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The Dark Lord's Equal

Chapter Text

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 

Prologue:

 

            The Dark Lord popped into existence just off the main street of Godric’s Hallow. The small wizarding village was nearly empty on this Halloween night and the air was crisp and had an underlying chill to it, perhaps a sign of what was to come.

            His cloak billowed behind him as he turned and quickly headed in the direction that Wormtail had described.

Just thinking about what it was that he was doing brought a malicious smirk to his face. To think that the Potter’s had trusted that pathetic rodent with something so integral to their family’s safety amused him to no end. This was why he preferred to work alone and why he never let anyone in. In his opinion, a person was only capable of ever being truly loyal to his or herself; and even then someone often did things that went against his or her own best interest.

            So there was no way that he would ever let someone have that much power over him as to know any of his secrets. Though, he had won followers, especially those of his inner circle, by letting them think that they knew him best. He may not have cared for personal relationships, but he sure knew how to get what he wanted out of people by pushing the right buttons.

           As he made his way towards the Potter’s humble cottage, which in his opinion was beneath someone like James Potter with his wealth and pureblood status, he could practically taste the sweet victory that would soon be his.

Because, ever since he had heard of the prophecy more than a year ago, he had been eager to rid the world of that child before they could ever really become a threat to his plans. He was so focused and intent on securing his path to immortality that he completely disregarded the warnings that this babe would have power that he knew not.

There was no way that that could ever be true.

            For he was Lord Voldemort, the most powerful wizard since Salazar Slytherin and he would swiftly cut down any threat that stood in his way to complete and utter dominance of the magical world.

How could a child ever hope to stand against him? The Dark Lord had access to such magic and power that there was nothing in his mind that could ever beat him. And he had Horcruxes just in case something occurred that he hadn’t foreseen. Which was doubtful!

He thought of everything.

            The Dark Lord hadn’t gotten to where he had in life by doubting his abilities or questioning plans that he had spent a great deal of time on.

And his evil smirk became truly terrifying as he crossed over the threshold that was protected by the Fidelius Charm.

            Again, he wanted to cackle at Pettigrew’s betrayal; people were so easy to manipulate with a little fear and intimidation. Oh how Pettigrew had jumped at the chance to save his own hide at the expense of his friends.

            As he approached the front door, he slowed. Through the old, textured glass he caught a glimpse of the happy Potter family in the living room. They were tossing the little brat up and down in the air and making the most ridiculous faces at him. It almost caused him to be sick.

            Thankfully, the last joyful moment of the Potter family didn’t last much longer for him to see.

            In his eagerness to cement his dominance over wizarding Britain, he blasted through the door and reveled in the familiar sounds of panic and fear that his presence brought out.

            The woman, who he knew to be the muggleborn Lily Potter because he had tried recruiting the both of them to his cause because they were highly skilled with magic, took the child and ran upstairs while James bravely stood between him and his target.

            “You will never get him!” James screamed before engaging the Dark Lord in a duel. He lasted much longer than his victims normally did. It just proved how tragic it was that they hadn’t joined his cause; for many of his own Death Eaters could barely string a coherent sentence together, especially Crabbe and Goyle. Shame.

            But in the end James Potter fell, like so many before him. Knowing that he was even closer to his end-goal of making sure that no one would ever be a challenge to him, he stepped over the bruised and bloody body and headed up the stairs to get Harry.

            He found them in the nursery and thought it was pitiful that she didn’t even have a wand on her. To someone like him that didn’t make any sense: a wand was everything to a witch or wizard. He had no idea what she was possibly thinking. At least James had attempted to fight him.

            But still, he supposed that he should reward his loyal follower who had made him aware that the prophecy had existed in the first place by giving him what he had desired. It wasn’t something that he really wanted to do, but it was all a part of his plan at playing people’s emotions to keep them loyal. Or else he would have little Pettigrews all around him, betraying him left and right.

Fear and death only did so much to keep his Death Eaters in line; occasionally, he needed to reward one or two for his methods to be most effective.

            “Stand aside, you silly girl,” he said in an annoyed tone, keen to get on with things.

            “No, not Harry. Take me! Take me instead!” she pleaded with him again and again.

            He was becoming agitated with her refusal to save her son; didn’t the woman realize that she could live if she only sacrificed that whiney brat? Surely she could have another one if she wanted a child that badly. The Dark Lord didn’t understand saving another person at your own expense for any reason.

            “You don’t have to die,” he said very matter-of-factly. Though, his focus was on the small child that she carried in her arms. It was foreign to him and just as pathetic as he expected that it would be. Except that his eyes were the color of his favorite curse and they bore into him like no other pair had ever been able to do before. It unnerved him.

            But again, she kept imploring him that if he just had kindness and a heart that he would kill her instead of her child.

            He snorted derisively at her assumption that the Dark Lord wasn’t capable of feeling; he cared very much for his own well-being, thank you very much.         

            “Very well,” he said without a care in the world over whether she lived or died.

            His eyes grew hungry as he whipped his wand out before him.

            “Avada Kedavra,” he said as if he were greeting an old friend.

            The jet of green careened towards the woman and she fell instantly to the ground. All of the life was soon gone from her eyes.

            The baby had fallen to the ground as well. Magic, of course, had protected it from getting hurt. At that age, the innate magic of children could see them through a lot of incidents that would normally kill or severely injure muggles.

            Now it was just the Dark Lord and the child who was prophesized to have the power to be able to destroy him. As if any witch or wizard would ever know the locations to his Horcruxes or be able to destroy them! Preposterous.

            He steadied his wand before the child and took one last look at his eyes, forcing himself to not become distracted by their color or the look of unknown recognition that he found in those glowing orbs.

            “Avada Kedavra!” he casted with a triumphant jeer.

            However, an explosion of such magnitude erupted about the room from the moment that his curse hit the child’s forehead. Pain, unimaginable pain coursed through his body as he felt the spell rebound upon him.

            His spirit was ripped from his body and he was driven out of the room and into the night with such force that many towns passed underneath him before what was left of his spirit had settled in the middle of an empty and dark forest.

            But not all of his soul that was present in his body had gone with him. For a part of him, a very small part indeed, had remained behind. He had split his soul so many times over the years to create his Horcruxes that his rebounded curse had chipped away a mere fragment from his unstable core and left it to float about in the decimated nursery.

            The sliver of soul barely had any consciousness to it and it couldn’t quite be considered to be a Horcrux with how much of the original soul that it did posses. Nor had it been made in the correct manner to bind it to his original body. However, it had just enough to it to be able to look about the room and assume that it had just been momentarily separated from the other part.

            And when the fragment of soul bound itself with the other entity in the room that felt so much like what it was used to, it didn’t even realize that it now resided in the forehead of the child. It felt at home.

 

            Albus looked over the baby that Hagrid had handed to him only moments before as he walked along Privet Drive in Little Whinging.

            “But Albus, you can’t be serious!” Minerva McGonagall said in a clipped tone while walking alongside him. Her underlying Scottish Brogue, normally kept in check, was evident with her shock that he was going actually going to go through with this.

            “Certainly, Minerva. There is no safer place for him.” Albus responded in an ‘I know better than you tone.’

            She ignored his condescending remark.

            “I have been watching this house all day. They are the worst sort of muggles, Albus! They won’t raise him properly, even if they are family.”

            The Transfiguration Professor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was at a loss as to why Albus Dumbledore was ignoring her opinion now when he had asked for it so often during the recent war.

            She was about ready to say something else when Harry let out an agitated cry. Even though he was only a year old, he knew that she was trying to protect him. He could feel the good intentions coming off of her, but it was overshadowed by the strange feelings that he was getting from the old one who was holding him. This man made him uncomfortable and he didn’t feel anything good coming off of him at all.

            Albus, however, was quick to cast a sleeping charm on the child as it started to wiggle in his arms.

            And by the time he placed the child on the doorstep of the Dursleys, the child was asleep. Then he added an envelope that would explain everything to his Aunt and Uncle.

Minerva was hesitant to leave young Harry and had a horrible feeling in her stomach when she eventually turned and followed Albus reluctantly back to Hogwarts. She would always regret that moment.

            Now, the future of the wizarding world may have gone differently had Petunia Dursley looked upon the child with as much love and fondness as she looked upon her own son with. However, the pain and envy at not getting to join her sister in that fantastical world had left too deep of a scar. She loathed magic and resented her sister for what she had experienced. But most of all she despised Dumbledore, who had rejected her eleventh hour plea to go to Hogwarts.

            She only kept the child because of the threats in the letter that could befall her precious dudekins if she resisted. Apparently, Harry’s presence would provide safety to their home and that was the only reason why she took him in.

            And so she never loved nor properly cared for the child that she found on her doorstep the next morning. But it was the hate and contempt that she had for the child that would forever change the future of the world.

 

            Comments? Reviews are great!

I’m going to go with Snape hearing the entire prophecy and passing it on. I never understood how he only heard the first three lines, was noticed, got kicked out, and then Dumbles still had time to hear the entire thing without missing anything. Not buying it.

Chapter Text

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 

            Harry Potter always knew that he was different. How could he not; it wasn’t like the Dursleys had ever looked at him with anything other than contempt for him to think otherwise.

In fact, one of the very first memories that he could ever remember having – aside from a bright green light that he always saw in his dreams – was his Aunt and Uncle calling him a freak.

            Because that was what he was to them. Something so very un-Dursley like that he was a threat to their way of life of perpetually trying to be as normal and dull as possible. Harry was nothing like their child, Dudley, who was showered with affection and praise because he was what a proper child should be according to their ideals. Meanwhile, while they treated him like a little lord, Harry was left to feel, and to live, like a pauper.

            What made things even worse was that Harry seemed to develop far faster than Dudley. He said his first word months before Dudley; however, his milestones were completely ignored while they oohed and ahhed over the drooling capabilities of their child.

            And since he was very young, he didn’t understand why he was being treated so differently. At first, he thought that he simply was not trying hard enough and that the Dursleys were unhappy because of that. So he tried harder to showcase just how special he really was. However, the Dursleys hadn’t liked it that he had called Petunia ‘mummy,’ after hearing her trying for hours on end to get Dudley to say the same thing.

Indeed, Harry didn’t have any luck with anything else that he tried either.

They certainly didn’t accept that Harry had stood first or had taken a short walk around the living room while Dudley was still learning how to roll over. If anything, it had only made things harder for him and soon he realized that he was the reason why they looked at him with such disdain. But Harry didn’t know what he had done to deserve it.

            And while Dudley was supplied with more food than he could ever eat – though that didn’t stop the little nugget from trying – Harry was lucky if he went to bed without hunger pains. Which was a very hard thing for a toddler to do, but it did not take Harry long to figure out that crying was an unacceptable sound unless it was coming from Dudley and so he began to hold it all inside.

It was only natural then that Harry learned very quickly that he was better off staying out of their way and so he spent a large majority of his time inside his own head.

            For a while, things progressed in a similar manner: Harry continued to develop at an incredible rate while doing everything in his power to make them notice him as little as possible. Simultaneously, Dudley was taken to the park and to the zoo and given lots of presents whenever he wanted – or he had learned over the years that a little tantrum was all he needed to convince his parents to give him what he had wanted in the first place.

Of course, no presents were ever given to Harry, and hand-me-downs just didn’t count. Instead, Harry soon reached the age where the Dursleys had decided that he needed to start earning his keep, and so he began to cook and clean more and more each day until he just did all the work around the house.

Also around this point in time, just as he was quite certain that what they were doing was in fact not how one ought to treat a child, Harry discovered magic.

Only he didn’t know that it was magic.

The day had started off normal enough as he was charged with preparing breakfast for Dudley’s special birthday. Then, after working tirelessly with no show of appreciation, he had been left to clean the entire house while Vernon, Petunia, and Dudley had gone out to celebrate Dudley in all of his glory away from him.

Knowing that there was an awful lot for him to do, he began at once.

However, around midday, Harry’s arms were growing tired from their constant use of lifting things that were far too heavy someone of his size and he dropped one of Petunia’s ugliest and most-prized teapots.

Harry knew right away that he was in for a whipping, something that he had done his best to try and avoid after Vernon’s first beating.

Though, just as he was about to give way to despair at how horrible his life was, he felt a most unusual feeling stir in his chest. It was the most wonderful sensation that he could ever recall feeling and it seemed to have a life of its own as it radiated throughout his body and filled him with strength.

Then quite unexpectedly, Harry literally felt a surge of something go through him as he sat on the ground holding the remnants of the broken teapot that he just wished could be fixed. His fingers became numb as his hands grew warm and, shockingly, the pieces started to move and reassemble themselves before his eyes.

Harry was stunned as he was left holding the perfectly sound and ugly teacup again in his hands. It took him a few moments to be able to process everything that had just happened before a huge smile broke out onto his face.

He could still feel the tingling in his fingertips and his intelligent and advanced mind naturally wanted to see if he could do it again.

Carefully, Harry set the teapot back on the shelf and focused on the rest of the dishes that he still needed to clean and put away. He struggled for what seemed liked a while, trying to hold his fingers in different positions or even holding onto each dish in his attempt to recreate that feeling.

It wasn’t until he combined that feeling in his hands with his clear intent of wanting something to be done so badly that he felt that similar sensation which soon shot of his hands and cleaned each and every dish before him.

Though he was tired from the multiple attempts, Harry was pleased that he had seemingly unlocked the trick to using what he now referred to as his gift. After taking a short break in which he ate a few things from the fridge that he was certain would not be noticed by his relatives, Harry went around the house and tested his theory that he had only needed to strongly desire something and focus himself for it to happen.

Item after item was checked off of his to-do list as his gift helped him to finish cleaning the house. By the end of it he was exhausted and had never felt so spent in his entire life. His gift, he assumed, must have required a lot of energy to use – more so than would be required by doing any of it by hand. Which was the one thing he was worried about now as he felt an intense need for food in his stomach.

Reluctantly but with no other choice, Harry headed for the fridge where he siphoned off some of the leftovers and other items that had such large quantities that he hoped Petunia would not figure it out. This was due to the simple fact that Harry was not supposed to eat food unless it was given to him. He didn’t want to be whipped again.

However, he was still quite hungry when he finished and headed to the pantry where he raided anything that he thought that he could get away with eating unnoticed.

The food helped, but his hunger still wasn’t fully satisfied as it became darker and he heard their car approach. With a last look around to make sure that nothing was left in an unacceptable state, Harry headed to his cupboard to avoid being seen.

That night was both one of the best and the worst that he had ever had. So incredibly happy he was with discovering his gift that it almost made him cry tears of joy before the harsh reality set in that he just couldn’t eat enough to support using it. For when the hunger returned later that night, Harry learned that no amount of wishing or want could make food appear to him out of nowhere.

And as the weeks and then months went by, Harry used his gift sparingly and only when it was completely necessary to make sure that he had achieved the ever-growing and ridiculous list of things that Aunt Petunia would ask him to do. Though Harry was very careful to never use his gift in front of them.

So it took him some time to work out the kinks and learn about the things that he could and could not do with it. But he only used his gift when he was sure that he would be able to properly feed himself afterwards since it had only taken him one night of what felt like he was dying from starvation to ever dare using it otherwise.

Fortunately, Harry soon got the chance to explore his gift more because he went to school for the first time. Harry had been looking forward to this as he had already taught himself how to read and write with what he had picked up from the hours that Petunia had tried teaching Dudley how to spell his name.

Now, there was some trepidation on his part as to how the teachers and the other children would treat him, and so he kept to himself the first day as he took in his new surroundings. Ultimately, however, he found that he didn’t have to worry about that. The teachers were quite encouraging once he consciously demonstrated his excellence and they encouraged him to be the very best that he could be. And he excelled at that.

Only, it soon became apparent that he would need to be skipped a few grades because of how much smarter he was than his peers. In fact, it ended up being a blessing because Dudley was told by his parents that Harry needed special help because he was already behind and so it was one of the few times that Harry wasn’t punished for doing something right. Unbeknownst to the Dursleys, that had been the exact reason why Harry had decided to reveal just how much better he was than the other children.

The only downside with going to school now was that Harry needed to get all of his work done and do all of his chores around the house at the same time. Which would have been impossible without the use of his gift to help speed things along. Fortunately, Harry was able to eat his fill during the school day, but he didn’t get to eat as much as he would have liked since he didn’t want to draw further attention to himself by eating twice as much as everybody else – for they were already older than he was!

Thankfully, he was still able to eat enough without it being overtly noticeable to get everything done at home using his gift. Another issue, but one that was made manageable because the Dursleys were at least smart enough to clothe Harry so that no one from the school ever questioned his appearance. Everyone soon assumed that Harry just preferred baggy clothing and he did his part to sell it by acting as comfortable as he could.

Though, this event did have the unexpected result of presenting Harry with the opportunity to perfect the art of fitting in. Slowly, he was becoming used to the many masks that he found were essential in order to make someone like himself, who had already been advanced several grades, to fit in.

Though, it was difficult at first because there was always the risk that they would move him further ahead – on account of just how much smarter he was than everyone else. So Harry had to balance that every single day to remain where he was without arousing further suspicion.

But Harry would never regret first chancing the reveal of his intellect to escape Dudley’s year, which he was reminded of each and every time that they had recess together. Harry had had several unfortunate encounters in which he had needed to endure bullying in the schoolyard. It only hardened him to other children in general, for he was certain that kids his age would just would never be able to accept just how much better he was than them.

Though, Harry did develop impressive self-control; for the amount of times that he was tempted to use his gift to teach others a lesson were too numerous to count.

However, one night just after he had started his second year of school, he simply reached his breaking point and first used his gift on another person.

Harry had known since he was four that the way that he was being treating was inexcusable. But when Petunia had tried hitting him with a frying pan for not caramelizing the onions long enough, he found that he just wasn’t going to jeopardize his health or safety any longer. A frying pan could cause brain damage and Harry had grown quite fond of his growing intellect, even if he had been forced to somewhat downplay it at school.

After he had ducked and started backing away on the floor while Petunia started screaming at him, Harry rose his hands in front of him and wished with all his might that she wouldn’t be able to hurt him with that frying pan.

Like always, he could feel his gift spread out from his center and it shot through his fingers with such force in his alarmed and angry state that Petunia was thrown back into the wall. She dropped the frying pan as her breath had been knocked out of her.

Vernon was quick to his feet and roared into the kitchen intent on teaching the little freak a lesson for what he had done using his unnatural behavior.

Though Harry was quick to recover from his shock at using his gift on another person and honed in again on his power to target his Uncle. Harry wasn’t focusing this time on just making Vernon not abuse him this time, but he wanted Vernon to never abuse him ever again.

So he wished and wished and wished for a way to change Vernon, to make him act differently so that he never had to deal with this again.

Even with the adrenalin that was running through him, Harry noted how different this sensation was from the one before. Instead of feeling the rush of energy as his gift left his fingers, this was subtle as his will left his fingers to do his bidding unnoticed.

It took a few seconds for Harry to notice the change in Vernon as he slowed his thunderous gait towards Harry and his face took on a docile, mindless air. His eyes had also become slightly glazed as Harry waited with baited breath for his gift to work.

By the time that Petunia was on her feet again, clamoring for the pan that she had dropped to give whack-a-Harry another go, Vernon was now an entirely different man.

He reached his hand out to Harry in the nicest gesture that he had even seen and quickly helped him to his feet while Dudley and Petunia looked on with a disbelieving expression.

“Are you all right, Harry?” his uncle asked in the caring manner in which he should have used since Harry’s first day in their home.

“I’m fine, Uncle Vernon.” He had responded slowly, gaining more faith that his gift had really worked with each passing minute.

“Vernon!” Petunia shrieked. “He ruined dinner and did something freakish to me. Hit him now!” She cried, becoming completely flabbergasted as Vernon led Harry back to the table and began preparing a plate of food for Harry.

While a place was set for him at the table, Harry held his hands before him and concentrated on that same exact feeling that he had used on Vernon for Petunia. It took the same amount of time, but like before, Harry knew at once that it had worked when Petunia set her pan down and adjusted her pearls before offering to bring in the pudding. All of the malice and hate was gone from her voice and eyes.

Harry had then thought to do the same to Dudley but there was something satisfying in watching the look of confusion and dread that soon gave way to terror on his face. So often had Dudley looked at Harry like he was scum and had so thoroughly believed what his parents had told him that he had recently taken to lording himself over Harry whenever he had gotten the chance.

And as Harry enjoyed his first proper meal at the Dursleys, his soul grew just a little darker than it had been before with his enjoyment of the gentle hushes that Petunia and Vernon gave Dudley when he cried out for attention, demanding that things go back to the way they were. The boy had even tried to hand Petunia her frying pan back, but Harry’s Aunt had simply put it away and had brought out more treats for Harry. Dudley had no idea what was going on and Harry found it satisfying to watch as their roles became reversed.

 


 

Over the course of the next few months, Harry found that he needed to keep using his gift to give his Aunt and Uncle a little refresher from time to time to make them remain in their nicer state. The first few times had been difficult for him to recreate since he lacked the emotional desperation that had made it so easy for him the first time. But eventually Harry had to just focus intently, more so than when he was trying to use his gift on objects, and concentrate all of his will to flow out of his fingertips.

Overtime, Harry was able to add specific requests to his gift and was very pleased when Petunia had so thoughtfully suggested giving Dudley’s second bedroom to him. Of course, this just elicited another chorus of whines from Dudley, who was so thoroughly unhappy that he was becoming less spoiled with each passing day. Harry never thought that he would have ever gotten used to that noise – but he was finding that he thoroughly enjoyed listening to Dudley wail as he adjusted to his new world.

Harry had thought about using his gift further on his Aunt and Uncle – to really get back at them - but what he really came to enjoy with this new arrangement was being able to do what he wanted and when he wanted to do it.

Being in a constant state of hyper-awareness, in which his main focus had been on just surviving the hell that living with the Dursleys was, hadn’t left him much free time to develop his own interests. Now though, with an adequate space of his own he was able to get through his unexciting homework before working on things that truly enthralled him.

Like how he was finally able to start really exploring the limits of his gift. It was quite easy now for him to work in little suggestions to Petunia and Vernon, and his Aunt finally started taking care of the upkeep of the house again. It had left him with even more free time now that he wasn’t asked to do the job that a parent should have been doing all along.

What was most enjoyable with his research into his gift was knowing that he now had the sustenance that he needed to be able to use it as often as he liked. Being in a semi-starved state for so long had really limited what he had been able to use it for, but now that he had his pick of the food in the house he readily dove into his work.

The potential to discover what he could do with his gift was vastly more important than using it to get back at his family. Of course, every now and then Harry was in the mood for a little payback and willed the Dursleys to watch him eat while they went hungry for once – just to know what it had felt like. They were also made to do everything that he had been forced to at some point over the years before he lost interest in subjugating them; something about it just wasn’t a challenge anymore.

            The amusing thing was that Dudley even followed along with everything after his brief stint of throwing tantrums, even though Harry had never put him under his spell – as he liked to call it. The boy may have been lazy and inept when his parents had allowed him to do whatever he had pleased, but he wasn’t all that incompetent when he put in the effort. Harry only had to make the boy come around to his way of thinking and how life was going to be now, and it helped that Dudley grew to be terrified of the boy when he finally realized that his parents no longer catered to his every whim.

Therefore, Dudley went along with practically everything that Harry asked of him and found that as long as he gave Harry a wide berth – his life was not that bad. Well, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been had Harry focused solely on revenge instead of cherishing that they left him alone.

And with the right portion control, Dudley had lost a lot of his weight and was even starting to put on muscle with the work that he did around the house. Which he didn’t even seem to mind after a while.

Everything was infinitely better for Harry now and most nights he liked to feel his gift before going to sleep, getting to the point where it gently hummed along his skin as he drifted off.

            Though, everything changed the day of Harry’s eleventh birthday when he received a letter inviting him to a school of magic.

 

            Kind of brief, but hopefully I explained it well. I realize the whole underage magic thing, but even in the books it was inconsistent (disappearing glass in the zoo, anyone?).

            Maybe wandless magic will be undetectable. Also, use of Harry’s Imperius Curse will be addressed next chapter.

            Next chapter is learning that he is a wizard and Diagon Alley/getting prepared for Hogwarts.

I don’t particularly want to write it out (as I am sure we have all read enough iterations of Harry going there). Instead I want to spent time with other aspects.

Thoughts?

Chapter Text

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


Harry’s eleventh birthday started off very similar to any other day of the week in the Dursley household.

The only slight deviance from his normal schedule was that this was one of the few days that Harry allowed himself to lounge in bed, a rare indulgence on his part. Usually, he was up at the same time regardless of the time of the year and whether he had school or not. He liked to get a head start on the day for there were books to be read and things to learn and everyday was an opportunity for him to further perfect his gift.

However, his birthday was the one day of the year where he gave in to his human desire of commemorating another year spent revolving around the sun. In honor of the occasion, Harry would spend an extra hour or two reviewing the progress that he had made over the course of the past year while still in his pajamas and then he would outline the goals that he would like to achieve in the coming year.

Other than that, it was simply business as usual at number four, Privet Drive, and everyone generally stuck to their proscribed routine.

Over the years Harry had become quite comfortable in using his gift to make his Aunt and Uncle behave according to his wishes. So the haze that he constantly enveloped them in kept them preoccupied and out of the way, except that he always made it a point for Petunia to cook him breakfast. It was his little way of making sure that it hadn’t all been a dream and that each morning he would have the satisfaction of knowing how he had changed things for the better.

Normally, Harry would just be sitting down to eat when Vernon left for Grunnings. His Uncle’s improved personality and hard work – under Harry’s watchful care – had seen him promoted to a vice president position where he was in charge of sales for the entire region. The increased income that came with the job had been an additional boon to the family’s finances.

Of course, Harry had needed to take control over the family’s money flow quite early on to rectify their exuberant spending on unnecessary purchases intended to impress neighbors that they hardly ever talked with. It was unacceptable to Harry that nothing had been saved for his future or his needs, and he had immediately implemented changes in how money was being spent.

The first thing that he had done was to put the family on a modest budget, and combined with the money that the family saved by not indulging Dudley’s every whim meant that Harry was sitting on a small, but growing fund that he would be able to use in the future when he was old enough to permanently move out and never look back.

And for additional income, Petunia, who had kindly consented to resume taking care of the household, also started working part time a flower shop. Initially, Harry had just wanted more time to himself in the house but it turned out that Petunia – with all of her attention to detail and tendency to gossip – was a perfect fit and was soon hired to work full time.

Sometimes it made Harry shake his head that he had unintentionally done a very nice thing for her, but he managed to console himself. This meant that even more money was now able to be saved for his future and Petunia was now out of the house almost as much as Vernon. At the very least, he considered it a win.

He even arranged for them to take Dudley on fiscally responsible weekend excursions to keep them out of his hair even more. Just because he didn’t continually abuse them with his gift - like they no doubt would have kept taking advantage of him by working him to the bone if he hadn’t been able to make them stop - didn’t mean that he particularly enjoyed their company either.

It was hard to ignore and forget what they had done to him and the longer that he was in their presence, the more he felt tempted to indulge his vengeance – but he had other things that he wanted to spend his time on. In the end, it was easier if he just kept them busy and out of the way instead.

Their child, Dudley, spent most of his summer mornings outside in the back yard tending to the garden and bushes. He had learned that if he got all of his chores done and out of the way then he could spend the rest of the day playing with his friends. In fact, Dudley spent a lot of his time outside and away from Harry as much as possible.

Everyone did his or her part around the house; except for Harry, who had done more than his fair share of the work over the years. So he didn’t feel guilty in the least for not raising a finger to help out now.

Well, that wasn’t completely true. Harry occasionally broke things only to fix them with his gift so he could work out all the things that he could do it with it. Recently, he had recently stumbled upon the fact that his gift was able to change one thing into something else, but it didn’t work every time and it took an awful lot of concentration for him to be able to achieve even the smallest change in color or texture. For instance, while he had finally succeeded in being able to turn a pen into a pencil, he found that changing the ink to lead was still a work in progress.

Which had been one of the things that Harry had committed to dive deeper into on the day that he turned eleven. He had already started to think that perhaps changing one thing into something else was based on the item’s initial and final characteristics but he hadn’t been able to confirm this just yet.

Interestingly, Harry was going over possible experiments that he could perform while working through the last bit of his morning tea when a brown owl shot out of the fireplace and dropped a letter in his lap.

It had been a most unexpected event and reading the letter forever changed his life because, after opening the sealed parchment, he learned that he was in fact a wizard.

From there it hadn’t take him long to understand what the true nature of his gift really was – but it didn’t change how he felt about using it to take back control over his life at the Dursleys.

Magic or not, he was just happy to have it.

And Harry would have been lying if, over the years, he hadn’t questioned reality sometimes with the extraordinary things that he could do. However, every attempt at trying to understand his special ability ultimately raised more questions than it answered. Eventually he had just come to the conclusion that it didn’t matter how or why he could do all of these things, just that he could do them.

But now, all of the dots had been connected in his mind and it made too much sense to be anything other than the truth. In fact, it explained everything so well that he had then started to wonder why he had never considered magic to be the reason for everything before.

Normally, he would have immediately disregarded everything that he had just read in the letter as fanciful; except that in this case he knew that it was true from the moment that his eyes had first passed over the word that had brought everything together. He had believed that he was or would be a wizard wholeheartedly because his gift – which he now properly recognized as magic – hummed contently along his skin, in agreement with every word.

Harry had read through the short letter twice just to make sure that he hadn’t missed something important. He wasn’t accustomed to this level of excitement that coursed through his veins and he didn’t want to make a mistake.

            Then, a sudden hoot from where the kitchen faucet was startled Harry, who had been so engrossed with this letter that he had forgotten all about the tawny owl that had delivered it.

It screeched again and Harry could have sworn that it had sounded impatient and was waiting for him to do something.

In response to the owl’s stare, Harry quickly drew his attention back to the letter and realized that the owl was indeed waiting for him to indicate that he would attend this Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For a fraction of a second, Harry thought that it was absurd that he would have to make an important life decision on the spot, especially one that concerned his education.

However, not attending a school of magic was something that he couldn’t even process correctly and he had then made up his mind so quickly that he didn’t even stop to think about the cost or anything else associated with attending.

            Though, once he had indicated that he would attend with his signature on the proper sheet, the owl had flown from its temporary perch and headed straight for him. The parchment that he had just signed had then immediately rolled itself up and attached itself to the owl’s leg as it flew by and then disappeared into the fireplace along with the owl.

If he hadn’t believed in magic before, he certainly had after that.

And though it took his brain a few minutes to function normally again, he soon began to wonder just where he would acquire his school supplies and all of the other questions that he had uncharacteristically skipped over.

Not even a second after he had thought that, a special postscript had appeared after the Deputy Headmistresses’ signature and informed him that someone would be by on the first of August at nine in the morning to take him into London to do his shopping.

After that, there was no new information besides the list of school supplies that were grouped on a third sheet of parchment and Harry was left with a lot of time of his hands to think.

Time to wonder if other magic users were like him and what this school would be like. Would he be ordinary among those that could do the same things that he could or would he continue to stand out? Were all magic users able to do the same thing or was there variation in what a person who could perform magic do? Question after question was addressed in a methodological manner, looking at his new situation from as many different angles as he could imagine.

Ultimately, Harry had come to the conclusion that he didn’t have adequate information to answer anything just yet and that the only thing that he could do was to observe everything that occurred the following day when he did his shopping. Only then would he be able to start putting together a reasonable foundation to begin to reply to his queries.

The only immediate concern that he had at this time was in procuring the funds necessary for his purchases. That was easily solved with a few suggestions to Petunia, which Harry took extra note of as it had been the first time that he was consciously using what he now knew to be magic.

And Petunia didn’t disappoint when she had returned to the house a little while later with a few hundred pounds that Harry hoped would be enough. If not, she had also thoughtfully given Harry her credit card as well. How touching.

This sudden and unknown expense made Harry thankful that he had had the foresight to begin managing the fiscal aspects of this otherwise irresponsible household. He was sure that the funds he had accrued over the years and what he would be able to set aside while he was in school would be enough to pay for his education. Which had been his whole reason behind starting to save in the first place!

Although, later that night when he had been going over the day’s events for the umpteenth time, he had a curious thought while eating at the dinner table.

With finally knowing why it was that he was so different, it was only natural for him to then wonder if either Petunia or Vernon had also been in possession of this knowledge of his uniqueness from the beginning. The more that he continued to stew over it whilst picking at his pudding, the more certain he was that they had to have known that he could do magic.

Why else would they have called him a freak or gone to the lengths that they had to make him feel inferior? When in truth, it had been quite obvious from the beginning that he was anything other than ordinary.

When he was finished eating he had questioned them using his magic – and Harry did not like what he had found out.

It was fortunate that Dudley was staying at his friend’s house tonight, because Harry was angry and in his fury he held nothing back.

“Did you know,” he started darkly. “Did you know that I could do magic?”

He then removed the haze from their eyes and so now they were fully aware of their surroundings for the first time in several years. Everything had seemed like a dream to them and their eyes darted about as they woke from it. But the terror of their situation was realized when they finally recognized that they were frozen to their chairs.

Petunia’s nostrils flared in her attempt to move against her invisible bonds while Vernon was growing more purple with each passing minute. The man was not accustomed to anything holding him down, let alone something that he couldn’t see.

It was then that both pairs of eyes turned to Harry, who they couldn’t believe had the audacity to sit at their table; for that was how little they noticed him that they didn’t even realize that he had aged several years.

Vernon made to reply with a litany of things that he wanted to call Harry, but found that he couldn’t actually say any of it. Instead, he discovered that he couldn’t even speak unless it was to answer the question that Harry had asked. Little did he know that he was also being compelled to tell the truth.

Because Harry was sick of their lies and how he had been treated and he was going to put an end to it once and for all. He wanted to know everything.

“Yes, you little freak!” Vernon spit out in a tone that brought back bleak memories of Harry’s younger years when he had been unable to fend for himself and constantly berated.

Suddenly, a fierce rage boiled inside of Harry. He thought that he had been kind to them considering how they had treated him over the years, but something just snapped inside of him. Harry had gone out of his way to not sink to their level and he thought that he had been generous with how much of a hell he could have made their lives.

But no longer.

His green eyes erupted in a most terrifying green as he unleashed his magic from inside of his chest. His skin tingled as he molded his emotions to combine with his will to cause the pain that he knew Vernon deserved to feel after what he had done. He needed to learn that his behavior was unacceptable.

The large man howled as he shook as much as he could for being confined to his chair. His screams were delightful to Harry, and he was aware that he was taking a satisfying pleasure in them. The only other effect that they had on Harry was to make him grateful that the neighbors were away as Vernon’s shrieks became increasingly louder. The man was a screamer.

“Stop it, stop it!” Petunia sobbed.

Tears were pouring down her bony cheeks at the sight of the blood that began to trickle out of Vernon’s mouth because he had bit down on his tongue in response to the pain.

Harry, his righteous anger feeling partially sated, acquiesced to her pitiful pleas for the moment. It would be easy to turn the pain on again, and it wasn’t like he had anywhere else to be that evening. They had all night to work through this and Dudley wasn’t expected home until the next day.

“Very well,” he intoned as if he were bored.

But he looked at her with a devilish smile and his eyebrows rose playfully. He would finally get the answers that had been denied from him.

“Tell me about my parents.”

If they had known about him being a wizard, it stood to reason that what they had told him about his parents had been false as well.

Her face blanched and Harry’s smile hardened. They had lied to him about that as well if her reaction was anything to go by.

“They didn’t die in a car crash, I take it?” Harry said with a harshness that promised pain no matter what answer she gave him.

At the same time his hand moved to touch his scar. What had that been from then if it hadn’t been a remnant of the car crash that they had told him that he had survived?

“No,” Petunia said in a deathly whisper, causing Harry to focus on her once more.

Her eyes locked onto what consciousness was left in Vernon’s and they shared a moment of complete despair. It was sickening – or beautiful, depending on how one viewed it – that two people so full of hate had found each other.

“I don’t know how they died, exactly,” she next said delicately, unaware that Harry was urging her to tell the truth with magic. Before he exacted his punishment, he wanted to know everything that had been withheld from him.

“I just know that they died protecting you.” She said with this far-off look in her eyes. Harry guessed that she was regretting a few of her actions; not that it mattered to him, of course, since he doubted that she actually meant them.

“What do you know?” He then asked, silencing Vernon’s attempt to shout at him with another round of pain. The obese man strained against Harry’s magic as it held him in place to suffer.

Petunia stuttered, but managed to answer quickly in the hopes that her response would ease Vernon’s torment.

“Your father was a wizard, and my sister was a witch – the first in our family. They went to school at Hogwarts and then got involved in some wizard’s war, or something, which led to their deaths.”

Her eyes were nervously darting back and forth between Harry and Vernon.

Harry’s death-like stare lightened as he released some of his magic once he knew that she had been telling the complete truth.

“Is there anything else?” Harry asked with a cold expression while Vernon was finally spared from his torture and collapsed to the floor as his body couldn’t hold it’s own weight anymore.

Petunia closed her eyes and took a deep breath, a silent confirmation on her part that there was indeed more to the story. Harry leaned in and his eyes narrowed.

“You were dropped on our doorstep with a letter. It was from Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts. He said that you would be safe here and I took you in because you would somehow provide safety to Dudley.”

Harry’s eyes erupted again, and this time it was Petunia that felt his wrath.

She howled as her nerves felt like they were on fire from Harry’s rudimentary and wandless torture, which was so very close to the Cruciatus Curse.

“Safe?” he spat at her, not realizing that the hairs on the back of his neck were raised and that his eyes had started to glow in a faint green.

Never before had Harry been so angry; he hardly had to focus on wanting to cause her pain. His want, no his desire, to cause her to suffer spread warmth throughout his body; the feeling was addicting as her cries of agony only intensified the triumphant feeling of justice radiating throughout his body.

It was a much different scenario for Petunia. Even with the sensation that every nerve was being sliced open with a million little razors, Petunia was unable to pass out. Harry wouldn’t let her body give in yet, for he wanted to hear the rest.

Reluctantly, Harry softened the amount of torture that he was putting her under so that she could think clearly for a final time. And her, knowing in what was left of her heart just where this would end, and wanting it over with, she readied herself to tell Harry what his magic would have fished out anyways. She couldn’t resist holding it in; death was preferable to what she was experiencing now.

“I was jealous of Lily, of magic, and the fact that she got to go to Hogwarts! She was the perfect child in my parent’s eyes and I was left to feel different because I was normal!” she screamed, finally getting to the crux of why she could never love Harry.

Harry had expected as much but didn’t take pity on her and slowly kept increasing his desire to hurt her until she passed out and helplessly sank to the floor like her husband had. This left Harry sitting alone at the table to catch his breath while his heart rate returned to normal.

The feeling of dominating someone had been exhilarating and he knew that he had let his emotions get the better of him. While he took another moment to collect him, he poured himself a cup of his favorite green tea and thought things over.

“So, the Headmaster dropped me off here.”

Harry was speaking to himself while looking around the house deep in thought. Why had the Headmaster of a magic school gotten himself involved in this? Had his family been good friends with the man? What safety could his presence have provided to Dudley? For that matter, what safety could himself, a wizard, have gotten from the Dursleys?

The last few questions that ran through his mind caused him to snicker thinking about just how safe the unconscious Dursleys were with him around.

But he still wondered why Dumbledore had made mention of their safety at all. It seemed odd how connected everything appeared even though he didn’t know how it all fit together.

But like before, each subsequent thought that he entertained only unearthed new questions that needed to be answered. There was so much about magic and this wizarding world that he didn’t know anything about.

For instance, could anyone detect his use of magic here? If so, he wasn’t sure that what he had just done had been legal – if that even was a thing with magic. But he shot that down almost instantly since he had been doing it for years and nothing had ever happened, granted he had never gone quite this far before.

“But still,” he then voice quietly. “Perhaps I should be more conscious of what I use it for.”

He stood up and walked around the table to stand over Vernon and Petunia, who were still shaking lightly even though they were unconscious. Harry sent his magic out again, but this time it was business as usual and he willed them to act like they had been before his interrogation.

Their eyes fluttered open and they were slow to stand up, which Harry noted appeared to be an effect that still lingered in their body from what he had done to them, an effect that his magic couldn’t cover up immediately. Magic, it seemed, did have certain limits in this type of situation.

Smiles appeared on their tired faces, and the only indication that something very different had just occurred was the trail of blood that dribbled out of Vernon’s mouth.

“Go wash up and get some sleep,” he ordered to them without emotion.

“We have a guest tomorrow and I expect you to be on your best behavior.”

Harry hoped that there would be no odd traces of his punishment in the morning when this mystery person came over. He had gotten carried away with his desire to cause them pain and would have to be more mindful in the future. Still, he wasn’t all that upset with himself since he now had some answers and had thoroughly enjoyed their little session; they had gotten what they deserved.

 


 

The next morning, Harry was dressed and ready hours before this unknown visitor was scheduled to come and collect him. While he was waiting, he made sure to send his Aunt and Uncle on some errand that was somewhere else – he didn’t know what was going to happen and felt better knowing that they weren’t in the house. Also, Dudley was still at his friend’s house, which one was thing fewer for him to worry about.

When he was alone in the house, he took a few glances around to make sure that nothing was out of the ordinary. He didn’t know if this person would be coming in, but he was trying to run through everything as he didn’t know what to expect.

By the time that the hand turned to the nine position there was nothing else that he could do. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait much longer for a knock to sound at the door.

Swallowing his nervousness, Harry felt his well-worn mask slide into place and he confidently opened the door to greet whoever had come.

However, it took all of his skill at hiding his emotions for him to not gape at the impossibly huge man that stood before him.

“Harry!” The giant, gregarious man said immediately while trying to shake his hand.

“Hello?” Harry said hesitantly as he took in the man’s ragged appearance. There was a lot of hair and even more fabric than was necessary to cover his entire body.

The man introduced himself as Hagrid – the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts – before indicating that they should get going to Diagon Alley.

All the way into London, Harry wondered why people didn’t stop and turn to look at the giant that Hagrid obviously was. However, the noise from the motorcycle that Hagrid was driving prevented him from asking until they arrived at their destination.

“Hagrid, can they see you?” Harry reasonably questioned once they had parked.

“Just like yer mum!” Hagrid said before briefly going into how Lily had been quite intelligent herself before answering his question.

“Dumbledore – great man he is – did a little Notice-Me-Not Charm so that the muggles don’t see me.”

“Muggles?” Harry said slowly while noting the reverent way that the man spoke of this Albus Dumbledore character, who was popping up everywhere. Harry had a lot of questions about this man.

“Non-magical folk,” Hagrid said while not so gently extracting his large frame from the bike.

As Harry stepped out of the sidecar, he took note of the seedy nature of the surrounding area that he found himself in.

They had parked right outside one of those bars that his Uncle had never set foot in because those that frequented such establishments were of a different sort, a sort that he had liked to complain about. Well, that was before he had started behaving himself anyways.

However, Harry didn’t get the chance to take in more of the outside as Hagrid led him inside of this place called the Leaky Cauldron while it was still quite early in the morning.

The place was almost disserted and Hagrid had to wave off the bartender who had tried to give him a usual of some frothy beverage. Instead, Hagrid had mentioned something about official Hogwarts’ business regarding taking Harry to get his school supplies.

Harry watched as the man’s face changed into one of intense curiosity at the mere mention of his name. He watched as the man’s eyes next traveled up to his faded scar. Until recently, Harry had never paid it much attention since he had believed it to be a remnant of the car crash that had killed his parents.

But now he knew that that wasn’t the case and it was peculiar how the man seemed to regard him now after finding out what his name was.

He would have to ask Hagrid about it when he got the chance, but that would have to wait too as the giant led him immediately to the back of the bar. Harry thought it was odd when the man removed an umbrella and started tapping on the brick wall, until the bricks started to change and rearranged themselves to reveal an entrance to what looked like a quaint little shopping area – only magic was everywhere.

Harry did his best not to react when Hagrid proclaimed this as Diagon Alley as there were so many things that caught his eye. He now understood that magic had hidden this part of London away from those muggles, much the same way that it had shielded Hagrid from sight. He thought he could even feel it against his skin as the hairs on his arms tingled slightly.

The various shops all had items that were simply wondrous on display in their windows, but they kept moving in a straight line towards a huge and offset white marble structure.

They proceeded to go into what Hagrid had described as a bank that was run by Goblins.

When they exited about an hour later, Harry discovered that his parents had been quite wealthy and that they had arranged for a vault solely for him to get through the next seven years of school and another one that was even larger and contained all the wealth of the Potter family.

However, even with all the gold that Harry had taken out of his school vault to buy his supplies, he still exchanged some of his pounds that Aunt Petunia had given him, and he knew just what he was going to spend it on.

First, he got all of the obvious things on the list like his robes and supplies and potion ingredients and of course a nice trunk – that could literally bend space – to hold everything in. And then Harry had acquired a wand, which had felt so right in his hand that he had trouble stowing it away in his pocket. Although, the man who had sold it to him had been a very odd fellow who had gone on and on about how his wand was a brother wand to someone whose name he couldn’t even say and how Harry would go onto do great things. Needless to say it had been an awkward goodbye as he hurried off to join Hagrid.

Speaking of Hagrid, he had given Harry a birthday present – a beautiful owl that he had instantly connected with. It has been a nice gesture but Harry felt strange about it just the same. He wasn’t used to people giving him things of their own volition.

But that was quickly pushed aside as Harry arrived at the one place that he had been looking forward to going where he hoped that he would be able to find some answers.

After getting his required textbooks, he spent the rest of the gold that he had taken out of his vault and exchanged on books that he hoped would help to clarify things. There were large books and small books that covered topics ranging from wizarding history to current events to the nature of magic and he had even managed to find one on Hogwarts itself.

On his way out of the shop, Harry found a form next to the register on owl-ordering books and he slipped that into his pocket feeling quite pleased that he would be able to add to his collection while at school.

Because, from the moment he had received his letter, Harry wanted to know as much about this world as possible. Then, after seeing the strange looks that people kept giving him and his scar – Harry had even more questions as to why everyone seemed to know more about him than he did.

Luckily, Hagrid had been able to help him somewhat. But even then he was only left with vague answers about someone-who-must-not-be-named and a war that had enveloped the entire wizarding community of Britain.

Apparently one night, this Lord Voldemort, which Hagrid was only able to say because Harry kept pestering him relentlessly about it, attacked his family.

Harry knew that he ought to feel sympathy for his dead parents and anger at this other man but he had no idea what any of the fighting was about, nor which side they were on. What if he had agreed with what Lord Voldemort was trying to achieve? So far the only thing that he had really learned regarding any of this was that Lord Voldemort had disappeared the night that he had come after Harry and his parents. That was why he was so famous: he was the only person to survive the event that had seemingly ended the war.

Although, Harry did learn that his scar had come from that night – but Hagrid couldn’t tell him anything about it.

Interestingly, a warm tingly feeling cascaded down his neck and settled comfortably in his gut when he heard the name of the man who had given him the scar for the first time, but he barely noticed it with everything else that was going on.

All of what Hagrid told him didn’t help him all that much to understand the wizarding world and his role in it, and was part of the reason why Harry had insisted on getting as many books to educate himself as possible. The other part was that Harry truly loved learning and would have bought most of the books anyway. It was just prudent in his mind.

So, with his trunk comfortably full of his new purchases and his wand tucked away in his pocket, Hagrid dropped Harry off back at the Dursleys with instructions on how to get to platform nine and three quarters on the first of September.

However, before he left, Hagrid suddenly realized that he had forgotten to tell Harry something.

“Almost forgot to tell yer, Harry. I know it maybe temptin’ to use that wand of yers but no magic outside o Hogwarts. It’s illegal that is and so you best be careful.”

A certain understanding was reached inside of Harry’s mind as he waved the man off and headed inside with his stuff. He had been right to question whether or not magic could be detected, but it seemed that he didn’t have to worry about using magic as long as he didn’t use a wand.

“Perfect,” he whispered happily to himself as he greeted his Aunt and Uncle, who had just sat down to the dinner table with Dudley.


            The next month saw Harry read through an enormous volume of material. Even by his standards, as a self-proclaimed bibliophile, it was an abnormal amount that he went through. But he just couldn’t help himself; an entirely new world was now open to him and he just had to learn as much about it as he could.

The first thing that he had done was to look over his new course books. He read through the first several chapters of each text and quickly came to the conclusion that he would continue to be a standout in the classroom. Each subject devoted most of the first pages to introductory material that Harry found to be quite basic – even though all of it was new to him.

It reminded him of his first few years in school where he found himself to be quite bored as the material was vastly beneath what he was capable of. Plus, Harry had already spent several years getting acquainted with his magic and supposed that he had a better grasp about the nature of it than others his age. Having to learn something out of necessity, like a matter of life or death, as opposed to a casual study often led to a richer and deeper understanding of the material.

Once he was satisfied that he would be more than prepared for his classes and still be able to excel at the very top, he devoted the last three weeks to learning as much about the wizarding world – and his role in it – as possible.

            Harry started with the history of himself and Voldemort and worked backwards. Allegedly, this Voldemort bloke had led a movement in the name of blood purity that terrorized the wizarding world. More specifically, his faction believed that muggles and magic users that were borne from them were inferior to those whose parents had been witches and wizards in every single way.

However, the first thing that Harry had then questioned was the parentage of Voldemort, for he knew from his history lessons that those in positions of power within these types of movements would have broadcasted their superior heritage to show just how much better they were. Or they conveniently were deemed so untouchable that no one ever questioned where they had come from in the first place.

He suspected that the man was not a so-called pureblood because when he read further into the rise of Voldemort and his Death Eaters, he noted the distinct lack of information about the man’s beginnings. Everyone had an origin story and Harry was curious as to what his was. Plus, the world had just been ripe for revolt and if it hadn’t been Voldemort at the front of it then it would have been someone else.

Before Voldemort’s – or as the books referred to him instead as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s - rise, there had been another wizard called Grindlewald, who had terrorized Europe at the same time that Hitler was trying to subjugate all of the muggles. Some of the texts had even linked their movements together and suggested that Grindlewald was the mastermind behind what the muggles referred to as World War II.

Interestingly, Grindlewald’s defeat by Albus Dumbledore – whom Harry was now convinced that there was something more to with his hand in seemingly all aspects of wizarding life - had left a lot of witches and wizards with the feeling that their way of life was being threatened by new blood, so to speak. Many witches and wizards felt like their traditions and heritage were being phased out with each new generation.

It would have been very smart for Voldemort to take advantage of that population who were readily available to be united behind a common cause if the right manipulation were applied. Harry was confident that Voldemort had done just that – regardless of what his true intentions were – because it was the same thing that Harry would have done had he been in that position.

Why waste time in slowly recruiting a group to a specific cause when all one had to do was to get a loosely associated population all riled up about something that they already cared about?

As he kept reading, Harry was surprised that the authors didn’t come right out and say all these things and had left the reader to infer everything that they were lightly implying.

Of course, he found it impossible to read about Voldemort without seeing his name peppered throughout the various texts as well. Apparently he was viewed as some kind of savior for stopping the Dark Lord, though no one seemed to have any idea how he had done so; however, that didn’t stop the authors from offering their own take on things.

Again, Harry had questioned why the authors freely made their opinions known here but had held their tongue when referring to Voldemort. They couldn’t even write his name!

The whole thing was ridiculous and it made Harry angry because now people would have expectations of him and he would have to take those into account – whether he wanted to or not – with how he would behave at Hogwarts. It was unfortunate that he would be in the spotlight for this, but at the same time he began to think about how he could use that to his benefit. If people were going to blindly and stupidly give him renown for something that he hadn’t even been aware of doing, then he was going to exploit it in every way that he could.

As he continued to read about that specific night where Voldemort had killed his family, which again he didn’t know how he felt about it, Harry thought back to that bright flash of green light that he sometimes dreamt about. He wondered if that had had anything to do with that night. That shade of green reminded him of the color of his own eyes and he loved how different they looked from everyone else’s.

Though, if he had to put his finger on why he didn’t begrudge this Voldemort person for killing his parents, Harry was pretty sure that he knew why he was so indifferent to the past. Sure, he supposed that it would have been great to have parents that would have given him a normal childhood filled with love and happiness and all that.

Except that Harry was a firm believer that a person was shaped by their experiences; it explained too much about a person’s character and what they were capable of – and even who they were deep down - to be anything other than the truth.

And the bottom line was that Harry loved who he was. He may not have enjoyed certain aspects of his childhood, but he wouldn’t have changed it for anything – even having his parents back - since it had led him to this point. Harry knew that he was a survivor and very capable in a multitude of situations and he knew that he would not be the same person that he was today had his life experiences been different.

Wishing for a different childhood was futile in his opinion and, if anything, he supposed he owed this Voldemort a thank you for shaping his future the way that he had.

Because Harry Potter or not, he knew that he was something special and had undergone trials in his short life that had demonstrated to him that he was capable of anything. And a future without limits was the most important thing to him.

 


Let me know what you think! I think that is a plausible rationalization for why Harry doesn’t begrudge the man.

Next chapter is Hogwarts!

Chapter Text

As the first of September approached, Harry felt confident that he had prepared himself as well as he could have to enter the wizarding world. Obviously he would have preferred more than just a month to acquaint himself with the concept of magic and his role as the Boy Who Lived, but felt ready nonetheless. He had learned how to make the most of his time.

While he was aware of the current political and social issues, he would never pretend to be an expert on them after only spending a few weeks catching up on the various topics and other myriad facets that he needed to be educated about. Still, it was far more than any eleven year old would have reasonably been expected to know about, judging by the more advanced language used in those supplemental texts that he had picked up at Flourish and Blotts. Those books were far more sophisticated in their prose and better geared towards his reading level than the uninspired and basic drivel he found within his introductory schoolbooks required by the school.

But he wasn’t just a normal child about to go to a school of magic, he was apparently famous and thus had expectations hoisted on his shoulders as a result. Thankfully, he possessed an advanced intelligence that allowed him to be aware of and then deal with this unexpected burden. Or so he hoped that he would be able to.

Because even with his intellect and limited knowledge of the wizarding world, he wasn’t entirely sure about how he was going to behave in it yet. Again, he required more information before he made a decision on the way he would carry himself. Harry needed to see more of this world in person to get a better sense of how he would or could fit within it. Therefore, and to be on the safe side of things, Harry had decided to take a cautious approach where he would just observe and do his best not to let anyone get on his nerves.

In other words, he was going to try and blend in before seeing how best to make things turn out for him; much like he had after being skipped a few grades the first time during his days at muggle school to avoid being sent even further ahead. Pragmatic would have been an apt descriptor for him.

For the moment, the only thing that he was immediately concerned about and would have to deal with in the near future stemmed from his intense scrutiny of Hogwarts: A History. This act of being sorted into a house at Hogwarts intrigued him and presented him with a pressing decision that he would have to make before anything else. Which would likely impact future decisions that he would be presented with based on where his life took him.

From his brief encounter with the many stares from Diagon Alley and from what he had read, he knew that it would matter significantly more for him as opposed to the other first years regarding which house he went into.

It seemed that the wizarding world just loved to label things and make broad generalizations – and it didn’t escape his notice how Voldemort had been able to take advantage of this system. To be honest, the man had been ruthlessly efficient in how he was able to rile up certain factions.

Reading about the different houses and now being somewhat aware of the sociopolitical issues that dominated the different texts that he read, led him to contemplate which of the houses would be most beneficial to him and what he wanted to achieve with his life.

After reading the book on Hogwarts, Harry understood that a hat would be placed onto his head and that it would sort him into one of the four houses. While he knew that each house had very different implications for him because of who he was, he didn’t know how the hat worked and if he would have a say in the matter.

All that he could do was to prepare himself for being sorted into any one of the four houses and so he spent a good amount of time over his last few days running through the different scenarios that would result depending on which house he happened to be sorted into.

 


 

When the time finally came for him to depart to the train station, Harry took a last look around Privet Drive as he lifted his feather-light trunk down the stairs. Not that he would miss this place after seeing the spectacular moving images of the castle that he was headed to, but this was where he had grown up and discovered his powers. It would always hold a special place in his heart for that reason; this was his beginning and it had shaped him immensely.

Besides, he knew that he was going to miss using the Dursleys to perfect his control of magic. They had been instrumental in allowing Harry to work through the subtle differences that were required when using magic to make his will come to life.

Without them to practice on, Harry wouldn’t have known the distinct and subtle variations between what it took to control someone completely or simply have them perform a discrete task. Furthermore, he was just getting into exploring how he could see into their minds and look over their thoughts. He had even discovered that he could relive their memories. All of them.

It had been such fun to see Petunia twitch as she was forced to experience Dumbledore’s letter over and over again, which had rejected her plea to join her sister at Hogwarts. Because he would never forgive them for withholding the knowledge that he could do magic; it pained him to think about how much more he could have learned about his craft had he been aware of what he could do at a younger age.

Still, he at least had something to look forward to when he returned in the summer. Who knew what knowledge he would have by then and he would need someone to practice on.

In the meantime, he gave his Aunt one last parting gift that left her sobbing on the floor as he read her the letter that he had memorized by heart since he had made her see it so often.

Perhaps when he returned in the summer, he would make Vernon recite it instead. Or even reenact it.

Of course, his uncle had also been given a little something but Harry had responsibly made sure that he got to enjoy it fully the night before. Harry needed to be sure that Vernon was able to drive this morning without twitching, for he had learned that a person needed time to recover after a little bout of pain before returning to normal. It would have been most unsafe to both him and others on the road, and he couldn’t have that.

Then, Harry infused as much of his will into his magic as possible, which then washed over them in order to make them behave for the rest of the year without his constant guidance. Once satisfied that things would be the same when he returned next summer, Harry had then instructed Vernon to carry his stuff to the car where they made their way to King’s Cross Station.

The trip was quick and soon Harry was on his own, standing exactly between platforms nine and ten. He was starting to suspect that the entrance was hidden, much in the same manner that Diagon Alley had been, when he caught sight of a woman wearing a vulture as a hat. It was so out of place that he at once knew magic had to be involved.

Harry did his best not to stare and casually observed her as she walked by.

Her face had started to wrinkle with age and Harry reasoned that perhaps she was the grandmother of the boy who lagged nervously behind her with his trunk and kept his eyes on the floor in front of him. It was obvious that the boy was anxious, but Harry wasn’t sure if it was because of going to Hogwarts or his association with the vulture lady.

Harry watched as the pair quickly disappeared as the woman led them through the brick divisor that separated platforms nine and ten. Smirking to himself for correctly guessing the nature of the entrance despite not knowing exactly where it had been located, Harry put a curious and polite mask on his face before walking straight towards the wall himself.

He felt a slight tingle in the air as he passed through the brick wall and came out the other side to a wide platform with a glistening, red train in front of him. Not many people were present at this time but Harry had hoped that it would be that way.

His plan had been to make sure that he arrived early enough to miss most of the crowds since he didn’t want a repeat of the stares that he had gotten in Diagon Alley. Also, extra time was allotted for his journey in case they ran into hiccups along the way since it wasn’t an option for him to miss the train. But because he had arrived so early and without delay, he wasted no further time in stowing his stuff into a compartment in the very back of the train and settled in.

Since he had about an hour before their scheduled departure, and then a considerable trip to wherever this school was located, Harry removed a book from his bottomless satchel to pass the time. In addition, he decided to let Hedwig out so that she could be free to roam around the enclosed compartment.

During his month with her at Privet Drive, Harry had become quite attached to the white, snowy owl. She was an exceptional hunter and he found her to be quite intelligent – which only brought them closer together. He appreciated that she was affectionate but at the same time didn’t need to be constantly showered with attention. Likewise, she was protective of Harry but didn’t feel the need to watch him around the clock and much-preferred the freedom to fly whenever and wherever she wanted after being in the pet shop for so long.

The atmosphere inside the small compartment was perfect and Harry became so lost in the book that he was reading that he barely noticed the train begin to move as it departed for Hogwarts.

However, a few minutes later there was a tapping on his door as a redheaded boy gingerly put his head through. Though it was several seconds before the boy found the courage to speak.

“Mind if I sit here? Everywhere else is all full.”

His eyes looked weary and Harry wondered from his body expression if the boy had been turned down from sitting in other compartments.

Harry wasn’t particularly thrilled with this development but perhaps the boy would prove useful. After all, this was the first wizard besides Hagrid that he really had the opportunity to have a conversation with. And Harry was nothing if not opportunistic in these situations.

Although from the moment that the other boy discovered that he was talking with Harry Potter, he had immediately regretted his decision to let the boy sit with him.

The redhead kept staring at his scar and asked him all of these inappropriate questions, like if Harry remembered his parents or if he remembered facing off with the Dark Lord. It took all of Harry’s patience not to use his magic on the boy and teach him a lesson.

Except that as Harry fought against making the boy silent in the same way that he had dealt with his relatives, he inadvertently thought of something else that suddenly changed how it felt to be in the other boy’s presence. It was too tempting for him to see how his magic would react with that of another wizard like himself, and he was curious to see if he could do the same things to this boy that he had done to his Aunt and Uncle.

Except without the pain and forceful reliving of his worst memories.

Harry didn’t want to get into trouble on the first day.

And the more he thought about it, the more he wondered if there was a difference between muggles and wizards in getting them to do things with magic. For instance, Harry was curious if the innate magic of a witch or wizard would fight against him if he tried to make them do something with his will and magic.

Since he was already reasonable sure that using his powers would not lead to detection – even though he was itching to use his wand for the first time and he considered this to be an extension of Hogwarts which would have made it acceptable – he just needed to find a way to distract the boy while he tested out his theory. If would do no good if the other boy was aware of what he was doing; or worse, tell others what Harry had been trying to do.

Luckily, a polite knock at the door from a woman selling all sorts of candies that made the other boy’s eyes light up soon presented an opportunity for Harry to do just that.

For Harry soon discovered that Ron loved to eat and often focused so intently on what he was shoving into his mouth that it made it quite easy for Harry to sit there across from him and concentrate on bringing his will to the surface without being noticed.

Almost at once, Harry realized that this would be much, much different than the many times that he had taken control of his relatives. His magic met resistance almost immediately and his eyes narrowed as he worked to overcome the invisible force that he was fighting against.

Ron, meanwhile, remained unaware that anything out of the ordinary was happening at all and continued happily stuffing Pumpkin Pasties, one right after the other, down his throat. If Harry hadn’t been concentrating so hard on what he was trying to accomplish, he would have been amazed that Ron hardly seemed to chew his food before swallowing.

It was then that Harry noticed how different Ron’s magic felt from his. While his magic was comforting and whole and had a warm darkness to it when Harry let it fill the room, Ron’s appeared stuttered and dim in comparison. But it was feisty in small bouts, and constantly worked to evade Harry’s dominance.

Never before had Harry’s magic faced opposition to enacting his will – though, that didn’t mean that Harry would be unable to find a way to overcome this.

At the same time, Harry’s magic noticed Ron’s pet rat as it too feasted on sweets, but he was too busy with what he was trying to do to pay it much thought to notice how different the rat felt from his owl.

He redoubled his efforts and focused intently on breaking through Ron’s defenses. At first, he wasn’t sure how to direct his magic as it moved out from his center. With the Dursleys, taking control of them had been easy and all he had needed to do was to touch their mind with his magic that had the intent to control them. It had never seemed to matter how he had done that just as long as his magic’s tendrils had reached them.

