point in asking you to hide your friendship with the boy. It's much too late for that, and too many have seen it.” Lucius stated, seeing his son surrounded by books on the floor. “You don't know what you're asking, Draco, but you should. To go against the Dark Lord was to invite death, is to invite death still. By now, I'm sure you've gathered that he is not gone, merely in a state of in between, otherwise you wouldn't be researching in such a panicked frenzy as you are.”
“I think he's at school.” Draco said, barely looking up at him, suddenly springing for another book.
“Potter? I would assume so, or on holiday.” Lucius wondered, not quite understanding.
His son just shook his head no frantically, and it was then that Lucius realized how panic stricken Draco really was.
“No. Potter's headache's are getting worse now. He has nightmares all the time. Dark things keep finding him; the cursed broom, the mountain troll at Halloween, and those are just the ones I know about.” Draco said, his voice frantic as he kept looking through the books. “I think…I think the Dark Lord is at school.”
“No…it's not possible, Draco.” Lucius said, dread instantly taking hold of him. How was he going to protect his son now?
“Everything I find here keeps telling me that the symptoms of a curse scar get worse near the source of the curse. Potter mentioned his headaches when we began our weird insult thing. He's nearly always rubbing on his forehead now. They're getting worse. Weaselbee told me Potter's having nightmares too.” Draco insisted, vehemently. “The only logical explanation is that the Dark Lord has found his way to Hogwarts. The only question is how, and who is helping him. He can't be much more than a wisp at best.”
“You're looking into the wrong section.” Lucius sighed in defeat, as he went to go find the correct books. “You're looking into curse scars specifically, which is fine if that's all that was, but Avada can not obliterate a body. Where do you think it went?”
“You think…You think…” Draco stammered, having frozen nearly stock still as the realization of it hit him, then coming to himself. “DOBBY!”
There was a distinctive popping sound, and Dobby appeared before them wringing his hands. “How can Dobby serve Master Draco?”
“Find me Granger, specifically Hermione Granger. She's on Muggle Holiday, so be careful not to be seen by anyone other than her and her parents. Tell her I want her to come over to Malfoy Manor, that it's about Hari Potter, and she'll want to help. It's important, Dobby.” Draco insisted, speaking pointedly to the house elf. “Potter's life is at stake, you understand.”
Dobby straightened up at that. “Of course, Master Draco! Dobby will help right away!”
With a pop, the house elf was gone.
“Was that really necessary?” Lucius asked, with distain. “It's not like she'll know anything I wouldn't.”
“True, but I wouldn't bet against her brain.” Draco admitted. “What do you think happened to the Dark Lord's body?”
“It's dark magic, Draco, are you sure you really want to know?” Lucius asked, hoping his son would back out.
“Had everything panned out the first time, and your Dark Lord won, how would you see my life right now?” Draco asked him, pointblank. “My best insult friend possibly has the Dark Lord's body locked away in a curse scar, and you want me to do what? Walk away?”
“WHAT?” came the unexpected voice of one Hermione Granger standing next to Dobby, who had just popped them both over.
“Ah, Miss Granger, do come in. Lovely to see you.” Lucius greeted, proud that it wasn't nearly as sarcastic as he felt at the moment.
“Explain.” Granger demanded. "Now!"
Lucius sighed, wondering what the world was coming to, and began the very long explanation of just what he thought had happened to the Dark Lord's body, what a horcrux was, and then how many of them he believed there to be. Suffice it to say, neither child was very pleased. There were a lot of tears on the part of miss Granger. Draco only seemed to be holding up better because he'd already begun researching, and thus his mind was already trying to work on a plan. Dobby spent time caring for Miss Granger, when everyone realized how late it now was.
“Will miss Hermie be staying for the night?” Dobby asked.
“I really shouldn't. My parents will be terribly worried.” Miss Granger replied, trying to dry her eyes with her shirt sleeve.
“I insist. Narcissa will never let me hear the end of it if I send a crying lady on her way.” Lucius stated, then looked to Dobby. “Dobby, prepare a room for miss Granger, then come by my study. I'll have a letter finished by then for her parents.”
“I wouldn't want to impose.” Miss Granger insisted, in shock.
“My son has decided his path, Miss Granger, and as his father I would be remiss if I did not help him.” Lucius sighed wearily. “In for a Knut, in for a Galleon, I suppose. We can invite your parents over in the morning, if you like, for breakfast. Meanwhile, I'm going to go check the dungeons to see if hell froze over. Malfoy's inviting muggles and muggleborns over for research and breakfast. What is the world coming to?”
“So much drama, your father.” He hears Miss Granger mutter in the background as he's leaving.
“Well, he is a Malfoy.” Draco replied, before the two descended into light chuckles at that. Lucius rolled his eyes, shaking his head slightly as he walked to his study. The things one does for family.
When he'd been summoned to Malfoy Manor, seeing Hermione and Draco leaning against each other and a bookshelf in sleep in the library was not something he'd expected to see. Lucius had sent an owl telling him it was urgent, and so he had left Potter with enough books to drown a library. He was going to take this helping Potter thing a bit more proactively than he'd planned, but that didn't mean he was going to half ass it. So, imagine his surprise when he walks through the fireplace of the Library of Malfoy Manor, only to find Draco and Hermione sleeping amongst a circle pile of books as if having been summoned with them. He couldn't quite make out what to think of it as he stood there.
