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From the Hidden Bedroom

Chapter Text

Hari is just finishing cleaning up his breakfast when Narcissa steps through the hidden entrance to his rooms.

“Hello, Narcissa,” he smiles politely at her, inclining his head just so.

“Good morning, Hari,” she nods back, “I trust your lesson with Lucius went well yesterday?”

“It did,” Hari confirms, “we used one of the new werewolf bills being presented to discuss the process of turning an idea into a law and how it can be enforced. It is a much more complicated process than I had previously realized.” After over a month and a half of receiving etiquette lessons, Hari has made significant progress. His dancing is no longer simply passable, he knows the proper behavior for formal settings, and has learned to hold himself and speak in such a way that befits his station. Though, to be fair, he does let himself relax a bit when he’s alone.

“One of the many reasons I am glad my husband is Head of House instead of myself,” she says amicably. “Are you excited for school to begin again?”

“Most definitely,” Hari agrees immediately. “As wonderful as it is here,” he sighs, “and despite all the letters, I miss the others. I cannot wait to see them again.”

“Well, school is just around the corner. If you are ready, we can take your measurements to send to Madame Malkin’s.”

“I’ll also need new robes, since I’ve grown an inch since summer started,” Hari tells her, pride swirling in his chest.

“A full inch?” Narcissa arches an eyebrow. “That is quite quick,” she smiles at him, pleased, “I will take down your measurements and have you sign for new robes tomorrow. Draco and Pansy assure me you are not to select your own clothing.” Her eyes glint teasingly. Hari huffs a slight laugh.

“They would say that, wouldn’t they? I’m sure I’d do better now than last year, although some of wizarding fashion still escapes me. I’m sure they’ll do a fine job selecting a new wardrobe for me.”

“They did not buy you clothing for your birthday, did they?”

“Thankfully, no.” None of it would’ve fit if they had. “Oh! My apologies, please, sit,” Hari realizes rather suddenly he has yet to offer her tea. “Would you like tea?”

“Not today, thank you, Hari.” There’s some pride in her eyes that fill Hari with warmth. It took him to long to get around to it, in his mind, but it’s improvement. “We shall collect your measurements, review the different ways to tie your tie and fold your handkerchief, and some more dancing.”

They dance every day. It doubles up as both dancing and mind healing and is Hari’s favorite part of the day. He has less nightmares and is far more confident than he was before, though, to be fair, all the lessons probably contribute to that.

Narcissa transfigures a chair into a step for him to be measured on and, after just a minute, his new sizing is marked down on two parchments and they begin reviewing the folds. She doesn’t even pull out the ties right away, instead making him sit and explain the reasoning behind the knots to start.

“What knots do you use?”

“Café, Eldredge, Prince, and Trinity. I use the Café knot for daytime meetings with close friends and allies where I can be less formal. The Eldredge know is for meetings and dinners that are more formal or with someone who I am not close to. The Prince knot is for high formal events that I am not wearing traditional garb for and is primarily a statement knot. I should especially use it when I need to remind others of my status and power. The Trinity is my go-to knot, a symbol of how I have six Houses. This is for all Wizengamot sessions and meetings with Ministry officials.”

“Good. Match them with the appropriate handkerchief fold.”

“Café gets the Scallop fold, chosen for simplicity and elegance, and how it’s shape aligns with the knot. Eldredge matches with the Three Point fold, as it is simple and almost looks like the start of a braid. Prince matches with Monarch, matched for the same reasons we chose the Prince knot. The Trinity knot gets the Trifold, as two sets of three make six.”

“Very well done. Demonstrate tying and folding each and we will move on.” She hands Hari a tie and, over the next seven minutes, he works his way through each knot. They’re all complicated in their own right, but after a month of practice, he has them down. For the most part. The handkerchiefs are easier, since they chose all of them to be as simple and easy-to-remember as possible, except for the Monarch fold, which is the only one he’s had to really work for. Finally, they’ve finished with them and moved on.

“What knots does Draco use?” Hari asks when they’ve been dancing for a few minutes.

“Diamond, True Love, and Cape. He will use True Love most frequently,” Narcissa shares after a gentle twirl. “Your dancing is much improved.”

“Thank you.” When they’re done dancing, Narcissa readies herself to leave.

“You have what you need to prepare a lunch?”

“I do, thank you.”

“Good,” she sets a hand on his cheek. “There is only two more weeks and you will return to school.”

“Speaking of, should I be using a different knot for my school tie?”

“No, the usual is acceptable. It is a uniform, after all.”

“Alright.”

“Work on your homework when I leave,” she orders.

“I will.”

“How much do you have left?”

“For Hogwarts? None. I finished two days ago. For Lucius? It’ll take the afternoon. And you? Just a page of handwriting exercises.”

She hums, “you’ll have to tell me what else you’re learning tomorrow. If you’ll excuse me,” she crosses to the door, “I must go and see that Draco eats before beginning his lessons.”

“I shall see you tomorrow,” Hari nods formally, “Have a wonderful rest of your day.”

“And you as well,” Narcissa says and slips out the door. Hari sighs. Lucius comes every other day and Narcissa comes every day, but he hasn’t been able to leave the small set of rooms and, honestly, it’s lonely. They try to keep him busy, but there’s only so much homework that can be assigned.

Hari whips himself up a quick lunch and settles in after to work on the reading portion of his homework. Current lessons focus on different laws, why they were passed, and how they affect the populace. They may or may not include ways to tiptoe around said laws, but that’s another story.

 He ends up reading for several hours before taking a break to work on the handwriting parchments Narcissa sent him. He always does more work than she sets for those since he knows his handwriting with a quill is abysmal. This was another way for her to separate him from the rest of the Wizengamot. She selected a rather unusual way for him to form his letters. They are serpentine and almost curl into each other. They are more than legible, but look almost like cursive or calligraphy. Draco’s, instead, are long and thin and elegant.

When his handwriting practice is done, he has a healthy dinner and takes his potions, then sets about writing the essay Lucius requested. By the time he’s done, it’s time to go to bed. And so passes yet another day in the tiny, luxurious apartment hidden from the Dursleys.


All good things must come to an end, Hari reminds himself, sighing into the mirror.

“Critter!” He calls out.

“Master Hari be calling Critter?”

“Hello, Critter,” Hari smiles at the helpful creature, “would you pack up my things into my trunk for me? I can’t seem to get it all to fit.”

“Critter can!” The little house elf busies himself quickly and carefully layering things into the new trunk Narcissa had bought Hari. The other, second-hand one she had said was no good for him. This one has charms to make it weightless, hold an immense number of books in a categorized system, and even hang his robes. So maybe Hari could have gotten it all to fit on his own, but Critter can do it faster and Hari doesn’t exactly have time.

He turns back to the mirror and finishes adjusting the Trinity knot around his neck. Narcissa insisted that he simply must arrive to King’s Cross in proper Lordling attire. When Draco and Blaise both confirmed they would be dressing similarly, Hari caved and selected a cobalt shirt, light charcoal gray tie and pants and a matching waistcoat with a cobalt handkerchief. Instead of wearing a jacket, he layers a set of breathable, dark charcoal robes over the top. With half his hair braided neatly into a top-knot, he looks almost regal.

“Will Master Hari be needing anything else?”

“Actually, yes, Critter. I need you to take the trunk and Hedwig’s cage to Malfoy Manor.” Critter has made that exact trip multiple times this summer, carrying things too large and heavy for an owl.

“Of course, Master Hari,” Critter grins and snaps his fingers, disappearing with the items. Hari walks the area once more, examining the space in case he’s forgotten anything. In the end, there’s no sign he’d even stayed over the summer. With a brief glance at the clock, he realizes it’s time to go.

Hari crosses to the door that opens into the Dursley’s house and turns the handle. Taking a deep breath, he steps out. Time to practice what Narcissa taught him about taking stairs. He lifts his chin, draws his shoulders back, and lets his arms settle at his sides, looking relaxed and confident. He takes the stairs slowly, staring not quite straight ahead, but to the side, where the sitting room is.

“Boy,” Uncle Vernon starts to growl, “what are you—“

Hari cuts him off, “I do believe we agreed that September first, at nine-thirty in the morning, you would drive me to King’s Cross Station.”

“Not dressed like that! You look like a freak!”

“Where did you even get those clothes? Did you steal them?” Aunt Petunia shrieks.

“The Potter family has stocks in many prominent wizarding companies. I have inherited these stocks and have access to a trust fund with plenty of money to afford the clothing of my choice,” Hari steps onto the landing and turns to face them, looking down the bridge of his nose through his ‘formal’ silver glasses. “Robes are the clothes of my culture and, as such, I will be wearing them. They will be unnoticeable in the car and you will not be seen with me in public, as all that is necessary is you dropping me off at the entrance. I will make my to the tracks on my own.”

Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon stare at him in shock and Dudley, who’s been whining from the kitchen about wanting cake, seems to be winding up for a tantrum and hasn’t realized Hari’s there.

“Now, see here, boy,” Uncle Vernon storms forward a few steps, but Hari doesn’t flinch back. He simply stomps down the fear and stares Uncle Vernon down.

“Should you refuse to uphold your end of the deal, I will have to inform Professor Dumbledore of the fact that you refused to house me for the summer,” Hari angles his chin disdainfully, “and speak to Lord Malfoy about your behavior.” Hari pauses to take in the spectacular shade of purple his uncle’s face is turning. “A half hour drive and you will not see me for ten months.” That cinches it, it’s written on their faces.

“I WANT CAKE!” Dudley screams from the kitchen and there’s a loud crash. Hari wrinkles his nose and darts a glance towards the entrance. It’s only Narcissa’s voice in his mind that keeps him from commenting on the immature behavior.

When you have won, say no more, or risk being stabbed in the back. Lucius had reiterated the words not hours later and they stuck with Hari.

“Get in the car,” Uncle Vernon grunts, “back seat.” Hari nods primly and makes his way outside as instructed.

The ride is uncomfortably quiet, though preferable to anything Uncle Vernon could say.

Then, it is broken by the words, “you really are rich, then?”

Hari sneers and replies in a smooth voice, “incredibly.”

“Ought to pay us back for all we’ve done for ya,” the man grumbles.

“I believe Professor Dumbledore already did so, although not a cent ever actually went towards my care,” Hari hums, “went to Dudley’s thirty-nine birthday presents, didn’t it?”

Uncle Vernon flushes red and says no more, pulling into the lot of King’s Cross Station. This time last year, he had laughed at Hari’s ticket that read ‘Platform 9 ¾.” Now, he can’t say a thing about it. Hari knows where he’s going.

“I believe Lord Malfoy will be coming to speak with you about my arrangements for next year. You can expect him in May or June. Likely, you will only need to collect me from King’s Cross on the last day of June. Other arrangements will be made for my return trip. I doubt you will ever see me again after that. One more half-hour, Uncle Vernon, and then you will see me no more,” Hari opens the door and steps out. “Somehow, it still sounds like far too long.” The door closes behind him with a click and Hari strides into the building.

He gets through the barrier without issue and finds a compartment for them, at the back of the train like last year. Then, and only then, he collapses into giggles.

“I can’t believe I said that!” His hysterical laughter continues until he hears other voices on the platform.

“I don’t see him, Mother,” Draco’s voice calls, “What if—“

“Draco!” Hari cries and darts off the train. The taller boy spins and then scoops Hari into a hug.

“I was so worried when I didn’t see you right away!” He pulls back suddenly, “oh, these clothes do suit you. Good combination, too.” The praise would be unexpected if Narcissa hadn’t been teaching Hari all summer long.

“Thank you,” Hari grins at his friend, “I like your outfit, too. Especially the knot. What’s it called?” He knows which ones Draco’s supposed use, but hasn’t got what they looked like memorized, yet. It looks incredibly similar to how Hari’s is tied.

“True Love,” Draco says self-importantly. Hari grins and studies the whole outfit. The tie is a satin white on a matching button-down with pale gray slacks and waistcoat and a set of shining silver robes. His shoes are the same gray as his slacks, gleaming in the artificial light. His handkerchief matches his tie to perfection, the stitching of his initials sticking out on the peak of the Crown fold.

“It’s a gorgeous knot,” Hari decides and Draco preens.

“Draco, Hari!” Blaise calls from across the station, towing Pansy and Daphne behind him. The girls are wearing nice, closed robes that reach the floor, Pansy’s a garnet red and Daphne’s tanzanite blue, reminiscent of their Houses’ colors. Blaise has a smooth black suit with bronze robes billowing around him and matching his tie and handkerchief, tied and folded in simple, classic styles.

“Oh, Merlin, you’ve passed on your flare for the dramatic,” Blaise groans when he sees Hari’s tie.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Draco glares.

“He means, darling, that not everyone feels the need to tie their knot specially,” Pansy rolls her eyes at Draco, “it’s ever so dramatic.”

“Well,” Hari looks down at his tie, brushing his fingers over the knot, “Narcissa taught it to me. I think it looks nice.”

The girls take their time studying Hari’s expression, then nod, leaving Blaise confused.

“That’s fine, then,” Daphne allows, “we just assumed it was Draco’s drama-queen flare that had gotten to you.”

Hari laughs, “no, no, it was the lovely Lady Malfoy.” He smiles over his shoulder at her.

“Are you all ready to board?” She asks, ignoring the flattery.

“Yes, Mother, we’re ready.”

“Very well.” Narcissa hugs each of them, starting with Draco, before sending them aboard. Hari is last. “There weren’t any issues getting here, correct?”

“No,” Hari shakes his head, “he tried to insist he wouldn’t take me, but I reminded him that if he didn’t I’d have to tell Dumbledore that I’d spent the summer elsewhere and that if he drove me, he wouldn’t see me for ten months.”

“I’ll speak with him,” Lucius sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“No need, really,” Hari tilts his head slightly, “I may have informed him that if he collects me from King’s Cross at the appropriate time next year, he wouldn’t have to see me ever again after that. I didn’t see his reaction, but I assume he was pleased.”

“If you’re sure,” Lucius allows, tilting his head slightly. “Did he say anything else?”

“He commented on how much money I have and stated that I should pay them back for supporting me.” Hari smirks, “I told him Dumbledore already had and that all that money went to Dudley, anyway. He went bright purple.”

“I’m sure he did, sweetie,” Narcissa smiles at Hari, then sends him off to the train after one more hug. “We did a good job with him, didn’t we?” She turns to smirk proudly at her husband.

“He learns quickly,” Lucius agrees, “and he wants to become the person we’re building him into.”

“Hopefully, this year will be a relaxing one for them,” Narcissa leans into Lucius’ side, “they deserve it after last year.”

“I don’t think any year could be relaxing for them so long as that fool is in the school.” Lucius twirls his cane. “I’ve requested Severus keep a closer eye on them.”

The couple makes their way back to the apparition point and, with a loud crack, they apparate away as the train leaves the station.

On the train, the children are gossiping about their summers, despite the fact they had sent dozens of letters to each other. Hari doesn’t have too much to share—all he’d done was homework and lessons—but the others have so much to respond to, it doesn’t even matter. At one point, Pansy talks about the new knives she got for a full forty-five minutes. The whole group finds themselves bored out of their minds—except Draco, who is fascinated.

“I like weapons,” Daphne mutters, “but not like them.” The three not wrapped up in discussion chuckle at the soft words. Just then, the trolley pulls up, offering them sweets. They order an inordinate amount and settle in to ruin their dinners. Which they manage to do, rather successfully.

Several hours later finds the girls stepping out to change in a separate compartment while the boys dig out their robes. Hari freezes when his hit the light.

“Draco,” he says, trying not to hyperventilate, “we’re going to need to speak to Professor Snape. And your dad.”

“Why, what’s…” Draco trails off when he sees what’s wrong. “Blaise, could you lend him one of your ties? He’ll fit better in my robes—or, you know what, maybe Daphne’s would fit better. The outer robes are unisex, after all.” Draco hums and then slips out of the compartment.

“Dumbledore is so messed up,” Blaise grumbles, handing a spare tie to Hari. Draco returns with a robe from Daphne, close enough to the correct size to pass. Hari puts the items on gratefully, burying the red, Gryffindor robes in his trunk. Maybe they’ll change back once they get to the dorms.

Chapter Text

When they enter for the Welcoming Feast, the group is tense and practically vibrating with anxiety.

“Gemma!” Draco calls to the sixth year prefect. She whips around, concerned at the fear in his voice. Draco’s very good at hiding his fear, after all.

“Malfoy? Is something wrong?”

“I need to speak to Professor Snape. We need to speak to him. It’s absolutely vital,” Draco is trying not to let his voice tremble, but Hari, after spending so much time with the boy, knows his friend too well to not hear it. He wishes he could reassure Draco, but he’s too frightened himself to manage.

“Alright, take a few deep breaths, I’ll let him know.” It wouldn’t be unusual for a prefect to step up and speak to their Head of House, but it would be for a general student, so they’re trapped waiting for Gemma to relay their message. Finally, Professor Snape’s eyes flash to Hari. A safe assumption, given that Hari is usually the one in trouble. He rises, offers an excuse to one of the other teachers, and strides to the table.

“Come with me,” he orders as he stalks past, not giving them a moment to process before he’s out the door. They scurry after, racing past the tense first years.

“Now, someone explain what’s going on.”

“My robes, sir,” Hari starts, twisting his fingers. Professor Snape interrupts with a deep sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“If this is all about a set of robes…” He lets them fill in the rest, making the five all the more tense.

“It’s not, sir!” Daphne cries, “something’s really wrong. When Hari was changing into his uniform, he pulled his robes out and they had the Gryffindor patch!”

“Wait here,” Professor Snape orders, pointing to a table. “Tilly!” A house elf appears. “See that they get dinner, the same as the feast, please. I don’t know how long this will take.” And then he’s gone, leaving them with the little elf bustling about to get them fed.

“What in Merlin’s name is going on?” Blaise whispers. Pansy twirls her bread knife between her fingers idly. Hari just stares blankly at the plate of food in front of him, unable to make himself eat.

“I don’t know,” Draco says with the air of a spoiled brat, “but just wait until my Father hears about this!” For whatever reason, this breaks the tension in the room. Perhaps because Hari believes it. Lucius will handle everything, fix everything, just as soon as he finds out what’s happening.

They dig into their food, still quiet and nervous, but able to eat, at the very least. It’s a full hour and a half before Professor Snape sweeps back into the room, robes billowing behind him.

“Yesterday, at the staff meeting,” he begins, “you, Mr. Potter, were still on my student roster. In fact, you still are. But, interestingly enough, you are also on Professor McGonagall’s as of an hour before the feast.”

“What does that mean?” Hari asks, voice quivering all too obviously.

“It is impossible for a student to have more than one House,” Professor Snape says, not answering the question. “So I went and checked the dorms, where your bed and trunk were noticeably absent. Professor McGonagall did the same and reported that your things were, indeed, in the Gryffindor dormitory. As it stands, your House cannot be changed from your first year. It simply is against the rules. Therefore, whatever Dumbledore is attempting to do, it will not work.”

“He’s trying to separate Hari from us!” Blaise shouts, “because he doesn’t want Hari in Slytherin because he hates Slytherin and thinks we’re all Death Eaters and for whatever reason, he thinks You-Know-Who is going to come back from the dead!”

“And, as those of us in this room know,” Professor Snape speaks in a soothing voice, “that is impossible, as all the Horcruxes were handled by Hari, the Malfoys, and myself last year. Therefore, it is prudent to question what Dumbledore thinks he is doing. I presume, Mr. Potter, that you made it quite clear you had no wish to be re-Sorted, if such thing truly existed?”

“On multiple occasions,” Hari confirms.

“In that case,” Professor Snape allows Professor McGonagall into the room.

“Mr. Potter,” she nods politely to him, “I apologize for the confusion.”

“It’s not your fault, Professor,” Hari sighs.

“Yes, well,” Professor McGonagall shoots Professor Snape an unreadable look, “the fact remains that you must sleep somewhere tonight and your dormitory does not have a bed for you.”

“No!” Draco shrieks, forgetting all decorum and latching onto Hari. Professor McGonagall looks taken aback, but Professor Snape doesn’t even bat an eye as Draco continues to argue. “No! He’s a Slytherin! He cannot sleep up there! He can sleep in my bed, with me! We have sleepovers all the time and he stays at my house for the holidays and it wouldn’t be the first time we shared a bed. It’ll only be for a night or two, right? That’s definitely fine.”

“The school cannot allow that, Mr. Malfoy,” Professor McGonagall says gently. “It is mandatory that each student be provided a bed.”

“Is there anywhere else I could sleep?” Hari sees the looks on the professors’ faces and continues before they can say it, “aside from Gryffindor Tower?”

“I suppose,” Professor Snape muses, “that the extra bed in the fourth year’s dorm could be a viable option for just a few nights.”

“Really?” Hari perks up alongside the others, then slumps in relief, “thank you, sir.”

“We will see to everything else tomorrow,” Professor McGonagall decides, and shoos them from the room. “Your trunk will be there for you once you arrive.”

Slightly unsettled from the events, the group makes their way down to the dungeons.

“You don’t mind if I borrow your robe tomorrow, do you?” Hari asks Daphne.

“Not at all,” Daphne promises, “and I’ll teach you a freshening charm in the morning so it’ll be good as new.”

“Hey, Potter,” one of the fourth year boys calls when they enter the common room, “any reason your trunk is in our room?”

“Yeah, there was a mix up. We were gone from the feast trying to fix it. Professor Snape is working on it,” Hari replies. These boys aren’t on his list of trustworthy people (a very short list, indeed, and one Professor McGonagall may find herself on soon), so no way do they need to know what’s fully going on.

“Are you going to double up in your dorm or sleep in ours?”

Hari makes brief eye contact with Draco before saying, “double in mine, but I’ll need to get some of my things.”

“It’s open,” the boy gestures with a sharp nod. Hari smiles gratefully and darts over, tugging a pair of warm, cashmere pajamas out with his toiletries. Draco and Pansy may have splurged a bit on Hari’s clothes this year, but, to be fair, his trust fund only has to last him another year, so it’s almost understandable.

The newly-minted second years gather on Draco’s bed in the new room (identical to their old one, if missing one bed).

“So, what are we going to do?”

“For tonight?” Hari yawns, “we’re going to sleep. And in the morning, we’ll see the Professors and they’ll help. And Professor Snape is probably getting your father, Draco, so that’ll help, too.”

“But what if—“ Draco starts and Hari shakes his head.

“The problem with Sorting is the whole school is watching, so re-Sorting quietly doesn’t exactly work. The whole school would know about it. And since re-Sorting is against the rules, except in cases with substantial physical safety concerns with evidence, he broke the rules. Also, it should’ve been done with the hat. He cannot just arbitrarily pick a House for a student to live in.”

“How do you know all that?” Pansy’s eyes are wide like the others’ and Hari sighs, sending them a droll look.

“‘Earl of Gryffindor, Duke of Slytherin, Heir Hogwarts,’” he says dryly, “Lucius thought it beneficial I know all Hogwarts’ rules, so I’ve read the charter.” He winces and adds, “multiple times.”

“Oh, right,” Blaise mutters, “we always forget about that.”

“As you’re supposed to,” Hari points out, “my titles don’t matter yet, I’m not thirteen. Until I can use them against Dumbledore…”

“You remain Heir Potter and Heir Black,” Blaise echoes. “Right, we know, it’s just stupid. You should be able to do something, a few months shouldn’t mean all this…” He waves his arms around, “chaos.”

“No, it shouldn’t,” Draco agrees, “but it’s Dumbledore, so it does. Now, come on, we’re all tired and attempting to brainstorm tonight isn’t going to do us any good.”

“We’re up later than we’re supposed to be, anyway,” Daphne says and they split up for the night.

When Hari wakes up in the morning, it’s to Blaise giggling over them and Draco’s arms clutching him like a teddy bear.

“Hush,” Hari tries to glare at Blaise, but from his position and with his bleary gaze, it doesn’t exactly work. He extracts himself from Draco’s arms and gently shakes the other boy awake.

“No, too ‘rly,” Draco grumbles into his pillow.

“Do you want me to be moved to Gryffindor?” That gets Draco up, though it does earn Hari an icy glare.

“Go get dressed, we’re solving this today,” Draco orders the two of them and Blaise and Hari roll their eyes at him, but do as told.

“Maybe it’ll get us out of a day of classes,” Blaise muses to Hari as they move to the bathroom. Hari snorts, but doesn’t say anything aloud. He’s not entirely certain going through this stress is worth it for only a day off class.

A half hour later, they’ve met up with the girls and are waiting in Professor Snape’s office.

“All of you, follow me, please,” Professor Snape finally says and they trail along like a line of ducklings. “If he offers you a sweet, do not accept,” he warns just before they reach the Headmaster’s office. “In fact, if he offers you any sort of food, do not accept. And if you wish to keep your secrets, do not maintain eye contact.”

Only Draco seems to understand the last bit, but Hari can at least get that it’s likely Dumbledore laces his sweets with potions. Veritaserum, Hari assumes, not enough to detect, but enough to make it hard to lie.

“Ice Mice,” Professor Snape announces to a gargoyle statue and it moves aside, revealing a staircase. Professor McGonagall arrives as they start to follow Professor Snape up.

“Severus, my boy, what a lovely surprise,” Dumbledore’s voice drifts down to Hari through the door. “Oh, and you brought students,” He smiles at the group, “not in trouble already, are we?” The children glare and wait. Dumbledore notices Hari’s clothes, then. “Harry, my boy, it seems you got the wrong uniform. Let me help you.” He raises his hands to do something, but Hari stops him.

No, this is the correct uniform,” Hari sneers, “it seems there’s been a mix-up.” Professor McGonagall’s eyes widen at Hari’s frigid tone. “My bed has vanished from the Slytherin dorm and somehow found its way to the Gryffindor dorm. If you’d be so kind as to see that it returns to its proper place tonight before bed, that’d be much appreciated.”

“But, my boy, you’re in Gryffindor now, I had you re-Sorted,” Dumbledore claps his hands once, eyes twinkling and a joyous smile on his face, “Isn’t it great? You can be with your friends, now!”

“Headmaster,” Professor McGonagall steps forward, “I have never heard of such a thing as re-Sorting. And I must say, I do not know of these friends you claim Hari has in Gryffindor. His friends are the Slytherins you see here.”

“No, no, he has friends in Gryffindor, I assure you,” Dumbledore attempts to say, “why don’t we discuss this? Would anyone like a lemon drop or some tea?” They all deny him and Hari realizes with a start that there must also be compulsion potions in the lemon drops.

“Mr. Potter is not a Gryffindor,” Professor Snape snarls, “I can assure you of that. After all, I harbored him in my House last year. He fits in quite well and spends all his time with the others in his year. He would certainly not have time to make and maintain ‘secret friendships’ that I do not know about.”