But here, Harry wasn’t just dealing with Ron’s mind, he was also dealing with his magical core that Harry could now sense in the middle of Ron’s chest.

He thought for a moment and drew his magic back into him.

Like before, Ron remained oblivious to what as going on; though he did pause in his feasting to offer Harry some of the chocolate frogs that Harry had bought for the pair of them to share.

“No thanks,” Harry managed with a forced smile, causing Ron to shrug his shoulders and focus hungrily on his horde of food again.

With a better idea of what to do this time, Harry unleashed his magic again in the small compartment.

Instead of just letting it flow evenly in Ron’s general direction, Harry sent out his tendrils in two directions. The first was aimed at Ron’s core, and Harry willed his magic to enclose it fully. It was more of a struggle than Harry would have liked to admit – and beads of sweat did become noticeable on his brow – but in the end he succeeded in surrounding all of Ron’s magic with his own.

Harry took a deep breath and then focused the other part of his will and might at Ron’s now-unguarded mind. Internally, he was quite pleased when he saw the familiar expression of Ron’s eyes glazing over, which was quickly followed by Ron swallowing the last remaining bit of food in his mouth before sitting upright and looking directly at Harry for further instructions.

It was straining on Harry’s magic and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to hold both the other boy’s magic and his mind hostage for much longer. But he had done it and Harry was certain that he would be able to perfect this, just like he had perfected his domination over the Dursleys.

However, the feeling of his magic overcoming someone else’s was even more euphoric than controlling a muggle and Harry was enjoying the feeling so much that he began to loose focus and soon his control got away from him.

Just as Harry’s magic released the other boy, who had seemed to think that he had just dozed off, the compartment door opened and this girl with brown and bushy hair stormed in with the boy Harry had seen alongside the vulture-hat lady at the train station.

Thankfully, the obnoxious girl with no manners was so intent on why she had burst through the door without knocking that she didn’t immediately notice the sweat on Harry’s brow or the drool on Ron’s face. It would have been awkward trying to come up with a plausible explanation.

“Have any of you seen a toad? Neville here has lost his,” she announced as if that was reason enough to barge in without asking. Even Ron had managed to have some decorum and knock first.

“No,” Harry said curtly.

            But the girl wasn’t picking up on his social cues of not being happy with her presence and continued chatting incessantly about Hogwarts and how she was just ever so excited about this opportunity. It was nauseating.

Eventually, Neville tugged at her sleeve to urge her on. He desperately wanted to find his toad before they arrived and judging by the twilight outside, they didn’t have much time left.

With them gone, Harry dressed quickly into his school robes and cleared his mind before calling for Hedwig to put back in her cage. He then needed to center himself after the rush of subjugating another wizard to his will without them even knowing it.

He couldn’t wait to do it again and hoped that he would have more opportunity to hone his skills at Hogwarts.

 


 

All of the first-year students took a different journey to get to the castle than the rest of the students. While the older witches and wizards had gone in the direction towards carriages that seemed to move them in small groups without anything pulling them, they had to follow Hagrid towards the lake.

The giant, thankfully, didn’t make a big show that he knew Harry, but he did provide Harry a way to ditch Ron. The youngest male Weasley had decided that a single afternoon spent together meant that they were going to best friends, which just didn’t work for Harry in the least. Therefore, when Harry saw an opportunity to escape Ron by hiding behind Hagrid at an opportune moment, he took it.

Which left Harry in a boat with the boy who was bereft over not having found his toad. Strangely, it wasn’t odd or annoying to be in his presence and Harry took the opportunity to note the castle and the layout of his surroundings since he wasn’t forced to talk.

The journey over the lake was quick and the boats let them out in a vast cavern that was directly underneath the castle. Though, that did mean that there were many flights of stairs for them to take but Harry was happy to see that they were exactly the type of stairs that he had expected a castle like this to have. They were wide and the stone had chiseled filigree on the side that culminated in handrails. Most of the students used it to steady themselves as their attention was not focused on their feet but on the moving paintings that peppered the walls around them.

The bolus of ascending students also acted to keep Ron separated from Harry, who preferred to linger towards the back and observe. When they reached the top, no one knew exactly where to go and so they halted just across the hall that led to two large doors.

As Harry had never had any real desire to interact with many people, or make friends, he passed the time leaning against one of the railings and took in the nervous chatter of students debating which house they were more likely to go into.

In fact, he had found over the years that he could even pick up useful tidbits of information if he carefully listened to what others unintentionally revealed.

In this case, Harry was still unsure how the hat decided an individual’s fate. He knew that the hat could talk and had a fondness for breaking out into song every year, and Hogwarts: A History had even devoted a picture of the hat moving about for his visual reference.

But what he didn’t know was just how far into a person’s mind the hat went to do its job. For one thing, Harry wasn’t particularly pleased at the thought of the hat venturing so deep into his mind that it saw what he had done to the Dursleys. Of course, that had only caused him to become momentarily worried with what the hat would do with that information.

But then Harry really thought about children in general, or at least those around his age and younger, and he became less worried. He knew that kids were often very cruel to each other and acted most of the time without thought to anyone else. Furthermore, they usually had no motive, and if they did, it was likely transient and spurious. In his case, Harry had needed to do those things against the Dursleys because it had been a matter of life or death. Surely, the hat would see just how restrained Harry had been when he had finally ensured his own safety.

Hadn’t Vernon gotten a promotion and Petunia found satisfying work? Well, at least he thought she would have been satisfied if she could think for herself. Even Dudley had changed for the better and he never even had to use his magic on him! Certainly the hat wouldn’t begrudge him for the one time – okay, several times - that he had taken his anger out on them, even though they had clearly deserved it. No one was perfectly in control all of the time.

In the end, Harry just wasn’t worried about what the hat did or did not see. He was primarily concerned with which house he would go to because that would affect the way that he needed to act because of how others would view him. That was much more important than a silly hat.

From what the book had described, he could have seen himself in any of the four houses based on what they were known for. He was brave, intelligent, hard working, and he always managed to find a way to stay on top of things. But each of them came with different caveats as they had different reputations, and he just knew that where the so-called Boy Who Lived went would have an impact on his future direction. It was all he had thought about during the previous few days.

So Harry listened closely to those around him and became somewhat more relaxed when he heard from those who had heard from their siblings just what would happen. Apparently the hat picked your house based on the qualities that it saw in you and tried to match you to the one you aligned best with.

It didn’t help him all that much since he had many of the traits that each house prized, but it gave him a general idea of what he could expect. If he were going to go to a house that exemplified him best, he would have put money on Ravenclaw. That was the house that he most desired to go to with his love of books and knowledge, but it was also the house that he thought would also go well given that he was Harry Potter.

Any other house would make things more complicated, and he wasn’t a fan of that. In Ravenclaw, he wouldn’t have to deal with the expectations that would come with Gryffindor nor the suspicion that Slytherin would bring about, and Harry was reasonably sure that Hufflepuff was out of the picture. While he could see the utility in the anonymity that being a badger would provide once people got over Harry Potter being sorted into Hufflepuff – generally considered to be the lamest house – he still had reservations about going to that extreme.

His musings were interrupted by an aristocratic blond with impeccable hair, who had taken to berating Ron for his hand-me-down robes and the fact that he was a Weasley. As a former victim of the well-worn and baggy clothes condition, he didn’t exactly approve of the choice of teasing material but noted how the two boys acted during the exchange. The blond clearly had an internal sense that he was leagues above Ron – and Harry saw the satisfying glint form in his eye as Ron’s cheeks matched the color of his hair in response to his jibes.

Harry didn’t care about whether or not someone had money – though it was certainly useful for providing someone with the opportunity to make his or her own way – he judged people based on what they were capable of or how they could be used. Likewise, he noted that this Malfoy character – as Ron had indicated in a not-so-good comeback – was clearly skilled at cutting someone down with his words while Ron struggled to control his emotions.

But just then, as Ron started to raise his fists in anger, a very severe-looking woman with dark hair, which was mostly hidden under a pointy black hat, interrupted the group.

She introduced herself as Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall, and gave them a short speech about the events that were to follow.

Harry liked the no-nonsense nature of this woman and something inside of him told him that he would have no problem getting along with her.

She then turned around and led them through two very large wooden doors that opened to reveal the expansive Great Hall.

All of the other students were already seated in four large tables that ran lengthwise down the hall and ended perpendicular to a fifth table on a raised dais.

Harry was thankful that he at least had an idea of what to expect from his book on Hogwarts before seeing the hall.

Otherwise, he was certain that he would have had an awestruck look on his face like he had had when seeing Diagon Alley or the castle for the first time, which thankfully had been masked by the darkness as they had sailed over the still, black waters. Magical was a word that simply didn’t properly describe what he was seeing.

It was more than that; and Harry knew that he was home.

Though, he was careful to carry himself in a respectable manner, and so he only allowed a slight smile to show on his face. First impressions were important and he knew that everyone’s eyes would be on him shortly, if they weren’t already.

The group of first years was led to the front of the room where the entire school was then serenaded by the hat about new beginnings and reaching one’s potential and all that. It was easy to see who had never been exposed to magic before or were still getting used to the idea that they were a wizard or a witch by the gapping expressions on their face due to the whimsical decorations floating over their heads.

When the hat was finished with his song, McGonagall called them up alphabetically and one-by-one they each sat on a stool and the Sorting Hat was placed on their head.

While he was waiting, Harry spent his time going over why Ravenclaw was the best for him; however, he was distracted once or twice by individuals at the teacher’s table. Dumbledore, who had to be the one with a beard even longer than Hagrid’s, was sitting in the middle of the table with robes that looked very different than what the other professors were wearing. But that wasn’t what had called his attention away, for he had caught the man several times looking directly at him with an unknown expression on his face.

It only added to the mystery of this man and why he had factored so prominently into Harry’s life.

In time though, McGonagall called out his name and the murmurs started at once. Students even began kneeling on their seats to be able to get a better look at the Boy Who Lived.

Harry ignored them and he walked up to the stool at a neutral pace, doing his best to tune out the stares and the whispers from everyone craning their necks in the hopes to see which house he went to. It was fortunate that he had been able to remain relatively unknown on the train and while he was among the group of other first years on the stairs. It seemed that no one had known what he looked like, but they wouldn’t forget his face now.

He made it to the front and sat on the stool. Harry did everything in his power to keep his face emotionless as he looked out at all of the students staring right back at him. Thankfully, the hat that was soon placed on his head and hid the sweat that was just starting to form on his forehead.

Now, the Sorting Hat was old, much older than Hogwarts and likely even predated the written word. It had no memory of how it had come to be and its purpose of sorting the students was much different than what it was originally used for in the ancient world.

Before it had come to Hogwarts, people would travel many miles to visit the hat and place it on their head for they perceived it to be an oracle. In fact, when it was housed in early Greece, it was the Oracle at Delphi – which was assumed to be the mouthpiece of the Gods.

However, the hat’s true gift was not in divining the future but by helping an individual reach their greatest potential. It had the power to peer inside one’s mind and see everything that that person was, and likely, where that individual was headed.

Its advice, which for untold eons was mistaken as a prophecy, was quite simple: what is the best path forward, all things considered.

Like many things, the hat was lost to time and sat motionless for hundreds of years in a dormant shrine buried beneath the earth. That was until Rowena Ravenclaw, an exceptionally young and bright witch went looking for the fabled hat of legend. She was thirsty for knowledge and all types of magic and eventually found the hat and placed it on her head.

The hat was quick to declare that her best path forward lay in teaching and it caused her to reconsider her friend’s offer in starting a school of magic.

Rowena kept the hat with her for many years and consulted with it frequently. It was because of following the hat’s advice that her name grew to be synonymous with wisdom and intelligence for she never seemed to make a wrong move.

Towards the end of her life, and after Hogwarts had become a school of magic of great renown with four houses named after the Founders, she perceived that the hat could be of use to further generations. The Founders had been divided on how the incoming students would continue to be sorted when they were gone. But she was concerned that others would not use the hat as she had and so she devoted her remaining years to prevent someone from abusing it. Shortly before her death, she was able to enchant the hat to only be able to use its abilities to sort a child, which would become its only purpose and solve the issue of ensuring the Founders’ legacies.

But in doing so, the hat forgot its origins and now sits unused except for the one day of the year where it guides students to become the best version of themselves.

And every person is different. So one time the hat may find that a person needs to develop a certain trait that a particular house is known for, and in others it may instead believe that a child ought to hone a specific trait that they already have.

After sitting on the heads of thousands upon thousands of people, the hat believed that it had seen and heard everything, and so it was mildly curious when it was placed on the head of Harry Potter.

Well, well, well,’ an ancient and mesmerizing voice sounded from somewhere inside Harry’s mind.

It’s not every decade that I glimpse a mind with as much potential as yours.

The hat paused for a few seconds.

In fact, it reminds me of someone from many years ago. He was exceptional in many ways, some of which I find that you also posses. How interesting.’

The hat chuckled.

Harry’s pulse quickened at the thought. He was intrigued with the notion that someone else was so similar to him given what his life had been like and wanted to know who this man had been and what had become of his life.

Any chance that you would tell me his name?’ Harry ventured.

And what if you don’t like what I tell you? I daresay you will hear this comparison more than once from a certain someone, though to be honest, I’m not sure that you will mind after seeing what I have of your thoughts.’

The hat was being blunt and Harry appreciated its frankness.

I’ll get over it. Besides, I may even have a few guesses.’

Yes, I imagine you could already guess this,’ the hat agreed.

Voldemort?’ Harry took a well-educated stab based on this discussion and his previous thoughts on the matter. He had wondered if Voldemort had gone to Hogwarts and now he had his answer.

Yes, quite similar,’ the hat answered in a roundabout way.

So, does that bother you?’

It was easy to see how being compared to the person that had killed his parents and irrevocably changed his own future could be a touchy subject for Harry. But he had already thought about the man a great deal after learning about what he had done and didn’t have enough information to judge him by, just as he didn’t have enough information to say that his parents were good people. Which was difficult in and of itself because judging the goodness or badness of someone or something was complicated and often was best told in shades of gray anyway.

Besides, there was no doubt that the man had gone on to be a great wizard, and so Harry didn’t begrudge the comparison on that fact alone.

I take it that it doesn’t,’ the hat answered for Harry.

Sometimes it was easier for him to answer since the hat knew a person’s response almost instantly, and he did have to get through a few dozen students. Although, the conversations did pass far quicker here than they would have in the Great Hall that others watching experienced since they happened entirely within the student’s brain.

But even though he was extremely intelligent, that didn’t mean that Harry thought of everything instantly and so he passed over the thought that Voldemort wasn’t the name the student had gone by when he had been sorted. Not that the hat would have told him; some things did need to be discovered by oneself.

This was especially true since the hat moved the conversation along and it instantly changed what Harry thought about.

Now where to sort you?’ The hat mused.

And no, I’m not asking for input as kids are so often wont to do. If that were the case, then I wouldn’t need to be here at all, now would I?’

I see your point,’ Harry thought with slight trepidation at the revelation that he wouldn’t get to offer his input into where he went. He had been preparing an entire speech in favor of Ravenclaw while he had been waiting for the other to be sorted.

Though, not many people realize this and some try and fight me tooth and nail and oftentimes I don’t have it in me to get into the same fruitless conversation with them.’

‘Anyways,’ the hat continued quickly, ‘I exist to help a person achieve their full potential, which is dependent on who they are and the house that they go into. Which ultimately can influence the experiences that they have – and you know all about that I see. In your case, you already know that you would do well in any house; however, your case is also unique. Not many people – none that I can recall in fact – come with the specific considerations that you do.’

And that will make all the difference with what house I sort you into. You have an exceptional mind and the magic to make your will come to life.’

Harry didn’t know quite how to feel as there was so much to consider but he agreed with what the hat was saying so far and how it was going about it.

And it’s good that you have given the different houses a great deal of thought, I suspect that you will come to see the utility with what I ultimately decide.’

Ever since the hat had revealed its true purpose, Harry had had a feeling that his previous notions about which house was best for him needed to be revised.

So what then? Which house would benefit the Boy Who Lived the most?’ Harry asked of the hat.

Hard to say,’ the hat replied honestly. ‘There are so many things to take into account that don’t necessarily involve you. Hmm.’

Harry waited as the hat thought for a moment.

Gryffindor would do little to give you confidence in your abilities. You are already fearless or else you never would have stood against the Dursleys. Exceptional use of underage magic by the way.’

Harry smiled darkly at the compliment.

So I’m afraid that house is out. The weight of the expectations would crush your spirit and your growth. It is unreasonable for a child to be seen as a savior of sorts and I’m glad you can see the ridiculousness of that, even though you cannot escape it.

That was more or less the conclusion that I had come to as well,’ Harry thought back.

Indeed.’ Harry could have sworn that the hat had smiled along with its reply.

After a brief pause the hat spoke again.

Slytherin would be a perfect place for you. I can see by your nature that you are not what people expect – which is why we removed Gryffindor – and you would continue to hone your ability to make the situation work for you in that house. But I’m concerned about placing the Boy Who Lived here. It could be very problematic. Just as in Gryffindor, you would be under intense scrutiny and it may stunt your unlimited growth since you would always need to throw off suspicion – and that does tend to take up a lot of one’s time.’

Harry couldn’t find a single point that he disagreed with and so the hat continued. Perhaps Ravenclaw was still in this.

We are now left with two houses… not as different as Gryffindor and Slytherin, but each come with unique offerings. In Ravenclaw, you would have free reign to indulge your love of understanding all things - be they light or dark – and no one would bat an eye. Unfortunately, people tend to assume that Ravenclaws are sometimes too learned for their own good; believe me when I tell you that that is not the case. Therefore, I fear people would pigeonhole you, labeling the Boy Who Lived instantly as the brightest wizard of his age. Of course, they would be right but it would mean another thing you had to live up to. While there is no doubt that people will one day learn just how exceptional you are, I think it would be better if the reveal of your intelligence were left up to you. Alternatively, in Hufflepuff you would fall into the background. No one would expect anything of the Boy Who Lived after he went into the house some people view as an inability to make it into the other houses. Which isn’t true by the way – some people need to learn how to be loyal and have a good work ethic! I’m tempted to place you here simply because no one would expect it and it would give you the chance to develop who Harry Potter is away from the spotlight of the Boy Who Lived. You will be great wherever you go, but I want you to be more than great. Your abilities demand it.’

When the Hat was finally finished, Harry took it all in. He couldn’t find a single fault with what the hat had told him. In fact, the more that he thought about it, the more he saw the usefulness of it all.

It’s funny,’ Harry started. ‘Going to Hufflepuff would make me the ultimate Slytherin. It is also a move that a Ravenclaw would make for the reasons that you laid out and I could fearlessly become whatever I wanted, much more so than a Gryffindor would have made me.’

Very well,’ Harry finished, preparing himself for the likely response that people would have with the outcome of his sorting. He felt far better about this knowing the exact reasoning behind the hat’s forthcoming decision.

Good luck, Harry Potter, and be patient. I know that you are unafraid of toil and only wish I could see your greatness realized.

Harry felt the consciousness of the hat leaving his head to ready the mouth on its brim.

HUFFLEPUFF,” the hat shouted very loudly to the crowd, instantly silencing the Great Hall and causing more than a few jaws to drop.

McGonagall removed the hat from Harry’s head and looked at him with a bit of sadness and disappointment in her eyes. Harry didn’t get a single feeling that she was making a judgment against him, and reasoned that as the head of Gryffindor, she had simply wanted him in her house. It was almost a maternal feeling that he was getting off of her.

But he couldn’t sit there and dwell on it, he had needed to stand and then make his way towards the Hufflepuff Table that sat to the far left of the platform that he was on. As he was walking towards his new house, all the Hufflepuffs started yelling in masse excitedly that they had gotten Potter. His sorting had come as such of a shock that they had been rendered speechless and had only just found their voices.

Every pair of eyes watched him take his seat as McGonagall called out the next name, but all Harry could do was to sit there and smile. It was hard to keep the smirk off of his face knowing that he was on his way to greatness.

 


 

Went back and forth on this one, but ultimately felt like it was the best place for him to be for the reasons that I highlighted. Anyways, think of the fun that he can have now! No one will see this coming – until it is far too late.

Chapter Text

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

The entrance to the Hufflepuff Dormitory was located a floor below the Great Hall and very close to the kitchens. In fact, the closeness of the two was one of the reasons that every badger knew how to get into the kitchens if they so desired, and that little tidbit was revealed to the first years as they were led past this large painting of a bowl of fruit. For all that anyone had to do to gain admission was to tickle the pear, which would then giggle and laugh before turning into a green door handle.

Past the painting and to the right, there was a corridor that ended with a stone recess in which several rows of barrels were organized.

Harry remained towards the back of the group of first years as a Prefect explained to them how to go about entering their common room, which would then led to their new dormitories. It turned out to be not as fun as entering the kitchens.

Apparently, to gain entrance, all that Harry or anyone else would need to do was to tap the barrel that was located in the middle of the third row from the bottom in the same rhythm that one would say Helga Hufflepuff. If unsuccessful, the person trying to enter would be doused with vinegar.

Naturally, Harry made a mental note to never, ever mess that up.

However, it didn’t escape Harry’s notice that also tapping in the same rhythm as saying Godric Gryffindor would also allow entry, but he kept his mouth shut.

Once they were inside their new common room, Harry took a look around at what would be his home for the next seven years.

The inside was very… cheerful, as the windows that framed the comfortable and well-worn looking furnishings showed fields of grass on a sunny countryside that were filled with bright, yellow flowers. Since Hufflepuff was the house most associated with the earth, he couldn’t say that he was surprised with the choice of decorations but knew that magic had to be involved in some way, shape, or form. Because he was pretty sure that they were underground and he was one-hundred percent positive that it was dark outside.

Even though it wasn’t exactly his taste in scenery, since he would have much rather preferred to looked upon a forest at twilight or the edge of a lake at the same time, he found that it went with the overall look of the room. Similarly, the yellow and black that trimmed all of the furniture and chairs were not his favorite colors, but it didn’t really matter to him what things looked like.

Harry had gone to Hufflepuff for a reason given that he was the Boy Who Lived and if the scenery or decor began to bother him that badly in the future, then he would just use his magic to change it. Problem solved.

From there, the rest of the tour moved rather quickly and thankfully no one made too much of a fuss about his unexpected presence in this house – though there were a few that had gone out of their way to shake his hand. Thankfully for their sakes, as Harry was getting tired of the stares, they were quickly shown to the male dormitory that would house those in his year.

What was interesting was that this year more males had been sorted into Hufflepuff than to any other house. It was a most unusual occurrence, since it was usually Gryffindor or Slytherin that took in the most first-year students.

Ultimately, there were six of them in total, and for the first few minutes they had been a little overwhelmed with the idea of sharing a dorm with the Boy Who Lived; but a few short and calculated words from Harry was all it took for them to think that he was just as normal as they were.

During his time spent in muggle school, Harry had become skilled in diverting attention away from himself. And the lessons that he had learned were working well for him so far.

After that, Harry sat back and got to know a little bit about his year mates as he arranged his trunk and got himself organized while the others made nervous small talk about who they were and where they came from.

The first to go was Ernie Macmillan. The boy was feisty and opinionated and Harry had a positive opinion about him almost immediately. If nothing else, he would be able to amuse Harry since he acted so similar to the older students from Harry’s advanced classes that had liked to entertain others with their antics. Ernie was confident, funny, and at least Harry knew that he would be able to tolerate him.

However, just as quickly as Harry knew that he would not have a problem with Ernie, he had already come to the conclusion that Wayne Hopkins would test his patience.

Every. Single. Day.

He was conceited, proud, and an extremely unlikeable boy that talked on and on about how noble his family was. Harry’s first thought was to compare him to a wannabe Malfoy, except without the aristocratic training that taught one how to act in public. Wayne appeared to have no such training in proper decorum.

Harry judged people by what they were capable of and he didn’t doubt that Wayne Hopkins would go onto to do absolutely nothing with his life with his over-the-top attitude.

Unfortunately, Wayne Hopkins was not the worst one in their year. There was someone else that Harry was certain would eventually cause him to break his firm grip on his self-control.

Zacharias Smith – who Harry swore had seen Hopkins’ pompous spiel and decided to one-up him – went to another level altogether with his douchebaggeryness about how he was a descendent of the legendary witch, Helga Hufflepuff, and how much better that made him than anybody else.

Thankfully, Harry wasn’t the only one in the room to roll his eyes. Actions spoke louder than words and Harry wasn’t about to hold his breath that anything spectacular awaited that ponce’s future. Especially if he kept this up then Harry would be forced to take drastic measures to preserve his sanity.

The next boy to introduce himself was Justin Finch-Fletchley. The smallest boy in their year was quiet, although he could be personable and friendly when the need arose. Harry got the sense that he preferred to listen rather than speak.

Interestingly, Harry couldn’t help but notice the way that Justin eyed Ernie when the other boy thought that no one was looking.

Which didn’t bother Harry in the least since he had been around enough hormonal and pubescent kids his entire life to the point where he had already deduced that he was attracted to other boys as well. It had only been natural for him to entertain thoughts about his own sexuality when he was confronted with the awakenings of it in others.

At any rate, Harry knew exactly whom he would be dealing with in this kid.

Which was more than he could say about the last boy because Neville Longbottom was a complete mystery to him.

Harry was at a total loss for why the boy didn’t seem to rub him the wrong way when everything about Neville would have normally driven him up the wall. The boy was meek and unsure of himself and barely was able to speak above a whisper, no doubt because he kept his eyes on the floor in front of him.

He was also rather disappointed that the Sorting Hat had placed him here instead of Gryffindor – which he had confided to Harry in a hushed whisper when they had been sitting next to each other during the Welcoming Feast.

Harry suspected that the Sorting Hat had probably placed him here so that Neville could find confidence so that he believed in himself, if he had to make a guess. The boy needed all the help he could get in that department; he didn’t trust himself at all!

Still, Harry couldn’t put his finger on why he didn’t seem to mind Neville’s company. For he had already discovered on their boat ride into the castle that he could be in the other boy’s presence while he was crying and still not be bothered. Which was altogether unheard of for him. Harry’s experiences in life had demonstrated to him that tears showed weakness and he could never afford to give someone that much power over him.

In the end, all he could really do was to wait and see what the future held, but his gut instinct – which only a month ago he had learned to associate that tingly feeling as magic – told him that the other boy was all right for some peculiar reason.

         Of course, when it was Harry’s turn to talk, he played his part perfectly and managed to further divert any of their remaining interest in the Boy Who Lived away.

         With that out of the way, Harry spent the rest of the evening in his bed that had a yellow and black comforter with a large badger embroidered on top. All of his belongings were safely stowed underneath the wooden frame that held his mattress and his bottomless satchel was on his nightstand where he selected a small book to read as he settled into his first night in the castle.

        


        

         The next morning Hufflepuff’s Head of House, Pomona Sprout, was present in the common room and greeted both the male and female first years as they came down from their dormitories. The older years that trickled down with them just headed past on their way towards the Great Hall for breakfast, though a few waved in a friendly and excited manner.

         "Welcome to Huffelpuff," Sprout practically sang to them, eyeing each of her new badgers as if they were the most precious thing in existence.

         The woman, who Harry found to have an extremely cheerful disposition, was of average height with a round figure and plump cheeks. For a moment, Harry questioned if there would ever be a moment where he saw the woman frown because he didn’t think that there was anything that would ever be able to get her spirits down.

         "Now, Friday’s are normally school days, however, we have found that over the years it is often better to give you a few days to settle in before classes start. Therefore, you have today and the weekend to go and explore the castle and prepare yourself for the term that starts Monday.”

         There was a palpable feeling of excitement in the air that they would have three days to do as they wished without having to worry about classes just yet. However, Harry would use this additional time to amend some of his plans now that he had been sorted to Hufflepuff.

         It would also give him more time to prepare for his classes and practice his magic with a wand.

         When the woman saw that there were no questions or comments she continued.

         "Now, I want you to be aware - just in case should you need anything - that in addition to the fifth-year Prefects who showed you to the dormitory last night, there are sixth and seventh-year Prefects that would be more than happy to assist you as well.”

         Some of the first years nodded in recognition of the older students who had introduced themselves during the tour last night.

         She smiled when she saw this; Pomona loved how she could depend on her puffs to be there for one other.

         “Additionally, we do things a little differently in Hufflepuff than in the other houses. As such, each of you has been assigned a third or fourth-year student to help you out during your first year and beyond. We call this the buddy system and while it provides you with someone to look up to, it gives me the opportunity to see which students are Prefect material.”

         While the other first years looked pleased with this since it was such a Hufflepuff thing to do, Harry’s face registered the smallest of shocks before his mask was able to take control again.

         ‘You have to be kidding me,’ he thought to himself. ‘Do they really think we are that incapable?’

         But Sprout had kept on talking and had then assigned them all a buddy.

Harry discovered that his was to be some third-year named Cedric Diggory, and that their new buddies would introduce him or herself in the coming days.

         Harry sent a silent prayer in the hopes to anyone who may or not be listening – something that he rarely did since he believed that he controlled his own destiny – would not allow Cedric to be an idiot. If only for the health and safety of the other boy, of course.

         He could only foresee the problems that would happen if Cedric were anything like Zacharias Smith, because Harry was certain that he would have a very hard time indeed in not using his magic to correct the situation permanently within the first five minutes. Which probably would not end well for Cedric and only serve to make things harder on him in trying to blend into the crowd.

         As he was imagining the different ways in which he was going to handle whomever this Cedric person was depending on how he acted when they met, Sprout finished her little speech.

         “Also my door is always open, but I encourage you to see if you can work through your problem before going to your buddy, a Prefect, or to me. My puffs are known for their work ethic,” she said proudly, puffing out her own chest with pride.

         However, it left Harry feeling like he was surrounded by small children who couldn’t think for themselves; he had gotten used to being around older students that were more capable and treated as such.

         But instead of frowning, he forced a smile on his face like the rest of the kids. He hoped that not all of the teachers would coddle them like this; he would have to keep his most patient mask very close to the surface if that were the case. Or develop a new one altogether.

         Professor Sprout finished with what probably counted for her as a very stern warning with a menacing stare; however, because of her jolly nature it came across more as a look that a sad stuffed animal would have given.

        “Puffs are also known for their loyalty. I will be most displeased should I see someone slacking off or turning their backs on another student in need.”

         It was difficult for Harry to hold in his snort. She was kind to a fault, but at the same time he supposed that he would be able to tolerate her. The woman would never expect anything other than what Harry showed her and that worked perfectly for him.

         Of course, her sunny disposition couldn’t be contained for long and she soon began smiling at them again before sending them on their way.

         The first years had then gone onto breakfast before making sense of their new home.

         Though Harry had wanted to spend the majority of his time in the library after his group of first years had found it during their exploration of the castle, he decided that for now it would be better for him to be seen as somewhat sociable.

         He had all year to get intimate with the library and everything that contained but it was very hard to dispel first impressions and he wanted people to see him as amicable but reserved. That was the combination that he had found to be most effective at blending in.

         With that in mind, the first part of Harry’s first weekend at Hogwarts was spent following along as his group explored some of the castle and its grounds. After the library, the lake was by far Harry’s second favorite place. Its surface was unnaturally calm and there was something about it that just drew him in.

         As they went from one place to another, the group of first-year girls occasionally joined them and together they tried to take in the rest of the wonders around them.

         And Aside from a few giggles that were sent his way when they had first met, most of the girls soon became interested in the bravado of Wayne Hopkins and Zacharias Smith.

         By Saturday night though, the group had splintered and Harry was left with Justin Finch-Fletchley and Neville Longbottom.

         Which relieved Harry to be honest. It had been taxing on his patience to be in such a large group and this was much better for his mental state. And though this group was unusual, Harry knew that he could make this work to his advantage. Remaining in the background would be even easier if he were among others that didn’t stand out and he would at least be able to stomach their friendship.

         Growing up, Harry had found that he had never really needed that much human interaction to fulfill himself and he had been more than a little apprehensive at the prospect of having to be more outgoing at Hogwarts.

         He had met few people that he actually enjoyed being around or looked forward to speaking with, and none of them had been his age. All in all however, he considered this to be much better than he expected and he was even able to prepare a little more for his classes while his group chatted intermittently in a corner of their common room on Saturday night.

         However, after listening to more of their stories throughout the weekend as they got to know each other a little bit better, a few things struck him as odd.

         The first was that Neville had been raised by his grandmother.

         In fact, neither Harry nor Neville had been the only ones to be raised by a relative in their year. For Susan Bones, who had been friendly but reserved in a similar manner as Justin, had been brought up by her father’s sister.

         While Susan was able to talk openly about the fact that her parents had died during the war and that she had been sent to live with Amelia Bones, who also happened to be the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Neville wasn’t able to tell them why he lived with his grandmother.

         The news about Amelia and the role that she had in the Ministry had been an unexpected boon and Harry was certain that he would remain on friendly terms with Susan based on that fact alone. Even though he had no use of her at the moment, he didn’t know what the future held and it was just prudent to think ahead.

         In hearing about Neville’s situation, Harry politely moved the conversation away from the other boy’s home life. Which was actually very difficult since the mention of Neville’s grandmother had caused Harry to again become interested as to why the woman, now known as Augusta Longbottom, insisted on wearing something so dreadful as a vulture for a hat. It’s just didn’t make any sense in Harry’s mind.

         With the spotlight off of Neville, Harry had then learned that Justin was a muggleborn, and it was during this exchange that something clicked in his brain. Throughout the course of the weekend, Harry had been a little surprised to learn that not everyone had seemed to think it necessary to glance at a textbook ahead of time. Justin appeared to be one of the few that had, but what had really gotten Harry’s attention was the observation that no one aside from a muggleborn, so far as he could tell, had indicated that they had taken a look at their class books.

         True, it was a small sample size, but it got Harry wondering if it meant anything. Was there a difference between those raised in a magical household and those that weren’t?

         That thought festered in Harry’s mind while Justin finished telling him and Neville about his home life, and at the next pause his curiosity won out and he shared his thoughts with the group.

         Though, it quickly became apparent from Neville’s ramblings that those from a magical household often had minimal prior education with magic. Neville had also alluded that those from wealthier families occasionally hired a tutor to teach their children about the magical world but never about using magic specifically.

         It was ultimately revealed that the reason for this was that most families were wary about their children using magic before the age of eleven when they went to Hogwarts, lest they get into trouble for using it. Underage magic was a serious thing and that was why wands could only be sold to eleven-year olds. Although, Neville could not actually tell him why that was the case.

         So Harry had then asked if it were possible – theoretically speaking of course – for a young witch or wizard to ever be taught how to use magic without a wand, though Harry conveniently left the part out about it being unable to be detected.

         However, Neville had instantly shaken his head before going into a surprisingly detailed explanation about wandless magic, as it was called, being very difficult to master and that it was only taught to sixth years and above. Even then, he had emphasized, that many people just couldn’t get the hang of it because it was just too difficult and so never bothered keeping with it.

         Harry kept his mask in place and had nodded along to these facts that he was learning while on the inside he was smiling very widely. He was even more extraordinary than he had thought! But he couldn’t honestly say that this new information surprised him that much; it had almost become commonplace over the years for him to discover some new area that he excelled at.

         The new knowledge, however, did provide him with an opening to spend some time by himself.

         After being educated on things that were commonplace to those raised in the wizarding world, Harry had then informed the group that he would spend Sunday reading up on these things but that he would look forward to starting classes with them on Monday. He even suggested they should study together, if only to have some social interaction.

         The others readily agreed. Neville had then decided that maybe he should at least take a look at what was coming up in his classes while Justin got a curious look in his eye in response to Harry’s musings about things that were different in the wizarding world.

         In truth, Harry had wanted to finally test out some of the spells that he had read about. He had been waiting over a month to finally use his wand and he couldn’t wait any more.

         So on Sunday, Harry ventured to a place far away from the main hustle and bustle of the castle. It was on the same floor that the Hufflepuff Dormitories were on but on the other side of the castle.

         In fact, Harry was sure that he was in an unused part of Hogwarts because of the layers of dust and cobwebs that coated everything. The only light came from torches that lined the halls and from the small windows inside of the various rooms that did a better job at keeping light out than they did at letting it in.

         It was perfect and Harry chose a room that had a wide space for him to practice in. Satisfied with his new surroundings, Harry took his wand out of his pocket and instantly felt the hum of power radiating outward from his chest; his magic was just yearning to be used.

         Wasting no time, he held his wand in front of him and started with the most basic spell that he had read about so far.

         “Lumos,” he uttered while envisioning his magic turning into a bright light that would illuminate the entire room.

         However, he was not prepared for how easy it would be compared to wandless magic and the sheer radiance of his first spell caused him to have to shield his eyes with his left hand.

         If this was how other spells were going to be than it was a good thing that he was practicing them now. It would have been difficult to explain at first just how powerful his magic really was.

         He ended the spell and refocused himself. As he was just about to utter Lumos again while imagining a softer glow from the tip of his wand, the most unusual thing happened. It was if the wand had a mind of its own and it began to glow in the exact manner that Harry had wanted it to.

         At first, his shock had made it difficult to think, but his brain eventually reminded him that this was what Neville had called a nonverbal spell.

         Using his wand had felt so natural to him and it was far easier for him to direct his magic that he hadn’t even needed to utter a word. But Harry wasn’t that surprised that he could do such a thing after thinking it over for a minute.

         True, this was very advanced magic that he was performing, except that he had been performing wandless magic his entire life. From there, it was easy to see how his transition to using a wand had made accessing his magic far more convenient and smooth than it would have been for anyone else. Usually, people went the other way and first learned how to cast with a wand before moving onto nonverbal spells before ultimately culminating with wandless magic.

         In the end it made perfect sense to him and Harry spent the rest of the afternoon getting accustomed to using his wand while pronouncing the spell correctly. The process of getting comfortable with not thinking too much about what he wanted his magic to do was something that was difficult for Harry and even by dinnertime, he still had trouble with not having the magic flow through his wand before he was able to say the spell.

         While immensely pleased that he was this advanced, he knew that using a wand correctly for someone of his age was paramount to his success with not standing out immediately; because Harry was not going to highlight his abilities at first. It made more sense for him to slowly get better with time until no one would think it atypical or abnormal for him to be so superior with what he could do. They would have been desensitized to his greatness over time and he would be able to achieve his goals – whatever they may be at that time – far more easier than he could if people immediately started to expect wonders from him.

         As he walked towards the Great Hall for dinner that evening, he committed to spending as much time as he needed in making sure that his wand wouldn’t give him away.

         With that resolution in place, he planned on getting in a few more hours of practice after dinner.

         However, while he was eating his fill - which had involved several repeated helpings of his favorites since that had been the most magic he had ever used - Cedric Diggory sat down next to him and he suddenly found himself with other plans.

         As a matter of fact, all of the older buddies sat down next to their assigned first year that night. However, they had been encouraged by Professor Sprout to call them their big brother or sister.

         Harry was not pleased with this development but there wasn’t really anything that he could do about it.

         ‘Amicable but reserved,’ he told himself over and over again.

         The only thing that had made his change of plans easier to stomach was that he had learned quite quickly that the third year that had been assigned to him was head and shoulders above the other students acting as a big brother or big sister.

         Cedric was capable, intelligent, and handsome, which made it very easy for Harry to sit there in the common room that night and chat with him about the upcoming year. It would have been a lot harder had Harry gotten the person assigned to Neville, which he knew would not help his year mate in any way, shape, or form because it was hard for the blind to lead the blind.

         From Cedric, Harry learned more about the professors that taught the various classes and what he could expect in the coming weeks. By the end of the night, Harry was actually glad that Cedric had been sent his way for he learned that very little magic was actually taught with a wand during the first few classes – which helped him to breath a lot easier. He would have plenty of time to perfect his control of magic!

         Cedric had then ended the evening by informing Harry that he could come to him at any time and for any reason. Harry had just smiled and thanked him for his time and made a slight show to make the other boy feel like he had been useful. Even though he wasn’t sure that he would take Cedric up on his offer, at least he had an option in case he wanted information quickly on something.

         After that, Harry retired to his dorm and prepared himself for his first classes.

Unfortunately, just as he was about to drift off to sleep, Neville started to have a nervous breakdown.

         It was fortunate that Neville and Harry were on one side of the room and so the agitated breathing that had disturbed Harry owing to its close proximity hadn’t yet woken the boys on the other side of the room.

         Curious as to what had started this, he turned over and saw that Neville was hugging his knees and rolling back on forth on top of his bed with a panicked expression on his face.

         “Neville!” Harry whispered, having no idea why he cared this much about this other boy but rationalizing it away to instead think about it was unlikely for him to sleep until Neville calmed down.

         When Neville didn’t answer him, Harry tiptoed the few feet to his bed and sat down in front of him.

         “Neville!” he tried again with no response.

         Knowing that sooner or later this would cause the other boys to wake, and wanting to make sure that he himself was also well rested for his first day of class, Harry decided to chance a little magic.

         Carefully, he focused two tendrils of his magic at Neville. The first was aimed at his magical core and, expecting another fight like had what happened with Ron, prepared himself for a battle of wills. However, the moment that the tips of his magic touched Neville’s, Harry was surprised to see the other boy’s magic defer instantly to his. The rest of Harry’s magic then quickly circled around Neville’s and Harry was then able to quickly take control of his mind.

         It didn’t take him long to sift through what Neville was feeling since his thoughts were very close to the surface and he found that Neville was in an alarmed state with the thought that he was going to do so poorly that he was going to get kicked out of school.

         Which was ridiculous in Harry’s mind because it was easy for him to feel the strength of Neville’s magic that, while not even close to the power of his, was far greater than that of Ron’s. Neville’s magic was whole but neither warm nor cold so far as Harry could tell. Ron’s was practically chilly by comparison.

         Again, not really knowing why he cared about the other boy and just wanting to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, he slipped Neville a few thoughts to focus on.

         ‘You will be fine. You have magic. You can do magic. Go to sleep.’

         Harry then released Neville’s mind and magical core and immediately the other boy drifted off. Harry wasn’t sure how long it would keep but he climbed into bed and hoped that it would at least hold the boy’s nerves off until morning.

        


Surprisingly, over the next few days, Neville seemed a lot calmer and once or twice Harry had caught him whispering the words that Harry had given him. Which was appropriate since he hadn’t fully taken control over the other boy but had just given him some strong encouragement.

         The change in Neville was great because it allowed Harry to focus on his classes, which Harry had been very excited about.

         Their first class was Transfiguration and it would be one of his favorite classes because he already knew how to imagine his will. Also, it had pleased Harry to no end that he had been able to briefly discover this branch of magic on his own while turning a pen into a pencil, and he was sure that given a little more time he would have been able to figure out the principles of it. Like how Transfiguration only worked between objects of similar size and from there the only limit was your imagination.

         His one concern however was in doing the transfiguration silently since it was so easy for his imagination to take control and he vowed to practice each lesson’s assignment the night before so that he didn’t slip.

         He also thought that McGonagall was a very good teacher and liked that she brooked no childishness in her classroom. She was concise and thoughtful with her explanations and he knew that he had been right to like her.

         However, it hadn’t escaped Harry’s notice about the apparent contradiction to what McGonagall had called the most important rule of changing one thing into another. While he had been greatly intrigued by the notion of becoming an Animagus and had quickly placed it on his list of things to learn, he couldn’t help but question how going from a human to a house cat satisfied the size requirement.

         That thought lingered in his mind as they made their way to their next class, Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was a kind of combination class in which they would use spells and charms – even plants – to keep the Dark Forces away. Harry wasn’t sure what the Dark Arts meant since most things weren’t inherently good or bad, and the fact that he had left the class still questioning its purpose had left him with a bad taste in his mouth.

         It didn’t help that Professor Quirrell was as incapable of a teacher as he had ever had. The man could barely hold his wand, and had even dropped it in response to a shadow. A shadow!

         However, Harry’s mood improved drastically after Charms. In fact, he was positive that this would be his favorite class. He loved the subtle difference of this branch of magic and the nature of the spells that it used that separated Charms from all of the other forms. It was quite different when one got right down to it.

         For example, the very nature of magic itself was all about using your will to make something come to life.

         Transfiguration was based on using your imagination to guide your magic to take shape while Charms took a different approach.

         Often, a student first found success with Charms since it was easier for a child to cast the first few spells since they simply had to believe that they could do something. However, as the wonderfully competent Professor Flitwick tried to get across to them, Charms as a whole past the O.W.L. year became much more advanced.

         While Transfiguration was all about changing what something is, such as turning a rock into a chair, Charms was all about changing what something did. Like turning a chair into a rocking chair. With Charms, one could add or subtract features to an object, person, or thing and its uses were only limited by what an individual could think of.

         In essence, a witch or wizard’s magic was giving something a new purpose and, in Harry’s mind, the possibilities were endless. Plus, the size of the object didn’t need to be taken into account like it needed to be in Transfiguration. Allegedly.

         The subject required a great deal more than simply a person’s imagination to come to life, for it required a witch or wizard to add their desire or want for the object to do something else as well. The charm wouldn’t work if the magic user didn’t give it a new purpose. Which was a very difficult concept when the caster got right down to it, which explained why fewer witches and wizards went on to master it. Except that Harry had instantly gotten the subtle distinction and couldn’t wait to see what his limits were, for he was pretty sure that Charms didn’t have any.

         The class had kept him in such good spirits while he managed to stay in the background and attend the rest of his classes with Justin and Neville, who soon found themselves as the outcasts of their year. In fact, everything was going so well that Harry had a terrible feeling that it was going too well.

         And everything came to a head in his last class of the week, Potions. Which unfortunately had been one that he had been looking forward to the most.

         Harry was positive that Potions was going to be very similar to the chemistry classes that he used to take. Instead of elements and atoms, there were magical ingredients that had unique properties that behaved according to well-defined rules, such as what they could or could not combine with.

         Sure, there would be a lot to learn but there was a beauty in how specific everything was. For if you had two hydrogen atoms and combined it with one atom of oxygen then you had one molecule of water. From what Harry could recall from his classes – which was everything since he hardly ever forgot anything that he had properly learned – a molecule of water had very specific and useful properties based on its arrangements of electrons that muggle scientists were sure had permitted life an easier time in developing.

         With magic now in the picture, Harry wondered if that was still true but at least he would find the next seven years enjoyable as he learned about how potion ingredients were classified and what their properties were when combined with different things.

         Except that it was abundantly clear to everyone from the moment the class began that Severus Snape – one of the youngest Potion Masters in the world – did not like Harry Potter.

         The class started off like all of the others had with the Snape taking roll, except that the classroom was in the dungeons and so people tended to wear their robes to keep the chill at bay.

         However, when Snape got to Harry’s name he looked up and the man’s black eyes bored into his own radiant green ones.

         “Ah, our new … badger,” Snape said with the smallest of smirks.

         Harry got the distinct impression that he was being made fun of and he didn’t know why. He was sure that he had never met this man before.

         Then Snape continued on with roll while Harry noticed Neville becoming more and more jittery with each passing second. The other boy’s legs were now knocking into his as he sat there doing his best to keep his respectful mask firmly in place.

         Harry knew that eventually Neville would begin to distract him if he got any worse, and since they had sat in the back of the room – which Harry always preferred since he could take in everything that happened in the class – he decided to chance a little more magic with Neville.

         He sent out two very small tendrils of his magic at Neville and, like before, Neville became noticeably calmer when he touched his magical core and then his mind.

         ‘You will be fine. You have magic. You can do magic.’

         The boy’s legs had then slowed in their shaking and while Harry would have preferred not chancing this type of magic in front of Snape, he felt like he didn’t have much of a choice either.

         Besides, he was helping Neville in a good way; the fact that it made himself able to focus better on Snape was just an added bonus! At least that is what Harry told himself to rationalize subjugating another person’s behavior to his will.

         Harry then turned his full attention back to Snape just as the man had finished attendance and placed his sheet down before looking over the class with his dark eyes until they came to settle on Harry again.

         He then went into this wordy spiel about how his class was better than all of the other classes and then listed some of the things that they could do if they put in a lot of work. Except that he had then practically told them that they were all too stupid to understand any of it and that he didn’t have much hope that they ever would.

         Snape sure knew how to be motivational.

         Harry thought the man only made it harder for himself by scaring off students so early on. Of course very few were going to put in a decent attempt now after being told that they didn’t have a chance.

         “Potter!” the man said quickly after he had finished calling them a dunderhead for the second time.

         “What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

         Harry hated that he had no idea. He would have liked nothing better than to answer this man but it wasn’t like he had been able to read everything about the subject in only a month while also learning about the Boy Who Lived and Voldemort.

         “I don’t know, sir.” He said painfully.

         In fact, he thought this was the first time that he had ever uttered those words aloud.

         “Tut, tut,” Snape mocked him.

         Harry’s mask was hanging on by a thread.

         “Let’s try again, shall we? Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”

         Snape’s smirk curled even higher in anticipation that Harry wouldn’t be able to answer him.

         Harry wanted to match Snape’s tone, but he thought that responding with ‘in my pocket’ would be in bad form.

         Because he did have a bezoar on him since only an idiot would have gone to a school with the children who used to serve the man that you had allegedly defeated without some protection.

         And he wasn’t an idiot.

         A bezoar stone was the first thing that he had ever owl-ordered after learning that it could protect a person from most poisons.

         “In the stomach of a goat, sir,” he responded as respectfully as he could. His demeanor was helped by the fact that he had known the answer this time.

         Snape’s mean grin faltered somewhat and his eyes narrowed at Harry. All that did was to convince Harry that this man cared nothing about education because that was not how a teacher was supposed to act. The only thing that Harry could do was to make it through this class without unleashing pain at the man and then hope that one day he would be able to find out the reason as to why this man hated him. Because Harry was certain that he did.

         “A lucky guess,” Snape said, becoming even more of a prick in Harry’s eyes.

         “Final question: what is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?”

         ‘Make it through the class without killing him,’ Harry said a few times to himself.

         “I don’t know,” he then uttered for the second time in his life.

         “Pity… thought you wouldn’t open a book before coming to class, eh?”

         Whether Snape knew it or not his fate was already decided. It was one thing to hold whatever grudge this man obviously had for Harry, but it was quite another to try and belittle his intelligence.

         Harry made a decision right then and there that it didn’t matter how long it took, for he would learn everything that there was to know about ‘the subtle science and exact art of potion-making.’

         Even if it was to only prevent the man from ever insulting his mind again.

         But the man reminded him too much of Vernon to get off that easily. In fact, he was worse than Vernon or even Petunia. No one made him feel intellectually inferior. No one.

         Harry didn’t care if he had to wait ten, twenty, or even thirty years; the man would pay for what he had just done. For Severus Snape had just become his first enemy.

         As such, the only way that Harry was able to get through the rest of the class was to imagine all the ways in which he would teach Snape a very painful lesson.

 

        


Would love to know what you are thinking! I totally think Hufflepuff would have a buddy system and I can’t wait to see how Harry uses it in the future.

 

         Also, RIP to Alan Rickman.

Chapter Text

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

“Are you sure you want to stay at Hogwarts over the holidays?” Neville asked Harry again at dinner in the Great Hall.

They had made it through their first term at Hogwarts and those leaving for the winter break would be taking the Hogwarts Express immediately after breakfast the next day.

It had taken Harry a few moments to focus on what his friend had asked since his mind had been otherwise occupied with thinking about how he had made it to the Christmas holidays without losing his self-control.

         It might not have seemed like all that much of an accomplishment, but Severus Snape was still alive and Harry hadn’t given in to his increasing desire to teach the man a lesson. Yet.

         “Oh, yes. I am quite content with remaining here at Hogwarts,” Harry responded in his usual way, which got right to the point.

         While he was more like his true self around Neville, he was looking forward to being able to have a few weeks to himself in which none – or very few – of his masks were required.

         The final realization that Harry wouldn’t be traveling with him caused a slight drop in Neville’s countenance, for the young Hufflepuff had come to value his friendship with both Justin Finch-Fletchley and Harry Potter very much.

         Before coming to Hogwarts to study magic, Neville Longbottom would never have guessed that the fabled child who was practically a living legend in their world would ever want to be friends with someone like him. However, as the year had gone by and the more time that he had spent in Harry’s company, the more he was beginning to think that perhaps the Boy Who Lived actually had it worse off than him.

         Everybody knew what had happened to Harry’s parents, but very few were aware of what had befallen his own. Which meant that he didn’t have to deal with his family tragedy while under the weight of public perception.

         And in the deepest parts of Neville’s soul, he now just wanted Harry to be happy and free from the unfair expectations that had been placed on him. Because he had come to observe Harry over the past few months and was now more aware of the strain that came with being the Boy Who Lived than he thought Harry led on.

         Most people thought of Neville as simple and incapable of performing the simplest of spells – which hadn’t been that far off in the beginning. However, since he had become friends with Harry it had become easier for him to access his magic and he felt like he was able to do as well as any of the other students. Better even in some situations.

         But his lack of confidence in himself hadn’t prevented him from noticing how Harry appeared to act most of the time when he was around other people. At first it had hurt that Harry had worn a mask even when he was just hanging out with Justin and himself; however, it soon became apparent that that Harry was far more relaxed and natural than the one present in classes or seen interacting with the other students.

         Which meant that Harry trusted Justin and himself more so than the others in his mind.

         Neville hated to think how difficult it must be to live under the weight of being the Boy Who Lived and couldn’t fault Harry for being the way that he was. If anything, Neville was slightly in awe of just how well Harry seemed to be coping with everything.

         Especially with being in Hufflepuff, for that was something that Neville had struggled with since the beginning of the term. In time, he had been able to get used to the idea of not being sorted into the same house as his parents and mysteriously had grown more confident in his own skin and the inherent abilities that came with it. He was sure that being friends with Harry had had something to do with that, and for that he would always be grateful.

         Besides, Neville just had this feeling that everything would turn out all right as long as he stuck with Harry. There was this sensation in his core that he couldn’t quite explain; he felt it more and more as time went on, especially after times where he had been doubting himself the most only to wake up the next day and be inexplicably calmer. He liked to think that it was Harry rubbing off on him.

         In fact, Neville had become so enthralled with Harry over the past few months and had seen just how much the boy’s friendship had helped him to become more of the person that he wanted to be that it had gotten to the point where he had made the conscious decision to not worry about it anymore.

         And Neville wasn’t the only one that had been examining their friendship more closely as time had gone by.

         “Neville, I’m fine with it. Really,” Harry added after a few more minutes in which Neville was looking at him with a thoughtful expression on his face.

         He had been inside the other boy’s mind enough to know what he was likely thinking about and the sheer kindness of those thoughts at times alarmed him.

         Neville was the closest that any person, besides his parents presumably, had ever come to giving him unconditional support. It didn’t matter what Harry was doing or wanted to do since Neville would be right there next to him and that usually meant that Justin tagged along.

         In fact, the three of them had become quite the trio during the first half of the year.

         Which was a bit of a double-edged sword for Harry. On one hand, he had practically disappeared into the crowd at Hogwarts; however, on the flip side it was a bit harder for him to get away to what had become his private study area in the castle with how the other boys clung to his presence.

         Meanwhile, Neville was still looking at Harry with a strange glint in his eye.

        “Maybe next year you can come home with me for the holidays. I’m sure that Gran would love to have you,” Neville then said excitedly.

         Normally, that type of request would have resulted in an immediate and negative response from Harry, but he had come to learn that older families typically had extensive library collections. And that was quite tempting for Harry.

         “Hmm, that could be an option,” Harry replied in a friendly and patient nod of his head.

         Whatever it was about the boy that made it so different and inexplicably easy for Harry to be around him still remained a mystery; one that Harry had all but given up trying to understand.

         Neville’s face brightened considerably with Harry’s answer and he dug into the food that remained on his plate with new vigor.

         “What about me?” Justin feigned being forgotten about from the other side of the table.

         Neville’s cheeks instantly grew a deep shade of red as he hastily tried to put together a response, much to Harry’s amusement.

         “Well… you see… I think… Gran would… of course… I’ll ask,” Neville fumbled out through a mouthful of potatoes.

         A mischievous smile appeared on Justin’s face. He had also grown close to Harry and Neville and finally felt like he belonged to his own group of friends, something that had always eluded him back home. Becoming a wizard and being able to use magic had literally opened up an entire new world for him in which everything now made sense.

         “Relax Neville,” Justin chuckled out. “I would love to come visit but don’t feel obligated.”

         Before Hogwarts, Neville wouldn’t have known what to do in this sort of situation and would have thought that he was being bullied or teased, but he knew that it wasn’t the case. Even if his cheeks had a mind of his own and he couldn’t quite control his stammering yet.

         Just then, the hall grew increasingly silent and the three boys looked around to find the cause. It didn’t take them that long though, because Albus Dumbledore had risen from his seat and his hands were in the air, commanding everyone to look his way.

         Of course, in looking towards the teacher’s table, Harry caught sight of Severus Snape and the man narrowed his black eyes in response to their shared glance.

         Harry wanted to roll his eyes and again thought about how major of a victory it was that he had managed to hold his tongue and magic in check. Harry would have enjoyed nothing more than some one-on-one time with the man to straighten him out and find out what his deal was.

         However, he consoled himself with the knowledge that he would have three long, glorious weeks without having to endure that man’s vendetta against him. For it had become obvious that nothing that Harry did could change the man’s opinion of him.

         In Potions, Harry had remained outwardly pleasant and respectful towards the man and was sure that he was completing all of his assignments beyond what was satisfactory. Even if odd things did tend to happen to his homework or classwork that he turned in, only to find that they had gotten lost or had been graded by someone that didn’t understand what a perfect potion was supposed to look like.

         But regardless of the poor grades that he had been receiving, Harry was confident that he could sit for his Ordinary Wizarding Level examination in Potions and achieve at least an Acceptable. For he had been diligently studying ahead every night, if only to have a better idea of the questions that the man had begun asking Harry at the beginning of each and every lesson.

Although, despite now having knowledge that was years ahead of where he was expected to be, Harry hadn’t been able to actually use any of it to respond to the man’s progressively more difficult questions. Since Snape had become especially fond of drawing from the third or fourth-year curriculum, it would have gone against Harry’s chosen path of remaining in the shadows for the near future to answer.

As such, the phrase, ‘I don’t know,’ that he now uttered at least once per session had become nearly the only words that he ever spoke in Potions, aside from the few times that the man’s queries had involved first-year material.

To which he of course responded to correctly.

But even with the way that the man was looking at him now in the Great Hall, so similar to the intellectual inferiority that he tried to make Harry feel as often as possible in class, Harry simply stared back at him unaffected.

Potions had developed a patience in Harry that he never knew that he was capable of, and his eyes tore away from Snape’s as Albus opened his mouth to speak now that he finally had the hall’s attention.

         “Another term over,” the wizened voice sounded, echoing off the tall ceilings.

         “I hope you have learned much over the previous months and are able to find a bit of relaxation and joy wherever it is that you spend your holidays. I myself hope to enjoy several hot cups of tea and some of my favorite lemon drops.”

         No one ever got the man’s humor, if you could even call it that.

         “But before I send you off all watered and fed to your dorms to pack and get ready for the train tomorrow, I wanted to share a bit of good news with you all. For you see, my dear friend Nicolas Flamel will be visiting Hogwarts in the spring. The astute among you will know – especially those partial to collecting Chocolate Frogs – that the man is a noted Alchemist and last year celebrated his six-hundred and sixty-fifth birthday!”

         Excited whispers began within the hall almost immediately. Even by wizard standards, that was an impossible age to live to.

         “Of course, his age is a remarkable achievement brought on by his discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary substance that bestows riches and immortality!”

         The student populace was now well and truly mesmerized with every word that came out of the man’s mouth. Even the Slytherin’s, who normally rolled their eyes openly and scoffed at the Muggle-loving Headmaster, were quite taken with this impromptu little speech.

         “Yes, it truly is exciting to have someone of such renown able to come and say a few words. In fact, I believe he is even going to bring the Stone with him, and it will be on display in this very hall. Now, of course something like this will be well-protected, but I trust that there is no one out there that will make Hogwarts look bad by attempting to steal such a storied object.”

         The man’s gaze moved ever so slightly to settle over the Gryffindor Table, where Harry noticed twin redheads who had a slight smirk on their face. Everyone knew who Fred and George were, and it was quite obvious that the Headmaster had just given them a warning.

         “What better way than to start the break off with that bit of news. Now, off to bed with you all,” Dumbledore smiled in his grandfatherly way.

         The announcement struck Harry as odd for some reason. While he was most certainly excited about the prospect of hearing someone of such academic distinction speak, he thought it was incredibly risky to chance something like the Stone being put on display. Though Harry conceded that he didn’t know anything as of yet about how the Philosopher’s Stone actually worked, but he still thought it was folly.

         It was exceedingly unusual to have something so monumentally valuable out in the open like the Stone was going to be. Harry would never have done such a thing, never mind if magic were going to protect it. He wouldn’t risk it.

         But Harry didn’t have too much time to dwell on that thought at the moment as Justin and Neville tugged at his sides and the trio headed back to their dormitory.

         Predictably, Justin and Neville had left all of their packing until the last minute. So while they got all of their belongings in order, Harry lied on his back and allowed his mind to wander.

It didn’t take long for his thoughts to work back to the unusualness of having Nicolas Flamel, and his Philosopher’s Stone, come to Hogwarts. Because one of the primary issues that Harry was struggling with after the conclusion of his first term in the castle centered around the state of progress in the magical world.

So it was all very odd to him how stagnant progress in their world seemed to be against the juxtaposition of this particular announcement. Harry couldn’t help but wonder if it was really because Dumbledore wanted to expose them all to a man who had quite literally done something that no one else had been rumored to do – or if there was another purpose to Nicolas’ visit.

Regardless of the reason, Harry was actually looking forward to hearing what the man had to say and seeing what other opportunities existed for when he left Hogwarts in six and a half years. Perhaps he would do something just as extraordinary.

Currently he had had little time left to explore those avenues while pursuing his academic interests and practicing his magic so that his casting was always perfectly normal.

Though in truth, it had been more difficult for him to remain unnoticed in some of these classes than he had thought.

While in most situations, he was able to come off as studious but not outstandingly so, sometimes the sheer amount of boredom that he faced because he was so far ahead occasionally led his mind to disconnect from the world around him. And if he wasn’t careful, sometimes he found himself mere seconds away from unleashing his magic about the room.

Generally that only happened in History of Magic, since Professor Binns had an uncanny ability to put everyone to sleep. After the first few instances, Harry had then needed to force himself to focus better, regardless of the situation and it only added to the superhuman level of patience that not killing Snape had started to develop in him.

In fact, Potions was such an outlier in testing his self-restraint, that the other classes didn’t seem so bad in comparison.

His homework answers were all correct, for he would never stoop so low as to hand in something that was imperfect. But they didn’t highlight the vast depth of his knowledge that he had acquired that allowed him to see more of the subtle distinctions and nuances that defined each and every spell.

All in due time,’ Harry had needed to tell himself repeatedly.

It helped that many of his classes were shared with Ravenclaw and the members of that house were apparently locked in a battle to the death to see who could get the highest grade on each and every assignment or test.

The student in the lead so far was none other than the girl who had busted into his compartment unannounced with Neville on the train while looking for the boy’s toad.