“Miss Granger?” Severus asked, in shock.
She started awake, and shouted. “Fury's law to the twelth degree!”
“Miss Granger, are you aware of where you are right now?” Severus asked, ignoring her strange outburst, and watched as she blinked owlishly before taking in the fact that he was talking to her.
“Of course I know where I am, Professor Snape. Oi!” She replied, perfectly calm, before flicking Draco's forehead. “You're drooling on my shoulder! Bugger off, Malfoy.”
“Shut up, Woman. I've finally found a use for all that hair of yours. It should be proud to be a Malfoy's pillow.” Draco grumbled, though he did sit up, as he rubbed his eyes before looking up at him. “Uncle Sev?......Wha?”
“Your father owled me. It seems someone went off the deep end, and now Muggles are in Malfoy Manor.” Severus informed him.
“My parents!” Hermione shouted, as she got up, causing several books to fall to the ground.
“Come on, I'll show you where the wash room is.” Draco insisted. “Uncle Sev will be busy for a while yet, and you're parents will be fine as long as they don't try to talk to a portrait.”
“What would happen if they tried talking to a portrait?” He heard Hermione asked, as the two children walked away.
“MUDBLOOD! BLOOD TRAITOR! SHAM ON MY HOUSE!” One of the portraits chose to shout, upon seeing Hermione close by. “HOW DARE YOU BRING SUCH FILTH INTO MY HOME!”
“That. That's why.” Draco replied, completely deadpan.
“For the record, Malfoy, if you ever call me that, I'll punch you square in the face.” Hermione stated.
“My nose and I thank you for the warning, Granger.” Draco snorted. “Now lets see if we can do something about that hair before it gets bigger than this room.”
He just shook his head and went to find Lucius, only to find another strange sight. Narcissa Black was having tea with both Andromeda Tonks and two muggles he could only assume were Granger's parents. They, of course, insisted that he sit with them and enjoy a cup of tea. Strange as this sight was, he felt compelled to agree, if only to observe more. Muggles in Malfoy Manor, Narcissa being perfectly happy about it all, sipping tea with her estranged sister. This certainly was a day for surprises, another being that Lucius Malfoy was hiding out in his study instead of dining with the guests.
“Thank Merlin you're here.” Lucius grumbled, when Severus entered his study. It was clear the man was ready to panic. “What was I thinking? This is a terrible idea. My son wants to help Harry Potter, me to turn on the Dark Lord when he comes back, and to befriend muggles and mudbloods. There are muggles in my house, Severus! You have to help me!”
“Are you quite done?” Severus asked, showing no sympathy. On the contrary, he found this quite amusing, and Lucius looked put out when he found his friend wasn't sympathetic to him. “Mind bringing me up to speed on how all this happened?”
“Alright, but personally, I blame Potter for everything.” Lucius huffed, before explaining the events of last night to him.
Severus stared at him for a good while after that, trying to judge if the words were true. The Dark Lord returning? Potter having a piece of the man's soul embedded in her scar? Draco had pieced that together from the few words Lucius had told him, and had begun to panic and research before hearing the full account. No wonder he had brought in Granger. If there were any two people who were good at books, it was those two.
“You're sure about this? This is path you want to take?” Severus asked, warily. He could not afford a mistake now.
“It is the path my son has chosen, even knowing what is at stake, because Potter is his friend.” Lucius said with a sigh. “I don't do this, and I lose my son. If the Dark Lord comes back now, after a decade of us doing nothing, I lose my son. I can't…”
“Relax, Lucius, I had expected this, just not so soon, or……all at once.” Severus replied. Things were moving much more quickly than he had anticipated. “How's your Occlumency and Legilimency?”
“Perfect. Why do you ask?” Lucius asked, then looked over at his friend. “What have you got planned? How much have you done already?”
“Enough that I'll need you to help me teach them to shield their minds before Boxing Day, at least well enough to get a good foundation going.” Severus replied. “Detentions can take care of anything else, as I doubt those three will keep this to themselves. Why did I take up teaching again?”
“For the love of children?” Lucius threw out there, laughing when Severus scowled at him. “You can tell me what you've gotten started while we go find the others. I imagine the Grangers will want to hear the details. Merlin, we're going to have to do something about the portraits.”
Quirrell wasn't sure how he had been so unsuccessful in getting the stone. No one knew that he'd been the one to let in the troll, but he'd not been able to get past the three headed dog. After that, he kept finding Potter sleeping with the cerberus as if the two of them were guarding the stone from him. How did Potter even know it was there? The Daily Prophet hadn't even reported the attempted theft!
His plan had been to try during the holidays, but Potter hadn't gone home! Instead, the boy had taken to hovering around Severus Snape, something about making up potions, which he would believe. Severus Snape was notorious for his hatred of all things Potter. However, he found out from overhearing a conversation between Poppy and Minerva that the boy had trouble with sleep walking. Could sleep walking really explain how the boy managed to find himself sleeping nestled in with the cerberus? It would certainly explain why Potter was hovering around Severus more now, far better than the make up potions excuse did.
“P-Po-Potter, a w-word if you w-would p-pl-please?” Quirrell called, once class was completed. It was a few days at the start of the new term, and he had finally figured out how to get Potter out of the way long enough for him to find a way around the cerberus.