Dumbledore opens his mouth to argue, but Hari cuts him off, confident in his knowledge and supported by Draco’s hand on is back and Daphne’s gentle fingers on his wrist.

“Headmaster, re-Sorting is only an option in cases of severe physical safety concerns backed up with mass amounts of evidence,” Hari tilts his head, the curls framing his face making him appear innocent, “Do you have evidence of such a concern that I have no knowledge of? I find it rather hard to believe that someone could not know of evidence supporting concerns for their own safety.”

“Well, Harry,” Dumbledore leans back, trying not to look smug and failing, “You saw Madam Pomfrey quite a bit last year. Some of those injuries were quite serious.”

“And quite old,” Hari agrees, tone chilling even further, “After all, the only injuries I sustained here were in Quidditch practice and with Professor Quirrell at the end of the year. A few minor bruises and some exhaustion that I slept off. Any other injuries Madam Pomfrey helped me with were from before my arrival at Hogwarts.”

“Ah,” Dumbledore says, flames flaring in his eyes, “Well, then you have no concerns for your safety, then?”

“None,” Hari denies. “And you knew this, given the number of times I informed you I did not wish to change Houses last year.” Dumbledore feigns chargin but Hari can see the tension of anger underneath, has seen it enough when he’s out with Uncle Vernon. He leans back into Draco’s hand and feels Blaise’s rise to join it.

“That is true,” Dumbledore concedes, “I only did what I thought was right.”

Hari fights not to roll his eyes and replies, “and yet, you did not even bother to have me re-Sorted, you simply decided that Gryffindor would be the best for me and placed me there.”

“And you feel Gryffindor would not suit you?”

“Ravenclaw would be my second choice,” Hari confirms.

“And your first choice would be?” Dumbledore leans forward, like somehow in the last thirty seconds, Hari’s opinion has changed.

“Slytherin.” This is the only moment Hari dares make eye contact with Dumbledore, the word echoing through is mind. But the instant is brief and Hari returns his gaze to Dumbledore’s eyebrows.

“I will… make the proper adjustments,” Dumbledore sighs and folds his hands across his stomach. Hari tilts his chin to look down his nose at the man and waits. When Dumbledore doesn’t move, Hari huffs internally and speaks.

“Now, please.” No way is he leaving to let Dumbledore do whatever it is he’s planning now.

With a burning glare, Dumbledore opens a drawer and withdraws a parchment. A minute or so later, a house elf appears.

“Mister Hari Potter’s things is being in Slytherin second year dorms with his bed. Is Headmaster Dumbledore needing anything else?”

“No,” Dumbledore waves the elf off. “If that is all?” The group starts to leave when Dumbledore calls out once more, “Ah, Harry, may I have a brief word with you?”

“Not without my Head of House present, if that’s what you mean.” Dumbledore’s rage peaks and the flames in his eyes roar. Hari clutches Daphne’s hand tighter and turns, leading the group down the steps.

“Thank you for your help,” Professor Snape says to Professor McGonagall when the gargoyle has blocked the steps again.

“Let us hope it will not be necessary again,” she nods to Professor Snape and then takes her leave.

“You five, to my office. I, luckily, do not have a first hour class today,” Professor Snape smirks, “I will write your excuses to the rest of the professors.”

“You’re going to excuse us from the whole day?” Hari asks.

“You have yet to have breakfast and it has been quite the stressful time. Besides that, you were supposed to have a check-up with Madam Pomfrey today. And I highly doubt I could excuse you from class and expect the others to attend,” he gives them a disapproving look, but it’s soft and fond. They return to his office.

“That was easier to solve than I thought,” Hari says once they’re all seated. Pansy, the only one who couldn’t display her support in Dumbledore’s office, is curled around Hari. “I expected he’d put up more of a fight.”

“I did as well,” Professor Snape agrees, “although there is one problem.”

“What?”

“Anyone in the Gryffindor dorms would have seen a bed with your name on it.”

“Oh, no,” Draco groans.

“Why is that bad?” Hari asks.

“You put up a fight to not be in Gryffindor and they all know it,” Blaise explains, “so they’ll be offended.”

“It’s like you said they’re not good enough for you,” Pansy adds.

“And,” Daphne continues, “they’re Gryffindors. So they’ll lash out rather obviously.”

“So the whole school is going to know about it,” Hari sighs.

“And therein lies the problem,” Professor Snape concludes. “Eat your breakfast, unpack, and relax for the rest of today,” he orders, “you can deal with the rest tomorrow.”

And that’s how they spent the first day of classes cuddled up on Hari’s bed, listening to Draco read and amusing themselves with little games. Daphne takes the opportunity to teach Hari several freshening spells—one for breath, one for clothes, one to prevent body odor—as well as one to style his hair. It makes it so he doesn’t have to know how to style his hair by hand, but rather simply be able to envision the look he wants and cast the spell. And he never has to worry about losing hair bands and pins ever again.

Chapter Text

Hari appeases Daphne the next morning by leaving his hair mostly down, only a thin braid hanging where his bangs should be to keep them out of his eyes. When he pulls out his uniform, it’s the appropriate green and the ties match. But as good as the day starts, it doesn’t continue.

“Too good for us are you, Potter?” Weasley—the youngest—yells through the halls.

“I’m sorry?” Hari turns slowly to glare at the other boy. “What did I do?”

“There was a bed with your name on it in Gryffindor yesterday and now, it’s gone.”

“Well, of course it is, I’m in Slytherin, not Gryffindor,” Hari tilts his head as if confused. “What does that have to do with me thinking I’m too good for you?”

“Couldn’t even spend one night in the tower? What, decide sleeping on the floor was better?” The hallway has gone silent, everyone watching the altercation. Hari takes a slow, deep breath and lets it out as he crosses to stand in front of Ron.

“Would you have wanted a Slytherin in Gryffindor Tower?” he asks. Weasley blanches and Hari continues, “With this kind of hostility, would I have even been safe spending the night in the same dorm as you? And, for your information, I did not spend the night on the floor. The boys in the fourth year dorms were kind enough to lend me their spare bed.” Not that he used it, but that secret will stay within Slytherin House forever.

“I’m not being hostile!” Weasley shouts in Hari’s face, turning red.

“Hostile means unfriendly, antagonistic, or aggressive. You are yelling at me in an attempt to start a fight. That doesn’t strike me as friendly, starting a fight is antagonistic, and yelling is aggressive.”

“You’re just a stupid, pampered, spoiled brat! What, the wizards that raised you not give you enough and now you have to have your snakes buy you everything?” That came out of nowhere, Hari thinks to himself, signaling subtly to Blaise and Daphne to hold Draco and Pansy back so he can handle it.

“First of all, I grew up with muggles. Secondly, I was not spoiled or pampered, but raised rather regularly. Thirdly, I have bought everything with my own money. I was left a rather large trust fund, you know, so there’s no need to ‘make’ my friends buy me anything,” Hari smiles over his shoulder at them, “though they are very good at picking out birthday gifts.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, then the muggles aren’t good enough for you?” Weasley sneers and suddenly, there’s a tension there wasn’t before.

“Did I say that?” Hari asks, “The muggles who raised me are rather unremarkable and I would say I learned a lot from living without magic. However, I do much prefer this world. It’s incredible, you know, how different wizarding and muggle homes are. Is it so wrong to prefer to live in the world I fit into best?” These words sway the listening crowd to Hari’s side, Ravenclaws looking on with respect and Hufflepuffs with understanding. The Slytherins look smug and the Gryffindors—aside from Weasley and his lackeys, Thomas and Finnigan—seem impressed.

“You never talk about being raised muggle,” Weasley scrambles, “you must be ashamed of it.”

“Are you saying being raised muggle is something to be ashamed of?” Hari asks and people around them snicker, “If you ever have questions, I’d be happy to answer them. However, I’d imagine my experiences aren’t any different than the other muggleborns in our year. Like, oh, Granger. You could ask her—or, wait, you were so cruel to her there’s no way she’d ever speak to you. Say, Weasley, are you still bullying her?”

Weasley gapes like a fish for several moments before racing off, Thomas and Finnigan on his heels. Hari returns to his group and the halls fill with the sounds of students chattering again.

“Well done, Hari,” Draco giggles, “that was better than yesterday!”

Hari rolls his eyes, “what is your fascination with me showing people up?”

“You just make it look so natural and effortless,” Pansy sighs, “I wish I could.”

“It probably helps that you don’t actively insult them,” Daphne adds, “you just imply it.”

“It’s pretty cool to watch,” Blaise agrees. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees someone shake their head, hair going everywhere, and turns to see Granger starting to walk away.

“Hang on, guys,” he murmurs, then raises his voice, “Granger!” He says it only loud enough for her to hear, not attracting the attention of the entire corridor like Weasley did.

“Potter,” she replies, shifting uncomfortably.

“Sorry for dragging you into it,” Hari apologizes, “I just really wanted to get him to stop.”

“No, it’s alright, that was really amazing,” Granger smiles.

“He won’t be worse to you because of it, will he?” Hari frets, but knows the answer already. Weasley will definitely take his anger out on her.

“Maybe,” Granger shrugs, “but I’ll be fine. If anything, he’ll need to lay off for a few days until this blows over. So I get a few days Weasley-free.” She smiles at the thought.

“Good, I’m glad, but if he tries anything, let me know, okay?” Hari notices something in her hair, “hold still a second.” He gently plucks the bit of lint from the wild, frizzy curls and studies the hair for a moment.

“Oh, thank you.”

“Mmhmm,” he hums, then asks, “would you allow me to do a spell on you? To pull back your hair?”

“Oh, well…” She hesitates.

“If you don’t like it, I’ll undo it right away,” he promises and she nods tentatively.

“Come on, Hari,” Blaise calls, impatient.

“One second,” Hari replies and lifts his wand. With a wave and quiet murmur, her hair twists up into a series of braids that corral every strand down into two low buns.

“Oh,” Granger fingers one of the buns for a moment, then looks into the glass of a case nearby to see her reflection, “this looks wonderful, thank you.”

“No problem,” Hari smiles, “I’ll teach it to you later, if you like. We’ll be in the library for an hour or two after dinner, come find us. I’m sure Daphne wouldn’t mind helping you select some potions for your hair, too.”

“Potions? I don’t need to change it…”

“No, no, like shampoo and conditioner. It’s just called potions. Well, and it works better,” Hari explains.

“I’ll find you, I definitely want the spell,” she glances at the Slytherins, “you should go, we’re going to be late.”

They go their separate ways and the ordeal is forgotten until after dinner, when Hari realizes he should warn the others she’s coming.

“About earlier,” Hari sets his quill down. “I told Granger I’d teach her the spell, so she’s going to find us sometime soon, I’d expect.”

“Hari,” Draco whines, “why?”

“Because I did her hair for her and she wanted the spell? I think she’s still using muggle shampoo, too, so I told her that if she asked, you might help her pick the right potions, Daphne.” He’s sure to grimace apologetically.

“The right potions will make her hair wavy, I think,” Daphne drums her fingers, “you’re lucky I carry my catalogues with me. And that I’ve been itching to fix her hair for a while now.”

“I’m sorry for making assumptions,” Hari offers, “but I’m not sorry for offering to help her. She seems pretty isolated to me and a little kindness goes a long way.”

“Bleeding heart,” Draco rolls his eyes, but smiles fondly at Hari.

“I want to know how he can go from tearing Weasley apart like he did to being the sweetest kid on the block in seconds,” Blaise declares, “because that’s not a fair power to have without sharing.”

“I don’t know,” Hari holds up his hands, “I just… do it.”

“Ugh,” Blaise grumbles, “maybe I should convince Lady Malfoy to give me lessons.”

“Lady Malfoy’s been giving who lessons?” Theo asks as he slips into a seat.

Hari smiles at him, “she gave me etiquette lessons over the summer and Lord Malfoy continued my political lessons, too.”

“I have to say, I’m jealous,” Theo admits, “Lord and Lady Malfoy are enviable teachers.”

“I’ve learned quite a bit from both of them,” Hari agrees.

“Um,” Granger’s voice comes from just behind Hari, “Sorry, am I interrupting?” She looks and sounds more nervous than Hari had expected. In class, she’s confident and ready to share her answers. Honestly, she’s a bit of a know-it-all in classes. But here, it’s like she has no backbone. Stupid Weasley, Hari thinks.

“It’s alright, come sit, we were just catching up on our summers since we haven’t seen Theo yet,” he gestures to a chair near him. “Granger, this is Draco Malfoy, Daphne Greengrass, Pansy Parkinson, Theodore Nott, and Blaise Zabini.”

She sits slowly, settling her bag at her feet. There’s uncomfortable silence for a moment, then Hari raises an eyebrow at the others. They shift into a random conversation and Hari smiles at Granger.

“All you really need for the spell is to be able to imagine the hair-do you want,” he tells her. “The spell is schema capillum and this is the wand movement.” He twists his wand in a little spiral over his face in slight demonstration. “The usual finite works to let your hair down, too.”

“Like this?” She mimics the motion back to him and seems pleased when he approves. Learning spells, it seems, is something she is comfortable with. Some of the tension in her shoulders is gone. “Would you mind if I try it here? Just in case something goes wrong?”

“Go right ahead,” he waves a hand, “I’ll end my spell, first.” He casts a quick finite and her hair returns to the poof it was before. She tugs at it with a little sigh, then readies her wand.

“Maybe just simple braids for the first try,” Granger murmurs to herself, then casts the spell confidently. The braids aren’t perfect, coming out just a little crooked and loose, but they’re better than what he’s seen her manage by hand.

“Good job,” Hari praises, “just try to make the image in your head as clear and perfect as possible. It might be best if you focus on not imagining a hairdo you’ve used before,” he suggests, “just until you get the hang of it. Otherwise, you’ll be picturing what it looked like without magic.”

Her eyes go wide and she nods frantically, ending the spell without a second thought. Then she lifts her wand and casts. Her hair ends up pulled into a gorgeous bun that Hari’s sure he’s seen Daphne wear before.

“Exactly like that,” he approves. “It looks wonderful on you.”

“You done with her, Hari?” Daphne asks. “Oh, wow, you got that fast.” Daphne studies the bun atop Granger’s head, then grins. “I like it. I think I’ve done that one before. It’s cute. Now, come on, let’s get you some potions so you can leave your hair down sometimes. And don’t worry, Hari’s hair was hopeless before we got to him, too.”

“I wish I could be offended, but that’s absolutely true.” The group laughs and Granger stares in shock. Hari explains, “you might not remember it, but I had short hair the day of the Welcoming Feast in first year. It was a disaster. We grew it out the next day at Daphne’s behest and the rest is history.”

“Oh, I’d totally forgotten that!” Granger gasps.

“Good, let’s keep it that way,” Hari deadpans and the group laughs again.

“It’s easy to do when your hair looks so nice now,” Theo assures him. Daphne drags Granger into a conversation about her hair and makes her end the spell so she can inspect it properly. Hari gets swept up into conversation with Theo.

“So Lord Malfoy really taught you all summer? Did you see Draco a lot?”

“He did, but he came to me,” Hari sighs, “so I didn’t see Draco at all. Lady Malfoy came to teach me every morning and Lord Malfoy visited every other afternoon.” Hari smiles, remembering Lady Malfoy’s visits. “Although Lady Malfoy didn’t just teach me, she also acted as my Mind Healer. She’s really an amazing witch.”

“Did she use legilimency or was it full Mind Healing?”

“Full Mind Healing over the summer, but she did use legilimency one of the last days of summer, since I won’t be able to see her until Yule break.”

“Hm, and you said she gave you etiquette lessons as well? I never did enjoy those.”

“It was somewhat dull,” Hari agrees, “but it was more interesting for me since I’d never heard of most of it before. I had no clue there were so many ways to tie a tie and I definitely couldn’t dance before I met her.”

“I suppose if you’d never learned it before, it wouldn’t be as bad. They just end up getting repetitive,” Theo groans, “and my father insists on more lessons every summer. I wish he would give me politics lessons instead. I’ll have need of them soon enough, anyway.”

“You’ll be old enough to attend Wizengamot sessions soon, correct?”

“My birthday is in November, so I’ll be able to sit in on the final December session and first January session over Yule break.”

“My birthday’s not until March,” Blaise groans, “after Ostara break, so I don’t get to start attending until summer.”

“Oh,” Daphne glances over with a little squeal, “I get to start over Ostara break!”

“Your father finally made up his mind?” Draco asks.

“Finally,” Daphne huffs, “took him long enough. But Mother isn’t pregnant and a Healer said it was unlikely she would have any more children, so Father had to.”

“Congratulations,” Hari offers with a bright grin. Granger looks dangerously confused.

“Why would thirteen year olds get to sit in on Wizengamot sessions?”

“Well,” Pansy starts, “we’re all set to inherit a seat from our families, except Hari, who technically already has his. Thirteen is the age you can officially claim your seat, so Heirs are allowed to come to sessions as soon as they’re old enough to fully inherit. And I get to start over Yule break, too,” she informs Theo.

“I thought it was like Parliament, that members are elected?”

“Some are, but there’s just a few. There’s several seats that belong to the Heads of Departments in the Ministry, and the Minister himself has a seat, too. But primarily, the seats are passed through the Noble Houses,” Draco lectures.

“There should be a class on this,” Granger mutters, “I have too many questions.” She raises her voice again, “so it’s like inheriting a title, then?”

“It is inheriting a title,” Draco corrects, “Our parents are Lords and Ladies.” Granger freezes at this. “You have more questions, don’t you?” Draco asks. Granger only nods.

“We shouldn’t be having this conversation in the library,” Theo warns.

“No, let’s go to the room Mother showed us,” Draco suggests.

“That’s a good place,” Hari agrees quickly. “Follow us.”

“Where are we going?” Granger asks as she scampers to keep up. The group is hurrying up the stairs to the seventh floor.

“It’s a secret room on the seventh floor that we won’t be eavesdropped on in.”

“That’s something you’re worried about?”

“There’s a reason Dumbledore removed the culture classes from the Hogwarts curriculum,” Pansy informs her in a low voice. Granger shuts up at that. They reach the room and Hari hurries to conjure one that has comfortable seating for their conversation.

“Here,” he says, opening the door and letting the others in. The door vanishes behind them and the room won’t open until they choose to leave.

“What is this place?” Granger wonders in awe.

“The Room of Requirement or the Come and Go Room, depending on who you ask,” Draco tells her. “Come sit so we can explain.”

“You said Dumbledore took that stuff out of the curriculum, why would he do that?”

“We don’t know why, but he doesn’t like that we’re technically an oligarchy,” Blaise says, “even though we do have some elected seats.”

“Well…”

“Yes, we know, everyone is entitled to an opinion on politics and government and it’s absolutely alright that he dislikes the one we have,” Theo interrupts, “but that doesn’t mean he should just be able to remove classes that teach about it and simultaneously ignore our entire culture.”

“You’ve said that before, that he ignores your culture. What do you mean? It doesn’t seem to different to me.”

Our culture,” Daphne corrects, “and it is different, among the groups who finished schooling before Dumbledore removed the classes. He’s been diluting our culture since he became Headmaster in a very, very subtle bid for power, according to my father.”

“It’s working,” Pansy points out, “he’s Chief Warlock and Supreme Mugwump and is in charge of the future generation. He’s got tons of power and we can’t stop him.”

“If you imagine an almost Victorian era culture, that’s what it seems most similar to,” Hari says, “it’s very formal, very polite. It’s pretty prevalent in Slytherin, since almost everyone is either a pureblood or half-blood.”

“So you have to act a specific way?”

“It’s really just about respect,” Draco explains. “If you’re having a party, you stay in the entrance foyer until all the guests have arrived so you can greet them all. You introduce yourself a certain way and, among the Lords and Ladies, there’s a hierarchy that often comes with bowing and deference. But for normal, everyday people, all it really does is demand that you are polite.”

“And we don’t shake hands the same way,” Blaise adds. “We’ve learned to adapt for muggleborns, but if two purebloods were to greet each other, they would clasp wrists, just above the cuff of the robe, to prove you don’t have a hidden wand.”

“And you should always carry your wand in a holster,” Pansy says.

“Never cast a spell on someone without requesting permission,” Daphne includes

“While we don’t observe all the rules in private, if we were having this conversation in an area our parents could see, we would all be behaving differently,” Theo informs her.

“How so?” They all shift, so they’re sitting differently. Their ankles are crossed and the girls have folded their hands over their knees while the boys rest them along their thighs.

“We sit like this. Hari would have sat down first, then Draco, then Daphne, myself, Pansy, and Blaise. You would have sat down last.”

“We wouldn’t be sitting in these spots, either,” Draco points out. “It’s a table and we have an odd number, so Hari would sit at the head, with me to the right and Daphne to the left. Theo next to me and Pansy next to Daphne. Blaise would sit next to Theo and you would sit by Pansy.” As it is, Hari is curled up in the seat between Blaise and Draco with Pansy and Daphne flanking Hermione and Theo at the head.

“That’s…”

“And we’d have to address each other differently and we wouldn’t be able to just jump in and answer questions. They’d need to be addressed to someone or delegated by Hari,” Blaise says, chuckling when Hari crinkles his nose.

“So, Potter’s family is at the top of the hierarchy, then?”

“Yes and no,” Hari says, “In this room, Potter does have Primacy. In general, my family is towards the top, yes, but it’s the number of titles I hold that places me at the top, rather than my actual family line.”

“This is the part where you have to swear secrecy or we cannot tell you more,” Draco cuts in.

“I swear, I won’t tell anyone,” Granger promises automatically.

“Good,” Draco smiles at her. There’s a ripple effect from her words.

“Pleased to meet you, Miss Hermione Granger,” Blaise smiles, “I’m Heir Blaise Matteo Zabini, Heir to House Zabini.”

“Heir Pansy Thea Parkinson, Heir to House Parkinson.”

“Heir Theodore Thaddeus Nott, Heir to House Nott.”

“Heir Daphne Astra Greengrass, Heir to House Greengrass.”

“Heir Draco Lucius Malfoy, Heir to House Malfoy.”

There’s a pause, as there always is before Hari introduces himself. Granger watches expectantly.

“Lord Hari James Potter,” Granger sucks in a breath, “Lord of House Potter, Baron of House Peverell and of House Black, Earl of Gryffindor, Duke of Slytherin, Heir to Hogwarts, and Count of House Gaunt.” Granger simply stares for a moment, then blinks and collects herself.

“You’re already a Lord?”

“Lordling, if you want to be picky,” Hari tells her, “I’ve around eleven months before I can officially take my seat on the Wizengamot. It’s the reason that Lords and Ladies don’t have to bow to me yet, technically. Some still do.”

“They’re making inroads,” Pansy chuckles.

“Or trying to, at least,” Theo corrects.

“So they address you as Lordling, then?”

“Yes,” Hari nods once, firmly, “I should be addressed as Lordling Potter while the others would be ‘Heir’ followed by their surname.”

“Is Dumbledore the reason your titles aren’t used?”

Draco raises an eyebrow, “he is.”

“He’s erasing your culture,” Granger whispers, then seems to get angry. “That’s just so wrong!” Blaise looks shocked—it was no secret he isn’t a fan of muggleborns, but Hari knows that’s because he’s always blamed them for the dilution of culture. “You know, if the classes were reinstated and your titles were used, it’s likely that within a few years, things would return mostly to normal.”

“You’re upset that he got rid of it?” Daphne asks tentatively.

“Of course! This world is entirely separate from the muggle one and shouldn’t be expected to behave the exact same way! I wouldn’t go to Japan and expect them to change their behavior for me, I’d change my behavior for them,” Granger explains.

“I like her,” Hari murmurs to Draco.

“She’s not as bad as I was expecting,” Draco allows.

“Any more questions?” Theo asks Granger.

“Not off the top of my head. If I have more, can I ask you, though?”

“Of course! We’re friends now, aren’t we?” Daphne smiles at her.

“We are?” Granger seems shocked.

“Hari likes you,” Blaise explains, like it actually answers the question instead of stirring up more.

“Can I call you Hermione?” Hari asks and Hermione nods immediately. “You can call me Hari.” The others introduce themselves by first name alone, as well.

“I’m just Theo, but I don’t hang out with this group often, so you probably won’t see me too much.”

“You had something you wanted to talk to me about, didn’t you, Theo?” Hari turns to the boy.

“We already went over it,” Theo says.

“So, the hard conversations are over?” Pansy heaves a sigh of relief. “I need some tea.”

Hari tilts his head, “the room doesn’t provide food and it’s after dinner. Could I call Critter here?”

“House elves will come to Hogwarts,” Draco muses, “as you know, but I’m not certain about this room.

“What’s a house elf?”

“Okay, Hari, first thing you do when you take over, re-instate those culture classes. Please,” Pansy groans, then turns to Hermione, “a house elf is a creature that survives off the magic of the family it’s bonded to. In return, they cook and clean and generally assist the family.”

“They help around the house and in return get magic?”

“Basically,” Pansy nods. “They’re really happy little guys. They love helping people. Don’t freak, but giving them clothes is how you sever the bond, so Critter will be wearing a pillowcase.”

“You sever the bond by giving them clothes?” Hermione looks horrified.

“No one’s really sure why that works, but it does. So, to avoid accidentally severing it, they wear pillowcases or other altered items. Usually pillowcases, though.”

“It’s easier to show you,” Hari cuts off her next question. “Critter!”

There’s a loud crack and Critter is on the table, “Master Hari needs something?”

“We need tea for seven,” Hari says, “and would you mind telling Hermione,” Hari gestures to the girl, “how you feel about working for a wizarding family?”

“Critter loves the Potterses, Miss,” the house elf scampers over to her, “Critter is missing the Potterses when they is gone, but Master Hari is back and Critter is happy to help! Critter is missing having wizards to look after when the Potterses is gone.”

“Thank you, Critter,” Hermione smiles at him and he snaps his fingers, vanishing to get the tea. “It sounded an awful lot like slavery,” she says sadly, “but if they’re all like that, then it isn’t, I guess?”

“It’s a mutual symbiotic relationship,” Hari says, remembering learning about that in one of his muggle classes, “they get magic and the run of a house and we get general help.”

Hermione ponders this for a long minute, then nods sharply, “that makes sense. It’s not one side taking advantage of the other.”

“No,” Draco shakes his head, “and there’s laws to protect the elves, too. They’re kind of dated, though.” He looks to Hari. “We should probably see to updating those.”

“Someday,” Hari agrees, “we have bigger problems first.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, what holiday would you be celebrating at home?” Hari asks, studying the pumpkin decorations on the ceiling.