Except that Hermione Granger was nowhere even close to Harry, and he was more than happy to sit back and let Hermione’s obvious need for approval and validation take even more of the focus off of him.

When in reality it was actually quite humorous just how more advanced Harry was than his peers.

Which was blatantly apparent in the answers that Hermione, for example, would give in class. While technically correct, she never offered her own take on the material and simply regurgitated the text back to the professor, verbatim.

She missed the nuance and the implications of the magical theories that she was defining and no doubt peppered her homework with the same sort of drivel.

Harry had known others like her: the type that always thought they were the best students. And while they did have the capacity to understand the material, oftentimes they were too busy in broadcasting everything that they knew to really go beyond what was expected of them. These students often hung on every word that their teacher uttered and lacked the imagination to see the material as a starting point for furthering one’s own intellectual curiosity.

And aside from Harry’s written work, his spellwork was always cast perfectly as well. Though Harry did strive and wait until others in the class had first demonstrated the spell before he himself let his magic flow through him.

The challenging part for him was in the classes that required extensive wand work, and while he had made sure to practice not performing the spell silently the night before, it would only take a lapse of concentration in class for Harry to slip up and cast something nonverbally. Or worse, without a wand altogether, which he found happened on occasion when he was off by himself.

Therefore, when he was able to find time away from Justin and Neville to practice in his preferred area in that abandoned room that he had discovered, he had made sure to test out situations that would strengthen his concentration and focus. Which had the unexpected side effect of providing Harry better control over the way his mind worked.

While it had always been easy for him access his memories or rapidly recall the answer to something, he was finding that the more that he spent separating the internal part of him that made wandless and nonverbal casting so easy, the more it became apparent that maybe there was another part of his brain that he hadn’t been using.

Perhaps this region had something to do with being able to use magic? He thought it likely. However, Harry had only gotten to the stage where he was able to separate some of his thoughts independent of what he was doing at the time. Though, his experience with this caused him to wonder if there wasn’t something more to this, something that he couldn’t perfect.

Although, that would have to wait until the summer, when he realized that he would need things to occupy his time without his ability to use his wand. Not that he really needed it, however.

And while he had no doubt that he would continue to test a few things out with the Dursleys, he had other things that would be a much better use of his time. Like raiding Flourish and Blotts.

As he lied there on his bed, thoughts of Privet Drive swirled around his mind again. Of course, he had briefly entertained the notion of returning for the Christmas holidays, but that fleeting thought went out the door the moment that he learned that he could remain at the school if he so desired.

Three weeks with unrestrained access to the library, not to mention having the ability to explore other parts of the school, had left Harry confident that he would be spending as many Christmas at Hogwarts as he could. Though, he supposed that Neville’s recent offer hadn’t been so bad, and perhaps Harry would take him up on it one year.

Which then led Harry to contemplate his friends.

Harry watched them as they finished their packing in their dorm room. Everything had worked out better than he had planned as neither Justin nor Neville were really a strain to be around.

In fact, Harry found it quite easy to tolerate them most of the time. While Neville had occasionally needed the positive reinforcement of Harry’s magic, Justin seemed more or less able to keep up with the nightly study sessions that Harry insisted of the group. With his encouragement, he thought that they would go far and perhaps they would continue to be useful in the years ahead.

Although, now that he was actively thinking about them, he noticed that they were nearly finished with their packing.

By this time it was quite late, and nearly the entire school would be leaving after a quick breakfast in the morning.

Therefore, a few rounds of ‘night were exchanged before everyone quickly fell asleep.

 


 

Harry awoke on Christmas morning, reveling in the knowledge that he was the only Hufflepuff who had opted to stay at Hogwarts. While it would be odd for him not to have to spend a requisite amount of time with Justin or Neville, he was very much looking forward to the opportunity for some quality alone time for the foreseeable future.

As Harry looked around the empty dorm room that was normally full of the other boys and their belongings, he suddenly found himself acutely missing the feeling of being in the proximity of Neville’s magic. While not on his level the boy’s magic was quite strong compared to the rest of his class, and the sensation of the other boy’s magic instantly deferring to his was quite the experience.

Again, Harry was left to wonder why Neville’s magic reacted in this way. It was so different from anyone else that Harry had taken control of.

Of course, he hadn’t had the opportunity to test his magic out on everyone that he would have liked, but the other boys in his dorm had provided a reasonable opportunity.

Like with Ron, their magic tried to fight his for control until Harry ultimately overpowered them. Though, with each new roommate that he had tested it out on, it kept getting easier and easier for him to overcome their pitiful resistance.

Justin remained somewhat of an exception. His magic hadn’t immediately given way, but it hadn’t exactly fought his either. And Justin’s core wasn’t as warm as he found Neville’s to be, but it was not quite as cold as the other boys’ felt

It only made Harry hungrier to understand what was happening.

When Harry looked backed on his formative years, his relationship with Neville Longbottom and what it taught him about magic would forever provide the quiet boy a distinct place in his new world order.

But that was years from now, and Harry just couldn’t be aware of the fruits that his little experiments with Neville would one day produce.

So ultimately, Harry moved on to a different topic.

For today was the first full day that he would be able to explore the castle as he pleased. With that thought, he quickly jumped out of bed and moved to get his toiletries so that he could get a start on his day when he noticed a small mound of wrapped presents sitting at the foot on his bed.

Even though he knew it was Christmas, Harry had never come to expect gifts. Mostly because he had done away with the silly notion that he would receive any after years of watching Petunia and Vernon spoil Dudley rotten right in front of him. Of course, then he had taken control of that house and everything changed.

But this wasn’t Privet Drive and Harry wondered whom these were from. There were four packages in total and Harry eyed them suspiciously as he approached them. Two of the gifts he quickly discovered were from Neville and Justin and he made a face thinking about how he was now obliged to return the favor.

“Well, I can always owl-order them a book or something over the break,” Harry said to himself.

He quickly unwrapped their gifts, discovering that Neville had given Harry a copy of his own favorite book on plants while Justin had chosen an assortment of wizarding candy.

The next gift made Harry smirk because it was from the Dursleys. It was nice to know that things were still running smoothly while he was away and he appreciated the bank statement that they had sent. Which was just the sort of gift that Harry had liked to receive since it showed that they had enjoyed a reasonable holiday and had not overspent like they had in the past.

His hold on them was strong even from this distance!

The last gift however remained a bit of an unknown as to what it was and where it had come from. There was a single card attached to the top, but it wasn’t signed.

 

You’re father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well.”

 

         While it was true that the note was unsigned, Harry did have a sneaking suspicion as to whom his mysterious benefactor was. Only one person in his mind really stood out, and the exquisite penmanship was almost an exact match to the short note that had invited Harry to tea around Halloween.

         Although that meeting had ultimately been canceled at the last minute on account of an emergency session of the Wizenagamot, the mere fact that the Headmaster had wanted to personally meet with him had given him a lot to think about.

         For Albus Dumbledore had a very suspicious interest in his life, and this just seemed to emphasize it even more.

         Harry stared at the package for a moment before unwrapping it to discover that it was a cloak. A simple cloak so far as Harry could tell, judging by the color and the lack of anything making it more special.

         The fabric looked so ordinary and his mind was so focused on other things that he failed to notice the slight tingle that registered in his fingers, a sensation very similar to the way that other magical objects felt against his magic.

         His first thought was why on earth would his father have loaned a run-of-the-mill cloak to Dumbledore. Something didn’t add up, especially when combined with Dumbledore’s suggestion to use it well.

         And it remained a simple cloak for a fraction of a second until Harry drew it around himself in front of a mirror and watched as his reflection disappeared.

         Once he realized the true nature of the gift that he had received, several thoughts flitted through his mind very quickly.

         The first was the veritable goldmine that he now had in his possession. There were far too many uses for this cloak that it made Harry know instantly that it would never be far from his side.

         However, his good mood was very brief as his mind began to question again why the Headmaster would ever give a student something so powerful and why his father would have ever parted with something so monumentally strategic.

         Hadn’t they been in a war? Hadn’t Voldemort been after them?

         It didn’t make any sense in Harry’s mind and only added to the list of questions that surrounded Dumbledore.

         Finally, though very closely related to his second observation, was just how invisible was he under this cloak and, most importantly, could it be detected?

         Perhaps Dumbledore had given Harry the cloak under the pretense that the boy wouldn’t know that someone else could detect him! That would mostly explain why the Headmaster had given him a means for having an almost unlimited ability to roam Hogwarts undetected. Did the man want him to explore the castle?

         Now that he thought about it in that way, Harry focused on his magic and quickly discovered that he could indeed feel the cloak’s inherent magic with his own. It was faint, but it was there nonetheless. Next he had a thought, which made him wonder why he had never considered this particular idea before.

         If his magic could feel something that he was touching, could it also detect something that was in a different location? Like with other magic cores?

         Well, there was only one way to find out and Harry placed the cloak on his bed and walked to the other side of the room. When he had turned to face his cloak, he closed his eyes and instead of just focusing his tendrils as had become second nature for him, he let his magic loose in the general direction of his bed.

         It was a different sensation as the edge of his magic crept over the various and distinctly normal items until it got to his cloak where he picked up the faintest of differences that registered in the far reaches of his mind.

         Harry then opened his eyes and considered the new possibilities that now laid before him as he contemplated what other things could be sensed with his magic.

         Letting his magic explore the room around him had felt so natural, an extension of his other senses that he soon began to regard it as his sixth sense. From there, he quickly committed to exploring this opened avenue to learn more about its strengths and weaknesses.

         And it was that potential for weakness that dominated Harry’s thoughts as he ran the cloak through his fingers.

         His primary and immediate concern was that someone else would be able to detect him using magic in this way, which was no doubt something that would give his advanced nature away. He didn’t even think most adults could do what he could.

         He would have to be more careful from here on out until he was sure.

         Although, there were several unanswered questions regarding the cloak that were now laid before him. With it all but confirmed in Harry’s mind that Dumbledore no doubt had this ability to sense Harry if he had this cloak on, it also occurred to him that it would look very suspicious if he never used the cloak out of an abundance of caution to avoid being detected.

         It would be very strange indeed if a child didn’t use this to sneak out after curfew; in fact, it would almost be unheard of!

         Therefore, Harry knew that not using the cloak was simply out of the question as well. He was sure that Dumbledore expected him to use it and so he would, but he would be careful as to what he used it for because the Headmaster would likely be looking to see what Harry did with this unexpected boon.

         With some of his questions answered, Harry placed the cloak in his satchel and finished getting ready for breakfast, in which Dumbledore would no doubt be present. Which meant that Harry would have to have an appropriate mask on his face that fit the situation of someone who wasn’t second-guessing all of the behind-the-scenes activities of Albus Dumbledore.

 


 

         Curfew had just begun and it was time for Harry to test out his new cloak. He had spent all day deciding how he was going to use it. If Harry was supposed to use his cloak well, then it stood to reason that the first thing that any rational student in Hogwarts would have done was to see if the cloak could get them into the Restricted Section of the library. Which was what he would have done anyways.

         Carefully, he exited through the barrel and put on his cloak before pausing to see if he could sense anyone watching him. He was careful though with how he used his magic and he kept it within a small radius of his center.

         Then quietly, Harry made his way up the stairs and through the castle, more aware of the sounds that his feet were making as it was the quickest way that could give his position away. Someone wouldn’t even need magic to know he was there if they listened closely enough.

         However, people generally relied more on their sight than sound and to know that no one could see him, and only a few – after much deliberation on the skills required to sense magic – could ever hope to feel the faint pulse of his cloak was exhilarating.

         In the dimly lit and quiet hallways, Hogwarts felt open to him like it had never before. It took him longer to reach his destination than it normally would have, but he had never traversed the halls in a state like this and the first time was always different, something to be savored.

         It was how it had been with his other firsts. Like how he still could feel Petunia’s awful china reform in his hands or the way dominating Ron with his magic still made the ends of his hairs tingle.

         When he reached the library he felt almost giddy at the thought of extracting books without having to sign them out, since Irma Pince wasn’t here to fulfill her duties. Pity.

         But he wouldn’t abuse this privilege; eventually, he would return some of the books. He didn’t want to get in trouble for this and someone might be watching.

         With the library open to him, he first headed towards the sections that he frequented everyday and quickly selected the books that he had wanted to check out before but because of their advanced nature hadn’t thought it prudent while others were watching.

         Still, just to throw off his scent if Dumbledore was watching him, his selection of books was well rounded and innocuous. During the summer was when he would try for the darker texts outside of Hogwarts.

         He had deliberately saved the Restricted Section for last in case his presence did not go undetected. It would have been stupid of him to not at least pursue the less-risky books first and leave with nothing.

         Carefully, Harry ducked underneath the rope that was supposed to keep out unauthorized students. The protection measured caused him to roll his eyes, but he wasn’t about to chance the rope being charmed at the same time.

         Who knew if there was magic inherent in a professor’s signature that would allow one to touch the rope or pass through.

         When both of his feet were firmly past the threshold, he exhaled the breath that he had inadvertently been holding. It seemed that nothing else was preventing a student from coming in here after hours – which he couldn’t quite wrap his brain around.

         Once he was sure that his presence would go unnoticed, he picked through several tomes that had seemed to him like a good place to start.

         One of the first books that he selected had dealt with magic and the mind since he had been thinking about what had happened that morning throughout the day. Also, it just so happened to be one of the titles that was apparent on the spine and was easy to read.

         Anyone would have grabbed for it.

         Next, Harry did risk a few of the more questionable books, but only because they dealt with their world’s dark history and included mention of himself and Voldemort. It was only natural for him to be curious in anything that he was involved in.

         Of course, Harry was smart and had been writing down titles of books that he would owl-order or purchase during the summer that were more nefarious in nature. He wanted to learn everything.

         Once he was certain that he had enough reading material for the rest of the year, and knowing that he could return if he ever really needed something, he turned and headed out of the library.

         Everything seemed to be going as planned as he felt his bottomless satchel against his side and Harry then took to exploring some of the halls that he never had any reason to frequent.

         But soon Harry realized that he had gone down a path in which another must have walked through only moments before.

         Harry came to a halt as he heard the distinct sounds of footsteps in front of him. The meow of a cat gave the person’s identity away and Harry saw Mrs. Norris come around the corner.

         Knowing that a cat relied on its smell more than its sight sometimes, Harry could have shook his head at the irony that an animal of all things would be the one to give him away.

         But at the same time, he began to wonder: could his magic take over the cat?

         It was too interesting an idea to pass aside, and he was as sure as he could be that someone wasn’t watching him.

         Therefore, he let a tendril of his magic out in the direction of Mrs. Norris and quickly found no resistance. The cat was his to command and he noticed the incoherent nature of its mind that was filled with images instead of actual thoughts.

         At the same time, Harry noted how different the animal felt compared to a human. But the sudden arrival of Filch moved that thought along and Harry placed an image of mice within the cat’s mind on the other side of the castle.

         Harry then released his hold over the cat and watched it take off, leaving Filch worriedly scrambling behind his ‘sweet.’

         When Harry was assured that he was alone again, he laughed quietly at the sight that he had just caused. He was sure that that wasn’t the last time that he would enjoy running into that man and his cat.

         From there, Harry continued his exploration of the castle. However, he had just passed one of the unused classrooms closer to the Great Hall when his mind suddenly felt strange.

         At first, it was like an itch within the back of his head and it took every ounce of willpower that he possessed in not reacting angrily when he realized that someone’s magic had touched his.

         Never before had Harry been tested in this way and he knew that all of his careful planning in keeping his powers hidden were now at risk of being exposed.

         It was in this moment that the control that he had developed in Snape’s classroom saved him and he was able to swallow his bubbling rage and let the thought that had been forced into his mind to stick.

         What was strange was that it wasn’t a word so much as a destination had suddenly popped up in his mind, much like what he had just done to Mrs. Norris. And it made Harry feel like that was a very good place that he ought to explore. Like right now.

         Someone – and Harry would have bet all of his gold that it had been Dumbledore – had tried to dominate his mind. But not following the suggestion wasn’t an option and so Harry set off in the direction that he was supposed to.

         However, in knowing that it wasn’t an original thought of his, the situation was easier to stomach in knowing that he could have disregarded it if he had wanted to. Harry had performed this type of magic often enough that he knew what it was.

         On his way there, he tried to listen closely to the man’s presence, but he reached his destination without having heard or seen anything. Not that he had expected to since the man was obviously a master of many different branches of magic, such as Charms. In fact, Harry had disregarded his own application of some of the weaker ones at the last minute since they were a little advanced for a first year that was trying to blend in.

         Curious as to why he had been led to this specific room, Harry looked around and noted that it was empty save for a long mirror on the far wall.

         But it wasn’t just any mirror because of the ornate carvings on its side and the weird script at the top that read: Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.

         “I show not your face but your heart’s desire,” Harry mouthed a few seconds later, aware that Dumbledore was likely in the room.

         As Harry moved to stand in front of it, his reflection shimmered away and was replaced with a picture of the night sky. Harry could see galaxies and stars in such color and detail that for a moment he thought he was staring outside a ship’s window in space.

         But he knew for a fact that space travel wasn’t exactly his greatest wish. It was what the image represented in his mind that caused him to reach out and stroke the mirror fondly.

         His greatest desire was to know that he had no limits, and it was so magical to see an image that truly represented what he felt on the inside.

         Harry knew that he could stare at this forever.

         ‘Though, it only shows my desire and not the future,’ Harry said in his mind. So he hadn’t really learned anything.

         Except that once he began to contemplate that, it made Dumbledore’s alleged presence stick out all the more.

         This was where the man had led him? Which could only mean that he was interested in what Harry would see. But Harry didn’t think that Dumbledore could actually see what Harry was seeing. At least, he hoped that to be true.

         With his hand still touching the mirror, a true smile came to his face. Oh, this was perfect; he couldn’t have planned anything better!

         Whatever the reason that Dumbledore was so interested in him and his life didn’t matter in this moment because Harry had a chance to forever shape the way that the man looked at him. He had thought long and hard about what the man had and would think of him in the coming years that he knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

         And it didn’t take Harry long to reason through his options to arrive at his best angle on how he could influence the man.

         “Mom… Dad,” he whispered as if he was on the verge of tears as he traced over the galaxies in a way that would look like faces to Dumbledore.

         “I miss you,” he added for good measure.

         And Dumbledore quietly breathed a sound of relief and left Harry in the room alone. All he could think of on his way back to his office was that the boy would be his to control.

 


 

         Obviously, I am doing this a little bit differently and adding some of this and some of that. Hope you enjoyed and I would love to know what you are thinking!

Chapter Text

Author’s Note: So this chapter wasn’t planned at all but just kind of came to me when I went to write the beginning of the next chapter. Once I started it however, I knew that it fit and actually helps later things that I have planned

At any rate, hope you continue to enjoy and thanks for giving this fic a chance. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the reviews and PMs, and honestly am just thrilled if it entertained you.

           

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

The school year was a month away from being over. Spring had already established itself on the grounds around Hogwarts and there was a sense of excitement in the air. Soon, both the students and the faculty would be free to spend their summers as they saw fit.

However, that impending freedom also came with a sense of dread as the end-of-year exams were almost upon them. In fact many of the classes now focused almost exclusively on revising the material that had been taught throughout the year and there was an increase in the number of students that now frequented the library.

Which didn’t exactly thrill Harry since it just made it harder for his group to secure their usual table.

But he had other, more important things on his mind than worrying about some silly series of exams that he could no doubt have passed back in September.

         Like how peculiar Neville Longbottom was behaving.

         At first, Harry had simply thought that Neville was succumbing to the stress of the upcoming exams that seemed to capture a good majority of the school under its thrall. It was even worse for the fifth and seventh years who would be sitting for even more important exams.

         But as the second week of May was ending, the other boy’s behavior suggested that something far more serious was taking place.

In fact, as Friday rolled around, Harry was positive that it had nothing to do with school at all. For Neville had been performing well in his classes and throughout the year he had slowly been climbing higher in the class rankings. Which meant that he had also needed fewer and fewer of Harry’s special brand of encouragement as he started to believe in himself more and more.

So Harry really hadn’t needed to enter the boy’s mind in quite a while. What made it even more perplexing though was that Neville generally spent a good portion of his waking hours in the company of both Harry and Justin, during which nothing of note had happened so far as Harry could recall.

This led Harry to become convinced that whatever was causing this erratic behavior had occurred while Harry had been in his training room the previous Thursday. The fact that Neville had returned to Hufflepuff very late that evening was the only oddity in his mind that could reasonably explain what was going on, but Harry had brushed it off at the time since the weekend had passed without incidence.

Come to think of it, Neville had also returned very late the previous night – which also had been a Thursday and was when Harry tended to get in some extra training.

But what had begun as a small dip in Neville’s attitude on Monday morning had continued to spiral into an even more timid and despondent Neville than had showed up to the castle on September first. By Friday the poor boy could barely string two words together at dinner in the Great Hall.

Harry watched as Neville just sat there, staring at his food with a vacant expression on his face. Justin, who was sitting across from them, had no idea what was going on either and simply shrugged his shoulders when Harry gave him a pointed look.

Harry had then given into his curiosity and tried asking the boy what was wrong, but Neville wasn’t able to respond in a coherent manner.

Even when they were in the relative safety of their common room later that night, Neville still wasn’t able to tell them what was bothering him. The boy had drawn into himself so completely that it was like he was existing on an entirely different plane of consciousness that was quite removed from what others experienced.

That settled it: Harry had given up on trying to ask the other boy what was wrong and was determined to simply go inside Neville’s mind later that night to find out for himself.

Therefore, Harry waited until everyone else had gone to sleep and then he crept over to the foot of Neville’s bed and positioned himself so that he was sitting on the edge of the mattress.

Just like the very first night in the castle, Neville was slowly rocking back and forth in a fetal position. His eyes were glazed over and he was incoherently mumbling something.

Pushing the ramblings aside, Harry quickly got to work and let his magic wash over Neville. Like always, Neville’s magic instantly deferred to his and allowed Harry easy entry into his mind.

With the advanced books that Harry had pilfered from the library – which were still in his trunk because he hadn’t gotten around to returning them – Harry now knew that what he was doing was called Legilimency. It was one of the Mind Arts that allowed entry into someone else’s mind and it was usually performed with a wand while also maintaining direct eye contact with that person whose mind one wished to enter. Once inside, a person could then view any memory that they could find or even implant a suggestion that would take hold if it were strong enough.

A truly skilled person could even fake a memory or remove one altogether.

However, as the user became more advanced, they could forgo the wand and just use their magic in the way that Harry preferred to. Something that no doubt Albus had perfected and used when he had placed the location of the Mirror of Erised inside Harry’s mind.

In that same book Harry had also learned that the counterpart to Legilimency was something called Occlumency and could be used to secure one’s own mind from unwanted visitors. Apparently, witches and wizards were more different from Muggles than just having a magical core as they had access to mental abilities that were truly astounding.

         However, Neville was not a Master Occlumens and so Harry found it quite easy to roam about Neville’s mindscape as he searched for a reason that would explain Neville’s recent downward spiral.

         The other boy’s mindscape was laid out much differently than Harry’s; much of that having to do with the efficient organization that often came with learning Occlumency. Most of Harry’s memories had been sorted into distinct areas as opposed to Neville’s haphazard arrangement in which the sum of his existence was literally all over the place and very hard to follow.

         Now each memory that a person had could be stored in a discrete shape that didn’t really have any limits. Since a person’s mindscape could be practically infinite, an important memory could range from something as large as the sun to something as small as a pebble. Of course, each shape could also be colored differently and have a different texture to them. And then there were the memories that lacked a visual accompaniment and were represented by formless sounds or words.

         Harry had learned from going through his own head – and from the few times that he had made Aunt Petunia relive her rejection from Hogwarts – that all he had to do to view a memory was to touch it with his consciousness. Which felt very similar to how Harry had been beginning to use his magic to feel what was around him, and so he used various tendrils of his awareness to go through Neville’s memories.

         Though Harry didn’t have to search through many memories since, generally speaking, the memories that were closest to the point where someone entered a mindscape were oftentimes the thoughts that were currently dominating an individual’s thought process.

         Which meant that Harry found what was bothering Neville quite rapidly; for aside from a few discrete objects that represented repetitive taunts that Neville had heard in the beginning of the week – owing to being a Hufflepuff – there were two large objects that dominated Harry’s attention.

         Carefully, so as not to disturb Neville’s own consciousness, which was hovering in front of the largest object, Harry sent out a small tendril of his own awareness. He directed it towards the smaller memory and touched it, spending a few seconds quickly watching the scene as if he was viewing a movie running several times faster than normal. Though, Harry didn’t need to watch it any slower to understand what had happened to Neville the previous Thursday in delaying his return to Hufflepuff.

         It seemed that Neville had unfortunately been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had had to endure some light, physical bullying of what appeared to be older Slytherins.

         And while Harry didn’t like to see Neville being pushed around, it was what he saw in the second memory that caused him to instantly understand what had pushed Neville towards his current, almost catatonic state.

         And Harry wasn’t happy with what he had seen.

         In fact, Harry developed an intense feeling of rage within him that required a few minutes so that he got his anger under control. Because someone had done something so terrible to Neville that it was making Harry feel like someone had also done it to him.

         And for the first time he had an understanding as to why he viewed Neville so very differently than he viewed everyone else: Neville was his.

         It didn’t matter in that moment why he thought that Neville was his; the only thing that mattered was that Harry felt that Neville was an extension of his own being and was his to protect.

         Which presented somewhat of a conundrum for Harry because he was a firm believer that people were responsible for handling their own problems. However, he knew that there was no way for Neville to successfully retaliate against his attackers at the moment. Neville was simply unprepared and would remain unable for the foreseeable future.

         At the same time a devilish feeling filled Harry’s thoughts as he realized that this was the perfect opportunity that would allow him to practice some of the advanced spells that he had learned. Just because Neville wasn’t a match for the pair didn’t mean that Harry was under the same constraints. Hardly.

         Of course, Harry told himself that he would only do what was necessary, and perhaps a little more, to ensure that they held back until Neville could fend for himself. And he was certain that the boy would eventually get there since that second memory had ended with a feeling of such rage and anger coming from Neville.

         Harry would have never thought the boy capable of such intense feelings and it surprised him.

         That fact alone served to reinforce his sudden idea to come to Neville’s aid.

         After making the apparent decision to protect what was his, he decided that he would need to watch the memory again. If he was going to do something about the situation, then it was only prudent to get a better feeling for the pair that would soon be honored as the first wizards to see the real Harry Potter.

         Now entering a memory was very different from just casually observing it, like what Harry had just done. It would allow Harry the opportunity to fully immerse himself and be able to replay the scene as if he had actually been there. Before he directed his tendril into the memory, he prepared his mind to note every little detail that he was about to see and afterwards he took note of the way Neville’s mindscape changed as he was inserted into the event from the previous night that had Neville firmly under its spell.

        


 

         Harry appeared in a hallway that he recognized as being next to the library. He watched as Neville scurried by him while clutching his bag with an anxious expression on his face.

         Neville’s eyes were darting about as he neared a corner that would take him past the stairs in which most students from Slytherin usually emerged from their house’s unknown location in the dungeon. It was a necessary path on Neville’s way to Hufflepuff and Harry stopped following after Neville as the boy came to halt in response to two boys that were blocking his path.

         Harry walked around Neville to see that his friend’s face had blanched and his eyes were wide with fear.

         Harry recognized the other boys immediately. They were fourth-year Slytherins and played for their house team as beaters. Phineas Lestrange was ruthless with a bat, and Icarus Carrow was as well, though he often liked to try ramming his opponents off course with his broom.

        “Hello again, Longbottom,” Phineas smirked cruelly.

         He was the nephew of Rodolphus Lestrange, who was currently in Azkaban for the use of the Cruciatus Curse on Frank and Alice Longbottom.

         “Funny meeting you again. One would have thought that someone in your position would have taken care to never travel anywhere alone, especially this close to the snake den.”

         The older boys began to walk slowly towards Neville, much like a lion that was encircling its prey. Neville was apparently too scared to think straight and began to walk himself backwards into a corner. Which in this case took the form of a darkened classroom.

         Harry found himself wondering why Neville hadn’t simply run in the opposite direction, but quickly threw that ridiculous notion aside; the fourth years would have eventually caught up to him.

         As the boys followed Neville into the room, they began to snicker and the familiar sounds allowed Harry to connect them to the earlier taunts that he had seen in Neville’s mind. Harry wondered if this bullying had been going on longer than just for a week.

         “I… I… had homework to f-finish,” Neville managed to get out once he had his back to the wall of the abandoned classroom.

         Which impressed Harry because while it was obvious that Neville was seconds away from pissing himself, he wasn’t cowering. In fact, Neville even had his wand raised in front of him as he tried to stand at his full height. It made Harry begin to respect the boy a little bit more; he was a fighter and Harry could work with that when he began to teach the other boy how to defend himself.

         Harry moved again to stand in a position from which he could see both parties more clearly.

         “Look at that Icarus, the pathetic little first year has his wand out. What’s he going to do, fight us?” Phineas mocked.

         Icarus joined in with his own sinister and ominous chuckles as he shut the door to seal them all in the room.

         “It’s surprising for a Hufflepuff to think that they could stand up to a Slytherin,” Icarus agreed with a feral grin.

         “Seems like he is stubborn one, just like his parents.”

         Icarus traded an evil and knowing glance with Phineas.

         Neville, meanwhile, began to forget momentarily about his fear with the slight to his parents.

         “Don’t insult my parents…” Neville started before a flash of anger appeared in Phineas’ eyes that caused his own fear to overcome the anger that had momentarily given him strength.

         “Don’t what? Come on Longbottom: use your words,” Phineas mercilessly cajoled him.

         “They were brave,” Neville said with a defeated quality in his voice as he tried to find the strength that had so quickly escaped him.

         Just then Phineas laughed and Icarus joined in.

         “Brave?” Phineas questioned while trying to get air into his lungs.

         “They were stupid, holding out against their obvious betters,” Phineas expressed while wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

         “How is St. Mungos treating them?” Icarus joined in, causing him to receive an approving glance from his cousin.

         Harry saw Neville’s jaw clench and his eyes twitch in response to Icarus’ remarks. He watched with great interest as Neville raised his wand higher and retaliated against the continued affronts to his parents.

         But his Stinging Hex was easily blocked by the advanced fourth year, who responded instantly by disabling the unprepared first year.

         “You dare try and attack your betters too?” Phineas called out angrily.

         “Seems like the little Hufflepuff needs to learn his place in the world. Icarus, what do you think?”

         “I think he needs to understand the lessons that his parents could not teach him.”

         Harry swallowed his anger, knowing what was coming from his casual view of the memory before he entered it. However, he was also able to tell himself that he was watching this again for a reason and that soon, the pair would learn about their place in the world.

         Harry focused on that thought because it was weird for him to watch Neville writhing on the floor as Phineas held him under a lesser pain spell that was similar to the Cruciatus Curse. Only this one wasn’t illegal and wouldn’t leave as noticeably a trace.

         He had known going into this memory that he was angry on Neville’s behalf, but watching this scene again and in more vivid detail made him finally realize something that had been nagging at him for the entire year.

         In fact, it explained why Harry suddenly felt incomplete, a sensation that he was most unfamiliar with.

         For within the memory, Harry couldn’t feel Neville’s magic and so he didn’t have that constant connection that came with how his own magic felt in response to being in Neville’s presence. It was comforting and the immediate deference of Neville’s magic to his own was addicting and only served to make him feel stronger. It was only in its absence did he finally recognize it for what it was.

         Which was something that he never considered before since he always felt so beyond his peers that it was difficult for him to recognize that even with his talent and genius that there was still farther for him to go.

         So it was only natural for him to want to ensure Neville’s safety even more since it benefitted him in ways that he was just now beginning to come to terms with. It explained why he thought of Neville as his, since the boy served to make him stand taller.

         Which didn’t bode well for the Slytherins who were taunting Neville in the same way that Phineas’ Aunt and Uncle had no doubt tormented the boy’s parents while the Cruciatus drove them into insanity. Harry’s retribution would only be more severe since it was now personal.

         Though, with that thought the memory changed and Neville was now standing in front of a bathroom mirror. Harry moved to stand alongside him as the boy stared at his own haggard reflection. Neville was defeated and broken and he only spoke a few words into the mirror before retreating into himself, leaving the boy in the state that had necessitated Harry entering his mind in the first place.

         “I’m sorry mom and dad, but I hate them. I want them to suffer like you did.”

         “Don’t worry, Neville; they will,” Harry said matter-of-factly as he exited the memory and returned to Neville’s mindscape.

        


 

         Upon leaving the memory Harry again contemplated Neville’ consciousness, which was transfixed with the memory that Harry had just exited from. He knew that he couldn’t just leave the boy in this state.

         However, he also now viewed Neville in a way that was quite similar to how he saw himself. It wasn’t exactly the same, of course, because Harry put himself above all others; but it was close enough that he wanted to make sure that what he was about to do was the right thing.

         For Legilimency and Occlumency were not the only Mind Arts that existed since there was another that Harry seriously wondered why it wasn’t also considered in the same vein as an Unforgivable Curse. Tampering with someone’s memories, even if it was beneficial could fundamentally change who a person was, much like surviving a near-death experience and suddenly having a new view on life.

         It was just another question that Harry had about the magical world, because, in his mind, Obliviate could be used in ways far worse than any of the Unforgivable Curses that came with a one-way ticket to Azkaban.

         For instance, with a single spell, you could make someone forget everything and everyone that they held dear. But that wasn’t the worst outcome in Harry’s opinion since it was simply unacceptable for him to think that anyone could take the knowledge that he was a wizard and hide it in his mind. In fact, that thought terrified him.

         The one thing that made it slightly easier to understand why it wasn’t illegal was that only someone who was both a Master Occlumens and Legilimens could successfully use Obliviate. Otherwise, the blocking of the memory was unlikely to hold for very long. To be successful, one needed to understand how the mind and memories worked; they also needed to understand how that person worked to be able to hide the memory from them forever.

         Because the memory couldn’t actually be removed, it could only be hidden from that person.

         But Harry didn’t feel that he had a choice in the matter at the moment since Neville couldn’t be allowed to wallow in this misery; the boy would then never learn how to properly defend himself.

         So it was mainly out of Harry’s desire to teach Neville, and very little out of his desire to actually master another of the Mind Arts, that he reached out again with his magic and completely obscured that memory from Neville’s mind and buried it deep under Neville’s mindscape. It was not as easy as that, however, since Harry had to be careful to keep Neville’s suddenly aware mind from learning of his presence in his head.

         Luckily, Harry had been in his mind before and had a good idea of how it worked, which meant that he was able to distract Neville with a well-placed and stronger encouragement:

         ‘You will be fine. You have magic. You can do magic. Harry will teach you more magic. Go to sleep.’

         When Harry finished, he exited Neville’s mind and remained on the bed momentarily as Neville eased into a much-needed sleep.

         Harry returned to his own bed a few minutes later and spent a little while outlining his plans for the following night before he too went to sleep.

 


 

         Saturday morning saw Neville return to normal, which didn’t come as a surprise to Harry but it did require him to play it cool in front of the others. Justin meanwhile just shrugged it off, figuring that it had involved something to do with Neville’s parents since that was the only thing besides exams that explained his behavior.

         With Neville’s sour mood behind them, the trio then spent their day as usual in the library; but while Neville and Justin were actually busy trying to revise, Harry was having entertaining thoughts about Phineas and Icarus.

         Because one thing that Harry didn’t want to have happen was for those two boneheads to have another opportunity to harass Neville. To start, that would have drawn more attention to Neville and Harry didn’t want people to pay that much attention if he were to suddenly develop an apparent proclivity for mood swings.

         It would only serve to draw more attention to him and Harry had spent an incredible amount of effort making others forget that he was the Boy Who Lived.

         Harry also didn’t want to have to make a habit of playing with Neville’s mind and memories too much. It was one thing to play with other people but it was a different thing altogether now that he viewed the barely older boy as an extension of himself.

         What if something detrimental happened to the boy and Harry lost that feeling of his magic interacting with Neville’s? Harry didn’t want to chance losing something that only enhanced his feeling of having a limitless future.

         And really, the only concern that Harry was really entertaining as he sat there in the library – because he certainly wasn’t worried about not being a match for the pair – was in getting the opportunity to play with them tonight.

         He would obviously need to catch them out in the open but, at the same time, he needed them to be in a part of the castle where prying eyes didn’t see the activities that he had planned for them.

         Therefore, Harry was somewhat antsy as the day progressed since this was almost entirely out of his control. Despite his internal focus on how the night would or would not go, however, Harry was still able to be present in the conversations that he was having with his friends.

         So it was quite easy for him to be aware of the looks that Neville would give him every so often, and he was sure that it had to do with the addition to the usual suggestion that he had left Neville with last night.

         Of course, Neville wasn’t sure enough of himself to ask Harry about anything yet; all Neville knew or could reasonably assume at this point was that his infatuation with Harry was growing. Unbeknownst to Harry – since he hadn’t examined every thought that Neville had – was just how aware Neville was of just how far he had come by being at Harry’s side. Everything that he had come to know since starting at Hogwarts told him that Harry was taking him along on his journey to greatness. Because Neville just knew that Harry’s future would only be defined by what Harry wanted to achieve and it was intoxicating for him to feel like he could be a part of that journey.

         When their time in the library was finished the trio headed to the Great Hall for supper. After that was complete, all that separated Harry from a night of waiting under his invisibility cloak for an opportune time was a brief bout of games in the common room.

         For he had all ready managed to convince Justin and Neville to take a well-earned break from studying that night and enjoy some games with him in the common room. He may have also entered their mind – just a little bit – and given them the suggestion to go to bed early, thereby freeing Harry to go for a hunt and ensuring that Neville stayed out of the way in case he was unsuccessful in acquiring his targets until the next night.

         Right on schedule, the boys headed up to bed and Harry exited Hufflepuff and found an undisturbed corner of the castle in which he threw his cloak on. Now that he was invisible, he added a few silencing spells to mask the sounds of his feet and breathing before heading in the direction of where he thought the entrance to Slytherin should be.

         It wasn’t hard to find, especially after his time in the castle around Christmas where he had put in a solid effort to map out the majority of the castle for future reference.

         All that was left now for him to do was wait for Phineas and Icarus to pass by, and hope that they were alone. Of course, Harry could handle the unexpected event if a few others were also with them, but it would be far easier and more convenient for him if they were alone.

         The minutes passed by as Harry sat there against the wall, watching as Slytherins of all ages passed by. As curfew approached, fewer students trickled through until hardly anyone remained when curfew officially went into effect.

         It was then that Harry had almost given up on catching them for the night when he heard voices in the distance.

         And not just any voices, but the very ones that he had been waiting for.

         However, there was also a third voice and Harry managed to identify it as belonging to Daphne Greengrass right as she turned around the corner and came into view.

         Harry stood up when he saw the underlying look of fear that had slipped through her normally well-composed face. It would seem that Neville wasn’t the only target of the older boys.

         “Get back here,” Phineas said as he then walked into view.

         “You are promised to me, girl,” he continued, “and I said I wanted a little kiss!”

         The tone of his voice made her stop and Harry clearly saw the unrestrained fear that passed through her eyes as she had her back to the boys but was unknowingly looking straight at Harry.

         He was impressed to see her swallow her fear and turn around as she drew her wand.

         However, the action caused Phineas to laugh again, much like he had done with Neville.

         “How cute, she wants to play Icarus,” Phineas chuckled with a devilish glee.

         “Seems to be a habit of pathetic little first years,” Icarus agreed.

         The boys approached her, and Harry’s ire was starting to rise. While he had no desire to protect the girl, he did have a very big interest in denying Phineas and Icarus their fun. Besides, he could easily take control of the situation and send her on her way without her ever knowing that he was there before returning his attention to the fourth-year Slytherins.

         Thankfully though, he didn’t have to act for Draco soon appeared behind Harry and made his presence known.

         Harry was curious to see how Draco would handle this, for he had been watching the young Malfoy for a while now. If anyone in their year were going to be able to see through Harry’s charade, he would have bet money that Draco would be the one to do it. After reading all of those books on Voldemort and himself, he had been introduced to Lucius Malfoy and had no doubt that the man had raised his son in a similar vein.

         “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Draco said warningly as he came up behind Daphne and, unbeknownst to Phineas and Icarus, put his hand comfortingly on her back.

         Anger appeared in Phineas’ eyes.

         “This doesn’t concern you,” he said bitingly.

         “Yeah!” said Icarus lamely.

         “Oh, I think that it does.”

         Draco’s voice was clear and unafraid; however, his hand that rested on Daphne’s back was fidgeting nervously.

         But Harry didn’t think that Draco would allow his fear to show as Daphne’s had.

         “For you see,” Draco said in the same tone that he reserved for people he perceived as beneath him – which was just about everyone.

         “Daphne’s sister, Astoria, is promised to me. Which would practically make Daphne a member of my own family.”

         Draco let that the implications of that sink in for a moment while he removed his fidgeting hand and placed it firmly on her shoulder for them to see.

         “Of course, that would also mean that my father would be most unhappy to learn of anything unproper befalling a member of his house,” Draco said for all intents and purposes knowing that Phineas would have demanded something more than just a kiss from Daphne in a few short years.

         Harry thought it was a masterful response by Draco to firmly insert Lucius’ influence into the conversation. Phineas and Icarus would be idiots not to heed that warning.

         It also confirmed in Harry’s mind just how right he had been to be wary of Draco’s no doubt astute and advanced mind.

         Harry was fortunate that Hufflepuff shared so few classes with Slytherin, since it would only take a single slip-up on his part to make Draco aware of his true self if he wasn’t extremely careful.

         Though, his musings were interrupted by Phineas’ terse reply.

         “You’re father can’t protect you forever, Malfoy.”

         The older Slytherin looked most displeased that his fun had been spoiled.

         Draco wasn’t one to test his luck and stick around and he quickly turned with Daphne and walked right past Harry on their way back to the dorms.

         Icarus and Phineas were alone now and in a bad mood, but they had no idea just how worse things were about to get.

        And Harry didn’t waste any time.

         His first act was to giggle, infusing as much innocence to make it the most child-like sound that he had ever made. When combined with the fact that Icarus and Phineas were now out after curfew in a dimly lit hallway, it made the setting all the more eerie. Suddenly, the pair now found themselves as the prey.

         Phineas and Icarus quickly drew their wands, and put their backs together as they began to slowly spin in a circle.

         “Show yourself!” Icarus demanded with a tint of fear in his eye.

         “Poor Phineas. Poor Icarus,” Harry added in that sweet voice as he moved about the hallway himself.

         “All alone with no one to torment,” he spoke softly before sending a few Stinging Hexes in honor of Neville their way.

         The spells did their part and the boys grimaced in pain, but it only made Phineas more Irate.

         “I will kill you, whoever you are!” he raged, much to Harry’s delight.

         Although, he would have to do something about the volume since he didn’t want their voices to alert others to the fun that Harry was about to have.

         From underneath his cloak Harry cast two very strong and powerful Silencios, infusing just the right amount of will to make them unable to make a sound.

         The sudden loss of the ability to speak caused the pair’s eyes to widen in terror. They knew these spells were difficult and generally only performed by someone in their sixth year or above - and it had been nonverbal!

         Both were now simultaneously wondering just what or who they were up against.

         However, while the pair was distracted with those thoughts, Harry directed a very large tendril of his magic at Icarus. He willed his magic to overcome the older boy’s core, and it was the most resistance that he had faced yet.

         But in the end it didn’t matter and Harry overpowered Icarus’ magic and took control of his mind.

         “Stay,” Harry commanded before drawing his magic back into himself.

         While Harry refocused his will and magic to secure Phineas’ mind, the boy in question had noticed the still and vacant expression of his friend.

         “Icarus. Icarus!” Phineas pleaded with the movement of his lips. His breaths had become short and sweat was beginning to pool on his forehead.

         Phineas Lestrange was actively hoping that this was some elaborate prank because he had never been as terrified as he was at this particular moment.

         But suddenly, he felt this uncomfortable sensation in his chest as some unknown force was easily overpowering his core until the connection to his magic was gone. Though, he had less than a second to focus on that since his mind soon became numb and the hallway fluttered out of sight.

 


 

         Phineas blinked his eyes open as consciousness returned to him; his first thoughts were focused on the room that was beginning to come into view and the fact that his wrists were secured behind his back. He tried to fight against his restraints as he took stock of the abandoned classroom that he now found himself in. It took him several seconds to register that Icarus was just a few feet from him, and that judging by his movements was also in the same precarious situation that he was in.

         The boys then shared a glance that was short-lived as the eerie laughter returned to their ears.

         Harry watched as his chuckles plunged even more fear in their hearts. While it would have been fun and much easier to deal with them in the hallway, he just couldn’t take the risk that someone would happen upon them. Therefore, he had led them to the other side of the dungeon, far from where both Potions and the Slytherin dorms were located.

         It had excited and thrilled him to know that he had been able to overpower them. Not that he had been worried, but the sensation that was produced by taking over that large of a magical core was unlike anything that he had experienced yet. The sheer level of dominance that Harry had over these boys flowed through his veins and made his body tingle all over.

         Knowing that he had also separated them from their wands and that it was doubtful that they had access to wandless magic – he had gone through some of their memories to be sure – he removed his cloak and stood before them.

         “Hello,” he said darkly, much to their shock and amazement.

         Never in their wildest dreams would they have imagined that their captor had been Harry Potter, the Hufflepuff.

         Harry’s eyes shown at them with unholy glee, reveling in the knowledge that these two would soon be dealt with and that he could end the year in a very good position for his future.

         Phineas was speechless; even if he could use his voice it wouldn’t have mattered. He was transfixed on the young boy who was anything like the one that had walked into the Great Hall on September first.

         “It would seem that we have a problem,” Harry said as he walked to stand before the pair.

         He reached his hand out to stroke Icarus’ cheek, knowing that it would be far more frightening than anything else he could say.

         For Harry looked like a child of death and it caused Icarus to break down into whimpers.

         Phineas managed to keep it together for only a few more seconds before he too gave way to despair.

         Harry took his hand back and smiled darkly at their tear-stained faces.

         “Neville is mine,” Harry said very clearly. The statement caused them both to lose their remaining control over their emotions and their faces gave way to silent sobs of terror.

         “I don’t like how you treat him and you will stop.”

         It was more than an order; it was a promise of not good things if they didn’t listen.

         But they weren’t getting away with things that easily, and it seemed that both of them knew it as they withdrew into themselves just like Neville had.

         “Now, you taunted Neville with bouts of pain and talk of his parents. Though, you never cast the Cruciatus on him.”

         “Still, I think it’s important to teach you a lesson. But don’t worry: I am a firm believer that Neville be the one to get his own revenge.”

         Those words gave the boys a brief bout of hope that they would make it out of here in a better state.

         That was until Harry laughed.

         “Of course, you won’t remember the lessons that I teach you, so you will have to learn all over again later.”

         “Would you like to feel the Cruciatus, Phineas? So you know how Frank and Alice felt, since you seem so fond of talking about them.”

         Phineas didn’t have time to silently respond because his body immediately began to convulse and he bit down on his tongue in pain, which made blood dribble out of his mouth.

         Icarus watched on in horror since he hadn’t even seen Harry draw a wand; it was unfathomable in his mind that the Boy Who Lived had just performed an Unforgivable without a wand.

         As if he could hear what Icarus was thinking, Harry turned his head to stare at Icarus.

         “I haven’t forgotten about you,” Harry said as he unleashed a tendril of pain that burned through Icarus’ nerve endings.

         Harry shuddered from the ecstasy of how their magic no longer tried to fight him for dominance. It was an effect of the spell and one of the reasons it was both illegal and addicting.

         Eventually, he released them but their bodies continued to shake. However, they were both still conscious and Harry took great pleasure in the look of defeat in their eyes. Even without what he was planning on doing to them shortly, he was sure that they would never stand in his way again.

         But Harry was smart and he needed to hide evidence of what he had done. It also allowed him to practice some of his memory spells without worrying about making a mistake, even if it was an unlikely thought since rarely did he make a mistake.

         It took very little time for Harry to bind their memories of their night, leaving in the incident with Draco and Daphne but removing everything else. However, Harry also left a very strong suggestion in their minds that Neville was to be left alone. In fact, every time the pair thought of Neville, they would feel an uncomfortable sensation against the edges of their skin that would remind them, so very briefly, of the effects of the Cruciatus.

         So when the pair returned to Slytherin very late that night, they returned to their sour mood over what Draco had pulled and paid very little notice to how their bodies continued to shake from the forgotten curse that Harry had cast. In fact, the next time they saw Harry, the fact barely registered since he was just like the other nameless Hufflepuffs.


 

         Next chapter is the end of first year and will span the summer. Then comes second year and our first glimpse of Tom.

         Hope you liked this and I would love to know your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Author’s Note: Here is the conclusion of Harry’s first year. Just want to say that I thoroughly enjoy writing this, but I have very little time at the moment and what looks to be the next few months so I will update when I can. Buying a house does take up a rather large amount of time, and I am a lowly Muggle with no wand to shortcut the process.

           

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

The end-of-the-year exams were finally done with. As expected, Harry had found the questions to be ridiculously easy and far below what he was capable of.

However, that wasn’t a bad thing as it allowed him to perfectly answer every question in the exact style and manner that he had become accustomed to without revealing the considerable breadth that he actually knew about the topics.

         Nor would he ever stray so far as to answer anything incorrectly.

Throughout the school year, he had slowly been adding a little more detail and nuance to his assignments to highlight the expected growth of a first-year student. For Harry knew that as long as he played the role of an average Muggleborn – well, in his case Muggle-raised – that no one would pay any attention to his genius until much later in his Hogwarts career. Even then, the faculty would be hard-pressed to think it being any more than a case of a hard-working individual growing into their own.

As such, Harry was confident that he had earned himself at least an Exceeds Expectations, if not an Outstanding, on everything while not being too memorable with his responses. During his previous education he had learned that it wasn’t necessarily the students who knew the correct answer that excited the teachers and caused them to remember certain students more than the others.

It didn’t matter that those teachers had taught Muggles and Hogwarts’ were teaching magic; they were still trying to get students to learn and connect the dots for themselves. If anything, Harry thought that his professors at Hogwarts had been there considerably longer and therefore were even more easily swayed by his game.

Therefore, all of Harry’s answers had been carefully constructed to ensure that his responses were so straightforward and non-showy so as not to cause anyone to give them a second glance.

Also, there was a certain Ravenclaw who had a penchant for regurgitating every fact that she had ever read about a particular topic in her answers that Harry was sure would further cause his own responses to go unnoticed.

Her over-the-top and bookish attitude was sure to make Harry’s eventual progress even more unremarkable, since he would have bet a fair bit of his gold that she would never be one to let someone steal her spotlight of teacher’s pet.

Not that he would ever want to add another title to his collection.

So he was quite content with the knowledge that very few people would cotton onto his genius until he wanted them to.

Of course, he wasn’t ready to reveal that yet, but it made it far easier for him to play in the background as a novice wizard who was slowly and gradually absorbing what the teachers taught.

It was also a boon to his strategy that Draco had taken affront that a Muggle-anything would outperform him and had narrowly secured the soon-to-be second-year Slytherin the highest grade in the class. Which Harry would forever swear had caused smoke to come out of Hermione’s ears.

Though, in truth, Draco’s triumph probably had more to do with the fact that Severus Snape often awarded his snakes with higher grades for the same work than he gave to other houses that ultimately tipped the scales in Draco’s favor.

Speaking of Potions, that was the one class that had brought Harry down in the class rankings. Even though everything had been working quite well for him in his other classes, Snape continued to loathe him and refused to award Harry anything higher than an Acceptable – even if his practical work was as perfect as one could get by following the instructions.

However, because of Snape’s incessant questioning at the start of every class and Harry’s rapid digestion of material that left him somewhere in sixth-year material, Harry soon came to realize that most potion instructions could and should be tweaked. The reasoning and nuances to the slight modifications fascinated Harry to no end and gave him something to focus on when Snape was being too much of a git.

Still, he was sitting in a comfortable fifth in the class rankings and Neville had even risen to number seven in their year while Justin rounded out the top ten.

Not that Harry was the type to speak his mind out loud, but he was very happy indeed with the success of his friends and knew that his little group had big things awaiting them in the future. Especially with some of the tutelage that he was already planning to let slip during their second year as Harry had just accepted that they would no doubt continue to get inexplicably closer to him.

At any rate, all of that was behind him now as he walked into the Great Hall a few days before the students were to leave Hogwarts for the summer holidays. As usual Justin and Neville were walking at his side and it pleased Harry to see the expectant look that they had on their faces. His excitement for what was about to take place must have been contagious.

Because this was the night that Harry had been waiting for as patiently as he could ever since Dumbledore had announced it before the start of Christmas break.

Harry’s heart was beating very quickly indeed as he allowed himself to indulge in his excitement at the thought of both hearing and seeing someone as distinguished as Nicolas Flamel speak in person. In fact Harry was beyond excited, more so than he could ever remember being in his young life.

Save perhaps for finding out that he was magical and capable of even more extraordinary things than he had once thought.

         Though Harry’s anticipated expression on his face was lost in the crowd of students, who were talking excitedly among their friends about exams being finished and the chance to meet someone over six hundred years old.

         The Great Hall had even been rearranged to provide for better seating for the occasion. The four house tables that normally ran the length of the hall were gone and had been replaced by many rows of chairs that were parallel with a single row of more comfortable-looking chairs that had replaced the head table where the teachers always sat.

         Just one look and Harry knew that all of Hogwarts’ professors were accounted for, and most were sitting with their backs against the wall; no doubt tired from the year and then having to grade the recent exams before everyone went home.

         However, Harry’s attention was quickly drawn to the addition of a new face who was standing next to Dumbledore and Professors McGonagall and Snape. He watched as they interacted in a friendly manner, with Albus resting his hand on Nicolas’ shoulder, and took note of the invited speaker’s appearance.

         Nicolas Flamel had gray hair, but it was still peppered with enough black that said that he wasn’t over the hill yet. In fact, the man could even be considered handsome.

         However, Harry thought that even without the context clues as to this man’s identify that he would have known at once that he was looking upon the celebrated alchemist who had come to give them a lecture about his Philosopher’s Stone.

         The man may not have looked his age – if being six hundred and change had a corresponding look to it – but he just had that air about him. It was more than just how he held himself and interacted with the faculty that were surrounding him as Harry took his seat between Justin and Neville; it was his eyes and they were captivating and something else that Harry couldn’t really put his finger on that told him who this man was.

         The feeling drew him in and Harry only wanted to know more. What Harry wouldn’t have given to have seen and experienced all of the things that Mr. Flamel had over the course of his lifetime.

         But Harry wasn’t the only one that was more keyed into their surroundings.

         “Harry, you think that is Flamel?” Neville asked in a low voice that only Harry and Justin could hear.

         Harry nodded with a single shake of his head while Justin leaned forward in his seat to trade whispers back and forth with Neville who sat on Harry’s other side.

         Harry meanwhile was still considering his previous thoughts about Nicolas.

         While Harry may have envied having all of those years in which to achieve whatever would someday become his heart’s greatest desire, he knew that immortality was a double-edged sword. For he had already given this topic some thought and had come to the conclusion that for someone like him, a concept like living forever would be a very bad thing.

         For one thing, Harry knew that not having the external pressure of time would limit his creativity. He was at his best when he was working under a deadline and every part of his mind was unified for one or several pursuits that drove his passion onwards to completion.

         Having too much time to get something done would ultimately lead him down the road of never feeling like the one thing that he was currently working on was ever finished, and therefore would result in nothing ever getting done.

         Of course that wasn’t to say that Harry would have objected to having an increased lifespan – just as long as it wasn’t forever.

         But Harry’s musings about the perils of never dying were put on hold when Neville and Justin simultaneously elbowed him.

         His brow furrowed slightly as he pushed aside his instant annoyance at someone touching him, something that had become much easier as Justin and Neville were slowly being accepted into his inner circle.

         “There’s the Stone!” they breathed in awe together.

         Sure enough, Harry caught a glimpse of a red, shiny rock out of the corner of his eye as it was placed on a stone pedestal in the front of the Great Hall. It was situated right next to the podium enshrined with a golden griffin from which Dumbledore made most of his well-meaning but seemingly cryptic announcements; likely what Nicolas Flamel was also going to use to speak to all of the assembled students that were gathered.

         Right on cue the noise died down as the students took in such a powerful and legendary, magical object.

         The silence only made Harry wish that he were sitting closer to the Stone as he desperately wanted to reach out and feel it with his own magic.

         Thankfully, however, Dumbledore chose that particular moment in which the usually loud room was at a lull to speak, and it distracted Harry from his wishful but foolish thought of setting his magic free.

         “Good evening,” Dumbledore’s rich and wizened voice sounded throughout the hall.

         “I trust that you are all in very good spirits after having finished with your examinations,” he then said.

         His statement was met with a smattering of applause from the younger years, who were quite honestly just relieved that the whole thing was over and that they had made it through mostly unscathed. Although, their content but polite response was lost in the near riotous noises coming what Harry thought were the fifth and seventh years who had just completed their Ordinary Wizarding Levels and Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests, respectively.

         They were much more vocal about being finished with the hellish few months that they had just endured.

         “Yes, yes,” Dumbledore settled everyone down again.

         “Now, I trust that you all know why you are here, and will join me in welcoming our guest of honor this evening with the very best that Hogwarts has to offer.”

         Again, the Headmaster’s eyes briefly scanned the entire hall before coming to rest towards where the Weasley twins were sitting. Harry had learned over the course of the year, but mainly due to the sudden arrival of bloody noses that peaked at the start of exams, that Fred and George seemed to consider mischief as a badge of honor.

         Harry thought it was amusing to watch the twins push out their chests in a preening display that Dumbledore’s comment had more or less been directed straight at them.

         Though, that sense of pride was short-lived as the rest of the students soon stood to welcome their speaker for the evening.

         “It brings great joy,” Dumbledore started, “to welcome an extraordinary wizard who I have been fortunate enough to work with and see his genius at work first-hand.”

         With that, Nicolas Flamel rose from his chair and sauntered up to stand to the right and just behind Dumbledore as the Headmaster continued to lavish praise upon him.

         “Yes, it was quite advantageous that our paths managed to cross when they did, all those years ago. Though, I’m sure his sense of time is somewhat different than my own…,” Dumbledore finished with a chuckle.

         Clearly it was meant to be a joke, but not everyone got it and so there was an awkward few seconds before the Headmaster got back on track.

         “As I was saying, and something that each of you should be mindful of as you move forward through life, is that you will never quite know the significance that someone else may play in your life. Sometimes years will pass before you are even aware of the importance of that interaction, however brief it might have been.”

At this Dumbledore paused and briefly looked backwards to where Nicolas was standing.

“In my youth I was fortunate to study Alchemy under Mr. Flamel, and though I certainly appreciated the opportunity to discover the twelve uses of Dragon blood with him, many years would pass before I realized the lasting consequence of his tutelage in other areas.”

         Harry saw that look of solemn praise wash over Nicolas’ face, and he noted how genuine and touched the man was to hear these words. Still, he couldn’t help but note how unusual this display from Dumbledore was and begin to wonder just what the man’s motivation behind it was. For after Dumbledore’s announcement before Christmas, Harry had done some digging and had discovered that Hogwarts hadn’t invited a speaker to come and talk to the students in over fifty years.

         Which meant that Harry was paying very close attention to every word that Dumbledore was saying so that he could analyze the potential significance of every little detail later.

         “You see,” Dumbledore continued, “as the years went by I became less enamored with learning how to one day make a Philosopher’s Stone for myself and began to appreciate the time that had been given to me and to make the most use of it. Not to make a slight on your long life and what you have accomplished, my old friend.”

         Dumbledore turned to Flamel and Harry caught the man wave him off with a good-natured flip of his hand.

         “In fact, over the years this topic has become somewhat of a main theme in our conversations, which brings us to the reason that we are all together this evening. And for that I will pass it over to Mr. Flamel, so that he may share some of his vast wisdom with all of you.”

         With that Dumbledore stepped aside and the maker of the Philosopher’s Stone took to the podium while Harry digested the intriguing opening of Albus Dumbledore.

         If he had thought that things were unusual before, he was certain that there was some ulterior motive behind this whole event now. For one thing, the introduction had focused entirely on the life-giving properties of the Stone and nothing had been said about its ability to turn things into gold. Considering the group of young people, Harry was sure that that little ability would have at least been touched upon had he not already become convinced that there truly was a hidden meaning to Flamel’s visit.

         But Harry didn’t have that much time to tease the introduction apart as Flamel began speaking to the assembled students as soon as he stepped in front of the podium.

         “I want you all to know,” Nicolas started, “that you are all very lucky to have such an esteemed Headmaster to guide you during these most formative years.”

         Nicolas returned the favor to Dumbledore who was now seated very close to where the Stone had been placed on its raised pedestal.

         “And I thank you old friend for that heartfelt introduction.”

         Then Flamel turned and gazed out over the students that were of various ages and from various houses.

         “I truly am honored to be here tonight and hope that I can impart some of the things that I have learned over the course of my many years on this earth,” the man opened and for the briefest of moments locked eyes with Harry and nodded his head in the slightest of motions.

         Which Harry noted but struggled to hide his shock and recognition that it was perhaps possible that this entire evening somehow had something to do with him.

         ‘No,’ he told himself when Nicolas’ attention soon became directed at his Stone once more.

         ‘You are reading too much into things; most likely it is because you were … are… the Boy Who Lived.’

         Harry shook his head to rid himself of that fleeting and ridiculous notion that Flamel had tried to indicate that the words that he was about to say were meant for him.

         “My story starts out very similar to yours,” he again broke the silence that had settled while he was looking at his Stone.

         “In my youth I attended Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in the Pyrenees Mountains of France. Of course seeing as how this was centuries ago our classes were slightly different, and I became fascinated with the subject of Alchemy – and we all know how that turned out.”

         The students were mesmerized by the way the man spoke and even the Slytherins let loose a few chuckles at his well-received joke. Here was a man that knew how to be warm and engaging.

         “But it wasn’t until after I graduated and stayed on as an apprentice that I decided to dedicate my life in pursuit of becoming a Master of Alchemy; however, I was momentarily distracted by the beauty and intellect of my now-wife Perenelle, who was several years younger than I was but graduated soon enough. I think I was most fortunate that she decided to follow me, and it is to her that I give credit for achieving everything that I have in my long life.”

         The hall was hooked onto his every word and even some of the faculty seemed enthralled by his tale. No one dared to move in their chairs lest they miss the next part of his story.

         “Upon her graduation we traveled to as many places as we could as I tracked down as much information as I could about Alchemy in my pursuit of greatness. I must confess though that if it wasn’t for her sharp mind and skill at putting together incomplete information that we may never have made it to the Americas where we were able to piece together the final and most important clue that allowed us to finally make the Stone.”

         Harry had been so sure that something else was the reason for them being assembled here tonight, but Nicolas’ behavior was now throwing him off. The man was now talking about the strength of his marriage and obvious love for his wife, and very little about the science of Alchemy.

         He was at a loss for why any of this would have been directed at himself; he was eleven for crying out loud!