“Yes, Professor?” Potter asked, looking confused. He had never called Potter to stay after class before.
“Th-this is your l-last c-class f-for th-the d-day, r-right, P-Potter?” Quirrell asked, looking nervous. He really hated doing this stuttering thing, but it made him appear helpless, and then who would suspect him?
“G-good, I w-was afraid I w-would b-be interrupting s-something, m-maybe s-study g-group w-with Granger?” Quirrell asked, throwing in a nervous laugh.
“Maybe later, but Hermione is always taking about Study Group.” Potter replied. “Was there something you needed, Professor?”
“Y-Yes, P-Potter, there is s-something I w-would l-like t-to s-show you, b-but y-you h-have to p-promise not t-to t-tell anyone. It is s-something v-very s-special, s-something I b-believe you m-might f-find inter-rest-sting” Quirrell replied. Potter nodded in earnest. “G-good. M-meet m-me here after s-supper, and r-remember, t-tell n-no one about this, un-understand, P-Potter?”
“Of course, Professor.” Potter replied, and proceeded to head out of the class room.
“So, what did he want?” He could hear Weasley ask.
“I'm supposed to meet with him later. He said he wanted to show me something, but I think he really wants to go over an assignment with me.” Potter replied. Lying to a best friend for a professor? The best lies were built on truth, after all. Too trusting, Potter. “You know how my headaches get in that class.”
She was very curious to see this thing Quirrell mentioned. He'd gone on to try and explain it as they left his classroom, but she found herself unable to focus on his words. Her headaches always returned in his class, but it seemed to have something to do with him as a person. Maybe he just carried really strong incense in that turbin of his. It did smell something awful, so it was a possibility.
Inside of an out of the way abandoned classroom, was a mirror. It didn't look like much, but the way Professor Quirrell started babbling about it, it must have been something amazing. She didn't really get what the deal was, at least not until Professor Quirrell stood her in front of the full length mirror. Then she was seeing people that could not be there; a man with hair like her own, and a woman who had her eyes. She looked back to Professor Quirrell in amazement, but he was already gone, and then she decided it didn't matter. He must have seen what she'd seen, and decided to give her a moment of privacy.
She turned back to face her family again, drinking in the sight of them. They might not exist anywhere else, but here she could be with them. How long had she been there for already? Moments? Days? It did not matter. Only seeing her family mattered, and nothing was going to get in the way of that. She hunkered down in the floor, and began talking to her family.
AN: Working on the Slytherin take now, and a new chapter for the Mark of Fen'Harel; and because I'm crazy, I may have some new stories I'm working on
Chapter 8: End of Year one
Granger and Draco looked confused, as they looked about the classroom. Potter should be here, and yet no Potter. It was unusual for him to miss classes like this. Ron didn't look all that worried about it, and that worried them more. Professor Snape saw the boy missing, and instantly docked House points. Only then did Ron get upset, as if the whereabouts of his friend wasn't as important as House Points!
“Weasley! Granger! Malfoy! You three will stay after class, and clean up whatever mess your fellow classmates leave behind for the lesson.” Professor Snape ordered, and a chorus of groans accompanied that demand. “Keep complaining, and I'll dock more points!”
It was like that for the rest of class too. Weasley kept glaring at Draco, like whatever had happened was his fault, and tried to toss things into his potion when Professor Snape wasn't looking. The thing is, Professor Snape was always looking, and docked Gryffindor House points. The more house points he docked, the more Granger looked like she wanted to kill Weasley. The git was running through all the points that she had earned them last week, and either he was too angry to care, or too stupid to realize what he was doing.
At this rate, Granger might not wait till the end of class to kill Weasley. She might just end him during Potions. Perhaps, Draco thought, he should lend his services. The girl was clearly terrifying on her own, but needed a bit of finesse. That's where he would come in. Before he could really put any details into his plan, other than Malfoy and Granger corp against Weasley inc, class was over, and they were alone.
“Where's Potter?” Professor Snape demanded.
“What's it to you, you great big greasy git?” Ron shot back.
“That's another five points away from Gryffindor for your cheek, Weasley.” Professor Snape replied, smoothly. “Remind me again how many points you were bragging about Granger winning for Gryffindor?…Perhaps you could tell me how many points you just ran through because you can't think before opening your mouth? If I ask Granger, I bet she'd know, considering you just ran through nearly every point she'd managed to earn your house.”
Only now does Weasley seem to realize this, and Granger is completely unforgiving in her glaring at him.
“Now, I will ask again. Where is Potter? We have a meeting scheduled, and he is not here.” Professor Snape demanded.
“Quirrell wanted to show him something on Friday.” Weasley mumbled.
“Professor Quirrell, Ronald.” Granger groaned as she corrected him. “And what do you mean? You told me you didn't know where he was? You've been lying to me?!”
“I wasn't supposed to know, okay?” Ron growled back at her. “Professor Quirrell stopped by to talk to me after, said it was a secret. He's a Professor, right?”
“And you didn't think to question this the moment another Professor got worried?” Granger demanded.
“Why should I? It's just Snape!” Ron shouted back.
“Professor Snape!” Granger shot back, angrily, correcting him again. “Is that the attitude you're going to take when our Head of House asks where he is? It's a wonder she hasn't already, what with you covering for him. Harry could be in serious danger, and your complete disregard for his safety shows exactly what kind of friend you are, Ronald!”