“Samhain,” Draco says after swallowing a mouthful of candy, “but it’s not super different. Both deal with death and spirits. At home, we’d light a bonfire, eat good food and the adults drink alcohol. We honor the dead with altars. We eat apples and roast hazelnuts and trick-or-treat.”

“Samhain and All Saint’s Day combined to make Halloween,” Blaise explains, “so they’re pretty similar. Most families just celebrate Halloween with a little remembrance of the dead included.”

“That’s makes this easy,” Hari grins cheekily, earning a poke in the ribs from Draco.

“Nothing freaky better happen tonight,” Daphne grumbles, “I’d like to avoid any Samhain adventures, thank you.”

Pansy rolls her eyes and they dig into the feast. Afterwards, they make their way to Professor Snape’s potions room for their politics lessons. Usually, the lesson would be at five, before dinner, but Lucius was busy, so they changed just for the feast. The lessons had picked up where they left off at the end of the year last year, meaning the lessons for the last two months have been rather boring for everyone, since they’d already learned it. Hari doesn’t mind too much, though; better to be bored during a lesson than not remember something when it’s important.

“There you all are,” Lucius says when they enter. “How does everyone feel about going over how to write up your own bill?”

“Sounds interesting,” Hari chimes, earning a chorus of groans. “What?”

“It does not sound interesting, Hari, it sounds like Father is supposed to be writing a bill right now and brought it here instead,” Draco moans.

“It’s a teachable moment, Draco,” Lucius chides and sets about explaining the different steps to designing a bill and what it should contain. Draco still takes notes for everyone and at the end, Lucius asks him for a copy of the notes so he can use it to create the bill they had discussed. Draco pinches the bridge of his nose, but duplicates it once more anyway.

“The book list for you, Hari,” Lucius holds out a slip of parchment. “If your friend has any questions, she can come on days you have politics and I’ll answer them.”

“I’ll let her know,” Hari grins. After offering little bows to Lucius, the group takes their leave.

“So what was that Father gave you?”

“Remember Hermione wanted to learn but our lessons are way too far ahead for her to join? I asked Lucius for a book list that could catch her up. Once she’s through it, she could join us.”

“But she’s not an heir,” Draco says, confused.

“No, but she likes to learn. And she’s very ambitious. I think she’ll end up being important someday,” Hari declares.

“If you’re so certain about that, we’ll need Mother to give her etiquette lessons, too,” Draco sighs. “Not as intense as yours, of course, but enough she doesn’t embarrass herself.”

“I’ll bring up the idea next time we see her.”

Which, conveniently enough, is the very next day during their usual study time after dinner.

“Here, Hermione,” Hari hands her the book list at the end of their study session. “And Lucius said you could come with us to lessons and ask questions about the books after.”

“He said that? It’d be wonderful!” She skims the list quickly. “I’ve seen some of these, but I thought they were offensive before—I didn’t realize I knew so little about our government!”

Hari laughs, “yeah, the titles are… impolite to a degree. The other thing is, well, I presume you want to go into government in some aspect.”

“I want to be the Minister someday,” Hermione informs him. “I want to change the world.”

“Well, if you’re okay with it, we could have Narcissa give you some etiquette lessons before you get there? Not ones like I’m taking, but the basics?”

Hermione’s eyes go wide, “oh, even if I wasn’t going into government, I’d like that. It just seems so interesting to learn all that about another culture.”

“I’ll tell Lucius you’re interested and we’ll work something out, then,” Hari assures her.

“That’s great! And, well, when is your next lesson?”

“We see Lucius tomorrow before dinner,” Hari says. “It’s in the potions lab.”

“Can I come then? I’ll have at least one of the books read. Oh, this is so amazing,” she gushes and races off to find the first book. She returns with a book the size of their potions textbook. Hari blanches.

“There is no way you could read all that by tomorrow,” he denies.

“Yes, I can,” she says seriously. “I read quickly. Besides, I don’t have to read it all tonight, just before the lesson tomorrow. That’s not a problem.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it, if you don’t mind,” Hari says with a shake of his head. “We’ll meet you in the Entrance Hall at four forty-five tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay! I won’t be late.” She taps her toe impatiently. “Do you all go in your uniforms?”

“We do, since it’s before dinner.”

“And how do I greet him? He’s a Lord, right? I should curtsey?”

“No, no, don’t curtsey,” Hari looks horrified, “that’s not a thing here. They view it as a barbaric muggle practice. Narcissa didn’t explain it all to me, but said if I ever saw someone curtsey, it was a sign of poor breeding.” Hari rolls his eyes at that. “What she really meant there was that the person hadn’t been taught proper etiquette. No, you should bow. A little deeper than the rest of us do, but not all the way. It should look like this.” Hari demonstrates a graceful bow, sweeping down about forty-five degrees before rising.

“Like this?” Hermione mimics. It takes a few attempts, but she manages to get the angle just right, even if it is a little clumsy.

“Just bow exactly like that, hold it for one second, rise, and say ‘hello, Lord Malfoy. I’m Hermione Granger. Pleased to meet you.’ He’ll hold his hand out for you to shake. Clasp his wrist not his hand.”

“You’ll have to remind me of that tomorrow,” Hermione frowns.

“Don’t worry,” Hari chuckles, “I will.”

“Hey, Hari,” Draco darts through the stacks, “we’ve gotta go, it’s almost curfew.”

“Oh, right, sorry, we were talking,” he waves to Hermione, “see you tomorrow.”

They dart off and finish their homework at their desks in the room.

The next afternoon, Hermione is waiting for them impatiently in the Entrance Hall, having clearly arrived early.

“Are you ready?” Hari asks and she nods a little shakily.

“I read the entire book, but I brought it with me to review while he’s teaching you.”

“That’s good,” Hari smiles.

“Hey,” Daphne steps up and links her arm through Hermione’s, “don’t worry. Lord Malfoy is really nice.”

“He is,” Pansy confirms, taking Hermione’s other arm. “We’ve known him our whole lives.”

They get to the potions lab exactly five minutes early, having taken their time walking over. The group bows neatly, and though Hermione’s is still slightly awkward, it’s clear she practiced. She glances around as they bow, clearly seeing how Draco, Pansy, Daphne, and Blaise all bow to the same depth. Hari’s is even shallower than theirs and while the differences aren’t much, they are enough to be noticeable. When they rise, she shifts slightly and finally, manages to introduce herself without stuttering too much.

“Hello, Miss Granger,” Lord Malfoy returns as he extends an arm. She reaches out and clasps his wrist, keen eyes catching the surprise and pleasure at the appropriate action. “Pleased to meet you, as well. Would you like to ask your questions now or after their lesson?”

“After their lesson, if that’s alright. I have a few points I’d like to review, first,” she hefts the book out of her bag.

“You read the first few chapters, then?” Lucius seems pleased by this, perhaps impressed by her interest.

“I read the whole book,” she blinks up at him innocently. Shock appears on his face for a moment, before it’s washed away with his mask.

“You are quite intelligent, then,” he praises. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get the lesson started and we can speak more later. I believe there is extra seating in any desks but the front row.”

“Wonderful, thank you,” Hermione smiles and scampers to a desk, where she pulls out a stack of parchments with notes scrawled on them and immerses herself in the book.

The lesson flows by without a hitch, with the children suitably bored and Lucius suitably entertained by the sight of his son poking his friends whenever their attention seemed to slip. At the end of the hour, Professor Snape rises and gives a brief explanation of the potion they’d be learning that week and Lucius goes to talk to Hermione.

“Well, Miss Granger, let’s hear some of those questions.”

“Oh, one moment,” she sifts through a stack of parchment, “there it is. Sorry, I had to flip to the end and shuffled my pages up a bit.”

“It’s quite alright, Miss Granger. I’m impressed you thought to write your questions down.”

“I just hope I left enough room to write the answers,” she informs him, then lifts her quill and fires off her first question. Each question is complex and in-depth in a way he hadn’t anticipated. She’s curious and bright and she takes down his answers in a shorthand he can’t quite follow, but clearly makes perfect sense to her.

“Was that all of them?” he asks nearly a full half hour later.

“It was, thank you, Lord Malfoy,” she says with a grin as she scratches down the last answer.

“Your notes are quite precise, although your handwriting could be improved,” Lucius hums to himself and Hari pipes up from his seat next to Hermione.

“She mentioned wanting to go into government someday. Maybe Narcissa could help her?”

“Government?” He crooks an eyebrow at her, the original of Draco’s own expression. It’s evident that Draco inherited the look.

“I want to be the Minister to make the world a better place,” Hermione shrugs.

“Don’t shrug, it’s uncouth,” Draco, Hari, and Lucius say in unison. Draco and Hari look horrified, their friends are all laughing, and Lucius pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Narcissa has rubbed off on us all,” he mutters. He turns back to Hermione, “if you’d like to go into government, Narcissa can certainly assist you in achieving the appropriate countenance for that position. I will also request that she send a handwriting book for you. I understand the muggle world does not write with quills?”

“No, we have something called ballpoint pens, which hold the ink inside and roll across the page,” Hermione explains, “so you don’t have to hold them at any specific angle or carry an inkpot.”

“Have Draco or one of the others teach you the spell to link your quill and inkpot so you don’t have to constantly dip,” Lucius instructs, “it’s quite simple. As for the other… I don’t believe there is a spell for making a quill function like a ballpoint ‘pen’, although a muggleborn or half-blood would know better than I.”

“There’s also pencils,” Hari throws in cheekily, “which are wooden and have a soft mineral called graphite in them. You use the graphite to write and can sharpen it down so it lasts a while. You don’t have to hold it at a special angle and they come with erasures on the end, so if you make a mistake, you can fix it.”

“Those sound quite handy,” Lucius sounds almost impressed, “although we do have spells for correcting mistakes.”

“That’s true,” Hari agrees.

“Would you teach me those, as well?” Hermione asks.

“No teachers did?” Lucius snaps the question at her rather harshly, but she doesn’t flinch.

“No.”

“Yet another thing they’re supposed to do and have neglected,” he sighs, “I suppose this means you have been re-writing entire parchments to correct your errors.”

“I have,” she nods, “I just thought that was normal.”

Lucius huffs, “this school, I swear. I’ll be bringing this up at the next Board meeting. Thank you for the information.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Off you go, now, it’s past time for you to be at dinner.” They all bow once more to Lucius and say their farewells, then run off, not wanting to miss out on dessert.

“Your father is a very intense man,” Hermione informs Draco.

“He is,” Draco agrees proudly.

“Intense but kind,” Hermione muses, “and I wouldn’t have expected that. He looks very… cutthroat.”

“If he doesn’t like you, he is. But he likes you, so he’s kind.” Draco tilts his head like this is obvious.

“You think it will be alright for me to come back?”

“More than,” Draco assures her. “We’ll meet tomorrow, same place, same time and I’m sure Father will have a handwriting book for you to work on.”

“Narcissa gave me one, too,” Hari pipes up.

“Now his handwriting is beautiful,” Draco smirks.

“Yeah, well, she also had my book special made to her specifications because, and I quote, ‘a Lord of your station should have distinguishable handwriting, even to a stranger.’”

“That sounds like Mother,” Draco agrees happily. “She did that for mine, too. Although, mine is also modeled after Father’s somewhat.”

“I presume mine will be basic, though?” Hermione cuts in.

“Most likely,” Draco says, “although she has several options. I would expect something that’s relatively feminine, but not so much so as to undermine your authority.”

“As long as I can still write quickly and in shorthand, I don’t much mind what it looks like. It’ll just be nice to not struggle with the quill anymore.”

“It is,” Hari tells her, “homework is much easier now. Come on, let’s get dinner and then go to the library. We’ve all got essays due.”

The next day as they’re making their way down to the potions lab, Professor Snape comes striding towards them.

“Draco, your mother is here as well. You should prepare Miss Granger.”

“Prepare me?”

“Yes. We’ll go in and bow, greeting them both at the same time. Then, you should angle yourself so you’re square with her and bow again, a little shallower, then rise and introduce yourself the same way you did with my father.”

“It’s not too difficult,” Hari assures her, “I promise. I’ll stand next to you and help if you need it. But you won’t.”

“Okay,” Hermione agrees, nodding shakily, “if you’re certain.”

“I am.”

“I’m glad, because I’m not. Lady Malfoy isn’t going to try to drag me into the etiquette lesson, is she?” Blaise asks.

“Maybe if you behaved with some decorum, she wouldn’t force you into more lessons.”

“I behave with decorum!” Blaise exclaims.

“That right there says you don’t.” The boys bicker the whole way down. Hari apologizes for them to Hermione.

Hermione manages to make it through introducing herself once more without falling or stuttering, which she takes as a win. Hari didn’t even have to help her remember what to do.

Narcissa smiles and takes her aside, to a portion of the room without desks. After casting a privacy charm, she turns to Hermione.

“I was quite surprised to hear my son had made friends with you,” she says, “surprised, but pleased. He always did need to branch out more, but I’m afraid we coddled him quite a bit as a child.”

“I’m glad he did,” Hermione replies, “It’s rather lonely up in Gryffindor Tower.”

“Is it?”

“I’m not well liked since I can be a bit of a know-it-all,” Hermione admits, “I just haven’t figured out how to turn it off.”

“These lessons will help with that,” Narcissa assures her.

“Speaking of,” Hermione perks up, “Hari said I should ask you. Why do witches not curtsey?”

“Curtseying came about in the seventeenth century, around the time that both corsets and low-cut gowns were in favor in the muggle world. This made it difficult and somewhat inappropriate for their women to bow, so they shifted to the curtsey. As corsets never came into style here and robes are notoriously conservative, it was never necessary to make the transition.” Narcissa draws a book out of a small pouch. “This is the handwriting book my husband promised you,” she says, then takes out another, “and this is an overview of general etiquette rules. It is not exhaustive,” she warns, “but if you can abide by the rules within, your decorum as a Minister would be more than appropriate.”

They discuss the different subjects Hermione would be learning from Narcissa and, eventually, circle back to the know-it-all comment.

“Now, you said it’s lonely in the Tower,” Narcissa leans back in her transfigured seat, “do they ignore you or is it worse?”

“For the most part, they ignore me,” Hermione is quick to reassure, “but Ron Weasley, though he is an idiot, can be quite cruel.”

“Weasley,” Narcissa murmurs, but moves on. She has Hermione go over the questions from her government book and answers the ones she can. Finally, Lucius is done teaching the Slytherins and Narcissa takes down the privacy shield. As Hermione is speaking with Lucius, Narcissa leans down to whisper in Draco’s ear, “keep an eye on the Weasley boy on Hermione’s behalf.”

“Okay, Mother,” Draco agrees in a low murmur.


They find Hermione crying in the bathrooms nearest the Slytherin dorms one day near the end of term. She’s curled up under the sinks, sobbing into her knees.

“’Mione?” Hari calls into the room from the doorway. “Is it alright if we come in?”

“We can’t go in,” Draco hisses, “this is the girl’s bathroom.”

“It’s Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom,” Daphne corrects, “we don’t use it since she’s always in here.”

“It’s really just… just a spot to cry,” Pansy agrees.

“We’re going in,” Hari decides and pushes through the door. The girls follow without hesitation, as does Blaise, but Draco hesitates for just a few moments. “Hey, ‘Mione, can you tell me what’s wrong?” he drops to his knees next to her and tries to coax her into looking at him.

There’s a mark from a stinging hex on the side of her face when she looks up. There’s a long beat of silence before anyone does anything.

“I’m getting Uncle Sev,” Draco announces and hurries off.

“’Mione, who did this?”

She sniffles for a moment, then whispers, “Ron Weasley.”

Blaise sighs, “We’ll need Madam Pomfrey then, too.”

“Why?”

“If it escalates, there needs to be a paper trail of the things he’s done.” Hari agrees to this and Blaise leaves.

“He said I’m a traitor,” Hermione whispers, “I think that hurt worse.” Hari turns so he’s sitting and pulls her into his side, hugging her gently.

“You’re not a traitor. You cannot be a traitor to someone who was never on your side, anyway,” Pansy says.

“He wasn’t your friend,” Daphne adds, “he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

“It hurts,” Hermione whimpers, tapping under the hex mark with one finger.

“Draco will be back in a moment,” Pansy promises.

“He’s here,” Professor Snape declares, sweeping into the room. “Let me see it, please.” He studies the mark for a long moment, then digs out a few salves. “Can you tell me who did it?”

“Ron Weasley,” she mumbles, turning a bit red.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Professor Snape orders, “he is in the wrong here.”

“Blaise went to get Madam Pomfrey,” Hari says, “he said we need a paper trail since now it’s escalated.”

“He’s quite right,” Professor Snape agrees. “I will give you a potion for the pain, but allow Madam Pomfrey to heal the mark. Would you prefer to apply it or one of us?”

“Hari?” she asks quietly, relaxing when Professor Snape doesn’t seem to take offense.

“Of course,” Hari says and takes the salve. With gentle fingers, he spreads it across every bit of redness on her cheek.

“It was a low-powered hex,” Professor Snape is saying when Hari’s done, “not nearly bad enough to cause disfiguration, but enough to hurt and leave an almost burn pattern. I’d say it was cast wrong, as well, since it responded shockingly well to the paste I gave her for the pain.”

“Not so wrong it will need special spells for healing, I should hope,” Madam Pomfrey sniffs and walks over. “Hello, dear. I don’t think I’ve seen you for anything but your vaccinations. Quite a feat, I must say. I’d be offended if I weren’t so proud.” This causes Hermione to smile slightly. “Just hold still, now, I’m going to cast a diagnostic spell and I’ll need you to tell me yourself who cast it, although I’ve already heard from Professor Snape. Piece of work, that boy is. And his two friends, too.”

The Slytherins smirk at each other. At least they’re not the only ones who’ve noticed.

“It was Ron Weasley,” Hermione informs her in a low voice and Madam Pomfrey smiles, snatching a small piece of parchment from the air.

“And he certainly needs to work on his wandwork. Quite the poorly cast Stinging Hex, I must say. Still a Stinging Hex, though, which is good. It’s a simple remedy.” She waves her wand and the redness and star-burst veins fade back into the skin. Draco, who is peering over her shoulder as she does it, looks on in awe at how quickly the remedy works.

“Very good, now, run along, it’s nearly time for dinner.” Hermione sniffles at these words, looking for all the world like she might start crying again.

“Wash your face, Miss Granger, and get to dinner,” Professor Snape orders, “luckily, tonight was supposed to be a potions lesson, so you have not missed much.” She offers him a tentative smile at the gruff but kind words and pushes to her feet. “And for my students, you will not seek revenge.”

Three hours later, they’re sitting on Blaise’s bed and Daphne asks, “so how are we getting revenge?”

“I say we hit him with a Stinging Hex of our own,” Hari grumbles.

Draco grins, “yeah, teach him how it’s done.”

“One problem with that,” Blaise jumps in before they can get too excited, “he’ll suspect us. They’ll all suspect us. And then they’ll check our wands.”

“They have the right to do that, too,” Daphne groans.

“So we have to get revenge a different way,” Pansy lifts a shoulder carelessly, “say, maybe, my way?”

“No! Wait!” Hari stops her, “they don’t know about my new wand!”

“Perfect,” Blaise smiles cruelly, “an untraceable spell.”

“Tomorrow at lunch, then. When there’s too many people around for them to definitively say it was us,” Hari decides.

“It’s a good decision,” Draco agrees. “But can we also give him some type of rash? I have a few potions for that type of thing!”

“If you can get a potion into him, you can give him a rash,” Pansy allows with a regal sniff.

“Not a problem,” Draco chuckles, “Hari, can you call Critter for me?”

Hari eyes him warily, but does as told. The elf pops into the room in the center of their small circle.

“What is Master Hari wanting?” Critter asks, rolling on his toes.

“It’s actually something Draco wants you to do for him, but it would please me, too,” Hari grins, “someone’s being mean to a friend and we want to get back at them. Could you help us get a potion into their food?”

“Critter is helping,” he says determinedly, “Critter is doing everything he can to help Master Hari’s friend.”

“Great,” Draco breathes, then casts a spell that hangs Weasley’s face in the air, “this is the boy who needs the potion. He sits at the Gryffindor table, usually towards the middle.”

“Critter is remembering.”

“Good,” Draco stands and gets a vial of potion, “I keep these on hand just in case. Here, just a few drops into his meal and it’ll do the job. Three minimum, but five would be preferable.”

“Five drops, on the food,” Critter nods sharply and Draco snickers. Critter takes the vial. “When is Critter doing this?”

“Tomorrow,” Hari says, checking that it’s okay with a short glance, “during dinner. That’s between six and eight. I don’t know when he’ll actually be eating, sorry.”

“This is fine, Critter can watch and wait. There is being lots of people here, not like at Potter Manor where Critter is mostly alone.”

“Critter, are there other elves at the Manor?”

“No, Critter is the Potter house elf,” Critter declares with pride and even some resentment at the insinuation.

“Then who else is at the Manor, Critter?”

“The Potterses be keeping Hippogriffses and kneazleses and crupses,” Critter says, “Critter be taking care of them after the Potterses dies.”

“Oh, wow,” Hari whispers, “I had no idea.” He pauses for a moment, “Critter, do we have somewhere safe a snake could live on the grounds?”

“The Manor has a place.”

“I need you to go to Malfoy Manor and collect a snake named Galeru. Be very careful, he’s venomous. Bring him here so I can explain to him where you’re taking him and then take him to the safe place at the Manor.” Critter nods and disappears with a crack.

“I’m still mad that he doesn’t get to come to Hogwarts this year,” Draco puffs his cheeks out.

“You’re mad?” Hari side eyes Draco, “think about how I feel. I got to bring him last year, but no, not this year.”

“It can take a while to form a familiar bond,” Pansy rolls her eyes at them.

“You just need to give it more time,” Daphne agrees.

“Lord Malfoy did say you have the beginning stages of one, so it shouldn’t be too far off,” Blaise adds. Critter reappears, a snake floating next to him.

“Hatchling!” Galeru cries, “This thing took me!”

“I know, I’m sorry, I asked him to,” Hari says quickly, “He’s going to take you to live at my house, okay? There’s a place for snakes to live, there. You’ll be safe.”

“Will I see you there soon?”

“No, but I’ll have Critter bring you to me for all my school breaks, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I wish you could be here, with me, but this is the best alternative. Just be sure not to eat any kneazles or crups and to avoid the hippogriffs.”

“I can do that,” Galeru promises.

“And please don’t bite Critter.”

“I will not bite the little creature you care about.” Hari nods at Galeru’s words and turns to Critter.

“He’ll let you hold him now. He just thought you were trying to take him from me.” Critter takes gentle hold of the snake and vanishes back to Potter Manor. “I forgot to ask Critter if he’d like to stay somewhere else until I get to move in.”

“He wouldn’t. Your parents probably ordered him to care for the properties until you come of age.”

“I wish I had remembered him,” Hari sighs, “it would’ve made my childhood so much simpler.” Images flash behind his eyes of everything the Dursleys had made him do.

“Don’t think about that,” Draco orders and the next half hour is filled with hugs and cuddles and reassuring words and oh, yeah, I’m loved.

Chapter Text

Hari’s fingers hover over the button to release his wand. Weasley is a few people ahead of them, chattering away at Thomas and Finnigan about the Chudley Canons. Hari glances at Draco, who is cringing at Weasley’s whole-hearted defense of the weak team.

“They’re that bad?” Hari asks.

“There’s a reason we support the Hollyhead Harpies. They may not be top of the league every year, but at least their Seeker isn’t blind.”

“It doesn’t hurt that they usually win, though, does it?” Hari snorts at Draco’s attempt at modesty. The Harpies are one of the most famous teams for reasons far beyond just being witches-only.  Draco glares.

“Just get the idiot.”

“Face,” Hari murmurs and Draco hums understandingly.

“Let’s do it quick, though, we need to be out of here so we’re not suspects.”

“Then stop talking about it,” Hari hisses back and, as Weasley slows down to make a turn, releases his wand, aims, and whispers, “mordax cicatrix.” The spell slams Weasley’s cheek just as Hari planned and he slips the wand away. Weasley collapses, clutching his cheek and screaming in pain.

“Gosh, Weasley, do you always have to make such a scene?” Draco sneers and they hurry into the Great Hall, snickering under their breaths. Professor McGonagall sweeps out the doors and collects Weasley, likely to rush him up to the Hospital Wing.

“Good timing,” Blaise says as they sit. “And perfect aim, too.”

“We should teach you some self-defense,” Pansy suggests, “it’s practically required for Heirs and with aim like that, you’d be great with a knife or projectile weapon.”

“I’m alright on weaponry,” Hari declines, “but I wouldn’t say no to a few lessons on hand-to-hand.” He looks around to make sure no one’s listening and leans in, “besides, come my birthday, underage magic will no longer apply to me.”

“Good point,” Daphne smiles, “but you should still know the stuff that’s tradition.”

“I agree. Just in case someone ever manages to disarm me.”

“That confident in your wandwork, Potter?” Draco sneers teasingly.

“I am, actually. And I think I have reason to be, if my marks in Defense Against the Dark Arts are to be believed, with this fraud for a teacher,” Hari rolls his eyes.

“Think Critter would be against dropping something into his food for me?” Draco huffs.

“Something to get rid of that smile, maybe?” Daphne suggests.

“Nah, I was thinking hair.” Draco smirks and Daphne laughs.

“Gosh, that’d be perfect. It would take so long to grow back if you use the right stuff, too!”

“Would I ever not use the right stuff?” Draco sniffs at the insinuation and Daphne reassures him that she is certain he would never.

“What would be the best time for that?” Pansy muses, “we’d still have time to get Critter to do it tonight…”

“No,” Blaise disagrees, “it would overshadow the other thing. Tomorrow at dinner?”

“Tomorrow at breakfast,” Hari counters, “he spends a massive amount of time on his hair in the mornings.”

“Mastermind,” Draco chuckles, “it would hurt the worst after he’s just finished styling it.”

“We can do something about the smile award later,” Hari promises.

“And maybe something like a truth potion,” Daphne suggests. “And a jabbermouth potion at the same time.”

“So he can’t stop talking and blabbing all his secrets,” Draco grins.

“Wonderful,” Blaise says.

“I’ll call Critter tonight.”

The rest of classes pass in relative peace. It’s when they head down to politics that they hit a roadblock.

“Draco,” Lucius greets before they even have a chance to bow. “What’s this I hear about a Ron Weasley getting hit with a stinging hex conveniently the day after Miss Granger suffered one?”

“It wasn’t me!” Draco cries.

“But it was one of you.”

“Not that anyone can prove,” Hari promises. Lucius raises an eyebrow, but Hari glances at Professor Snape.

“He deserved it. If you can’t be caught, I don’t care.”