         Harry instead got the sense that the man was acting very similar to the way grandfathers tended to act when they were at the end of their life and most concerned with passing along their most important lessons before they died.

         ‘But the man is immortal…’ Harry trailed off as he finally connected Dumbledore’s mysterious introduction with Nicolas’ current behavior. His eyes widened as he processed the impossible thoughts that had to be associated with ridding oneself of immortality.

         Just because Harry wasn’t actively seeking how to make himself live forever didn’t necessarily mean that he would have been able to part with something that ensured his own survival indefinitely. Those were two very separate and distinct things.

         But Nicolas’ sage words continued to flow over everyone present and Harry couldn’t help but become one of the enthralled and lose his train of thought to hear the next bit.

         “I succeeded in creating the Philosopher’s Stone when I was in my mid-fifties, and I will let you all in on a little secret. Most people do not notice me when I walk by because I simply do not look like I am well into my six hundreds, and the secret to that is that the elixir completely stops the aging process. So I hate to inform you all that there are simply no glamours being used to mask my old and wrinkly skin.”

         The man smiled and Harry saw a small commotion to his right where gold was exchanged between the infamous Weasley Twins.

         Harry couldn’t help but wonder why they would bet on that and if the twins had a habit of this sort of thing.

         “Which means that should my wife and I stop taking the Elixir of Life, we would simply begin to age at a normal rate. And in fact that is exactly what we have come to decide upon,” he finished with his head bent slightly forward.

         A gasp rang throughout the crowd and Nicolas had to raise his hands to contain the rising noise and prevent it from turning into something more tumultuous.

         “As Dumbledore told you earlier this evening, he came to appreciate the time that had been given to him without needing to find more of it. So much of my life happened in the years after discovering the Stone when my sense of time was different that it took me longer to realize the crutch that my wife and I had been relying on. It is now our opinion that one is not meant to live forever, and after many discussions with my dear friend we have decided to destroy the Stone and live how we were meant to.”

         At this point people in the Great Hall were too stunned to make any noise and kept looking between Flamel and his Stone. Since Harry had arrived at this conclusion a few moments prior, he was now able to more clearly think about why this announcement was being made in front of all of them. And where he fit into everything if it was the case that he was reading into things correctly.

         To make matters worse though, Flamel again managed to have his gaze linger for a few moments longer on Harry as he took in the sights of the hall before him.

         “Some of you may be wondering why I choose tonight to make this announcement, but the truth is that young witches and wizards truly are the most important part of our society. For you all carry our traditions into the future, and as someone who has lived through several generations, I think that is the most important thing to ensure continues.”

         The man took another slight pause as he rubbed at his eyes and Harry’s attention moved to the faculty sitting behind Flamel. Many of them were wiping tears away from their own cheeks as well; the exceptions being Snape who looked as uninterested as he always did and Quirinus Quirrell. The Defense Against the Dark Arts’ Professor looked uneasy and his eyes kept dancing between the Stone and Flamel in a curious manner.

         Harry had no idea why that stuttering mess was so seemingly bothered by the announcement but something was having an effect on that man and it was also causing Quirrell’s fingers to fidget incessantly on his lap.

        “So if I could have your attention for a final time,” Flamel spoke using the same charming tone that he had been speaking in all along, “I want to give each of you a bit of advice to take with you as you live your own lives.”

         With those words Harry swore that the Hall dimmed and everyone unconsciously leaned forward in their chairs.

         “Life is precious and we each have this tremendous opportunity to make the most of it; however, I would strongly caution against the notion of immortality. Over my six-hundred years on this earth I have seen and done a great deal – and it is true that the elixir allowed me and my wife all of that extra time – however, I now see how the greatest years of my life were before my wife and I had succeeded with our endeavor. I am not saying that it is wrong to fear death and extend one’s life, but it is something that we all must face at some point. Otherwise, and please take it from me, life becomes a blur and I can’t tell you how many years passed my family by since Perenelle and I always knew that we had another day ahead of us. Living had lost that special quality that makes each moment so precious and I have to credit Albus for the many chats in which I recently came to recognize what we had been living without. So please, make the most of each of your lives and never take tomorrow for granted. It may be scary at times but it truly is the best way to live.”

         Once again, even though that the topic of conversation was about giving up immortality and facing death – which is a difficult prospect for most people, let alone school-aged children to process – the entire room was once again waiting with baited breath for what his next words would be.

         “I wanted to share this with all of you in the hopes that when you face death, hopefully many, many years from now, that you will know that you will have lived your best life. In fact, many of you will know of the Tale of The Three Brothers and it is my sincere hope, and parting wish, that each of you will be like the youngest brother and live a happy and full life. For Death is and should be like an old friend that welcomes you into the unknown, which I have since come to see as the next great adventure that my lovely wife and I shall take many years from now.”

         If Harry had been paying attention to Albus at this particular moment he would have seen an uncharacteristic gleam in his eye that was accompanied by a minute upturn of the edges of his mouth. Unbeknownst to anyone else in the entire world – even Nicolas Flamel – Albus had planned this event a decade ago, right after the fall of the Dark Lord.

         For Albus had known of the prophecy and had begun to formulate his plan for shaping Harry into the person that he wanted while making sure that Harry didn’t go down the same route that Tom Riddle had with notions of living forever.

         Albus may not have been sure how Voldemort had prolonged his life – the options were too numerous to count – but he knew from the prophecy that the man would someday return.

         In Albus’ mind, he was justified in convincing Nicolas and Perenelle to give up their lives so that Harry might learn something that could end up saving millions of lives in the future. And if this little show with a near-perfect replica of the Stone also happened to lure a weakened Voldemort out – since he was certain that Tom had survived that night with the Boy Who Lived – than so be it. Albus was often fond of killing two birds with one stone, no pun intended.

         But Harry wasn’t paying attention to Albus; he was too focused on watching a man erase his life’s achievement.

         And then Nicolas stepped a few inches away from the podium, indicating that he was indeed finished.

         “Thank you for your attention,” he said as he made to turn and give the floor back to a very happy Dumbledore– but not before catching Harry’s eyes for a final time.

 


 

         After Nicolas’ speech, the students stuck around for a few more minutes before the majority of them headed outside to enjoy the last few rays of the sun with their friends. They would soon be saying goodbye to each other, after all.

         A few students returned to their dorms and even less stayed around the Great Hall to take Nicolas up on his offer to chat should anyone be so inclined. Even some of the faculty had left but Harry was sure that had to do with them being exhausted from all of the grading, and that they likely had had a chance to interact with Flamel before the assembly.

         Harry of course hung around, as did Justin and Neville, and together the three of them watched the Weasley Twins try and make a half-hearted attempt at stealing the Stone. They didn’t touch it, thankfully, but had made a good show and actually lifted everyone’s spirits given the serious announcement that had just preceded it.

         It was an amusing thing to watch and even McGonagall had a small smile on her lips.

         Though the Headmaster did feel inclined to try and tell them off, but Nicolas waved him off and soon Fred and George exited to go and join another boy. Harry thought his name was Lee something-or-other.

         In only a matter of minutes all that remained were a small handful of faculty and four Hufflepuffs that included Cedric Diggory and Harry and his friends.

         Without even having to tell them what Harry wanted, Harry knew that Justin and Neville both understood that they were waiting for Harry to speak with the man before they too headed outside. Once Cedric finished speaking with the man – no doubt about how Charms were a natural branching off point for Alchemy since practically everyone in the castle knew how much of a natural Cedric was considered at Charms – Harry knew that it would soon be his turn.

         Cedric waved in a friendly manner towards his ‘little sibling,’ and Harry waved back with almost the same enthusiasm. Outside of Neville and Justin, Cedric was the person that Harry had gotten to know and tolerate the best because of Hufflepuff’s buddy system.

         While most of those big-little relationships tended to fade over time, Harry could say that their relationship had been getting stronger and was itching to see if the older boy’s core felt similar in response to his magic as it did with his friends.

         But that was for another day and Harry soon began to approach Flamel, who seemed to have been expecting that Harry would be one of the students to take him up on his offer.

         Neville and Justin followed Harry as he passed the slightly raised platform on which the teachers’ table usually sat and had just walked past the Stone when Quirrell appeared at the rightmost edge of Harry’s visual field.

         He would have been inclined to simply disregard it except that the man had gone directly for the Stone and had reached out for it with his wand.

         Time seemed to slow, but what happened next Harry would only ever be able to piece together after the fact as a bright light blinded him and a force knocked him off his feet. He never even knew when he had lost consciousness.

         The first thing that Harry was aware of when thought returned to him was that there was a pounding in his head that made him feel like he was about to be sick. He felt week and lost and had no idea what was going on.

         The next thing that he was barely able to process with the ringing inside of his skull was that he was being tightly held and that there was a piece of wood jabbing into his throat. He didn’t even have the strength to fight against the person who was holding him; his head hurt too badly.

         Resigned to his current situation, Harry put in a very week attempt to try and see what was going on around him but his field of vision was blurry and the Great Hall was spinning before him.

         He wasn’t used to feeling so helpless, and his mind just wasn’t able to process things very quickly. It was a side effect of having had his head smash into the ground from the resulting explosion of Quirrell trying to take the fake Stone that had been protected by one of Dumbledore’s most powerful charms.

         But Harry didn’t know that, and he couldn’t hear the muffled shouts going on around him as Quirrell put Harry between himself and those who had their wands raised against him.

         Though with each passing minute things were beginning to come into focus and he began to see the forms of Dumbledore and Minerva, who were among those fighting for his release.

         That sight forced his mind to work faster and he was able to piece together that it was Quirrell who held him. It angered him that he was in this position but he had just the barest of awareness available to him to know that it would be unwise to let his magic teach the man a lesson.

         Except that Harry wasn’t in full control of his faculties and the pounding in his head was increasing to the point where all of his thoughts were being overwhelmed with the pain.

         As a last resort to stem the pressure inside of his skull he directed as much of his magic as he could to help him. Even if he wasn’t at full strength, enough of his magic was available to him that the sudden surge of magic was able to gradually lesson the intense pain that had been on the verge of becoming paralyzing.

         Slowly his magic corrected the trauma done that would have resulted in an epidural hematoma. His magic was able to repair the torn meningeal artery and thus lesson the swelling between his dura mater and skull.

         With the immediate danger over with, a weakened and magically-drained Harry – since using one’s own magic in that manner is always extremely taxing - was finally able to concentrate on the events around him and managed to hear the tail end of the conversation.

         “I will say this one more time Dumbledore: WHERE IS THE STONE!” The voice of Professor Quirrell roared past and over Harry’s right ear.

         Harry had little time to process why Quirrell was after the Stone as his senses were being over stimulated and over worked as he caught up with his surroundings after his magic had healed him. Like how his improved vision finally allowed him to fully see for the first time since he had regained consciousness, and how he tried to take in as much as he could.

         “Tell me why you want it?” Dumbledore posed while Harry saw that Severus Snape also had his wand aimed at Quirrell.

         Which Harry found to be so singularly odd and out of character for the man who had strived all year in making Potions an exercise in testing Harry’s patience. But Snape looked to be every bit of serious in freeing Harry as the man was with driving him up the wall.

         “My master wants it!” Quirrell cried, twisting his grip on Harry’s neck so that it turned to the side where he saw that both Neville and Justin also had there wands drawn and pointed at him.

         Neville looked downright fearful but Harry saw the underlying look of sheer anger in his eyes. The loyalty that Neville gave him further helped Harry not unleash his magic at Quirrell.

         Only as a last resort would Harry unveil his secrets before those assembled.

         However, the exchange between Quirrell and Dumbledore was now finally gaining his full attention, and the word master seemed to unnerve the others present.

         “Your master?” Dumbledore said slowly while nodding his head forward ever so slightly as if he were coming to terms with something that he already knew, but had been hoping against.

         “Yes! And he desires that Stone and it is imperative that I be the one to give it to him!”

         Harry could feel the man shaking and knew that his trembling was a sign of desperation, though it didn’t help him to feel any better. Desperate people often did desperate things that didn’t always make the most sense. Like being so open with what they were after and tending to disregard how many people might get injured or killed.

         In response, he gathered his magic very close to him so that it was ready should he have need of it.

         “So Voldemort is still alive?” Dumbledore boldly clarified.

         Harry saw the brief look of shock pass through those that faced him, and if he was being honest, it matched how he felt on the inside.

         It was all just a bit surreal to think about the Dark Lord still being out there, but Harry had other things to worry about. Like the wand that was pressing deeper into his neck.

         “But he did not come here himself for the Stone,” Dumbledore stated, gathering his full height as his suspicions had been confirmed.

         Without the possibility of dealing with the Dark Lord, now all Dumbledore desired was to free Harry and get this over with as soon as possible; his little plan had worked well enough.

         “Of c-c-course he did not come, not in the state that he is in,” Quirrell said stupidly, more concerned with the impossible task still before him if he hoped to continue living.

         “Give me the Stone or I will take Harry to him,” Quirrell then said as he tightened his hold upon the boy.

         Harry’s eyes widened, but it was more due to him realizing just how exhausted he was. For the first time in a long while he felt fear and willed every muscle that he could command to stay alert until the threat to his person was over.

         He began to doubt that his magic would be able to save him given the state that he was in

         “You won’t be taking the boy anywhere,” the unique tone and voice of Severus Snape practically commanded.

         The shock of Snape doing anything to help Harry was almost enough to make him lose his last remaining bit of focus to stay awake.

         “And the Stone has already been destroyed,” Flamel then added, who was looking at Quirrell to see when the realization would hit that he had already given up his immortality.

         But those words by Snape and Flamel were meant to be a distraction so that McGonagall and Dumbledore could work on freeing Harry unharmed. The only glitch in Dumbledore’s plan was that Harry had been taken hostage.

         However, no rescue was needed after Flamel’s announcement.

         The Dark Lord had ensured that Quirrell would try to get the Stone as if his life depended on it, which it did.

         Unbreakable Vows were useful if you had a specific task in mind, and Quirrell knew the minute that his life was forfeit when it clicked that his task of returning the Stone and the subsequent Elixir of Life to speed his master’s recovery hadn’t even had a chance.

         The Defense Professor’s hands immediately seized and Harry reacted as soon as the man’s wand had fallen to the ground and used all of his might to stumble forward, where Snape’s arms were there to catch him.

         As the fatigue finally took over, and even though Harry didn’t feel that much better in Snape’s arms, his body couldn’t fight the exhaustion that his healing magic had caused in saving in his life.

         The last thing that Harry remembered before his eyes closed was the inhuman scream of a man who was, quite literally, melting away.

        


 

         The bed was soft and Harry was thankful to awake in a much less stressful situation. Though, he had no sense of how much time had passed and his eyes fluttered open, blinking against the bright light that streamed into the almost vacant hospital wing.

         Except that Harry wasn’t alone, Albus Dumbledore was sitting in a chair next to him and smiling in a most unusual way.

         His Occlumency shields were quickly and hastily thrown up as Albus acknowledged his return to consciousness, “Good Morning, Harry.”

         The man’s eyes were twinkling madly.

         Harry paused, buying himself some more time to work out his response to the situation that he found himself in. So much had happened, too quickly for an appropriate analysis, that he knew that he couldn’t hope to handle this current predicament as well as he would have liked to.

         Therefore Harry took the easier, and more expected approach, of simply being in shock from everything that had happened.

         “The Stone! Quirrell! My friends!” Harry added for good measure.

         “Relax , my dear boy,” Dumbledore soothed, doing his best to sound comforting and grandfatherly.

         “I expect that you are quite confused with recent events, and let me just tell you that no one besides Quirrell was hurt.”

         Harry let what he had only recently concluded had happened to the man sink in. It was the whys and hows of it all that he had yet to figure out.

         But now wasn’t the time to do that.

         He swallowed, and sat up in his bed. He knew where he was and that he had passed out, but he didn’t quite know why he had done so. Had the magic that he had used to stop the pounding in his head taken that much out of him?

         Also, he wondered what Dumbledore would tell him about what had happened. Perhaps he would be able to glean something that would help him put the pieces together later. At any rate, it didn’t hurt to ask, shocked people were often very direct in what they said.

         “Sir, I don’t really remember all that happened. One minute I was waving to Cedric who had just finished speaking with Flamel and the next I was so confused that I only remember bits and pieces of the Stone and Quirrell… and shouting… so much shouting. My head hurt so bad and then it stopped, but that was when I became so tired that I could barely stay awake as Quirrell held me. Why was he holding me, and what happened to him? How long have I been here?”

         It was calculated, but Harry wasn’t worried about the man thinking it anything more than an appropriately curious response given the circumstances.

         “Easy, Harry, though I will tell you what I can. The first is that you have been here for a day and a half – but don’t worry, I’m sure that Madam Pomfrey will discharge you later today so that you may catch the Hogwarts Express bright and early tomorrow.”

         Harry acted the part and nodded along to what the man said to him.

         “As for what happened, well, it would seem that Voldemort is still out there, Harry, and wanted the Stone to help him return to power. He must have been too weak to try and get it for himself, and sent Quirrell in his place. I think that he may have placed Quirrell under a powerful, and likely forced, magical vow that demanded Quirrell get the Stone to him if he wanted to survive. Except that Flamel had already destroyed the Stone before he had arrived to tell you all what he learned… what did you think about his speech by the way?”

         It was an expert move in directing Harry’s attention elsewhere since Dumbledore didn’t want anyone to really think too much about the Stone being a trap.

         “O-oh,” Harry stuttered as he played along to Dumbledore’s theatrics.

         He looked to the window, thinking about what his response would be. Normally he would have liked more time to weigh the pros and cons of each route that he had before him, but a part of him was just too tired and he knew that he simply didn’t have the time. So he went for a straight response instead.

         “I thought it must have been a hard decision for him to make and think he did a good job of explaining it in terms that even a first year could understand,” Harry replied softly.

         “Sir?” Harry asked before Dumbledore could reply.

         The older man’s expectant face told him to go on.

         “How could he still be out there… since that night with my parents,” Harry said with a look of far-off longing in his green eyes.

         Two could play that game.

         The truth was that Harry likely knew that Dumbledore had guessed that he was still out there since the longer that he sat there in that hospital bed, the more certain he was that some part of Flamel’s visit with the Stone had to do with tempting Voldemort – or one of his agents – out of hiding. Why else would the man have brought the Stone with him?

         But he wasn’t going to ask Dumbledore that directly.

         Harry was just unsure why it had been done in a room full of students. Couldn’t there just have been some rumor started that it was being stored in Gringotts or in some protected cavern - wouldn’t that have been easier? And why had the man kept looking at him during his announcement?

         “Alas, a very good question. I think the short answer is that he knew a lot about magic and that there are things that he could have done to keep on living.”

         “Oh,” Harry crossed his arms across his stomach.

         He had to at least make it convincing that he was slightly terrified of the man who had murdered his parents still being out there.

         “Don’t worry, Harry,” Dumbledore then said, doing his best to look reassuring.

         “You are safe from the man,” he lied, knowing that Voldemort and Harry’s future were destined to cross.

         And Harry let him believe that his words had worked and in a few minutes changed the subject to food and other lighter topics.

         They spent a little more time chatting before Albus left just as Madam Pomfrey arrived with his breakfast and allowed Harry to eat while making sure that he was good to go.

         Aside from an explanation that his core was a little low – and to get plenty of rest – she sent him on his way.

         Harry left the hospital wing with a great deal to think about but he had the entire summer to put everything together that he had just learned.

        


 

         “Neville I’m fine, I promise,” Harry said while in a compartment with Justin and Neville as the train careened towards London the next day.

         Though, he was only slightly annoyed with how concerned Longbottom was being. In truth, Harry was oddly touched with how much the other boys thought of him and how they had stood with their wands raised, ready to go against someone who could have ended their lives so very quickly.

         They were loyal to him, and it wasn’t just Neville that Harry thought belonged to him, to protect and lead; because after his little chat with Phineas and Icarus, Harry had come to think of Justin in the same manner.

         Of course, Harry would always favor Neville above any of the others who would join him in time – even if he couldn’t quite explain it at the time.

         “I’ve just never been so worried, Harry. I mean to think that Quirrell would do that, and then what happened to him!” Neville’s face scrunched up at the thought of the man melting to death because of his failure to uphold his vow – which they couldn’t have known and had assumed to be a protection of the Stone.

         Although, Neville thought the bastard had deserved what had happened to him for harming his Harry.

         “Serves him right!” Justin verbally agreed.

         The tone of Justin’s voice caused a pulse from Harry’s core to ripple through his body.

         “To think that a teacher would ever physically harm a student,” he went onto explain quickly to soften his previous venomous statement.

         The passion in his voice had startled him, and he had momentarily worried that it had been too much for the other too, but he needn’t have worried with Neville’s response.

         “No, you’re right, Justin, he had it coming. I mean Dumbledore said that you could have died Harry, and that if it wasn’t for your magic likely reversing some of the trauma to your head…” he trailed off.

         “I know,” Harry confirmed, having had Madam Pomfrey explain how some people’s magic respond differently in traumatic and life-threatening situations than others.

         Though, Harry let her and everyone else think that it had been accidental when it had been anything but.

         And with Neville’s statement, the pulse radiating from his core only grew stronger.

         A few seconds later, Harry broke the silence. He wanted to settle a few things before they separated for the summer. While he would spend the majority of his time at Privet Drive breaking down everything that had recently happened and preparing for the new year, he had decided to give his friends a suggested course to follow that would make it easier for some of what he planned to teach them in the future.

         While it had been unexpected for Harry to think so much about helping others when he had first arrived at Hogwarts, the feeling that his magic had in their presence demanded that he invest in their future if he wanted to reach his full potential.

         “But I wanted to thank you two,” Harry said, in the softest voice that he had ever used with them.

         “Even though a lot had been going on at the time, I saw that you both had your wands out. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate having both of you in my life and willing to do that for me.”

         What Harry hadn’t planned on was that a small part of his magic had decided to intertwine with his words and it further captivated Neville. For Justin, the words and the magic caused his core to shift just slightly towards the dark and his loyalty towards Harry was now forever permanent.

         “Of course,” both boys responded almost instantly and in unison.

         “I think it would be wise for all of us to study as much magic that we can this summer. I for one never want to be in that situation again.”

         Justin and Neville nodded in agreement, intent on doing just that.

         After that, they spent the last hour playing Exploding Snap. Harry would have the entire summer to reflect on his first year and thoroughly plan for what his next moves would me in response to the changed landscape.

         However, one thing in his mind was certain, and that was that he had some new spells to work out against the Dursleys.

 


 

         Can’t believe his first year is over. I am very happy with how it has turned out – even though the last chapter took longer to write that the others.

         Now we move onto the summer, and I don’t know how much I will focus on that before getting the second year started so that Tom can come out and play a little before his grand arrival.

         Hope you liked this and I would love to know your thoughts!

Chapter Text

Author’s Note: Apologies for the delays with getting this chapter out. I am traveling so much for work that I have very little time to write. Not even going to mention the time-suck that is buying/selling a house.

But when I had time I wanted to make sure that I got my ducks in a row with future chapters since second year is really when the fun starts. I’m crossing my fingers that updates become more frequent but I am not making any promises.

At any rate, a continued thanks for reading.

           

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

One of Harry’s goals for the summer had been to explore every possible avenue that was or could be possible with the Mind Arts. It may not have been the best or most exciting way to spend a summer but he was limited by the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Magic; that, and he was extremely wary after his last conversation with Albus Dumbledore.

Even within the confines of Number Four Privet Drive, he was hesitant to be as open with his wandless magic for fear of someone seeing something that he didn’t want them to.

Yet.

It also meant that he wasn’t able to frequent Diagon Alley as much as he would have liked; he just didn’t know if anyone or anything would have been watching him.

Still, the fact that he was not only learning the Mind Arts but mastering skills far beyond his years helped to momentarily assuage any extreme discontentment that he had with keeping his guise in tact; at least he wasn’t wasting his time just sitting around and twiddling his thumbs.

And focusing on just a single course of study meant that Harry became extremely proficient in a very short amount of time.

Granted, he had already learned how to go through and relive another person’s memories, but now he was able to fully invest himself in the other applications of this branch of magic. Like the nuances he now appreciated in concealing a memory that he had first been introduced to in his dealings with Neville and helping the boy to forget his interactions with Phineas and Icarus.

But what he found to be most interesting was in being able to plant completely false and made-up memories; which incidentally had led to several humorous episodes in which Uncle Vernon had taken to going around the house trying to relive his glory days of being Britain’s most celebrated dancer.

The look on young Dudley’s face at his rotund father pirouetting around the kitchen had been priceless, and something that the older Dursley had been surprisingly and suspiciously good at.

However, Harry rarely partook in such childish acts because, in his mind, he had very serious and important things that he needed to prepare for. But for those times in which it was important and necessary to apply what he was learning, then Harry would indulge in releasing some of the resentment that he still harbored against the Dursleys.

         Ultimately, all of his efforts did serve his purpose of mastering what he could do with his mind and magic; indeed, it was during his studies that he had even stumbled upon another application of the Mind Arts that was different enough for him to classify it as such.

         With enough practice it was very easy and straightforward to hide or implant a memory, but it was strangely more difficult to add on to an existing memory and alter it ever so slightly. Harry theorized that it had to do with taking existing emotions and feelings that had surrounded the specific memory and altering those as well, which wasn’t exactly straightforward since those existed separately from where the memory was stored.

         Luckily Aunt Petunia was such a willing participant, and towards the end of the summer he had finally gotten the hang of the subtly required in making his additions go seamlessly with the existing memory. And in doing so, he came to a fundamental conclusion regarding one of the limitations of magic: one could only play with a person’s mind in so far as it didn’t immediately alter who a person fundamentally was at their core.

         In other words, while you could completely take over someone’s body and control their every move, or even take a memory away, the part of them that was defined by their past could not be changed. A person’s free will and ability to make decisions based on their cumulative life-experiences was sacrosanct.

         Which was why it had taken Harry longer than he had thought it would to simply add onto an existing memory.

         Creating a memory was easy, and oftentimes it could and would affect a person’s future decision-making abilities. However, that was only ever possible if a person responded to that memory by creating a new and independent life-altering event.

         For example, if the memory of a homosexual encounter were implanted into an otherwise heterosexual’s mind, then that memory wouldn’t suddenly make them gay or bisexual. It would just give them something to think about.

         Alternatively, if a newfound fear of spiders were added to someone’s collective existence then it may or may not take up root depending on how well the person in question was dealt with their fears. If they dealt with them in a healthy manner then it was unlikely that the memory would affect them going forward since they could handle their fears. But if they were the type of person that didn’t have a handle on their fears, well…

         Likewise, covering up a memory could never remove how that event had changed a person’s life since what they had taken away from that experience was stored elsewhere. And messing with that area was something that Harry had found to be quite impossible altogether.

         But eventually, Harry did come to understand that as long as he played with existing emotions when adding onto a memory, his alteration of the memory could hold, and in some cases even become permanent if it was seamlessly done.

         It was a subtle but important caveat, and, oh, how he had further devastated Petunia for the few moments that he had let her awareness return to the surface by letting go of his hold over her to see the effects first hand.

         Watching her face morph into the fresh emotions of reliving her slightly-altered past offered Harry a small measure of comfort that she had withheld so much from him when he had been younger and just beginning to form how he saw himself.

         It had been most entertaining to watch her remember not only Lily receiving a Hogwarts’ letter but receiving one for herself as well. Of course, that had been until Petunia had received another letter a few days later saying that there had been an error and that only Lily was going to Hogwarts. Everything else had stayed the same.

         Harry had made her worst memory even harder to stomach, and Petunia had deserved it for not telling Harry that he had been a wizard from birth. He would never let her forget her mistake.

         Although, the vast majority of his forays into the minds of the Dursleys weren’t just to play. Because, he had returned from his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with so many more questions than when he had left for the castle in September.

         And hardly any of his current concerns were related to the material; not with how clear Albus Dumbledore and the events surrounding the year’s end had made it to Harry that there was something else, something very big that was still being withheld from him.

         However, Harry had just turned twelve and needed to act accordingly; it wasn’t like he could demand answers or freely research as much as he would have liked – which was the main reason why he spent his time inside Privet Drive and away from Diagon Alley.

         For now there was little doubt in his mind that Privet Drive wasn’t being watched by someone reporting to Dumbledore. He would have been surprised if there wasn’t given what he knew or suspected about how the man operated.

         That fact also explained why he took such careful measures of entering the Dursley’s minds at mealtimes or late at night when he was as sure as he could be that no one was spying on him or would question him being face-to-face with someone for that length of time.

         Which also meant that Harry was left with large parts of his day where he could have been bored, except that he continued to catalogue his research into the Mind Arts during those lulls and wrote extensively about his observations.

         When he wasn’t working on that, he was instead perusing the many texts that he had either copied – or borrowed rather – from Hogwarts’ massive library. It was a good thing that he had had that foresight, otherwise he was positive that he would have eventually given into his desire to read something even remotely associated with magic and risked a trip to Diagon Alley for his sanity.

         However, being the type of person that he was he just couldn’t resist all those books just lying there completely. Therefore, he limited himself to owl-ordering just a single book that was more or less age-appropriate every week. Though towards the end of the summer he did manage to convince himself that an entire series on a particular topic counted as a single book.

         At any rate, by the time that August rolled around Harry was getting a little bored and he was very much looking forward to meeting Justin and Neville in a few days in Diagon Alley to get his supplies for the upcoming year.

         The absence of their magic against his own had been uncomfortable for him to adjust to during his first week back at Privet Drive; however, they had remained in contact and both boys had written to him frequently throughout the summer, updating him on their progress. Harry was quite pleased with how much effort the pair had been putting into their studies or going through the beginning stages of calming their thoughts per his instructions.

         For what he had planned for his future, and to be able to trust that they could keep his secrets if it ever came to that, Harry knew that it was essential that they start to learn some of the Mind Arts for themselves.

         But that was looking very far into the future and Harry had much more pressing things to contend with as he sat down to dinner on a sweltering August evening, intent on delving into Petunia’s mind once more.

         After going through everything from the preceding year, Harry concluded that it would be best to go back to the beginning. Well, not to his birth since even with his amazing memory he couldn’t remember that specific moment or anytime shortly thereafter. But at least he would be able to see what his beginning at Privet Drive had been like, and after finding out that it was Dumbledore who had left him on the Dursleys’ doorstep Harry had wanted to see just how everything had unfolded.

         So midway through dinner, Harry sat down his knife and fork next to his half-eaten plate and gathered a small tendril of his magic and dove straight into Petunia’s mind.

         Like usual there was no resistance and soon Harry’s consciousness blinked into her mental landscape and he started sifting through her memories to find his target. It took longer than he had expected it to since he had been in her mind many times previously and knew the layout, but this particularly memory had been buried deep within her mind as if she had spent great effort in trying to forget that it had ever happened.

         The difficulty in accessing it only made Harry want to know what had transpired even more, and with a little more effort he soon found what he was looking for.

         The smirk that showed on his actual face while he was sitting at the dining room table was truly predatory as his mental counterpart reached out and started replaying the memory from that morning when he was found next to the milk bottles all those years ago.

        

         Harry had gotten used to the otherworldly sensation of dropping into another person’s memory; he had done it often enough.

         He had also adjusted to how eerily similar number four, Privet Drive, had looked a decade ago. A reasonable person would have thought that after ten years of living in a house with two growing boys that at least some of the furnishings would have changed; however, the Dursleys were not considered reasonable people and did not like change.

         And Harry had had more important things to worry about than fixing the décor when he took control of his life, leaving the majority of the daily running of the house to the subconscious workings of Petunia.

         So the only things that highlighted the fact that Harry was even watching events from another decade were that Vernon’s beard was not yet gray and that Petunia’s hair was straighter and more healthier looking.

         And then there was Dudley, who was a swarthy infant with a greedy look in his eyes for anything except the expensive and horribly healthy baby food that Petunia was currently trying to feed him while Harry remained off to the side waiting for the memory to progress to the important part.

         But the sounds of Petunia oohing and aahing with her futile attempts to make the airplane spoon go into Dudley’s protesting mouth were loud and he found the display to be oddly humorous.

         Of course, Petunia’s frustration was lost on Vernon who was busy scarfing down his own breakfast while trying to read the unsavory daily news.

         “Fireworks last night, all over the country it seems,” the large man groaned.

         “It’s unnatural at this time of year if you ask me.”

         “What was that, dear?” Petunia inquired, taking a minute to wipe the beads of sweat from her brow.

         Trying to feed little Dudley nutritious food was apparently quite tedious, and for the moment she had given up trying to feed Dudley his mashed peas and carrots. Harry watched her put the rest of it back in the fridge before pulling out what Dudley had been holding out for: the chocolate pudding.

         “It seems that there were reports of fireworks up and down Britain last night. Large ones. Unruly kids no doubt who are in need of a good beating,” Vernon said cautiously.

         He then crumbled up the paper and gave Petunia a brief glance in which the same thought passed through both of their minds, except that neither would ever, under any circumstances, utter those blasphemous words aloud. The topic of wizards, witches, and magic was sacrilegious in the Dursley Household.

         Knowing that she could calm this situation – and Vernon – her nostrils flared along with her patented, condescending sneer that accompanied the straightening of her pearls.

         “Their parents should be ashamed of themselves that they would let their kids be such a nuisance. All of those little hoodlums wanted nothing more than to be a disruption, no doubt. But our little Dudekins won’t grow up to be like them,” she said to Vernon’s approving nod before turning her attention back to her pudding-loving progeny.

         “Yes, just like I said: unruly kids in need of a good beating.”

         Vernon was much calmer now and rewarded himself with another helping of bacon.

         With their denial and less likely explanation for fireworks in October set in stone, Vernon lingered for a few more moments before finishing the last of the bacon and gathering the supply information for a shipment of drills that he intended to sell that day.

         The twelve-year-old Harry was mildly interested in what had been left unsaid between them, but he was inpatient to get towards the front door, to where he knew that his younger form was waiting.

         However, he had to wait until Petunia’s memory took him there, but thankfully the scene seemed to be heading that way quickly as Vernon kissed his wife and son goodbye before heading towards the front door.

         Harry remained in the kitchen with Petunia until they heard Vernon Gasp from the front of the house. Almost immediately, Petunia bolted upright before practically running out of the room with Harry being tugged along as a whimpering Dudley was left trying to reach for the spoon with remnants of chocolate pudding on it that had been dropped just out his arm’s reach.

         Harry followed behind Petunia with a curious expression on his face as he came to stand just behind the Dursleys. Though he found that he did need go up a few steps on the stairs behind them to be able to see properly, and it was there that he caught the first glimpse of his infant self.

         Of course, the infant version of himself was hard to see over the bulging vein on Vernon’s forehead. Harry had almost forgotten just how big that thing could get.

         After spending a few moments contemplating the difficult years that laid in store for the infant, he turned his attention to Petunia.

         Like her husband, her gaze was fixated on the baby; however, while Vernon was quite obviously furious over this inconvenience, Petunia’s face was white and for the briefest of moments her otherwise rigid exterior had been broken completely. Though, her shocked countenance was short-lived and her face soon returned to a normal color.

         It was likely that she had forced herself to return to normal for her husband’s sake.

         However, during those few seconds in which her feelings were unguarded, Harry was able to clearly read his mother’s name silently form on his Aunt’s lips. To be honest, the act surprised Harry as he didn’t think that the woman had any capacity to bear an emotional response over anyone that wasn’t considered normal.

         But it wasn’t just the fact that she had mouthed Lily’s name, nor was it the blanching of her face that greatly intrigued Harry.

         For in this moment, there were two things that captivated his attention. The first was just how quickly she had come to the conclusion that a baby on her doorstep meant that her sister was dead.

         And the second was only noticeable because Harry was watching the memory from inside her own mind and thus able to feel some of the things that she had felt as the events had unfolded.

         Therefore, not only did her face register her shock and recognition for what little Harry Potter being there meant, but Harry felt another memory stir within her mind that had been the reason for why she knew that Lily had been killed in the first place.

         If Harry had seen this memory inside of a pensieve – something that he didn’t know existed yet – he would have not been privy to this added information. But he hadn’t watched it through a pensieve and so he knew at once that when this memory was finished he had another to go hunting for.

         Quite honestly, it was more than he had expected to find and there was still more to this current memory; they hadn’t even gotten to the letter that was placed on the child yet!

         Therefore, he forced himself to refocus as the rest of the scene unfolded.

         It took Vernon longer to come out of his angry stupor than for Petunia’s face to return to normal, but Harry caught the shared glance that he and his wife shared with each other. Soon after he noticed their comical realization that perhaps one of their neighbors would see them standing outside with an infant at their doorstep.

         However, neither acted immediately since they were both of the mindset that if they ignored something thoroughly enough that it usually went away. They had done this so often enough that it was an innate response.

         Except that there was a letter addressed to Petunia that was lying face-up, and with their inaction it began to shake and float upwards.

         That act roused both of them and Vernon quickly made a grab for the baby while Petunia clutched onto the letter and fought to bring it inside.

         The pair had just managed to shut the door at the very moment that the voice of one, Albus Dumbledore, sounded throughout their home.

        

         “Petunia Dursley,

         It is imperative that you take young Harry Potter into your home and raise him. His parents, your SISTER, were killed by Lord Voldemort last night. Trust me when I say that there is no place safer for him, or for YOUR FAMILY, than to all remain together at this or another place you call home.

         The consequences of not heeding this request could and will be deadly.

         Know that only if your nephew stays here will YOUR FAMILY be protected. It would be wise for you to think of DUDLEY during this difficult time. Especially since I do not think that Lord Voldemort will stop until Harry and HIS ENTIRE FAMILY are dead.

         Taking Harry in will activate old and powerful magic that will offer protection for all who dwell here – something MUCH STRONGER than what was used to keep James and Lily safe.

         Think of YOUR FAMILY, Petunia, and watch over Harry until he goes to Hogwarts at the age of eleven. He then must return to your house every summer and be able to call it home for the protection to remain in effect for YOUR FAMILY.

         I’LL BE WATCHING,

Sincerely,

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Order of Merlin, First Class

Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards

Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot

and Grand Sorcerer”

 

         The letter then crumbled in on itself and fell to the floor as hundreds of tiny shreds of parchment.

         Unbeknownst to Harry, since he couldn’t exactly see his face at the moment, he had the same shocked expression that both Petunia and Vernon were wearing in response to Dumbledore’s threatening letter.

         One would have thought that a talking letter that could float would be enough to shock anyone into silence, but that didn’t apply to Vernon Dursley. Especially if he had just been threatened inside his own home.

         “Who does this wizard thinks that he is that he can threaten us in our house?” Vernon roared before Petunia rounded on him so quickly that it snapped Harry out of his own surprised daze.

         “He WILL be staying with us, Vernon!” she said quickly and firmly with no hesitation.

         It was the most decisive that Harry had ever seen her and there was no doubt that her word was the final subject on this matter.

         “For Dudley’s sake!” she then added as she grabbed her nephew from her husband’s arms and headed back into the kitchen.

         Harry expected more of a response from Vernon besides the dismissive glance that he gave as he followed his wife back into the kitchen and the string of ‘freak-related insults’ under his breath.

         But Harry wasn’t really paying all that much attention to his Aunt or Uncle, and certainly not to Dudley who was clearly not happy with having to temporarily share the attention of his mother.

         How could he think of anything other than how truly manipulative Albus Dumbledore really was? It wasn’t often that people surprised him and it was clear that Dumbledore was more devious that he had previously given the man credit for.

         And pompous didn’t even begin to describe him, either. Who wrote a letter like that and then signed it with every title they had ever received?

         However, the way that the man had played Petunia had been brilliant, even if it was rather disconcerting with how he had gone about it.

         When more and more of Harry’s ability to think returned to him, he knew that he would have to really recalculate how he went about things. At least he knew that his precautions that he had taken for the summer in lying low had been warranted.

         Not only had Dumbledore directed the course of his life from the very beginning, but Harry was now positive that the man would continue to exert some form of control over him; both now and in the future.

         Although, despite how uncomfortable he was in knowing that Dumbledore had been and was this involved with his life – even if he didn’t know why - Harry couldn’t help but smile inside Petunia’s mind at just how much Dumbledore had given away.

         It was likely that Dumbledore wasn’t as careful with his words in that letter since he never expected them to ever be heard by someone else. Harry may not have known what protections had been used or the reason that Voldemort had not died, but he had a better place to start searching for those answers than he had had before.

         And he was certain that Dumbledore had been completely honest with what he had said to guilt Petunia into accepting him into her home because of the fact that those words were not expected to be heard by anyone else. Why go through the difficult of coming up with a lie when the truth worked so much better?

         The only thing that he couldn’t understand was why the man would go through all of this trouble to keep him safe. Why was he so important?

 

         “And why would Voldemort not rest until me and my family were killed?” Harry said to himself as the memory ended and he returned to his chair at the table.

         Petunia and Vernon were absentmindedly finishing their meals while Harry continued to deliberate over what he had just seen.

         “So the man really had known that Voldemort was still alive,” Harry confirmed his earlier feeling that Dumbledore really had used the Stone to lure the man out of hiding.

         Knowing the reason – and knowing the extent of the length of time that Dumbledore had known - was very different than just suspecting someone’s motivation for acting.

         He put his hands to his temples and rested his elbows on the table.

         “I just don’t understand where I fit into all of this,” Harry asked the million-dollar question again over his forgotten plate of food.

         The lingering question left over from his conversation with Dumbledore in the Hospital Wing and the examination of his life was starting to give him a very bad headache and he was still no closer to understanding things.

         He didn’t like that information had been withheld from him and he took several calming breaths in order to bring about his resolve that he would not rest until these very important questions had been answered.

         Apart from wondering why Voldemort had cared about the Potters and their child, he now had several that related to Dumbledore and his behavior.

         But he didn’t have the time to sit there and contemplate why that man thought so highly of himself that he needed to play God with other people’s lives.

         Thankfully, Harry had the newly-found knowledge that Petunia held another memory, and it was too tempting to pass up for much longer and with another flair of his magic, Harry entered her mind once more.

 

         It didn’t take him long to find this particular memory. No doubt the recent viewing of finding a young Harry Potter by Petunia’s subconscious had brought it towards the forefront of her underlying thoughts, and thus made it readily available to him.

         But as Harry appeared within it the first thing that he was hit with was the smell. It was another interesting side effect of being inside a person’s mind as a memory was being replayed. Odors were sometimes so strong or distinct that they were often an integral part of a memory, and impossible to disassociate with what had occurred.

         Therefore, Harry wasn’t surprised with the various aromas of tea that immediately attacked his nose; they were in a café after all. However, what did interest him was the predominant type of tea that he smelled.

         The only tea that Harry had ever sampled before going to Hogwarts was green tea, as it was the only tea that Petunia ever allowed in the house. Even after he had taken over the minds of his Aunt and Uncle, he never bothered himself with establishing mundane tasks like grocery shopping.

         The aroma of the green tea was very distinct from the notes of Earl Grey that he smelled now because that had become his drink of choice while in the castle.

         The combination of the strong smell that Petunia associated with this memory and her subsequent beverage choice made perfect sense to Harry from the moment he saw his mother sitting across from Petunia.

         She had stopped drinking Earl Grey because of this event, because of what Harry was about to see.

         Even with the obvious disguises that his mother wore, Harry instantly recognized her by the color of her eyes, which oddly hadn’t been changed. No matter that her hair was jet black and short, or that she wore a backwards baseball cap, it was that distinct shade of green that was an exact replica of his that gave her identity away.

         Harry moved around Petunia to get a closer look at the woman. Even with the attempt at concealing her true self, her innate beauty shown through. She held herself so very different from Petunia that it caused Harry to smirk because Lily had this natural grace about her that he always remembered Petunia trying to achieve but never quite being able to master.

         As he got closer to Lily, he noticed that she was constantly looking over Petunia’s shoulder from where she had a clear vantage point of the entire café.

         It showed that his mother was keeping an eye out for someone or something and gave Harry a general sense of the time period that they were in. Clearly, Lily and James must have already gone into hiding, though Harry wasn’t sure why his mother would have risked this meeting with her sister. Hadn’t she had a reputation as being exceedingly intelligent and hadn’t her relationship with her sister grown apart by this time?

         Although, he ultimately concluded that she must have made this gamble for old times sake, and he was soon proved right as Lily concentrated on Petunia and began to speak.

         “Tuney, thanks for meeting with me on such short notice. My apologies for using magic – but I wanted to make sure that you and only you got my note.”

         Petunia’s nostrils flared ever so briefly at the mention of the M word, but she was able to bite her tongue and inclined her head forward instead.

         “To be honest,” Lily continued,” I wasn’t sure that you would meet with me after what James did to Vernon at your wedding. He really can’t control himself sometimes when he thinks he can pull off a prank, and he sends his apologies. As do I.”

         Lily’s cheeks flushed and her searching eyes only added to her genuine attempt at an apology on behalf of James.

         It was clear from Petunia’s wrinkled nose that she almost couldn’t believe that she had come either, and made no effort to absolve Lily for what James had done to Vernon.

         Petunia had spent far too long trying to get the image of Vernon with donkey ears out of her mind for her to waste a single minute more thinking about it. Instead, she moved the conversation along with her cup of tea held in front of her face.

         “What do you want this time, Lily?” She bit out with more force than she had been intending.

         However, she didn’t regret it and took a quick sip of the hot tea, which didn’t help to lessen the building tension between them.

         Lily’s face fell from the harshness of her sister’s words but she pressed on with the reason that she had asked her sister to meet her.

         “I want you and your family to come live with us; I’m worried about you and want to know that you are safe.”

         Again, Lily’s eyes flicked around the room, making sure that no one was listening. Or worse.

         The request had not been something that Petunia had expected to hear.

         “M-my family?” she stumbled out.

         “What on earth would make you care about us, normal people?”

         Petunia wasn’t used to being so frank, but once she had begun her icy response she kept going with even more hurtful remarks.

         “Why would my family be in danger, anyways; does this have something to do with that silly little war of yours that you went and got yourself involved in?” she asked dismissively.

         It was impossible to miss just how differently Petunia viewed their worlds.

         “It affects us all,” Lily managed to get out in a hollow voice as she thought of the many friends that she had recently lost.

         Not all of them had been magical.

         But Lily wasn’t the one with the grudge and continued to try and mend the bond that Petunia had all but given up on repairing.

         “Something has happened, Tuney. James and I had to go into hiding, and he doesn’t even know that I am here.”

         Her voice was now steadier, as if a part of her knew that this was her final chance to connect with her sister.

         This was her last plea.

         “I just had to see you, to make sure that you are safe and to keep you safe. We’re family, Tuney, before anything else.”

         Petunia’s face softened for an instant before her nose turned upwards once more. There was simply no way that they would be able to live under one roof, and both of them knew it.

         Still, Lily pressed on and Harry just had to wonder why his mother continued to bother with someone who really didn’t matter or care. Petunia was a horrible person.

         “Please, Tuney. Lord Voldemort is coming for us, for Harry, and we enacted a powerful charm to keep him safe. Join us,” she pleaded for a final time as Harry found his heart beginning to beat faster.

         The conversation suddenly had his full attention.

         It was now all but confirmed in his mind that Voldemort had been after him and not his parents from the beginning.

         “That is ridiculous,” Petunia said while grasping her tea with both hands.

         “Why would someone be after an infant?” she shook her head with disdain.

         “Dumbledore…” Lily began before Petunia interrupted almost immediately.

         “Don’t you dare say that name!” her tone was deadly and her eyes had nearly gone black from rage.

         “Sorry,” Lily sighed, knowing how one of the best days of her life had been the worst one for Petunia.

         No matter how much time had passed, that distance between them because of Hogwarts and magic would never shorten.

         “We know he is after us, after Harry,” Lily said quietly with her face looking towards the table.

         “I just know he is the target, even if no one will tell us why. Call it a mother’s intuition.”

         Seconds passed as Harry waited with baited breath hoping that there was more; however, the next thing out of Lily’s mouth would forever change the way that he viewed the world.

         “If you ask me, I think a prophecy has been made. It’s the only thing that explains certain people’s behavior.”

         Lily had said that more for herself than Petunia, who had mostly just stopped listening after hearing about a baby being the target of a madman.

         This was crazier than some of the sordid novels she read that not even Vernon knew about.

         “Rubbish!” she scoffed before draining the last bit of her tea.

         She made to leave, snapping Harry out of the epiphany that he had just had. Because he knew in his heart that his mother had been right with her guess. It explained everything too well to not be true – even if it ultimately raised more questions that he now needed answered.

         “Goodbye, Lily,” Petunia stood, not even looking across the table.

         Harry turned his surprised face to catch the crestfallen look of Lily, who knew that this abrupt departure would likely be the final meeting between them.

         “Please!” Lily practically shouted, gaining the attention of everyone present.

         Petunia froze as she became the unwanted center of attention, before the curious glances of the onlookers drove her to the exit as quickly as her feet could take her.

         Harry spent the last few seconds left in the memory looking at his mother’s broken face as the images faded and he was forced back into the dining room at Privet Drive.

 

         Harry blinked his eyes as his consciousness returned to his physical body. There was a clarity in his mind now that had come from the revelation that a prophecy had been made.

         From the moment that he had heard those words leave his mother’s lips he knew that it was true and wondered why he hadn’t made the connection for himself. For Harry knew that Divination was a subject at Hogwarts and it offered such an easy explanation for certain events that he couldn’t believe he had never considered it, however illogical it might have seemed at the time.

         But he couldn’t be too hard on himself because while he was quite exceptional in almost every way, he was still twelve and didn’t have access to all of the information that would have led him to seriously consider that explanation. It would have been foolish for anyone to make such a rash conclusion based on not knowing all of the particulars.

         Of course, now that he was convinced a prophecy had been made, it was easy to guess what it had been about and then even easier to explain the actions of others.

         Most likely the prophecy had been about someone being a threat to the Dark Lord, and that he had acted to end that threat by targeting Harry’s parents and himself. From there, Dumbledore’s letter to Petunia now made sense – even if he didn’t know exactly what kind of protections had been laid – and Harry finally understood why the man, no both men, had taken such an interest in his life.

         Understandably, there were still some things that Harry didn’t know. Like how Dumbledore and Voldemort had come to learn that a prophecy had been made and what the actual words were. Did they both know the entire thing or just that one had been made? Based on Harry’s limited knowledge of such things, the wording was very important and often fully understood only after all of the events had come to pass.

         At least he now knew where he fit into everything.

         The hour grew late as Harry sat there going over what he had just learned in his mind, and his Aunt and Uncle had long since cleared the table and gone to bed.

         Ultimately, Harry knew that he there was still more to the story and it was futile to sit there any longer tonight. Hopefully, more of the details would continue to reveal themselves as time went on. That was the only thing he could hope for.

         One thing that was certain in his mind as he got up from the table, however, was that he needed to be even more careful at Hogwarts.

        


 

         Harry’s foot had barely touched down upon the cobblestones of Diagon Alley, finally entering the hidden wizarding community from the back of the Leaky Cauldron when Neville’s arms encircled around his waist.

         “Harry – I missed you,” Neville uttered with an intense longing.

         Normally the abrupt invasion of his personal space by another person would have resulted in an unconscious and swift retaliation by his magic, but Harry welcomed the embrace without question because it brought with it an end to the feeling of being partially incomplete.

         That missing sensation of dominance was no more as Neville’s magic mixed and then instantly bowed to Harry’s superior might. Harry quickly felt whole, unstoppable, and for a short time forgot about the manipulations of Dumbledore.

         And Harry wasn’t the only one affected by them being together again; in fact it was quite obvious that their reunion had had a bigger impact on Neville with the brief shiver that caused the other boy’s shoulders to shudder several times.

         “Neville,” was Harry’s only response, pulling out of the hug and looking his friend up and down.

         To anyone else it would have sounded normal, but both Harry and Neville knew that there was a possessive tone to it, an affectionate one, and their magic hummed along in agreement.

         But Neville wasn’t the only one that belonged to Harry because Justin soon embraced Harry in the same manner. The addition of his magic, though not as strong as Neville’s, still made Harry feel better than he had in months. He may not have understood why these two affected him so or how it had gotten to this point, but they made him feel stronger and more capable and they would never be far from his side if he could help it.

         “Hope you had a good summer,” Justin said before moving to stand on Harry’s left.    

         “It was very educational,” Harry supplied, straightening his shirt while Neville drifted to his right side.

         “How so?” Neville inquired.

         Together him and Justin were following ever so slightly behind Harry as they made their way closer to where Neville’s vulture-loving grandmother and Justin’s parents were waiting.

         “Let’s just say that we are going to be very busy this year,” Harry said under his breath as they joined the adults.

         He couldn’t explain why he had said that to them or even how he had come to the conclusion that he would eventually share some of his secrets with them, only that his magic – and by extent their magic – agreed with it. There was no other option.

         It just felt right, and since one of the only things that Harry trusted in this world was his magic he went with it.

         Whatever linked them continued to be present and strong while introductions were made before the adults led them to Gringotts. The sensation did gradually lesson in intensity throughout the day as they got their gold and made the first of their purchases for their second year at Hogwarts.

         As the day progressed, however, it quickly drifted into the back of their minds, and when the entered Flourish and Blotts their connection had almost been entirely forgotten about.

         Except that for Harry, as long as they were close he knew exactly where they were.

         Which helped with the obscene amount of people that were crammed into his favorite store.

         “Why is this place so packed?” Justin questioned as they dodged a throng of people pushing their way past.

         “No idea,” Neville answered while noticing that many of the patrons were female and all smiling stupidly in a single direction.

         “It’s a book signing for an author,” Harry said upon glancing at one of the posters.

         “Come on, let’s go upstairs and wait until it dies down. I think some of our required texts are up there anyways.”

         Justin and Neville moved to follow Harry, but fate it seemed had other ideas.

         Just then, Gilderoy Lockhart made his entrance from the back of the shop to the delight of the majority of the crowd.

         “Oh, there he is!” a woman squealed with delight, leading a crowd that blocked their path to the stairs.

         Harry was seriously considering using his magic to make the herd part when something happened that hadn’t occurred in some time: someone noticed him and thought that it was a big deal.

         “It can’t be,” a handsome voice practically sang, rising above the din of the bookshop.

         “Harry Potter!” the same voice cried again.

         Immediately, someone grabbed his arm and it wasn’t Justin or Neville. Harry’s patience was wearing thin as he was jostled through the crowd. The only thing that prevented him from responding with force was the look that both of his friends were giving the reporter from the Daily Prophet.

         It was downright chilling, and it soothed Harry’s magic.

         Harry allowed himself to be led to the focal point of the shop where Gilderoy Lockhart, the man of the hour, quickly wrapped his right arm around Harry’s shoulder and presented him to the crowd.

         “Nice big smile, Harry,” said Lockhart with his unnaturally white teeth already on display.

         “Together, you and I are worth the front page.”

         Moments later, several clicks of the camera flashed before his eyes – and it took every ounce of willpower that he had not to punish those closest to him.

         When the bright light of the camera finished, Harry stared out into the crowd trying to find the faces of Neville and Justin to calm him further.

         He spotted them standing very close to Ron Weasley, who was among the sea of red hair and freckles that belonged to the whole Weasley brood.

         And for some reason that he couldn’t explain, Ron Weasley had a very envious expression on his face. Did the idiot want to trade places with him?

         But he didn’t have long to fixate on the adoring mass of people who were looking at him in ways that he had tried for the past year to correct, because the man with his arm draped across his back soon began to make matters even worse.

         “Ladies and gentlemen,” his smooth voice quieted the crowd.

         “What an extraordinary moment this day turned out to be! I do believe it is in fact the perfect opportunity to inform you all of a little something that I arranged in the beginning of the summer.”

         The crowd was well and truly hanging on Lockhart’s every word, and even with how angry Harry was at being the center of attention he had to begrudgingly admit that the man was nothing if not a great orator.

         It helped Harry to focus on not unleashing pain on the man; there were far too many witnesses present.

         “When young Harry here stepped into Flourish and Blotts today, he never dreamed of getting anything more than my autograph – which I shall give free of charge!”

         Harry could almost hear the perfect smile that the man flashed the crowd as they continued to eat up every word.

         “In fact, he could never have dreamt that he would be getting that and so much more – including my complete set or authored works, again free of charge.”

         The crowd was now ravenous and Harry was struggling to contain his outward appearance. But he willed himself to focus on the larger picture and told himself that even more damage would be done if he didn’t act like his Hufflepuff self, trying to shy away from the spotlight.

         “But even that,” Gilderoy continued, “is nothing compared to what young Harry here and his classmates will be getting come September. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that after much pestering I have consented to take up the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”

         The crowd erupted into a frenzy and with the announcement over Harry was pushed out of the spotlight as Gilderoy basked in the praise of his fans.

         His friends were immediately by his side to claim him.

         “Are you all right?” Neville seethed as Justin positioned himself to give Harry space from everyone else.

         Their connection momentarily intensified as they were standing apart from the crowd, which was now only interested in Gilderoy and his autograph. Though others may have hoped for more than just an autograph.

         “Not here,” Harry managed to say with a calmer mind, shoving the heavy volume of Lockhart-penned books into his bottomless satchel.

         Neville didn’t need to hear more and he quickly led Harry towards the front of the store where the exit was.

         But again they found that their path had been blocked, and Justin and Neville stood just in front of Harry to separate him from Lucius Malfoy and Arthur Weasley. Apparently, Ron and a smirking Draco Malfoy had been trading words and their parents had needed to intervene.

         “Well, well, well – it’s Arthur Weasley.”

         Harry knew at once that it was Lucius Malfoy, Draco’s father. No one else could be that impeccably dressed, never mind that Draco looked liked a miniature version of him as Lucius stood by his son’s side.

         However, Harry was more interested in the calculated look that Draco was giving him.

         It made him wonder if Draco had witnessed his interaction with their new professor; if anyone had been able to see beneath Harry’s exterior it was Draco and Harry wouldn’t have been surprised if he had.

         After their first year in the castle, Draco was a close third behind Snape and Dumbledore in terms of the people that he was wary of.

         But now wasn’t the time to dwell on that as tensions rose in the bookshop.

         “Lucius,” Harry heard Ron’s father say in a cold and icy manner.

         “Busy time at the Ministry for your department; are all those raids really necessary?”

         The tall blond was in his element; Lucius could run circles around Arthur.

         “Tsk, tsk,” Lucius smiled unnervingly.

         The older Malfoy reached into what had to be the cauldron of Ron’s younger sister and removed a tattered schoolbook.

         “All that work and you aren’t even getting overtime. Pity.” His smile turned predatory.

         “Such a disgrace for a wizard,” Lucius said, dropping the worn book back into the girl’s cauldron.

         Arthur responded to Lucius’ insult, but Harry didn’t hear what the man had said.

         Because just then Harry felt something touch his magic and it nearly stopped his heart.

         It was so familiar, so comforting that it was like finding a thousand other Nevilles and Justins to add their magic to his. The way his magic reacted to whatever had touched it felt like he was just coming into contact with a part of him that he had been separated from for many years. He had never known that such a feeling was possible or had felt so whole in his entire life; it was exhilarating.

         A strong shiver raced throughout his entire body and it reverberated through Justin and Neville as well, who tilted their heads in response to feeling what Harry was feeling.

         “What is that?” Justin whispered eagerly, straining his head to try and see anything that could explain the sheer power that they were all currently experiencing.

         “I don’t know,” said Harry, struggling to catch his breath.

         He was also looking around the room with a hungry look in his eyes, and he began to fear – for the first time in a long while – that he would not find the source of the single-greatest sensation that had ever passed through him.

         They began to move through the crowd as the fight between Lucius and Arthur dispersed and each party went their separate way. However, just as it did the feeling went away and Harry nearly stumbled as he was suddenly left feeling woefully incomplete.

         “We have to find it,” Harry said in a distressed voice, which caused Neville and Justin to canvas the bookshop with greater speed and determination.

         Harry joined in as well, even sending out tendrils of his magic without regard to the consequences of others noticing in the hopes that he recovered that feeling to understand what had just happened.

         Despite their efforts, they never felt that sensation again. It was extremely disappointing and Harry could only conclude that it had either been someone or something that had been in and then left Flourish and Blotts.

         To top it all off, Harry’s scar had begun to ache slightly for the first time in his life; however, he was too distracted to pay it much attention.

         “What do we do now?” Neville said, turning to Harry with a look of utter failure in his eyes.

         Harry had never felt so weak, but the fierceness of Justin and Neville’s loyalty caused their magic to flair up in an attempt to fill this unexpected void.

         The added strength managed to refocus him and his magic responded by extending outward to bathe the other two in his considerable might.

         Both Neville and Justin shivered again, further making it less and less likely that they would ever abandon Harry as he responded in a commanding voice.

         “It’s just one more thing that we have to figure out, and we will.”

         They stood there for a moment before gathering themselves and then went in search of Neville and Justin’s families to finish purchasing their schoolbooks. For the rest of the day they were a little down, and were only able to separate and go their separate ways because they would be leaving for Hogwarts in less than a week.

         Still, it was more difficult for Harry to separate from them than he had let on; especially after experiencing something so singularly monumental that it had left him reeling. In some ways, he gathered that it felt similar to what life would be like without magic after having known the indescribable joy of using it.

         The entire bus ride home he struggled to find any semblance to the person that he had been before venturing into Flourish and Blotts.

         As Harry walked back home from the bus stop, he couldn’t help but think that the completeness that he had felt in Flourish and Blotts had had something to do with Dumbledore, Voldemort, and the prophecy that had been dominating his thoughts all summer. What else could it have been?

         It was just how they were all connected and what this meant for his future and how he would have to act that he had yet to figure out.

         “So much to do,” Harry sighed upon entering the front door and heading up the stairs.

         But everything could wait; right now he just wanted to close his eyes and rest.

         He opened the door to his room and moved to fling his bag onto the bed when he realized that he wasn’t alone.

         With the events of the day already weighing heavily on his mind and the absence of Neville and Justin’s calming presence, Harry was not able to think before acting.

         Therefore, a tendril of his magic erupted from his center and flew towards the unknown entity sitting on his bed.

         Only after he recognized it as a house-elf did his magical flair die down and retreat back into his center, but not before he thought that he remembered feeling a magical signature like this before.

         From what he knew about house-elves, their magic was tied to the family that they served. Therefore, if the elf’s magic seemed familiar, it could only be because Harry had encountered a member of the family that it served.

         Except that his brain wasn’t able to place it, it just wasn’t distinct enough.

         No matter, it still told him something and he stood up to his full height and engaged the elf.

         “Hello,” Harry said as polite as he could muster given his current temperament.

         “Harry Potter!” the elf squeaked after being released from Harry’s invisible hold.

         “Dobby didn’t mean to frighten you, sir,” the elf bowed down.

         “Harry Potter is indeed a powerful wizard,” the elf continued with his nose on Harry’s comforter.

         In that moment Harry was mainly concerned that the elf would reveal what he was capable of to this unknown family of his, and he sought to do as much damage control as possible.

         “Dobby, you say? I am sorry if I startled you. My magic sometimes has a mind of its own when I am caught off guard. I suppose it is a self-defense mechanism or something. I’m sure all wizards have it.”

         He paused and then looked at the elf with warm eyes.

         “Are you okay?”

         Harry reinforced his gentle disposition and moved towards the elf, but the widening of the elf’s already giant eyes made him stop.