“Why didn't you notice he was missing before, Granger?” Draco asked, trying to keep the snideness out of his voice.
“He's in the Boys dorm, and Ron kept making excuses for him.” Granger said, fuming. “So I respected his privacy!”
“Where did Professor Quirrell say Potter was?” Professor Snape asked, as he pinched the bridge of his nose in obvious frustration.
There is a reason why Severus had lobbied against housing the Mirror of Erised inside of a school, and they are faced with it when he opens the door to an abandoned classroom. Potter was sitting in front of the mirror, staring with unblinking eyes, absorbed in what the mirror showed her. It looked like she'd been there since Friday night, only without the mess one would expect, because scorgify covered everything. She didn't even notice when they entered the room, so focused was she on what the mirror showed her.
“Potter…” Severus tried, but there was a field around her, energy too charged for him to walk through. “Potter, look away from the mirror for a bit. It's important.”
“Harry. Harry, please.” Granger tried, hoping to get through to her friend. “Harry, what's wrong? Why isn't he responding to us? I don't understand.”
“Oi, Harry! Snap out of it, will you, Mate?” Weasley shouted, running up to her, only to be thrown back by the force field as well.
“That's……Oh, no……That's the mirror of Erised.” Granger whispered, her voice filled with worry. No doubt she knew what would happen if they could not pull Potter away. “It shows what you want most.”
“Yes, and no, Granger.” Severus replied, with a sigh, ignoring how Weasley groused about being thrown back by the force field. “It shows your hearts deepest desire, what you secretly want above all else in this world. Think. What would Potter want above all else? It may help us get through the mirror's illusions.”
Granger gasped, and then looked at him with widened eyes. “His family. I mean, his parents. People who…family that loves him.”
“Pot?,…Oh, Pot…This is Kettle calling Pot…Come in, Pot…Let me in.” Draco called, gently, as he cautiously stood near where the force field had knocked Weasley back. “Come on, Pot, I can't meet your family if you don't let me in.”
He took a cautious step forward, and the force field seemed to let him through.
“Draco,…be careful.” Severus said quietly to him. “Keep your eyes on Potter. Do not look into the mirror.”
“I know, I know.” Draco said, keeping his voice the same tone it was before. “Come on, Pot, I can't see them if you don't let me in.”
“Why is he letting him in?” Weasley groused. “I'm his best friend!”
“Because, Weaslebee, I'm the one with the calm demeanor needed. Granger is a nervous bundle of energy over there right now, and she doesn't look like she's taken offense to this, and Professor Snape needs to be on standby in case this goes sideways, which is just as likely, to be honest.” Draco said, as he continued to cautiously step towards Potter. “Come on, Pot, let me look. Let me see them too.”
“Ke…Kettle?” Potter asked, in confusion. Her eyes struggling to focus on something that wasn't the mirror in front of her.
“Yep, you've missed a good three days of insults, you know.” Draco commented, trying to keep her engaged in conversation. “I had a production planned and everything. The Malfoy Peacocks are most put out that you haven't been around to be insulted yet. There was a parade planned for breakfast this morning. You can imagine their disappointment, of course. Poor dears had to drown their sorrows in a milk and honey bath. Absolutely tragic, really.”
“Sorry, bit preoccupied.” Potter said, distractedly, her eyes drifting back to the mirror. “My family. I have my family back, Kettle. I can't leave them now, not now.”
“Wouldn't ask you to do that.” Draco replied, ignoring Weasley's objections as he took another step. “I want to meet them, tell them all the horrible things we've done, all the horrible things we plan on doing. I'm sure there's an adventure or two your mother will frown at while your father secretly approves. Maybe they'll even give us an idea or two. What do you think? We could prank the Weasley Twins. Wouldn't that be something?”
“You…want to meet my family?” Potter asked, once again managing to tear her eyes away from the mirror.
“Sure. We can all go out, and get dinner. I'm sure they have loads of stories to tell.” Draco suggested. “What do you say, Pot?”
“But they're all right here. We don't have to go anywhere!” Potter reasoned, apprehensive now.
“Of course not, but you know Mother wouldn't want me to be a bad host. It's customary for a Malfoy to offer a meal in order to get to know new friends.” Draco replied smoothly. “I'm refusing to count Weaselbee in this. Malfoys and Weasleys can't be friends. That would be criminal or something.”
“Weasle…bee? Ron? Ron is here too?” Potter asked, now hopeful.
“And Granger.” Draco replied, to which Potter smiled a little at that. “But we can't meet your family sitting here like this, not enough chairs, you see, and this floor's all dusty. Malfoy's don't sit in dust. It's against the code. Might even be allergic, but I wouldn't know, because Malfoys don't sit in it. Come with me, and we'll pick out where to eat. Do you know what they like? I shouldn't choose alone, you know. What if I pick something they don't like?”
“No, I can't…They need me here.” She said, sadness etched into her voice. “This is where they stay. They can't leave, and I can't leave them. I can't.”
“Don't you find that a bit odd, Potter?” Draco asked, gently. “Would your mum really want you to miss school like that? Monday's classes are over.”
“I can't leave them.” She insisted weakly. “If I leave them, they'll be gone.”