“Well, I have two wands, right? The school only knows about one,” Hari starts, “so I used the one they don’t know about. When they come around to check our wands since we’ll be the first suspects, it’ll look like I didn’t cast it.”

“A well thought out plan, if underwhelming,” Lucius says.

“That’s not everything,” Draco assures his father, “the final step is tonight at dinner.”

“What are you two doing?” Hermione asks, sounding almost disappointed in them.

“Getting revenge,” the group choruses. She doesn’t seem to have anything to say to that.

“And you’ve ensured they cannot prove it is you for this, as well?”

“You know that secret stockpile of potions I keep?” Draco asks, “my ‘just-in-case’ pile?”

“Yes, although you were supposed to get rid of it,” Lucius sighs.

“I didn’t, obviously, because I figured it would be useful. Anyway, I have a potion to cause painful rashes. Three to five drops in his dinner tonight and half an hour after ingestion, he’ll be cooped up in the hospital wing for twenty-four hours.”

“And how will you prevent them from discovering you?” Lucius snaps, “you’re the top potions student, the most likely suspect.”

“Unless a house elf delivers the dose.” Draco smirks and the others follow suit. Hermione looks on in shock.

“Critter was quite grateful for the opportunity to leave the Manor and be among lots of people for a little while,” Hari points out helpfully.

“Oh, yes, the Potter house elf, the one elf that no one can order not to go to Hogwarts,” Lucius groans.

“What do you mean?”

“Parents usually order house elves not to respond to their children while their away at Hogwarts so things like this can’t happen,” Lucius explains. “That, and because it’s best if the children get the typical Hogwarts student experience. Having a house elf to cater to your whims doesn’t exactly fit that.”

“I’ve never been the typical Hogwarts student, so no reason to bother trying to maintain that for me,” Hari says nonchalantly, forcing himself not to shrug. There are still times it’s tempting.

“It will be useful for when you need to leave to go to Wizengamot sessions,” Lucius allows, “though I caution against calling him too often. It would create problems if others found out. And now that that’s settled,” he claps his hands once and sits on the desk, as per usual. “let’s get started with this lesson. Miss Granger, I trust you completed the book I assigned last time?”

“I did, Lord Malfoy,” Hermione agrees immediately.

“Very well. We’ll begin today with your questions from that. You will be able to join lessons with the others from here on out.” Hermione grins at this and Hari can see her struggling to hold in a little happy dance.

In the last few months, she has done very well adjusting to Narcissa’s lessons. Her handwriting has improved tremendously, likely thanks to the amount of notes she takes on the books she reads, and she is able to successfully hide her emotions as needed. Beyond that, her manners are befitting that of someone associating with Lords and Ladies and she doesn’t need any of the Slytherins to advise her on how to behave in any circumstance.

The hour flies by, half the time spent on Hermione’s questions alone. Draco tries to hide his exasperation at how much more he would need to write now that she’s joined in, but Hari is pleased. Her questions are always deep and well thought-out and the answers provide a better understanding of the political world.

When it ended, they made their way to the Great Hall. Just before they enter, Hermione asks, “So, that rash thing is happening tonight?”

“Shh!” all five of them hiss at her.

“Not in the open,” Hari whispers, then continues in a normal voice, “but yes, tonight is fine.” He lowers his voice again, “make sure you’re sitting down the table, as far away from him as is reasonable. No need for you to be blamed.”

They take their time eating, Hermione sitting a whole half table away from Weasley, not an unusual occurrence given his treatment of her.

“I have no clue what I’m going to give my sister for Christmas,” Daphne moans.

“Oh, Merlin,” Blaise’s eyes go wide, “we leave for break on Saturday! That’s only two days!”

“Relax,” Hari waves his hand, “it’s not that difficult to figure out gifts.”

“Yes, it is,” Draco argues.

“No, it’s not. I’ve already decided what I’m getting everyone, I just have to actually go out and buy it.”

“You’re inhuman, you don’t count,” Draco dismisses. “We should go shopping together again this year.”

“I was hoping to make a visit to some of my properties,” Hari says, “maybe you all would like to come with? Aside from the Potter ones, they’ll need some re-decorating, I’m sure, and you’re all much better at design than I am.”

“Oh!” Pansy perks up, “we could each have one to decorate!”

“That sounds good to me,” Hari smiles, “but we’ll make a stop at Grimmauld Place first so you get a feel for what I like.” He tilts his head slightly, then adds, “not that I don’t trust you, I just want them to be true to me, even if I don’t trust myself to do it.”

Blaise laughs at him, “don’t worry, we get it. True to you, but also to the family of origin, yes?”

“That’d be perfect!”

“It’ll leave a little remnant of House of Potter when you break apart the titles to pass down,” Daphne agrees. “You know your idea means you need to have six kids, right?”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Maybe I’ll have three and leave them each two?”

“That’s a decent idea. Better than accidentally having five and having to split them unevenly.” Draco leans up subtly to check on Weasley. Surely they would’ve heard screaming if it happened, but you never know.

“Can we stop talking about me having children, now? I’m still a kid myself and it’s slightly disturbing.” Hari shudders dramatically and the others laugh.

“Speaking of fixing up houses, we probably need to have Potter Cottage repaired specifically,” Hari cocks his head, trying to remember where Remus’ last letter had come from. “My parents left it to Mr. Lupin, but I don’t think he’s even visited, let alone moved in.”

“But he didn’t revert the rights to you?” Pansy checks.

“No, I think he doesn’t really believe the bank would allow him to have it,” Hari says sullenly, “so we should change that one up a bit so it’ll be comfortable for him.”

“And use that as leverage to force him to move in, genius!” Draco exclaims.

“Not what I was going for, but sure. That works, too.” Hari rolls his eyes.

“You know him the best, but I think it will be a group project. You tell us everything you can about him, and then we start planning,” Blaise decides.

Hari nods, “I don’t know too much about him, but you all already know the most important bit. So he’ll need a room for that.” They nod in understanding and Hari moves on. “He should have a library and a study; he’s very studious. But he was also one of Sirius’ best friends and they were known for playing jokes, so he likes to have fun, too. He wears a lot of dark or muted colors since he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself.”

“Oh, we’ll fix that, too,” Pansy assures him. “I’ve wanted to do someone’s wardrobe again since we did yours.”

“In terms of colors to do the house in, they should be light and happy, yes? And the designs should be fun. A house that you could have important guests in, but also a place kids would like,” Daphne summarizes.

“Exactly,” Hari nods, relieved they seemed to understand. They chat for a bit about ideas for the cottage, but there’s not much to discuss when you have no clue what the house actually looks like. Thankfully, they’re not left to stew for long.

Weasley shrieks and starts scratching incessantly. The spots look suspiciously like Dragon Pox and several students start panicking, but when Professor McGonagall walks over, she looks up at Dumbledore and shakes her head. While she removes Weasley from the room, Dumbledore stands and points his wand at his throat.

“Quiet!” He bellows and the room falls silent. “There is no outbreak of Dragon Pox, do not be concerned. Mr. Weasley appears to have been the victim of a joke that causes a rash. Proper Dragon Pox would shine like dragon scales, hence the name. Please, finish eating, dinner is nearly over.”

With something to giggle over for the rest of dinner, they take their time enjoying the sweet desserts now in front of them. When they walk out, Professor Snape is waiting in the Entrance Hall.

“Come with me,” he orders. They follow, knowing exactly what’s going on. Weasley attempted to rat on them.

“Now, I’m certain this is all a misunderstanding,” he begins when they reach his office, Professor McGonagall waiting inside, “but Mr. Weasley appears to be under the impression that you five are somehow responsible for both the Stinging Hex and potioned rash he contracted today.”

“I’m not good enough at potions for that,” Pansy, Daphne, and Blaise say in unison. Draco and Hari roll their eyes.

“Only you three would find a situation where that’s a good thing,” Draco huffs. “Though, can I ask, what potion was used? It would be quite interesting to learn to brew.” He leans forward in his chair, eyes glinting. Hari smacks him in the arm.

“Don’t announce future plans!” Hari looks up at Professor Snape, “you know we couldn’t have caused the rash. We got to dinner later than everyone since we were in our advanced potion lesson with you.”

“Is this true, Professor Snape?” Professor McGonagall asks.

“It is.”

“And yet, you do not have an alibi for the Stinging Hex?” She tilts her head, looking for all the world like a hawk about to swoop on its prey.

“No, ma’am, we were there, actually. He screamed a lot. I think Draco even said something to him about causing a scene. We didn’t realize it was a hex then, though,” Hari informs her.

“I see,” she nods. “You understand we will have to check your wands?”

“Yes, ma’am.” All five remove their wands and lay them out for her to check. As expected, not a single one shows signs of having cast the spell.

“Very well, you are cleared of suspicion,” she tells them at long last. They thank her with polite nods.

Then, Hari asks, “If I may, why did Weasley think we had done it?”

“He believes it retribution for the hex cast on Miss Granger yesterday.”

“Oh. But that doesn’t explain why we would be the ones getting retribution? Surely it would be easier for one of her friends from Gryffindor to do it?” Next to him, he can see both Draco and Blaise make the faces they use when trying not to laugh.

“Mr. Weasley seems to believe you are the only friends she has.” Professor McGonagall turns her nose up.

“Well, I did hear rumors of that,” Pansy and Daphne’s shoulders stiffen in their seats as Hari continues, “but I always thought they were exaggerated. Surely Hermione’s own House wouldn’t treat her like that, right?”

Professor McGonagall is stiff as she replies, “I’m sure it wouldn’t, Mr. Potter.” She sweeps out of the room.

“I would like to know about any future pranks you have already planned so next time, I am not blindsided by my colleague informing me that the victim suspects you,” Professor Snape narrows his eyes on them.

“You weren’t blindsided, though,” Draco frowns, “we talked about it with Father.”

“Draco,” Professor Snape snaps, “if your prank is so see through the victim knows it was you, there is a problem.”

“Hence why we made sure there was an alibi and no way we could be blamed.” Professor Snape sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Just tell me, do you have anything planned for the next two days before you leave?”

“Yes, sir, but again, it’s unlikely we’ll be suspects. There’s too big of a pool for this one,” Hari tells him calmly.

“You will be targeting Professor Lockhart?”

“Yes, sir,” Hari nods sharply, “the hope is that he’ll end up so embarrassed he leaves.”

“That will take more than one prank. Your plans?”

“One to mess with his hair, one for his ‘famous’ smile, and one to cause him to spill his secrets,” Hari lists. “We anticipate the first two will severely embarrass him and the last will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

“Very well,” Professor Snape agrees. “If it doesn’t and you feel the need to plan more, let me know.”

“We will,” the group choruses and they head to the Room of Requirement to meet Hermione. It was an agreed upon policy: if someone does not show at the library within a half hour of the agreed meeting time, move to the Room to ensure privacy.

“There you all are!” She jumps up from her seat on a large couch. “I was terribly worried about all of you!”

“Hello, ‘Mione,” Hari smiles at her. “Sorry we’re late, we had to clear our names in the Weasley case.” The group snickers.

“He knew it was us,” Daphne agrees, “and even told the Professor we did it in retaliation for something he did to you!”

Draco snorts, “idiot.”

“Clearly,” Blaise mutters.

“Hari, be a dear and call for Critter, we need to set up the morning’s plan,” Pansy smiles sweetly as she claims a plush armchair.

Hari rolls his eyes but calls out, “Critter.”

“Master Hari!”

“Hello, Critter,” Hari smiles at the small elf, “thank you for your help tonight, it went splendidly.”

“Critter is watching! Critter is glad to be seeing mean boy get proper punishment.”

“Very good, because Critter? We need your help for another prank. It’s for a teacher who’s lying about their life and it’s bad for our education.”

“Critter will help.”

“Great,” Draco grins and hands over the potion. “Ten drops this time, about eight in the morning, and this is the teacher you need to get.” Draco waves his wand and a projection of Lockhart’s face appears in front of them. Pansy and Daphne shudder at the sight of him.

“Critter can do. Does Master Hari need anything else?”

Hari tilts his head and thinks for a moment. “Could you bring us hot chocolate in an hour?”

“Critter is bringing hot chocolate for six in one hour.”

“Thank you, Critter.” The elf bobs his head and vanishes.

“You can’t potion a teacher!” Hermione cries once the elf is gone.

“Why not? He’s potioning students.” Pansy rolls her eyes, “he’s a total creeper.”

“He is not!”

“He is,” Daphne agrees, “he’s potioning the girls. The only reason it’s not working on Pansy and I is because we’re wearing our Heir rings. They work against low-level potions like these.”

“Wait, our rings can do that?” Hari turns to Draco, who sighs and starts to explain.

“Heir and Lord rings have embedded magic. They’ll protect against basic things, like weak potions and legilimency. Most work against Amortentia, too, since that used to be commonly used. If stronger potions are used that the ring cannot protect against entirely, it will simply make the wearer sick enough to need a Healer, at which point, the potion will be found and cleared from their system.”

“That’s a pretty effective system,” Hari arches a brow in surprise.

“Pity it doesn’t work against poisons, though,” Draco sighs. Hari slumps into his side.

“Isn’t that what detection charms are for?”

“You’re right, you’re right.”

“Okay, that’s all really interesting and all,” Hermione interrupts, “but there is no way a teacher is potioning students!”

“Lockhart is, though,” Pansy argues. “The only girls unaffected are the ones with Heir rings.”

“Or betrothal rings,” Daphne adds. “Thank goodness none of our parents saw fit to betroth us.” The group shudders.

“We’ll talk about the fact that betrothals are still a thing in a minute, but can we please stay on topic! How can you know Professor Lockhart is potioning people?”

Draco removes a potion from his bag. “I carried this around before I got my Heir ring and kept it until Daphne got hers. If there’s any potions in your system except for healing ones, it will wipe them out.” He pauses. “It won’t affect your hair, don’t worry.”

She eyes him doubtfully, then says, “he’s not potioning us, so that won’t do anything,” snatches up the potion, and gulps the dosage down. She glares for a long moment, then her eyes go wide and she whispers, “oh, my God, he’s a fraud,” she turns back to them, “so what were your plans to get rid of him?”

The next morning at breakfast, the Great Hall echoes with a horrified scream and the shrieks of the potioned girls. Lockhart sprints from the Hall clutching at his falling hair with both hands. After a long moment, Dumbledore rises and clears his throat.

“It appears that Defense Against the Dark Arts will be canceled today. And a message to whomever is the perpetrator of this vile attack on a teacher: it will not be tolerated and actions taken towards professors are punishable by expulsion.” The group turns to look at Hari.

“Not according to the charter,” Hari grumbles, “and I’ve read the whole thing twice.”

“At least we get out of that quiz on ‘Gadding with Ghouls’,” Draco smirks.

“I do not want to know what stupid questions about him would have been on it,” Blaise groans.  “After having to guess his favorite Halloween treat on the last one, I’m done.”

Chapter Text

“I get to come with you for Yule!” Blaise announces on the train to King’s Cross. Hari and Draco glance at each other, crinkling their noses at Blaise’s outfit.

“You’ll need to change, then,” Draco says.

“Why?”

“Because we’re stopping at Gringotts before we go home and we always go out for dinner after,” Hari explains. “We stop there every time I stay with them for break. We need to collect statements on all my vaults and properties.”

“Oh,” Blaise looks down. “And my outfit isn’t nice enough for a stop at the bank?” He glares, offended.

“No, that’s not what we said,” Draco sighs, “we said we’re going out for dinner after. That’s what your outfit isn’t nice enough for.”

“We always assume that Narcissa and Lucius will chose somewhere formal and dress for that. It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Blaise glances over their outfits. They are wearing the same style clothes they arrived to school in, full suits with robes over the top. Hari’s is a burgundy suit with a cream shirt, jade tie and handkerchief, and warm brown shoes. His robes are a cream embroidered with jade along the hems. Draco, in a fit of creativity, had changed his navy robes to a deep plum and then paired it with a lavender shirt, silver tie and handkerchief, and black shoes. His robes are also lavender, but have (newly altered) plum embroidery. Blaise sighs and pushes to his feet.

“Are you really going to leave your hair like that?” he asks Hari.

“No, Daphne,” he glares at the girl, “said she’d find me a new hairstyle to try, but has yet to get around to it and we’re only ten minutes away.

“Oh, stop being a whiny baby,” she waves a hand through the air, “I’m waiting on inspiration.”

“Okay, well, your inspiration better arrive in the next five minutes or I’m going to do my hair how I wanted to and not let you change it.” Blaise slips out of the compartment.

Lo and behold, thirty seconds later, lightning struck and Hari’s hair was pulled half up into a pony tail decorated with two thin braids running up the sides of his head and into the curls.

“Finally,” he mutters.

“Hush or I’ll start putting make-up on you now instead of easing you into it.”

“You are never getting me to wear make-up,” Hari vows. Draco and Blaise, who had just entered again, both raise their eyebrows while Pansy starts full-on laughing.

“We both wear make-up,” Draco says, “every day. We just use spells for it. We hadn’t told you yet since, like Daphne said, we’re easing you into this.”

“I don’t need make-up.”

“You don’t need it, but it’ll look nice anyway.”

“Besides,” Blaise adds, “you didn’t even notice ours. Why would yours be any different?” Blaise sits back down, finally changed out of simple black robes with a basic suit underneath and into a stunning forest suit with a white shirt, brown tie and handkerchief, brown shoes, and pale charcoal robes.

Hari has to force himself not to open his mouth, knowing he would stutter his way through a nonsensical answer if he did.

“See?” Draco points at him, “no answer. It’s just a spell and if you really don’t like it, finite will get rid of it.”

“Wait—what?” And in an instant, Daphne’s twisted her wrist and cast a spell. Hari blinks. He doesn’t feel any different. Pansy pulls a mirror out of her purse and passes it to him.

Hari takes a minute to inspect his appearance. It’s different, but not drastic. His eyelashes look longer and the lash line darker, but he wouldn’t know if he wasn’t looking for it. His lips are definitely a little pinker, but, again, not obviously. And his cheekbones glint slightly when he turns his head—so that’s how Draco’s do that. Hari sighs and hands the mirror back.

“Not going to take it off?” Blaise asks. When he shakes his head, they start snickering.

“I thought it would be more obvious! Besides,” he twists his fingers, “guys don’t wear make-up in the muggle world.”

“Ugh, right, I thought we’d worked all those muggle habits out of you already,” Draco huffs. “I don’t see why it matters what gender you are.” Draco crosses his arms and flops back in his seat.

Hari looks at him oddly, “marriage?”

“I think this is another muggle thing, so I’ll direct your question to Mother,” Draco waves him off.

“Fine,” Hari sighs. The train lurches to a stop and they hurry off, finding the tall, elegant Malfoys quickly.

“Mother, Father,” Draco accepts hugs from each of them and Hari and Blaise follow suit. Pansy and Daphne are busy getting re-acquainted with their own families and only offer little waves for goodbyes.

“I trust the trip wasn’t difficult?” Narcissa asks.

“No, it was quite pleasant,” Draco assures her. Hari and Blaise agree quickly, but eye each other understandingly. They had both been made-over rather unwillingly.

Lucius holds out two arms, allowing Hari and Draco to take hold, while Narcissa apparates with Blaise. In moments, they’re making their way into Gringotts to speak with Griphook. Inside the bank, Hari removes the glamour over his rings and taps his holster, switching his real wand to the main release button.

“Lord Potter, may your gold have grown,” Griphook greets with a quick bow.

Hari bows, saying, “and your obstacles fallen, Master Griphook.”

“Lord, Lady, and Heir Malfoy,” Griphook nods, “and Heir Zabini.”

“Hello, Master Griphook,” Lucius says. Griphook turns back to Hari.

“I’d like to have a statement of my assets, other than Potter, printed. I don’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to look them over yet.”

“Of course,” Griphook smiles cruelly, “and while you’re here, would you like to review the recent transactions from your trust vault?”

“He’s done more?” Hari’s lips pinch in displeasure, a gesture oddly reminiscent of Narcissa.

“Do not worry, Lord Potter, all will be returned at his expense when you arrive on your thirteenth birthday.”

Hari thinks about this for a moment. “I wish I could say no,” he finally says, “since I know I’ll get it all back, but I think it’s necessary I look over what he’s doing with it.”

“A wise decision, Lord Potter.” Griphook hurries away for a minute and returns with two files. “The large one is your asset folder, all of them, including the Potters. I apologise, but we do not separate based on where they come from.” Hari nods understandingly. “These are the transactions from your vault.” Hari accepts gratefully.

“I’ll look this over and make two lists—ones I approved and ones I didn’t. Would you like me to mail it to you, or bring it in on my birthday?”

“If you could mail it in the same procedure as last time, that would be preferable.”

“Alright. I’d also like to give my permission to have Lord Malfoy come in and collect a record of transactions from the same vault on July 30th of the upcoming year only. This way we can waste no time when I come in on my birthday.”

“I’ll make a note of it, Lord Potter,” Griphook promises and his quill scratches across parchment for a moment. “Will that be all?” Hari glances over his shoulder at the Malfoys, who gesture that they do not need anything.

“It will be. Thank you for your help today.”

“Of course, Lord Potter.”

“May your gold ever grow, Master Griphook,” Hari says with a bow.

“And your enemies cower at your feet, Lord Potter,” Griphook smiles and Hari can practically feel the double meaning in his words. May Dumbledore cower at your feet.

Don’t worry, Master Griphook, Hari thinks with a slight smirk, he will soon enough.

“Now,” Narcissa declares once they’ve stepped outside, her eyes darting to the side, “you can do your Christmas shopping Monday with your friends. For now, let’s go get some dinner. And, here, warming charms.” She waves her wand over the boys and the cold that was attempting to seep through their charmed robes vanishes. Hari’s eyes flicker to where hers had and he notices a flash of purple and yellow—Dumbledore’s favorite robes.


“You should have seen him!” Blaise declares, “he acted like a real Lord! I mean, not that he isn’t, but still. He’s our age and he acts almost exactly like Lord Malfoy.”

“Blaise, dear,” Pansy waves her hand in front of his face, “calm down.”

“But it was so cool,” Blaise whines.

“It wasn’t worth all this fuss,” Hari grumbles and Draco snickers.

“You know you do emulate Father when you’re trying to act like a Lord,” Draco points out rather unhelpfully.

“I don’t try!” Hari cries, “I just… do it.”

“Subconsciously?” Draco asks.

“Exactly,” Hari agrees with relief.

“That’s even more incredible!” Blaise practically shouts. The whole group shushes him.

“Yes, it’s amazing he acts like a Lord unintentionally at our age,” Daphne says neutrally, “but it doesn’t mean we have to make a massive deal out of it. Especially not in public.”

“Come on, then,” Draco grabs Hari’s hand, “let’s go get New Year’s Ball robes. You’re all coming this year, right?”

“Oh, I don’t know if I can make it,” Blaise teases. Draco rolls his eyes, but Hari laughs. Daphne and Pansy both reply that they’ll be there. They take their time walking to Mr. Lazwell’s shop, pausing to look into dozens of windows and chatter about different items. Finally, they arrive.

“Ah, Lordling Potter,” Mr. Lazwell calls, looking up from the fabric he is folding. “And Heirs Greengrass, Malfoy, Parkinson, and Zabini, welcome. I did wonder when I would be seeing you this break. I only have two assistants in,” he warns.

“That’s alright,” Draco assures him, “we have all day.”

“Oh, to live a life of leisure,” Mr. Lazwell jokes, shaking his head. “I presume you all did well on your exams.”

“Of course,” Blaise exclaims, pretending to be offended.

“Good. Then you may step on up. Christa will be working on yours and, for you, Heir Malfoy, Aria will be out in a moment. Ladies, do you mind waiting? My assistants do not know how to make Lordling Potter’s garb.”

“It’s no problem,” Pansy says, “you don’t mind if we skim the fabrics?”

“Be my guest,” the old man bows slightly and helps Hari up onto the platform when the boys are all done changing. “Kurta pajama again?” The measuring tape starts swirling around him.

“Yes, please.”

“How about a different color this year, yes? Red indicates both purity and power. With gold bottoms and red shoes, and how about a dupatta this year?”

“I like the colors,” Hari agrees slowly, “but what’s a dupatta?

“It is a type of long scarf,” Mr. Lazwell explains, “there are several ways to wear it, but it is very simple.”

“And this would be in place of the embroidery?”

“I think, actually, I would do embroidery in a color a few shades off from the kurta. Speaking of, why don’t you choose a shade,” he calls over the reds in the appropriate fabrics and lets Hari choose a deep cranberry color. He then summons a spool of thread and holds it up to the fabric. Ever so slightly off from the fabric and with more shine, it would just barely be noticeable.

“I like it,” Hari agrees, “though a simpler design, this time around?” They work through the design ideas until they settle on one that looks almost like interconnected fleur-de-lis interspersed with small spirals.

“Is this gold alright?” Mr. Lazwell summons a bolt of fabric and, when Hari approves it, the measuring tape swoops around his neck for an instant and the scissors start cutting. A second pair starts in on the red fabric when the measuring tape is done. After a minute, Mr. Lazwell is holding a long scarf. “You can simply hang it around the neck or over one shoulder like so, or over one shoulder and up around your opposite elbow.” When Hari nods, the scarf floats off to bob in the air while the kurta pajama is sewn. Hari scurries off to change into it and returns, quite pleased with how it turned out, to Mr. Lazwell putting the finishing touches on the shoes. He drapes the dupatta around his shoulder and elbow and steps into the shoes.

“Pansy, Daphne,” he calls and they hurry back from their place in the stacks. “What do you think? There’ll be a bit of embroidery, but…”

“It’s perfect,” Daphne says immediately.

“Do you really have to show me up, Potter?” Pansy groans. “How am I supposed to top that?”

“Very well, then,” Mr. Lazwell seems pleased, “if you will, you may change back into your robes and I will set the embroidery going. Heir Greengrass, would you like to be measured?”

Daphne changes and hops up to discuss her robes while Hari settles in to wait for the others to finish.

When they leave about an hour later, Hari has an extra bag with henna and plans to visit Sirius the next day.


“Padfoot?” Hari calls into Grimmauld Place the next day.

“Hari?” Sirius’ head pops out of the sitting room. “Come in! Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you!”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t visit over the summer,” Hari follows him into the room and settles on the couch next to him, where he is immediately pulled into a hug.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m sure you wanted to spend time with your family,” Sirius says dismissively. Hari tenses and it does not go unnoticed. “Hari? What’s wrong?” Sirius pulls away, seeming to think the hug was the problem. Hari turns and tugs him back in.

“I just forgot we hadn’t told you yet,” Hari murmurs into his shoulder.

“And why wouldn’t you tell me something that’s clearly very upsetting to you?”

