The halls and passageways of Hogwarts were almost deserted over the summer. The students had all gone home, and most of the staff did not live there. Harry and his adoptive mother, the hag Cora Coldfire, were free to play games of tag up and down the empty corridors. Their old home in the sewers had certainly never been this roomy. Cora had only owned a cave.
"You can't escape a hag, my love!" Cora called, as she ran after him in leaps and bounds as he dashed down the corridor. He had given her the slip, but then she jumped out of a linen cupboard, catching him in her muscular green arms and tickling him as he giggled madly. She planted kisses all over his face, her red hair getting in his eyes. "Whew." She sat with one arm around him, brushing her hair out of her eyes with a free hand. Her green face gleamed with a sheen of perspiration. "My boy's growing up fast and strong. You could never give me the run around like this before."
Harry pulled her green arm. "Let's play ball. C'mon!"
On the deserted Quidditch pitch they chucked a Quaffle to one another. "Too bad you can't come flying with me," said Harry.
Cora sighed, and shook her head. "I wish I could. Hags can't fly though. I happen to fly like a rock."
They went to visit the kitchens next, to visit the house elves and have supper.
The house-elves were a friendly bunch, always cheerful, smiling and curtseying. The had a cooked steak and kidney pie for Harry, followed by treacle tart. For Cora, they had a plate of raw liver and offal.
The hag beamed, her white teeth contrasting with her green face. "Thank you so much, dears. You do such great work. Wish I could cook like you do."
"Thank you, hag," said a house-elf, bowing low. "Hard work is good."
"Aww, you're so adorable," said Cora, making a kissy face.
At that moment, there was a crack, and another house elf appeared. This one was not a Hogwarts elf. He was not dressed in a clean tea towel. He was in fact dressed in a dirty old pillow case. He had huge, bat like ears and a long thin nose, like a pencil. Harry recognised him. "Dobby!"
"You know each other?" said Cora.
"This is Dobby, the Malfoy's elf," said Harry. "What are you doing here, Dobby? Did Draco send you?"
"No, Harry Potter Sir," said Dobby, "Dobby will have to shut his ears in the oven door for this."
"What!" Cora exclaimed in horror, her blue eyes wide.
"I can't believe Draco would be that cruel," said Harry uncomfortably.
"Dobby is always having to punish himself for something, Harry Potter Sir," said Dobby, rubbing his hands together. "Dobby is constantly hitting himself about the head, or giving himself a terrific flogging."
Cora was still staring at Dobby with horrified blue eyes.
The other house elves were encircling Dobby, who lay down at Harry's feet. "If Harry Potter knew what he means to us lowly, us enslaved… us dregs of the magical world."
"Who is you referring to exactly, Dobby?" asked one of the Hogwarts elves.
"Dobby is referring to those who fawn and scrape before Harry Potter like Dobby himself does, Sir," said Dobby. "Harry Potter is valiant, and noble, and kind, and so strong… he could come to enjoy pain like Dobby does."
Cora took Harry's hand in her own. "That elf isn't all there…" she murmured.
Dobby drew a letter from his pocket. "Dobby has Harry's friends letter. If Harry Potter leaves Hogwarts to live with Dobby…"
"Give me my boy's letter!" yelled Cora, her green face crinkling in anger.
The other elves grabbed Dobby and snatched the letter from him. Dobby disappeared with a crack.
Harry unfolded the letter. It was written in purple ink and he recognised the long, sloping handwriting of his best friend, Sadie McIntyre. The Dark Healer.
"Sadie's invited us to stay at Hillside House. That wretched Dobby… We might have missed her message altogether."
They owled Jamie McIntyre to arrange to travel by Floo. When they got a message of approval back, Cora took Harry to the kitchen fire and chucked a handful of the glittering green powder into it. The fire whooshed and turned green.
"Hill House," said Harry.
He and Cora stepped into the fire, Cora holding Harry's hand. The unpleasant sensation of Floo travel followed, and finally they emerged from the fireplace at Hillside House.
Sadie was waiting for them. She was a strange looking girl. She had accidentally disfigured her face in one of her experiments. Now she looked like she had a melted green mannequin mask fused onto her face. She always dyed her long hair purple, and her disfigurement didn't change that, so looking at her, you got the impression of a disfigured green and purple doll. She clapped her little hands together when they emerged from the fire and gave a squeal, running up to them, her long purple hair flying. She flung her arms around Harry, nuzzling his neck with her cold, green face and giving a soft little moan.
Then she hugged Cora in turn.
"Welcome! Welcome!" she said. Her green face was split in a grin so wide, that Harry could see her blue eyes scrunching through the eye holes in her mask. "Thank you so much for coming! It's been so lonely since Tracy went to France." She took hold of both of their hands. "I'm gonna love having you both here."