“They're already gone, Hari.” Draco said, sympathetically. “The mirror just shows you what you desperately want. It doesn't show what's really there. Here, look. See?”
Draco cast a spell temporarily blocking the mirror's view, with a mirror of his own. It showed what Hari really looked like, instead of what she had seen in the mirror. Severus watched as understanding slowly dawned in her eyes, as she saw what she truly looked like, as she began to look around her. Scourgifies could take care of smell and mess, but they could not make up for food, and Hari had been without food for a solid two days at least. Before Hari could even object, Draco had taken one of her arms around his shoulders, the other around her waist, and pulled her up to stand against him.
“Just how much do you weigh, Potter? You're all specky!” Draco tried to jest, but his eyes told Severus it was more true than anything else. Even the two days of starvation should not have undone that much, which meant that all the time they had been at school had not been enough to make up for whatever damage those muggles had done.
“Doesn't matter.” Potter insisted, as she weakly tried to turn back to the mirror. “My family is back there. I should…I need to get back to them.”
“No, your family is dead, Potter.” Draco said, bluntly, having absolutely no trouble keeping her on the path that would lead them out the door. “What you saw back there was a mirage, a trick of the light. There's no truth in a mirror like that.”
“But Professor Quirrell said-” Hari began, but then stopped.
“What? What did Professor Quirrell say?” Draco asked, as he helped her along.
“If I stared at it long enough, I would see how to get what I wanted.” Hari admitted. “But I didn't…They just stood there, smiling at me…I need to get back! I know I can figure it out. I need to-”
Severus has finally had enough of this, and casts a sleeping spell on the girl, as well as a levitation charm to keep her from hitting the floor, and proceeds to float her to the Hospital Wing. Weasley looks absolutely murderous, but considering Granger has him pinned under a glare of her own, Severus feels confident that he'll not have to murder the boy. It's not too troublesome getting Potter to the Hospital Wing. What is troublesome is now that Potter is there, Dumbledore will be called, and he's already had enough of his pretentious grandfatherly attitude for the day. He takes Potter's glasses before the man has a chance to enter the room, not wanting to give the man a reason to inspect them, as he's not one hundred percent sure that the headmaster couldn't see through goblin wards. Only, it wasn't Albus that showed up.
“Severus! Severus, where did you find him?” Minerva asked, with stern but open worry. “I have been quietly searching all weekend. Ronald Weasley insists…(And then she sees Ronald Weasley, now looking very much like he's trying to disappear into the floor under Granger's glare alone)…I see. Ronald Weasley, One hundred points will be taken from Gryffindor, and detention with Filch for a month, for lying to a professor and endangering the life of a student!”
Weasley looks like he is going to rebel mulishly, but Granger cuts him off.
“Don't you dare! Don't you dare talk back to her. She's right!” Granger shouts. “You're lucky she isn't already sending an owl to your mother!”
At that, Weasley turns green. In all of this,Severus has noticed that Draco is no longer present. It takes everything in him to keep from chuckling at what he knows will happen. Draco has threatened many a student with 'wait till my father hears about this', and he has no doubt that is where this will lead. Now all that's left to do is start a betting pool as to who will get to the boy first; Draco's father, or Weasley's mother.
“Where is the headmaster?” Severus asked, bringing things back into focus. “It's urgent.”
“I'm afraid he got called away. Fudge has been most insistent here lately.” Minerva stated, with a shake of her head. “What is it that could possibly be so important that it takes over the welfare of a child?”
“Potter is in the hands of Poppy, as if that needs pointing out.” Severus sneered, before stopping her short. “Quirrell's after the stone.”
“You're certain?” She asked, not specifying what he meant. He just leveled a look at her, and waited. “Right. Of course, you are. Well then, Mr. Weasley, Miss. Granger, it's best you get to Gryffindor Tower before curfew. I'm sure Madam Pomfrey will send you a note when you can visit.”
“What do you think he meant by that?” Weasley asked.
“I don't know, but you've got more important things to worry about, like how you're going to get all those points you lost back.” Granger pointed out. The last thing Severus heard as he and Minerva were leaving the Hospital Wing was Weasley groaning with dread.
He wasn't sure where he went wrong. He'd talked extensively about the stone as they walked to the mirror, what it could do, how it was used, everything. Who wouldn't want everlasting life and money? Everyone wanted that, if they were going to be honest with themselves, and anyone who said otherwise was selling something. So, why hadn't Potter wanted the stone?
Every day, Quirrell had checked on Potter, trying to gauge his progress. Every day, the boy just talked about his family. He'd managed to keep Dumbledore away from the mirror, hoping to give the boy time, but nothing had changed. When Dumbledore was thankfully called away by the Minister, Quirrell decided to make an attempt on the mirror himself, as it was very clear that the boy wouldn't be able to do it; only to discover that Potter was not there.
Did he have the stone? Is that why he left? Had it worked after all? Having the Dark Lord in his head was not as easy as one would think. The man was aware of his every thought, knew his mind inside and out. Seeing that Potter was gone, Quirrell began to panic, fearing that he had failed his lord. A noise behind him confirmed his suspicions; he was not alone. Severus and Minerva stood in front of the door, barring his exit, and judging from the looks they were giving him, they knew what he was there for.
“Give it up, Quirrell, you've failed.” Minerva declared. “There's nowhere for you to go.”