“We didn’t want you to go back to Azkaban.”

There’s a long pause, then, “that’s a fair reason. I promise not to get caught doing anything that would send me to Azkaban because of what you tell me today.” Hari giggles at the words and leans back to look up at Sirius.

“You really do?” Sirius looks at him, confused, but nods. “You actually have to, I’m not joking.”

“I promise, Hari,” Sirius finally says seriously.

Hari cuddles back in, closes his eyes, and starts, “Dumbledore sent me to the Dursleys. He wouldn’t open Maa and Baba’s will, so no one could prove he was in the wrong.”

“What?” Sirius growls, “I was one of the witnesses for the will and they said explicitly that you should go anywhere else!”

“Right,” Hari nods, “I had the will read about this time last year. It was the first time it had been read, which is why you got your inheritance then.”

“I assumed the will hadn’t been read when I was in Azkaban for more than a few weeks, but after that,” Sirius sighs and clutches Hari tighter, “time just blurred together.”

“I’m still angry they didn’t even think to give you a trial,” Hari murmurs and Sirius huffs.

“We’re talking about you, right now,” he reminds him, “don’t evade. What happened with the Dursleys?”

Hari stops and tries to think about how to put this without having to go into explicit detail, then decides on, “Maa and Baba’s concerns were well founded.”

“Oh, pup,” Sirius whispers and buries his nose in Hari’s hair. “I won’t ask any more, but there has to be a way to get you out of there, right?”

Hari hums, “I’m going back for one month this summer, in a way, and leaving on my birthday. I won’t have to see the Dursleys for longer than a half an hour.” Hari explains the set-up of his hidden bedroom-turned-apartment, which Sirius seems pleased about.

“I’m not pleased with it, but what will you do if Dumbledore decides to send you back after your birthday?”

Hari looks up and studies Sirius, “you have to keep this an absolute secret.”

“I will, pup. If it would keep you safe, I’d do anything.” Hari removes the glamour from his hands, which Sirius stares at for a long moment. “Which houses?”

“Potter, Peverell, Black, Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Gaunt.”

Sirius rubs a hand over his face, “oh, you need politics lessons.”

“It’s alright, Lucius has been teaching me since we found out,” Hari says, “and I’ve been taking etiquette lessons from Narcissa.”

“Well, it makes keeping you safe a little easier,” Sirius sighs. “But even as a Lord, they’ll want you to have a guardian.”

“I know,” Hari says, “and I want it to be you.”

“Hari…” Sirius tilts his head, sorrow on his face, “they’ll never allow that.”

“No, they might be able to make a valid argument about Moony, even if we don’t think it’s valid, but you’re doing fine. And by the time it’s an issue, my Lordship makes any guardian I have really just a formality, so they have no reason to deny me the guardian I want,” Hari folds his arms and pouts, looking for all the world like a child.

“Still, pup…”

“Lucius and Narcissa want me to be with Professor Snape. Professor McGonagall would be their second choice, since she can be easily swayed against Dumbledore with the argument of student safety. You and Moony are last resorts to them.” Hari relaxes into the feeling of Sirius running a thumb across his shoulder. “I do like Professor Snape and if you weren’t an option, I would go with him, gladly. I trust him and he keeps me safe at school. But he isn’t you. He isn’t my parent’s first choice. He cares about me, yes, but you love me. My choices are in the order Maa and Baba picked out.”

“I’m still unstable, pup,” Sirius warns.

“We all are. That’s what Critter and Kreacher are for,” Hari says, “and I still have to be in school for ten months out of the year. And,” he adds hesitantly, “we’ve acknowledged the probability of an interim guardian. I would choose Lucius and Narcissa for that. Since the proceedings to remove Dumbledore’s guardianship of me would require me to be there, it couldn’t happen during the school year and is unlikely to take less than a month. So we have time. It probably wouldn’t be until at least my fourteenth birthday when you would get guardianship.”

“And even then, it’s still mostly a formality.”

“Mostly,” Hari agrees, “I still need help sometimes, though. I can do all the basics for myself. I remember to eat at the right times and go to bed at a reasonable hour and shower every day, but I’m still a kid. I still think pranking a teacher into leaving is the most viable option to have him removed from the school,” Hari giggles at that and Sirius laughs boisterously. “My childhood caused me to grow up fast, and in that way, I could function on my own, but I still make irrational decisions sometimes and need a trustworthy adult who can help me learn to make the right ones.”

“That’s actually a very responsible decision,” Sirius smiles down at him, “I’m proud of you for being able to make it. I would’ve taken the opportunity to get the least caring guardian possible and ran with it, just to live on my own.”

“If I didn’t have any experience with people other than the Dursleys, I’d do the same.”

“I’ll have to send Cissy a thank you later,” Sirius says.

“Can we do henna now?”

“Oh, yes! What color are you wearing this year?” They settle on the floor around the low table and chat about happy nothings while Sirius traces out gorgeous designs on the backs of Hari’s hands.

“Could I try doing yours?” Hari asks. He doesn’t want to leave just yet. “I want to do some for my friends, but I figured it shouldn’t be my first attempt.”

“Of course, pup,” Sirius lays his right hand on the table, “just hold it like this and do any design you like.” Hari’s grateful to have researched some traditional designs before coming here because they’re in the forefront of his mind. When he’s done, Sirius remoistens Hari’s and casts the charms to keep it protected.

“This looks really good,” Sirius says, casting the same charms on his own hands.

“It’s not too different than frosting cakes and I used to make them for Aunt Petunia all the time.” Sirius hums, not sounding entirely pleased with that, but he refrains from commenting on it.

“You shouldn’t call her Aunt,” is all Sirius says.

“It’s just habit,” Hari murmurs. “I promised Narcissa I’d be back for dinner, but I wanted to ask, if we were going to redecorate a house for Moony, what would he like?”

Sirius grins mischievously, “Potter Cottage? He didn’t revert that to you? Decorate it however you like. He’d just do it in drab colors. Anything would be better than that.”

Hari laughs, “alright, then,” he stands, “I need to go, but maybe you’d like to visit the cottage before we give it to Moony?”

“Absolutely,” Sirius agrees immediately. “Just send me an owl.”

They hug goodbye and Hari floos back to Malfoy Manor, where he is promptly mauled by Draco, whining about being abandoned to a whole afternoon with only Blaise for entertainment.

Chapter Text

While they would normally huddle up on Draco’s bed for their Christmas gathering, the group settles themselves around a table this time. This is for the sole purpose of allowing Hari to apply henna to their hands.

“So Sirius taught you how to do this?” Pansy asks, leaning over to watch as Hari carefully draws on Daphne’s skin.

“Kind of,” he replies. “He really just let me practice it on him.”

“Yours are really pretty,” Daphne says. “He’s very good at it.”

“He learned with my baba,” Hari explains. His designs this year are a series of spirals with inlaid geometric patterns on one hand with overlapping and concentric circles of different patterned rings on the other. Both cover his entire hands this year. “He wanted to do something more traditional than what he did last year.”

“The lightning strike,” Blaise nods. “I remember that.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, of course. I think it was in the newspaper.” Hari groans at that, applying a few small dots to Daphne’s lacey design before sitting back. “Pansy? Your turn?” She offers her hand, switching spots with Daphne. “So what did the article say?” He starts on a design that is complimentary to Daphne’s, although not exactly the same.

“Well, it was generally about your appearance at the New Year’s Ball,” Draco starts, “they went on and on for a little while about your hair and how nice it looked long and pulled up.”

“Do people actually care about that stuff?” Hari crinkles his nose. He can’t imagine caring about how someone else wore their hair one night.

“Apparently,” Blaise huffs.

“Anyway, they talked about your hair and your clothes and how it was interesting you chose to wear a traditional outfit and how whoever raised you must have made sure you understood your family’s history.” They all snort at that. Sure, right, because not knowing his name is actually Indian in origin means he was taught all about it. “And then they pointed out how the henna on your right hand was the pattern of a lightning strike. The article wondered if you had done that on purpose. They actually had a picture of it from when you were shaking someone’s hand.” Right, because last year, Hari didn’t know not to shake hands yet.

“Was that all they said on it?”

“No. I don’t remember all of it, obviously, but they talked about your role as the Boy-Who-Lived and how the lightning bolt is copyrighted and that you’re lucky you made the design different than the mark because otherwise you might’ve had a lawsuit on your hands,” Draco finishes, rolling his eyes.

“They actually said that?”

“They did.”

“How can I be sued for something that’s mine?”

“It means,” Pansy interrupts, “that someone else has copyrighted it. Someone other than you who has reasonable claim.”

“Someone like, say, a magical guardian?” Hari pulls the henna away for a moment, taking a deep breath to quell his anger. “How did I not know about this article?”

“I didn’t read it to you,” Draco says, leaning his chin on his hand. “It made me pretty mad, so I put it away and just… didn’t mention it. Sorry, I thought you knew about it and were doing the same.”

Hari sighs and gets back to work, “I should get myself a Prophet subscription.”

“I’d agree,” Daphne says slowly, “but you have to monitor what money Dumbledore is removing from your trust vault, don’t you?” Hari hisses slightly.

“That’s right.”

“Well, it’s likely he’ll try to get all the money he can before the bank seals his access, right? And that’s just before your thirteenth birthday,” Daphne explains. “Since you’ve been keeping up with your rights and clearly know that you can stop him from taking money on your birthday, he’ll probably try to wipe it out by then.”

“Pity he doesn’t know that my parents said I’m the only one who can authorize transactions,” Hari murmurs with a small smirk, putting the finishing touches on Pansy’s design. “You’re up, Blaise.” They shuffle seats.

“Can you make it match my embroidery?” Blaise waves his wand and the pattern appears in the air. Hari nods and sets to work, scrawling the pattern from the outside of his wrist to the very tip of his index finger.

“Oh,” Daphne perks up, “so when you turn thirteen, you can go in and have the bank undo whatever transactions he’s made.”

“Every single knut will come straight back to me,” Hari confirms. “Plus, he doesn’t know that I have all the titles I do.”

“Right, we’re using that against him in the Wizengamot, but what does that have to do with money?” Blaise asks.

“Even if he were able to legally wipe out the Potter accounts, he can’t wipe out money he doesn’t know about,” Hari grins. “I can survive a few months without money, especially since I’ll be at Hogwarts for most of it.”

“Even if he did run you out of money for those few months, Mother and Father would buy you whatever you needed. You’re practically family,” Draco says. “And if they wouldn’t, I have my trust vault and I would buy you anything.” Hari smiles, blushing slightly.

“Thanks, Dray.”

“We all have trust vaults,” Pansy chimes in, “so it wouldn’t be completely on Draco to help you. We all would.”

“Absolutely,” Blaise agrees.

“It doesn’t matter,” Hari says, glancing at the glowing image from Blaise’s wand. “I’m going to buy the robes I need for the first Wizengamot session before we go back for the new term. Before he has a chance to try to run out my account. That’s all I imagine needing aside from food for July, and Critter can bring me that.”

“That’s good, but my point was, he’s going to try to take every last knut. You won’t have any to get a Prophet with,” Daphne sighs.

“Fair point,” Hari concedes. “I’ll just keep mooching off all of you until I’m in the clear.”

“Good,” Pansy nods once, sharp and pleased, “as for those robes, you’re really going to need something special. It needs to have a massive ‘wow’ factor.”

“Oh, right, you’ve been to your first session,” Daphne perks up, “how was it?”

“It’s so stuffy,” Pansy wrinkles her nose, “but honestly, really interesting. And so many of the Lords and Ladies are subtly petty, it’s actually really amusing to watch.”

“Just how formal do my robes need to be?” Hari asks, putting the last marks on Blaise’s hand. “Switch with Draco,” he orders.

“It’s not so much so that they need to be formal,” Pansy pauses, trying to figure out how to explain it. “They need to make a statement.”

“So, basically, we’re paying a visit to Mr. Lazwell this week,” Hari assumes. “Traditional or embroidered?” He asks Draco.

“Traditional,” Draco decides, “and yes, we’ll have to. Best to get them now before we have to worry about the amounts in your vault than wait until Ostara and have to double check.”

“Would it be possible to go in and design them now and have them made later?”

“No, Mr. Lazwell doesn’t work like that,” Daphne shakes her head, “but you can order them now and then the day of the session, go in and have them adjusted if you grew.”

“Lucky for me, the last day of the month always has a meeting.”

“Yeah, but the downside is, it starts at nine in the morning and you have so much to do that day,” Pansy says and yawns at the memory of the early morning and long day. Hari chuckles internally; she’s the one who needs at least three cups of tea in the morning to actually be a wake for class.

“I’m usually up early, anyway. I never grew out of that,” Hari says, forcing himself not to shrug. “The bank shouldn’t take too long, I just have to drop off the list of proper transactions to Griphook and make sure he knows that any that occurred overnight weren’t me. It’s visiting Mr. Lazwell that will take the longest. And, you know, getting myself to calm down enough to actually walk into the session.”

“Oh, man, we have to go over the proper procedure for that, don’t we?” Draco huffs. “It’s a whole thing.”

“Let me guess: center stage?”

“Basically,” Pansy nods. “Even for Heirs.”

“But we’ll all be there,” Blaise jumps in, “Since we’re all older than you. So just focus on us and don’t worry about anyone else.”

“Maybe build up my confidence closer to when I’ll actually need it?” Hari suggests jokingly. The group laughs, but Blaise blushes a little.

“Sorry, it just occurred to me. You’re the youngest in our year.”

“No one has an August birthday?”

“No one that goes to Hogwarts,” Blaise confirms. Hari’s not entirely sure what to say to that. “But I meant that since you’re the youngest in our year and, I believe, the last heir for at least five years, we’ll all already be there.”

“Who else is there?”

“There’s a few people in the years above us and, obviously, Theo. Then there’s Neville, the Longbottom Heir. He’s only a day older than you, but he’ll be introduced first,” Daphne smiles apologetically, “it goes in order of age, of course.”

“Of course,” Hari agrees, disgruntled.

“There’s also Anthony Goldstein, Susan Bones, Hannah Abbott, Ernie Macmillan, and Terry Boot.”

“That’s a lot of Hufflepuffs,” Hari says after a moment of thought.

“Friend groups tend to stick together,” Pansy tells him, “Plus, their families have different values than ours.”

“It’s kind of… hard, knowing I’ll be the last person for five years.”

“At least,” Blaise adds helpfully. Draco smacks him with his free hand. Hari quickly finishes up the design, realizing the group is getting fidgety.

“You’re done. Let me just do the charms.” He casts them quickly over Daphne, Draco and Pansy, re-moistens Blaise’s, and then charms his, as well. “You three should be fine leaving yours on for a day,” he tells them, “but you should leave yours on for two, Blaise.”

“Why’d you get mine wet again?”

“So it’ll be darker,” Hari says, trying to be patient. “That’s why you should leave it on longer, too.”

“Makes sense,” Blaise nods, studying the pattern. “This looks really nice.”

“Apparently, if you can frost a cake, you can learn to apply henna,” Hari says with a cheeky smirk.

“Brat,” Draco huffs, “you know none of us can frost a cake.”

Hari laughs, “I’ll teach you sometime, promise.”

“Oh, by the way, there’s one more thing you need to do at Gringotts before the session,” Pansy says as they move to the bed.

“What?”

“You need to request some type of jewelry from each House. I don’t know how you’ll swing that with six houses, but it’s traditional.” Hari groans and flops over onto Draco’s lap.

“More work.”


A few hours later, Narcissa opens the door and tells them Sirius is there to see Hari.

“I’ll be back as quick as possible,” he promises and darts down to the floo room.

“Hari!” Sirius grabs him in a tight hug, scooping him up and carrying him to the sofa. That’s a habit of his, Hari thinks, and it’s going to get old real fast. “I brought you a Christmas present.” He holds up a small pouch with leaves inside and a thin book. “Narcissa spoke to Sni—Snape for me, and he said he’d be willing to help you while you’re at school. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a special ability. Plus, the Potters are notoriously good at Transfiguration. Almost all of them did this process.”

“Animagus Transformation?” Hari asks, flipping the book open to the first page.

“Yep, you keep the leaf under your tongue for a month, make a potion with it, and then meditate to transform,” Sirius explains, “Once you get it once, it’s really easy to do again. It’s just managing it the first time that can be difficult. Although, I say difficult, it’s really just scary.”

“This says you can have more than one form?”

“Some people have two and I heard of a person having three, but I don’t know if that’s fact or rumor,” Sirius confirms.

“That’s pretty cool,” Hari hums. “But how am I supposed to keep a leaf under my tongue for a month?

“Sticking charm,” Sirius says proudly. Hari smiles, plucks out a leaf, and slips it under his tongue. Sirius does the charm for him with a happy grin. “There. You should take it out when you wake up the twenty-sixth of January.”

“I will. Thank you for this,” Hari hugs him tightly.

“I’m glad you like it.”

“What are the extra leaves for?”

Sirius laughs, “just in case something happens to the leaf. It happens sometimes even with the charm. Oh, and you can just use finite on it.”

“Got it,” Hari nods.

“Good, now go play,” Sirius hugs him once more and shoos him off. “And Happy Christmas.”

“Happy Christmas, Padfoot.”


“Lordling Potter,” Mr. Lazwell arches his brow as they walk in, “Heirs. Is there a problem with your robes?”

“No,” Hari assures him, “I need another set. Something that will make a statement for my first day with the Wizengamot.”

“Excuse my nosiness, but is your birthday not in July? It would make more sense to buy your robes then.”

“Perhaps,” Hari agrees, “but we have some concerns that require me to purchase them as soon as possible.”

“Well, then, why don’t we discuss what you need?” He brings the group into a back room, where they sit around a large table. “Wizengamot robes are somewhat different than everyday and even formal robes, especially for your first session. These will be more extravagant than usual Wizengamot robes, which are showy in their own right.”

“How big do I need to go?” Hari asks.

“You’ll be taking over for both the House of Potter and the House of Black, correct?”

“Actually...” Hari glances to Draco.

“We need your word that this will stay a secret. I trust you,” Draco hurries to assure him, “but we do not have the luxury of taking risks at the moment.”

“The privacy of my clientele is of the utmost importance,” Mr. Lazwell promises, “what you say in here will never leave this room. Except for the clothing designs, of course.” He smiles kindly at them and the group relaxes.

“I have six houses: Potter, Peverell, Black, Gryffindor, Slytherin, and Gaunt, in order of primacy.”

“Oh, dear, those colors will clash,” Mr. Lazwell sighs. “Okay, you’ve got a lot of black stones, so let’s say a solid black base. Matte shirt, pants, and waistcoat with satin tie and pocket square. I’ll do all the stitching in red. Cobalt blue robes, of course, and stitched in green. For shoes, I think a standard black shoe with the Potter crest subtly pressed on the tops of the toes. In terms of including stones, we can have the buttons shirt as black pearl, your cufflinks obsidian, inlaid rubies on the waistcoat buttons, and emerald, jade, and cobalt along the collar, wrists, and hemline of the robes. Do you know what jewelry you’ll be choosing to represent each House?”

“Not yet,” Hari tilts his head, “but I’m hoping to make a stop at Gringotts to find out what I have access to.”

“I know from experience that most Houses have some tasteful hair pieces that you could use,” Mr. Lazwell suggests.

“He’ll do that!” Daphne cries, clapping her hands once.

“Guess I’m doing that,” Hari smirks and Mr. Lazwell laughs.

“I’ll measure you and select fabrics for the robes today. They will be made and ready before you return to school after break. I will also have typical Wizengamot robes prepared for you, ready to alter when you come back in the summer.”

“That sounds great,” Hari agrees.

“Good, now, if you would like to see a mockup of what they will look like,” he taps his wand against the table and an image floats in the air. They look different than his usual robes. They’re definitely wider, designed to billow and take up space. The suit underneath is more closely fitted and has a slightly higher collar than usual. With the bold thread colors and gemstones throughout, the outfit is far more extravagant than Hari ever imagined robes could be.

“They’re perfect,” Draco declares.

“Absolutely,” Blaise agrees.

“You’ll look great,” Daphne promises.

“I’m jealous,” Pansy teases.

Hari giggles, “Thank you, Mr. Lazwell.”

“I’m proud to be of service, Lordling Potter.” Mr. Lazwell lifts his chin confidently and leads them out to the measuring area.

“For the shoes,” Draco speaks up while Hari is being measured, “will you be applying metal to the bottom of the heels?”

“Not a full plate of metal,” Mr. Lazwell says, “but I place dull metal rods in the heels for events like this. It creates the same effect without any risk of slipping.” Draco hums and nods in appreciation.

“That’s actually a really good idea,” he admits, “Father still uses the plates, though.”

“I’m aware, Heir Malfoy,” Mr. Lazwell says dryly, “He insists on it, claiming he has no problem walking in them, and he thinks I don’t know he charms them to be non-slip.” Draco’s jaw drops at the admission and the whole group starts to laugh.

“Why, exactly, is there metal in the heel of my shoes?” Hari asks once they’ve calmed down.

“It will click as you walk,” Mr. Lazwell explains, “it’s an attention-getting device. Not everyone has them in all their Wizengamot shoes. Some only use it for events like this.”

“Oh,” Hari nods, “I think I’d prefer not to use them if I don’t have to.”

“Just this one pair, then,” Mr. Lazwell promises. “Bring them in after and I can remove the rods for you.” The measuring tape settles back down and Mr. Lazwell guides Hari to the counter. “Place your ring here,” he taps the notch and there’s a soft chiming sound a moment later. “Thank you very much, Lordling Potter.”

“Thank you,” Hari replies, “and have a wonderful day.”

“So, how’s the meditating going?” Blaise asks when they get outside. Hari groans.

“It’s so boring,” he says, “but if I don’t practice now, I won’t be able to find my form when the time comes.”

“Can’t you receive some hints before the potion?”

“You can. I’m pretty sure I’m some type of cat. A big one. But I can’t tell anything more than that.”

“Bummer,” Pansy sighs, “Come on, we’ve got to get ready for the ball.”

Chapter Text

The train back to school leaves on January third. They board, secure in the knowledge that dinner tonight will be entertaining thanks to Critter’s orders.

Sure enough, halfway through the meal, there’s an unholy shriek and then Lockhart is out the door once more. Hari and his friends have to pinch themselves to stop laughing, especially with the random tooth fallen on the floor.

“Critter does good work,” Draco murmurs. Hari nods with quiet chuckles. Dumbledore rises once more.

“It seems, once again, that there has been a sickening attack on a staff member. I would like to remind the perpetrators that, should they be caught, they will face expulsion for their crimes,” he announces. Hari and Draco roll their eyes. He leans into Draco to whisper in his ear.

“Your mother said she’d start teaching me French over the summer. What do you know about Beauxbatons?”

Draco giggles, “Don’t be silly, they snap your wand if you’re expelled.”

“Doesn’t stop me from moving to France and buying a new one,” Hari retorts.

“I… don’t have anything to say to that,” Draco huffs. It’s not often he’s beaten in a verbal battle.

Hari just smiles and settles onto Draco’s shoulder. He’s already finished his meal, but they’re not supposed to leave until the Feast is over and they’re instructed to by a prefect. Draco shifts, turning so his arm is around Hari and his hand is petting the loose curls. Hari closes his eyes and relaxes into the sensation. It’s not the first time he’s cuddled with Draco, but it is the first time Draco’s pet him. If he were a cat, he’d purr. And not subtly, either. Miss Figg had a cat that, whenever you pet it, would purr like a chainsaw. You could hear it from across the room. If Hari could purr, he bets that’s what it would sound like.

“Just rest,” Draco murmurs against his forehead, “we’ve still got about a half an hour and I know you’re tired.”

Yes, Hari is tired. They’ve gotten hardly any sleep the last two nights. First was the New Year’s Ball, which wasn’t eventful at all, except that they had to stay up past midnight. That would have been okay, if they hadn’t done the same thing the very next night, scrambling to finish the holiday homework they’d been putting off. They definitely weren’t going to admit to Lucius and Narcissa that they hadn’t done the work they’d sworn was finished at the start of break.

Draco smiles down at Hari, who’s breathing has evened out to the point of practically sleeping. It’s irrational, he knows—Hari is more powerful than him both magically and politically—but he wants to protect Hari, bundle him up away from the world so no one can hurt him. Maybe he can’t do it today, but someday, those muggles will pay for hurting Hari.

He looks up to see Blaise smirking at him and can feel heat flood his face. He shakes his head slightly. It might look like he is, but Hari isn’t actually asleep yet and whatever comment Blaise is about to make will embarrass the both of them. Blaise nods slightly in understanding.

Dumbledore stands again. Old fool. The man’s blue eyes flicker over towards them, towards Hari, for a brief instant. They settle down the center, then come back, flashing with interest. He makes some speech about House unity and being glad they’re all back and safe. Draco rolls his eyes more than once during the rambling, then helps Hari to stand. Bleary green eyes blink up at him.

“The feast is over,” Draco murmurs, “it’s time for bed.” Hari nods and leans on Draco, trusting him to guide Hari back safely.

“I need to speak with Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore’s voice cuts through the quiet moments. He’s addressing Blaise, who had placed himself between Dumbledore and Hari.

“As you can see, he’s quite tired. I’m sure whatever you need to talk about can keep until the morning. If it cannot, then you should speak to our Head of House.”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary. This won’t take more than a moment.” The girls share a distrustful look with Draco. Not more than a moment, sure, to dose Hari with either veritaserum or compulsion spells. No way are they letting Dumbledore have any time alone with Hari.

“It’s a rule,” Hari mutters.

“Hm?” Draco’s eyes flash down to him. Right, Hari’s still awake. He needs to be in bed. Why is this taking so long?

“It’s a rule. Headmaster cannot meet with students without their Head of House present.” The words are too quiet for Dumbledore to hear them from Hari’s mouth, but he’ll definitely hear them when Draco repeats them.

“Headmaster, certainly you’re not intending to go against the Charter?”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Well, Headmaster, the Hogwarts Charter explicitly states that the Headmaster cannot meet with students without their Head of House present.”

“Oh, but I’m not meeting with him as Headmaster,” Dumbledore’s eyes glint dangerously, “I’m meeting with him as his guardian.”

“On Hogwarts grounds,” Hari mutters and this time Draco gets what he wants to say immediately.

“You’re on Hogwarts property, however, and therefore cannot step out of your position as Headmaster. Professor Snape must be there for you to meet with any Slytherin, including Hari.”

“You heard him,” Pansy smirks, leaning her shoulder against Blaise’s, “so we’ll just be off.”

“Shall we expect Professor Snape to collect Hari in the morning before classes to meet with you?” Daphne asks sweetly and Draco stamps down a smirk. She’s good at that, looking almost as innocent as Hari in that moment.