One of the first things Sadie wanted to do was show them one of her weird Dark experiments. Sadie's enthusiasm for Dark Magic hadn't been diminished in the slightest.
She led them into the cellars where she'd set up a lab of some kind, with all these glass vials and tubes, surrounding a wooden table. On the table was what looked like a purple, plastic mannikin, roughly humanoid shaped, with blunt arms and legs and just a slit for a mouth with one of the glass tubes stuck in it. Esoteric symbols were drawn around it.
"I may have cracked it," said Sadie, rubbing her little hands together. "I may have brought Chip to life." She turned her face to the mannikin, and her green mask rippled as her features underneath moved to form a kissy face. "My sweet little Chip. Come to life and make Mummy happy."
Cora had been looking faintly bemused, but now she smiled. "Ah, he's like your baby, Sadie."
This was a concept Cora was comfortable with.
Sadie grinned. "He sure is."
She removed the tube from Chip's mouth. The little mannikin twitched and began to move, making a little coughing and sneezing noise.
"Oh Chip!" Sadie gathered him up in her arms and planted a kiss on his purple head. "You did it. You live again."
"Again?" Harry wondered what that meant.
Up in Sadie's room, there was further evidence of her experiments. The shelves had jars of slimy pickled things, hanging suspended in preserving potions, and the bench was stacked with cauldrons and jars of ingredients.
Sadie gestured around. "Bit messy." She chuckled. "Had to move my stuff around. Conquering death isn't easy."
"This is your thing about wanting to stop people dying?" Said Harry. "Using Dark Magic?"
Sadie had wanted to become a Dark Healer and use the Dark Arts to stop people dying, ever since her mum had been unable to cure a terminally ill Muggle boy with conventional healer methods.
Sadie nodded, her purple hair rippling and bouncing. "Someday, Harry. Someday, death will be a thing of the past. But it won't be easy. Defying nature is always hard."
Chip was sitting on Sadie's shoulder. He made a tiny, burbling noise.
"I know, Chip," said Sadie soothingly, reaching up to stroke his head.
Cora's eyes lit up as she noticed a jar of black beetles. Sadie saw her interest. "Help yourself," she said politely, handing the jar to the hag who munched on them appreciatively.
Out in the garden, Harry and Sadie got ready to practice flying. "Wish I could fly," said Cora sighing. "Sadly, it's something I can never do with you."
"Aw." Sadie touched her green arm with a little hand. "Don't worry. I can barely fly."
They left Chip with Cora on the ground below. Harry showed off what a savant he was when it came to flying. He'd never had any difficulty with it at all. He shot high into the air like a speeding bullet, leaving Sadie far below. The county was all spread out beneath him like a map. He shot higher and higher, up above the clouds, where the chill wind buffeted him and made his spirits sing.
He plummeted back down to where Sadie was, and showed off by doing loop the loops around her.
"Careful. Don't fall." She urged.
"How could I fall?" he bragged. "Bludgers cannot make it happen. Voldemort himself couldn't."
He neglected to mention that Sadie had thwarted Voldemort's efforts to sabotage him that time, and Sadie was too polite to point it out to him.
"I know…" she said. "But it never gets any easier, seeing you get Bludgers whacked at you by rough Gryffindors."
Later that day, they received an owl from Draco suggesting they meet up in Diagon Alley to do their shopping.
At tea, Harry brought up the subject of Dobby. "I dunno what the elf's game was exactly. He said he came to Hogwarts without permission and he would have to shut his hears in the Malfoy's oven door as punishment. If that's true, the Malfoy's certainly don't spare punishment if he gets out of order."
Sadie gave a little start, her mask moving strangely as her face underneath moved to form an indignant expression. "What? That's awful. It'd better not be true." She breathed through her nose.
"Oh, who knows?" said Harry, patting her shoulder. "Don't worry about the elf. You can ask Draco calmly about it when we go to Malfoy Manor."
"The Malfoys don't think highly of non-humans," said Cora with a sigh.
Sadie's masked face contorted into a grimace. "They're wrong."
"But it's not just them," said Harry. "Plenty of witches and wizards share their attitude."
It was perfectly true. Sadie was Harry's only friend who knew all about Cora and the fact that she was a hag. Cora couldn't come with them to see the Malfoys. That was awkward. Sadie looked uncomfortable. She obviously felt awkward about this too. Then Sadie smiled, like she'd had an idea. "Cora, Chip can't come with us to Diagon Alley. It's a bit much for him, travelling by Floo. I'd love it if you could please babysit."
"It'd be my pleasure," said Cora grinning.