“Such a disappointment.” Severus drawled. “Steal a stone from a boy and a mirror, and you can't even do that right. What must the Dark Lord think of you? Just how many attempts have you made with nothing to show for it? I assume the troll was you?”
“Of course it was me.” Quirrell scoffed, no longer seeing the point of his stumbling speech now. “I figured the Dragon would have caused more damage, but the boy and his friends got it out of the castle before that oaf Hagrid could raise it up a bit.”
Both Severus and Minerva looked surprised at this.
“We're going to have to talk to them about that later, aren't we?” Minerva groaned. “Of all the foolish things Hagrid could have done. A dragon in a school filled with children? The man lives in a wooden hut!”
“I'm more impressed they got it out without us knowing about it at all.” Severus mused. “They're certainly less obvious than the Weasley Twins. Are you sure they were put in the right house? They would have done Slytherin proud. The Weasley Twins too, now that I think about it, though if you tell them that I said so, I will deny it to the grave, Minerva.”
“Far be it for me to tarnish your reputation.” Minerva chortled, flippantly.
“If you two are done?” Quirrell snapped.
“Ah, yes, I was wondering when you would make your move, Quirrell.” Dumbledore calmly spoke, as he entered the room. “I am actually disappointed it has taken you so long.”
“Now he shows up.” Minerva grumbled tersly.
“Such is the way.” Severus agreed. “Did you know Potter had been in here for days, wasting away as he watched his family, Albus?”
“What is the meaning of this!” Quirrell demanded, only it wasn't Quirrell anymore. It actually sounded like it was coming from behind Quirrell.
“M-master!” Quirrell cried out in sudden anguish. “They f-found me! Please, you have to help me!”
“Why should I help a failure?!” The voice hissed.
“I can't say it's a pleasure after all these years, Tom.” Dumbledore stated. “How long have you been with our dear Quirrell here? Did you perhaps take control of him by force, or did you promise him power you don't have?”
“I offered!” Quiirell shouted indignantly. “I was proud to do it, and I won't let you stop me now!”
“There's nowhere for you to run, Quirrell.” McGonagall countered.
Quirrell didn't run, instead falling to the ground in obvious pain, clawing at the back of his head. After a moment, the man simply froze and passed out. The wraith that was Voldemort flew from the back of Quirrell's turban, all black smoke and wisps, screeching as it flies out of the room. There is no doubt where it is going. Voldemort will make his way to Potter before they can get there, and then all their conflicting plans will be for not.
“Do you hear that?” Ron asked.
Hermione just thought he was trying to get out of trouble, when she began to hear it too. Buzzing sounds, like a swarm of tiny insects, getting closer with every moment. Madam Pomfrey was back in her office for the moment, so Hermione wasn't sure if she'd heard the sounds yet. Ron seemed to understand, and instantly rushed to go get her. Hermione took this time to try and pull the bed away from the wall.
She'd done a lot of reading over the holiday, and knew that wraiths sounded like that, and there was only one wraith interested in Harry Potter. Unfortunately, Harry wasn't going to be much help at the moment, as Madam Pomfrey had given him a Sleeping Draught. The boy was out cold, which is why Hermione was pulling out the bed from the wall. A second later, and Ron was bringing over Madam Pomfrey, who was very confused about what Hermione was doing. Instead of answering, Hermione tossed the both of them a giant container of salt out of the beaded bag Malfoy had given her over break, thanking the stars he'd thought of a nondetectable extension charm to put on it.
“Take this, and make a circle around the bed. Double check it. We don't have much time.” Hermione stated, and that's when Madam Pomfrey began hearing the buzzing.
“Hermione, wha-?” Ron objected, but Madam Pomfrey cut him off.
“Do it, Mr. Weasley.” The woman ordered, also getting to work. “That is the sound of a Wraith, and unless you want to end up dead, you'll keep yourself as close to the bed as you can get once the circle is completed. Good job, Miss Granger. Do you know the incantation?”
“Yes, Madam Pomfrey.” Hermione replied, as she poured her salt out.
“What are we doing?” Ron asked, following suit. “How will this help us against a wraith?”
“Good, I will assist you. It's too much to ask you to do this on your own. You would more than likely pass out from magical exhaustion, and that won't be good if we're wanting to maintain the spell.” Pomfrey said, ignoring Ron's confusion. “Mr. Weasley, you will need to stand as a last defense for Potter. If you have to, if we fail, you may have hold it off till help can come to save you and your friend. Do you understand?”
Ron drew himself up tall, well as tall as an eleven year old can be, and went to stand by his friend, which Hermione was grateful for. She'd been worried after Malfoy had been able to get to Harry, that Ron would act like a petulant child, and storm off when they needed him. She was glad to see that when the chips were down, he was willing to step up. Hopefully, her half baked plan would work, and they wouldn't need him to actually step up. This was not a permanent solution, but it would keep Harry safe till Dumbledore or one of the other professors could get back.
“Now!” Hermione shouted, as the door burst open and a menacing black smoke like wraith barreled into the room. Together, her and Madam Pomfrey shouted. “Angustos ad simulacra viro! Angustos ad simulacra viro! Angustos ad simulacra viro!”