         “Harry Potter is even greater than Dobby has heard. Apologizing to me, a house-elf?”

         Large tears started to form in Dobby’s eyes and Harry could only close his own eyes and sigh. He should have seen this coming; he went too far.

         “Never mind, Dobby, is there a reason that you are here?”

         Harry moved to prevent the elf from prostrating itself in front of him.

         “How were you able to get in here anyways? From what I know about house-elves, you are bound to your master’s home, correct? I wonder how you were able to get into another wizard’s home without permission. Or am I missing something here?”

         It was calculated on Harry’s part, but he did wonder if Privet Drive had wards and if anyone or anything could cross them. Just because he couldn’t feel anything around the house didn’t mean that it didn’t exist.

         “Harry Potter is very wise to know of such things, and he is correct. Normally, house-elves cannot enter another wizard’s home except without explicit permission. However, in this case, it isn’t technically a wizard’s home; though, there is something different about this place. Something that Dobby cannot put his finger on.”

         The elf looked genuine and so Harry took him as his word.

         “But Harry Potter doesn’t have to worry. Dobby would never betray him, sir. Dobby could never betray the wizard who ended the reign of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Terrible times those were.”

         The elf shuddered, and Harry had to fight to not role his eyes. He had heard enough about the Dark Lord this summer.

         Harry took a deep breath and moved to change the direction of the conversation.

         “I guess it’s because this is my Aunt’s home,” he said steering clear of Dobby’s confirmation that there was indeed some form of protection in place.

         “Now, is there a reason for your visit?”

         The elf hobbled off the bed and came to stand before him with his ears drooped low.

         “Dobby has come to warn Harry Potter. Terrible things are to happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year. You must not return!”

         Dobby’s eyes were pleading with him while he considered the elf’s statement. Something told him that this was connected to whatever he had just felt in Flourish and Blotts. It would have been a very odd coincidence for them to not be related.

         “Dobby, I’m a wizard; I have to continue my schooling.”

         Harry said the next part carefully.

         “Though, do you know what will happen?”

         Dobby’s posture immediately grew uncomfortable as the magic that binded him to his master prevented him from speaking the secrets of the family that he served.

         The elf clutched his throat and shook his head, making an awful lot of noise in the process.

         “It’s all right,” Harry lied soothingly.

         “I take it that you can’t tell me because your master bid you not to?”

         The internal struggle of the elf ended and he was able to nod.

         Harry sighed, really not in the mood for any of this. He had just wanted to come home and sleep. It was literally one thing after another.

         Eventually though, there had been enough back and forth interaction and answering of questions between them that Harry was able to discern that Voldemort – in some way, shape, or form – was the one who would be responsible for the upcoming calamity.

         Of course, it had been difficult to extract even that from the elf who fought him at every turn because of the bond. In the end though, Dobby wasn’t able to convince Harry not to attend, but did make the boy promise to be careful and to leave at the first sign of trouble.

         Not a magical promise, however.

         It was clear that even though the elf was bound to someone else that he viewed Harry Potter in much higher regards.

         Dobby even went so far as to pledge himself to him as long as it didn’t go against any specific orders that his other family gave him.

         All in all, it was simply one more thing for Harry to think about as the elf left and he was finally able to get to sleep.


        

         That took longer to get out than I had hoped, but I am quite happy with how the story is progressing. Harry got to have his first glimpse of Tom and found out all sorts of things that he shouldn’t have. Take that Dumbledore!

         I have always wanted to see what a better-equipped Harry was capable of and now we will find out. Hope you stick around to see what second year and on will bring and thank you all for taking the time to read, comment, or follow. Much appreciated.

         Let me know your thoughts.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Just wanted to say that my time for writing doesn’t look to be getting any better. Work has me traveling several times a month now and I move into my new house in a few weeks. But I did manage to write this chapter when my flight got delayed for several hours.

Anyways, I hope to have more dedicated time to write this and The Chamber’s Secret soon.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

            Hogwarts.

Harry had been waiting the entire summer to set his eyes on the castle again.

This place was his home and where he felt the strongest and most in tune with his magic. And not just because he had Neville and Justin next to him, his magic humming contently as it mingled with theirs.

            Because just looking upon the tall, lighted turrets that rose high into the night sky made his mind calmer, which he was in need of after the incident on the train.

            At least Harry was almost positive that something had happened on the train. It wasn’t like experiencing, even if only for a matter of seconds, that sensation from Flourish and Blotts for the second time was an everyday occurrence. For Harry would never forget how every fiber of his being had been awakened in that bookstore to the knowledge that something else existed in this world that complemented him so spectacularly.

Never before had he felt like something else was equal to him; that made him feel like he wasn’t alone.

Ever since Flourish and Blotts it had been difficult for Harry to not fixate on examining what that meant.

So there was still some doubt that lingered in his mind, since it wasn’t like he could have fully explored the train as he would have liked. Directing his magic outwards to search each and every compartment would have been ill-advised given all that he had done the previous year in keeping his prodigious abilities secret.

            In fact, it was all he could do at the time to keep Neville and Justin seated after his companions briefly experienced that sensation of utter bliss for the second time as well. Both of them had been adamant that they be allowed to go and find whatever was the cause of that most unusual and otherworldly feeling. Based on their reaction it was clear that they longed to know what was happening just as badly as he was; if not more so because they wanted to make Harry happy.

            Except that Harry had already been in a lot of situations in which he had needed to think quickly before acting, and so he was able to keep his wits about him.

Which was a good thing in that particular moment and his magic was all too ready to persuade both Neville and Justin to remain by his side in their compartment.

Of course, he also hadn’t wanted to get into the habit of just using his magic with his boys. Something about that just hadn’t sat right with him. Especially not with how delicate some of the issues before them were. Harry needed to trust that they would be able to control themselves in the future using their own volition when he wasn’t there to supervise and rein them in

            “If that is the same thing that we first felt at the bookstore,” Harry had then said to them slowly, “then it is likely coming to Hogwarts with us and we will have plenty of time to tease apart everything about it that is worth knowing.”

            The urgency in their eyes for action began to lessen.

“Right now it is more important that we do not act in a rash and misguided manner.”

            That had been his final word on the topic, though in truth each of them had spent the rest of the trip on the Hogwarts Express thinking about why and how their magic was desperate to learn what was causing Harry to react to it in such a curious way.

            And those internal thoughts continued until they were alone and waiting for the last carriage to take them to the castle.

            “Do you really think that whatever is causing that feeling is coming to the castle?” Neville broke the long silence as their horseless ride began to lurch forward.

            Justin’s eyes, meanwhile, were focused on Harry. Even in the dimly lit carriage he knew exactly where Harry was seated.

For that was where Harry’s magic was coming from and he was so firmly and completely under the thrall of Harry’s magic now that he wanted nothing more than to bask in the increased ecstasy that Harry’s magic had given off in the bookstore and again on the train.

He too desperately wanted to find whatever it was that they were looking for and never let it go.

            And the sooner the better so that he could enjoy it longer.

            “I was sure that I had felt it again on the train,” Harry remarked in a quiet voice to the other two.

            However, his thoughts were so focused on Neville’s question that he didn’t even question the obvious magic in play that brought the trio ever closer to the castle. His magic was being held too close to his body for him to notice the faint and cold pulse that lingered in the otherwise warm breeze.

Harry didn’t want to admit it but a small bit of doubt was nagging at him. The feeling on the train had been slightly too brief for him to be one-hundred percent certain, and afterwards he had had a difficult time in being rational about the whole thing. However, the reactions that Neville and Justin had to it had made him feel like that entire thing most likely hadn’t been imagined.

            Which was good because he had never wanted anything more in his short life; it was unnerving.

            But Neville and Justin were simply not used to seeing Harry question himself or his abilities like this and it made them nervous.

            They didn’t like it one bit and as the carriage deposited them and their belongings, each boy silently pledged to do anything and everything in their power to get to the bottom of this.

For their Harry, there was nothing in this world that they wouldn’t do – and in the years to come they would demonstrate that, time and time again.

            The trio made no small talk while making the short journey to the Great Hall and took their places at the end of the Hufflepuff table, as far from Dumbledore and the other assembled professors as possible.

            Because that was another thing that Harry would have to deal with, especially with the recent realization that a prophecy likely existed that connected him to a still-living Dark Lord. One that Dumbledore had probably known about since before Harry had even been born and had been using to inform all of his past and present decisions that involved the direction of his life. Most recently, that included using the Sorcerer’s Stone as bait to prove that the Dark Lord hadn’t died that Halloween night over a decade ago.

            Quite frankly, Harry just wasn’t up to thinking about all of that in the presence of the meddling Headmaster and his present group that included mostly confusing and inept teachers.

But even if he had it in him to contemplate everything that seemed to gravitate around him, he would not have had that long to think about it.

For at that moment, the massive doors to the Great Hall were opened and Professor McGonagall stepped through the ornate wooden frame with the first years in tow. The newest members of Hogwarts soon passed only a few feet away from where Harry and his friends were sitting since Hufflepuff sat at one of the two tables closet to the center of the hall.

            And it was then that Harry felt that completeness to his magic once more, and his reaction to it had been stronger than either of the two previous times.

            As certain as he could ever be about anything in this world, a growing pulse of something so delicious and wicked mingled with all of his senses. His own magic responded to it in kind and Neville and Justin were overwhelmed with the remnants of the power cascading through their bond with Harry.

It was intoxicating and for a brief moment both Neville and Justin’s eyes were speckled with the same shade of emerald green that also flared within Harry’s own eyes.

            Again, the only thing that allowed Harry to remain where he sat on the other side of the table was that he needed to use every ounce of magic and control that he possessed to root Neville and Justin to the floor. Because from the moment that they had felt the mysterious force that harmonized with Harry’s magic so perfectly, their bodies were slaves to the euphoric pulses that ebbed between Harry and the group of first years.

            It had demanded action from Neville and Justin.

Their only thoughts were to follow the powerful ripples to the source while Harry couldn’t even begin to contemplate what it all meant and why this was happening.

Despite his own, almost overwhelming reaction to this new connection, Harry wasn’t exactly in a position to attempt to figure out what could possible be behind this sense of infinite power. Especially when he was soon forced to prevent his boys from drawing unwanted attention to what was happening.

If Harry hadn’t of reacted so quickly then it was likely that Neville and Justin would have tackled and then searched each and every first year right then and there.

And Harry didn’t want to create a scene like that, not in the Great Hall or anywhere inside the castle where someone could witness it. Particularly when he knew in the back of his mind that he would be able to get to the bottom of this as long as whatever it was remained in the castle, some how or another.

In truth it was a testament to the patience that he had developed during his beginning years at the Dursleys as to how he was able to smartly think about just how close he was to discovering what this unexplained turn of events was.

For as long it remained at Hogwarts then he would find it – and as the Welcoming Feast was just beginning, he would have an entire year in which to do so.

Which all in all made him feel better that he hadn’t imagined what had happened on the train. It wasn’t normal for him to doubt himself, but when confronted with something so tantalizing like this event was, well …

At any rate, it was enough to satisfy and even rid the small amount of doubt that had grown in his mind for the time being.

He just had to convince the other two of that.

“Neville, Justin, control yourselves,” Harry whispered harshly when the first years had passed and the feeling diminished.

For good measure he also increased the amount of magic that he had previously encircled around the pair to prevent them from tackling any of the first years.

Almost instantly he felt the change go through them as they calmed from the soothing qualities that his own magic supplied, and carefully, Harry’s eyes darted to the right and down the length of the hall to see if anyone had noticed his rare but public uses of magic in corralling his friends.

Thankfully, all of the eyes in the hall – including those of the Headmaster and Snape – were fixated on the group who were now waiting to be sorted.

“Sorry,” Justin said in a meek and ashamed manner.

His cheeks were red and he struggled to meet Harry’s eyes when his attention returned to his friends sitting on the other side of the table.

Both of the boys felt like they had failed Harry, so soon after being reunited with him after a very, very long summer of being without the support and encouragement of his powerful magic.

Though, Harry, seeing this as something that was inevitable given their novice magic skills, decided to use this event as a teachable moment.

He wanted, no, needed them to be better in the future.

It wasn’t like he relished the idea of taking time away from his own studies, but their education was necessary if they were going to continue to be around him; especially with the peculiar information that he had pilfered from his Aunt’s mind over the summer.

And if there was one thing that he was sure of – besides his unlimited potential – it was that his life was just full of surprises and that there was no indication that that was going to change anytime soon.

Therefore, it was crucial that Justin and Neville begin immediately under his tutelage; it wasn’t just their minds that he needed to strengthen anymore.

Their reaction had almost drawn unwanted attention to himself, even more than he already had been forced to deal with in response to the front page picture of Lockhart and himself that had appeared in the Daily Prophet forever capturing the moment of their ill-fated meeting in Flourish and Blotts.

If it weren’t for his inhuman self-control, his patience would have worn out on the train ride over as small groups of people had passed by his compartment to interrupt and ask how he had been so lucky as to find himself on Lockhart’s arm.

Many of them just couldn’t believe how fortunate he was and it was the sort of notoriety that he had spent a great deal of his first year trying to discourage.

            “Don’t worry: we’ll deal with it,” Harry replied a voice that he used just with them.

It was calm and collected and as honest as Harry could ever be with someone not on his level.

            “So much has happened that controlling oneself is difficult; however, we do need to address both it and other things as well.”

            The boys’ faces had softened considerably with Harry’s encouraging words and demeanor, and with the hall so focused on the sorting of the first years Harry continued in a low voice without fear of being overheard.

            “In fact, how about we start tonight. We can wait in the common room as the new Hufflepuffs join us. Perhaps we will even get lucky and whatever or whoever is causing those mysterious feelings will be sorted into Hufflepuff.”

            An understanding of what Harry was getting at passed through both Justin and Neville’s faces and a smile graced their lips.

“And if we don’t feel it again, then only three houses remain.”

One way or another they would at least learn something about the possible cause of what was calling to them so fiercely.

            “In the meantime,” Harry encouraged with just the smallest of licks of his own magic at the pair, “let’s not stand out in any way for the rest of the meal.”

            The other boys nodded their heads in solemn unison and the trio turned their heads to watch the rest of the sorting. Although Harry was focusing on the hat, his mind was in overdrive trying to anticipate his next step. If there was one thing that he didn’t want to have happen, it was the involvement of Albus Dumbledore during this delicate time.

            Because he and his unknown machinations were something that Harry couldn’t completely figure out and he didn’t want them anywhere near what he clearly saw as belonging to him.

            While the hiding of his parents and the prophecy seemed straightforward, and he supposed that included the luring of Voldemort out of hiding using the Stone as bait, too many unknown variables remained. In the end there was still too much that Harry was positive was being withheld from him to make any sort of appropriate conclusions.

Like the man giving him his Invisibility Cloak and constant behind-the-scene maneuvers, including directing him to a mirror to see what Harry’s true desire was. Something about that troubled him, but Harry was faced with the more pressing and troublesome concerns over the old man’s reprehensible choices for faculty.

It defied logic and made him question even the simplest of deductions.

            As the sorting finished and the feast began, Harry concluded for the umpteenth time that he simply needed more information before he could answer anything.

            In the meantime, Harry took up the mask that had become second nature for himself within the confines of the castle’s walls. His efforts of maintaining the reserved but approachable air about him would be essential for the next few weeks to undo the damage done by Gilderoy Lockhart bringing the Boy Who Lived back into the conversation. And so he wasted no time as slowly but surely some of the other student’s attention turned back to him throughout the meal.

            Except that this time Harry didn’t have to go about this by himself. Neville and Justin may not have known all of the reasons for why Harry acted liked he did, but their part in the conversations with the curious students only enhanced Harry’s efforts at making him seem uninteresting.

            It was so effective that by the time dinner was over hardly anyone was asking him how he had managed to get himself on Lockhart’s arm for a photo. It also helped that Gilderoy was at Hogwarts now in the flesh and preening over all of the attention that the student’s were giving him from where he sat at the teacher’s table.

The Boy Who Lived just couldn’t compete with the famed author of Magical Me.

            Which suited Harry perfectly and with his friends in tow they quickly headed down to Hufflepuff once the feast was over.

            In fact, they were the first of the returning students to enter and they had their choice of seating options. Harry naturally wanted to be in the corner where he could watch the new students enter unobserved.

            Over the next few minutes there was a constant trickle of older years entering. Most either headed to their rooms for the night or just wanted to drop something off before heading back out with their friends in tow to take advantage of the castle without having had any significant amount of homework due yet.

Of course, a few students took advantage of the open chairs by the fire and sat near them, but the sudden arrival of Cedric Diggory soon captured Harry’s attention.

The newly-minted fourth year had grown even more handsome over the summer and as Harry had been going through some changes himself now that he was twelve, he suddenly found himself with a very dry throat.

“Hi, Harry!” the good-natured and seemingly perfect voice of Cedric sounded.

“And your Neville, and J-justin, right?” he finished standing right in from of them.

The boys nodded while Harry returned pleasantries. Cedric may not have been on the same intellectual level as Harry but he sure was pretty, and Harry needed to focus on not allowing his voice to crack in his presence.

“Cedric, a pleasure as always. I trust that your summer was enjoyable?”

Cedric smiled and nodded, impressed with how mature and engaging the younger Potter was.

“It was great! Dad took us to Greece for two weeks while he had to work. I could swim in those clear blue waters all day.”

“Wow, I wish my parents took me to Greece. Most exotic place we got to was Paris for my cousin’s wedding,” Justin lamented as his eyes searched for Cedric’s lingering tan.

Harry wasn’t the only person that thought that Cedric was attractive.

“Still, Paris sounds like fun,” Cedric flashed his winning smile towards the group.

“Well, I just wanted to stop by and say hi. I think I’m meeting some friends in the courtyard – enjoy the last few nights with no homework, you know?”

The boys all nodded, but Cedric apparently remembered that he had more to say and focused on Harry.

“Oh, I almost forgot. I know it’s a ways away but I’m in charge of the Buddy System this year. Part of that means planning for the following year, and I was wondering if you had given it any thought?”

“Oh,” Harry mouthed quietly, somewhat caught off-guard by the request.

“I hadn’t really thought about it until now.”

“Of course you hadn’t,” Cedric shook his head and smiled while Harry contemplated things.

“But still, think about it, will you? I just know you would be great at it.”

“All right, I will,” Harry agreed and smiled at then he smiled at Cedric warmly with his eyes.

It wasn’t like the idea of chaperoning some idiot child thrilled him, but something about the way Cedric had said it intrigued him. He would have to think about it more.

Though, Cedric lingered for a moment, something about the color of Harry’s eyes drawing him in. In fact, Cedric was positive that Harry’s eyes were practically shinning with the most brilliant emerald color that he had ever seen.

What was most interesting to Cedric though was that in that moment he had never felt so calm. It was like being next to Harry was good for him and something that he should do more often. Only he didn’t know what it meant and why it was happening to him now; it wasn’t like this was the first time that he had been in his presence.

Except to be honest, he didn’t really care about the whys and the hows of it all; the feeling of calmness and wholeness was more important and overrode those unnecessary concerns.

Neville and Justin picked up on what was happening almost immediately, having recently gone through a similar experience if they were reading the look on Cedric’s face correctly. They looked to each other and wondered how soon Cedric would become a more permanent part of their group since neither of them could imagine being away from Harry for a considerable length of time.

Harry, however, was oblivious to what was going on. Ever since he had seriously considered the potential benefits of the Buddy System and what it could do for him he had been lost in thought and barely noticed the longing that was clearly in Cedric’s gray eyes.

Suddenly, one of Cedric’s friends had just come back from the dorms and called to Cedric, shaking him out of his reverie.

Cedric’s eyes flicked about the room and settled on Harry once more, his smile falling slightly as he waved and then turned to head out the room.

The motion of Cedric’s departure caused Harry to come back to the present and his eyes followed Cedric out of Hufflepuff just as the first years entered.

Instantly Harry’s eyes narrowed in on the group that trailed behind the new fifth-year Prefects.

His magic was waiting with baited breath as the last student entered, waiting patiently for the feeling to return so that it could be examined more closely.

Justin and Neville were instantly on either side of his chair, and they were hoping beyond hope that the feeling of ecstasy would overwhelm them again. If for no other reason, they would remain with Harry for the rest of their lives just to experience the sheer delight and elation one last time.

But soon the minutes began to tick by and nothing out of the ordinary was felt.

Harry hid his brief disappointment behind the knowledge that at least whatever or whoever that was causing it was at Hogwarts and most likely had been sorted to a different house.

“Come on,” Harry said quietly to his dismayed but loyal supporters.

Neville and Justin followed Harry’s lead outside of the common room and into the darker halls of the castle.

“I really had hoped that it would have been that easy, that it would have come to us,” Justin said as Harry continued to direct where they were going.

“Yes, that would have been easier,” Harry agreed.

They soon passed by where most of the Hufflepuffs usually turned on their way to class or towards the Great Hall and headed down a far less trodden corridor. At that moment Harry stopped and turned to face the slightly bemused expressions of Justin and Neville.

“But sometimes it is a good thing that circumstances give us a challenge.”

The flickering torch that was behind Harry only added to how his friends saw him, one that his magic took advantage of. But it wasn’t because Neville and Justin needed to be persuaded to follow Harry anymore.

In fact, since Harry had been denied the use of his wand over the summer, it had only been in his interest – and was far more natural to him anyways – to hone his prodigious ability with wandless magic.

In this case, Harry wanted to be sure that what he said to them while in Hogwarts would stay between them and not be overheard by others within the castle.

“I discovered this part of the castle last year. I have been using one unused room in particular that I plan on showing you guys now. I think it would be in our best interest to really hone up on our magic skills this year. I, for one, never want to be in the situation that we found ourselves in at the end of last year.”

“I completely agree, Harry,” Neville said instantly.

Harry blinked his eyes and gave a small nod forward in response before turning to Justin.

“You know I’m in. It terrified me to think that Quirrell almost…”

But he wasn’t able to finish and looked off to the side.

Harry watched with interest as Neville turned to look at Justin and put his arm around the other boy’s back. Justin turned his head to look at Neville.

“Don’t worry, Justin, we won’t let that happen again.”

The whole thing was quite interesting to Harry, who had never tried to win over someone’s, let alone two people’s loyalty like this.

But here they were, standing in an isolated and basically unknown part of the castle and with Neville’s support Justin was able to face Harry again.

This time his eyes didn’t shy away and he finished what he wanted to say.

“Let’s go learn some magic,” he said with confidence.

Harry eyed them both once over, acknowledging each with a slight but significant forward incline of his head.

“Yes,” Harry finally said with a slight smirk.

“Let’s go learn some magic.”

 


 

A few days later the term officially started and Harry and his friends were sitting in their usual seats at the end of the Hufflepuff table. Normally breakfast was not the most animated of times, but today was an exception with the heads of houses handing out timetables.

A quick check of the ones that Professor Sprout gave them indicated that they would start their second year off with a back-to-back helping of Herbology. From there they would have History of Magic and then lunch before embarking on Transfiguration and then ending with double Potions.

At least they would be getting Potions out of the way sooner rather than later.

When they finished eating, they gathered their bags and quickly headed to their common room to collect the books that they would need for the day. From there they headed to the greenhouses, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that they would be starting the year off in greenhouse three.

It wasn’t like working on more interesting plants would suddenly make Herbology more exciting to Harry but it certainly made it less boring. Neville, however, was over the moon with their good fortune and they spent their double block potting and repotting Mandrakes.

The double period actually moved quicker than Harry had thought it would and the second-year Hufflepuffs soon found themselves in History of Magic.

It was a good thing that they had this class before lunch and not after it, because Harry was sure that even he would have fallen asleep against the monotonous droning on by Professor Binns.

He then briefly wondered if Binns even noticed that students left for the summer. It wouldn’t have surprised him if the ghost had kept giving lectures all summer.

After a quick lunch and then an interesting beginning to Transfiguration the trio headed down into the dungeons to begin their double hell of Potions.

However, as they rounded the final corner and caught the familiar draft of cold they ran into a most unusual sight and stopped in their tracks.

All of the other Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws that had also been heading to Potions came to a standstill as well to observe the anomaly of Professors Lockhart and Snape talking.

And judging by the thin outline of Snape’s mouth, it was not going well.

However, the growing body of students soon ended the adult’s conversation and Lockhart turned with an excessive amount of white teeth showing.

Unfortunately, Harry was right in the man’s path and Lockhart clearly couldn’t help himself.

“Oh, look who it is! The lucky, little boy that graced the cover of the Daily Prophet with me.”

The showy man walked towards him and patted him on the head as he walked by before addressing the group.

“Just having a scholarly debate with Severus about the use of certain Potions that I have used in my travels. I think it will make him a better teacher to know of novel ways that they can be used.”

Gilderoy then preened once more to make sure the other students had heard what he had said, causing a few of the Ravenclaw girls to sigh with a dreamy expression. Almost no one was looking at the deathly glare coming off of Severus.

But Harry was and even he was taken aback with the severity of that look. Not even he had managed to elicit that kind of a response from Professor Snape, and that was saying something.

Though, Harry wasn’t exactly pleased that the man had made special mention of him after obviously putting the already testy Potions Professor on edge; especially considering that the man really had it out for him on the best of days.

“In-side. Now,” Severus intoned slowly, causing more than a few gulps.

The students followed Severus into the classroom that suddenly seemed a lot darker than it ever had.

Harry took a seat towards the back and mentally prepared himself for the uncomfortableness that was to come.

And he didn’t have to wait very long for it.

“Quiet,” Snape said to the already quiet classroom while flicking his wand to slam the door to the dungeon.

“I suppose that many of you think that you learned something considering that you are in second-year Potions, but I must say that I was rather disappointed with how many of you did on your end-of-year examinations. Trust me when I say that many of you,” and Snape said this while looking directly at Harry, “are completely hopeless.”

Another flick of Severus’ wand caused their lesson to appear on the board but his obsidian eyes remained locked on Harry’s green ones.

“I almost forgot,” Snape uttered as his mouth curled.

“It would seem that our little celebrity from last year has only risen in his fame. But don’t think that having your picture on the front page of the Daily Prophet will earn you anything in this classroom, Mr. Potter.”

“You passed last year by the barest of measurements, and no doubt spent the summer forgetting the few things that you accidentally managed to learn.”

With that biting insult, Harry felt a surge of both Neville’s and Justin’s magic beside him and he clamped down on both of their knees with his hands to steady them while Snape continued to lay into Harry.

The other Hufflepuffs just sat there, considering this as business as usual and the Ravenclaws were so focused on running through what they had learned over the summer that no one except Harry and his friends were paying any serious attention to Snape’s unhealthy interest with criticizing Harry for merely daring to exist.

“As I was saying, Mr. Potter. I would put in a little more effort this year. Of course, I’m sure that other teachers will no doubt overlook your shortcomings.”

With that, Snape turned to the board and began the lesson.

“How is that man allowed to teach!” Neville seethed under his breath.

“Don’t worry about him,” Harry soothed from behind his most patient and forgiving mask.

In his mind nothing that Snape could do onwards would ever make him forget having to suffer through his own intelligence being belittled. That was unforgivable and with each subsequent encounter, the man only shortened the time that Harry would be able to wait before having a private, one-on-one conversation with the man.

“He’s probably just upset that he had to pretend to help save my life at the end of last year,” Harry whispered.

Not that he needed to worry about the loyalty of the boys that sat on either side of him, and Snape was only increasing the number of people that were planning on seeking retribution from him.

Once everyone had calmed down, nothing else of note happened as they worked through their repeat of last year’s practical examination. That was until the end of class when they moved to hand in their assignments.

Snape had wanted to change things up this year and see just how much everyone had forgotten, and Harry couldn’t help himself with making sure that his Potions were perfect. It wasn’t like Snape would notice.

Perhaps it was foolish but it didn’t matter as Harry turned only to hear the sound of glass shattering seconds after he had begun to walk away from handing in his day’s work.

“Tsk, Tsk, Mr. Potter,” Snape smiled.

“Nothing to show for today. I think that will be a zero and a detention for your laziness. Perhaps you will show up to class prepared to work next time.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed slightly and he held his magic closely to his chest.

‘Yes,’ he thought to himself as he urged Neville and Justin to leave with him by tugging at their arms, ‘Snape is only making it worse on himself.’

            Later that night Harry arrived in the dungeon to repeat the day’s assignments, but it was in many ways better than the actual class seeing as Severus was no where to be seen.

            Anyways, it wasn’t like the night was a total waste. Before he had arrived he had left Neville and Justin in their new study place with explicit instructions on learning Occlumency effectively. Harry had decided that before anything else, he needed to protect their minds so that they could protect what Harry would eventually share with him.

            It helped that Justin and Neville had actually gone through the exercises over the summer that he had suggested they perform to begin the process of clearing their minds.

            And with Severus gone, Harry actually got to fully immense himself in what he was doing. He truly and thoroughly enjoyed Potions and the subtle way in which everything came together, and with Severus gone he was allowed to remove his masks and let his magic interact with the ingredients freely.

            It was a different experience altogether as he could literally feel the changes happening in real time.

            All in all Harry wasn’t even that mad at having to serve his first detention of the year and met up with Neville and Justin just as they were heading back to Hufflepuff themselves.

            They entered the dorm shortly before curfew and headed up to their room. Luckily, Wayne Hopkins and Zacharias Smith were nowhere to be found and the trio soon closed their eyes and fell asleep shortly thereafter.

           


 

The next day dawned early and after a spot of breakfast Harry and the boys found themselves in a most singularly odd situation.

            After the first day of classes, those few class years who had been lucky enough to have their first Defense Against The Dark Arts class with Gilderoy Lockhart could hardly contain themselves at getting to meet such a famed and extraordinary wizard.

            Harry, however, was skeptical about the man’s capabilities as a teacher – or person - after reading only the first chapter of Travels with Trolls, since it was abundantly clear that the man could not have possibly done what he had said that he had done.

            For one thing the timeline just didn’t add up, but what Harry just couldn’t get past was the magic that he had used. Magic didn’t work like the man had described and Harry was at a loss for why this man was allowed to teach. Surely the other teachers had to be aware of just how much of a fraud Gilderoy Lockhart was.

            Though, now that Harry thought about it, that probably described why Snape had had such an unusually large stick up his ass the previous day.

            Anyways, the class began with Lockhart preening on – to the squeals of delight from the majority of the female population, though a few males were also smitten – about all of his achievements.

            Harry didn’t need another reason to doubt the man but for someone who wrote an awful lot about being such a seemingly badass wizard, he sure spent an awful lot of time mentioning how he had won a smiling competition for the fifth time.

            And then he tried making a lame joke about how he didn’t get rid of banshees by smiling at them – and it worked.

Seriously? Was this real life?

But the man didn’t stop there.

Gilderoy then promptly handed out what he called a little quiz to see how much they knew about him.

Harry didn’t even need his senses to know that Neville and Justin were feeling the exact same thing that he was; for he just knew that they had the same dumbfounded expression that he had on his face.

Which in fact caused him to sit up a bit straighter and come out of his daze. Gilderoy Lockhart or not, Harry had an image to project.

And with a quick word under his breath, Neville and Justin quickly followed suit.

There were several times during the quiz, namely what an ideal gift would be for Professor Lockhart to receive on his birthday, that Harry had needed to refocus himself and at least try and take this whole thing seriously.

Even if no one else in the castle was.

The longer that Harry sat there, again the more he wondered why this was allowed to go on. And not just in letting Lockhart teach but some of the other professors as well.

Binns was a ghost and put everyone to sleep.

Quirrell had literally tried to kill him, but that specific case also involved Dumbledore and other things that Harry would have rather not thought about at the moment.

And then there was Severus, who while extremely proficient in his subject, did not have the temperament to be around anyone, much less children.

“Can you believe this?” Neville asked when Gilderoy called time and began to eagerly grab at parchments all about him.

“I think I just lost brain cells,” Justin uttered.

Which Harry understood given his muggle background but Neville just nodded along with scrunched up eyebrows.

“It looks like we will be doing a lot of independent study this year,” Harry confirmed.

But their torture wasn’t over with just yet since Lockhart felt the need to recap the results of the quiz – and was visibly disappointed that not one person had achieved one-hundred percent.

“Pity,” Lockhart announced.

“I think we will have to try better over the course of the year,” he said with partially saddened eyes.

“However!” he rebounded with renewed vigor, “we have much to learn over the next year about using defensive magic and braving the unknown.”

And because Lockhart was Lockhart, his statement had been accompanied by what could only be described as a striking pose.

At this the class became visibly more interested, and, if Harry hadn’t witness it he wouldn’t have believed it, because some of them had been so thoroughly ashamed with themselves that they had not gotten a perfect score.

            “Now, don’t be alarmed. You are here to learn from the very best, and I must emphasize that though you might feel inadequate in my presence… ,” Lockhart paused to flash his winning smile.

            “You need not worry because I will not judge you harshly. I have years of experience on you and I am here to impart at least some of that on you. So don’t be scared about what you may face in this classroom.”

            Harry just closed his eyes as he saw those in front of him buy what the man had said; hook, line, and sinker.

            It was frightening how gullible so many of them were to be honest.

            “And with that,” the man continued as if giving a dramatic dialogue, “prepare yourselves.”

            Everyone except Harry, Neville, and Justin were wide-eyed as Lockhart brought out what had to be a covered cage of some sort.

            “It would be best not to scream; it might provoke them,” he said while looking at them in a way that encouraged them to do just that.

            “Witness the terror!” he said while the excitement that had been on the tongue of the majority in the room fizzled as they took in a dozen or so Cornish Pixies.

            Even Muggleborns knew how innocuous they were, having heard enough stories from those raised in the wizarding world that Cornish Pixies were not even remotely terrifying.

They were annoying at best.

Still, for some reason Lockhart didn’t pick up on the decreased interest and opened the cage while rambling on about the appropriate counter curse to use.

Peskipiksi Pesternomi or something ridiculous like that.

From the second that the first Pixie crossed the threshold of the confinement, however, people’s opinion of Cornish Pixies as a whole being practically harmless were forever altered.

Almost instantly, the freed Pixies caused chaos, leaving a bumbling Lockhart trying to say his obviously made-up counter spell coherently.

Students tripped over each other as the electric blue hellions went for their books or hair, or in Ron’s case, his ears. Harry just had to chuckle from where he sat, protected by his magic, at the sight of Ron being raised to the ceiling to rest on the hook of the removed chandelier.

The Pixies had decided that the chandelier was best used elsewhere, which apparently was to shatter the window.

Of course, Ron’s threadbare robes couldn’t support his weight and he soon fell to the ground where he became unconscious.

By this time, Lockhart had cowardly retreated into his study and the rest of the students had made a hasty exit.

Therefore, only Neville and Justin were left dealing with the unruly pests. And while they had much room to improve, Harry was pleased to see them on either side of himself and holding their own.

But Harry soon tired of the noise that they caused and unleashed his magic to every corner of the room.

At once, the Cornish Pixies fell under his control, and in the background Harry heard the distinct sighs of his potent effect on Neville and Justin. He looked at their faces and saw the perfect contentment that they held.

Harry rose from his chair and concentrated on the tendrils of his magic that were wrapped around each and every Pixie. He could tell that each of them were independently sentient but yet had a small amount of interconnectedness. It reminded him briefly of ants or bees, and what one would call a hive mind.

However, he had little use for them at the moment and before he released them he left them with specific instructions that under no circumstance should they ever take up any of their natural instincts on him and his boys.

Although, just as Harry was about to send the little imps on their way, he shared a glance with Neville and Justin, who tilted their heads in the exact same manner, reminding him that while it was far beneath his skills and time, that he would have been foolish to pass up such an opportunity.

And given what he had been forced to deal with recently by two of Hogwarts’ esteemed faculty, it presented him with a unique opportunity for some entertainment.

Therefore, the Cornish Pixies were given some of Harry’s brand of special encouragement to spend more time in and around the dungeon and Potion labs. Of course, he imparted on them the importance of doing their work unseen.

And with that Harry headed out of the near-empty classroom, leaving Neville and Justin scurrying behind him intrigued at the smirk that had found its way to their leader’s face.

         Since this is the year where the story really develops, I want to take my time with some of the action and introduce each element properly. I still wish I had more time to write, but wanted to thank you for your patience.

        Let me know how you thought this chapter went.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Trying to force myself to write a little bit each day. The amount of time I have available for writing has certainly improved and I got this out faster than I thought. Hopefully this progress continues and perhaps I will be able to give significant attention to both stories now.

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

            Justin’s fingertips gently traced the edges of Harry’s hands that were exerting just enough pressure on top of his chest to keep him pinned to the bed. Of course, Justin didn’t mind the position that he found himself in one bit.

            Harry’s beauty was beyond compare and with each passing year it seemed that he became more magnificent as he filled out in all of the right places. Justin couldn’t help but wonder just how much more sinful his leader would become if this was what sixteen looked like on him.

Imagine what Harry’s twenties would bring!

However, the fact that Harry was currently straddling him disrupted Justin’s musings into the fallen angel that Harry was no doubt on his way to becoming.

But again, Justin didn’t mind and relished the attention that Harry, his Harry, was giving him. The feeling of Harry’s weight on top of his own hips with Harry’s knees also pressing into his sides, which further restricted his ability to move on the bed, was simply put: euphoric.

In fact, this was Justin’s opinion of pure and utter bliss and was how he felt each and every time that Harry bathed him in his magic. That too had only grown in strength as Harry continued on his way to greatness.

Honestly, the smaller boy could look into those shinning, emerald green eyes all day, knowing that they were the eyes of his leader. Justin couldn’t think of anything besides how lucky he was that Harry was his to follow and his to serve.

            “You are the most important thing to me,” Justin intoned in the most serious voice that he had ever used.

            Harry’s only response was to claim Justin’s lips.

            “I would do anything for you,” Justin breathed heavily once their mouths parted.

            “I know,” Harry said simply.

He was looking at Justin like he always did, like he was taking care of what he owned; and though Justin didn’t have to say anything that Harry didn’t already know, he did.

“My body is your body, and my wand is your wand. I am yours to use, Harry; to command!” Justin declared before pulling Harry down on top of him.

Harry responded by shifting his body weight and pushing Justin further into the bed.

“I will,” Harry promised, unleashing his magic and letting it flow into Justin.

Justin shivered as he gave into the ecstasy of Harry’s dominating power, which had increased a hundred fold over the five years that he had known him.

There was no inch on or in Justin’s body that Harry’s magic couldn’t reach. Their clothes disappeared soon after that.

            “You are mine forever,” Harry made clear before claiming him fully.

           

The statement was simple, effective, and the truth, even if that particular scene hadn’t actually happened and was just one of many dreams that Justin had had of the two of them in the future. This particular one, however, had become Justin’s most cherished and protected memory.

Which was exactly what Harry had told each boy to hide from him before testing out the strength of both of their levels of Occlumency.

While Harry had been pleased with how far they had progressed in the Mind Arts over the past month under his tutelage, the memories that both of them had chosen to hide from him had surprised him somewhat.

Their level of devotion to him was more intense than he had believed a person was capable of at their young age. But both Neville and Justin had clearly felt it important to select these as their most private and vivid memories that contained an emphatic statement of just how far they were willing to go for him.

And both had wanted Harry to know it, not even caring about the intimate look into their soul that revealed that Harry did in fact own them.

Though, Neville had chosen to express his loyalty in a different way and Harry was in fact quite proud that Neville had managed to uncover the torment of Phineas and Icarus that he himself had hidden from the boy. As it turned out, Neville hadn’t even quivered when he had rediscovered what those older Slytherins had done to him; he was too intent on seeking retribution to make Harry proud.

Of course, that wasn’t where the memory that Neville had hid from Harry had ended, for Neville also wanted Harry to know that he would serve him until his last breath for helping him through the first year and protecting him until he could defend himself. The scene, that was now a part of one of Neville’s memories, of him standing in front of the memory that Harry had hid in his own mind and declaring forcefully – both to himself and to Harry now – was that he owed a wizard’s debt to Harry.

And neither boy had flinched away when Harry had discovered these things in their secret training room one night during the first week of October of their second year at Hogwarts.

In their minds it was freeing to know that Harry would forever understand just how much he meant to them and how increasingly thankful they were that Harry had chosen them to go through life with.

It didn’t even make Harry uncomfortable with that extreme level of attachment that they had; it just reassured him that accepting his boys into his life and deciding to train them had been the right decision.

“Well, that was certainly interesting,” Harry acknowledged to both of them in turn.

Neville’s commitment to him made sense, and Harry had had no doubt that the boy would have been by his side forever in gratitude for taking care of him until he could fend for himself. Of course, Neville also had deep love for Harry and respect for what he stood for, but it wasn’t the kind of love that Justin had.

For that boy was in love with everything that Harry was or would become, with care and affection on a level which Harry just had to admit that he just didn’t quite understand. But Harry accepted it without question because Justin’s memory had made it clear to him that there was no expectation or hope of returning those feelings.

Anyways, Justin would freely admit that he was in love with Harry, and he would also freely admit that Harry was on a level very high above him. The important thing in Harry’s mind was that Justin’s love also transcended the physical component, however, and he received much more satisfaction and contentment from Harry in the attention that he received by being able to remain at his side. There was no doubt in Justin’s mind just how lucky he was to be able to learn some of things that Harry had and would teach him in the years to come.

No one else had this opportunity that Neville and Justin did.

So it didn’t matter to Justin that Harry would never return his affection in that way. The only thing that mattered to Justin was that Harry did love him in his own way and that his leader would do anything to protect him – he was sure of it.

Neville and Justin belonged to Harry.

The pair sat across from Harry in silence as they waited for their leader to take it all in. Small balls of blue fire illuminated the room and also framed Harry perfectly where he sat in the middle of their secret place.

But Harry didn’t need that long to consider what he had seen, and he soon eyed Neville over before moving onto Justin.

“You each have come very far in such a short time. I think only a few more months of keeping this up and you will both be quite advanced in the Mind Arts.”

His praise caused the same grin to appear on both of their faces.

“”In fact,” Harry uttered, “I think it only fair on this occasion for me to share something with you.”

Of course he had no intention in revealing the prophecy just yet since he would wait until he was positive that neither would let that secret be taken from their minds.

However, Harry did genuinely care for both Neville and Justin and whatever power that had brought and held them together made it easier for Harry to share some of his secrets with them.

Therefore the rest of their time in their training room was spent reviewing how Harry had handled Icarus and Phineas, and both Neville and Justin took mental notes. Neither had been surprised with how advanced Harry was and each was eager to begin learning how to wield magic like that for themselves; if only to support and ensure that Harry succeeded.

Neville, in particular, had taken great delight in watching the silent pain that both of his bullies had endured and the smile on his face as they prepared to leave their lair and return to Hufflepuff was practically predatory.

In fact, Neville was so emboldened by his continued increase in confidence that he decided to ask a rare question.

“Harry, are you any closer to figuring out what has been causing our magic to flair? I feel it sometimes on our way to class. It isn’t as strong as it was in the bookstore or during the Welcoming Feast, but it is there; I’m sure of it.”

Harry kept walking at his usual pace that put him just slightly in front of Neville and Justin.

“I think I have ruled out anyone or anything from Ravenclaw,” Harry replied quietly.

“Oh,” Justin called from behind, sharing a look with Neville.

“Yes, for while you two have been practicing your Occlumency, I have spent the past month waiting outside of the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower.”

“That makes sense,” Neville responded while Justin shook his head in agreement.

They both had understood the rationale behind Harry’s waiting game to catch whomever or whatever made them feel indescribable.

“Although, there was one particular first-year girl who felt different than everyone else did. Though, I’m not really sure why. The only way I can think to describe it is that her magical energy was just not the same that other people give off.”

Harry slowed his pace and turned to look at Neville and Justin, who stopped at once.

“Your magic,” Harry pointed with his hands out in front of both of the other boy’s chest, “comes off in steady pulses.”

As if to demonstrate what he meant, Harry then directed his magic to mingle with that of his boys.

Almost immediately their eyes took on the familiar glaze and their mouths parted just slightly.

However, each boy felt the distinct waves pulsating out of the center of their chest to meet with the much stronger rhythms that emanated from Harry.

“See what I mean?” Harry asked suddenly in a soft voice.

Just as abruptly, the delightful sensation of being connected to something so much more than they could ever hope to be by themselves left them.

“Yeah,” Justin managed to get out before adding, “there is a pattern to the magic that comes from our core.”

Harry nodded his head forward, earning a small grin from Justin.

“Did she not have a rhythm then?” Neville then astutely inquired.

Which earned a second incline of Harry’s head and another small smile from Neville this time.

“She didn’t have a rhythm at all,” Harry said as his brows scrunched together tightly.

“I would almost say that she is a different type of magical being all together.”

And then Harry turned and began to walk again towards Hufflepuff.

“So which house will you explore next?” Neville carried on the conversation.

Except that Harry wasn’t paying any attention to what Neville had said. His body had frozen in place and Neville and Justin bumped into him, though they knew better than to ask silly questions and immediately drew their wands without another thought.

Kill... eat… kill again,” a strange and ancient voice sounded in Harry’s ears.

His senses were on alert and the magic that he normally kept very close to his center was let loose in all directions. It didn’t matter that Dumbledore or Snape might detect him and learn what he was truly capable of in this instant when Harry believed that whoever had said those words had meant them with such force that a chill had gone down his spine.

At once he knew that there was a very real possibility that they were in danger.

Master says strike!” the voice roared louder this time.

It seemed very close and in response Harry practically dragged Neville and Justin out of the open hallway and into the closest room and threw some sort of cloak over their heads. Again the boys just went with it, still focusing their wands about them and trying to calm their minds incase they had to react. Whatever Harry had done they assumed had been some kind of advanced magic since they could feel the faint traces of magic against their skin – just as Harry had taught them to be able to recognize.

But whatever had caused Harry to react in this manner had made their blood run cold and only one thing became clear in their minds: protect Harry.

Time passed slowly in that room and only after Harry removed the cloak and placed it in his pocket did they let their guard down.

“Harry?” Neville hesitantly called and given his current state he couldn’t prevent the cracking of his voice.

But there wasn’t time for Harry to answer, because at that exact moment the wailing of Argus Filch reverberated throughout the castle.

“Noooooooooo!” the man’s echo bounced off the walls.

Against his better judgment, Harry began to walk for the door to exit the room that he had pulled Justin and Neville into. And once opened he heard the distinct patter of feet above him. No doubt Argus’ cries had alerted those still out of their common rooms to rush to his aid.

Which struck Harry as odd; hadn’t they heard those ominous words promise death just moments before?

“Justin, Neville,” Harry said as he began to walk forward at a clipped pace, “before I brought you into that room what did you hear?”

Harry didn’t even have to look back at them to know that his suspicion had been confirmed, and that those words had not been heard by everyone.

Harry’s clipped pace turned into a run as they turned and headed up the stairs.

However, they soon came to a halt where a growing group of both students and faculty were assembled around a despondent Argus Filch who was holding onto his cat.

Only his cat wasn’t moving. Even its fur was stuck in place.

But that wasn’t what held everyone’s attention.

For behind Argus and the petrified Mrs. Norris were the words:

 

ENEMIES OF THE HEIR BEWARE: THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS IS OPEN

 

As the group of onlookers began to grow with more and more people, including some who had obviously been fetched from their common room, the shocked silence had turned into worried whispers.

“The chamber is open … I thought that was a myth … where are Fred and George Weasley?” were just a few of the questions and statements that could be picked out.

Harry hung back at the outskirts of the crowd with Justin and Neville eyeing him differently than they usually did. But it wasn’t because they were surprised or shocked that Harry had seemed to know that something else, something clearly important had been happening that only he had picked up on.

Both Neville and Justin were now even more committed to following Harry – even if it wasn’t possible for them to be any more loyal – because he had clearly hid them away and protected them from whatever had done this to Mrs. Norris.

At that moment they completely understood that they really did belong to Harry, and Harry had just made it clear that he protected what was his.

The sobs of Filch continued as both boys looked upon Harry, not even minding that his focus was elsewhere. However, even Harry’s attention was redirected when Albus Dumbledore arrived with Professors McGonagall and Snape in tow.

“Silence,” Dumbledore commanded to the now worried and partially frantic crowd.

“Teachers, please escort all students back to their houses,” the old man then directed calmly.

At once, the teachers began to usher the students back to their common rooms, and the magically enhanced and stern voice of Professor McGonagall firmly instructed those students loitering in other parts of the castle to do the same.

Neither Harry nor his friends made an audible comment as they were led quickly back to Hufflepuff. However, once inside their common room their voice couldn’t have reached the ears of their friends even if they had tried, for everyone was up and talking quite loudly over one another.

It was clear that nothing like this had happened inside of the castle in a very, very long time.

But Harry had other ways of getting Neville’s and Justin’s attention. One flick of his magic at them and they soon followed him out of the common room and into their dorm room, which thankfully did not have any of their other year mates present.

Once inside, Harry led them over to his bed and retold Dobby’s warning to them before getting into the mysterious voice that he had heard.

A voice that had sounded so old and had been so laced with magic that Harry was now concerned about all of their safety.

It was clear that Harry was being cautious about what had just occurred, and his last words to the pair were that they were not to go anywhere in the castle without him until whatever this was had run its course.

 


 

All that anyone could talk about over the next few days was the Chamber of Secrets and the incidence in the hallway. Indeed, it had gotten to the point where even some of the Professors discussed it openly when they thought that they were out of earshot from the students.

Anyone who knew anything about the Chamber was listened to, but the real celebrities were those who had smartly managed to go to the library and check out the two copies of Hogwarts, A History. Suddenly, the otherwise boring but informative tome was in demand and the brief paragraph devoted to what was widely considered to be a myth was now seen as fact and shared widely with each student adding there own and unique elements to the story.

Of course, Harry had known what the book had briefly mentioned in regards to the Chamber of Secrets, having read through it in his own copy before he had even set foot inside of the school soon after he had learned that he was a wizard over a year ago.

Even after what he had witnessed with Mrs. Norris and the blood letters on the wall, he would have been inclined to believe the whole thing to be an elaborate hoax. Except that he had heard what no one else had, apparently, and that made all the difference in his mind.

For nothing had chilled him to his core quite like the sound that he had heard. Not even Vernon beating him as a child had affected him like the voice had. Whatever it was had been powerful and intent on killing.

But what lingered in Harry’s mind as he went through the motion of wearing the appropriate masks in his classes was a particular word that whoever it was had said.

            To think that it had a master was something that made sure that Harry kept a very close eye on Neville and Justin. He didn’t want them out of his sight if he could help it. Something about the way his magic felt in response to thoughts about them being hurt made him feel even colder than the hiss of that voice had.

            Those two boys were now so intertwined in his life and magic that he saw them as extensions of himself, and he didn’t want any part of himself to be hurt.

Which left him with a lot of time to fill with them as he put off the next phase of his plan in his quest to uncover the source of the greatest feeling that he had ever felt. But spending his evenings waiting outside of Slytherin underneath his cloak of invisibility would have to wait until he could be sure of both his and his boys’ safety.

So he filled some of the time in teaching them how to feel their magic more. Harry had quickly decided that learning how to defend themselves with their wands in the rare case that he was not around – or in the even rarer case that he would need their support to face this unknown menace – was now vastly more important than completing their final stages of Occlumency.

However, he remained leery of using their secret training room at the moment since he had no desire to go up against that thing by himself if he could help it. It was prudent in his mind to not test something that he knew so very little about. Regardless of how exceptional he was with magic, it just wasn’t logical to put himself and his boys in a position that they might regret with something that obviously did not want to play nice.

Therefore, Harry led Neville and Justin to the library for the rest of the week, where he made sure to select some of the more aggressively forward texts on defending oneself with what could best be described as questionably aligned magic.

His boys took up their assignments without question, and despite Hogwarts, A History currently being in vogue, that thankfully did not translate into the library becoming a suddenly hip place to be. If anything, even fewer students were now present, which Harry did not mind in the least since it would have been unusual for three, second years to be pouring over books meant for those well past their Ordinary Wizarding Levels.

And while Neville and Justin read, Harry focused on finding out just how it could have been possible for him to hear something that his friends had not. The only thing that currently made sense to him was that perhaps his magic had allowed him to hear something that was farther away. Or that it had something else to do with his advanced magical capabilities.

So he focused on reading through book after book until he was satisfied as to a possible answer. Because, in his mind, whatever allowed him to hear that person or thing could be a possible clue as to just what that person or thing was.

Now, he did have some leads without having to read anything, since he had Dobby’s warning that terrible things would be happening at Hogwarts this year – and this most certainly would count as a very terrible thing to some.

Of course, Dobby’s presence had reminded him of someone because of the way the elf’s magic had felt. But the answer lingered on the tip of Harry’s tongue and the more he tried to figure it out the more it frustrated him that he couldn’t.

Harry felt like he should know the answer to this, but with everything else going on he conceded the possible point that perhaps it wasn’t unreasonable for him to not know everything; even if that was a distasteful thought since he often found himself in the situation where he remembered everything that he had ever learned.

Quite vividly, in fact.

Another clue that he had – but one that others would have as well – was in finding out how living things could be petrified. What happened to Mrs. Norris and the possible cause of her apparent petrification had run rampant throughout the school, and even more so after it had been confirmed by Albus Dumbledore himself one morning at breakfast.

Of course, Harry surmised that the mysterious old wizard had only brought up the subject to help quell some of the unease that festered in the hearts of many of the students. The man had also added that because the Mandrakes that the second years were currently tending to in Herbology, a restorative potion would be able to be made shortly and cure her.

Which would have struck Harry as extremely suspicious except that he had already checked into that matter. Hogwarts had been instructing students on the care of Mandrakes for the past two hundred years, and so he gave little thought to the apparent coincidence of them repotting the very things that would restore Mrs. Norris back to the land of the living and moving around when it was very much needed.

But even Dumbledore’s announcement to the school did little to put an end to the increasing curiosity over this alleged Chamber of Secrets. If anything, it only added to the remarkable stories that were passed around and changed to include slight deviations to the tale until very little of the story resembled any semblance of the truth.

Whatever that was.

It had gotten so bad that teachers would often spend the first few minutes of each and every class quieting the unruly students down. Though, to be fair, some teachers had more success than others in taking back control of their classroom.

Professor Binns hadn’t even noticed anything abnormal going on, while all it took was a raised eyebrow from Severus Snape to prevent anything other than silence from rising in his classroom.

But Gilderoy Lockhart thrived in this type of situation and he could hardly contain his own excitement.

Indeed, about a week after the writing that had suddenly appeared on the wall, he gave in and spent an entire class focusing on the history of the Chamber of Secrets.

“You know naturally I could have saved that poor feline. Anti-petrification spells are tricky you see, but I just so happen to know the exact counter curse. It’s tricky, mind you, and I doubt any of you would even understand the magic involved,” Lockhart began to ramble on.

“What a load of dragon dung,” Neville hissed under his breath to both Justin and Harry.

The rest of the class, however, had apparently forgotten – or excused – how inept of a teacher Lockhart really was. It seemed that no one had remembered the incident with the Cornish Pixies when a teacher was willingly talking about the very thing that had them so interested.

Even Ronald Weasley, who had needed to go and see Madam Pomfrey after the concussion he had suffered, was blithely following along to the man’s every word.

“But I promised the Headmaster to keep a vigilant eye on the castle,” the man preened from atop his desk.

His purple robes were draped around him with such care and attention that Harry would have thought the man was sitting for another of his hideous portraits.

“Never fear, no harm will befall you whilst I am around,” he then soothed while striking another pose.

The two life-size portraits that Lockhart had previously festooned on either side of his desk were looking at their maker approvingly, smiling along to their favorite sound in the entire world: their own voice.

“Sir, Sir!” Lavender Brown interrupted excitedly.

The tone of her voice was pleading with the man to call on her, but she was overcome with the thrill of it all and asked her question anyways.

“What can you tell us of the Chamber of Secrets?”

If it were possible, a majority of the eyes in the room were now looking at Gilderoy with even more fascination and respect than usual. It was a sure sign that they were going to at least get something out of this man for this attention was everything that Lockhart was about.

“Very well,” Lockhart began, as if he were doing them a favor.

“Now, where to began,” he mused and began to stroke his chin like he was deep in thought.

Justin snorted, and Harry slightly nudged him with his elbow.

‘Now is not the time,’ Harry’s eyes clarified for the boy.

Justin nodded solemnly and refocused his attention on Lockhart, who had begun to set the stage for whatever it was that he was about to tell them.

“I suppose this starts in the beginning, back when Dragons roamed free and neither witches nor wizards knew what a proper bath was.”

He flashed the class his winning smile, while a few of the girls began to imagine what Gilderoy looked like in his bathrobe.

“Obviously we are all aware of the Founders; a collection of reasonably talented individuals who came together and formed Hogwarts many, many years ago. From what I hear it took a lot longer for them to build the castle’s walls than it needed to. Sometimes I like to think how different the world would be had I been around at that time and able to speed things up…”

This time it was Harry who had to suppress his instinct to roll his eyes. In his mind Hagrid could have built Hogwarts faster with his hands than this oaf could with magic since Harry had yet to see the man actually cast anything remotely resembling what all of these students were in this castle to learn.

Eventually, though, Lockhart returned from his far-off gaze and refocused on the class and continued to tell his version of the story that was very loosely based on what Harry remembered from the pages in Hogwarts, A History.

“For many years, the running of the school went smoothly, and Hogwarts grew in renown as a great place to study magic. Some of the best and brightest joined them to impart their knowledge to the youth of the land.”

That self-serving statement was of course accompanied by another one of his winnings smiles.

“However, I think that two of them did not get along very well.”

At this moment the man leaned forward and pretended to whisper something to the class as if it were a secret that no one else knew.

“If you ask me, I think each were upset over the colors that they had chosen to represent their house; ghastly colors if you ask me. I think a nice purple would have gone a long way in helping to ease their tensions. Of course,” he leaned back to sit up straight and his voice returned to normal, “I think it also had to do with being in the dungeons. No windows will do that to a person, you know.”

Gilderoy paused to shake his head from side to side.

The comment about Slytherin having an inferior dormitory went over well with the assembled Gryffindors, who didn’t mind – that much – over the sleight against their own house colors.

“And then there was something about a disagreement over which magical folk to admit into Hogwarts, but that just seems silly to me. In fact, I wish there were more students in this room.”

And Harry completed that sentence in his own mind, knowing very well that Lockhart just wanted as many people to ogle at him as possible.

“I suppose this is where the Chamber of Secrets fits in,” the man continued, expertly managing to weave as much about himself into the story of the chamber.

“Salazar Slytherin, you see, wanted to be more selective and so he left the school but not before creating a secret room and hiding a monster away within it. Legend tells us that this monster would be able to be controlled by Slytherin’s descendants.”

At this point in the tale, the room was eerily silent, and everyone except Harry and his boys had subconsciously inched ever so closer to Gilderoy.

“The heirs alone would be able to find the monster and unleash Slytherin’s wrath upon the school, weeding out those who were not supposed to be there. In those days it was very important to be from an all-wizard family; they weren’t as hip and inclusive as we are now.”

The sentence struck Harry as singularly odd because it was very clear that the more frightened individuals within Hogwarts were the Muggleborns, while certain purebloods walked the halls with ease.

Was this man that unobservant? Or was all this an act?

“But I can tell you with certainty that there is no such thing as the Chamber of Secrets; trust me when I say that if I cannot find it then it simply does not exist.”

Lockhart walked toward the front of the room.

“It was probably just a troublemaker looking to have a spot of fun,” he added, though Harry wasn’t buying it.

The man finished his story, not really offering anything new for the students. Except that the man was such a good storyteller and certainly knew how to keep an audience engaged that Harry was sure that it didn’t matter.

Harry sincerely wanted to be there when the man lost that ability to captivate an audience, because that would certainly be a very interesting and entertaining thing to watch.

At any rate, it showed that Lockhart did know something, and it had very little – if anything – to do with him. However, that hadn’t stopped the man from injecting his usual flare for drama and excitement into the story and inserting himself into the tale.

As if blood letters on the wall and a petrified cat weren’t excitement enough for the man. Nevertheless, at least Harry was spared from the man’s otherwise horrible teaching abilities for a single class period.

Especially since it now appeared that Lockhart had only made the class more interested in the Chamber of Secrets in order for the next thing that came out of his mouth to be even more intriguing.

“Ah, you all have managed to get me even more excited; but I can’t, I was supposed to reveal this tonight,” the man suddenly said.

Which had the intended effect of refocusing all eyes on him.

“You see, oh, I don’t know if I can tell you just yet,” he played coyly with the students.

“Tell us! Tell us! Oh, you can trust us!” cried the students.

“Well, I had planned on doing this tonight at supper, to be fair you see. But I think you could spread this for me. In fact, I’m sure you will let all of your friends and their friends know. Won’t you?”

“Yes, of course. You can trust us!” replied everyone but Harry, Neville, and Justin.

Ron, in particular, had been particularly vocal about wanting to do everything that Lockhart had asked.

“Very well,” Gilderoy agreed, his eyes revealing that this had been his plan all along.

“It gives me great pleasure in announcing a little extracurricular activity that I’ve just gotten the Headmaster’s permission to start.”

The man’s mouth was practically salivating with anticipation.

“It would be such a waste for someone of my prodigious talents to pass through the school – even more so given the circumstances that we find ourselves in – and not at least prepare you in at least some way for the future. I am the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher after all…”

Gilderoy’s words trailed off and Harry swore that he saw Lavender Brown not even sitting, for that was how far she had leaned forward to be the first to hear what the man was about to reveal.

“You see not everyone has an innate talent for defending themselves, eh Harry?” Lockhart suddenly threw the spotlight onto Harry.

Which caused a few unsavory looks to be thrown his way since it was clear that many were envious of Harry’s continued form of special treatment by the man.

Thankfully, Lockhart didn’t wait for a reply because Harry had no idea what his retort would have been.

Given his overall level of irritation with the addition of more things that he now had to deal with, chances were that it would not have been pretty. For Lockhart that was.

“It’s necessary for each witch and wizard to be able to face the unknown and come out the other side,” Lockhart then said in what to Harry was a well-rehearsed manner.

However, the rest of the class had not cottoned on to the man’s modus operandi. So they were right where Lockhart had wanted them to be in a state of near frenzy now and could hardly wait until Lockhart spilled the beans, hoping that it was a much better surprise than that unfortunate episode with the Cornish Pixies.

“So that is why I am pleased to say that I am starting a little dueling club, to prepare those interested in the basics of defending themselves with a wand.”

Immediately, the rest of the class began to exchange excited whispers, unable to think about anything except for the fact that the one and only Gilderoy Lockhart was going to teach them dueling.

Which Harry found to be painfully comical since the man couldn’t even teach them Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Which was just about the same fucking thing.

Though, to Gilderoy’s credit, he had not really tried to teach them anything besides doing dramatic reenactments from his books.

But even those weren’t going well since Gilderoy insisted on always playing himself.

Harry was honestly surprised that this entire charade was allowed to continue, but he also couldn’t reconcile the fact that Dumbledore just had to have known that the man was a complete fraud.

Harry just didn’t know what the Headmaster’s aim was this time. Was this just another ploy to lure He-Who-Is-Not-Really-Dead out again?

Except that this was Gilderoy Lockhart and he surely didn’t offer anything of value to the fallen Dark Lord… right?