Floo wasn't Harry's favourite way to travel. On the trip from Hillside House to the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, it felt as though he were being sucked down a giant drain. The trip was much more turbulent than the one to Hillside House. Finally, it seemed he was slowing down. He hadn't imagined it, and though his head was still spinning, he opened his eyes and staggered out of the Floo. Fortunately, Sadie was there to steady him as he emerged from the fireplace.
"Alright there, Potter?" drawled Draco. "Don't you have your Floo legs?" Draco was here too, smirking at Harry's difficulty with the Floo.
"There's a stool at the counter," Sadie told him. "I'll walk you there."
After his first steps had been so dreadful, he was inclined to accept her help. She gripped him with her little hands and steered him to the counter. Legs shaking slightly, he sat gratefully and looked around.
He was in the public room at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry smiled, remembering all the people who'd been so awed of him and eager to shake his hand. At the time he'd been downright confused and embarrassed, but now he felt like he understood them a bit better. Accidental or not, he was still a hero. He'd helped these people, and they were grateful.
At least he wasn't alone now. Draco and Sadie, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy could do a fine job of making sure he didn't get mobbed. It would inevitably happen as soon as someone caught sight of his scar.
Lucius and Narcissa popped out of the Floo a minute later, and Harry was feeling slightly better. His face must still have been green (not as green as Sadie's obviously), because Draco snapped his fingers at Old Tom the bartender. "Tom, five butterbeers. Look sharp."
Sadie gave Tom an apologetic smile with the lips of her mask.
"So good to see you again, Mr Potter," Mr. Malfoy said smoothly. He laid a gold Galleon on the counter. Old Tom set down five frosty tankards filled with a foamy yellow beverage. He started to make change, but Mr. Malfoy waved him away. "Drink up, Harry. Butterbeer is one of life's finest delights."
Harry took a sip of his drink and closed his eyes in bliss. The cold drink was the most delicious thing he'd ever tasted. A warm glow filled him, and he set the tankard down with a thump.
"Good, eh?" Draco winked at him.
"Yummy!" said Sadie, wiping the foam off her green mask.
"Very," Harry said, wiping his mouth.
"I have some business to attend to," Mr. Malfoy told the trio. He kept one arm tucked beneath his light summer cloak, holding a box of some kind. His other hand gripped the handle of his silver cane. "Draco, will you all be alright for the time being?"
"Yes, Father," Draco said.
"Good. I'll meet you at Flourish and Blotts in one hour." Lucius and Narcissa left.
Harry tried to make his drink last as long as possible, but it was so good that he couldn't help drinking it quickly.
"Can we get more?" he asked.
Draco laughed. "Maybe on the way back through," he said. "I want to get to Quality Quidditch and look at the new models for awhile."
"That's nice," said Sadie, smiling at him. "Which do you think you'd get?"
"Wouldn't mean anything to you, Sadie, the way you fly," said Draco. "You don't get brooms." He stood up and swallowed the last of his butterbeer. "You done?"
Harry followed suit. "I am now," he agreed. They followed Draco out to the back alley. Draco drew his wand and tapped three times on the third brick up, two bricks over.
The brick quivered for a second, wriggling in place. The other bricks set to squirming as well, and soon they were all folding back to form an archway.
Harry had seen it once before, but it was still impressive. He stepped through onto the crowded street and smiled. Magic was in the air.
Owls shrieked at Eeylops' Owl Emporium. Cauldrons rang at Potage's shop just across the way. Everywhere there were people milling about, chatting, buying, and selling. In the distance he could see the snowy white pillars of Gringotts rising high above the other shops.
Harry needed to get his money before he did anything else. The trio stood in the queue for only ten minutes before there was a goblin free to see him. He could just barely see the top of the counter as he placed his vault key for the goblin's inspection.
"Harry Potter, vault six-eight-seven, please."
The goblin peered at the key. "This seems to be in order," it said in a squeaky, high-pitched voice that startled Harry. "Roundtop will take you down. Roundtop!"
Roundtop was a goblin with an extremely long, pointed nose. He led Harry and Draco over to the cart and they set off at dizzying speeds. Draco whooped and shouted as they rode, clearly having fun. "Isn't this great? Make it go faster."
Harry held on tightly to the restraint bar and tried not to be sick. Sadie put an arm round him for which he was grateful.
"Faster!" demanded Draco.
"No! Harry doesn't like it," said Sadie tersely.
"He doesn't need you coddling him," said Draco. Sadie's masked face creased into a frown.
Two dizzying experiences, Harry reflected, and still the Floo trip back. He wondered when his stomach was going to insist that it had had quite enough of this sort of treatment.