The salt that circled the bed lit up, creating a dome of light green that sprung up just as the wraith was about to pass through. If she hadn't looked up pictures of what this 'Dark Lord' looked like before, she would have been very shocked by the crazed fury and rage she saw in the face trying to break through the barrier. It seemed to be holding for now, but they would need to keep pouring their magic into it to combat the brute force the wraith was using to attack it. The attacks kept coming, windows being smashed by the sheer force of the magic, pushing on and scattering the salt lines, allowing for the wraith to slip through. Ron raised his wand, preparing a spell to blast the creature away, but the wraith blew past him too quickly.
“NO!” Draco shouted, seeing the wraith in the room, when he entered the hospital wing.
He'd only been gone a few minutes. Nothing bad was supposed to happen! He'd just sent a letter to his father about the mirror, and now he was seeing the Dark Lord's floating wraith face barreling towards his friends. Like Hermione, he'd not come unprepared though. The two of them had planned for when the Dark Lord would attack their friend, but neither of them had expected it to be so soon. They had both foolishly thought there were years ahead to plan.
The shout distracted the wraith into looking at him, and Ron quickly threw up a Protego shield. While Draco wasn't sure that would work, he was glad Ron had thought of it. Meanwhile, he had salt bombs to throw. He muttered an incantation, and started throwing small bags of salts at the wraith. It was not quite the same incantation as the one Hermione had found, but with Hermione throwing hers with her own incantation added along with his, the magic would disrupt the wraith, and the Dark Lord would have to regather his strength elsewhere.
He wasn't really sure why it wasn't working, but even with the salt bags, and the shield, it didn't matter. The Dark Lord was able to weave and dodge through it all. All they really seemed to be doing was covering the hospital wing in salt. When this was all over, if there was anything left of them, Madam Pomfrey was sure to have something to say about all this. What he did not expect was for Harry to suddenly wake up, or for him to fall out of the bed and into the floor behind Ron. or for his hand to be dripping blood, and had Potter's eyes always glowed like that, or was that new?
“Angustos ad simulacra viro!” Harry shouted, and slammed his hand down on the floor.
The magical backlash from his blood, not to mention that the room was entirely covered with incantation charged salt already, sent the wraith fleeing from the room. Draco would bet all the galleons in his allowance vault that the wraith fled not only the Hospital wing, but all of Hogwarts as well. At that moment, Dumbledore and Uncle Sev burst through the doors, scaring everyone to death, just in time to see Harry pass out, and the last of the wraith fleeing the room. Professor McGonagall followed not long after that, with a floating incarcerated Professor Quirrell, who looked petulant and properly defeated, so he's probably been silenced as well. Ron was able to lift Potter back into the bed, and frowns, before turning to Draco and the others.
“Has he always been this specky?” Ron asked, still frowning.
“We just kicked the Dark Lords arse, albeit temporarily, with four First Years and a Medi witch, and that's your question?” Draco asked, pompously. “I thought you were smarter than that, Weaslebee.”
“Well, what would you ask?” Ron shot back, but then looked at Quirrell with narrowing eyes. “Explains the turban at any rate, and the smell, but how did no one in charge notice that?”
“See? Now that's a good question.” Draco stated, as if he were a professor, before turning to the professors. “Well? You lot run this school. You can't tell me not one of you noticed.”
When Hari woke up, things were rather disorienting. She'd expected to be back in the room with the mirror in it, seeing her family smile at her from within. She did not expect to be in a bed in what had to be the Hospital Wing…again. Slowly, the events of the last several moments came back to her, and she groaned at the realization that she was in a lot of trouble. That, of course, alerted Madam Pomfrey as to her state of awareness, and the woman came over and began running a bunch of diagnostic spells on her.
“You missed quite the show, Potter.” Draco sneered from his bedside, though she could tell it was the fake one he wore around those he did not trust…which seemed to be almost everyone, and it let her know that there were others in the room.
“Oh?” Hari asked, deciding to go along with it to see how things turned out.
“Indeed, that mirror you were obsessed with is called the Mirror of Erised.” Draco said, to which Hari stared at him cluelessly till he sighed. “It shows you what you want, what you desperately want most. For most people that's bad enough, but for someone like you? That's really bad, because you want the one thing you know you can't have; the family you will never be able to get back. Quirrell planned to use you to get the Philosophers' stone, because someone thought it would be a brilliant idea to hide it in there. Now it's gone, Quirrell's either in Azkaban or dead, and you're here.”
“Professor Quirrell, Malfoy.” They hear from across the room, along with Ron objecting with “Really, Mione?”
“Quirrell? But…why?” Hari asked, confused, as she ignored her two fussing friends. That was a lot more than she'd expected, to be honest, and now she needed time to process.
“Apparently he'd been hiding the Dark Lord in the back of his head for some time now.” Draco scoffed. “Can't be all that great though if the best place he thought to hide smelled of garlic and eat up with dandriff.”
Hari actually snorted at that.
“Why do I feel so awful?” She asked, once they'd stopped laughing at that.
“Someone, who shall remain nameless.” Draco began. Hermione was heard coughing across the room, though is sounded suspiciously like 'Ronald'. “Decided to lie for you while you stared into the Mirror of Erised for three days. Did you even eat during all that time? Why are you still so specky? Weaselbee is right. You should weigh more than this.”
Potter mumbled something under his breath, but Draco and the others weren't having it.