“You shall,” Dumbledore snaps and whirls around, stalking away with as much dignity as a man taken down by twelve-year-olds can. They watch him go for a long moment. Hari snuffles slightly in his half-asleep state and Draco jerks back to the present.

“Come on,” he says, “we’ve got to get Hari to bed.”

“I can take him if you need me to,” Blaise offers.

“No,” Draco shakes his head, arm tightening around Hari’s waist. “He’s actually still pretty light.” He pokes Hari lightly in the ribs. “I thought you’d have grown more by now, what with the potions they’ve got you on.”

“Madam Pomfrey said I missed my chance,” Hari grumbles, glaring sleepily up at him. “The potions can help make sure I get the most out of what’s left of my growing, but the growth spurts I missed can’t be made up entirely. So I’ll always be about three inches shorter than I could have been.”

They start walking again, but Draco shares a look of interest with the others. Well, if he’s feeling honest…

“How tall did Madam Pomfrey say you’d end up?” Please, be shorter than Draco’s own expected height of 6’2.

“Mm, 5’8.” Not short, no, but oh, yes, shorter than Draco and that is perfect. They’ll always be able to cuddle like this. Well, maybe not after they get married if their spouse doesn’t approve… but Draco shakes that thought away and moves on. Hari will always be perfect cuddle height compared to Draco.

“That’s a good height,” Draco tells Hari and wishes the girls good night. Hari murmurs a soft ‘goodnight’ of his own, but only Draco hears. “Let’s get you into bed, yeah?” In their room, Hari lets his robes slide off his shoulders and, impressively, manages to change into pajamas entirely on his own. It took a little while, but he did it. Draco leans over Hari’s prone form and tugs the blankets up further, tucking them around him.

“I’ll get you up if you aren’t already,” he promises and presses a small kiss to Hari’s temple, then leans away and closes the curtains around Hari’s bed. They have built-in muffling spells, which, unfortunately, mean Blaise can now say whatever he wants.

“Oh, sure, you definitely aren’t crushing on him.”

“Is he like that with Hari all the time?” Theo asks, actually looking up from his book.

“Not that obviously, no, that was because Hari was half asleep and more adorable than usual,” Blaise snickers, “but yes, Draco dotes on him.”

“I treat him exactly the same as I do all my friends,” Draco denies.

“You give him extra chocolate from your box, which you won’t share with anyone else, hold his hand at every opportunity, hug him multiple times every single day, and you get huffy if he doesn’t sit next to you.” Blaise shoots Draco a dry look, “need I go on?” Draco just glares.

“Sounds like a crush to me,” Theo agrees.

“I don’t—“ Draco can’t honestly say that, so he cuts himself off.

“It’s not a bad thing to have a crush on him, you know. He is adorable,” Blaise says.

“He was raised by muggles, though,” Draco sighs, “and we all know their thoughts on same-gender relationships.”

“He’s been really receptive to our ways, though,” Blaise points out, “He didn’t take off the make-up until it was time to go to bed and he loves learning and doing the traditions that his parents followed. Why would this be any different?”

“I guess,” Draco allows, “but the muggles didn’t like anything that was different. It’s not like they could outright do anything about his skin and they certainly couldn’t stop him from being a wizard, but public opinion agrees on the same-gender topic. Hari wouldn’t have just heard it from them, he would have heard it from the whole muggle world.”

“So we point out that it was something his muggles agreed with. Use his distaste towards them to bring him around,” Blaise suggests, “and maybe show him some same-gender relationships here. I’ve had two step-mothers since my mother likes both genders.”

“That’s… actually not a bad idea,” Draco finally says. “But we won’t bring it up yet. And I’m not admitting to wanting to act on my crush. I don’t even know if he likes me back, so it’s a moot point.”

“That’s fair,” Blaise agrees quickly, “but if he’s oblivious to his own feelings in another year or two, we’re stepping in.”

“That’s the best I’m going to get from you, isn’t it?” Draco asks.

“You’re lucky I’m not giving him only until his birthday.” Draco rolls his eyes.

“Such benevolence.”

“I try,” Blaise smirks.

“Try harder.”

“Whatever, just go to bed, lover boy.” Blaise shoves Draco’s shoulder.

“I will, just,” Draco rolls his head back, “I had a thought earlier. Hari just… gave up the information about his height. We would’ve had to convince him to tell us if he were awake. He would’ve been weak towards the laced candies. Dumbledore knew that; he was watching us at the feast.”

“So he was hoping to take advantage of Hari’s tired state?”

“I think so,” Draco admits.

“Then we’ll tell Professor Snape when he comes to get Hari tomorrow. Maybe he can give Hari an energizing draught or something to wake him up fully.”

Draco nods, only slightly reassured. After a round of short ‘goodnight’s, they all head to bed. No sense being exhausted on the first day of class.

They had decided not to do anymore pranks on Lockhart until after Hari took the leaf out of his mouth. Since Dumbledore hasn’t been informed of Hari’s plans to become an animagus, if he were to find out in the process of questioning them, Hari could end up in heaps of trouble. As a minor, his guardian would have to approve of the transformation and Dumbledore is still legally Hari’s guardian, unfortunately. They just got lucky that he didn’t ask to see Hari the morning following the Feast. He really was just after a sleepy, loose-lipped Hari.


“Lordling Potter,” Professor Snape crosses the office to where Hari is waiting.

“Professor Snape,” Hari returns politely.

“The potion is prepared,” Professor Snape says, “and waiting. I have enclosed it in a vial light cannot penetrate. Tonight will be a lightning storm.” It is just three days before Valentine’s Day, almost two months after Hari began the process. He knows if he hadn’t had Professor Snape to brew the potion for him, he would never have succeeded. Where would he even find a full teaspoon of dew untouched by sunlight and human feet for seven days?

“Tonight?” Hari asks, perking up visibly.

“Tonight,” Professor Snape confirms. “Rather rare for this time of year, so you are quite lucky.”

“Thank you, sir, for brewing it for me and agreeing to supervise.”

“I understand the interest,” Professor Snape tells him, “and it is a worthy pursuit. Now, shall we move to the room you have selected?”

“Of course,” Hari jumps out of his chair, “it’s this way.”

“You remembered to do the incantation every day, sunrise and sunset, correct?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You did it tonight, as well?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” They walk in silence the rest of the way and Hari paces three times to call a wide, open room. “You know the process if you have more than one form?”

“I’ll transform, remain in my primary animagus form for one minute, and then transform again into my secondary form. I’ll have a ten second forewarning of the second transformation occurring as the double-heartbeat will re-start.”

“Very well.” They enter the room, which has a window allowing them to see when the storm begins. “Here is the vial. Once the lightning begins in earnest, say the incantation again, then drink.”

“Yes, sir.” Hari watches the window with bated breath. It takes ten minutes for the first strike. He jumps at the crack; dry lightning is, apparently, louder than usual. Two minutes pass before there is another strike and then the lightning begins to come rapidly.

“Now, Lordling Potter,” Professor Snape instructs.

Amato Animo Animato Animagus,” Hari chants, the wand tip of his true wand pressed over his heart. He returns his wand to the holster and watches for the next lightning strike. When it hits, he opens the vial and drinks. It takes all his self-control not to gag at the taste. There’s only one mouthful and he cannot afford a mistake.

“Very good, Lordling Potter,” Professor Snape says in a soothing voice, “now the transformation will begin. Stay calm. You already know how it will happen.”

Hari nods but doesn’t verbally reply. Instead, he takes slow, deep breaths, trying not to let his anxiety grow. There’s a pang in his chest and it feels as if he’s having heart palpitations. Then, it feels as if someone has crammed a second heart into his chest. An animal sprints at him in his mind.

A low ache ripples across his entire body and suddenly, the world is different. He can hear and smell far more and the light of the room is irritatingly bright. He hisses up at it. Hari paces around, trying to see himself. Orange and black is all he can see. It doesn’t matter that much, though. He sniffs the air. Lightning is about to strike, he can tell. His fur is standing on end and the air smells charged. His heartbeat doubles again and another, smaller animal appears in his mind. He growls at it. It’s making his chest hurt. But as his lips curl back to show his fangs, it sprints at him and, suddenly, he is smaller.

His senses don’t disappear. If anything, they get better. He feels stronger, faster, lighter. The world is so much larger. Professor Snape is huge, ginormous, a mountain. He could climb him. He prowls over, sniffs at Professor Snape’s toe. Familiar scent, safety. He leans up so his paws are as tall as he can reach and sniffs at Professor Snape’s knee.

“Try and transform back, Lordling Potter,” Professor Snape says. Why would he want to change back? The world is so wonderful like this. Big and easy to navigate. But Professor Snape is safety, and he should always trust safety, so Hari changes back.

The world shrinks. He can no longer hear the howl of the wind in the trees outside or feel the grains of the ground underneath him. He stares up at Professor Snape in awe.

“What did I change into? I didn’t quite get a look at the animal beforehand.”

“A tiger, Lordling Potter, is your primary form. And a type of small wildcat that I will have to identify.” Professor Snape tips his head slightly. “Perhaps you could ask the room for a book on tiger breeds?”

Hari nods and, after a moment, a small table with a book appears. It has a listing of all the different breeds of tigers, modern, extinct, and magical alike. Professor Snape flips through for a minute.

“Bengal tiger,” he finally announces. “Could you request a book on small South Asian wildcats?”

Hari does, but asks, “how do you know it’s a small breed and I’m not just a kitten?”

“It’s true you were about the size of a young kitten,” Professor Snape agrees, opening the book, “but you are old enough that any animagus form will be fully grown. It is only if you transformed as a child that your form would be young.”

“Oh,” Hari pauses, “how could you tell I’m a wildcat?”

“Your tail, Lordling Potter,” Professor Snape sighs, flipping several more pages. “Wild and domesticated cats have different tails and that is the easiest way to tell.”

Hari hums, digesting this. Then he realizes the most important question, “what’s my marking?”

“What?”

“What’s the identifier that I’m an animagus and not an actual cat?”

“Oh,” Professor Snape looks up with a pleased smile, “it’s rather difficult to tell for you. It’s your eyes.”

“My eyes?”

“Yes, Lordling Potter, your eyes. They are exactly the same shade of green. Anyone who knows you well will be able to identify them, but otherwise, they blend with the rest of the cats of the world. You are very lucky.”

Hari giggles, “lucky me.”

Professor Snape skims several more pages, then stops on one. “Would you transform into your secondary form, please?” Hari does without a second thought and relaxes when Professor Snape scoops him up. “Hmm, I thought that’s what I saw. You may change back.” Hari purrs and butts his head against Professor Snape’s hand for a moment, then changes back.

“You figured it out, then?” he asks, leaning forward excitedly.

“The rusty spotted cat. It is arguably the smallest wildcat in the world,” Professor Snape smiles at him, “It is considered friendly, playful, and easily domesticated. It is good at climbing and lives in heavily vegetated areas in India and Sri Lanka. It will fiercely defend itself if necessary, but prefers to climb trees when in danger. Males typically weigh up to 3.5 pounds.”

Hari’s eyes go wide and then he starts laughing.

“I’m really tiny, then,” he giggles hysterically. “It actually sounds useful, being that small and cute.”

“Does it?”

“It does. It would be a decent spying form,” Hari explains. “People wouldn’t see such a small cat as a potential threat.”

“You’ll have to register one of your forms, at least.”

“The tiger. If I ever need to use the… let’s just call it a kitten. If I ever need to use the kitten form to spy, it would be best for it to not be on the register.”

“A wise decision, Lordling Potter. And quite an impressive transformation it was.” He studies Hari for a long moment, before adding, “If you have no objections, I will inform Professor McGonagall of your kitten form and request that she teach you to fend for yourself in it. Instinct may be useful, but it will only get you halfway there.”

“Actually,” Hari grins slyly, “could we find her with me already in kitten form?”

“And what, introduce you as a kitten who needs to learn to hunt?”

“Exactly,” Hari says happily. Professor Snape rolls his eyes exasperatedly, but Hari can see the spark of interest in them. He transforms without giving Professor Snape a chance to say no.

“If you claw me,” Professor Snape warns, scooping Hari up gently, “I will drop you.” Hari crawls up so his hind paws are on Professor Snape’s hand but his forepaws are on his shoulder and rubs his head under his chin, purring excitedly. Professor Snape walks quickly and Hari studies the halls with interest. They look so different as a cat and, even though it’s dark out, he can see perfectly.

“Hello, Minerva,” Professor Snape pushes open the slightly ajar door and closes it behind him.

“Severus,” Professor McGonagall sighs, “another cat.”

“A kitten,” he corrects, “who needs to learn to hunt.” He takes Hari by the scruff of his neck and sets him on the desk. Hari meows as cutely as possible up at Professor McGonagall.

“You can’t just bring me every cat you find.”

“I can. I don’t, though. Just the ones who need you.” She glares at him, then stands.

“You’re lucky this kitten is cute.” She transforms and jumps up to the desk. “Kitten.” She reaches out and bumps her nose against his.

“Hi!” Hari stretches excitedly, flicking the very tip of his tail lightly.

“Hungry?” She snuffles the top of his head and rests her chin on top of the nape of his neck.

“Not yet.” He crouches, hoping to avoid being picked up by his scruff again.

“Find me when you are.” She leans away and sits primly, introducing herself, “Minerva.”

Hari mimics her posture, “Hari.” She freezes and leans forward, sniffing insistently for a moment.

“Hari Potter, what were you thinking?” She hisses at him angrily. He whines plaintively and crouches back, trying to show his apology. “Change back!”

They both transform and, in an instant, she is yelling at Severus, her Scottish brogue too thick for Hari to reliably understand her. He gets the gist, though. She’s angry he learned to become an animagus so young since the risks are so high.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Severus defends, “Narcissa asked me to help him after Black had already given him the leaves and book! It’s too dangerous a potion to mess up, so I figured it would be better if I were the one to brew it. Less risk that way.”

She sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose, but accepts the explanation. “It is interesting,” she says, “I did not realize it was him at first. Usually, the identifier is somewhat obvious.”

“Professor Snape said it’s my eyes,” Hari offers.

She thinks for a moment, studying his eyes, “I could see that now.” Then, she smiles at him, “you have quite a cute form, Mr. Potter.”

“Thank you, but that’s actually my secondary form. I’m registering the other with the Ministry.”

“What’s the other form?”

“A Bengal tiger.” Hari grins proudly. It’s an impressive form.

“And the kitten?” She knows the two are usually somehow related.

“A rusty spotted cat. It’s actually full grown, but we’re referring to it as my kitten form since it’s so small. And it’s also from India.”

“Hummingbird,” Professor McGonagall smiles, “it’s considered the hummingbird of the cat world since it’s so small, agile, and fast. I’ll help you learn to hunt,” she promises. “Just, not tonight. Students,” she glares at Professor Snape, “are supposed to be in bed. A little secret, the dorms open for pets, so just go up and ask it to.”

“Thank you, Professors!” Hari changes into the kitten and races off, darting down the stairs with ease and quickly arriving, though slightly out of breath from the distance, at the common room. “Open,” he orders the door and it lifts a small cat flap for him. He races down the hall to his room and through the open door.

“Hey,” Blaise squints at the kitten, “why’s there a cat in here?”

“I don’t know,” Draco studies Hari, “I’ve never seen it before. It looks young.”

“Yeah, but how would someone get a new cat here? It’s the middle of the term.”

Hari meows at them and jumps up onto Draco’s bed. He blinks, making his eyes wide and obvious for them to see.

“Wait,” Draco leans in, “Hari?” Hari purrs and reaches out to rub his head against Draco’s cheek.

“That’s Hari?” Blaise jumps up and hurries over. “Oh, I see it now. The eyes.”

“There was a lightning storm today. That must be what he was doing with Professor Snape.” Hari nods quickly and crouches to burrow under Blaise’s hand. Blaise sees the instruction for what it is and starts petting him.

“So, just one form for you?” Blaise asks. Hari meows in answer and jumps off the bed. In an instant, he’s become a tiger.

“You idiot,” Draco hisses and closes the door with a flick of his wand, “anyone could’ve seen you!”

Hari changes into his human form, “I’ll be registering the tiger form, anyway. And aside from us, no one knows except Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall.”

“You told Professor McGonagall?” Draco sounds horrified.

“I need to learn to hunt,” Hari defends.

“He does,” Blaise agrees before Draco can argue. “It would be useful.”

“Fine,” Draco sighs, “you should go show the girls.” Hari nods and changes, trotting away calmly.

“Aw, hi there, kitty,” Daphne coos when he enters the room. “Are you lost?” He shakes his head.

“Hang on,” Pansy kneels down, “the storm. Hari?” Hari backs away from them slightly and changes into the tiger as confirmation, then into human form.

“Yeah,” he says, “and Professor McGonagall knows, too. I need her to teach me to hunt.”

“Okay, well, she’s trustworthy, so I have nothing against it,” Pansy assures him.

“Though I imagine Draco isn’t pleased with that,” Daphne says with a smile.

“No, he’s really not,” Hari sighs. “I don’t get it.”

“He’s just fussy,” Daphne promises. “He’ll get over it.”

“Thanks for showing us right away,” Pansy grins, “but it’s bedtime, so, off with you.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Hari waves goodnight, changes, and runs back.

“Come cuddle,” Draco demands when he sees Hari come back. Hari flicks his tail and trots the long way around the bed to Draco’s other side. “Hari, come on.” Hari looks up at him over his shoulder and lets out a rolling meow that indicates his displeasure at being told what to do. “Fine, if it pleases Your Majesty, please come cuddle as a cat.”

Hari leaps onto the bed easily and curls himself into the curve of Draco’s neck, resting his head on the pillow. He’s still there when he wakes up in the morning.

Chapter Text

“Let’s give ourselves a nice Valentine’s Day gift,” Draco suggests, lounging on his bed with Hari curled up as a kitten next to him. The others are stretched out on Hari’s bed.

“What gift?” Pansy asks, scratching her quill across the parchment.

“Let’s finish the Dunderhead,” Draco grins wickedly. Pansy looks up from her unfinished homework with excitement in her eyes. Blaise and Daphne do, as well, and even Hari perks up from his cat nap.

“Truth and jabbermouth potions?” Blaise checks.

“Yep. But not enough of the veritaserum to be detectable.”

“Okay, but how do we get the veritaserum?” Daphne asks.

“Hari,” Draco turns to him, “it should be on the third shelf at the back of Uncle Sev’s storeroom. It’s a clear potion in a small vial. It will be labeled ‘VS’ only, so look for that. And go in cat form.”

Hari stretches, flexing his claws and flicking his tail, then hops off the bed and struts from the room. The other students take the time to coo over him and offer soft pets. He soaks up the attention with glee, then slips from the common room to the sound of someone wondering who’s pet he is.

“I don’t know, but he could be from any house,” someone replies.

“Guess we’ll never know, then,” the first sighs.

Hari smirks internally and hurries on his way. The potions storage isn’t too far, since Professor Snape likes to keep everything nearby. He says it’s to catch the sneaks faster. Hari supposes that’s logical.

The potions storage is a cabinet that’s easy to open. It’s the spell work that’s hard to get around. The upside of being an animagus: you don’t register as human or animal to wardings when in your animagus form. Specialty wards need to be put up to keep animagi out. So Hari easily paws the door open and slides through the crack. The shelves are filled with fragile bottles.

Third shelf, VS, he reminds himself. He scans the shelves. There, at the back, is a collection of small vials with short labels. Hari leaps up, landing on soft paws. He carefully slides out one of the vials and holds it gently in his mouth. It wouldn’t do to bite down and get a mouthful of glass.

He jumps and twists through the air to land on all four paws in a slight crouch. Hari checks both ways before exiting and closing the cabinet, then finds a private spot to transform a few hallways away. In human form, he double checks the vial. It’s not exactly easy to read as a cat. Sure, he still has his human mind, but at the forefront are the animal instincts. He has to force himself to focus on the letters when in cat form, and he’s not certain he always gets them correct.

Maybe he and the others will have to do an experiment on that.

He shakes off the thought; he’ll bring it up to the others later, but for now, he needs to get back. The vial goes into his pocket and he transforms once more. People saw the cat leave, but they also saw human-Hari enter a few hours ago. Since human-Hari never left, it wouldn’t make sense for him to be coming back.

Hari returns to the room of people who like to pet him. Someone offers him a small treat. It tastes really good and he stands with his front paws on their knee, hoping for more. They don’t offer one right away, so he lets out a pitiful meow and earns one.

“Guess it doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out where he’s from,” a tall boy chuckles, “with enough treats, he’ll come here regularly.”

“I’ll buy some extra on the next Hogsmede trip,” a girl agrees. “We can rotate who buys through the end of the year.” Hari purrs. Extra treats? He likes the sound of that.

“Aw,” someone—another girl—sighs, “he’s so sweet.” He leaps into her lap and rubs against her stomach, sitting happily when she starts to pet him.

He’s been in the common room for almost fifteen minutes when he realizes he had a job he was supposed to be finishing. He rubs up against someone’s leg once more and then sprints off down the hall.

“Bye, kitty,” the students call after him.

“He’s probably looking for new people,” someone chuckles. Well, he sort of is. Just not for the reason they’re assuming.

“Did you remember to get the vial?” Draco asks, a pout poorly hidden on his face. Hari meows and jumps into his lap, butting at his chin and purring loudly.

“Don’t mind him,” Blaise laughs, “he’s just jealous since you let everyone in the common room pet you.” Hari lets out a series of sounds that seem to express that he’d just been having fun. He thinks. Professor McGonagall would’ve understood it, at least.

He changes back to human and finds himself sitting on Draco’s lap.

“I got the vial, you dolt. But someone in the common room gave me a treat and then they were talking about buying more so I’d come back and that sounded nice and they were nice so I was letting them pet me… I may have let the animal instincts have a little too much control, there,” he admits sheepishly.

“Just a little,” Draco agrees dryly.

“Hey, if you want treats, we can get you some, too,” Daphne suggests. When Draco glares, they all laugh.

“Relax, Dray,” Hari leans against Draco’s chest. “You can be the one to pick them out.”

“We should get you a collar for when you’re running around as a cat,” Blaise says. “We don’t want someone to try to take you, especially if you choose to go outside.”

“Hey!” Draco is the only one offended by the suggestion.

“Dray, really, it’s alright. He’s actually right,” Hari soothes, “it’d be best I don’t get taken.”

“Fine, but it’s not going to be some stupid looking pet collar,” Draco huffs, “it needs to be pretty.”

“Preferably something that doesn’t make noise,” Pansy adds. “If you plan to use the form to spy.”

“That’s right,” Hari nods, “it wouldn’t do to get a cute collar only to have it defeat the purpose of keeping that form a secret.”

“I got a new catalogue from Magical Menagerie,” Daphne says, “Astoria convinced our parents over Yule that we should have an owl since we’re both here. They sent the catalogue with the owl so we could get supplies.”

“I remember that,” Pansy glances over, “it’s a beautiful bird.”

“Right?” Daphne preens.

“It is,” Draco says, thinking about something, “but no collar from Magical Menagerie is going to be what I’m looking for. Just a minute.” He pushes Hari off his lap and wanders to his trunk, then digs through it until he pulls out a catalogue for a jewelry shop.

“They sell collars?”

“For high-end exotic pets, technically,” Draco confirms, “but I figure a wildcat fits as exotic, so…”

“Pick something that doesn’t look too expensive,” Blaise says, “it’d be suspicious if a cat at Hogwarts had too pricey of a collar.” Draco hums in acknowledgement and flips a few more pages.

“Something thin, subtle, and that would almost blend in with his fur,” Draco muses, “with a small, but visible charm at the bottom.”

“So, a bronze chain with a black stone?” Daphne asks.

“That would probably be best.”

“What do I even look like, by the way? I’ve yet to see a mirror and cats see color differently, so I’m not sure the flashes of my tail that I’ve seen are accurate.”

“Here,” Blaise floats an image of the kitten in the air between them. “It’s true to size.” And it’s tiny. Hari’s actually shocked at just how small the form is. He hadn’t realized, but it’s true, the cat looks like it could fit in the cradle of someone’s hands. The fur is a warm rust-color with black stripes and spots. It’s a little odd since most are gray with rust-colored spots, but the book had said this was an alternate coloration, so it’s not too unusual. It goes with his tiger.

“I’m really cute,” Hari grins, puffing up his chest.

“Yes, you are,” Daphne says, reaching across to pet the top of his head. “As if the people in the common room didn’t give you enough attention.”

“Okay, I’ve got three options. Hari, which do you like best?” Hari looks at the choices. They’re all thin chains with links designed to not make any noise, all in bronze, which will barely show against his fur. All will automatically re-size to fit properly. They have different tags, which is what sets them apart. One has a small opal on the end, the next a beautifully cut obsidian, and the last is a pressed volcanic rock called hematite. Hari studies the last one for a while longer than the others.

“The last one,” he finally tells Draco, “it doesn’t connect to my Houses.” Draco nods understandingly.

“We’ll need to pick a name to have etched. They’ll use bronze for that, too. And it will be charmed to prevent rust and other damage.” That sends them all silent for a long while. Finally, Draco speaks up, “Lightning.”

“Lightning? Really?” Hari glares.

“Hear me out,” Draco holds up both hands, “yes, it links to your scar, but it’s not obvious. Your breed is known for being fast and agile. And you learned to transform in a lightning storm.”

“No.”

“Fine, how about Beau,” Draco huffs.

“Bo?”

“It’s French. Beau. It means handsome. People won’t question that.”

“I like it,” Daphne chimes in with a smile. Blaise and Pansy agree, as well. Hari thinks for a minute, then smiles.

“I am a handsome cat, aren’t I?”

Draco rolls his eyes, “and a vain one, too.” He fills out the form to order the collar, then passes it over to Hari, who stamps it with his ring instead of signing. When the stamp appears without any issues, they know he has enough money in the vault to buy it.

“I’ll have it sent to Uncle Sev,” Draco says, “we wouldn’t want a collar arriving in the middle of the Great Hall.”

“You should also practice transforming and leaving an item on your cat form,” Pansy adds. “We don’t want you choking yourself on the collar.”

“It auto-sizes,” Draco cuts in.

“Yes, but can it size quickly enough to not cut into him when going from that tiny thing to a normal human?” Draco has to think about this, but realizes quickly that Pansy is right.

“How about I practice with my tie?”

“Good idea.” Hari hands the tie to Blaise while Draco slips off to the owlry to send the letter before curfew. Hari transforms and Blaise ties the tie loosely around his neck, leaving enough room that human-Hari won’t be choked. It takes three tries before Hari successfully leaves the tie on Beau and another five before he does it twice in a row. After ten more, he has successfully left it five times in a row and is thoroughly exhausted.