"Vault six-eight-seven," the goblin informed them as the cart slammed to a sudden halt. Harry leaned over the side and spat the bile that had risen in his throat. Wearily, he dragged himself out of the cart and onto the stone shelf. He handed the goblin his key and stepped in as the doors opened.
The green smoke billowed away, and Harry took a good look at his fortune. Beside him, Draco sneered. "Pocket change."
"Honestly, Draco," said Sadie, rolling her eyes. "You're such a show off. It's more money than most kids have seen in one place."
"There's more here than when I was here last year," Harry said, feeling slightly confused. "Does money here collect interest?"
"Some," Draco told him. "Maybe you've got some investments your parents left for you. Father has a trust fund set up for me that I'm not allowed to touch until I come of age. If your parents did that, the earnings would pile up here."
There was a new pile of gold Galleons. The stacks of silver Sickles had grown even taller. Bronze Knuts were heaped in piles everywhere. Harry brought out his money pouch and began loading it up with a liberal mix of the coins.
"There is enough for a team of Nimbuses," Draco said wistfully.
"I think that's 'Nimbii'," Harry said helpfully.
Draco rolled his eyes. "You sound like Tracy."
Sadie giggled. "Tracy says 'hi' by the way."
Harry found the ride back up was just as dizzying and sickening as the ride down, even with Sadie's arms around him. The butterbeer he'd consumed cushioned his system a bit, but Harry felt decidedly queasy as they stepped into the street and hurried to look at the new Comet-280 on display.
Draco mooned over the broom for a bit, but not excessively. They encountered Terry Boot and struck up a discussion about Quidditch. Before it seemed five minutes had passed, their free hour was up, and they had to hurry off to the book shop.
The shop had quite a mob out in front. Jostling back and forth, it seemed as though the crowd would press into critical density. The reason for the crowd was proclaimed by a large banner stretched along the upper windows:
will be signing copies of his autobiography
today 12:30 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.
The crowd was made up mostly of witches around Mrs. Malfoy's age. A harried-looking wizard stood at the door, saying, "Calmly, please, ladies. Don't push. Please mind the books."
The trio squeezed inside and spotted Tracy almost immediately. She and Sadie both squealed and Sadie ran into her arms. Tracy picked up the smaller girl and kissed her green face. Sadie pressed her nose against' her friend's. "Why didn't you tell me when you'd be here, my love?"
"Bet you slipped her mind," said Draco.
"Don't be stupid, Draco," said Tracy coolly. "I begged Mum and Dad to take Sadie to France with us, but they said it was family only. I was very cross with them." She pouted.
When Harry got close, she gave him a warm hug. "How've you been?" She didn't wait for an answer, but rattled on cheerfully. "Isn't it great?" she said. "Lockhart's written almost the whole booklist, and he's actually here today. What fabulous luck!"
"Going to get his biography?" Draco teased her. She stuck out her tongue at him.
"Autobiography. Hardly, but Pansy already has a copy, and she's right up near the front to get it signed.
"If she's up front, let's go stand with her," Draco suggested. "I'd like to meet this fellow."
They snuck through the line. Draco crept up right behind Pansy and tickled her sides. Pansy shrieked in shock and lost her hold on the book as she flailed about.
"Draco!" she shouted, trying to defend herself. It wasn't easy. She'd been caught unawares, and he had good positioning. Harry picked up the book she'd dropped and was treated to the sight of a man with wavy blond hair and too-white teeth set in a perfect smile. The photograph winked at him and continued smiling. It was slightly unnerving.
"I give up!" Pansy cried weakly, leaning against a wall, giggling furiously. Draco accepted her surrender and gave her a hug. "Hullo, Harry," she wheezed.
"Hello, Pansy," he replied. Poor Pansy's face was beet-red, and her hair was all askew. She took back her book from him.
"I can't. Believe. We get to meet him," she panted. "Famous. Dashing. Handsome."
Harry thought her reaction to be very funny indeed. Up at the front, the real Lockhart had just stepped into view. He flashed that dazzling smile and waved to the crowd. He was wearing robes in a shade of forget-me-not blue that perfectly matched his eyes. His pointed wizard's hat was fixed at a jaunty angle on his wavy hair.
A photographer was circling around Lockhart at a distance, shoving through the crowd, and taking pictures with a camera that let off foul purple smoke. "Stand aside, Daily Prophet," he said every few seconds. The crowd did its best to get out of his way.
Pansy sighed dreamily as Lockhart turned in their direction, and she fanned herself with the book. Draco poked her in the side, but she was on guard now and merely hit him with the book.
The sound of the heavy book hitting Draco's head must have caught Lockhart's ears, because his eyes suddenly focused in on them.
"It can't be Harry Potter," Lockhart said in an awed voice.