“What was that, Pot?” Draco demanded.
“I was trying to get used to the amount of food I'm going to have to live on once I get back to the Dursleys, okay?!” Hari shouted, instantly looking embarrassed when everyone turned at the sound of it. “It'll hurt more if I don't!”
“Hari, what…You can't do that.” Draco muttered in shock. “You can't just…”
“I must congratulate you all.” Dumbledore stated, looking as if he had not heard Hari's statement as he strolled forward, though everyone else had. “You have helped to capture a thief, and while the property was not recovered, I doubt Nicolas Flamel will be too upset by it. As it is, I doubt Minister Fudge will believe Voldemort was in the back of the poor professor's mind, even with Veritasirum.”
They all sort of stared at the Headmaster for a moment in disbelief. Surely he would not look over the suffering of a student in this way, but Potter wasn't looking at him. He was looking at the bed, his fists clinched at his sides. It told the others that he had expected this, that he'd known the Headmaster would look over the Dursleys and their treatment of him. There were various reactions around the room as one by one began to realize this.
Draco thought his opinion of the Heademaster could not get any lower, but apparently he'd been wrong. Granger looked confused, having trusted the Headmaster knew what he was doing in all things, but she wasn't so sure now. Weasley looked at the man as if he were planning out a chess match, which didn't seem good to anyone at all. Professor McGonagall looked livid, but kept her disapproval locked behind thin lips and sharp eyes. Uncle Sev looked mutinous and yet bored all at once, something only he could achieve. Madam Pomfrey scowled, and began pushing everyone out of the room that was not in a bed, which was all the adults, for distressing her patients.
At the last second, Uncle Sev turned around, and nodded to Potter, adding. “Don't forget your glasses, Potter.”
No one had asked how Hari had woken up in time to activate a spell that had been said while she'd been asleep, and for that, she was thankful. It looked like Hermione had wanted to, but she'd refrained, instead hoping that talks of holiday plans would make things only slightly less awkward. While the three of them had things to look forward to at the end of the school year, Hari didn't. It ended with a lull in the conversation for a while.
“You know, I can talk to my mum about you visiting during the summer hols.” Ron stated, looking thoughtful. “It would at least get you out of that house for some of the time.”
“Not sure I can offer the same, but I'll ask Father about it.” Draco added. “Mother will still try and send you things over the summer, at least, that is if she doesn't try to adopt you.”
“If she does send something, tell her the owl has to be discreet about it.” Hari insisted. “If Uncle Vernon or Aunt Petunia sees it, it's a goner. That goes for all of you. If you can send it by muggle post, that would be better.”
“We'll think of something, Harry.” Hermione promised, but then looked thoughtful. “What did Professor Snape mean by what he said earlier? Don't forget your glasses? Why would he say that?”
“All the strange things that have happened to Harry, and you have to ask?” Ron asked, bringing up a valid point.
Of course, everyone wanted to know what had happened, not that those involved were saying anything. After a while, things seemed to calm down a bit. There was the occasional grilling from the twins, but other than that, people began to accept that they may never really know what had happened. That's when they started making it up as they went, which was to be expected. Before they knew it, the end of the year was upon them.
If Gryffindor won the House Cup, Hari didn't know or care. While the feast was going on, she'd gone back to the forbidden corridor on the third floor. After a visit to Hagrid, she had discovered that Dumbledore was making the man give the Cerberus (now known to her as Fluffy) to some Reserve in Russia. Hari decided that that wasn't happening if she had anything to say about it. She'd designed her trunk house to have an insanely large yard area for a reason, she just hadn't known what it was till now.
“Alright, Fluffy, you want to come home with me?” She asked, as soon as she got into the room. The happy tail wagging was a good a sign as any. “You'll have to jump in this trunk. It's bigger on the inside, and I'll get some more food for you soon, and-”
Before she had even finished talking, the Cerberus had leaped into the trunk she'd set down on the floor. It transfigured back into a pair of glasses as soon as she shut the lid, and she headed down the stairs towards the Great Hall. There was enough time to see that Slytherin and Gryffindor had tied for the House Cup, before Ron and Hermione were walking with her back to the tower to get their things. They would be heading to the train soon, and wanted to make sure they got everything. Hari had already packed everything into her Trunk House before asking Fluffy to stay with her, but copies of everything were now in her normal trunk via the odd shoping trip they'd gone on before.
It would look odd if she went to school with a trunk, but came home without one, Professor Snape had explained before. Her mind was still on the gift that Hagrid had given her. The man had sent out letters to everyone he knew, looking for pictures of her parents, and they had delivered. What he had handed to her was nothing short of amazing, a living memory of her parents in the form of moving pictures in a photo album. She didn't have words for something like that, but hoped that taking care of Fluffy somehow did that, not that she told Hagrid what she'd planned, but from the twinkling in his eyes, she felt that maybe it didn't need to be said at all.
On the train home, she kept getting lost in thought. What was she going to do about the Dursleys? She had to spend a whole summer with them. Granted, while Dudley may be better now, she didn't know if that would last in the face of Aunt Petunia's spoiling care and Uncle Vernon's pressure to be a man of the house. Looking back at her friends, she smiled. At least she wouldn't have to stay there the whole summer. She had friends now, and they would be there for her through anything. It felt nice to be cared for, even though she kept secrets from them.