Just then the bell rang and the other students raced to the door, intent on being the first to spread what surely had to be Hogwarts’ latest and most interesting news.

And Lockhart couldn’t help himself, leaving the room almost as quickly to witness the dissemination of news that involved him.

Which left Harry and his boys alone in the room, and allowed Harry a quick minute to explain his observations to them.

And Neville and Justin agreed with Harry’s assessment as they gathered their things and headed out into the hustle and bustle of the castle, where for the hundredth time since school started they all felt that familiar, yet delectable shiver yet again.

Unlimited potential and greatness was once again pulsating against their magic, and like always it passed just as quickly as it had come.

The trio stopped to gather themselves while a giant game of telephone played out in the many halls and tall turrets of the castle doing exactly as Gilderoy had hoped that it would. For now almost every single student had first heard and then made plans to attend Lockhart’s first dueling session after dinner.

But what interested Harry the most was the brief suggestion that had entered his mind on his way to dinner– identical to the feeling that had occurred last year at Christmas to go explore the Mirror of Erised – that a lesson in dueling seemed like a very good thing to do.

Thankfully, Harry had been able to keep the shock and surprise off of his face, and his Occlumency had reached the point where it was very easy to make someone entering his mind think that they were being sneaky. Of course, all of his thoughts and knowledge that he wanted to be kept secret were always locked away and so he went along with Dumbledore’s suggestion.

Only now he realized that Dumbledore had been behind the dueling lessons, and that they were meant for him.

 


 

Harry entered the Great Hall with Neville and Justin on either side of him. Dinner had been fascinating; the loud chatter of excitement in anticipation for the night’s event had increased steadily over the course of the meal. By the time the plates had disappeared to the kitchens below, some of the students could hardly contain themselves that they were about to get an introductory lesson into the world of dueling from none other than Gilderoy Lockhart.

Obviously not everyone present inside of Hogwarts needed an introductory lesson, since it was commonplace among the old families to prepare their progeny to survive should they find themselves in unexpected circumstances that required them to defend their family’s honor. Or just to survive so that they could keep their family lines intact probably would have been more accurate.

After all, a family’s legacy – be it stepped in gold and riches or not – was the most important thing to any wizarding family.

But a good majority of the school that still had yet to take their O.W.L.s were present alongside Harry and his boys, interested with the night’s proceedings in one way or another.

Harry was in fact surprised that even this many had turned out given his opinion that the older students should know that Lockhart would hurt their chances of passing their exams more so than helping. Of course, that line of thinking just ended with Dumbledore allowing the man to teach in the first place, and Harry just wanted a single night where he wasn’t trying to second guess the decision-making process of their esteemed Headmaster.

Therefore a quick shake of Harry’s head moved that topic along and he focused on some of the other people in the room.

Only he didn’t have to look very far or for very long as Cedric Diggory sauntered up to his side. Ever since that brief but important chat that the two of them had shared on their first night back in the castle, they had spoken for at least a few minutes every day. No matter how short their conversations had been it was long enough for Harry’s magic to have an impact on Cedric. The older Hufflepuff had begun to look forward to running into Harry each and every day because of the sense of calm – and extreme comfort – that being in the second-year’s presence provided.

Of course, Cedric didn’t know how or why he reacted to Harry in the way that he did; all he knew was that being in Harry’s presence felt right and that it was just the place that he needed to be if he wanted to achieve everything that he had set for himself.

To some extent, Harry was aware of what was happening because of how similar this process was to Neville and Justin becoming permanent fixtures in his life. However, because his magic was so superior to Cedric’s magic he barely noticed the small amount of strength that he received while in Cedric’s presence.

But Neville and Justin knew what was happening, and welcomed the addition of another person that could support and protect their Harry.

So when Cedric casually approached the trio, they moved just enough to the side to give them space while remaining within earshot should Harry have need of them.

“Hey Harry,” Cedric said with a small smile.

Harry’s green eyes flicked over to meet his warm gray eyes.

“Cedric!” Harry remarked in a pleasant welcome.

“How do you think this is going to go?” Cedric suddenly asked quietly.

Cedric’s eyebrows raised and Harry got the underlying meaning.

“We are just here to see how badly this goes,” Harry returned.

Cedric chuckled.

“I can’t believe he is allowed to teach. Though, to be honest, I can’t believe that the other students still haven’t figured it out.”

Harry shrugged.

“People see what they want to see.”

It had been easier than really getting into it. Even if he was enjoying himself with Cedric, now wasn’t the time to really get into it.

Cedric nodded along, though, to Harry’s further clarification.

“I suppose they just have this idea of what he can do from what they have read that they just assume he’s better in those settings.”

“That makes sense,” Cedric commented after taking Harry’s words in and digesting them.

“Plus, children,” he motioned at those surrounding them with a wave of his hand, “are hardly capable of realizing that an adult has lied to them.”

“Aren’t you a child?” Cedric said teasingly – even though he was well aware that Harry was head and shoulders above everyone else his age.

Cedric could feel it in his magic.

Harry just ignored Cedric’s comment, knowing that Cedric was one of the few who saw him for what he was really capable of.

“What is your excuse?”

For a moment Cedric was caught off guard by the expert move.

But then he began to chuckle, and Harry’s magic couldn’t help but leak out just a little bit and captivate Cedric further.

A pleasurably sigh escaped Cedric’s lips and his body briefly shivered.

Harry only became aware of what had happened because Neville and Justin had moved closer to him, and Harry then carefully drew back his power.

With the indescribable feeling of Harry’s magic gone, Cedric felt the small hole that had been building within him all month grow again.

But he didn’t know the ins and outs of this type of magic or else he would have been more comforted when he said goodbye and rejoined his other friends.

Because soon he would never feel incomplete ever again.

Harry also felt an uncomfortable sensation briefly rise up within him at Cedric’s departure.

Except that he was thinking that it had had something to do with his unintentional use of his magic.

‘I got too comfortable,’ Harry thought to himself before commotion on the golden stage in front of them changed his focus.

Gilderoy Lockhart, resplendent in his flowing, purple robes had just walked onto the stage.

“Ladies and Gentlemen!” the man called to silence the crowd with his arms raised.

All eyes soon turned towards him in the excited hush that followed.

“Tonight, you are in for a real treat. I don’t like to brag, but I was something of a dueling prodigy in my youth,” Gilderoy said coyly while acting anything but.

Harry rolled his eyes at the man’s obvious need for attention and self-validation, which was of course given by some of his more fanatical followers.

“Now dueling has a storied and bloodied history, but for tonight we are going to limit this for your safety. As such, we will only be learning disarming spells only.”

Gilderoy should have seen the audible groan from the crowd coming, but he ignored the reaction and kept moving right along.

“Right, and now I shall invite my assistant onstage.”

And for the rest of Harry’s life he would treasure the look of disdain that graced Severus Snape’s face as he took one reluctant step after the other to stand beside Gilderoy.

How Snape had ever agreed to this was irrelevant in this moment; the important thing was that for a brief moment Harry forgot about all of his other troubles and reveled in the man’s misfortune.

It served Severus right for having to be Lockhart’s lapdog for the evening. Even it was in name only.

Except that Harry’s euphoria was short lived because it really did disturb him that Lockhart had seemingly gotten approval for this because of something to do with him.

Which probably also meant that Severus Snape had been instructed by Dumbledore to attend this under the guise of Lockhart’s assistant since it was abundantly clear to Harry that Snape and the Headmaster were close. They usually sat together at most meals and could often be observed to exchange whispers when they thought that the majority of students were not paying attention to them.

But Harry didn’t know why this was about him – and if had anything to do with the Chamber of Secrets, though if it didn’t it was because of the plausible excuse of the chamber being open.

Again, it was just something that he would have to mull over when he had the time, but he could easily see how Dumbledore could be trying to teach Harry how to use magic in this way because of the existence of a prophecy. Certainly there were better ways to prepare Harry than Gilderoy Lockhart!

While Harry was quickly running through this new information, Lockhart had called two students up to the stage to demonstrate.

Draco was currently running circles around Ronald Weasley, despite the limited selections of spells that they had been instructed to use. The youngest Weasley was clearly out of his league, and his pitiful attempts at retaliation were embarrassing.

His feeble control of magic barely produced their desired results and more than once he had found himself on his behind, accompanied by the aristocratic chuckle of Malfoy.

Draco hadn’t even broken a sweat and his magical prowess was on display, and at that moment he had then decided to ignore the repeated shouts of Lockhart to disarm only.

Except that Ronald had apparently had enough of his humiliation and retaliated with the only slightly advanced spell in his arsenal: the Vomiting Slug Curse.

But of course that missed Draco and hit Goyle instead, who immediately started upchucking the first of many green slugs.

Which didn’t sit well with Draco who responded before the first slug hit the floor

Serpensortia!” he commanded effortlessly.

It was then that a most curious thing happened as an Egyptian Cobra slithered forth into existence.

Harry, who up until now had been only half-watching the amateur display, felt a tug at his center as the snake raised its hood and hissed at suddenly finding itself in front of a red-haired human.

Only it didn’t hiss.

Maker made me to bite,” it said clearly and in almost the identical tone that Harry had heard earlier.

Suddenly, it clicked in his mind that he was a Parselmouth and that it was very likely that the voice that he had heard the night of the writing on the wall had also been a snake.

Only this was much less powerful and didn’t get under his skin and make him want to find a hiding place.

Because the snake in front of him barely registered as a threat; the only thing that was difficult in this moment was in keeping the surprise off of his face.

Although, if Harry could keep his cool when he found himself suddenly with suggestions from a certain Headmaster to attend dueling lessons, then it wasn’t that different to discover that he had a very rare gift that few others in the wizarding world also shared.

Only he couldn’t completely focus on how everyone else reacted to the snake, especially Ron Weasley. The youngest Weasley male became enraged at the animal familiar of Slytherin and in his rage he sent a very powerful, albeit misdirected, burst of magic that sailed right over the snake and headed towards Neville and Justin.

Therefore, Harry didn’t have the time to fully protect them with his magic when he suddenly felt that tug in his gut that something of his was in danger. So when a small tendril of his magic managed to meet Ronald’s incoming spell, it was only effective enough to change its course.

Which wasn’t exactly the best thing since it screamed into him and knocked him backwards into the cold, hard ground. Once again, the darkness took him and he knew no more.

 


 

Harry awoke in the infirmary later that night with a familiar pain in his head that lingered from the impact of his skull against the cement. At first it took him a few minutes to get his bearings straight, but he slowly was able to elevate the top half of his body to rest on his elbows.

It was dark and no one else was in sight, although as more of his senses returned to him he realized that he clutched a crumbled piece of parchment. He adjusted himself to make use of the dim moonlight and read the short note.

 

Harry,

            You were hit with a spell and then your head hit the ground and thus you ended up here. You will be okay, and Justin and I stayed until Madam Pomfrey made us leave. Will fill you in on the rest when you wake up.

Yours,

Justin and Neville.

 

Immediately his magic calmed with the note from his boys. He didn’t want to admit it but it was nice to be able to rely on others in these situations that kept happening in which he couldn’t completely fend for himself.

It made Harry further consider them as solely and completely belonging to him.

But just then his insides became cold. Just as that mysterious feeling made him feel invincible, this made him feel vulnerable and he didn’t like it at all.

His magic was unsteady and it made him uncomfortable, and he looked around for an explanation as to what had caused it.

Suddenly, the lights at the entrance to the hospital wing flickered to life and the door opened and he immediately laid back down and pretended to be asleep.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the first person enter: Professor McGonagall, whose tartan cloak was wrapped around her tightly, looking even more serious than usual.

Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape were the next to enter, and trailing them came something that made Harry’s heart stop in his chest.

Whatever off-ness that was going on with his magic made Harry feel similar to how he had at the beginning of last year, before he knew the small benefits of keeping Neville and Justin close to him. Seeing that body form only enhanced it because his magic had recognized that person.

Anger started to well inside his chest as the obscured form of a body was placed on a bed opposite him. Harry didn’t know whether it was Justin or Neville but he felt a distinct hole in the center of his chest that he didn’t like and could hardly stomach.

However, the sounds coming the other side of the room soon prevented him from vomiting.

“Albus, what has happened?” the Scottish brogue of Minerva sounded.

“I fear that the Chamber of Secrets has indeed been opened again.”

“But Albus, what has happened to Cedric Diggory; what will happen to the school?” the Transfiguration Professor returned while Severus eyed them both carefully.

“I think he has been petrified, but by what I cannot be certain. As for the school, I do not think we can keep this quiet forever.”

Harry could only stare at the prone form of Cedric as the Professors continued on for a few more minutes discussing when or even if the school should be told.

Eventually, they gave the fourth-year Hufflepuff a last glance as they turned and headed out of the infirmary.

Harry waited until he was sure that they were gone before quietly placing his feet on the cold floor and walking over to where Cedric lied.

The complete absence of the other boy responding to the closeness of Harry’s magic made him feel worse than he ever had on the inside. For it was like a part of him, a newly discovered part was now closed off to his magic and his mind forever.

But Harry would not give up on something that was his. In any way, shape, or form.

Cedric was a part of his journey now, and Harry would make sure that what had been taken from him would be returned.

“Sleep,” Harry whispered while stroking Cedric’s cold and hard cheek.

I will make this all better,” Harry promised, “and no one will hurt you ever again.”

Harry bent slowly forward and kissed Cedric’s rigid forehead. He didn’t really know why he was doing this, only that it felt right because he took care of what was his.

It had always been that way – and it would always be that way.

“Not when you are mine,” Harry’s voice echoed softly off the walls while he turned and headed back to his bed.

However, unbeknownst to him since he was busy mourning the unexpected loss of a new follower, Harry’s magical pulse was absorbed into Cedric’s still body – and it comforted the boy while he dreamed his unending dream.

 

I know that in the books the victims started off as Muggleborns but this was too good to pass up, and I think Tom may have had a reason or two to throw old He-Who-Meddles-Too-Much off. Let me know what you think!

PS – I won’t give up and neither should you. We are stronger together and I will continue to fight for human rights. Know that you aren’t alone.

Chapter Text

Continuing to write a little bit each day. Also, having more time to write helps. FYI, I have a lot of international travel coming up so that may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how motivated I am 39k feet up.

Anyways, can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support and kind words, though.

You guys and gals (or however else you identify) are awesome.

Thank you very much for reading and I hope you like where I take this.

Now let us go ahead and get our first glimpse of Tom!

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

            It had been two months since Cedric had been taken from him. Two months in which he was deprived of the satisfying feeling of expanding his magical circle by welcoming another exceptional magic user to his collection.

Meanwhile, during that same intervening time period, the student body of Hogwarts had grown increasingly fearful for their safety, especially in the aftermath of the second petrification. If the populace of Hogwarts had been surprised that Slytherin’s monster had attacked the pureblood Diggory, then they were downright terror-stricken that a member of Slytherin House now lied frozen next to the unmoving Hufflepuff.

            Wasn’t the legend of the Chamber of Secrets borne out of Slytherin’s contempt for mudbloods being allowed to enter Hogwarts to study magic alongside those that he considered more worthy? Weren’t they supposed to be the ones being targeted? The change in victims had thrown everyone off, Dumbledore included. For no matter how much the esteemed Headmaster tried to hide it at mealtimes, his brow kept scrunching up more and more as time went on and no harm came to any of the Muggle-borns.

            The only thing the Headmaster could think to do to ease some of the growing tension was to insist upon earlier curfews and mandate that no one was to go anywhere without a buddy. The students, however, didn’t really need to be told that information, and it had become quite commonplace for large swaths of students to walk to and from class in large groups in the hopes that there was safety in numbers.

            Of course, Harry merely stuck with Neville and Justin while everyone else lost their minds – even if Harry could see and understand the very real reason that was causing them to freak out. As it was, even he was questioning why the school was still open if its students were being attacked so openly. Surely the parents of those petrified had been informed – if not by Dumbledore then by the Hogwarts Rumor mill.

            It was all very surreal and the more that he thought about what had happened the more that none of it made any sense to him. One of the only things that kept Harry sane as the October air chilled into November before the December freeze arrived was the promise that he had made to Cedric while standing over his immobile form.

            For the rest of his life Harry wouldn’t stop until Cedric returned to him and fully joined Neville and Justin by his side. He was on his way to greatness and with each follower he not only became stronger, but he had a better idea as to where his future lied.

Because to Harry it didn’t matter how abruptly that he had found himself in the position of considering Cedric as his. No, the important thing was that Cedric felt nearly as close and special to him as Neville and Justin did. Each boy added to Harry’s power and might and in return they were his to care for and his to nurture.

They were his without doubt and without question; he had never been as sure about anything as he was about that.

Which was why Harry had spent the weeks following Cedric’s accident and the days leading up to the winter holidays keeping a very close eye on his remaining two boys, all the while trying to teach them as much defensive magic as possible. If they had thought that they had spent a lot of time in the library after the writing on the wall appeared then they practically lived with Hogwarts’ collection of books now.

Nothing on earth would separate Neville and Justin from him if he could help it.

Of course, while Neville and Justin learned as much as they could, Harry busied himself with trying to figure out just what had petrified Cedric; though, to be honest, he had already concluded that it was likely that Slytherin’s monster was a Basilisk before Cedric had even been petrified for a week. To Harry it was painfully obvious when he combined what Slytherin’s favorite animal was with his memory of the voice that no one else could hear and the newly discovered fact that there was a very good explanation that conveniently tied both of those together.

And then there were the spiders fleeing the castle left and right; that had truly brought everything together in deciding which serpent Slytherin had employed to rid the school of unwanted magic learners.

The only thing that he couldn’t figure out was why Cedric Diggory and Millicent Bulstrode had been petrified instead of being killed outright.

As far as anyone knew – given the limited material available at Hogwarts – the ability of a Basilisk to petrify was not something that had been documented before.

Now, while it was true that Harry’s first instinct had been dread at the thought that a single glance into a pair of yellow eyes could kill him, the realization that Basilisks could be immediately killed by the sounds of Roosters comforted him.

And Roosters were easy to conjure for someone with his prodigious talents, so he felt confident walking around the castle knowing that at the first hiss he could either produce them or enlarge the shrunken ones that he took to carrying around with him at all times. He was nothing if not pragmatic.

In fact, conjuring roosters also constituted a novel take on defensive magic, something that Neville and Justin readily embraced and excelled at.

And to their credit, his boys didn’t question why they were learning this specific magical ability that wasn’t taught until their sixth year – nor did they bat an eye as to the unusual animal form that they were calling forth. For they had felt Cedric’s incapacitation as deeply as Harry did and though they didn’t comment on it, they understood why Harry was doing everything that he was doing.

The knowledge that they were really his to protect and care for only made the amount of magic they had to give to Harry grow.

So it didn’t matter that they didn’t understand what or why they were spending this inordinate amount of time in the library learning what Harry placed in front of them. Both Neville and Justin knew that whatever they were doing had a point and a purpose and they were not going to let Harry down if he thought that they should know something.

The boys’ study sessions were also peppered with continuation of their Occlumency training. In Harry’s opinion, it was now paramount that they progress as far as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Though, Harry wasn’t that worried about just anyone stealing something from their minds since Neville and Justin were already quite adept at the Mind Arts; however, Harry was quite concerned that Albus Dumbledore or Severus Snape could very easily enter their minds and so he trained them to have two mindscapes. Much like in the way Harry handled Dumbledore whenever that old coot entered his own mind to give him suggestions about places in that castle that he should visit or explore.

Therefore, Harry’s additional lessons gave Neville and Justin the ability to hopefully prevent a person that entered their minds the knowledge that they were on to them. Truth be told, it was the only way that Harry could think to protect his secrets since in the back of his mind he wasn’t even sure that he could keep Dumbledore out from a full-on attack at this point in time.

There was only one way to find that out and Harry preferred to stay under the radar at this point in time.

Nevertheless, as the winter holidays were now only a few days away, Harry finally felt content with the boys’ progress and knew that they could reasonably hold their own with magic if it came down to it. Which meant that he could finally try and ferret out any information from Draco Malfoy that would explain how the Chamber of Secrets had been opened and, more importantly, how it could be closed.

It had been a testament to Harry’s patience that he had been able to wait this long, especially given that something very important had been taken away from him.

He didn’t take kindly to having to wait to be reunited with one of his own. However, Dobby’s warning had meant nothing to Harry until it had been too late, and even then it hadn’t immediately clicked in his mind as to the wizarding family that Dobby served. Only after hours and hours spent in the library poring over every sort of magical text imaginable did Harry finally have an epiphany and was able to note just how similar the magic that Draco cast in classes felt to what Harry remembered coming off of Dobby when the elf had visited him at the end of the summer in Privet Drive.

So the only thing left for Harry to decide was when to stake out his prey and he settled on the last Friday of the term. With the students heading home for the holidays on Sunday, Harry reasoned that Draco’s guard would be lowered. Thus, Harry hoped his mind would not be as defended so that Harry’s presence inside the young Malfoy scion’s mind would go unnoticed.

Though, to be honest that really didn’t matter either considering what was happening to Harry’s magic. He had waited long enough to be reunited with Cedric and for once no one was going to get in his way on his quest for answers.

And he wasn’t about to wait another minute.

“We ready?” Harry inquired to his followers within their shared dormitory.

The expectant and prepared faces of Neville and Justin looked to Harry and gave a brief nod.

“Excellent. You remember what we are doing tonight and just how important it is?”

Not that they need reminding, but Harry preferred to leave nothing to chance. Even if he knew he could trust them.

As a general rule, the Harry Potter that had decided to come to a school of magic did not trust anyone. Which made Harry just as uncomfortable as it did to reassure him that he now found himself in that exact position.

Except that Neville and Justin weren’t just anyone: for Harry had looked into their minds and knew that they would unconditionally support him.

“Of course, Harry,” Justin replied in all seriousness.

Neville, however, took a different approach that showed just how prepared that he was.

“And I promise not to get distracted by certain Slytherins that we may come across. Now is not the time to exact revenge.”

“Yes, we must not get distracted tonight,” Harry agreed and took a pause before continuing.

“But we will have time soon enough for Phineas and Icarus to understand where they went wrong with messing with one of my boys, and I’m sure they will remember you until the day they die.”

Harry smirked sinfully and it made both Neville and Justin’s magic radiate up and down their own bodies at the thought of unleashing their growing powers.

When their magic settled back down, Harry grabbed for his satchel and left their dormitory.

Neville and Justin followed Harry into the common room – which was just as packed as it was every other night since very few students felt comfortable outside of their house after supper – and then left with him as he stepped out into the castle.

But they weren’t afraid for Harry had his wand drawn ahead of them and soon their wands were in their hands and ready for action as well.

Though they didn’t need to use any magic as they made their way closer to where Slytherin House was located.

However, before they descended the final set of stairs into the dungeons, Harry led them into an unused classroom. Once there, he proceeded to cast a powerful Disillusionment Charm on Neville and Justin that made them gradually fade into the texture and color of the wall behind them.

Then, just to be safe, he cast several stealth charms to mask all noise that he could envision them possibly making.

Satisfied that no one would be able to detect them, Harry added a slight modification wherein he willed his magic to flow out of his center and make his boys visible to him and only him.

When they reappeared into his view, Harry smirked and threw his prized Cloak of Invisibility over his own head before disappearing completely.

The fact that they couldn’t see him served as an opportunity for Harry to observe how they acted without his explicit guidance. While he was sure that they would act no different than if he were able to give them verbal cues, he wanted to give them the confidence to know that they could handle themselves without supervision. It would be invaluable to know that Harry could send one or both of them in place of himself in the future, allowing him to do things that he otherwise would not have been able to.

Think about how much more he would be able to accomplish!

And both Neville and Justin passed the first test as they managed to leave the unused classroom only a few seconds after Harry did.

It was a new experience for Justin and Neville as they walked alone through the castle’s walls. Well, they weren’t really alone since they still could feel just the barest presence of Harry’s magic in front of them.

It wasn’t as overwhelmingly strong as it normally was but they surmised that that had something to do with whatever Harry had done to make himself disappear; something that had appeared to be quite different from the spells that Harry had cast upon them.

Still, both boys paid little mind to the extraordinary feats that Harry could achieve with magic and before they knew it they had arrived outside the hall that led to Slytherin’s dorm.

Neville and Justin passed the time by taking stock of every student that walked by, and appropriately cataloged how they walked and talked within their mind. Just like Harry had showed them for optimal retention within their mindscape. After all, one of the most important lessons that they had learned from their study into the Mind Arts was that every minute of every day was an opportunity to improve upon their Occlumency skills.

They wanted to make Harry proud.

And Harry was proud with watching them act appropriately, but he was also keeping an eye out for his prey.

Time ticked by as the three of them waited for Draco. Each was hoping that Draco hadn’t given into the hysteria and remained within Slytherin. Harry would have been most displeased to have to think of another way to corner Malfoy before he departed for the holidays. Or worse, miss him altogether.

But fate was on Harry’s side, for an hour before the curfew bell tolled Draco rounded the corner. Just like before, Daphne Greengrass was at his side.

At once, Harry gathered his magic and waited until they were directly in front of him before unleashing his might.

Daphne’s eyes glazed over immediately, her magic bending towards Harry’s obvious might without question. However, even though Harry was more focused on Draco, he was aware of how familiar her magic was. It felt warm to him and much like how Cedric’s had felt before Harry knew that Cedric belonged to him.

He made a quick mental note to explore it later.

Meanwhile, Draco had the bulk of his attention. The youngest Malfoy had made a valiant effort at resisting him, but that only lasted for a few seconds before his eyes glazed over too.

Immediately, Harry entered his mind and searched quickly for any information that explained just how the Chamber of Secrets had been opened.

Neville and Justin watched with curious expressions on their face as Draco and Daphne both rocked gently back and forth while standing in the hall. Each of Harry’s boys were ready with their wands drawn in case someone else stumbled upon them before Harry was finished extracting the information that he sought.

Thankfully, no one came into view and after a few moments Harry released his hold over both Daphne and Draco. The pair came out of their daze and Draco drew his wand, most likely as a reflexive response instilled by his father.

Though neither could find anything amiss and after a minute of collecting themselves they quickly headed for their common room.

Justin and Neville weren’t the type to wait around and were anxious to learn what Harry had discovered. Each had independently reasoned that Harry would return to the classroom that they had used to make themselves undetectable to others, and so that was where they had gone.

Sure enough, they felt Harry’s magic wash over them at the exact moment that they stepped foot inside the class.

At the same time, Harry appeared before them and they could tell immediately that he had not learned what he had hoped to uncover.

“Nothing?” Neville asked with very little hope.

“Well, not nothing,” Harry responded in an irritated manner.

“Just not anything that is going to help Cedric. Draco may have had an idea that something was going to happen this year at Hogwarts but his father didn’t share the specifics with him.”

“Shit!” Justin expressed to Muggle perfection.

But Harry wasn’t finished.

“It would seem that dear old Lucius purposefully kept this from Draco; something to which Draco didn’t respond kindly to and is I believe one of the reasons that Slytherin House received all new brooms this year. Lucius, if you can believe it, has a very soft spot where Draco is concerned and has a very difficult time saying no to the boy.”

“So what do we do now?” Neville asked in a quiet and dejected manner.

“Obviously we can’t go to Lucius about this and I don’t see another solution besides waiting this out. I’m sure that both of you can appreciate how much it pains me to admit that we did not succeed tonight.”

Justin looked down to the floor and even though he knew that they couldn’t have done anything more, he couldn’t help but feel like they had failed Harry.

He didn’t even have to look at Neville to know that the other boy felt the same way.

It was a sight that Harry hated to see since he had been most pleased with how they had kept it together and even managed to get in some training while they waited.

That kind of performance needed to be rewarded.

Therefore, Harry walked towards his friends until he came to stand a foot away.

“However,” he then added in a soft voice that made Neville and Justin look at him.

“You two did everything that I could have expected of you tonight. With each day that passes I am even more glad that you are on this journey with me.”

Then, as if to say thank you, Harry released his magic and it flowed into both of them with such force that Neville and Justin needed to use the other one to remain standing upright. Such was the strength and ecstasy of Harry’s magic.

            Harry rewarded them for a few more minutes before calling his magic back into his body. While he waited for Neville and Justin to gather themselves, he quickly went through and sorted the many memories from Draco’s mind that he had seen.

            To be honest, Harry was largely surprised with how affectionate Lucius was and had been with Draco and just how normal the young Malfoy’s life was. True, Lucius had also introduced Draco to Occlumency and some of the darker approaches to magic, but he still treated him like a child that he would do anything for.

            But Harry expected more from the scion of a house as influential as the Malfoys; running circles around Ronald Weasley was one thing, but Harry had almost hoped that Draco would have given him more of a challenge.

            At any rate, Harry had just sorted away the memory of Draco discovering the pleasures of masturbation when Neville and Justin were finally ready to head back to Hufflepuff. The knowledge of those self-exploring events had been both humorous and slightly awkward as Draco took to developing the secretive behavior that had accompanied him learning how to pleasure himself in his room when he thought his parents were away.

Chuckling at the lengths that Draco had gone to in ensuring complete privacy from both his parents and the house elves, Harry started to lead his friends back to Hufflepuff. Though, he randomly decided on a different route; one that took them on the path in which they would be least likely to encounter another living person.

           Specifically, Harry guided them up to the second floor and past the girl’s lavatory that not one female in the castle used because of an obnoxiously whiny ghost who had been crying for as long as anyone could remember.

The three boys had just rounded a corner and were now in sight of where the bathroom lied when a young girl with red hair burst out of the lavatory and proceeded to run directly at their now-standing forms.

As she approached, Harry saw that her face was tired and that she had the telltale signs of exhaustion; nevertheless, there was still some stubborn determination that enabled her to keep going. It was likely that it was this singular mindset also prevented her from noticing Harry and her friends standing in her way, or she just didn’t care as her started to run faster.

Therefore, to prevent what had to be a small first year from slamming into them, Harry directed a very powerful tendril of his magic to intercept her when she was just over ten feet away.

Almost immediately, she became rooted to the spot and her visibly wet eyes darted around as she tried to understand what was happening, and Harry still wasn’t certain that she had spotted them yet.

Harry then became interested as a terrified expression took over her features and her hands inched up to cover her pale and worried face. In all honesty the poor girl looked like she hadn’t had a good nights sleep in quite a while. Knowing that as she began to sink to the floor that she was not going to go anywhere in the immediate future, Harry called back his magic.

Without Harry’s magical support and the rapidly decreasing adrenaline coursing through her veins, her body was simply unable to support her own weight any longer and she crashed to the floor.

He would never have expected someone so young to have such an authentic panic take hold of them, and he more so than anyone recognized that this girl was running from something that had truly terrified her.

Instantly, Harry eyes flicked to the bathroom that she had recently exited from out of in an abundance of caution given the recent events within the castle. He was just about to direct Neville and Justin to go to her when she suddenly found her voice.

Only it wasn’t directed at any of them.

“No, please, Tom! I think am losing my mind. Please just leave me alone!” Her voice was pleading and it was clear that she didn’t have much fight left in her.

Now Harry was very intrigued in what was going on. What had this fellow named Tom done to her?

Harry motioned his arms and caught the attention of Neville and Justin and they backed off to the side. They knew that Harry was asking them to be his eyes as he moved forward to deal with the girl that he was now fairly certain was Ginny Weasley given her trademark red hair.

“I think I’ve been hurting people, Tom,” she cried again softly to herself.

“I keep losing track of time whenever I write to you and it seems that every time I do someone else becomes hurt. I don’t know what’s going on!”

Harry was nearly within arm’s reach of her now and with each new word that she said, Harry felt his pulse speed up.

‘It can’t be,’ Harry thought quietly to himself.

“I think I’m the one that has been petrifying people,” she sobbed into her hands.

Neville and Justin felt their eyes widen with her shocking statement and they shared a look, both of them morbidly interested in how Harry was going to deal with the person who had just admitted to taking Cedric away from him.

Though, they weren’t surprised to see Harry steel himself and kneel down in front of her with a comforting expression on his face. They knew that no matter how severe his retribution would be that Harry would first extract any and all useful information from the girl first.

“Shh,” Harry soothed, sending his magic to wrap around her while his right hand inched to rest on her shoulder.

However, something very strange happened when his magic surrounded them both and mingled with her own magic. Now that he wasn’t trying to stop her from running into him and his boys, he was able to sense something that he noticed as very odd.

For this girl, who had turned into a blubbering mess in front of him, had a small sliver in her magic that sent a shiver down Harry’s spine.

And at the exact moment that Harry felt it, both Neville and Justin felt that familiar and tantalizing tingle run over their nerve endings.

Each had been thinking about being united with this feeling ever since they first felt it at Flourish & Blotts – even the opening of the Chamber of Secrets had merely pushed it towards the backs of their minds.

But not a moment had gone by that they had stopped thinking about it completely.

However, this was nowhere near as strong as they had come to expect or had even felt on occasion on their way to classes.

“Strange,” Harry said as he stroked her soft red hair.

The combination of Harry’s familiar, yet somewhat different magic and the fact that the boy’s voice was nothing like Tom’s helped to draw Ginny back to the present.

Her sniffles lessoned and she was able to look directly into Harry’s green eyes.

Though, there was still fear in her eyes and her body language showed evidence that she wasn’t as calm as Harry’s magic should have made her. It was a very atypical reaction to Harry’s magic, but it only drew him in more.

If he wasn’t committed now to figuring out the mysteries of Ginny Weasley, he was after the words that then came out of her mouth.

“You feel just like him,” she said weakly, but honestly.

Harry could see the truth of it in her eyes.

She should have been more nervous about meeting the infamous Harry Potter, but after hearing about how average he was from her brother Ronald – not to mention the experience that had been Tom Riddle – well, she just didn’t have it in her to care anymore.

“Feel like whom?” Harry replied in a carefully controlled manner.

He didn’t want her to know just how interested he really was with her answer.

“Like Tom,” she said simply.

Though, her eyes then began to widen in fear and she looked over her shoulder at the bathroom.

“What do you think is hiding there?” Harry questioned in a soft voice, using his magic to strengthen the impact of his words without having to touch her directly.

When Ginny looked back at Harry she looked like she was just about to answer him but then thought better of it.

In truth, she had no idea where to begin and already thought that she had gone mad without needing other people to think her crazy.

Plus, she realized now that she had probably said too much to begin with, and made like she was about to leave when she found that she couldn’t move.

“Going somewhere?” Harry asked pointedly.

He had been reading her body language and knew exactly what she had been thinking, but Harry wasn’t going to turn down this opportunity.

He had waited too long to find out what had happened to both Cedric, and now to find that it might also have something to do with that mysterious feeling…

Even Justin and Neville knew that their night was about to become extended and took up their guard outside the room that Harry led them all into.

Ginny didn’t even protest, though on the inside she was quite afraid about what was going to happen.

But Tom had drained so much of her energy and she had used every last ounce of willpower that she had possessed in throwing the diary at Moaning Myrtle in her attempt to be free of Tom once and for all.

“Now, I expect that it would be much easier for you show me what has been going on instead on telling me,” Harry said matter-of-factly while Ginny attempted to figure out what Harry meant by that.

“S-show you?” she stammered out.

“Yes, show me,” Harry said with a wry smile as he unleashed his mind towards her.

Harry’s face was the last thing that Ginny Weasley remembered seeing.

 


 

Harry found no resistance as he broke through her pitiful mental defenses; however, what surprised him was that it was abundantly clear that someone had been inside her mind before.

Many times, in fact, judging by the looks of things.

It was only because of how often that he had journeyed into the minds of Neville and Justin that he was able to notice the nonrandom way in which her memories had been organized. Only a person very well adept at the Mind Arts would have organized their minds in this manner, and Ginny Weasley was not a Master Occlumens. Therefore, the only other possible way to explain the level of organization that Harry saw was that someone had been in her mind so frequently that they had organized her memories for her.

Knowing that there was a simple way to test this out, Harry walked over to a collection of memories that looked just like the other piles that were neatly stacked in rows.

Except that this pile gave off a warmer and warmer pulse as Harry approached it, reminding him more and more of the feeling that he desperately wanted to figure out.

So when Harry was finally next to the large pile, he wasn’t surprised to find that these memories had something surrounding them; much like how a force field surrounded a ship. It was faint, but had some reasonable strength behind it and Harry recognized it at once.

This was the same kind of shield that he used with his own magic to surround and protect something that was important, the same kind of magic that he had used to hide Neville’s memories of Icarus and Phineas from the young Longbottom. Now, it was all but confirmed in Harry’s mind that someone very skilled had been in her mind and knew what they were doing.

With nothing else to do but see what these memories contained, Harry gathered his magic and severed their protection.

A single touch of his hand against the first memory transported Harry to see everything that someone had wanted Ginny to forget.

 

Hi Ginny,’ an elegantly drawn note appeared below her last journal entry.

‘Finally,’ she thought to herself after many and many hours of writing with no response.           

But she knew that if she kept up her torrid pace and poured her heart into her writing that he would respond to her.

Little did she know, however, that Tom fed off of her putting that much effort into her writing, so much so in fact that it convinced the Horcrux within it that there was a path to freedom.

So Diary Tom waited until it had drawn enough reserves from her many entries so that he would have strength for what was he had planned to do.

In truth, the Tom Riddle that resided within the old and withered journal was giddy at the thought that he would have a second chance in reopening the Chamber of Secrets. To think that after all of these years of waiting that he would be able to complete the noble work that Salazar Slytherin had planned for… well, simply put, it was euphoric.

Only he had to work slowly up to his goal and see if it was even possible. A lot did rest upon his ability to take control of the girl, and while he was pretty sure that it would work it was still just a theory.

Fortunately, theories could be tested and so Tom waited patiently for the time to strike.

Ginny, meanwhile, was not privy to these thoughts and so her reaction to the reappearance of her mysterious pen pal meant that a small smile that fluttered to her face.

Tom, where have you been?’ she hastily scribbled back.

I am at Hogwarts now, been sorted into Gryffindor in fact. I’m so pleased that I didn’t let my whole family down and go somewhere different.’

Is that so,’ Tom wrote back to her.

Yes, Tom, and you were right, the castle is magical. How did you know that it would take my breath away?’

Harry stood over the shoulder of Ginny Weasley as the conversation played out. From the moment that he saw the diary he knew that his search was over. The power that emanated – even in memory form – from the diary was the one thing that Harry had needed to feel to know that the source of his greatest feeling had been found.

Without question.

It was just that he didn’t understand how a diary could produce this kind of power, and elicit this type of a response from his magic; never mind how the book made of worn leather was having a conversation with someone.

While Harry knew that magic could do many things, he never knew that a diary could have something that felt like, like a soul… which was the best way that he could think to describe it since it felt so human.

Harry was so focused on that thought that he almost missed the exact moment where the conversation between Ginny and the Diary ended. It was strange, one minute Ginny had been carrying on about how she was going to make a name for herself and get out of her brother’s shadows and the next there was a boy in her place.

And that boy took Harry’s breath away. He was everything that Harry could or would ever hope to find in someone else should he desire companionship.

To say that he was perfect was one thing, but to say that he was a possible equal to himself was quite another.

Except that when Harry focused extremely hard on the beautiful boy who elicited a very strong reaction from his magic he saw Ginny instead.

Curious at the apparent apparition in front of him Harry moved closer and focused harder and from this position it was even easier to see Ginny – which led Harry to contemplate the situation in front of him.

In his mind the only way that this was even possible was that Ginny was being possessed. And though this conclusion was a bit of a stretch, Harry had several pieces of evidence to support it. The first was that he had seen an inanimate object carry on a conversation with someone, and the second was that he was literally inside Ginny’s head and was witnessing things from her, or rather his point of view. Perhaps the best piece of evidence, however, was in how her memories had been organized, which required someone else to enter her mind.

And aside from the way this memory person saw itself, Harry was learned enough in the Mind Arts to note the subtle but distinct change that had permeated throughout the memory.

He felt even more of that delicious feeling now that the boy was in control, and that made his magic sing. It was all Harry could do to keep watching this memory and not go in search of this Diary… and this boy.

Luckily, he didn’t have too long to dwell on that instinct, since just as quickly as this Tom had appeared, he disappeared completely and Ginny reappeared as whole as she had ever been. This left Harry feeling a series of mixed emotions as he took it all in.

With the absence of this other boy from his immediate senses – and the interesting and distracting response that he had on Harry and his magic – Harry was able to see that Ginny had had nothing to do with opening the Chamber of Secrets and what had befallen Cedric.

To his surprise, he didn’t know how he felt about that. Normally, reason and logic guided Harry’s decisions, but there were some situations that Harry let his magic lead him. Just like how had acquired Neville and Justin, and then Cedric.

In this particular situation, though, his magic wanted more and his mind was not quite on the same page. It told him that he needed to be cautious and gather as much evidence as he could before he decided on an appropriate cause of action.

This wasn’t the same as acquiring a new follower, because it was clear that this Tom was more equal to Harry than anyone that he had come across before. And yet it was because of how similar he was to him that both his magic and his mind agreed on needing to know more. For no matter how much Harry’s magic wanted to mingle with the magic of Tom, his own magic couldn’t disregard the potential danger that lurked in meeting another whose magical power had the potential to be the same as his own.

So he kept that thought in mind as the scene soon shifted with the next memory that began to play; however, not much of the scenery within the Gryffindor’s room had actually changed.

The only difference was that this time Ginny’s outfit was different. Also, when Tom took over Ginny in what was presumably a later date, he immediately made for Hagrid’s hut and then killed all of the roosters. This was the event that confirmed the existence of the Basilisk beyond a doubt for Harry, but he was curious as to why Tom made a point for Ginny to collect some of the blood and put it away within small vials that he had conjured with her mind.

Once complete, this memory returned them to Gryffindor, and Harry saw first-hand even more evidence that Tom matched Harry’s abilities; for he couldn’t help but note that Tom behaved in much the same way that he would have if he had taken control of another student and was trying not to be noticed. In fact, Harry knew that Tom must have studied Ginny’s mannerisms and had to have had some idea as to the world he was exploring. Therefore, he made a mental note to see just what some of their conversations had been like, and just how much Ginny had inadvertently informed him of with what she had written in her diary.

Upon returning to Gryffindor undetected, Tom stored the vials of blood in a broken floorboard under her bed and then returned his focus to the diary that sat on her desk, when he soon disappeared for a second time.

The memory ended just as Ginny started to realize that something was not quite right.

The next time that this happened was much the same thing.

The only way that Harry knew that time had again passed was in the altered layout. First-year Gryffindor girls apparently loved to redecorate and had moved the furniture around to create quite a different setting.

Again, Ginny was alone in the dorm and writing line after line into the diary.

Harry moved around the landscape of her memory and waited for the important parts of the scene to begin, all the while noticing that Ginny looked somewhat tired. It wasn’t a huge difference from the previous memory, and perhaps Harry was noticing it simply because time had jumped several weeks from the last memory given the date on her entry page.

Though the date bounced around Harry’s own mind for several seconds before it hit him that this was the date when the writing on the wall appeared. Harry would never forget that night because it was when he had heard that ancient voice, the one that had now been confirmed to have been a deadly Basilisk in retrospect.

And no sooner had Harry thought that that the light in the room flickered and the older boy appeared again in Ginny’s place. There seemed to be more to him this time and it was harder for Harry to find any trace of Ginny that remained under the thralls of his control in this memory.

However, Harry didn’t have all that long to dwell on what he was seeing as the handsome boy stood up from Ginny’s desk and made his way towards the exit. As Tom made his way down the spiral staircase and across the floor of Gryffindor’s common room, he was able to notice just how captivating the boy truly was. What made the way he carried himself even more mesmerizing was that this image was only of how his consciousness saw himself, and that could never quite replicate the true beauty of how dominate someone was or could be in person with this much potential.

Especially when that person likely had the wherewithal to keep up some semblance of the person that they were impersonating with a room full of people that included family members. What Harry wouldn’t have given to see this boy in person; it was something that his magic just felt strongly about.

   And true to what Harry expected, no one gave Ginny a second glance as she exited and made her way towards the heart of the castle.

About Halfway into their journey down the stairs, Harry came to realize that perhaps he was on his way to discovering the location to the Chamber of Secrets. After all, he had more than enough evidence that Ginny - who was being controlled by this Tom person – had almost certainly unleashed Slytherin’s monster.

Which would have meant that Tom was somehow a descendent of the powerful Salazar Slytherin. In Harry’s mind, that helped to explain some of the delicious power that practically oozed out of Tom’s body as Harry followed him into the very bathroom that he had seen Ginny running out of.

‘Of course,’ Harry exclaimed quietly, connecting the pieces to where they fit within the larger story.

Although, if Harry had been captivated by Tom before, he didn’t think there was a word to describe the longing that formed in his soul when Tom soon began to speak in Parseltongue.

It was as if his insides were on fire with the way his magic surged in response to those sexy, sibilant hisses.

Never before had his magic encountered anything that was this close to a match to what it could do; however, just as quickly as Harry felt that, he became aware of several very important things.

The first and most important being that he didn’t know the present location of this Tom. While it was likely that he still resided in the diary – because that would have explained what Ginny had been running from – there was the distinct possibility that this boy had already broken free. Though, and to Harry’s second point, if he still resided in that diary then how would Harry free him? Which led him to point number three, and something that thrilled him as much as terrified him: was it the best thing for Harry to have to deal with Tom in the flesh.

He knew the reaction that he had to Tom, but would the reverse also play to his favor. That is, could he trust this boy to not attempt to take him over to further his own plans? And that was something that Harry couldn’t answer because if roles were reversed he would consider doing any and everything in his power to regain his freedom.

At this point he had already taken it as a given that this Tom likely knew more about magic, and could thus do more with magic, because of how much older he was than Harry. No matter how exceptional he was it was clear that Tom was just as exceptional with magic and had a few more years on Harry in which to expand his knowledge of all types of magic.

Needless to say, it was a very contemplative journey that Harry endured in following Tom to what had to be the proper entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. While his mind had been paying just enough attention to his surroundings to be able to retrace his steps, he set aside his internal deliberations completely at the sight of the ornate steel door that was festooned with intricately carved green snakes.

It was a fitting door in Harry’s opinion.

Again, Tom uttered those sinful hisses and the door opened to reveal a dark cavern. Tom then confidently made his way into the darkness, and as he did so great torches of fire came to life on either side of what was now an obvious walkway towards whatever was in the front.

Harry’s mouth parted at the grand view that revealed itself before his eyes. Large statues of striking snakes lined the side of the stone floor and they directed his line of sight to an even larger stone bust that had to be of Salazar Slytherin.

Seeing Tom framed by the image of his forefather made the older boy seem even more powerful.

Speak to me Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four,” Tom then shouted into the expanse of the cavern.

This time it wasn’t the sound of those words in Parseltongue that sent delightful shivers down Harry’s spine, for the sight of the large stone mouth parting before him had fully captured his attention.

Master?” the ancient voice sounded again in Harry’s ears.

For a moment, he couldn’t help the turn of his head as a large shadow moved out of Slytherin’s mouth. However, Harry soon reminded himself that this was all taking place in someone else’s mind and therefore he did not have to be concerned with meeting the gaze of the otherwise deadly king of the serpents.

Your power has only grown during my absence,” Tom greeted the giant snake that encircled him and Harry with its large body.

Master Riddle has returned, though you are in a different form than last time. How is this possible?

So Riddle was Tom’s last name? Harry quietly took note and observed the snake, feeling a rare sensation of awe wash through him at getting to witness something that people had died to see. Literally.

It was then that Harry noticed that the beast had a nictitating membrane that covered its eyes, which made complete sense to Harry. This way the snake could constantly have its eyes open and only deliver its fatal blow when it wanted to.

I took over the form of a young girl,” Tom then explained. “You see, I had taken certain precautions against death and stored part of my soul away in an old diary. It just so happened that this young girl came upon my Horcrux and I was reawakened. I will transfer her life force to mine over time and become flesh soon enough. There is more, but I’m sure you are hungry after years of not feeding. Come, my pet, we can talk later. Only I must ask that you do not kill yet. Petrify only, and I promise that we can work for much longer this time.”

The snake nodded and moved to uncoil itself as Tom turned to face the exit that led to the castle above. Harry moved to follow, all the while filing away everything that he had just heard to go over when he had the chance.

‘So the Tom that resided in the diary really was human’, Harry thought to himself.

‘Is that what a Horcrux is?’ he asked to himself next as they made their way back to the surface. He wasn’t even focusing on how Tom knew the snake could either kill or petrify, both of which must feed the animal in some way.

It didn’t take long for them to emerge in the bathroom and the large snake was surprisingly silent as it slithered over the cold ground. The ghost of Myrtle was no where to be seen, but Harry knew that had had something to do with the flick of Tom’s wand that had sent a cool breeze in front of them.

‘Smart,’ Harry recognized since the last people you would want to cotton on to your presence and secret activities were any of Hogwarts many ghosts.

The snake stayed behind Tom as he crept out into the hallway, but it couldn’t stop the words that hissed from its mouth:

“Kill… eat… kill again.”

Only it didn’t have quite the same effect on Harry that it did before.

They continued on down the hallway, only stopping when Tom removed the rooster’s blood from his robe to quickly spell those familiar words to appear on the wall.

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED: ENEMIES OF THE HEIR BEWARE

Tom chuckled softly to himself before the meow of a cat turned both his attention and that of the Basilisk’s towards the lurking form of Mrs. Norris. Harry thought that the cat must have had a death wish since it jumped up onto the ledge that was right next to the drying blood on the wall and looked at Tom as if he were about to be in trouble.

Tom didn’t even have to say anything to the snake for it to speak once more before striking.

Masters says strike!

And just like that Flich’s cat was petrified.

Come,” Tom hissed softly to the snake.

We will make sure you are well fed this time, and make sure that Dumbledore doesn’t interfere with our plans again,” Tom said as the memory began to retreat to the bathroom.

Which struck Harry as odd since that dated Tom and identified that he had first been a student at some point in the past when Dumbledore had also been there. While Harry knew that that still left a span of about seventy years to go through, it gave him some way to find out more about who this Tom person really was.

Once inside the bathroom, Tom sent the snake on its way and made a hasty retreat back to Gryffindor, carefully avoiding the throngs of students that rushed to the loud cries of Filch. As expected, the moment that Tom made it to Ginny’s dorm room, his control over her abruptly stopped and she took a few moments to come out of her daze.

And then the memory changed again, and this time it was Cedric who had been the victim. Though, it was during this memory that he learned as to why Muggleborns were no longer targeted. Tom had a plan to throw the old coot off and therefore was going to target several purebloods with petrification before he hopefully had the energy to regain his own physical form.

The next memory that flashed before Harry’s eyes was even quicker as Millicent became the next victim. Tom was very efficient in how he used the snake and moved her throughout the castle without being seen. It really was ingenious to use the plumbing – and the occasional Enlargement Charm on the pipes – to strike at different locations.

But he never shared as much about his plan with the snake as he did during his reunion with her; it was almost as if he regretted saying anything at all. Harry recognized many of the same traits that he saw in himself, except he at least had Justin and Neville – and soon to be Cedric – to share some of his life with. Tom was alone and was obviously quite content with not having someone else to get in his way.

It made Harry want to speak to the boy in a strange way, and as the last memory that Tom had hidden from Ginny ended, Harry wondered how that conversation would even begin.

 

Harry exited Ginny’s mind and found himself in an unused room being guarded by Neville and Justin.

The second that he moved, he had the attention of his boys who immediately came to his side.

“Harry, what did you find out?” Justin asked after kneeling down to be at Harry’s height.

“Much,” Harry replied with a perplexed expression on his face.

He wasn’t entirely sure how much to share with them at this point, and as the last thing that he had seen upon leaving Ginny’s mind was her memory of throwing the diary into the bathroom, he knew that he would have to tell them something.

Because Harry couldn’t just leave Tom lying around for anyone to find, but at the same time he didn’t trust himself with the diary either. He was tempted, oh so tempted to open the pages and see what Tom’s reaction to his presence would be.

But that would have been a gamble, and one that Harry didn’t think that he was ready to take yet. Simply put, he knew that he needed to learn more magic.

While Tom most certainly could become Harry’s equal in every way, at this particular point in time Tom was miles above what Harry could do.

Which didn’t exactly make Harry’s want to meet him diminish; if anything it only added to the mystery of who this boy was and why he complimented Harry so.

However, as Harry looked into the faces of Neville and Justin, he had no idea what to do about that diary since it wasn’t an option to leave it where it was. Neither could he tempt himself by taking it, nor would he allow Neville or Justin the opportunity for Tom to take them under his thrall.

So the three boys sat there in silence – alongside a numb and disoriented Ginny who occasionally blinked – as Harry thought about everything and anything that had to do with Tom and his diary.

However, the hour soon became very late and curfew had ended hours ago. As much as he didn’t really know the right thing to do, he knew that he needed to do something and therefore did the one thing that made the most sense in his mind.

Therefore, Harry gathered his might and took control of Ginny. His instructions to her were clear and his magic helped her open the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and Harry stood outside the bathroom as he heard the diary fall into the abyss.

He knew it was risky to leave the diary down where the Basilisk could presumably find it, but reasoned that Tom would not be able to regain human form if no one was available for him to suck the life out of.

It would also give Harry an idea as to when he was ready to meet Tom, because if he could venture down into the chamber and easily deal with a Basilisk then he would know that he had the skill to be able meet Tom and learn just why the other boy called to him so.

 


 

So, thoughts? Went back and forth with the ending. In the end I just did what I would have done.

Happy Holidays.

Also, feel free to check out my new story (because I simply could not help myself). It’s called From Beneath You It Devours, and it is going to be ridiculous.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Really have the writing bug lately and I think a large part of that comes with the increasing amount of time that I spend in the air; those fourteen-hour flights don’t entertain themselves! Regardless of the reason, I’m thankful to feel so inspired to keep this fic up. Hope it continues as I have some fantastic ideas on where to take this and most of my energies in the past month have been spent drafting out the next few years.

Anyways, hope that your Holidays were fun and festive and a continued thanks for sticking with this.

Feel free to leave comments (your thoughts really do help me sometimes when I am stuck).

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

            Tom, Tom Riddle.

Harry had lost track of how many times that enchanting name had rolled off his tongue over the course of the winter holidays.

            There was just something right about the way that he connected to the name and the person who bore it. But at the same time, this attraction that he felt was unlike anything that he could remember experiencing before; it was almost like his magical core needed to experience this Tom Riddle in person and allow both of their magics to mingle for Harry to be able to figure out and understand the next step.

            Whatever that may be.

It was different than how he knew that his boys belonged next to him, for he could see and understand the obvious strength that they provided – even if he was still at a loss as to why his magic almost required him to have … followers.

Altogether, his newfound fascination with this mysterious figure took up a majority of his time over the break. Whether he was in the library trying to find out just what a Horcrux was and how it was created or thinking about how he would use Ginny Weasley when she returned to go through all of her memories, his mind was fixated on anything and everything that had to do with Tom Riddle in some form or another.

But that preoccupation had a limit, even if it was all he could do to keep away from the second-floor bathroom. Because as much as he wanted to get to know who this boy was, Harry knew that he wasn’t ready.

Tom had several more years of magical study than he did under his belt and there was always the chance that Tom would not feel the same way that Harry did. Which was confusing because Harry didn’t even know how he felt!

Therefore, Harry steeled himself against traversing that part of the castle and instead focused his time on ferreting out all of the information that he could in the library so that he could better understand and be better prepared for whatever came his way next. Besides, if devoting himself further to mastering magic also enabled him to meet Tom sooner, then so be it.

            In addition to the library, Harry had made several large purchases, including a wide assortment of advanced books that he hoped would contain some of the answers to his many questions. Or at the very least lead him in the right direction to find them out somewhere else. At any rate, he was certainly going to expand his knowledge base rapidly – and that was never a bad thing.

Also, now that he was quite sure that it was safe again to roam the castle given that the Basilisk no longer had a master that could free it from its keep, Harry took to taking long walks around the empty hallways during the day.

For while he knew that the attacks were over, he still had to pretend that they weren’t finished yet. Nothing good would come from Dumbledore wondering why he was traipsing about the castle at night. Besides, he did his best reading at night and could now take thorough advantage of not having to work his schedule around classes and the dreadfully boring busywork that some of the professors were so fond of assigning.

However, sometimes he couldn’t help himself and was quite fond of taking the long way back to Hufflepuff after dinner and it was during one of these sojourns that he stumbled upon Hogwarts’ trophy room.

And nothing could have prepared Harry for what he was about to experience.

Harry’s stomach was comfortably full as he took a leisurely stroll back to his room, where he had a tome that had just come via Owl-Order on magical ways to extend one’s life waiting for him. He didn’t know if a Horcrux could extend one’s life but it could certainly preserve it and this was the closest text on the subject that he had been able to find.

In fact, he was just running through that very topic in his mind when he was about to take the familiar path down the stairs and towards his dorm when he realized that there was a room that he walked by every single day and yet had never been inside of.

As he changed the direction of his steps he supposed that perhaps this alcove had eluded his thought process before since he remembered glancing inside of the room when he had first walked by very early on during his first year and hadn’t seen anything of interest.

But this time was different, for when he poked his head in he realized that there was a curved wall to the far right that he would not have been able to see with just a casual peek into the room. This rounded wall was filled with all sorts of medals and trophies encased in glass that looked to date back several decades. In fact, Harry was positive that some of the shelves within the frames were over a hundred years old.

Curious as to what some of the glass cabinets held, Harry fully entered the room and took a few minutes to look about each shelf, which were arranged from the most recent of Hogwarts’ classes to the oldest.

As Harry made his way back in time, his eyes passed over very few names that he knew personally considering that he had only been there for a year and a half. Still, he knew the previous’ years Head Boy and Girl and remembered something about which house had won the last Quidditch Cup. Beyond that, he only recognized some of the more familiar magical names until he came across a plaque dedicated to his parents, who had shared Head Girl and Boy responsibilities during the same academic year a few years before he was born.

Seeing the names of his parents meant very little to him since he hadn’t known them and would never know them. It was hard for someone like Harry to have an opinion on something just because he was expected to, and he had already been through the rounds as to how he felt about their absence.

But at least his parents had been talented.

Going back further in time, Harry only began to recognize those names that he had come across in learning about the wizarding war with Voldemort. Nevertheless, he committed to at least looking over every name in case something stood out. For instance, he had yet to find out anything more about Tom Riddle and his name on one of these plaques could at least serve to give Harry a more precise time frame within that seventy-year span that Dumbledore had been at Hogwarts.

His eyes though had nearly glazed over as he journeyed further into the past, but his diligence paid off as the name Tom Riddle finally registered as passing through his optic nerve.

And the best part was that there were two separate entries. The first denoted that he had been Head Boy during the nineteen forty four to nineteen forty five school year, while the second simply listed his name next to an award for special services to the school. It didn’t say what Tom had done to earn the award, but Harry was just glad to get an exact year on when Tom had come through the school.

That he could work with.

His hand had just begun to inch up and trace the outline of Tom’s name when a soft voice sounded over his shoulder.

“Interesting, isn’t it?”

Harry’s magic was instantly on edge. His first instinct was to unleash his wrath on the intruder, but his quick-thinking mind told him to hold off.

For one, it would go against everything that he had worked so hard to achieve to put his prodigious talents on display without knowing who it was. Not even a second later he was glad he had such a tight control over his magic and mind because he surprisingly found that his magic calmed down just as quickly as it had flare up.

And a large part of that was how the other person had made him feel.

Whoever had said that hadn’t meant him any ill-will, as far as he could detect, and so he turned slowly around to face this new person.

To his surprise it was the little girl with blond hair from Ravenclaw, whose magic was unlike anything that Harry had ever felt before.

“You okay?” the girl asked while Harry eyed her carefully up and down.

“Just surprised is all; it isn’t everyday that someone is able to sneak up on me.”

He felt oddly comfortable around her; much like he did with his boys but this was different for his magic just couldn’t seem to connect with hers.

“Yes, I suspect the Blibbering Humdingers help to shield me. Quite useful, really.”

Harry just kept staring at her since he got the distinct impression that she was serious even though it was all nonsense to him.

“It’s all right if you don’t believe me,” the girl then said as she moved closer to Harry and ran her finger over the same glass cases that he had just looked at.

“I’m used to people looking at me like you do.”

She stopped when she was right in front of him.

“You are unusual,” Harry agreed with an odd smile.

Regardless of what a Blibbering Humdinger was his magic had not detected the girl’s presence. And that, in and of itself, was reason enough to warrant his continued attention and interest in her and this conversation.

“My apologies,” Harry said while extending his hand.

“My name is Harry Potter and I do not believe that we have met.”

The girl accepted Harry’s invitation for a handshake.

“Charmed to meet you, Harry Potter. My name is Luna Lovegood and, no, we have not met. Unless you count behind Death’s shield, which I don’t think you do.”

Harry couldn’t help it, he laughed.

This Luna was just so unpredictable and Harry found himself enjoying her presence, even if he didn’t quite understand half of what she was talking about. What the hell was a Blibbering Humdinger or Death’s shield?

When his amused chuckles subsided, he turned his attention back to the glass case that housed Tom Riddle’s name. Luna simply followed his lead and the pair stood shoulder-to-shoulder in silence for a few moments.

While Harry debated how to continue with this girl, he couldn’t help but notice the further oddities that surrounded her. As if to make his point, she soon began to sway her body from side to side that went with the rhythm and melody of an unknown tune that she softly began to hum.

It was then that Harry realized that she had been about to say something when she had first disturbed him, and so he brought up the topic again.

“Sorry, but you didn’t finish your earlier comment. What did you think was interesting?”

Luna stopped moving her head and turned to look at Harry, blinking several times like concentrating took a great deal of effort.

“Oh, that,” she said as if it were nothing.

“I just find it interesting how sometimes when we look to the past we can discover our future, but knowing the future can also change the past. Most people forget that, you know.”

Harry didn’t know how to respond.

He took a moment to contemplate her statement while he continued to stare forward, still looking at Tom Riddle, Head Boy.

Was it possible that Luna was telling him something about why he was here in the Trophy Room looking into the past? Only, Harry wanted to believe that it was impossible for Luna to have any inkling about what he was doing here and how he was desperately trying to find out about who Tom Riddle was.

And yet, while his magic began to rile up and leak out of his body, he still could not feel the girl beside him. Perhaps it was very possible that his first impression of the girl had been correct after all. Maybe she was a different sort of magical being altogether.

So Harry decided to see what else she could tell him.

“And what would you know about why I am looking into the past?”

It was a gamble, but a well-calculated one in Harry’s opinion; Luna was not one that he would call a risk in opening up to.

In the meantime, Luna had returned to humming her quirky tune, but she paused briefly to answer him.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not the chicken or the egg came first, a circle has no starting point, Harry Potter, and you should know that.”

“Why should I know that a circle has no beginning or an end… and how would that relate to the past,” Harry ventured cautiously.

But Luna just smiled at him.

“Because not everything has a reason, Harry Potter, and some things just are.”

Harry found himself getting slightly irritated with the conversation now.

“Do you ever answer a direct question?” He said breathlessly.

“Do you ever ask one?” Luna responded very matter-of-factly.

Which at first made him even more irritated but that gave way to him teetering on the verge of contemplation. Had he been not asking the right questions or wasting whatever odd opportunity that this was with her by playing one of his games? Could she really answer a direct question if he took a chance?