“I’m out,” Hari gasps, throwing himself down on Draco’s bed. The other three laugh at his plight.

“The collar should arrive sometime tomorrow,” Draco announces when he gets back to the room a few seconds later. He looks at Hari. “What did you guys do to him?” He lifts his wand and casts a freshening spell at the exhausted boy.

“He just transformed too many times in too short a time frame, he’s alright.”

“They’re right, I’m fine,” Hari promises, smiling up at Draco. “Thanks for the spell.”

Draco blushes and mumbles out a weak, “you’re welcome.” Blaise snickers and whispers something to Pansy and Daphne.

“It’s almost curfew,” Pansy jumps up after hearing whatever Blaise had to say.

“We should go,” Daphne agrees.

“Goodnight!” they chorus and practically run from the room.

“Ugh, I have to get up to change,” Hari whines.

“We learn switching spells in sixth year,” Draco says, “If you knew one, you wouldn’t have to.”

“I wish I had time to read ahead,” Hari complains, heaving himself off the bed with exaggerated effort. “But getting ready to become Lord and later, being Lord both will keep me from ever doing that.”

“It’s alright,” Draco pats Hari on the head, “we’ll make sure you don’t fall behind.”

Hari rolls his eyes and finishes changing. “To your own bed, Blaise,” he orders, then flops down and shimmies under the covers, flicking the curtains closed with his wand.


“Hari!” Draco calls when they get up in the morning, “call Critter!” Hari glances around, but Theo, Crabbe, and Goyle are already gone. Right, Draco would’ve checked that before asking.

“Critter!” Draco hands Hari the vials.

“Master Hari is being pranking Dunderhead again? It is being a long time.” Critter blinks up innocently.

“It has been and yes, we are. I have two vials for you, he needs both for this to work.” Hari holds up the clear vial, “just three drops of this into his drink. It has no taste so he shouldn’t notice.”

“Clear, three drops, in drink,” Critter nods.

“This one should be ten drops in his food,” Hari holds up a pink liquid. “It has a little bit of flavor, but should be masked by whatever he’s eating.”

“Ten drops of pink in food,” Critter repeats. “Both today at breakfast?”

“Yes,” Hari nods with a smile, “we’ll be leaving for that in a few minutes.”

“Critter will be waiting!” Critter smiles up at Hari and pops away.

They finish getting ready quickly. Hari casts the spell for his make-up and one to pull his hair into a French fishtail braid that wraps around his head and drapes over his right shoulder. He’s been getting more daring with his hairstyles lately and fishtail braids, he thinks, are pretty looking.

“Happy Valentine’s Day to us,” Draco crows when they reach the common room, throwing his arms around Hari and grinning at the girls. Daphne and Pansy giggle, excitement glinting in their eyes. They know exactly what that means. Hopefully, after today, Lockhart will no longer be their problem.

“Let’s go,” Blaise gives Draco a little shove, “I’m hungry.”

“I am, too,” Hari agrees. They step out at the same time Professor Snape leaves his quarters.

“Mr. Malfoy, you received a package this morning,” he raises an eyebrow.

“Oh, could I have it, please?” Professor Snape sighs, but vanishes back into his quarters for a second and returns with a small box. Draco slips it into his pocket. “After classes,” he tells Hari, who nods. They start walking towards the Great Hall. Before they enter, Draco says, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Uncle Sev!” Professor Snape gives him an odd look, but Draco just smiles.

“You really should be saying ‘Happy Christmas’ or something like that,” Daphne tells him.

“Your birthday is next, right?” Draco asks her. “Happy early Birthday, Daphne.” He grins cheekily. Hari laughs. “Happy early Birthday to all of us, and Happy belated Christmas, honestly. To everyone in this school.”

“You’re feeling benevolent today,” Hari teases.

“It’s going to be a great day,” Draco agrees and practically skips into the Hall ahead of the group. Inside, Lockhart is downing his entire goblet of… whatever he’s drinking and chattering away at Professor Sprout, who is unfortunate enough to be stuck sitting next to him. Hari catches Hermione’s eye and winks at her subtly, then nods towards Lockhart. Hermione’s eyes go wide and she turns to watch with interest.

Lockhart chomps through his food with gusto, eating quickly to be able to talk as much as possible.

Hari leans over to whisper in Draco’s ear, “maybe the jabbermouth potion was unnecessary.” Draco giggles.

“It was,” Draco replies, “he’d stop talking as soon as he realized he couldn’t lie if we didn’t use it.”

“That’s true,” Hari mutters, “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

“Yeah, well, here it goes,” Draco grins, “look at his face.” Professor Sprout looks horrified and Professor Snape livid. Lockhart leans around them and says something to Professor McGonagall who has to close her eyes and take a deep breath and, when she opens them, she still looks like she wants to hex him into the ocean.

Dumbledore is eyeing the students, who are all looking on curiously. His eyes flicker a few too many times towards Hari and Draco, but an equal number of times towards the Weasley twins. Draco snorts when he notices.

“As if they’d be able to pull off something as subtle as this.” The absolute terror building on Lockhart’s face reaches the same level as when his teeth were falling out.

“Classes are canceled!” he shrieks and sprints from the room for the third time since he began teaching. Professor McGonagall turns and says something in an angry whisper to Dumbledore, who stands.

“It appears,” Dumbledore says with a sonorous pointed at his throat, “that Professor Lockharts tenure with us will have to be reviewed.”

“Oh, happy day!” Draco cheers and the rest of the boys and heiresses join in, clapping and whooping. The other girls in the room look livid and are yelling at the people around them.

“Hey!” a sixth-year Slytherin boy yells up at Dumbledore, “Maybe the girls should be checked for signs of potioning!” A bitter look crosses Dumbledore’s face, but he claps his hands and lifts his wand again.

“If all the ladies would please remain in the Great Hall after the meal, Madam Pomfrey will be in to confirm that Professor Lockhart has not potioned anyone,” he looks over the angry faces and quickly covers to ensure they will stay, “I am certain no teacher of Hogwarts would ever do that to a student, but let us assuage the boy’s concerns, shall we? Prove him wrong, correct?” The girls still under the potion’s effects nod along, muttering angrily about how boys could be such massive idiots.

When they walk into class an hour later, however, their angry muttering carries a very different tune.

“I’ll write to Father,” Draco announces over the girls, “Longbottom!” He calls across the room to the other heir, “you should write to your grandmother. She’s on the Board of Governors.”

“I-I w-will,” Longbottom says.

“I’ll inform my Father, as well,” Theo adds, “and we should try to pass the word along to the other students with parents on the Board.”

“Thank you,” one of the Patil twins says, relieved. “I had no idea and that’s just disgusting of him to do.”

“We’ll make sure appropriate action is taken,” Draco promises and sets about writing the letter to his father, smirking subtly at Hari. Hermione smiles over at Hari and mouths a silent ‘thank you.’ Hari nods in response with a ghost of a smile and mouths ‘R.O.R’ back to her. Discussing the day’s events would be best done somewhere private.


“So, what did you give him?” Hermione asks first thing that afternoon.

“Veritaserum and a jabbermouth potion,” Draco tells her with a self-important smirk.

“Wait—isn’t veritaserum a restricted substance?”

“It is,” Blaise confirms.

“So how did you get it? I thought only potions Masters learn how to brew it.”

“That’s true, but Professor Snape is a potions Master,” Pansy says.

“And he just gave it to you?” Hermione is aghast at the thought.

“No, I stole it,” Hari says proudly.

“From his stores?” She leans forward, “how?” Well. He’d been expecting a lecture, but that’s certainly not what occurred.

“Ah, sorry for taking so long to tell you, but I achieved my animagus transformation three days ago.” Hari winces apologetically.

“It’s okay, we haven’t had the chance to talk privately since. I’ll lecture you on how dangerous that was later. Right now, though,” her eyes gleam with curiosity, “what are you?”

“I have two forms, actually.” He turns to Draco, “did you bring it?”

“Of course I did,” Draco scoffs, “what do you take me for?” Hari rolls his eyes. “Just so you know, you won’t be able to take it off yourself,” Draco warns.

“I assumed so,” Hari says. He turns back to Hermione. “Which would you like to see first, my primary form or my secondary form?”

“Can I have some hints at what they are, first? I want to see if I can guess.” Hari laughs and thinks about what clues he could possibly offer.

“They’re both from India. Both are mammals. Both are somewhat in the rust-color range. They’re creatures you wouldn’t question having green eyes.”

“Felines?” Hermione jumps in at that.

“Felines,” Hari confirms. “Both are dangerous, although one appears not to be.”

“Both wildcats, then?” Hari nods. “Rust colored… either reddish-brown or orange, then. If only one appears not to be dangerous, that means the other does. Bengal tiger?”

“Wow, you’re really smart.” Hari blinks at her. “Yes, my primary is a Bengal tiger.” He transforms and lets her study him for a few minutes, rubbing his large form against her hips and accepting the scratches behind his ear with happy chuffs. He changes back.

“Clues for the second?”

“It’s small,” Hari starts and she cuts him off before he can go further.

“Smallest cat in the world? Rusty-spotted cat. I did a project on them when I was in primary school and it was wonderful.” The words come out so fast Hari is barely able to understand her. The others are laughing in the background.

“You’re incredible, you know that?” Hari shakes his head. “I’m keeping rusty spotted cat as a spying form, so it won’t be registered with the Ministry. They don’t check if you have two forms or not. So please keep this on the down-low. And, since it looks like a kitten, you might see me around Hogwarts.”

“Okay,” Hermione side-eyes him, “I’m not sure I approve of you breaking the law for this, but okay. Can I see?”

“Yeah. We’ve named this form Beau, the French word,” Hari smiles and transforms. He lets Hermione pet him only for a second before padding over to Draco to get his collar.

“Here you are, Beau,” Draco clasps it gently. It settles to the perfect comfort fit and even when he shakes his fur out, he can barely feel it. “You look gorgeous and I can barely tell it’s there. Good choice.” Hari purrs and jumps onto Draco’s lap to rub against his cheek. He then returns to Hermione.

“Beau is a good choice,” she compliments, “you are quite the handsome cat. And full-grown, too.”

“The Slytherin common room likes to give him treats. He’ll have to be careful or he’ll get fat,” Daphne teases. Hermione catches sight of Draco’s pout out of the corner of her eye but ignores it.

“Actually, these cats, since they’re so small, have an incredibly fast metabolism. It’s unlikely they could give him enough treats to cause him to gain weight.” Hari returns to Draco’s lap after a few minutes and curls up to take a nap. It’s been an incredibly good day.

Chapter Text

Hari darts along the wall, headed towards the common room.

“Hello, Beau,” Professor Snape’s voice comes from behind him. Hari meows up at him. “Would you mind coming with me?” Professor Snape bends down and scoops Hari up. Hari bats gently at his face, then nuzzles him slightly and settles around his shoulders for the ride.

They stop in a hidden alcove and Professor Snape sets Hari down. Hari transforms automatically.

“Hello, Professor,” Hari smiles up at him, attempting to utilize Beau’s cuteness in human form.

“Mr. Potter,” Professor Snape eyes him, “Headmaster Dumbledore would like to see you.” Hari cringes. “I was sent to collect you and will be sitting in on the meeting.”

“Oh, you’re not upset that I’ve been begging treats off people as Beau?” Professor Snape rolls his eyes.

“No, I’m not upset you’ve learned to use your cuteness to your advantage. Now come along.” Professor Snape leads the way. “I’m not certain the purpose of the meeting,” he tells Hari, “but I would presume it is something we will not be pleased about.”

“As usual,” Hari sighs. Professor Snape announces a candy Hari’s never heard of and the gargoyle steps aside, letting them through.

“Harry, my dear boy!” Dumbledore looks all to fake-happy to see Hari. “Let’s chat, shall we? Severus, you can close the door as you leave.”

“Headmaster, Mr. Potter is a student and deserves the same treatment as all other students,” Professor Snape shuts the door, “as such, I, as his Head of House, will be staying.”

“I’m certain that will not be necessary,” Dumbledore tries, “this is a meeting as his guardian.”

“On Hogwarts property, you are Headmaster and he is a student,” Professor Snape says smoothly, sitting down, “Therefore, I will be staying. Have a seat, Mr. Potter.”

There’s a pause as Dumbledore struggles to adapt to the situation, “would you like a lemon drop? Or some tea?”

“No, thank you, sir,” Hari denies immediately.

“Severus?”

“No, Headmaster.”

“Well, shall we discuss how you’ve been doing?” Hari frowns slightly. How he’s been? Unless Dumbledore plans to discuss Hari’s entire life, this conversation point is pointless. “Your classes are going well.”

“I particularly enjoy Potions and Defense,” Hari says with a serene smile. It’s a struggle not to let onto his dislike.

“You have incredible scores in all your classes,” Dumbledore agrees, eyes flashing to Professor Snape angrily.

“He is top five in everything,” Professor Snape confirms, “and has been each semester.”

“Quite the accomplishment,” Dumbledore nods sagely. “I wanted to discuss the classes you’re taking next year.”

“What about them?”

Dumbledore shifts a piece of paper on his desk. Hari easily recognizes the Potter written there, but it takes him longer to realize that Harry is in front of it. Horror washes through him and it takes all Narcissa’s training to keep a blank look on his face.

“Well, I was wondering why you weren’t interested in Divination or Care of Magical Creatures.”

Hari frowns obviously, letting himself look troubled, “well, I thought about Magical Creatures and it was kind of a hard decision to choose Arithmancy instead, but I thought I was more likely to use it. And I had no interest in Divination whatsoever.”

“You have no desire to know the future?”

“No, sir,” Hari shakes his head firmly. “Besides, I heard you can’t get much out of that class unless you’re a natural prophet or Seer. I’ve only heard of one true Seer at Hogwarts and she’s in first year.”

“And as for Magical Creatures?”

“I won’t lie, I was curious, but I just had more interest in Arithmancy.”

“What made you choose Ancient Runes?”

“I met a Gringotts Curse Breaker over Ostara break last year,” Hari smiles honestly, “it was really interesting and he uses runes every day.”

“It is a class worthy of your time,” Dumbledore nods. “Now, this is unrelated to classes, but I presume given your knowledge of Mr. Malfoy’s heirship, you also know of your own?”

“I do.” Okay, so, where is he going with this?

“I just want to reiterate that I do not think you are quite old enough to accept your seat on the Wizengamot,” Dumbledore says gently, “I fear it would interfere with your schooling.”

“I understand,” Hari agrees lightly, trying to keep himself steady. “And I agree, it would have a significant impact on my life.” The best way to lie, he remembers Draco teaching him, is to keep as close to the truth as possible.

“You accepted that quite calmly,” Dumbledore leans back, looking surprised.

“Well, as you mentioned, it would interfere with both my schooling and general life and I’m not sure how I would manage a Wizengamot seat from both Hogwarts and the muggle world.” Hari allows himself the uncouth action of shrugging, not wanting to look stiff to Dumbledore. The last thing they need are any suspicions. “Besides, that’s a huge responsibility I am not ready for.”

“Very well,” Dumbledore looks pleased, “I have informed Gringotts of my wishes. You will be granted access to your ring and all that comes with it on your seventeenth birthday. We will speak again closer to that date, but I would recommend waiting until you have left Hogwarts to consider accepting it, or even a few years after.”

Hari tilts his head, thinking fast about how to spin the truth into a lie for this, “that makes sense, sir. I’ll think on what you’ve said closer to that time.” And he would, if that was relevant to his situation. And the fact that Dumbledore has the right to tell Gringotts not to give him access to his birthright… rage burns under his skin and he struggles not to let it show. Hari rises.

“If that’s all?”

“I was just wondering if you’ve been having any unusual dreams, ones that seem to accompany a pain in your scar,” Dumbledore asks. Hari almost rolls his eyes, but holds himself back. Dumbledore is behind the times because it benefits them. Hari cannot fault him for playing straight into their hands. Well, he can, just not visibly.

“No, sir. No nightmares and no pain,” Hari tilts his head. “Should there be? Is that something that accompanies curse scars?”

“No, no, dear boy, I just wanted to check.” Dumbledore waves it off and gestures to the door, “have a wonderful day.” Hari rises and strides off, Professor Snape on his heels.

“My office,” Professor Snape almost growls. “Bring your friends. They need to be updated.”

“Yes, sir.” Hari allows the anger to slide into his movements now, lengthening his steps to a movement reminiscent of the way Lucius walks, all the way to the library.

“Draco,” his voice warbled slightly all eyes are on him, tension filling the room. “We’re having a meeting in Professor Snape’s office.”

“I thought you were just out playing as Beau,” Draco hisses.

“I had a meeting with Dumbledore, apparently.” The group snarls while Hermione looks on, confused. “Would you like to come, Hermione? We might as well fill you in.”

Draco shifts uncomfortably at the suggestion, wrapping an arm around Hari’s shoulder. Hermione’s eyes dart between the two of them, but she nods.

“I’d like to come. I want to help, if I can.”

“Good. This way.”

Draco stays wrapped around Hari the whole walk to Professor Snape’s office. The group is tense and quiet, but they play it off as being tired until they reach their destination.

“There’s one more of you than usual,” Professor Snape murmurs, eyeing Hermione. “Would you like to tell her what’s going on?” He directs the question to Hari.

“I’ll tell her as much as I can,” Hari says uncertainly.

“I’ll step in when you need me to,” Draco promises. Hari nods and starts to explain everything they know as concisely as possible.

“Dumbledore purposely sent me to an abusive home. We won’t go into details on that, but suffice to say, his intent was to make me into a willing martyr.” Hari shudders at the idea. Draco’s arm tightens around him, Blaise’s hand slips into his own, and Daphne and Pansy look like they want to grab him and take him away from the whole situation. Hermione just sits there, shell-shocked. “He was mad that I Sorted into Slytherin. He had someone lined up to be my friend in Gryffindor, someone we expect was being paid, based on the money being removed from my vaults.” Hari sighs, “he’s done other things that are just plain questionable. He attempted to lie, saying friends couldn’t go to another’s house for break without written permission from a guardian. He ‘mistakenly’ switched me into Gryffindor at the start of this year, claiming he had concerns for my safety. He tried to stop me from receiving my Lordship rings and believes he succeeded. He never had my parent’s will read and has illegal custody of me, which he remanded to the muggle family that I lived with.” Hari stops there, not sure what else to say.

“Basically, he’s guilty of kidnapping, child abuse, child neglect, theft, attempted line theft, and false imprisonment,” Draco summarizes for Hermione.

“Oh, right, he had my legal guardian imprisoned without a trial, despite knowing he was innocent.”

“He makes me so angry,” Blaise whispers, looking at the ceiling to try to reign in his emotions.

“He’s the reason I carry a knife with me, now,” Pansy says.

“You were looking for a reason, though,” Daphne points out.

“Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a good bloody reason to carry a knife.”

“Language, Heir Parkinson,” Professor Snape cuts in, “but yes, I agree, arming yourself and knowing how to use it would not be a poor decision.”

Draco looks at Hermione, “I would request that Father take you under his protection, but we have only two months before Hari becomes Lord and I think he would rather have you under his own.”

“I would prefer that, too,” Hermione agrees, “nothing against your Father, but I don't really know him and I trust Hari.”

“What does that entail?” Hari asks, looking to Draco.

“Essentially, you make her a member of your House. You pay for her things, or rather, she has access to your vaults and properties as much as you allow and she is treated as nobility as we are. You would be considered her guardian—sorry, but there’s no other word for it. If something were to happen to her, you’d be notified before her own parents.” Draco pauses, thinking of what else there is to explain. “Taking someone under your protection makes them your family member. If you were to make a blood bond with Hermione, she would be able to be your heir. That, and most purebloods would see her as being an acceptable marriage partner for their children, especially with your power.”

“Like a cousin or a sister?”

“Cousin, more-so,” Draco nods.

“Sorry to interrupt, Lordling Potter, Heir Malfoy,” Professor Snape says, “but maybe we should discuss the meeting with the Headmaster?”

“Oh, right,” Hari sits up perfectly straight, “he wanted something specific to happen again. He asked me why I didn’t choose Divination or Care of Magical Creatures.”

“As for Divination, I believe I can shed some light on that,” Professor Snape leans forward. “Every year, Professor Trelawney predicts a student’s death. The student almost always believes her.”

“So he wanted me to think my life was in danger so I’d go to him?”

“Precisely.”

“That’s not creepy,” Daphne mutters and the others snort.

“Why would he want me in Magical Creatures, though?”

“Probably some hare-brained plan,” Blaise says, “though, who knows what it could be?”

“Well, he does still think Voldemort is coming back,” Draco points out.

“What?” Hermione’s eyes are wide with horror. “But he’s dead.”

“He is,” Hari hurries to reassure her. “We discovered he had made something called a Horcrux, which is essentially an item storing a piece of his soul. It prevented his soul from leaving this world and would have allowed him to find a new body. With the help of the goblins, we destroyed all six Horcurxes. There’s no danger anymore.”

Hermione lets out a sigh of relief, “but then why does Dumbledore still think he’s coming back?”

“He doesn’t know we already killed Voldemort,” Draco says. “He thinks we only took care of the piece that was in Quirrell.”

“Professor Quirrell? That’s why he died last year?”

“Yes,” Professor Snape says shortly, “but he was dead long before his body gave out. It was only kept alive by the measures he was taking to try and resurrect Voldemort.”

“Oh,” she whispers. “Okay, then.”

“Like I was saying, then,” Draco starts back up, “he could have another plan to try and draw out Voldemort and needs Hari prepared for it with the things he’d learn in Magical Creatures.”

“That sounds just great,” Pansy mutters bitterly.

“It doesn’t matter,” Hari says definitively, “Voldemort is gone and Dumbledore will be, too.  We just need a little more time.”

“Right,” Draco blows out a breath. “Two months.”

“Exactly.”

“A little over, if you’re being picky,” Professor Snape adds rather unhelpfully, “since it’s only mid-May.”

“Yes, thank you,” Hari snarks back. “The other thing, he asked if I was having strange dreams or pain in my scar.”

“Well, you’re not,” Draco confirms, “but that could be him assuming you’re a Horcrux.”

“If he’d asked a year ago, he wouldn’t have been wrong,” Hari rolls his eyes.

“Anything else that we haven’t already handled?” Pansy asks.

“I caught sight of a paper with my name on it,” Hari drums his fingers on his knee. “He spelled it wrong. H-A-R-R-Y.”

They all suck in a breath except for Hermione. “Does he just not know how to spell it?”

“No,” Daphne huffs, “there’s no way. The whole wizarding world knows his name is H-A-R-I because of how often he was in the papers.”

“Okay, but what does it mean? You’re all acting like this is something drastic.”

Professor Snape touches her shoulder gently, “Miss Granger, this indicates that Professor Dumbledore had some amount of participation in Hari’s abuse. His family hadn’t taught him the correct way to spell his name.”

“God,” Hermione breathes and turns back to Hari, “I’m so sorry. And sorry to ask this, but I think it’s necessary. Is it possible he gave them instructions on things to do?”

“That seems to be the implication, Miss Granger,” Professor Snape says softly. Several things in the room blow up. “Thank you for that, Heir Parkinson, Heir Greengrass.”

“Sorry,” Daphne mutters, “it just makes me angry.”

“We are in private, Heir Greengrass. You should feel free to display emotion appropriately here. As you can see, it worked for Heir Malfoy and Heir Zabini.”

“No, they’re okay since they’re cuddling Hari,” Pansy argues. Professor Snape doesn’t respond, knowing the point has some validity.

“If we’re done catching everyone up,” Hari is bouncing one of his knees, “I want to go let out some energy.”

“Let’s go up to the R.O.R.,” Draco suggests and, bidding Professor Snape goodbye, they hurry up the stairs.

“Okay, before you transform, we all want hugs,” Daphne announces. Hari allows himself to be passed around, the process taking nearly ten minutes and ending with Hermione in tears and promising that she’ll be there for him if he ever needs anything. Hari turns to face the room, which has created a sort of obstacle course for him to run around. It has walls to jump over or crawl under, hoops to leap through, ledges to balance on, and things to leap off. He transforms into his tiger and takes off, sprinting straight for one of the walls and using it to springboard through a hoop. As he darts around, he catches snippets of their conversations.

“Where is he going for the summer?”

“…hidden by Gringott’s level wards…”

“…with us on his birthday…”

“…only half an hour, then never again…”

The important bits, but Hari finds he cannot feel the anguish of having to see the Dursleys for any length of time quite as acutely in this form. A benefit to being an animagus, he supposes.

Over the wall, under the barrier, twist around the corner, onto the ledge, through the hoop, sprint the clearing.

He likes the little apartment Narcissa made for him. It’s cute, cozy, and feels almost like a home. He just doesn’t like how alone he is there. It’s like a gilded cage. Though, this year, he only has to spend half the time he did last year and his lessons will be more diverse. Lucius every other afternoon, as usual, but Narcissa will stay for the afternoons the days Lucius isn’t there. Some days, she will teach him French and Latin. The others, he’ll be learning self-defense. They’ve already begun that, deeming it necessary, with Pansy as his instructor, but Narcissa will stand in until he is able to hire a proper tutor at the end of July, or join in on Draco’s lessons.

The room ups the ante, adding moving obstacles and perches. Suddenly, there’s also water for him to contend with. His instincts scream to swim through it, so he does. Tigers can swim, apparently. He gets back out to keep running. Run away the emotions. Hunt, some inner voice screams at him. Prey charmed into animation appears in his path and he lets loose, stalking low and quiet after it.

How he’ll handle Dumbledore. Low, quiet.

He explodes into movement and tears at it.

Ripping him apart in the end. When Hari’s ready and not a moment sooner.

The prey puts itself back together.

Dumbledore won’t.

He trots back over to where Draco is sitting, shaking the water off as best he can. Draco sends a drying charm his way. He chuffs gratefully, then presses himself into Draco’s side, chin over the boy’s shoulder.

“Heavy, Hari,” Draco mutters. Hari moves to lean against Draco’s back, chin over his shoulder again. Draco settles his weight against Hari.

“This form should have a name, too,” Pansy decides after a few long minutes of silence.

“If I may,” Hermione studies Hari’s form, “I had an Indian family at my school. Their boys had traditional names and they told me the meanings when I asked. The eldest was ‘Aditya’, which can mean ‘sun’ or ‘beginning.’ There’s also ‘Ajay’, which means ‘one who is invincible’, but traditionally referred to triumphant kings. And ‘Aryan’, which means ‘noble’.” There’s silence for a moment before Draco speaks.

“Hari, chuff for the one you like, okay? Aditya? Ajay?” Hari chuffs. “Would you like a collar with your name, Ajay?” Hari chuffs again and Draco reaches up to stroke behind his ears. “We’ll pick one out tonight, then.” Hari closes his eyes and rubs his cheek against Draco’s, then pads over to repeat the process with Hermione as thanks for picking a name.

“Hey, now, we’ve gotta go so we don’t miss curfew,” Blaise says gently. Hari’s lip curls slightly in displeasure. “Why don’t you change into Beau and we can smuggle you in? Then you can change back into Ajay and cuddle with Draco.” Hari closes his eyes happily at the suggestion and transforms.

“Come on, then,” Draco scoops him up and wraps his robes over Beau. “See you tomorrow, Hermione.”

“Yeah,” she agrees, watching them leave sadly, “see you tomorrow.”

“We’ll have to set up a sleepover in the R.O.R. with her sometime,” Daphne murmurs. “I feel bad making her go back alone.”

“We’ll do something with her over the summer, too,” Blaise agrees. “After Hari’s birthday, of course.”

“Of course,” Draco says, “he’s the one who befriended her, after all.”

Chapter Text

The blinds are pulled over their compartment so no one can look in on the six students. Hari is curled up, knees to his chest, with Draco practically wrapped around him.

“I don’t want to go back,” he whispers.

“I thought you like the apartment Mother made you,” Draco replies, confused.

“It’s lonely.”

Hari’s breakdown had begun the instant they stepped into the compartment, though these were the first words he’d managed to get out.

“Is that what you’re upset about.”

“I don’t want to see Uncle Vernon.”

“Don’t call him that,” Draco chides. “He doesn’t deserve any respect from you.”

“Fine. I don’t want to see Vernon.”

“I’m sorry, Hari,” Draco sighs, “Father said that Dumbledore has a spy who will tell if Vernon isn’t the one to bring you there.”

“I know. I logically understand there is no other way for us to do this. But I don’t want to see him.”

“Count the seconds,” Hermione suggests, then flinches under the looks it earns her. “Lunchtime used to be really lonely for me,” she murmurs, “an hour is thirty-six hundred seconds. A half-hour would be eighteen hundred. Count to a hundred eighteen times and you’ll never see him again.”

Hari studies her intently then gives a tiny nod. That trick might just work.

“I’ll try it,” Hari says groggily.

“If it doesn’t work, thinking the lyrics to your favorite songs might help, too.” Hari nods several times at this. “Was it always this bad?” she asks when he seems steadier.

“No,” Hari shakes his head, “it’s worse now since I know better. Before, I thought I deserved it and that everyone agreed.”

“Now you have people who love you and tell you matter so acting like you don’t is hard,” Hermione nods sagely. “I can understand that. It’s difficult going back to Gryffindor Tower after seeing all of you for me since I don’t have friends there.”

“Sorry about that,” Pansy leans against the window, “you probably won’t have a chance at making friends there since Gryffindor hates Slytherin.”

“I know,” Hermione shrugs, “but I don’t care.”

“Don’t shrug,” Draco reminds her and Hermione sighs.

“Sorry.”

“It’s the first time I’ve seen you do it since before Yule break,” Daphne waves it off, “and this is private, you’re relaxed.”

“As long as it’s not public, you’re probably alright. But maintaining public behavior in private makes it easier to maintain it in public,” Blaise lectures.

“That’s what Lady Malfoy said,” Hermione agrees.

“When you come visit, we’ll go robe shopping,” Pansy adds, “to get you some things worthy of being worn by a scion of the House of Potter.”

“Would someone explain primacy to me sometime?”

“It’s really just the order of importance or power a House historically has,” Hari says, letting one of his legs down. “Age factors in, as well. Potter is one of the oldest houses, next to the Founders, Peverell, and Black. They’re separated by mere decades rather than centuries.”

“Incredible,” Hermione murmurs, “we’ll stop at a bookstore so I can find some reading on this, as well.”

“Of course,” Daphne grins at her. Hari relaxes fully, leaning his head back into Draco’s shoulder and turns his face into Draco’s neck.

“Want to transform?” Draco murmurs into his hair.

“Yes,” Hari sighs, relieved.

“I have Ajay’s collar, if you want it. It’s a little more extravagant,” Draco pulls a box out of his pocket. “I was going to give it to you today, anyway.”

Hari smiles and changes, sitting on the floor so he doesn’t crush anyone. The collar is multiple silver chains, the same type of links as the other, but thicker. The longest, when put on, reaches low on his breastbone, with the hematite charm hanging perfectly between two black stripes. ‘Ajay’ is engraved in gold on the smooth, teardrop stone. The other two chains are progressively shorter, the smallest hanging just barely visible below his scruff and the second reaching exactly between the two. Each chain has dozens of small gems just barely hanging off, each one from a different House of Hari’s. They’re patterned in such a way that they don’t clash, but accentuate each other.

Ajay closes his eyes and leans into Draco’s knees. Pretty. Pretty like Beau’s. Prettier than Beau’s. He rubs his cheek against Draco’s knees. The collar is perfect.

“Glad you like it, Ajay,” Draco strokes over Ajay’s head, “I wasn’t sure if it was too much.” Ajay makes a low sound in the back of his throat and snuggles as close as he can get, trying to get his pleasure across to the human who doesn’t really understand him.

“Tigers close their eyes to show happiness and trust,” Hermione says softly. “He’s really pleased with it.” Ajay turns his head to the girl and blinks, long and slow, at her. “You’re welcome, Ajay.”

“I still wish we could send you home in a more extravagant outfit,” Draco huffs.

Ajay growls slightly, not angry, but irritated since they’ve been over this.

“Draco,” Daphne sighs, “you heard about what Vernon said. We don’t want to give him any fuel for trying to get money out of Hari.”

“Still,” Draco scrubs both hands across Hari’s cheeks gently, “I just want to rub it in his face how successful Hari will be. He defeated the darkest wizard of our time, twice. Now he’s going to be the most powerful Lord in centuries. And they tried to make him believe he’s worthless.” Ajay whines. “Sorry,” Draco whispers to him, “I’m sorry. But I have to say it.

“If it weren’t for the promise that you’d never see them again after this, we’d go back once you become Lord. To have them arrested or something. And you’d be wearing the best clothes you own—the ones for your birthday. But you’d wear them like they’re nothing, like they’re something you’d wear anyday. And we’d all be there and bow whenever you passed, just to play it up. Just to rub it in their faces that you’re someone, that you’re successful, even though they didn’t want you to be.”

“It’s a fun fantasy,” Blaise agrees, “and I almost find myself wanting to play it out. But it’s just a fantasy.” Pansy and Daphne agree on this. Hermione gives it a little more thought.

“We wouldn’t have to do all that,” she muses, “but it would have to wait until you’re eighteen, which is the muggle age of majority. We could claim, rather truthfully, that you left at age eleven and never came back from the boarding school your parents had pre-paid for you to attend. You could present medical records as proof of abuse and have them arrested. I’d have to do more research to see if this next part is even possible, but I believe you could request that you either give remote testimony or have them removed when you go in to give testimony.”

“Best of both worlds,” Draco says approvingly, “get them in jail, all without Hari ever seeing them.”

“But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t see Hari,” Hermione smirks. “Chances are, this would end up all over television, something I happen to know they’d be able to watch before their sentencing. If Hari goes out there in the muggle version of extravagant clothing and let himself be photographed by reporters or even interviewed, they would see it. They would still see him being successful despite them, all without him having to ever see hide or tail of them.”

Hari transforms back and settles himself squarely in Draco’s lap, letting himself be cuddled and coddled.

“I like that,” Hari says quietly, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to do it, but I like it.”

“It’s a viable option, then,” Pansy declares, “I’ll make a note of it and bring it up again after we graduate.” She whips out a special planner and marks down the idea in extreme detail. The planner absorbs the information and will print it on the front page on July 1st the year they graduate. “I love this thing,” Pansy murmurs, stroking the cover happily. Hari giggles.

It looks like a useful thing to have. Maybe he should get one for his birthday to keep track of everything.

“Oh, that is amazing,” Hermione coos over it, “I should see about getting one. It would be ever so helpful.”

“They’re expensive,” Pansy warns.

“Scion,” Hari reminds her.

Pansy smiles self-deprecatingly, “right, one more month.”

“Technically,” Hermione pipes up, “it’s already July 1st. You won’t be getting back until the evening and you’re leaving early morning on the thirty-first. It’s twenty-nine days, less than a month.”

“Thank you, ‘Mione,” Hari smiles at her. “That actually really helps.”

They change to chatting about other plans for the summer—vacations, Wizengamot bills and events, the developing summer fashion statements. Hari snuggles into Draco and joins the conversation on and off, eventually letting himself drift off.

“C’mon, Hari, up,” Draco shakes his shoulder gently. Hari blinks blearily up at him, then stands. “You only have a few more minutes, it’s time to change.” Right, they’d ridden in their uniform this time so Hermione wouldn’t feel out-of-place. Draco pulls a hanger with Hari’s outfit on it out of Hari’s trunk, handing it over.

Navy blue slacks and waist coat with a purple shirt so dark it’s almost black. The tie and handkerchief are a pure, gleaming white. The robes match the tie as exactly as physically possible. His shoes are a gleaming black. He casts a spell at his hair to change it from the simple bun to fully down with his curls smooth and thin braids scooping his bangs behind his ears.

“Perfect,” Draco approves once Hari has added his make-up. “You look perfect and it’s going to be alright.” Someone knocks at the door and Blaise lets the girls back in. They sit down just in time for the train to stutter to a stop. Draco takes Hari’s hand tightly.

“Time to go, then,” Hermione sighs. They exit the train and she yanks Hari into a strong hug. “I’ll write you a letter every day. Just, I don’t have an owl, so send yours tomorrow?”

Hari giggles, “I will. Thank you, for everything.”

“Twenty-nine days. Count the seconds in the car, to one hundred, eighteen times.”

“I’ll see you soon, Hermione,” he promises. After quick hugs that almost end in tears from Pansy, Daphne, and Blaise, they walk over to the Malfoys.

“Hello, Hari,” Narcissa sweeps him into a hug as Lucius greets Draco.

“Hello, Narcissa,” Hari replies, sinking into the motherly feeling.

“Hello, Hari,” Lucius says once Narcissa has released him in favor of Draco.

“Hello, Lucius.”

“Are you ready?” He nods towards the barrier.

“I suppose I have to be,” Hari murmurs.

“Yes,” Lucius concedes, “I suppose so.”

“I don’t want him to go,” Draco pouts.

“I know, dear, but this is to protect him,” Narcissa says, “I will see him every day, your father every other. We’ll bring letters between the two of you and it will be over before you know it.”

“I’m sure,” Draco sighs. “It just feels so long right now.”

“It does, but you’ll get busy with joining the Wizengamot sessions,” Lucius points out and that seems to relax Draco somewhat. He looks nervously at Hari.

“If I get lonely, I’ll transform,” Hari says in a low voice, so no one around will hear. “The emotions are duller in those forms.”

“I don’t like it, but I have to deal with it.”

“Quite right, Draco,” Lucius agrees, then sets a hand on Hari’s shoulder. “Come along. Let’s get the hardest part out of the way.”

They walk, Draco clutching Hari’s hand like a lifeline (it definitely wasn’t the other way around), and arrive all too soon at the pre-arranged meeting spot. Hari lets go, not willing to hear any comments on homosexuality at the moment. Vernon turns around and sees them.

“There you are,” he grunts. “Been waiting.”

“Hari was saying farewell to his friends,” Narcissa tells him primly, “unless you’d like him to tromp through your house on a daily basis?”

Vernon stiffens, “no, no, that’s quite alright.”

“Very well.” She turns to Hari and gives him a brief hug, saying into his ear, “I will see you soon.” Lucius repeats the process and promise. Draco pulls Hari into a smothering hug, vowing to write every day and tell him every detail of the Wizengamot sessions he attends.

“And I’ll be the first to see you,” he adds, a new fact for Hari to process. “I’ll be with Father when we pick you up. The best birthday gift ever, right?” The smile is a little watery and the words quiet so Vernon can’t hear them, but it makes Hari smile.

“Right.” Draco’s unrelenting self-importance is something Hari can always count on. “I’ll see you then.” He faces Vernon, who gestures to the back seat of the car. Hari climbs in and doesn’t watch the Malfoy family walk away.

One, two, three…

He doesn’t think about the spiders in his ratty tennis shoes.

Seventy, seventy-one…

He doesn’t think about the broken army soldier on his shelf.

Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen…

He doesn’t think about the darkness with no lightbulb.

Ninety-three, ninety-four…

He doesn’t think about the clothes that fall off him.

Twenty-two, twenty-three…

He doesn’t think about the belt swishing through belt loops and onto his back.

Eighty-six, eighty-seven…

He doesn’t think about his stomach cramping from hunger.

Thirty-five, thirty-six…

He doesn’t think about his lips cracking from thirst.

Fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two…

He doesn’t think about the pneumonia weighing his lungs down unmedicated.

Forty-eight, forty-nine…

He doesn’t think about the sign in his cupboard that reads ‘Harry’s Room.’

Ninety-eight, ninety-nine…

He doesn’t think about the oil bubbling blisters on his arms.

One hundred!

He doesn’t think about the lock on the outside of the cupboard.

He doesn’t think about it because he’s striding through the house, up the stairs, and into the apartment.

He doesn’t think about it because suddenly, Hari doesn’t exist. Ajay does and Ajay wants to eat and sleep. It’s been a long day and Ajay is hungry and tired. Ajay noses at the cabinet he can reach and yanks out the food left for him. He eats what is probably too much of it. But his stomach is full and there’s so many pillows in here. He carries all the pillows to the bed and lays a blanket over the top. Ajay leaps onto it and spins three times before settling down on the nest to sleep. Ajay closes his eyes and the long, tiring day is over. Ajay closes his eyes and the hurt is gone.

Chapter Text

He opens his eyes slowly on the day of his birthday. Thirteen on the thirty-first. He sits up. It’s finally here. He gets to leave this place forever, he gets to throw off Dumbledore’s control.

He stands and makes a small breakfast. It’s only five in the morning, but Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco will be here soon. They’ll eat something bigger in a few hours, just before they go into the Wizengamot session.

His eyes close for a long moment as he sets the plate into the sink and washes it on auto pilot. What he’ll wear, how he’ll do his hair, whether or not to wear make-up. He ponders it all one more time, just because he can. It’s the first day of the rest of his life.

He opens his eyes. His waistcoat and slacks are a smooth, dark red layered with a white shirt and a tie in the same red. The handkerchief is white, too. His robes are black, shining and elegant. Critter specially shined his black shoes last night, too.

He glances at the thick file on the table. The goblins will need that. Lucius will remember if he doesn’t.

A spell whisks his hair up into a smooth ponytail, the ends curling beautifully. His make-up is subtle and understated, but makes his eyes stand out more. He selects his silver glasses. He rarely wears them and today is a special occasion.

Hedwig returns with a letter from Hermione. It wishes him a happy birthday and good luck with the Wizengamot introduction.

He pretends his hand doesn’t shake as he sets it down.

Lucius and Narcissa step through the hidden door and he turns to face them. They smile gently and Narcissa reaches for his hand. He glances around the room once more. Critter took everything of importance last night and will come to collect the small bag of items he kept for the night after he leaves.

He steps outside.

And that’s it.

Draco is there, beaming brilliantly in that shiny way he always does, like it hasn’t been twenty-nine days of loneliness locked up in that apartment.

“Happy Birthday!” Draco cries and scoops him into a hug.

“Thank you,” he murmurs. They walk to the nearest apparition point and are taken directly to Gringotts.

Griphook ushers them straight back without a word. Technically, the bank does not open until six. They are making an exception for him.

He hands over the file of transactions.

“May your gold have grown,” he says as he does.

“And your obstacles fallen,” Griphook returns. “I have the jewelry you requested. Every hair piece from each house.”

He takes his time looking over each of them and ends up choosing several from each, except Gaunt, which he only takes one. None of the pieces from that house were particularly good-looking anyway. The items are placed into a pouch that Lucius takes.

“I’ll return it to you after we see Mr. Lazwell,” Lucius promises.

“Alright.”

“Thank you for this,” Griphook taps the file, “everything in here will be reversed by the end of the day. This will be stored as evidence for the case against Dumbledore.”

“Thank you for all your help, Griphook.” He bows gracefully to the goblin. Griphook bows back. “May your gold ever grow.”

“And may your enemies crumble at your feet,” Griphook says with a cruel smile. Griphook has made sure to be the one to say that at their last several meetings. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Griphook means Dumbledore.

He appreciates the goblin’s sentiment and strides out of Gringotts.

They apparate again, straight into Mr. Lazwell’s shop. Mr. Lazwell was kind enough to remove the apparition wards and open early, just for today.

“Welcome,” the older man greets them. “Step up this way and we’ll get you dressed.”

“I’ll call for breakfast,” Narcissa says and snaps her fingers to summon Dobby, Lucius’ house elf.

After pulling on the Wizengamot robes, he stands perfectly still. He’s grown a full inch since they were initially made. It takes a significant amount of time to fix them without the alterations being noticeable to anyone. It takes even longer to fix them so Mr. Lazwell cannot see the alterations.

He changes back to the previous robes to eat. He doesn’t want to get crumbs on the precious items as soon as he puts them on. Draco hands him a plate.

“Only another hour,” Draco whispers into his ear.

He swallows tightly, looking doubtfully at the full plate in his hands. It’s only the fear of passing out in front of the entire Wizengamot and Dumbledore that has him eating. Eight thirty rolls around and he’s successfully choked down half his plate.

He puts the new robes back on. They’re heavy and feel like a burden, responsibility he’s not ready for. He tells Narcissa this.

“They’re supposed to,” she replies, “They remind others of your power and wealth while simultaneously reminding you of the burden of those honors. Chin up, please, and let me do your hair.”

It falls around his shoulders and Narcissa raises her wand again, placing the first ornament. On and on she works for the next five minutes, placing nearly twenty pieces into his hair. By the end, all of his hair is behind his ears, but the curls spill over his shoulders, mostly loose. The front is twisted back in thin, ornamental braids of various types. There’s fishtail, three-strand, five-strand, seven-strand, and Dutch all mixed in and held in place by the stones he had selected.

Were they the right jewels? What if he chose the wrong ones?

Draco’s wand rises and alters his make up slightly. The lines around his eyes darken and trace the bottom lash line now, too. His lashes become even longer than usual. The shimmer of highlighter is bolder and attention catching. There’s glitter on his eyelids. His lips aren’t just darker, they gleam, as well.

He looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize himself.

“I love it,” he says. He removes the glamours over his hands and looks again. “I love it,” he repeats.

He looks incredible. Terrifyingly impressive. He looks like someone about to become King, not Lord.

He lifts his chin. He should look like that. This is how he’s meant to look. Maybe not so overstated, but regal. He likes that word.

He thinks of his other names.

Beau—he’s definitely handsome right now. His eyes are crystal clear and the most prominent aspect of his appearance. They’re usually his defining feature, but now, they stand out even more.

Ajay—invincibility and the triumphant kings of old. He is invincible. He has Lucius and his allies on his side. The Ministry could never hope to out vote him. That is invincibility. He is regal, like a king. He is triumphant, or he will be.

In the mirror, he notes that Draco and Lucius are gone. They are arriving before him to take their seats inside. Narcissa cannot sit with them, so she will bring him. He makes eye contact with Mr. Lazwell.

“It is perfect,” Mr. Lazwell. “The alterations will be made to your other robes, so do not think on it. These are perfect. You are ready.”

He turns to Narcissa.

“As he said, the clothes are perfect. Your hair is perfect. Your make-up is perfect. I have taught you everything I can for this day. Lucius has taught you everything he can for this day. You have absorbed it all.”

He draws out his old wand, the holly and phoenix hair one and removes the glamour from his new one. He hands the old one to Narcissa.

“I won’t be needing this anymore. Can I leave it with you?”

“Of course,” she smiles, “I will see it placed somewhere safe.”

“Thank you.”

“There is no need.” She extends her arm to him. “It is three minutes till.”

He takes hold and they apparate.

There is a security screening. They ask him his purpose, then see his robes. They return his wand immediately without checking it and wave him through. It seems they understand without needing his answer.

They stride through the building. Two minutes.

They take an elevator and it only lasts fifteen seconds. One minute, forty-five.

They walk to the doors of the main Wizengamot room. One minute, thirty.

Narcissa presses a soft kiss to his cheek.

“You can do this. It will go perfectly.” One minute, twenty.

Narcissa leaves through a different set of doors to sit in the gallery. One minute.

“What a stressful day, isn’t it?” the Longbottom Heir asks. Right. It’s Longbottom’s first session, too. They didn’t hold one yesterday.

“Incredibly,” he agrees. Thirty seconds.

“We’re the last for over five years,” Longbottom adds. Like there’s not enough pressure already.

A chime rings through the Ministry. Zero seconds.

“Heir Neville Longbottom, Heir to House Longbottom,” a steward announces and Longbottom turns, puts on his most confident airs, and walks through the doors. Longbottom is far more confident looking than expected. He almost looks regal. But his robes are less extravagant and are practically monotone, like Draco’s were.

The rule of only wearing the color of your House for introduction. He looks at his own robes, then back up.

Longbottom is still crossing to the middle of the room.

He thinks about who he was.

A newborn, cradled with love and cooed over by five parents instead of the normal two. Lily, his maa, Prongs, his baba, Padfoot, his godfather, Moony, his honorary godfather, and Wormtail, his uncle. All there for him so frequently they may as well have all been parents.

A fifteen month old infant, left to cry in a cradle next to his maa’s body while his baba lay dead on the stairs. Left wrapped in a thin blanket in a basket with only a note to explain who he was. Left with people who would hate him.

A four year old who could already wash dishes better than most teens.

A five year old who knew how to weed a garden.

A six year old who could prune rose bushes.

A seven year old who could iron and crease shirts to perfection.

An eight year old who could cook meals fit for a restaurant.

A nine year old who could decorate cakes like a baker.

A ten year old who could do all this in one day.

An eleven year old lied to.

An eleven year old told he was a wizard.

An eleven year old brought out from the cupboard under the stairs.

An eleven year old dressed in green and silver.

An eleven year old told he mattered.

An eleven year old given hugs. Hands to hold. Shoulders to cry on. Medication to take the pain away. Mental healing to soothe the memories.

A twelve year old hidden away.

A twelve year old given riches.

A twelve year old standing against manipulation.

A twelve year old achieving a dangerous feat of transformation.

A twelve year old learning what most adults don’t bother.

A twelve year old swathed in gemstones.

A twelve year old draped in precious metals.

A twelve year old wrapped in fine materials.

A twelve year old with a family. Love. Good food. A warm bed. Friends. Self-importance. Self-love. Hope.

A thirteen year old weighted down by all of this.

A thirteen year old pulled up only by the hands his family gave him to hold.

A thirteen year old being dragged out from the hidden bedroom.

A thirteen year old about to step into the spotlight.

A thirteen year old.

Thirteen. On the thirty-first. The day of a Wizengamot session. The day he will be introduced.

Longbottom reaches the center of the room and bows. Longbottom walks again, even further now, to his seat.

He’s thirteen now.

It’s July thirty-first.

Ice floods his veins.

How can he do this?

He closes his eyes. Draco. Draco hugged him this morning. Draco is here, somewhere in the seats.

No, not somewhere. On his left, five rows up, the sixth seat on the left. He’s sitting to Lucius’ right. Sitting as Heir Malfoy.

Pansy is the row beneath him, eight seats in. She sits to the right of Lord Parkinson. Sitting as Heir Parkinson.

Daphne is in the center, five rows up, eight seats in. She sits to the right of Lord Greengrass. Sitting as Heir Greengrass.

Blaise is sitting one row lower, four seats in. He sits to the right of Lady Zabini. Sitting as Heir Zabini.

Theo is sitting in the sixth row, only two seats in. He sits to the right of Lord Nott. Sitting as Heir Nott.

Neville Longbottom will sit to the left, four rows up, twelve seats in. He will sit to the right of Lady Longbottom. He will sit as Heir Longbottom.

He opens his eyes again.

Heir Longbottom bows to Lady Longbottom.

Heir Longbottom takes his seat.

He blinks slowly.

He is thirteen. Today is July thirty-first. He will walk in. He will introduce himself. The magic will welcome him. He will take his seat.

His seat. In the center. In the sixth row. Nine seats in.

A Lord’s seat. An odd number.

He isn’t an Heir.

He is a Lord.

His eyes open from their blink. Heir Longbottom is seated.

Dumbledore goes to stand, to call the doors to be sealed. Dumbledore assumes. Dumbledore assumes incorrectly.

His lips quirk up in an almost-smirk. His shoulders draw back. His spine straightens. His heels snap together. His arms hang, just the way Narcissa taught him. His chin lifts. His face is smooth as marble.

He is a Lord.

Dumbledore goes to stand and the steward taps the end of his metal staff against the ground, preparing to make an announcement. Dumbledore smiles tensely at the steward.

“There must be some mistake,” Dumbledore says.

“No mistake,” the steward replies.

“That cannot be,” Dumbledore tries again, “Heir Longbottom should be the last introduction for at least four years.” Four years until Hari’s seventeenth birthday, the day Dumbledore thinks Hari will claim his place. But Dumbledore is four years off.

“There is no mistake. Heir Longbottom is not the last.” There’s a sharp intake of breath from everyone in the room.

“But the only other option is…” Dumbledore trails off, realizing. Dumbledore cannot see him from here. “I am his guardian! I informed Gringotts that he was not to receive his rings. This cannot be!”

“There is no mistake,” the steward insists.

“Chief Warlock,” Lucius calls, “If the steward says there is no mistake, then there isn’t. The goblins never let their clients down.”

He can imagine the smirk on Draco’s face.

“But I explicitly informed Gringotts that he is not ready! Lord Malfoy, you were even there!”

“I was,” he can see Lucius’ nod in his mind’s eye, “but if the steward says there is another introduction, then there is no mistake. There must be another introduction. And if you continue to hold this session up, I will levy charges against you.”

“As will I,” Lord Nott’s voice booms.

“And I.” Lord Greengrass.

“And I.” Lord Parkinson.

“And I.” Lady Zabini.

“And I.” Lady Longbottom? His eyebrows raise slightly, then return, his face marble once more.

“And I.” Either Lord Goyle or Crabbe.

“And I.” Again, either Lord Goyle or Crabbe.

“My apologies,” Dumbledore says, voice trembling with rage. “I will allow the introduction to take place.”

“So you say as if you have the right to prevent it,” Lucius’ voice is ice. Dumbledore sits. The Lords and Ladies sit. Lucius must sit with them.

The steward taps his staff.

He is…

“Lord Hari James Potter.”