Was that even possible?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

“Fine. Are you a seer, Luna?”

“Not exactly, I think,” she quipped.

“Well…?” Harry nudged her.

“I see things as they are and have been, and possibly might be but I cannot be certain about any distinct events in the future. Or even the past when it comes down to it.”

Again, Harry found himself getting annoyed by her anything but concrete answers and decided to take a more drastic approach that had served him well in the past.

At once, he turned to face her and unleashed his magic towards her mind.

However, from the moment that he entered her mind he regretted it.

Simply put, Harry was unprepared for what he saw and found his own consciousness getting lost in the myriad images that flitted past at dizzying speeds.

Her mindscape was endless and there would not have been enough time to organize everything that he saw, even if a person had an eternity in which to do so.

And despite his quite advanced and capable mind, Harry couldn’t even keep up with the images that were pouring into Luna’s mind.

It soon became apparent that Luna’s previous statement had been completely and utterly accurate. For within Luna’s mind were visions of the Pyramids of Giza, students learning magic, and of a dying star engulfing an aged and desolate world that had long lost its ability to support life.

And that was only a single thread among the countless possibilities stored within her mind. In others he was able to briefly glimpse a powerful sorcerer surrounded by seven warriors that stood together against an unseen force. But that scene changed just as quickly into a blond woman shielding herself in front of a blond child as some form of an explosion blinded Harry’s eyes.

As his consciousness brushed against each thread, the sheer weight of the onslaught of unfathomable possibilities threatened to overwhelm him.

Therefore, Harry severed his connection within her, and he needed a moment to rest his head against the glass as his external senses calmed from their overstimulation.

“Do you resent not getting a break from that?” Harry asked in a softer voice upon finally realizing the endless and excessive stimulation that she likely received during every waking minute of her life.

For that reason, his irritation over his perception of her not being direct with him dissipated, and he found himself empathizing with her more so than he had ever done with another person.

In that moment he questioned how she even retained her sanity.

“How can I resent what I am? Just the same as how you cannot help but be anything other than who you are.”

Her reply made complete sense to Harry, and so he added with his own take on her meaning.

“The only thing you can do is to work with what you have in order to get what you want.”

“Yes, the Nargles would agree with you there.”

Harry let that odd confirmation of his statement pass.

“So tell me, Harry Potter. What is it that you want?”

It was a very direct question and he took a moment to respond truthfully because seeing what he had seen inside her mind had changed him. Rather, it had focused him and allowed him to recognize that Luna was unique and being honest with her was not like being honest with others.

“Greatness,” he replied softly, like he could taste the inevitable success on his lips.

“I want to push the limits of magic and be free to set my own course, wherever that may lie and without restraint.”

Harry turned his head and he was no longer glancing at Tom Riddle’s name.

He wanted to be great, and in this moment he thought back to the Sorting Hat and how it had told him that his abilities had demanded it. But ever since then, there was so much that had seemed to pile up in his way; events and information far outside of his control that he knew would dictate some portion of his life for quite a while.

How much easier would his path be if he didn’t have to deal with others and could focus on himself?

But even as he lamented for a few moments, his head began to clear and he was able to see things more clearly. Perhaps it was an after-effect of seeing the chaos swirl within Luna.

True, he had been dealing with a lot and so couldn’t exactly focus on the bigger picture, except that when he looked at the bigger picture it included all of these other obstacles that were before him. From that vantage point, if he were able to successfully navigate them then he could achieve more than he could have had they not been there in the first place.

The expectation that came with being the Boy Who Lived had necessitated that he think about his potential sorting options and hadn’t he gone into Hufflepuff to fade into the background for the explicit purpose of achieving everything that he, Harry Potter, had wanted? And if he hadn’t of chosen that path, would Harry have been able or willing to allow others to join him on his way to greatness? He now explicitly recognized that without the adversity he never would have added to his power by interacting with his boys, his followers.

Likewise, would he have seen to mastering his ability with magic as early as he had if he hadn’t needed it to use it to survive the abuse of the Dursleys? Or how about the machinations of Professor Dumbledore, which included using him as bait and attempting to prepare him for a prophecy with inept professors charged with teaching him defense?

Furthermore, it was doubtful that he would have been able to then see into the minds of others without all of the above and therefore he would not know about the Chamber of Secrets or even about Tom Riddle, let alone the prophecy. From there it was only right to include that he might still be in the dark that there was another person out there that made him feel stronger than he had ever felt or could ever hope to feel by himself or with his followers.

Finally, he questioned whether he would even be having this conversation if none of that had taken place.

The answer to all of them was a likely no, or at the very least they wouldn’t have happened until much, much later.

As Harry stood there processing this revised way of looking at his life, he thought back to how distracted he had become. It didn’t matter in this moment that there was a very good reason for why his mind had been on other matters.

The only thing that was important in this instance was that he was able to take the very deep breath that his soul had needed to get a new perspective on things.

Little by little, he could feel some of the tension leaving his body, and while he would still have to deal with all of what had distracted him before, he felt better about it.

Just like a switch being turned on, his magic felt stronger and it seemed to flow even easier throughout his body, helping to reenergize him even more.

When he turned to look at Luna, her eyes were slightly glazed and Harry was surprised to finally be able to feel her magic mingle with his own.

‘Of course,’ he silently realized to himself.

“I just needed a new perspective on how to feel other sorts of magic.”

His whispered epiphany focused Luna’s eyes and she captured his green eyes with her silvery gray orbs.

“You have my thanks, Luna, for helping me to see with eyes that I didn’t realize that I had.”

Just then, he sent out a tendril of his magic to surround Luna and he expressed his gratitude with a lick of his power.

Her magic responded to his and Harry realized just how warm and receptive her magic was to his. He also understood why her magic didn’t have a pulse as it instead flowed out of her core in a continued stream, informing Harry that he had never detected her magic before because he had only been looking for the pulses.

“Is there anything that I can do for you, Luna?”

Harry felt more like himself than he had in quite some time and really did feel like he owed her, something that he was surprisingly okay with.

“Not at the moment, Harry Potter,” Luna smiled at him.

“Though, I suspect that our paths will cross again and perhaps then you’ll be ready.”

“Ready?” Harry questioned.

“Yes, ready. I’m not quite sure about that future yet, but I think there is a place for me by your side as well.”

Did Luna just inform him that he was going to gain another follower? For that matter, why did he need followers? Were there more coming his way?

“Luna, do you know something about that?”

But she just smiled at him and twirled her hair with her wand and then placed it on her ear again before responding.

“My mum always said that the things we lose have a way of coming back to us, just not in the way that we expect. Why should magic be any different?”

“Uh huh,” Harry sighed, resigned to no doubt continuing this discussion at a later date.

“Well, I’m off to get some pudding. I hope they haven’t stopped serving it yet.”

With that, she turned and skipped out of the room. However, no matter the confusing and likely roundabout way that his questions had been answered, Harry felt more able to deal with what was coming. His mind was refocused and he thought that it was time to begin introducing himself little by little to the world.

Standing there by himself in the now-empty room, Harry’s magic settled within his chest and he cleared his mind in preparation to properly catalogue the conversation and experience that had jut taken place.

However, in doing so Harry became aware that his magic had changed. It was stronger now, and had begun to resemble some shape – though he could also tell that it was not complete. Before his moment of clarity, his magic had been an amorphous mass that in many ways reminded him of a blob, and while parts of it still had no distinct shape, there were two very prominent points that had taken form. In addition to those defined regions, there was another area to his magical core that kept taking a clear shape only to disperse and then reform over and over again.

And Harry knew what these magical peaks represented for as he concentrated on each section he was immediately reminded of the magical aura of Neville, Justin, and the comatose Cedric.

In that moment he felt them just as clearly as if they were standing in front of him. He may not have known exactly why they had this connection to him, but as he focused on their bond he could feel his own magic grow.

Smirking to himself while he left the room, Harry’s magical core pulsed like it was a beating heart and as he made his way to Hufflepuff that pulse rippled outward and into the night.

 


 

Luna is my favorite character and I just couldn’t resist adding her take on things. I know that her unusualness has been incorporated in many wonderful stories, and I just hope that I did her justice in mine.

I know this chapter was a little shorter but I wanted to give Luna the respect that she deserves. Next Chapter will see some more of Tom.

Also, thanks for the support on From Beneath You It Devours!

 


 

On a more serious note, please realize that you matter and that there are people in this world that will fight for your rights. I haven’t given up and I never will and you shouldn’t either. WE are stronger together and fear and hate will not divide us.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Felt a little guilty that the last chapter was shorter, and yet this one is as well. But I can assure you that the next one is long and action-packed. The delay in me posting is that I wanted to do the various scenes justice and the lack of time I have available to write. Life is really busy right now (and also terrifying for the future of our planet and the people in it).

Also, really can’t thank you folks enough for supporting this as we pass 100k.

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

Neville Longbottom stepped onto the Hogwarts Express and made his way towards the back of the train. He had just entered the last remaining empty compartment when he felt the familiar and distinct ebb of Justin’s magic come up from behind him. Ever since the beginning of his second year he had been able to know when Justin was nearby almost as easily as he could with Harry.

Of course, that description of feeling his friend’s magic could also be just as easily applied to Justin and how he felt about Neville.

And whatever this unexplained phenomenon was that each boy was experiencing, it had become even more apparent now that they were being reunited after the winter break.

“Hiya Nev,” Justin said even though he knew that he didn’t have to say anything at all.

Their friendship went deeper than words could ever get across.

“I missed you,” Neville replied despite knowing the same thing.

He finished hoisting his bag above the seating area before turning to face his friend.

In response, Justin reach out for Neville’s shoulder and cupped it with his outstretched hand.

“I know what you mean.”

His voice was deadly serious.

Neville turned and met his gaze while Justin continued.

“Whatever is happening to us… with Harry… I think it has been getting stronger.”

Neville nodded and reached out to shut the door, severing his connection to Justin’s hand.

But not to his magic.

The two boys then sat down to face each other in their small compartment as the train began to pull away from King’s Cross Station.

“Do you ever feel like you will disappoint him?” Neville asked after a few minutes of silence.

There was a hint of uncertainty and trepidation in his eyes.

Which Justin noticed when he looked up and met Neville’s pointed and honest stare.

“All the time.”

His voice was quiet, barely audible, but Neville heard him anyway.

Justin’s eyes were full of worry, but there was also some relief now because know he knew, truly knew, that he wasn’t alone with how he felt.

A similar sensation then passed through Neville’s face and he visibly relaxed into his seat.

“It’s weird, you know? On one hand I realize that this isn’t normal; not everyone has this kind of connection with another person’s magic. But on the other, I never expected to have this feeling of purpose inside of me. Like I found exactly what I am supposed to do with my life. Does that make any sense?”

Neville didn’t even have to finish for Justin to agree completely with him.

“It’s like you are a part of something far greater than yourself and you feel so lucky that you get to be right there in the thick of things.”

Justin’s voice – his conviction – was stronger now.

“Every part of you feels needed. And Harry,” Justin breathed out, “he is something so much better than everyone and everything else.”

This time it was Neville’s turn to shake his head in agreement.

“I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. And I know that I would have never been able to reach my best if he hadn’t protected me. I…”

But Neville couldn’t finish his statement because he was momentarily overcome with gratitude with how Harry had looked out for what was his, and he had done this before Neville had even known that he belonged to Harry.

So Justin finished instead.

“And in return, we will do everything within our power to make sure that he reaches his potential. I would give my life for him,” Justin then said with such sureness.

But then an odd sense of vulnerability washed over him.

Even he knew it was absurd to make such a declaration at his age, and yet he had meant that with every fiber of his being.

Luckily, Neville felt the same way and the two boys further bonded with Neville’s subsequent response.

“No, we would give our lives for him. For our Harry,” Neville clarified before extending his hand to meet with Justin’s.

“For our Harry,” Justin agreed as their hands shook and a similar pulse extended from both of their cores and rippled outward.

Each took a moment to reflect on the solemn vow and promise that they had just made to each other. Their magic hummed contently just beneath the surface of their skin, and eventually settled as they sat back into a comfortable silence reflecting on the fact that they would never be truly alone ever again.

Not even if they were separated by a thousand miles.

Amid the quiet solitude and contemplation within their compartment, the train continued to barrel down the tracks on its way to Hogsmeade. Time passed quickly for them in this state and before either of them knew it they had arrived at their destination.

The pair was eager to be reunited with their Harry and they were among the first to exit the train. From there the only thing left was a short carriage ride to the castle.

Neville and Justin exited their horseless transport and had just placed their feet upon the grass when they felt the exquisite brush of magic against their bodies that signaled that Harry was close by.

Indeed, they didn’t have to search very long because he was waiting for them just under the arch that returning students had to pass through to enter the courtyard on their way to the castle.

Immediately they went to him and were rewarded with the much stronger pulse of his magic reuniting with theirs. In fact, it seemed as if Harry’s hold over them had grown – if that were even possible.

Yet neither Neville nor Justin could deny the newfound strength that emanated from Harry’s core, nor did they complain.

“Boys,” Harry said with a casual drawl that beckoned them to follow him.

Harry turned and they proceeded to head towards the Great Hall.

“I trust that your breaks were good?”

“Quite,” Neville supplied from behind.

“Yes, those spell books were quite interesting, Harry, thank you.”

“Yes, I expect that you will be able to learn much from them,” Harry agreed, referencing the set of carefully-selected texts that he had purchased for his friends.

“How was your time in the castle? Was it hard to, to stay away…”

Neville trailed off, knowing that Harry would know what he was asking since he didn’t want to say too much because they were within earshot of the other students arriving to the castle.

“At first,” Harry answered rather quickly.

“However, it got easier…” Harry began to explain but the words died in his throat.

For as they had entered the Great Hall, there was one notable person absent at the head table and several unexpected additions that had all of the students whispering at their house tables. Most had never seen the Minister for Magic in person, and so the sight of Cornelius Fudge speaking with Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall – and Lucius Malfoy of all people – was most definitely not an everyday occurrence.

But it was the absence of Albus Dumbledore that spoke volumes to Harry, and he was one of the few to notice this oddity as the room filled and the last students took their seats.

However, the supremely pleased face of Lucius Malfoy, who was currently having a conversation with Severus Snape, struck him as even more telling than Dumbledore’s absence.

What in Merlin’s name was Mister Malfoy doing there and why was he so happy?

And just as quickly as Harry asked that question, Harry saw one potential answer.

But he didn’t like where that thought led him.

Because no matter how devious Lucius’ apparent ploy seemed to Harry on the outside, several uncertainties remained that just didn’t quite manage to add up.

It unsettled his magic and Neville and Justin felt the change immediately. Though, all it took was a quick glance Harry’s way to know that this was serious, and furthermore they knew that Harry would not want them to make a scene. Therefore, they put on their new masks that they had been practicing over the break, just like they had seen Harry do so effortlessly in the past.

They wanted to make him proud.

While Harry digested some of these concerns that he had regarding the elder Malfoy, a limited portion of his attention was focused on the action towards the front of the Great Hall, where the raised dais was.

His reluctant epiphany was confirmed when the Minister soon approached the podium and the hall instantly went silent.

“Good evening, Hogwarts,” Cornelius began in a magnanimous drawl.

“Welcome back to the start of your second term; I trust that your break for the holidays was relaxing and that each of you are now well-rested to resume your studies.”

The man was nothing if not comfortable with having all eyes directed at him.

“Some of you may well be wondering why your Minister for Magic is at your school, and I do wish that I had a better reason to visit.”

For one of the few times in the history of the Great Hall, there was dead silence as the man continued; the students were truly captivated with each and every word that the man said.

“Nevertheless, I am quite pleased with how we are dealing with the unfortunate attacks that have left two students in the infirmary. Trust that your Ministry and Hogwarts’ Board of Governors hold your well-being and health in very high regard.”

At this moment – and if on cue – a small smile began to spread on Lucius’ face while Severus Snape rose to stand behind Cornelius Fudge.

“Therefore, we are addressing some of the concerns that your parents have and feel that a change of leadership will help right things. And it gives me great pleasure in announcing your new Headmaster, Severus Snape.”

A gasp rang out from the tables of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, while an audible grown was heard from Gryffindor. Slytherin, however, was quick to drown out the resistance to the change of administration with their polite, if not slightly enthusiastic applause.

Even if they were internally thrilled with the idea that their own Head of House was taking over the castle, appearances and proper decorum always came first.

Then it was Snape’s turn to say a few words, but Neville and Justin didn’t pay attention. Not for the last time they were in awe that Harry had seemed to know what was happening before everyone else did.

But they couldn’t ask him any questions at that moment since Harry was paying attention to the trite comments about their safety that Severus glossed over, much to the delight of Fudge and Malfoy.

Well, both Malfoys, since Draco looked just as smug and important as his father did.

Thankfully Severus was not long-winded and when he finished the food appeared. It was then that Harry focused on his boys and they knew that now more than ever it would be important to follow Harry’s lead and to keep up all relevant appearances.

So they dug into their food and acted like they always did; however, towards the end of dinner, Lucius and Cornelius began to leave.

Harry watched curiously, still trying to put together the pieces that explained everything. Sure, it would have been easier for him to think that Lucius was merely responding to events and making them go his way, but for some reason Harry was positive that Lucius had been in the driver seat from the very beginning.

Something about the way he was smiling from the dais in the front had convinced him of that, and so all Harry was left to focus on was to wonder why Lucius Malfoy had been in possession of Tom Riddle’s diary and how he knew that it could be used to open the Chamber of Secrets.

Which would then have had the subsequent and required effect of providing Lucius sufficient cause as Head Governor of Hogwarts to push for removing Albus Dumbledore.

Harry knew how it must have happened – because that was evident given that it did happen – but he considered it to be a risky prospect and one that could have backfired spectacularly.

Wouldn’t Lucius have been concerned about Draco’s safety in all of this? Or had the man been unaware as to how Tom truly thought – since going after Muggleborns had been considered off limits in an attempt to throw off Albus Dumbledore.

But, Harry reasoned, given that Tom was well before Lucius’ time, he thought that he was missing something. Something big. Was the older Tom still alive and had he directed Lucius to act in the first place, thus allowing Lucius to feel confident that Draco wouldn’t be harmed?

Harry thought that was unlikely given that he was sure that the Tom he had seen would have made sure that people knew who he was and what he was capable of, and Harry didn’t know of a famous Tom in the wizarding world.

Unless…

And that was when another piece to the puzzle fell into place.

The mere possibility of Tom Riddle one day becoming Lord Voldemort, and thus Lucius’ boss, seemed like the only possible explanation.

Only it was so monumentally important in explaining how perfectly everything fit together that this would have to be confirmed, regardless of how much sense it made.

It was then that Harry had another ah-hah moment, as he also was aware that Lord Voldemort was out there still from the incident with the Stone. From there, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Lord Voldemort could have guided his younger, frozen form with some type of guidance on how to act.

Which would then have explained the gamble that Lucius would have taken with such a powerful artifact. But the more Harry thought about it as Lucius exited side-by-side with the Minister, the less certain he was that Lord Voldemort would have been okay with something of his – regardless of instruction – being left in the hands of a school-aged girl where a million different scenarios could have resulted in it ending up in the hands of Albus Dumbledore.

Specifically, and for that reason, Harry would not have taken that risk and knew that Tom Riddle wouldn’t have either. In fact, he was sure of it since Tom had been most concerned with not alerting Dumbledore when he had unleashed the Basilisk.

As he sat there at the table, his mind lost in thought, he couldn’t help but want to go to Ginny and search her mind for anything that would add to what his mind had just put together.

He needed more information and he was most impatient at having to wait to see if there had been any conversations that he had missed between Ginny and Tom.

Harry hated being this close to potentially knowing something so vital and not being able to confirm it immediately. But along with that, it was almost more important for Harry to address the notion of his pull towards Tom and how and why the other boy’s magic made him feel like it did.

After all, this was the alleged person who had grown up to kill his parents and was therefore a little bit responsible for sending him to live with those miserable Dursleys. Though, Harry had already gone down that road and knew that he didn’t hold any ill will towards the man. His experiences had shaped who he was as a person and as a wizard, and Harry was nothing if not grateful for knowing just how limitless his future was.

Especially given that his recent conversation with Luna had refocused him.

What he had been through had molded and defined his potential; so Lord Voldemort and his possible connection to Tom Riddle aside, Harry wanted to understand what his connection to the other boy was and why he had felt nearly complete in his presence. That was orders of magnitude more important to him than grieving over parents whom he would never know.

With that thought, his magic settled somewhat – much to the relief of Neville and Justin, who then followed Harry out of the Great Hall as soon as the students were released.

There was silent as they appeared to head to Hufflepuff, only to be diverted to their secret training room now that it was safe again to return.

No sooner had they entered the now-clean space thanks to a flick of Harry’s magic, than did Harry turn to face them.

His face had never been more serious, and both of his boys readied themselves for the unknown.

“We have much to discuss,” Harry told them.

His green eyes searched over both of their faces, pleased with the looks that they were giving him.

The light from the torches played with the shadows on his face, making Harry look much older than he was.

“But first, I need to confirm a few things and for that it is imperative that we make plans to sit down again with Ginny Weasley. Just as soon as we are able.”

 


 

The next few weeks passed by rather quickly, but still, Harry hadn’t been able to re-enter the mind of Ginny Weasley. Though, that had more to do with working around the revised schedules that their new Headmaster had implemented; which had even further restricted the amount of time they had available between dinner and curfew.

As it was, the half an hour that Harry and his boys now had was almost exclusively spent in the library exchanging books that were to be used for that night’s study session within the confines of Hufflepuff House.

Thus, the only time that Harry could even remotely entertain the thought of sitting down with Ginny was on the weekends, and for some reason or another the youngest Weasley preferred to remain inside Gryffindor Tower on those occasions.

In fact, by the third week Harry was considering the possibility that something had gone wrong with some of his organizational efforts in cleaning up some of the effects from both his and Tom’s foray into her mindscape.

Perhaps she had been broken?

Except that he couldn’t think of anything that he might have done incorrectly since by this point in time he considered himself both a master of Occlumency and Legilimency.

In addition to the troublesome thoughts over why Ginny spent her weekends in Gryffindor, Harry had yet another thing to consider; for two weeks into the start of the term he had received an unaddressed note in the same handwriting that had accompanied his Invisibility Cloak.

It troubled Harry why Albus Dumbledore would think to write, ‘Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask,’ given the fact that Harry knew that Dumbledore knew that the Chamber of Secrets had really been opened.

Aside from the fact that Dumbledore was aware that the chamber wasn’t a myth, it remained to be seen whether or not the old man knew of the Basilisk. With this letter, however, the only thing that he could think of was that Dumbledore was, somehow, expecting Harry to deal with the chamber himself.

Which made no fucking sense… unless the old man was onto him about his advanced abilities.

Luckily, Harry didn’t have to worry about the chamber anymore since only a Parselmouth could open it, and Harry wasn’t planning on doing that any time soon. For multiple reasons.

But he did have to worry about Dumbledore and often spent large portions of his weekends mulling over his options while Neville and Justin worked diligently next to him in the library.

On one of these occasions, and about two weeks after he received Dumbledore’s letter, Ginny Weasley approached their table of her own volition and mysteriously just sat down.

The red-headed girl made no sound and as soon as she had pulled up a chair had begun retrieving her material to complete her weekend homework assignments.

Neither Neville nor Justin knew what to do about the unexpected interruption, but Harry didn’t really care why she had joined them.

Who was he to question this unexpected boon and after the lunchtime bell sounded he made a small request for Ginny to join them afterwards in another location.

Of course the girl nodded her head in response to Harry’s suggestion, and an hour later the four of them sat down together in Harry’s preferred training location.

They had been in the room for less than five minutes before Harry entered her mind in search of everything that she could possibly know about Tom Riddle.

Most of the memories that Harry watched - after spending about an hour gathering together all that he could find that had to do with the diary – were useless. Much like the scene that he had witnessed earlier, nearly all of her interactions had been one-sided and consisted of Ginny going on and on about Hogwarts and how excited she was to finally get away from her mother.

Apparently Mrs. Weasley had smothered Ron and Ginny to death as each additional child of hers had turned eleven and left the nest.

However, the last two memories that Harry had come across interested him greatly.

Harry entered the first and found himself again standing behind Ginny within the girl’s dormitory of Gryffindor.

As usual she was scribbling away furiously, like she was afraid that she would forget what she wanted to say and was trying to get it out as fast as possible.

This time, though, her musings were about him.

Oh, and Tom, I forgot to tell you earlier because there was so much else going on, but Harry Potter is so much different than Ron led me to believe.”

Harry had to focus on what she was writing because of the power he felt pulsating from the diary. The feeling his magic had in response to Tom was indescribable, and he longed to know for certain whether or not Tom and Voldemort were one and the same.

Not that it really mattered to him, since power was power and with this, Tom, by his side he was confident that no one would be able to stand in his way.

It was fortunate that Harry was able to focus on many things at once because otherwise the next thing that Ginny wrote would have likely escaped his noticed.

Of course this is secret, Tom, so no telling anyone, but Harry is exactly how I pictured him. Well, not exactly how I pictured him since it is so very hard to know what to expect of the Boy Who Lived. But he is quiet and I think very thoughtful and he treats his friends extremely well from what I can tell. Neville and Justin are always around him and very loyal.

With that line Harry began to pay more attention to what she wrote.

But Tom, he has this air about him; I can’t describe it. When I pass him in the halls, sometimes, he feels so very much like you – or well, like your diary.”

Now she had Harry’s full attention.

Maybe I am not describing this very well, I don’t know how else to really. All I know is that when I am near him I often find myself thinking about you. How weird is that? Tom, are you there?

Harry leaned in closely over her shoulder and felt the exact moment that the pulses of Tom’s magic within the diary changed. Diary Tom was interested; at least that was what Harry thought given the increased warmth that he felt resonate throughout the memory.

And seconds later, he reasoned that he was on the right track because Tom chose that moment to respond.

Like me? How interesting; perhaps you could tell me a little bit more about this boy, Ginny. I would also add that you seem to have very good taste considering whom you are currently talking with. I bet all of the boys want something to do with you and you therefore learned how to be selective about whom you spent your time with…

‘Smooth,’ Harry thought.

Ginny, of course, began to smile in a way that Harry knew would likely stay on her face for quite some time.

Oh, Tom, you are so sweet! I’m sure you would get along very well with Harry. Hmm, let’s see, I suppose we should start with the story of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named… which doesn’t mean anything to you, I’m sure, but he was an awful wizard that nearly took over Britain. It happened before I was born and my parents can’t even speak his name, not after what he did to my uncles... But no one can in fact.

Ginny took a moment to collect her thoughts, because even writing his moniker had sent chills down her spine.

While she took a small mental break, Harry focused his efforts on the diary and he guessed again that Tom was interested because the pulses coming off of the diary were quicker now.

In a strange way it reminded Harry of the way someone’s pulse increased when they were excited or intrigued with getting closer to something that they wanted.

Eventually, Ginny returned her quill to parchment and was committed now to seeing this through.

Anyways, this person – Lord Volde… I can’t write it, Tom, it is too scary – entered the Potter’s home one night and killed both of Harry’s parents. However, he could not kill Harry, and in fact, disappeared after that night. Many people say that Harry defeated him, and since he was only an infant he was known as the Boy Who Lived because no one had ever been able to survive after You Know Who set their sights on them. But he did!

Harry had gone into her memories to find an answer, and boy did he have one now. Without a doubt, Tom Riddle had grown up to become Voldemort because at the exact moment that Lord Volde had appeared on the page, the magic emanating from the page had become furious.

So much so that by the time that Ginny had finished her last entry, the memory ended and Ginny remembered no more.

In fact, the act had removed Harry from her memory – but not her mind – with such force that Harry needed a minute to focus on his surroundings within her mindscape.

It was quite disconcerting, but he didn’t care because he now had his answer. However, he didn’t want to leave her mind just yet because Harry was nearly positive that his expulsion from her mind had been due to Tom taking control once more.

Though he had thought that he had seen all of those memories since his first journey into her mind had lasted several hours.

But he knew that there had to be another, and so Harry searched high and low for it within Ginny’s mind.

Finally, after an hour of searching he found it.

The memory was short, but it tugged at Harry’s magic in ways that he didn’t know how to process.

For after quickly entering the memory, it was obvious that Tom was enraged to find out that he would one day fall to an infant. In fact, everything about the memory was tinged with a reddish brown and Ginny-Tom quickly left her dorm and headed out of Gryffindor Tower.

It didn’t take long for Harry to understand what Tom was doing or where he was going, since he was positive that if roles had been reverse that he would have done the exact same thing.

Tom was looking for him; and using Ginny’s memories of where Harry usually tended to be, he found him quite quickly within the Library.

However, Harry knew what was going to happen because he remembered this, only at the time he didn’t know that it was because Tom had spied on him.

Harry watched himself looking at a book on advanced magic that he was just about to put in front of Neville and Justin on conjuring. Also, because he was in Tom’s mind while inside of Ginny’s, he knew that Tom was holding whatever magic he possessed very close to himself.

Which was why Harry hadn’t felt anything at the time as he watched the memory of himself slip a book under his arm. That was, however, until Tom took a chance and sent a small tendril of his magic at Harry.

Only, it was nothing like Harry associated with the greatest feeling that he had ever felt. It was so unique and abstract that he would be hard pressed to even describe it. And yet, that too had somehow felt right.

Tom had apparently had a similar reaction to what Harry had felt, as he then turned quite quickly and hid behind a bookcase while Harry fumbled the book in his arms before dropping it.

Harry remembered picking up the book and looking back, only to see no one. He had even let loose a small amount of his own magic to explore, but he could see now that he had not sent it far enough as Tom took that moment to sneak out of the library using Ginny’s body.

Only this time, Harry knew what had happened and his heart began to flutter as the red tinge of Tom’s vision dissipated and was replaced with all sorts of confused feelings that threatened his hold over Ginny.

Tom had barely managed to make it back to Ginny’s room before his hold on the girl was severed, but not before he exhausted his last remaining mental strength to hide this memory so far below her mindscape that he hoped it would never, ever see the light of day again.

Harry exited from both the memory and Ginny’s mind with a new feeling growing inside his chest. Tom had felt something similar to what Harry felt, and though he couldn’t describe it, he couldn’t help the satisfaction that welled up inside of his chest.

“Oh yes,” he said to himself as he looked first to Neville and then to Justin, “Tom will join me and with him I can do anything.”

Neither Justin nor Neville pressed Harry for answers, knowing that he would tell them when he was ready.

Besides, Harry was busy making sure that his presence inside of the girl’s mind went and remained undetected.

Although, when he was finished he decided to be frank with the girl and ask her why she had approached him in the library after weeks of not being able to find her.

“Because,” Ginny began while looking from Justin to Neville to the unfamiliar surroundings of the room that they were in, “I feel safe with you.”

“Safe?”

Harry needed her to clarify that statement.

“Yes,” she said in all seriousness as her eyes returned to Harry.

“I know that you will protect me now, just like you have been doing all along.”

“Protect you?” Harry questioned in a bemused manner.

Only as he did so he unleashed his full power within the room. Neville and Justin were instantly under the thrall of his magic, their bodies swaying slowly from side to side as they basked in his power.

Now that Harry was able to feel everything that his magic touched inside the room, he was surprised to note that Ginny’s magic was now much warmer than he had ever felt before. It was as if freeing that last memory that Tom had hid within her mind had irrevocably altered who she was as a magical person. But even before that, his magic told him that she had slowly been coming to terms with what her magic had been telling her from the very beginning.

Because, from the first time that Ginny Weasley had heard about the Boy Who Lived from her mother, she knew that one day she would follow him. His story had captivated her and without even meeting him her magic had aligned with his.

Tom’s diary had only stood as a distraction from her recognizing and then acting on the inevitable. And after it was gone, her mind had recovered enough for her to finally realize the simple truth that nothing had ever felt as good as being in Harry’s presence.

Which was why she had worked up the courage to approach them in the library and it told Harry that his circle had expanded yet again.

Instantly, his magical core took on another defined point as it connected fully to Ginny’s magic. Neville and Justin felt it too, their bodies shivering as even more magic was shared between them as Ginny added her power to the collective.

Harry sat there, watching as his power served as the focal point in joining these three to him. With the clearer form that his core now took on, it was easy to see just where it was headed now.

Three points had already been decided on and he could feel those three individuals that they pointed to since he knew who and what they where. A fourth was still struggling to form and Harry had already decided that Cedric tugged at that part of him.

And now he could see that there was enough space for three additional points to take shape. He may not have understood why this was happening but he knew that he couldn’t stop it. It felt too right for him to consider doing anything other but welcoming another person who would help him succeed.

As he sat there, watching his people give their selves to him, he wondered who the other three would be. Luna was certainly a distinct possibility, and then there was Daphne Greengrass since her magic had felt similar. But who was the last? Was it Tom?

Though, even as he thought that he knew that it couldn’t be true. Tom was no more a follower than he was. Tom was equal to him – or would be as Harry mastered his own magic as the years went by.

Ultimately, he just had to wonder what would happen when his core became complete and had each of his seven followers in front of him. And his magic wanted that to happen too since it began to pulse and the act further drew his present followers to him.

But he didn’t know how long that would take to happen, and could only wait for Neville, Justin, and now Ginny, to come to their senses.

Eventually though, they were ready to leave. Without a sound Harry led them all quietly towards the kitchens since they had missed dinner. As usual he was in the front, but he didn’t even have to look back to know that Neville and Justin had taken to either side of Ginny, accepting her into his group without question.

However, on their way to the kitchens a scream resonated throughout the castle.

Naturally, Harry was interested and led his now-foursome to the exact location where Filch’s cat had been petrified. Only this time, no one had been frozen, but the same could not be said for the red letters that still glistened in the torchlight:

The Chamber of Secrets is still open: fear the heir!

 


 

Let me know what you think! The only way I have ever liked Ginny is as a warrior-type personality, and I think she will fit nicely as one of Harry’s followers in that role. She will be my unexpected assassin.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Hello again. For me this chapter was about showing that even though Harry is head and shoulders over just about everyone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is without the help of others. I like the special relationship that I am crafting between Harry and his followers and while I certainly have plans for Harry’s intelligence to show up soon, I wanted to focus on what I thought was a tender moment in the beginning of this chapter.

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

Ginny’s breath caught in her throat.

Up until a few weeks ago that Diary and that boy that resided within it had consumed nearly ever aspect of her life during the first half of her first year at Hogwarts. Most of the fall and winter months had been spent obsessing over the growing attachment that she felt with Tom and desperately wondering if and when he would reply back to her.

Her addiction to those worn pages had been strong, but in a moment of brief clarity she had been able to call every ounce of her fiery willpower that growing up in a family of boys had instilled in her to try and sever the connection.

Only, once she had become free of the Diary she had immediately crossed paths with another boy – and the similarities between the two were endless.

However, this new boy was different; and he would always be different to her.

The Boy Who Lived had changed everything about the world that Tom had sucked her into. In fact, Harry had given her life a second chance by freeing her from Tom’s thrall and though it had taken her some time to work up the courage to approach the outwardly quiet boy again, it was something that she had known that she needed to do. For Ginny desperately wanted to reach the potential that she believed she had inside of herself.

To her, it didn’t matter that many would have said that she had traded one form of control for another.

Because she knew – more than she had ever been sure about anything – that Harry would never allow him, or anyone else, to use her like that again.

In fact, she was positive that Harry would never let anything bad happen to her if he could help it. It was the reason why she had given herself so freely and completely to him, and why she would follow Harry and support him.

No matter where that took her. Because Harry was now hers to protect and care for, and she would do so willingly.

In the end, that made all the difference in her mind.

Which was why the still-wet letters upon the castle wall bothered her so much. Not because of any fear that she had of what Tom could do to her, but because of how Harry had reacted to the sudden appearance of those glistening red letters. Ginny understood, the same with Neville and Justin, that Harry’s magic needed Tom’s; that something inside of him was incomplete without it.

It was a need that they couldn’t understand or comprehend, but that didn’t matter to any of them. For they had each felt what Tom’s magic had made their Harry experience. They had felt it so strongly and so deeply that they knew it was inevitable for Harry to see this through. Harry needed to see it through.

A fact that was no more evident than it was in this moment as Ginny felt the strain in his magic beside her. Harry’s incredible well of power was struggling to contain itself within his sleight frame while he continued to stare at the announcement that the chamber was still open. It didn’t matter that Ginny had only recently become in tune with the indescribable pull of Harry’s power, all it had taken was for her magical energy to sync with his for her to be able to know Harry almost as well as she knew herself.

Almost.

And he needed his followers, now more so than ever by the looks of things. For a moment she felt helpless as she watched him attempt to understand why and how the red letters had reappeared on the wall.

The appearance of that bloody missive had thrown Harry so completely, and his followers were not used to seeing him so unsure of the world around him.

It frightened them.

‘It can’t be…’ Ginny heard him say.

But what Ginny didn’t know – couldn’t know – was what was going through Harry’s mind. Though, that didn’t matter; for as she stood there, trading glances with Neville and Justin as the crowd around them began to grow she knew that she needed to do something sooner rather than later.

Luckily, Neville and Justin had each arrived at a similar conclusion and without needing to say anything the three began to act in unison to get Harry out of there before his magic, already teetering on the edge, was set free.

Which would have been very bad and something that Harry would not have been happy with.

As it was, the hairs on each of their skin were standing upright in response to the magic that Harry had already leaked out. Who knew how much longer they had until the rest exploded outwards from his center.

Therefore, while Neville and Justin slowly made their way to stand in front of Harry, Ginny carefully extended her left hand to Harry’s shoulder and moved to stand very close at his side.

“Harry,” she said quietly, hoping that her voice would be sufficient to make Harry come back to his senses.

Thankfully her voice was enough and on cue Justin and Neville began to lead them unnoticed through the crowd that was currently clamoring to get a better view of what was written. None of them spoke as they made their way to a quieter part of the castle.

Soon the four of them were alone and standing in a small alcove next to the entrance of the kitchens.

Immediately, Harry moved to rest his hand against the wall and the other three began to wait anxiously to see if he would be okay. Neither of them knew where to start and so they waited until Harry turned to them and spoke.

“Thank you,” he said in an atypical voice.

While there was a bit of uncertainty that they had never heard before in how he spoke, it didn’t make them think that Harry was weak. If anything, it made them think that his potential for greatness was even higher because there was also appreciation in Harry’s voice and in the way his characteristically green eyes looked them over.

“You were quick to react and I appreciate the way that you got me out of there with as little attention as possible.”

Each of them were over the moon at the praise, knowing that they had served their Harry in his time of need, but they were even more concerned with what it all meant and the effect that it was so obviously having on their Harry.

“This, Tom…” he sighed for lack of a better term, “clouds my judgment. I just wish that I knew why I respond to him the way that I do. The mere thought that he had escaped from both the Diary and the chamber was enough to thoroughly distract me, almost ruining all of the hard work that I put into hiding who I really am.”

The others just stood there; not used to Harry sharing so much of his internal thought process. However, they realized that perhaps Harry was speaking to them as a way of working things out for himself.

“What if my magic had leaked out?”

They patiently waited as Harry continued on, working through his feelings about what an escaped Tom Riddle would mean and how that had momentarily frozen him.

However, the more that Harry made sense of that line of thought with a sharper and more clear mind, the more convinced he became that Tom had had nothing to do with the writing on the wall. For one, it just wasn’t the boy’s style given the glimpses that Harry had seen into the other boy’s mind and how he had behaved.

Unless of course it was a distraction since Tom was aware that someone like Harry existed – but Harry was sure that if Tom had gotten free that the last thing he would have done was to give Harry a reason to suspect that he was missing.

Not with how a simple check to see if the Diary still contained Tom’s essence would have immediately been the smart thing for Harry to do and the last thing that Tom would have wanted. At least, as far as Harry would have reasoned given how they did tend to think alike based on what he knew.

Which was the very thing that happened next – and a half hour later Harry and his friends had returned to the same spot next to the kitchens knowing for a fact that Tom was still sealed in his book at the bottom of the chamber.

Each of them had felt the tantalizing sensation that wafted up from below without even needing to see it in the flesh.

Harry had been even able to resist the burgeoning desire of meeting Tom face-to-face; in large part because he knew that, deep down, he wasn’t ready.

Once back from their trip to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, the group had stopped at the kitchen since they had needed more time to think in addition to the simple fact that they were very hungry.

While they picked through some of the sumptuous food that the elves had so graciously whipped up, Harry’s mind logically went through the myriad circumstances that could have explained the sudden appearance of this new writing.

            “A ruse,” Harry said at last to break the silence.

The others looked up from their late dinners, and Justin was the first to swallow his food in order to respond.

“Harry?”

“It’s a ruse,” Harry explained with a sudden understanding.

“The writing on the hall wasn’t put there by Tom – as evident by the fact that he is still in the chamber. So… the question is who then wrote those letters on the wall and why.”

Harry paused as he let his words sink in. Though each of his companions were intelligent – or else he otherwise wouldn’t be able to stand their presence – he was interested to see if any of them would be able to go onto the next step.

And their responses made him pleased, very pleased.

“Do you think they knew that the chamber had been sealed then?” Neville inquired before smartly adding, “or if they knew that Harry had been the one to seal it.”

“Even if they knew that there was no longer any threat – why would they want to bring this back up and risk more scrutiny? I think that would rule out Malfoy,” Ginny emphasized with venom.

Harry and her had already discussed where the Diary had most likely come from and she was not altogether happy that Lucius’ ploy had nearly killed her.

Of course, it had led her to Harry so she couldn’t complain too much.

“True,” Harry smiled.

While they had been focusing on making the leap to the motive behind the letters appearing, Harry’s mind had already processed several possibilities.

He would have to make sure that his obsession with Tom didn’t impact him like that again, because he was much too fond of his advanced mental faculties.

“It wouldn’t make any sense for him to call attention to the very reason that he had used in removing Dumbledore from the castle.”

Ginny’s insides felt warm at the acknowledgement of her thought process. Here again was more proof in just how different Harry treated her compared to Tom.

“So it comes down to whether the person – or persons – either knew that the chamber was closed or they were just trying to have a spot of fun and rile up people’s emotions.”

With that it was Justin’s turn to add his two cents to the conversation.

“There are several mischief makers capable of pulling the later off, and at this point I would more inclined to think that it was a prank. Besides, if someone did know about how the chamber, Tom, and Harry all fit together then we don’t have enough to try and work that all out. Plus,” he added as he too desired to make Harry proud, “if someone did know about all of that then what is to say that they don’t know more about us, and you Harry, than we even realize. For all we know they could simply be listening in at this very moment.”

The words left Justin’s tongue and echoed softly off the walls of the small alcove. The others set their food down and looked around curiously, as if trying to make sure that no one was spying on them.

But Harry’s demeanor hadn’t changed in the least. In fact, he was smiling as he responded to Justin open-ended question.

“That is something that I considered a while ago and since then have gone to great lengths in learning about what magic can and cannot keep secret. I would be surprised if someone had managed to get around my attempts at privacy without at least being alerted to the fact that someone was nearby.”

Neither Justin, Neville, not Ginny were stupefied with that given what they knew about Harry.

“Nevertheless,” he continued, “it is something that we should strive to be more careful about in the future while we try and learn more about who is now writing in blood on the castle walls and why.”

With the conversation effectively over, the four finished their meals before saying goodbye to Ginny who headed back to Gryffindor.


 

In the weeks that followed the apparent reopening of the Chamber of Secrets the entire school was again on edge. Just the mere notion that this unknown heir of Salazar Slytherin was taunting them with whatever monster lied within was enough to guarantee that the student body talked about little else.

Musings on who the heir could be and why they hadn’t petrified someone else were just a few of the many questions swirling around the Hogwarts rumor mill. Though, not everyone in the castle participated in these public conversations since Harry and his friends kept all of their discussions on the matter private.

But while Harry may not have enjoyed wondering whether it had been the work of a prankster or someone who knew far more than he would have like him or her to, he did not have a problem with all of the added work that it likely meant for Severus.

Harry could only imagine all of the owls and late-night floo calls that the irritable and unhappy man had to be responding to.

However, as time passed with no further developments, the student body predictably began to lose interest in the chamber around the beginning of March. Just as the halls began to move onto other topics another sensational and bloody announcement conveniently appeared on the walls.

At this point Harry was nearly certain that it was the work of an individual just trying to have a spot of fun, and again he found it amusing to see how Severus was forced to react to it. He hoped that the man loathed every minute of the tedious act of assuaging the fears of either the Minister or Lucius Malfoy.

Again the school exploded with modified and salacious tales about the chamber and who the next victim would be. This time, unfortunately, the frenzy was also accompanied by having to be escorted to and from their classes by the teachers. Something that not everyone was appreciative of.

Harry was especially irritated since it made it harder and harder for him to meet with his growing circle that now included a Gryffindor. Justin and Neville could easily continue their instruction with him in the confines of Hufflepuff House, but Ginny had so much to catch up on that every once and a while he risked late night excursions to train them all in his secret place.

But the infrequent sessions did not stop any of their progress. In fact, it only made his followers try harder to learn more for their Harry, and Ginny in particular was rarely seen without a book in her hands.

Something that Fred and George were quick to blame solely on Percy for unduly influencing a minor with more work than was necessary.

In either case Harry was more than pleased with how natural Ginny was with a wand, and although she was obviously behind the advanced dueling skills of Justin and Neville, Harry knew that one day she would be a force to be reckoned with.

It gave him something to focus on besides the appearance of a new missive in the first week of April that, like before, roused the student’s interest in the Chamber of Secrets. At this point there was no doubt in Harry’s mind that whoever was behind these repeated declarations that the chamber was still open was just doing this for attention.

To be honest, Harry was getting sick of the constant reminder about the chamber since that naturally led him to think about what, or rather, who was down there that he very much wanted to meet.

Because his longing over finally meeting this other boy – this Tom – in the flesh was threatening to distract him from preparing all of the magic and skills that he knew that he would need to be able to stand on equal footing with the other boy.

So Harry did his best to drown out the whisper mill of Hogwarts and focus on his friends and on his quest to learn as much magic as possible. Aside from that he was also quite looking forward to finally being reunited with his fourth follower. To that end he had begun to pester Professor Sprout on a near daily basis for when the Mandrakes would be ready so that Cedric could be revived.

The boy was his older buddy after all, and Harry played that angle with his Head of House as much of possible. Of course, Cedric meant so much more to him than anyone could know, but that fact didn’t matter since Sprout was all too pleased to see her that one of her puffs was demonstrating just why the buddy system had been put in place to begin with.

Harry had even tried to coax her into hurrying up the final cultivating of the Mandrakes by offering to help, along with Neville and Justin, but since it was the end of April Sprout had assured them that they only had to wait a few weeks more.

Satisfied that Cedric would soon be returned to him, Harry toyed with the idea about focusing on trying to predict when more words would appear on the castle’s walls since the last three episodes had been spaced almost a month apart. However, Harry wasn’t about to waste what precious time that he did have in training the other three with waiting under his Invisibility Cloak for something that may or may not happen.

Incidentally, the first few days of May came and went and nothing out of the ordinary happened, and he was happy that he hadn’t of wasted any time.

In fact, Harry was just beginning to think that perhaps the mysterious prankster had lost interest when the most unexpected thing happened.

It was a Tuesday and Defense Against the Dark Arts was dragging on like it usually did.

Lockhart was in the front of the class, reenacting one of his favorite scenes from Year with the Yeti; his performance came complete with authentic mountain boots and a magical parka.

The man had been acting more and more unusual as the year had gone on and Harry had become convinced that it was because more of his adoring fans were becoming disillusioned with the man. Which had the apparent effect of making Lockhart think he could win back their adoration by trying even harder to remind everyone of his amazing exploits.

“It was freezing, mind you,” the insufferable excuse of a teacher began just like he was doing Shakespeare in the park.

His arms were outstretched in front of him and shivering, in what Harry guessed to be the man’s version of a dramatic rendition of being cold.

Most of the students were shifting uncomfortably in their seats, though there were still a few in the front that were as captivated by the man as they had been on the very first day.

Harry, however, just kept his face neutral and did his best not to react to the incompetent professor who had yet to teach them any magic whatsoever.

The same could not have been said for Neville and Justin. Although one would have thought that Harry would have minded the fact that either one of their eyes were currently and obviously twitching because of the man, Harry couldn’t blame them for their reaction.

Besides, he knew that they were able to his keep it together when it really mattered and so he had given them leeway to keep their sanity in Lockhart’s classroom in the best way that they saw fit. At least they were not asleep at their desks like some of the Gryffindors were.

Harry could only imagine the various ways that his boys were fantasizing about teaching Lockhart what a wand was really capable of, and those thoughts naturally led Harry to consider what his own torture of the man would be. After all, Harry liked this class less than Potions because while Snape was a prick at least he knew his subject matter.

“For one of the first times in my life I was afraid,” Lockhart continued on with his tale.

“I had run out of food and was sure that I was going to starve; however, it was at that precise moment when I stumbled upon a most rare creature.”

Lockhart’s ramblings about his encounter with an otherwise benign mountain giant were lost on the majority of his class, though Harry did have to give the man the tiniest bit of credit. After all, not a single person could say that Lockhart lacked commitment in trying to win back his fans after the episode with the Cornish Pixies; even if the man’s energies would have been far better spent on actually trying to learn any of the material that he was actually getting paid to teach.

But that would have been too much to ask for and so Harry was about to let his mind wander onto curses when he realized that Lockhart was looking his way more than he normally did.

In fact, now that Harry was paying attention to the man’s constant glances towards where he sat, he realized that they were accompanied by a strange look in Lockhart’s eyes that Harry couldn’t put his finger on.

If he had to guess he would have said that they looked torn between remorse and satisfaction. Which was a very odd combination and gave Harry something to focus on for the rest of the class.

Indeed, twenty minutes later and the man was now practically directing his reenactment entirely at Harry; though, that also could have been because most of the others in the class had fallen asleep, save for Lockhart’s core fan section in the front.

It was starting to make Harry curious, very curious as to why Lockhart seemed to have eyes for him and him alone.

Ten minutes later and Harry couldn’t take it anymore. It was then that he did something that he probably wouldn’t have done with any of the other teachers: he entered Lockhart’s mind intent on finding out just what was going on.

 

The first thing that he noticed was that Lockhart’s mindscape was peculiar. It was unlike anything that Harry had ever been in before – which was saying something considering that he had been inside the chaotic expanse that housed the limitless experiences that Luna Lovegood was subjected to every waking minute.

And yet, it was exactly the sort of layout that Harry should have expected. Someone who talked about themselves and their alleged accomplishments and personality nonstop should have had a meticulously laid out arrangement of memories to call from at a moment’s notice.

At the same time it was also devoid of any unique personality, something that Harry would never have associated with someone like Gilderoy. The man was practically a walking character of narcissistic personality disorder.

However, there was a medium-sized section of memories off to the side that resembled what the minds of both Neville and Justin’s had looked like before he had made a point to ensure that they protected what they knew.

So Naturally, Harry went over to this area and looked around. It didn’t take him long to realize that these were the memories that Lockhart had actually made for himself, while at the same time exposing that all of his books were full of things that he had never actually done but had claimed credit for.

‘So you can actually perform magic,’ Harry said in mild disbelief.

A small part of him had actually questioned whether or not the man had been a squib, but he now had ample evidence that proved the man had in fact excelled at Memory Charms.

But that still didn’t explain why the man couldn’t do anything else.

Harry was just about to devote further thought to the matter when something out of the ordinary caught his eye. The fact that it was moving didn’t bother Harry since that typically indicated that the memory was something that Lockhart was likely currently thinking about it.

What made Harry pay attention to this meandering collection of thoughts was that it wasn’t the source material that Lockhart was currently drawing from to reenact his absurd classroom theatrics; for those were clearly coming from a different section of Lockhart’s mind.

A gleam quickly passed through Harry’s eyes at the sight of these other memories; could this explain why the man had been focusing on him more so than usual?

It took only seconds for Harry to catch these floating thoughts and a few minutes more for him to learn what had Lockhart acting even stranger than usual.

            But what he saw caused his blood to turn ice cold. It took every ounce of willpower that Harry possessed for him to not react at what he saw. Did Gilderoy Lockhart really think that he could do that with Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood, his Luna.

Harry was so enraged with the man that he barely noticed the way that the mere thought of harm coming to Luna affected his magic. His only concern was that he was not going to let Gilderoy Lockhart get away with it.

Harry was furious and in this moment he wanted nothing more than to unleash the full weight of his power on this pathetic excuse for a professor of magic. The only thing that kept Harry from reacting was that he had gone into Lockhart’s mind to see what was going on with the sole goal of not being detected. Since that had been at the forefront of Harry’s mind he had been able to contain his rage and that allowed his mind to then rapidly assess what he would do with this information instead.

But there was really only one scenario that Harry’s mind gave any serious thought to and followed through to completion. Just thinking about the many ways that he could use this to his advantage caused the ends of his mouth to curl upwards.

In fact, it gave him just the sort of delicious opportunity that he had been waiting for. Ever since his life-changing talk with Luna Lovegood over the winter holidays Harry had been meaning to let bits and pieces of the real him show. He had an unlimited future to get to and this was too good a chance to pass up on his way to making that happen.

 

Therefore, with complete control over both his emotions and his magic, Harry returned from Lockhart’s mind unnoticed. Not even Neville and Justin had noticed anything strange and that was a good thing.

Because, for the rest of the class Harry worked out all of the details that would accompany the downfall of Gilderoy Lockhart, as well as gain himself another follower.

 


 

Two weeks had passed since Harry had become aware of what Lockhart had been planning. Of course, neither of his friends had any idea about the man’s plan or had noticed Harry acting abnormal in any way whatsoever. They had been too concerned with their studies, and also because Harry hadn’t wanted them to know anything. Yet.

So instead, Neville, Justin, and Ginny were currently in the packed library preparing for finals under the supervision of one of the faculty members given the uncertainty still lingering about the Chamber of Secrets.

Of course, each of Harry’s followers were more than confident that they would achieve nothing lower than an Outstanding in any of their subjects.

But they weren’t just learning magic for grades.

They were learning magic to support their Harry, and nothing was more important to them than that.

In fact, they had been applying themselves nonstop for the past few weeks; the only difference was that tonight Harry had excused himself right after dinner because he had needed to speak with Luna Lovegood about something. Who were they to question what he did?

Harry always provided for them and in turn they would do anything to support him. Besides, they were learning to love magic and all that it could do nearly as much as Harry did – so much so that the time went by quite quickly that evening.

Soon it was nearly time for curfew but just as the three were about to go their separate ways as they exited the library a loud and chillingly familiar scream echoed throughout the castle. It was eerie and the sound seemed to come from the direction where all of the announcements regarding the Chamber of Secrets were made.

Naturally, it made them instantly think of their Harry, for this was the first time that they had experienced that unsettling sound without him.

Although each knew that he would have preferred them to react logically at times like these, there was something about this moment that filled their minds with worry. It was almost like something had made them jump to conclusions.

Harry,’ Justin was the first to mouth what the others were feeling.

Even if they each knew that Harry could take care of himself – no matter how unlikely it was that Harry would have even allowed himself to be in that situation - their greatest fear was that they would lose him. Harry was everything to them and with a shared understanding they took off towards the second floor.

Their hearts pounded as they raced up the steps and passed Myrtle’s bathroom, and just as they were about to round the corner to where those bloody letters had first appeared, McGonagall’s voice boomed throughout the castle’s corridors.

“All students are to return to their house dormitories immediately. Heads of Houses will report to the second floor near the portrait of Sir Paddington at once.”

However, it wasn’t just the announcement that stopped them in their tracks, for they were so close to that very spot that they soon could hear the worried whispers of McGonagall and the other teachers who were beginning to assemble. Fortunately, the three of them were able to hide within an alcove just as the sound of the rushed footsteps of another professor passed them.

And what they heard next chilled them to their bones and caused their magic to seize within their chest.

“Minerva! Severus!” Sprout gasped as it had been her that had just run by them.

“What … oh no … whose skeleton?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Snape spit out.

The trio didn’t need to see the Potion’s Master face to know that he was severely annoyed, but what surprised them was the notes of concern they also picked up in his voice

“Severus…” Minerva mildly reprimanded the Headmaster, acknowledging some of the feelings that Snape was likely dealing with.

“It’s Luna Lovegood,” Minerva answered Sprout with sorrow in her voice.

“One of her characteristic orange shoes was also left behind.”

She pointed to Luna’s trademark and whimsical taste in footwear that were left underneath the dripping red blood.

“We, we must search the school immediately,” Sprout countered as Filius Flitwick arrived.

After Ravenclaw’s Head of House was filled in, he agreed with that assessment and the four professors each went in different directions to search every nook and cranny.

Once the area was clear, Harry’s followers slowly emerged from their hiding place to see the writing on the wall for themselves.

 

The heir should have been believed; now her blond skeleton will lie in the chamber forever.”

 

A look of dread covered each of their faces and they didn’t have to say anything to know that each of their thoughts centered on Harry. After all, he had been with Luna this evening. It didn’t matter that they each knew that the chamber was sealed. What mattered was that Harry was not with them, and they wouldn’t rest until they knew that their leader was safe.

The only problem was that the castle was exceptionally large and the simple truth was that Harry could be anywhere.

“Wait!” Neville exhaled in a sigh of relief.

They were overthinking the problem.

“What if we used our connection to Harry’s magic to find him?”

“Neville, that’s brilliant!” Ginny gushed.

“But we have to hurry…”

Justin was agitated and the only thing that would calm him was to be in Harry’s presence again.

“All right,” Neville took the lead at once, “join my hands and focus on his magic. Feel it wash over you just as if he were here.”

Each grasped the other’s outstretched hands and closed their eyes and relived the exquisite sensation of Harry’s magic lifting them to places that their own magic couldn’t take them by itself. At first it was hard to recreate that exact feeling because nothing could compare to the real thing. But they didn’t have to get it exactly right, however, as they just needed to be focusing entirely on whom they had pledged both their lives and magic to. Suddenly, a faint pulse could be felt calling to them on the other side of the castle.

Harry!” each breathed in a relieved unison and a second later they were off.

Their feet were moving underneath of them, carrying them to the source of what they what knew had to be Harry’s core.

The fact that it was deep within the bowels of the castle was disconcerting and none of them could help where the fear in their minds took them: what if Harry really was in trouble?

No amount of logic or reason that they possessed allowed them to recognize how absurd and unlikely it was that Harry was actually in trouble. Instead, a red hue began to frame their field of vision and they were now moving through the castle with a speed that only magic could allow. In no time they descended the many flights of stairs that brought them near to where the boats delivered the first years before the sorting ceremony.

Time itself began to slow down as they arrived at their destination and the renewed closeness to Harry’s core filled them each with a new sense of connectedness that would remain with them until their dying breath.

Sensing each other with their magic was now effortless and they knew exactly where Harry was on the other side of the closed door. And he was alive. Their magic, however, also told them that there were two other people that were with him. One was very much in tune with the warmth and power of Harry’s magic – as well as their own – but the other instantly registered as someone that needed to be dealt with.

Immediately.

Without even needing to speak Ginny blew open the door and Neville and Justin quickly entered as if they had rehearsed this a thousand times. Their eyes didn’t even need to see their target to know which direction to send their curses at; and spell after spell quickly left their wands in quick succession and pummeled the man into the wall, where he sank to the floor and never moved again.

Only after the rage that had flown through their veins subsided did they recognize the pathetic and limp form of Gilderoy Lockhart dead on the floor.

“Lockhart!” Neville yelled in rage, unaffected by the fact that he had just had a hand in killing a person.

“I can’t believe he would even dare!” Justin seethed in agreement.

But then he turned around to come face to face with the most important person in his world.

“Harry!” Ginny was the first to express her relief at seeing him alive.

He was tied to a chair and Luna Lovegood was at his side; both of them had dirt and blood on their faces. The sight made Harry’s rescuers angry and want to bring Gilderoy back to life just so that they could punish him all over again for daring to hurt their master.

Only there was no worry or dread anywhere in Harry’s features. His emerald eyes were radiating their delight and glee at what he had just witnessed.

“My friends!” he emphasized with a very content grin.

“You have made me most proud tonight, and I will explain everything about this later. Just know that each of you has far surpassed my expectations and I couldn’t be more pleased with how well you found me and with the progress you are making with your magic. But I have a feeling the teachers will soon be here and you can’t be found out of your houses.”

Neither Justin nor Ginny, and certainly not Justin, had ever felt happier at seeing Harry in such good spirits and lavishing his rare affection on them. They had made him happy and that was the most important thing they could do. Again, who were they to question the how and the why?

Each knew that all would be revealed soon.

“Here,” Harry said as his Invisibility Cloak floated towards them.

“I trust that you know how to work this and remain unseen, and know that I will come for you as soon as I can.”

With an encouraging caress of his magic that washed once more over his followers, the three disappeared under Harry’s cloak and he had no doubt that they would find their way back undetected.

“Yes, I am becoming more and more sure about that future, Harry Potter,” Luna said airily once they were alone.

“You were not ready before but I am glad that the Nargles convinced you to embrace your destiny.”

Harry raised a single eyebrow at the charismatic insanity that was Luna Lovegood.

“I am glad they convinced me, too,” Harry said; even if he didn’t really understand what she had meant but then again he didn’t really care either.

Because he could never be anything less than appreciative of her company and what she had done for him, and he knew by the way his magic felt that her core had pledged her support to his own.

“I am even more glad that you agreed to help me out tonight and thank you for trusting me to keep you safe.”

Just then Luna laughed in her ethereal and whimsical way.

“Oh, Harry Potter, I don’t doubt that you will keep those loyal to you protected, but I don’t know if you’ve seen the bigger picture yet. Your magic’s shape will soon become complete and with it a chance to redeem your sins.”

As Harry had come to expect with his interactions with the girl over, some of the things that she said he just didn’t know how to process. In this instance, however, that was a good thing since they still had another part of Harry’s plan to fulfill.

So Harry quickly changed the course of their conversation to prepare for what was to come.

“You ready for the next part?”

Luna tilted her head and smiled at him before transforming her facial expression into a little girl who was very much afraid at being tied to a chair with a dead body before her.

Harry responded to her act with a slight smirk before sending out a shockwave with his magic that caused the very foundations of the castle to shake. As expected, the teachers were able to trace the powerful blast and in a few minutes began to enter the room.

Professor McGonagall was the first to enter and Headmaster Snape was right on her heels.

“Gilderoy!” her Scottish brogue choked out.

The sight of the dead man with a single trail of blood coming from his mouth was not something that she had expected to see. Nor was the sight of a second and a first year who had both been bound to chairs with terrified expressions on their face.

“Professors!” Harry cried out while Luna chose this moment to begin to cry.

“It was Lockhart!” Harry nearly yelled in partial relief that Luna and him had been found.

“He was the one behind the chamber, the one who petrified Cedric, and he was going to use me to, to…”

But Harry was going to draw this out, to make his performance as effective as possible. In truth he had never expected his followers to have killed Lockhart – though in hindsight he supposed he had overlooked their absolute devotion to him – and so he had prepared memories within the man to back up what he was about to say.

With the man dead, however, he knew that his words would be treated as absolute.

Though, they would have to wait as the professors rushed to untie them. Strangely, Severus was the one to free him and Harry was going to use this unexpected development in every way that he could.

And once his bonds were cut, Harry practically lept into Severus’ arms and clung to his body as if there was no one else that he were happier to see.

Truthfully, this was turning out better than he had planned because he knew this would be ten times more effective.

“Thank you! Thank you!” Harry cried as his hands clenched onto the man’s robes.

What Harry wouldn’t have given to see the man’s face in this moment.

“Shh, shh! it’s all right,” Harry could hear McGonagall sooth into the equally clingy Luna who had duplicated Harry’s performance once she had been freed.

“No, no it’s not,” Harry hiccupped expertly.

“Lockhart was going to kill Luna and blame it all on me. He told us all of the horrible things that he had ever done in his life and how this would propel him to even more fame and that there was no doubt in his mind that he would soon become the next Minister for Magic.”

Harry tightened his hold around Severus’ neck at this part, something that he was sure the other man loathed.

“He said, he said that he had it all planned out how he would make the story seem as if I had been opening the Chamber of Secrets and hurting people all along, and how he had been the one to eventually save the day.”

“It’s true,” Luna sobbed!

“That evil man told us how he had done this before to gain fame at other people’s expense. He… he,” she choked out, “went on and on about how the world had never appreciated his talents and so he turned to spells of the mind to make people believe what he wanted them to. All of his books were the works of other people and he had been content with his life before coming to Hogwarts… before he met the Boy Who Lived and saw how much further his fame could take him.”

She took a slight pause before continuing.

“He was just about to use a powerful Memory Charm on Harry to implant those fake memories of opening the chamber in his head when something went wrong and he was blown backwards into the wall and then he never got up and we were alone.”

At this point Luna descended into hysterics and buried her face into McGonagall’s robes.

Harry thought Luna’s performance was perfect and that she had done everything that he had asked for and more. But he knew that his own performance wasn’t finished and that his path towards his future could be even easier and less suspicious if he continued to play the next few minutes perfectly.

When Harry lifted his red and blotchy face from Snape’s robes, there were tears in his eyes but he could clearly make out the forms of both Sprout and Flitwick who had just entered the room.

But Harry focused his words almost exclusively at Snape, whose black eyes were filled with both compassion and annoyance.

“Lockhart was jealous of my title,” Harry confirmed in a low voice.

“He said that from the moment he came to the castle he knew that there was still more fame for him to achieve. Lockhart even bragged just a few moments ago…” Harry to look pointedly at the man’s dead body before returning his attention to Snape with even more pain in his eyes before continuing, “about how he would turn me into his next book.”

Harry’s voice was hollow and everyone in the room was captivated by the pain in his voice.

“Why would anyone be jealous of someone whose fame came from their parents being murdered?”

No one could answer him.

“Lockhart told us that he had been the one to open the chamber, the one who had used something called … The Gorgon’s Stare … to petrify Cedric – my older buddy - and the one who would save the castle by blaming it all on me.”

The adults were stunned with what they were hearing. They couldn’t believe that it had been Lockhart all along but the evidence being presented left no doubt in their minds.

However, Harry didn’t want them to fixate on the facts too long. He had another angle to play.

“Why do these things keep happening to me?” He just about whispered.

It was Harry’s final lament and he rested his tired head on Snape’s shoulder, his body exhausted.

Snape didn’t even flinch when Harry’s head sought comfort against his body, and it was then that he knew that he had them right where he wanted them.

“I’m sorry, professor,” Harry said as his tears resumed falling on Snape’s shoulder.

“For what?” Snape – to his credit – managed to reply in the most non-threatening voice that even McGonagall had ever heard the man use.

“For not being a better student; for always ending up in these situations. I’ll try harder, sir, to not be a dunderhead.”

If Harry could have seen the exchange between the Headmaster and McGonagall then he would not have been able to resist the cackle of delight at how effective both his and Luna’s performance had been.

It was all he could do to keep up his act when he felt Snape’s hand touch his back as if to provide comfort to him.

Not only had he gotten the opportunity to punish Lockhart for even daring to think that he could use him in that way, but he had also been able to give a very compelling reason for why his achievement in the classroom would suddenly begin to increase exponentially.

He was pleased – very pleased – and he managed to suppress his laughter at how easy it all had been to play everyone as both him and Luna were carried from the room and taken to the hospital wing.

 


 

A few days later Cedric’s eyes fluttered open. His first thoughts centered on how uncomfortable his body was and how difficult it was to see; but then a feeling of calmness passed through him and his senses relaxed. It told him that everything would be okay and that he was safe.

“Cedric,” he heard a familiar voice say.

And without even needing to think Cedric responded.

“Harry,” he sighed as the world began to come into focus.

“Everything will be okay,” Harry told him.

And then Harry smiled and Cedric drifted back off to sleep. Harry then stood up and turned to leave as he allowed Cedric’s body to deal with the trauma of being petrified and the residual effects of the restorative Mandrake Potion.

Luna and Ginny were standing on one side of the exit and Neville and Justin were standing on the other, waiting for their leader to join them. As he passed through into the hall they followed him and Harry finally felt relief that his core now had five distinct points. Cedric had come back to him and he had even managed to acquire Luna.

As the five of them headed down to breakfast two other magical cores inside the castle began to stir because it wouldn’t be long now until Harry’s magic was complete and these unknown individuals added their power to his.

And when that happened the world really didn’t stand a chance.

 


 

Let me know what you think! We are now at the end of year two and I have outlines for the next 6 chapters that will encompass year three.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Hello again! Thanks for your patients with waiting for this update, and for the wait with all of the other chapters. I write when I have the time but haven’t had much lately. However, I have no plans on abandoning this story so please hang in there and maybe my work-life balance will get a little better soon.

Now, onto the beginning of Harry’s third year. This will be the year when the story finally starts to pick up the pace a little and he will eventually discover everyone in his inner circle. I have six chapters planned for this year and hope you like where I take this – there will be some surprises.

 

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

Neville’s thick and black brows furrowed together in concentration.

He was trying so hard to perform the task that Harry had set for both him and Justin to complete. It pained Neville to know that he was failing with one of Harry’s lessons and he hated the look that Harry was giving him.

Frustration was not something that he ever wanted to see play out in Harry’s vibrant green eyes. Especially when it was directed at him.

“Stop!” Harry sighed given the obvious lack of progress.

Harry took a moment to clear his mind and reanalyze the situation.

Meanwhile, Justin’s face mirrored the anguish that Neville felt in not performing up to the standards that Harry had set for them.

Both desperately wanted to accomplish the extraordinary feat of wandless magic and make their Harry proud.

“Perhaps we are coming at this from the wrong angle.”

“I know that both of you are capable of this but I wonder if you don’t have the right focus,” Harry then mused out loud.

Justin and Neville turned their head to the side as their leader continued.

“You see, when I first discovered magic it was a matter of life or death. I didn’t know that at the time I was magical or that any of this,” he gestured with his right hand as some of the discarded items lying on the floor in Neville’s room began to rise and swirl over their heads, “was even possible.”

With another flick of his magic and will he sent them all back neatly to where they belonged.

“When we began practicing wandless magic when I arrived a week ago it was because I wanted you both to continue your rapid advancement.”

Just then the ends of Harry’s lips curled up devilishly.

“Of course,” he said through his grin at playing the system, “wandless magic is also the only way that any of us can use magic outside of school on account of the trace in our wands.”

            A sudden look of understanding registered on both of Neville and Justin’s faces.

            “That’s why I never got in trouble for any accidental magic!”

“Correct, Neville,” Harry answered.

It went unspoken that both Neville and Justin trusted Harry so completely that they had never even worried about the ramifications of Harry wanting to continue their instruction with magic when he had arrived at Longbottom Manor to stay for the remainder of the summer.

“Maybe I should have been more direct with what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

Harry then ran his fingers over his chin until his eyes lit up and his facial expression became much more relaxed. He suddenly knew just the thing that would provide a little extra incentive to his boys; only, at the same time he began to feel a strange sensation growing in his gut.

It sent a chill down his spine and he hesitated for a moment.

“Harry?” Justin cautiously stepped forward.

For his eyes had just seen a complex range of emotions play out in the person that both he and Neville had pledged their life too. It unnerved them.

Harry’s eyes turned to his friend and looked them over, and an understanding then washed over the faces of Justin and Neville.

They knew now what Harry had been debating and they began to be a little more enamored with him because of it. But it was something that they thought Harry shouldn’t concern himself with because neither could imagine a limit to their devotion.

Which was the very thing that Neville sought to make clear.

“We have killed to protect you, Harry. Don’t worry yourself with the details; we know that you have our best interests at heart. Maybe Justin and I need a little bit of an incentive to finally get the hang of this.”

Justin nodded and reaffirmed Neville’s statement.

“All right,” Harry said after a moment to properly acknowledge their devotion and loyalty.

“When you free yourself, come and join me in the library.”

Just as quickly as he said that, two ropes shot forth from Harry’s outstretched hands and bound their bodies so tightly that they fell to the floor.

Harry didn’t even watch the struggle and shut the door behind him and made his way to the legendary Longbottom library to select another tome to peruse for the afternoon.

However, that cold feeling continued to linger in his stomach. For no matter how much he wanted them to learn and grow as fast as possible, his magic didn’t like the idea of any harm coming to either of them.

But even his magic agreed that they needed to be capable of certain things; in this case the end justified the means and by the time Harry arrived at the library his conscious was as clear as it had ever been.

 


 

The next day everything changed. Or at least it seemed that way from the moment that Harry spotted none other than Albus Dumbledore at the Longbottom breakfast table.

The mysterious and wily Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was chatting quietly with Neville’s grandmother, Augusta. The sight caught Harry off guard as his and his friends entered the room.

The scene before them was unusual and both Neville and Justin could feel the change in Harry’s magical core from where they stood at his side. The constant connection to their leader’s sinfully alluring pull was momentarily reduced, and each knew that Harry’s brilliant mind was preparing itself for what Dumbledore’s presence meant.

Something was up and all Neville and Justin could do was to center their own minds and magic and behave like they knew that Harry would want them to.

“Ah, good morning boys,” the man said in his patented grandfatherly way.

The trio walked over to the front of the long table, all the while Harry putting just the right amount of schoolboy shock into his mask.

After all, it wasn’t every day that someone of Dumbledore’s caliber made house calls.

“Good morning, Sir,” each boy said at nearly the same time.

“Please, take a seat boys,” Augusta motioned with her arm before turning to the house elf.

“Three more portions, and another spot of tea for us all. Harry, Justin, do you still prefer honey with your tea?”

“Yes, mam.” Justin replied while Harry nodded his head.

The elf house popped away, leaving Dumbledore and his blue eyes – which were not in their usual sparkling state – to focus almost exclusively at Harry.

“You must be wondering why I am here so early in the morning?”

“The thought had crossed by mind, Headmaster,” Harry blurted out with the right amount of nervousness required.

Harry’s mind was ready for the conversation ahead, and as such, he wasn’t thrown off by the man’s momentary change of course.

Because Harry knew by now how the Headmaster expertly controlled the release of information, thereby making the person focus on exactly what he wanted them to.

And no more.

It was Dumbledore’s turn to nod and he returned his focus to the other side of the table just as Neville and Justin spotted a folded Daily Prophet resting under the man’s fingers. Of course, that was something that Harry had already noticed before they had even sat down.

However, it would take a little longer to find out what was to be the real topic of discussion.

“Such a wonderful thing to have such close friends, and I am sure you will see the others in no time. In fact, I just ran into Amos Diggory and he told me that Cedric can’t wait to return to the castle. I’m sure by now you have heard that his parents wish him to repeat his year, what with all the time he missed last year.”

“Cedric wrote that in his last letter,” Harry supplied before turning to Neville.

“Yes, Headmaster,” the Longbottom scion said in a quieter voice, “in fact, it was one of the reasons why Cedric couldn’t join us this summer since his parents wanted him to study anyways.”

“Confusing, really,” Justin added.

“We didn’t understand why he couldn’t come and spend the last part of summer with us if he had to repeat anyways.”

“Parents sometimes act irrational even when they have the best interests of the child in mind. However, I would wager that Professor Sprout will be pleased to see the strength of the buddy system.”

Dumbledore leaned in then as if what he was about to say was a huge secret.

“Just between us, she makes a speech at the end of every year to the other Heads of Houses to try and convince them of the merits of her system.”

Harry and his friends shared a look that Dumbledore took to meant that this delicate conversation was starting they way that he wanted it to.

The old man smiled and for a moment his blue eyes sparkled as brightly as ever.

“And also, I just wanted to stop by Harry and see how you were doing given how the last school year had ended.”

Harry didn’t think this was the real reason for the man’s visit but paid close attention anyways.

“Very sorry my dear boy that I wasn’t there to protect you.”

Unexpectedly, Augusta slammed her hand down on the table, much to the surprise of Neville whose eyes widened slightly at the outburst.

“Lucius!” she cried out in a barely contained rage.

“He never got to me, Albus. I refused to sign that nonsense decree for your removal.”

Now Harry was also taken aback with her reaction, and for a moment wondered if her reaction had been staged.

But he quickly dismissed that notion since he had come to learn during his brief stay in her home that she had been close friends with Harry’s Grandmother, and thus had not liked to hear of Lockhart’s attempt on his life.

“Yes, that was a rather unfortunate but no less surprising thing for Mr. Malfoy to do. But never fear my dear friend,” Dumbledore expressed in his steady and firm voice, “I never doubted for a moment where your loyalties truly lay.”

Dumbledore’s words calmed the woman and her unexpected outburst and soon the newly reinstated Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry only had eyes for Harry again.

“How are you dealing with everything, Harry?”

The use of his name almost made Harry think the man truly cared for him. Almost.

But Harry was ready to play the part and without even needing to think his face melted into the perfect portrayal of someone who had been scared but had persevered and come out stronger.

“It all happened so fast, sir. One minute my friends and I were in the library studying for exams,” Harry paused to look at Neville and Justin. He could have kissed them for the look on their faces; he was so proud they were able to play along.

“And then Luna Lovegood and I decided to go for a walk to stretch our legs and the next thing I knew I was tied to a chair and Professor Lockhart was there.”

Harry shook his head expertly.

“I couldn’t believe that he was the one, sir. The one behind all of the petrifications in the castle. The one who had hurt Cedric...”

Dumbledore’s blue eyes were glistening as Harry let some of his true feelings for Cedric show through. The man couldn’t have been happier with how much Harry seemed to care for his friends; it would make it easier for him in the end to face Voldemort in order to protect them.

“I’m glad he is okay now,” Harry paused for another moment to make it more dramatic by gathering himself and taking a steadying breath.

“Though, I can’t help but feel why it had to be me. Second year in a row that someone has tried to kill me, Headmaster.”

Harry knew he needed to be careful with the old man as they tiptoed around the subject of the prophecy lest he cotton on that Harry knew far more than Dumbledore could ever expect.

“I just feel like I have this target on my back that attracts danger!” He finally sighed and rested his chin on his hands that were propped up on the table.

It was a calculated statement and one that Harry knew he really shouldn’t expand upon further.

Luckily, his words had, just for a moment, registered a bit too deeply with the old man across from him.

Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw the face that Dumbledore had made. Without a doubt it confirmed the prophecy, no matter how positive he had been after seeing the memory of his mother and Petunia.

Dumbledore sighed.

“I don’t know why anything happens, Harry, except that in my experience I have found that it must. It doesn’t have to make sense, I’m afraid.”

Dumbledore leaned towards Harry, as if trying to make his words more comforting.

“But it’s how we respond to things… Harry… that make all the difference. And I’m quite proud as to how you have responded to the unfortunate challenges better than many older witches and wizards would have.”

The man finished with one of his trademark looks that might have inspired and soothed a good majority of Hogwarts’ student population. After all, this was from the man who had triumphed over Grindelwald and stood in the way of Voldemort capturing Wizarding Britain.

However, Harry wasn’t average in the least, and so Dumbledore’s words offered him no praise or comfort.

But Dumbledore wasn’t finished yet.

“In fact, I’ve heard from Professor Snape that you plan on applying yourself more. You don’t know how happy that makes an old Headmaster like myself feel. It gives me hope for the future to hear young wizards, such as yourself, want to learn such things and challenge themselves.”

That line – more than any other – truly stuck with Harry. It was almost as if Dumbledore had come right out and said that he believed in the prophecy. More than that though, Dumbledore’s words also told Harry something about what the contents of the prophecy had to include.

Harry had been right to assume that the prophecy had revealed a threat to the Dark Lord, but he had also been right to think that Dumbledore had been subtly manipulating him to fulfill whatever stupid words had set his life on this path over a decade ago.

If anything, Harry was incredulous that a man like his esteemed Headmaster believed in something so uncertain as a prophecy. Surely the man had to know that any foretelling of the future was fickle at best. Right?

From there, it was also rather foolish to put such stock in a child being a threat to someone like Tom Riddle, whose power Harry had felt and knew matched his own limitless potential.

But Harry didn’t have the time to question whether Dumbledore was merely a fool or knew more about Harry’s abilities than he let on; therefore, Harry filed that away and returned his full attention to the present.

“Well, sir,” Harry continued, “I don’t like finding myself in these situations and have promised myself to do everything I can in case there is a next time.”

Dumbledore gave a half smile at that.

“I’m afraid my boy that even the most prepared find themselves in unexpected situations. But again, it does make an old man happy to hear about it anyways.”

“Now, now, Dumbledore,” Augusta chimed in.

“I think we are due another spot of tea. Did you boys want anything else to eat?”

“No thanks, gran,” Neville supplied.

Justin and Harry also shook their heads.

With that, Augusta sent the elf away and then fidgeted with her fingers before sharing a pointed look with Albus.

Dumbledore nodded and turned his head to Harry again.

“There was something else I wished to speak with you about, my boy. You know, since I am already here.”

Here was the real reason for the man’s visit; Harry was sure about it.

“Is something wrong, Headmaster?” Harry asked.

“Wrong, my dear boy? I wouldn’t say that anything bad has happened, but something has occurred that I feel you should be aware about.”

Just then the Headmaster’s focus turned to Augusta.

“My dear, are you comfortable with Neville and Justin remaining here?”

“I don’t think it matters one way or the other, Albus. I’ve watched these boys for the past week and have hardly seen one without the other. Thick as thieves I tell you!”

Again, and for a brief moment, there was a strange glint in the man’s eyes.

“Yes, well, forgive an old man for stating the obvious. I find it best sometimes to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Augusta nodded and everyone focused on Harry again.

“Now Harry, as I said before there has been a recent event that I feel concerns you in some small way. I have no doubt that you would have learned about the true nature of things sooner or later from the rumor mill at Hogwarts but I felt it best to hear it from me.”

“Okay, sir?” There was uncertainty in Harry’s voice.

He truly wondered where Dumbledore was going with this.

“Someone has escaped from Azkaban, Harry. Do you know about the wizard’s prison?”

Harry nodded along.

“Now, no one has ever managed to break out before, but the person who has was once very good friends with your parents…”

It was here that Dumbledore took a few moments to carefully select his next words.

“Of course, you must be wondering how such a person ended up there in the first place if they were so close to the noble Potters, and all I can say about that Harry is that this person betrayed your family to Lord Voldemort.”

The use of the Dark Lord’s name had an obvious effect on Augusta while Justin and Neville didn’t quite know how to best respond.

However, Dumbledore took their lack of a response to mean they were shocked into inaction.

“His name was Sirius Black,” Dumbledore continued, “and it’s all across the front page of today’s Daily Prophet.”

The paper was then spread out for all to see and the first thing Harry glimpsed was the crazed expression of Sirius Black.

Of course, Harry had already known something about that man given his efforts in learning about Voldemort and the war before setting foot inside of Hogwarts.

But that didn’t mean that Harry knew anything about the man’s motivation, so it didn’t take a great deal of acting on his part to voice the obvious.

“Do you think he’s a danger to anyone?”

Which he knew Dumbledore would take to mean him, and as Harry expected the man tried to downplay just how concerned he really was.

“I wouldn’t worry about that, Harry. I have been in touch with the Minister for Magic and was assured that all necessary precautions were being undertaken to find and return him to Azkaban.”

Harry took a minute to share a look with his friends, whom Harry noticed were getting a little tired from keeping up their façade in front of Dumbledore for this long.

Still, he was quite impressed with their efforts, but Dumbledore wasn’t finished yet.

“However, I do think it best to have someone else do your shopping for you in Diagon Alley for the time being. I have spoken with Augusta and she has agreed to get your upcoming school supplies for all three of you.”

“Quite right, Albus!” Augusta agreed.

That more than anything that he had heard today annoyed Harry the most since he had been quite looking forward to picking up a few things; not to mention it would delay his reunion with Luna, Ginny, and Cedric even longer.

With the important things to discuss over with, it wasn’t long before Dumbledore excused himself and disappeared out the front door.

Next, Augusta readied herself and made for Diagon Alley through the fireplace, leaving the boys alone.

“Well that is rather disappointing!”

Harry was clearly annoyed and just sat there at the dining room table with his fingers intertwined on the table.

Justin and Neville remained quiet for they knew that Harry was adjusting his thoughts to face this new and undesirable situation. It was better if they didn’t interrupt and each were mentally unwinding from their efforts in front of Dumbledore.

“Well, I suppose that it isn’t a total waste. I mean, I would have liked to have seen Ginny, Luna, and Cedric, and then of course it’s a shame not to visit Flourish and Blotts. However,” Harry spoke as his emerald eyes radiated a deep glow that furthered the ethereal quality that Neville and Justin already saw in him, “it still presents us with an opportunity.”

His boys followed him as he stood and began walking towards the library.

“We have been here many times before but there were some books that were always off limits since your grandmother would not have approved of them in our hands. Now though, we have free reign over every tome for the next couple of hours and I suggest we use this opportunity to its fullest.”

Internally though, Harry’s mind wanted to focus on his recent conversation with Albus Dumbledore. But he had been in these situations before and he knew that there would be plenty of time to ruminate over both what had been discussed and how it had been brought up later. Besides, he wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity to dive into some of the darker texts that Neville’s ancestors had held onto over the years.

 


 

As it happened the rest of the summer went by very quickly and before Harry or his friends knew it, August was over and it was time to return to Hogwarts. Of course, the fact that Harry had increased the number of books that he had been planning on owl-ordering to make up for not returning to Diagon Alley might have had something to do with it. Both Harry and his boys had plenty to read and every day was filled with learning magic. Nothing was too light or dark for them to appreciate.

So much so that Harry had needed to impress upon both Neville and Justin the importance of not demonstrating all that they knew as they gathered their things from Neville’s room and made for the fireplace to floo to King’s Cross station.

“The pair of you has far exceeded my expectations this summer, and it comforts me to know how capable each of you are both with and without your wand; however, I think it would be best for our future not to display all of our talents. In time, others will come to see how remarkable your abilities truly are but we must hold onto our secrets for the time being.”

“That was always our intention,” Neville spoke from behind before closing the door to his room and joining the others in the hall.

“We know how important staying under the radar is Harry.” Justin followed.

“I know I don’t have to worry about either of you,” Harry acknowledged, “it is just that things with Dumbledore have taken a turn and I want to make sure that we don’t make him any more interested in us – or me – than he already is.”

Harry took a pause as they approached the stairs to the foyer below.

“Things are happening, things that I don’t fully understand yet. And until I do it is important to keep up all appearances.”

Harry’s magic could feel their agreement with his words.

“But,” and with this Harry turned and faced them, “for now let us look forward to seeing our friends.”

Both Neville and Justin could feel the anticipation pulsing from Harry’s core, and his excitement further stroked their own longing to be reunited with others who felt the same way towards Harry that they did.

With that said, the boys descended the stairs and took the floo one-by-one. A few minutes later they were all inside the magical platform of nine and three-quarters and anxiously awaiting the others.

Only, it was much too crowded for them to be able to see everyone that was there. Parents were busy saying their goodbyes to those, who like Harry and his friends, couldn’t wait to return to the castle and were thus actively trying to get away as fast as possible. Conversely, there appeared to be the same number of apparent first years who had trouble letting go of their parent’s hands.

Harry, naturally, gave the scene in front of him little mind. He could have cared less that he couldn’t make out the forms of three of his followers that he had been separated for over two months; it was enough for him to know that they were in this space and that their magic called to his own.

And while he normally kept his magic very close to his center he could feel it extend outwards and carefully weave throughout the crowd to find its target. It only took a matter of seconds from the time that his power joined again with theirs that his followers came to him.

The sheer strength of their shared magic was enough to fill each of them with an unusual giddiness and feeling of lightheadedness. They all shivered at the intoxicating ripples of power that seeped into their hearts. It was indescribable ecstasy and Harry allowed both his friends and himself to be sated by the feeling of being reunited.

Fortunately, Harry knew better than to chance making a scene and with some effort called his magic back into his body.

“Argh!” Cedric grunted softly through his gritted teeth with the loss of Harry’s alluring magic.

“I don’t think I will ever get used to that feeling, Harry; it’s the greatest sensation I have ever experienced,” he managed when he was able to string together coherent words again.

Harry tilted his head to the side and gazed deeply into Cedric’s off-gray eyes. The fourth year Hufflepuff was still trying to get his breathing under his control but managed to meet Harry’s stare anyways.

“We missed you at Longbottom Manor. We missed all of you in fact,” Harry acknowledged the offers with a quick node of his head.

“And trust me when I say that you aren’t the only ones that missed the connection that we have.”

While Harry was speaking to the others, Justin nudged Neville’s side and managed to share a look with the other boy. Out of all of those present, only they knew how true that statement had been. Harry’s longing to be with his friends had nearly driven them mad with the ups and downs that his magic experienced.

“However, let’s continue this reunion in a private compartment on the train.”

The others dipped their heads forward in agreement and as a large group they lugged their belongings to the Hogwarts Express and managed to find an empty compartment in the back.

It was a tight fit with all six of them – and their luggage – but the fact that they were finally together made up for the cramped legroom.

It was also the first time that the six of them were alone on account of Cedric’s parents taking him home personally when he had been released from the hospital, something that Luna commented on her in own special and unique way.

“Part of me wondered what this would be like, our first time alone as a group of six. But there are still so many firsts to go that I can’t keep all of them straight. So many paths can still happen that the wrackspurts are agitated.”

The statement should have struck them as odd. Each knew that their attraction to the Boy Who Lived was not normal but at the same time it was the most natural thing that any of them had ever been involved in.

Except for Harry. He had already come to terms with whatever was happening and he was completely relaxed for the first time in a very long time. His magic was content and happily wove in and around his friends, not only allowing his magic to memorize everything about them but also giving their smaller cores the chance to explore how their magic reacted to others in the group.

While Justin, Neville, Ginny, and Cedric were distracted by Harry’s thrall and the newfound strength that they found in each other, Harry’s eyes settled on Luna’s as the train began to depart.

Harry was interested in seeing if he could get Luna to make any more sense of her complex and invaluable mind.

“What have you seen, Luna? I can’t deny how intrigued I am with your gift even though I am well aware of its impact on you. Not to mention how fickle visions of the future can be,” he finished in a huff as he then looked to the window.

For a moment he gazed at the view of the city giving way to the countryside when caught sight of a large, shaggy dog that he could have sworn had been looking right at him.

However, Luna responded before he could think about it more.

“Just bits and pieces, Harry. Enough to know that I’m where I am supposed to be and that you are on your way. And you’re right, you know. The future is horribly fickle. I was so convinced that Stubby Boardman was going to break out of Azkaban that I didn’t see Sirius Black coming. Must have been a complete surprise for you as well but don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.”

“You mean Sirius Black will be captured?” Harry peered at her intently.

But Luna just shrugged her shoulders non-committedly and then her eyes refocused as the other part of her awareness began to focus in on the magic of the others.

Harry sat in silence for a moment and watched his friends become more in tune with each other.

No matter his apprehension over Dumbledore, the prophecy, Tom Riddle, or this Sirius Black, Harry found it hard to dwell on those subjects when all of the people that he had ever truly cared about where with him in this moment.

They were his and he was theirs to lead and protect, and that feeling stirred at his magic. Ultimately, it was that sudden burst of appreciation for their deep connection that sent another burst of energy outwards from his chest.

It was just the thing that they needed to cause them to blink their eyes and return to the present.

Which was a good thing since otherwise it would have been a very long and quiet train ride.

“Yes, Cedric,” Ginny agreed as she sat back into her seat, “there really is no getting used to that feeling.”

“Which is odd, though,” Neville piped up, “because at the same time it is the most natural feeling in the world.”

There was a chorus of nodding heads as each got comfortable for the long ride ahead.

“How are you doing, Harry?” Justin decided to ask from where he sat directly across from Harry.

“Better. It’s nice to finally have you all here with me for the next ten months. And while I understand that some of you had to attend to things that were beyond your control, I don’t think I will ever like such a break again.”

Harry’s voice had been quiet and contemplative, but above all it had been honest and warmed their hearts with the same potency that his magic had just done. It brought them just a little bit closer to him, no matter that they were already at the stage where leaving would have been an impossible thought.

“Anyways,” Harry’s voice had regained some volume and normalcy, “how was Egypt, Ginny? And then I would also like to hear about your summers, Cedric and Luna.”

Ginny had some redness to her cheeks with the sudden attention of the train compartment thrown onto her but that was only for a moment.

“Egypt was so fascinating! The pyramids are truly spectacular, and I am so happy that I didn’t have to experience them like a Muggle.”

Ginny expanded on her last comment when she noticed the questioning look on several faces.

“Well, Muggles are brought in on large tour busses and can only walk in certain places around the pyramids, and they can only walk in front of the Sphinx. There are so many people trying not to step in camel dung that it can’t be that pleasant. I imagine that their impression of the site is limited by not being able to venture underground to see how each of the structures are connected.”

“Wait,” Justin interrupted, “I’ve been there with my parents. You’re saying there is more to that area than meets the eye?”

“Of course!” Ginny’s eyes widened as she remembered her trip more clearly.

“Underneath the pyramids is the largest Gringotts in the world and a market that makes Diagon Alley feel so small… It was incredible… and the magic that I felt. It made me think of you, Harry. You were on my mind constantly.”

Harry nodded his head forward.

“It was nice that we had won so much gold in the Daily Prophet drawing to experience that, and I even managed to convince my parents to get me several books on Egyptian magic. I’ve tried to go through them but they are a bit advanced for me at the moment.”

“We can work on that,” Harry grinned, which brought a large smile to Ginny’s face.

“It was the best trip ever and the sad thing is that it could have been even better because not everyone in my family had a good time. There was so much drama with Ron and his stupid rat that the second half of the trip was spent worrying about Scabbers and we didn’t get to go to Alexandria because the rat went missing and we had to stay in Cairo until the twins found it.”

“I didn’t realize that rats lived that long,” Harry said dismissively, thinking back to when Ron shared a compartment with him two years ago and introduced him to his little friend.

Ginny just shrugged and turned to Cedric, who filled them all in on the horrors of having one’s parents decide to hold their child back a year.

“I don’t even understand where they are coming from. I am one of the best in my year and certainly caught up with all of the work I missed since they made me study from sun up to sun down. I think the only reason I tolerated their decision was because it meant I’d get one more year at Hogwarts with you, Harry.”

Cedric chewed on his lip for a minute before he continued.

“I swear, lying in that coma in the hospital wing was a nightmare but then I felt your magic and it comforted my mind and body until I awoke. I don’t think there will ever come a time when I take that experience for granted and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to pay you back.”

Harry, however, was quick to cut him off by placing his right hand on Cedric’s knee.

“I’m just sorry that you had to go through it at all. I don’t like it when something of mine is hurt or misused…”

In truth, Harry was slightly torn over the whole experience since it had been Tom Riddle who had hurt his Cedric. If it had been anyone else that person would simply not exist anymore, but Harry didn’t even want to imagine a world without someone like Tom in it.

“Trust though that I will do everything in my power to ensure that all of you remain as safe as can be in the future.”

Finished with his story, and upon hearing Harry’s reply, Cedric leaned back and wiped at the smallest bit of moisture that had caused his eyes to glisten. He had never felt so loved and he promised himself right then and there that he would remain with Harry until the end of time. And his magic only enhanced his vow.

Returning to the group, the only person left to recap the experiences of her summer was Luna.

Of all the individuals in Harry’s group Luna was the most exotic and peculiar, and whether they meant to or not everyone leaned in closer.

“Oh, yes, my summer too was eventful. Of course, we never actually saw a Crumple-Horned Snorkack in Sweden, but my father remains hopeful that we are getting closer.”

Just then Luna’s eyes lost a little bit of their glossiness and appeared to carry some heavy emotion that contrasted with her delicate frame and whimsical style of dress. Also, her voice became deeper and darker.

“I don’t have it in me to tell him that they went extinct long ago but it makes him so happy to spend time with me on his expeditions. There aren’t many left you know.”

Her eyes then became brighter and their sheen returned, so to did her voice revert back to normal.

“Am glad to be returning to Hogwarts, though, least of which is the pudding. I missed butterscotch.”

It struck Harry how special Luna was and how unexpectedly easy she fit within his group. To be able to see some aspects of the future and not others, or being able to see things out of context must be an incredibly difficult and lonely existence. And yet, Harry watched as Ginny easily wrapped her arm around Luna’s shoulder and comfort her fellow second year without it being strange – like they were the best of friends who had grown up together. The others too acted like they had known each other for many years.

They were a family of sorts and Harry’s core just couldn’t get enough of their magic. His incomplete star yearned to be complete and Harry needed to keep his eye on the two unformed areas of his magic, lest they burst out of his compartment to find if the person they belonged to was on the train.

There was quiet for a good ten minutes before Neville lifted his head from the window on the other side of Cedric, who sat in between him and Harry.

“Speaking of Hogwarts, Harry, Justin and I almost forgot to tell you our thoughts on the buddy system.”

His voice was animated and his excitement caused Cedric’s ears to perk up; with all of his studying he had almost forgotten that they were of age to be someone’s buddy this year.

“Go on,” Harry said.

“Well, Justin and I want to participate as well if that’s all right. We think it’ll be great to encourage some of the younger years to be receptive to you in case we ever have need of their support or influence. Also, it’ll help to have little ears pick up the beginnings of any rumors inside the castle that we wouldn’t want to get much further.”

“Exactly!” Justin continued.

“After the events of last year, we think we should invest in expanding a network of sympathetic, if not loyal supporters.”

“Intriguing,” Harry mused. “I had just about the same thoughts on …” but he never got a chance to finish.

They all felt it and they all heard it. The train’s wheels began to screech along the tracks as it came to a stop. Next, the air around them began to chill and soon Neville’s breath frosted the glass while he tried to see what was happening outside.

Soon, they all looked to Harry for direction while gripping their wands tightly in case their magic was needed.

Harry, however, had no idea what was going on and the magic that he had sent into the hall was not telling him anything.

Then the light began to fade and their compartment got very dark despite it being midday.

None of the six knew what was happening until Harry saw a dark shape move along the other side of the glass. His magic recoiled back to him and attempted to surround his compartment to keep out this unknown force, but it was no use.

Against his will the door began to slide open and this unknown thing clashed against his magic, and powered through his defenses. Sweat began to collect on his brow as he fought this creature that hid behind its dark robe. Harry didn’t understand why his magic was not defending him but he couldn’t fixate on it for long since worry and doubt began to creep into his heart and soul. The positive feelings of being reunited with his group left him and he was left with all the fear of being four years old again before he had discovered magic. He was defenseless and soon his consciousness gave way and the last thing he remembered was his head being cared for in Cedric’s arms as his body gave way and he fell back.

 


 

Harry opened his eyes and felt a fear like he had never felt before wash over him. He was very small and being cradled by this woman with her back to the door of what looked to be a nursery. His eyes managed to catch the face of this woman and her quickly understood that this was his mother and she was whispering softly in his ear about how much she loved him and how sorry she was that she hadn’t been able to protect him.

Soon her whispers gave way to tears as an explosion sounded behind her and a man screamed in the hall.

“James!” she sighed as if she had been preparing herself for this day.

Now Harry somewhat understood where he was and that he was witnessing the death of his parents. Except, Harry didn’t understand why he was here. Hadn’t he just been somewhere else? It was all so hard to remember.

The door to the nursery blasting open didn’t help him in trying to remember through all the haze and fear swimming in his head.

But then Harry saw a robbed figure with an aura that cleared his mind. No longer was his mind struggling to figure out why he was suddenly a baby again or what he had been doing prior. Gone to was all the fear and doubt that had gripped at his heart with witnessing the death of his father.

Harry remembered it all now because he of the way the other person’s magic affected him. This was Voldemort and this was what Tom Riddle had turned into. And that didn’t frighten him; it confused him. Because the creature in front of him was so far removed from the Tom that he greatly desired to meet that it severed the control that whatever had brought him into this memory held over him.

This was not his equal and this man held no sway over him. And just like that Harry applied his returned mental faculties to the situation in front of him. All of the magic and dark creatures flitted through his brain and he arrived at the conclusion that a Dementor had entered into his compartment on the train and tried to make him relive his worst memory.

Only, this was not his worst memory or his greatest fear because he had no love or felt no loss over his parent’s death. If anything, he was more discouraged at seeing how far removed Voldemort had become from that tantalizing young boy that resided within the diary.

Also, now that he was free of the Dementor’s control he began to feel the magic of his friends and it called him to leave the arms of his mother just as the Dark Lord’s curse hit her in the back.

 


 

Harry opened his eyes in the present and saw Cedric’s face. He felt the older boy’s hands cradled around his body and protecting him as the others had moved to stand in front of Harry and the Dementor with their wands drawn.

However, they were on their knees and struggling against the fear-induced hallucinations of the Dementor. Justin was the closest to it and his head was inches away from the skeletal hand that was moving slowly towards its prey.

The sight of one of his boys being so close to certain death and the knowledge that all of his people had fought against all odds to shield him spurred his magic to life.

But now things had changed with his realization over what he was fighting and that it held no hold over his heart, and his magic shielded Justin and everyone else.

Soon, they were able to stand – though their legs were still wobbly. Harry rose to stand out of Cedric’s protective embrace and began to walk towards the Dementor that was confused over what was happening. Never in its long years had prey escaped it.

Next, Harry’s hand was raised and began to collect and focus his magic before shooting out and into chest of the Dementor that hovered before him. His magic surrounded it and studied the creature and penetrated deep within its own magical core. Suddenly, Harry understood what made a Dementor tick and how to defeat it.

Using his magic he surrounded the Dementor in its entirety and cut off its source of food. Without fear, even the smallest traces that it was normally able to take up, it began to starve.

“You see,” Harry said as he walked to stand right in front of the hood, “a Patronus will protect you and you alone from a Dementor because it is still able to feed from the back and the sides. Take those away and it will simply fade away into nothingness.”

And true as his words, the Dementor began to fight against Harry’s invisible cell as its food source was eliminated. It was agitated and howled in pain, but little by little began to crumble in on itself and soon there was nothing left.

The lights then flickered back on and the train began to inch forward again. In the hall, Harry next began to hear the confused whispers of the other students trying to find out what had happened.

But they were clueless based on the sounds that reached his ears. And they would remain in the dark until it was too late for them to do anything about it.

 

Let me know what you think! We are now beginning year three and my outlines for the next 5 chapters are already fleshed out. Again, thanks for your patience and hopefully the next update is not that far off!

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Hey, look at me getting another chapter out in less than a month. Progress!

Also, I know I am using the books heavily for one particular scene but I just couldn’t resist! It’s one of my favorite parts of the entire series and made me this how this Harry would have responded to it with everything else going on.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 

Everyone was shaken up over the incidence on the train; it made the rest of the trip to Hogwarts hard to stomach for some whose fears of the unknown always got the best of them. What made it even more unnerving for those people was that only Harry and his small group of followers even knew what had truly happened with the Dementor. Soon, a near panic had descended upon their minds and taken hold.

But none of that really mattered to Harry, though. What interested him was discovering the fact that an adult had been on the train – a strange occurrence not counting the lady that sold candy and other wizarding delicacies for the long journey to Hogsmeade.

In fact, not even ten minutes had gone by before Harry first heard the distant sound of a concerned man’s voice going from compartment to compartment.

Soon the unknown man was outside their door, and after a quick knock he peaked his head inside.

“Is everyone all right?” the man asked in a rush. His well-worn robes fell about his slightly underweight frame, as if he had just gone through a long illness.

It was clear by the tone in his voice and the fact that he was out of breath that he was concerned and checking on everyone in the train.

The man’s action also told Harry that there was no reason to suspect that this intruder knew anything that Harry needed to worry about.

            Still, the man was waiting for a reply and Harry knew just how to act.

            “Yes, mister…” he delayed ever so slightly, “we are fine now but not too long ago the train stopped and the lights flickered off.”

Harry momentarily debated just how much to say but there was something about this adult that indicated that while he may not have known what had happened inside Harry’s compartment he acted like he knew what had caused the train the stop.

So he continued and perfectly described the effects one suffered from being too close to a Dementor.

“It grew cold for a moment, and we had no idea what was going on. Then, I began to feel sad and full of despair – like I had forgotten what it felt like to be cheerful. But then it was over just as soon as it had begun.”

The others nodded in agreement, and their eyes also echoed the slight fear that their leader had infused into his performance.

“Do you know what happened?” Harry asked while pretending to shift uncomfortably in his seat.

However, the man had not reacted in quite the way that Harry had anticipated that he would.

Now most would have missed the subtle cues but Harry had been searching the man’s feature for something that indicated he knew more than he was letting on, and about halfway throughout Harry’s story the man’s face had changed just enough. One minute he had been concerned and the safety of everyone on the train and the next there was a competing emotion. If Harry had to guess it was that the man had just learned that he was Harry Potter – a reaction that he hadn’t dealt with in some time.

But the man recovered quickly enough, and managed to respond.

“That’s good; I am glad to hear that all of you are okay. And it’s Mister Lupin. I’ll be your new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, but right now I want to make sure that everyone on the train is all right and have a word with the conductor. Here though,” the man reached inside his nearly frayed robes, “have some chocolate. It’ll help improve your moods.”

The man left as soon as everyone had a small piece of chocolate, and Harry waited until he could no longer hear the hum of the man’s voice in the hallway before he voiced his suspicions of the man.

“It would seem that our new Defense teacher, Professor Lupin, clearly knows something about the post that he was hired to teach. Chocolate is indeed recommended after encounters with certain classes of dark creatures that elicit similar feelings of grief and despair.”

Harry added the last it after Cedric gave him a questioning look upon Harry’s claim that they finally had a Defense teacher worth having.

A look of understanding then passed through Cedric’s eyes, something that was eventually shared by the others in Harry’s compartment.

            “Too bad that this will be his only year,” Cedric then commented dryly from where he sat right next to Harry.

            “Surely that’s just a myth!” Ginny huffed. “There can’t be a curse in the castle because Dumbledore would have gotten rid of it by now.”

            “I don’t know,” Neville interjected.

            “There is more than enough evidence over the past several years to support something limiting how much time those in that specific post can serve. As to Dumbledore though,” he nodded his head in agreement, “I would be inclined to agree with your comment except that he has shown a willingness to invite danger into the castle.”

            Everyone’s eyes glanced Harry’s way for a moment, causing him to roll his eyes and say something that he instantly regretted.

            “Well, let’s just hope that this Mister Lupin doesn’t try to kill me this year and add anything more to that myth.”

            His statement, even if there was a certain truth to it, immediately changed the mood within their small chamber. And it took Harry the remainder of the journey to the castle to convince his growing collection of loyal followers not to harm Lupin and give the man the benefit of the doubt.

            But their willingness to protect him touched him. They cared for him and he was theirs just as much as they belonged to him. And he chose to reward that devotion by caressing each of them with his formidable magic just as the train rolled into Hogsmeade Station.

The effect of Harry’s magic calmed them and made it easier for both Luna and Ginny to part ways with him once they reached the Great Hall and headed to their own tables.

Soon all of the students were present and seated. Next came the sorting ceremony for the new first years and when that was finished the torches then began to flicker, signaling that the new academic term was just about to get underway.

Dumbledore next rose from behind the teacher’s table and started to walk towards the podium made of an exquisitely crafted golden eagle. This, in and of itself, was not out of the ordinary since the man usually liked to say a few words before dinner, but something about the way that the lights remained dim told Harry that perhaps this speech would be different.

It only took a careful look at the way Dumbledore stood in front of the Great Hall and that the man’s colorful and splendid robes didn’t have the same effect that they usually did for Harry to convince himself that something was indeed different.

Next, Harry noticed that Dumbledore’s blue eyes began to gracefully search the hall, giving the impression that the man was watching all of them; however, as the old man’s eyes passed over Harry there was a distinct difference in that characteristic twinkle as well. There was something more to them this time that Harry couldn’t quite put his finger on.

But it seemed darker and gave Harry the feeling that a fearfulness was involved somehow.

Harry didn’t even have to look at his boys at the table to know that they had also picked up on something different. Their magic was unsteady and threatened to distract him from where he wanted to put all of his focus, but a quick reassurance of his power quelled their agitated state.

More importantly, it allowed Harry to focus intently on Dumbledore, who had just begun to address everyone present after the chitter chatter in the Great Hall died down.

“Welcome back again to those ready for another year of learning… and congratulations to our new students on beginning your journey at Hogwarts,” he began accompanied with a slight flourish of his hand.

“I hope that you are all well-rested from what I trust was a memorable summer enjoying all of the joys of youth.”

The old man then paused to accommodate the rising cheering and whooping levels from the Gryffindor Table. Apparently, Lee Jordan – a person usually seen with Fred and George Weasley – had suddenly molted and therefore caused bright canary yellow feathers to cover the ten closest people to him.

Fred and George weren’t even trying to hide their involvement and as one bowed to the applause from the hall’s onlookers.

“Yes, yes,” Dumbledore smiled, “these are the times that you will look back fondly on.”

When the chuckles and even a few guffaws subsided from Lee hilariously squawking something about revenge as his human voice returned, Dumbledore continued.

“But there is a time and a place for such frivolities and for a moment I request that each of you seriously consider my next few words for they will likely be the most important that you will hear for the next year.”

Harry, like the rest of the students, knew that something was indeed different. Whatever the Headmaster was about to say was going to be important and no one wanted to miss out.

The hall quieted in record time and both the students and teachers had their eyes and ears fixated on the man behind the golden podium.

“I heard about the incident on the train and I trust that each of you are old enough to know the truth. It was a Dementor from Azkaban,” the man said bluntly.

Immediately, and expectedly, the hall became alive with the sounds of nervous whispers.

“Dementors!”

“Azkaban!”

“That feeling!”

Those were among the only words that Harry and his friends were able to discern.

“Yes, Dementors are creatures that you have a right to fear – and it was no accident that they were near the train.”

As soon as Dumbledore had begun to address the crowd again the noise died down and the only sound in the great hall was a grandfatherly voice.

“The Ministry has seen fit to capture Sirius Black by any and all means. A little while ago I received an owl from the Minister in regards to the slowing of the Hogwarts Express and have been told that there were confirmed sightings of the escaped convict not far from where the train passes.”

When the man paused, the crowd erupted in shock and speculation again.

“Sirius Black!”

“What’s he doing near here?”

These were the new sounds that reached Harry’s ears until the Headmaster saw fit to continue and raised his hands to focus people’s attention back on himself.

“I understand that this is a lot to take in and fortunately no one was hurt on the train. I have no doubt that that was due to the swift action of one of our new faculty members – who I will properly introduce and thank in a moment.”

However,” Dumbledore then stressed in a louder, more commanding voice as the hall threatened to descend into a new round of hushed tones over the new professor that had saved them, “here is what you need to listen carefully to.”

There was a pause to ensure that Dumbledore had their complete and utter attention before he continued.

“Hogwarts will be defended this year by the Dementors until such time as Sirius Black is caught.”

With that, not even Harry and his friends could remain silent as the room exploded with questions among friends.

Though, to be honest, the words that came out of the mouth of Harry and his boys at the Hufflepuff table were more to keep up appearances. It would have been odd to be the only ones in the room not talking about these revelations and so they participated in the predictable and cliché sentiments being expressed by everyone else.

Of course, Cedric, Justin, and Neville followed Harry’s lead in giving the impression that they were talking about Sirius Black without saying anything that the other students were not aware of.

For instance, there was no mention of how this development was related to Dumbledore’s visit to Longbottom Manor. Each knew that they could speak more frankly on this subject at a later time with Harry in private.

“Silence!” The magically enhanced voice of Albus Dumbledore commanded after a few moments.

“The Dementors will be stationed at Hogwarts’ magical perimeter, and they will be unable to enter the castle. I warded the boundary personally.”

The man’s voice and gaze were both firm and comforting. It assuaged the fears that many had of Dementors roaming free throughout Hogwarts.

“However, and until such time as Sirius is caught, they will be on hand to protect you. And I must warn you not to give them a reason to harm you. It is not in a Dementor’s nature to tell the different between Sirius Black and a student wandering outside of the castle’s protection.”

With this, all pretenses of a friendly and caring disposition disappeared from Albus’ face. Again his eyes scanned the hall and they too held no mirth. Everything about the man was serious and even Fred and George understood that this was one rule that even they would not break.

“Immediate expulsion for any student found to be outside of Hogwarts’ wards without express permission from me.”

The hall was eerily silent for a solid minute before Dumbledore lightened up and introduced their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

A polite if not enthusiastic applause began as the man who had entered Harry’s compartment stood to wave all the students a respectful hello. All of the students appreciated the fact that he had been on the train and had calmed them in the immediate aftermath of the Dementor’s attack.

The applause even had a few hoots added in for good measure; no doubt in further appreciation that a competent individual had been hired this year to replace the epic failure that had been Gilderoy Lockhart.

However, the man seemed to only have eyes for Harry and kept looking in his direction. For Harry, it was just one more piece that he had to think about because it was clear that there was something else going on with all of this.

Again, he felt annoyed at all of the theatrics and just wished that Dumbledore would be straight with him. But whatever the hidden reasons at least he had a reasonable line of evidence to conclude that the events with Sirius Black and this new professor somehow fit within Dumbledore’s larger plans for Harry.

That link was something that he was determined to find out; however, that long process would have to be shelved for a later date.

Dinner was being served and Harry had wanted to discuss a few last minute items surrounding the Buddy System.

 


 

A few days had passed since Harry had been introduced to his younger buddy. He was thankful that the boy wasn’t a complete idiot but at the same time knew that he would never get too invested in the boy’s life.

Just enough so as to develop a general sense of loyalty towards him and his other boys because they were in the same house. Harry didn’t know how useful it would be in the future but he could appreciate just how useful it could be, and that made all the difference.

But now, however, his focus turned to the start of classes. Potions was still as thrilling because of the science as it had been the two previous years. The only difference now was that Snape wasn’t as much of a prick. It amused Harry to no end how much his performance from when the man had rescued him from Lockhart’s plot had seemingly impacted him.

It was obvious that the man still loathed him to some degree but his trademark sneer just wasn’t the same. To Harry’s amazement the potion that he handed in at the end of their first class had even earned a small amount of praise considering where it was coming from.

“Why, Potter, that looks like you actually paid attention today.”

Of course Harry would never forget how the man had made him feel during his first and second year but if Severus Snape kept up this changed tune then it just might alter the punishment that Harry had in store for the man in the future.

Slightly.

After Potions, Harry and his crew headed to Defense Against The Dark Arts. To say that Professor Lupin was knowledgeable about the subject was an understatement. Whatever the real reason that the man was at Hogwarts, at least he was both competent and had the temperament for teaching.

Furthermore, Harry appreciated that neither him nor his friends were subjected to the Boggart. He may not have known what his Boggart would have changed into but he was relieved that that sort of information wasn’t made public. Not that he honestly thought he had a concrete fear since he firmly believed that he could tackle anything through grit, hard work, and of course his intellect.

Interestingly, the man had asked Harry to stay behind briefly at the end of class.

A request that soon answered some of his questions just as to why Lupin was here teaching at Hogwarts.

“Thanks for staying, Harry,” the man said once Neville and Justin had departed to wait outside.

“It’s fine. Lunch is next so I won’t really be late for anything.”

“You must be wondering why I asked you to stay?” the man went straight for the obvious.

So Harry just nodded his head and hoisted his satchel over his shoulder while his feet shuffled in place.

“I don’t really know how to begin, Harry; I’ll admit I’m in new territory here.”

Harry continued to look down at his feet but then turned his head upwards to meet Lupin’s stare. He was sorely tempted to unleash his magic and see what made the man tick.

“I just mainly wanted to say hi. I knew your parents very well and even babysat you a few times before…”

The man realized his error and made an effort to jump right into the next topic.

“Of course, you wouldn’t remember me given how young you were but I’m glad to see the young man that you’ve grown into. I think your parents would be very proud.”

Harry’s mind instantly connected just how convenient it was that Lupin came to Hogwarts not even a month after one of his other parent’s friends had escaped from Azkaban. Those events had to be connected somehow and Harry wondered just why Dumbledore had arranged for it.

“Thank you, sir; that’s very kind of you to say,” Harry replied instead.

He figured he would have chances later in the year to press the man on Sirius Black that wouldn’t raise suspicion on his part.

“My door is always open, Harry, and I guess that is all I really wanted to say,” Lupin finished awkwardly.

“Thank you, Professor.”

Harry’s replied was just as awkward as Lupin’s and he then turned to head to lunch.

Though, when he reached the door, he turned around to say something else.

“You are a great teacher,” Harry said in the voice he typically used in the classroom.

“You are loads better than our previous teachers and I look forward to the rest of the year.”

Lupin smiled at Harry; he truly smiled and nodded his head in appreciation of Harry’s comments.

With that Harry opened the door and joined Neville and Justin on their way to lunch, filling them in on the way.


 

After lunch was another memorable encounter. Since they were now in third year, they were able to add in a few elective classes. Harry and his chosen ones had selected Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and Divination. Justin and Neville had been surprised that Harry had made them take the last class but he had been firm in that they expose themselves to all forms of magic.

And their first Divination lesson was a singularly unique experience.

Once all the confusion and drama over getting through the trapdoor and into the classroom was over, Harry, Justin, and Neville entered into the strangest-looking classroom that they had ever seen. It reminded Harry of Arabella Fig’s house in that nothing that the woman had ever purchased had been thrown away.

            Including some very potent smells that began to give Harry a slight headache. It quickly got to the point of irritation and by the time Harry had taken his seat he had let loose a small bit of his power to clear the air before his nose.

            “Where’s the teacher?” Justin whispered into Harry’s ear.

However, before Harry could shrug his shoulders in response an eerie voice filled their ears.

“Welcome to Divination!”

Everyone soon turned their heads in an attempt to see where their teacher was, and seconds later a shape could be seen coming out of the shadows.

Harry’s first impression was that someone had brought to life a caricature of exactly the sort of teacher commonly thought of as teaching the subject. She had large glasses that amplified the size of her eyes and her hair was wrapped in a colorful, red bandana.

Huge gold hoops hung from her ears and the rest of her body was wrapped in a shawl that very much reminded him of the gypsies that often made his Aunt Petunia sneer in disgust when they passed by in public.

Once her body was firmly visible to all she spoke again.

“So, my children, you have decided to study the most noble and difficult of all the magical arts. Divination is a subject that not everyone has the talent or ability for, and so, my children, I must be frank in that I have very little to teach those that cannot see into the beyond.”

“In fact,” she continued as she walked through the circular tables of the room, “while many of you no doubt have a proclivity for creating loud bangs and strong smells in your other classes, most of you will be unable to perceive the nearly impenetrable mysteries of the future. But I, Professor Trelawney, will guide those with the Gift. ”

The woman’s face and her giant eyes went from table to table, looking into each face as if she were trying to discern those that had the Gift for herself.

When the insect-looking woman moved on from their table, Justin and Neville then shared a look with each other. Both of them couldn’t believe the nonsense that they had just heard, but when they turned to look at Harry, the look on his face wasn’t what they expected to see.

His eyes had a strange glint to them and there was none of that underlying tension that had become a common sight in Potions when Harry was imagining all the ways of hurting Severus Snape.

It was odd, but the pair figured Harry would fill them in later.

The next sound, however, returned their attention to the instructor.

“You boy, is your grandmother well?”

Terry Boot had a look of sheer terror on his face, but he managed to respond nonetheless.

“I think so,” he said shakily.

“Hmm, I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I were you.”

Trelawney then moved right into the curriculum as if she had just told someone to have a nice day.

“We will cover the basics tenants of Divination this year. First term will be primarily devoted to reading tea leaves but then we will progress onto palmistry. By the way, my sweet child,” she focused on Michael Corner,” beware a red-hair man.”

And just like before, she gave no mind to the look of trepidation that froze onto Michael’s face.

“Most of the second term,” she continued,” will be devoted to the ancient study of the crystal ball.”

Now Trelawney was standing in front of the table of Ernie Macmillan, Wayne Hopkins, and Zacharias Smith.

“Incidentally, one of you three – along with a good majority of the school – will miss most of that due to an outbreak of the flu in February. But don’t worry,” she tried to comfort, “you can make it up during detention in March.”

The looks on their faces were priceless and Harry truly enjoyed the look of discomfort that settled onto their features.

“Now, that reminds me,” she said while adjusting her large glasses, “I will loose my voice around that same time so perhaps we will also study fire omens should it go on for long enough.”

Trelawney’s next stop was in front of Susan Bones’ table.

“I wonder, dear, could you go and hand me the large, silver teapot behind you?”

The girl carefully grabbed the delicate-looking china and slowly handed it to Sybill, all the while trying not to meet her eyes.

“Thank you, child,” she smiled.

“Incidentally, that thing you are dreading,” she whispered loudly enough for everyone to hear, “will happen next month.”

Susan looked like she had wet her pants.

“Now!” she declared as if she hadn’t just made a room full of nervous wrecks.

“Divide into pairs and take out your copies of Unfogging the Future, and turn to pages five and six.”

Harry immediately turned to Neville and Justin in an attempt to avoid any worry about favorites.

“You two work together; I’ll find someone else,” Harry said quickly while inching his chair to the table of three next to him.

“Susan,” he said quietly.

“Susan!” he then tried in a louder tone when she didn’t respond.

Her encounter with the subtle and thoughtful Trelawney still had her shaken.

“Oh, sorry Harry. Did you say something?” she turned her head to look at him.

“Want to partner up?”

Her eyes then looked around the room and saw that everyone else had already seemingly become part of a pair.

“Okay,” she nodded.

“Interesting way to start a class; I’m sure she is only being dramatic given the subject material,” Harry offered while pulling his chair the rest of the way to join her.

Susan didn’t respond but it was clear that she appreciated what Harry was doing to lighten the mood.

“Good, you’ve all gone off into twos. Next, come and collect a tea cup and I shall fill it for you. When you get back to your table drink your tea until only the dregs remain. Once there, swirl with your left hand three time while trying to keep your mind empty.”

Susan collected the tea for both herself and Harry.

It took several moments for the all the tea to be drunk but then both Harry and Susan did as directed.

“Well, let’s get started with this exercise,” Harry said in a tone that Neville and Justin recognized as being his most well-behaved self.

Everyone in the class was peering at pages five and six, trying to discern what the shapes in their cups corresponded to.

“I’ve never been good at seeing shapes,” Susan mentioned when she looked down into the cup of tea that had belonged to Harry.

“A bit of a soggy mess if you ask me.”

Harry smiled patiently at her.

“How about I go first then,” he said amidst the showy instruction of Trelawney as she told the class to broaden their minds and use their inner eyes to see past the mundane.

It was Susan’s turn to nod and she handed Harry her tea cup.

“Well that looks to be like how we used to draw suns in primary school. Hold on,” Harry said while scanning the page.

Unlike his other classes this was one that he had not read ahead in nor cared to memorize. He knew from Luna that this type of magic could not really be taught but at the same time had elected to take it for the mere fact that Dumbledore obviously believed in the prophecy to some extent. Therefore, he was simply there to observe.

“That’s good news, then!” Harry held the book under her with an enthusiastic expression on his face.

“Great happiness is one of the better options,” Susan agreed.

She was finally starting to return back to her normal – though still very reserved – persona.

“All right, let me try again.”

“So I would say that looks like a cross, or the letter x but with a very fat center… Hmm… well, that’s means trials and sufferings. Maybe I’ve gotten it wrong,” she said as the gloom returned to her face.

Harry peered into her cup. Just like with what he saw in her cup, Harry made this shape up too.

“Well, maybe it looks like an acorn if you turn it sideways. That means a windfall of gold then!”

Susan’s mood visibly improved again.

“How are you two doing?” Sybill descended upon their table.

Harry was just about to say fine when the woman snatched Harry’s cup of tea of Susan’s hands.

“The falcon,” she announced while turning the cup of tea counterclockwise in her hand.

“That means you have a deadly enemy my dear.”

Harry internally rolled his eyes at her continued antics; however, the usual feeling of utter annoyance given the level of fraud he was witnessing didn’t bother him like it had with Lockhart.

There was something strange about this woman and Harry desperately wanted to feel her with his magic.

“And a club means an impending attack… by Merlin this is not a happy cup.”

Everyone in the room was looking intently at the exchange.

“This skull here means danger is not to far ahead. Makes sense given the other signs.”

However, as she rotated the cup a final time she screamed and dropped the cup.

Trelawney glanced up at Harry and met his eyes. Harry was very careful in how much emotion his face revealed. Thankfully, he had perfected this mask a long time ago and it displayed an appropriate level of both shock and intrigue – and very little disdain at being the center of attention yet again.

“My sweet boy… my dear, poor, sweet boy. No, it’s kinder not to say… no… don’t ask me,” she feigned and fell into a nearby chair.

“What is it Professor?” Zacharias Smith piped up with an inappropriate level of morbid enthusiasm.

Everyone began to inch closer to get a better view of Trelawney. Their teacher looked more like an actress than a teacher, and still Harry wasn’t all that bothered by her antics.

But then again he supposed he was more interested in where she was going with any of this. Perhaps she was being this way because he was the Boy Who Lived. While not an ideal development, the fact that he didn’t feel the urge to maim her with his magic spoke volumes and so he went along with her theatrics.

“My dear,” she then ignored the one who had asked the question to look directly into Harry’s eyes.

“You have the Grim!”

When no one reacted to that announcement, Trelawney moved to say it even louder.

“The Grim, my dear; the Grim!”

Again, no one understood the significance.

“Merlin’s beard! Do none of you know your history? The Grim is the giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards. My dear boy, the Grim is an omen – the worst omen that has ever been and will ever be – of death…” she trailed off to the shocked gasps of the glass.

Susan, who was already over the edge, began to sob uncontrollably at the supposed fate of the boy who had been so nice to her.

Harry’s first instinct was to laugh. This was all so much nonsense that he was surprised anyone in their class had fallen for it. However, that would not have been the response that he would have liked to trickle back to Dumbledore’s ear, and so he just stared at her with a hastily thrown on gaped expression.

It was convenient that she had broken the glass so that no one else could have seen it, but Harry remembered most things that he saw and no matter what angle he had peered into that tea cup – he had failed to see anything that looked, even remotely, like a dog.

Not that he believed in this sort of prophecy telling anyways. Now if Luna had put on this same act then he might have been more inclined to believe it.

At any rate, the class was over and Trelawney led him to the exit, as if that would make up for what she had just done.

Justin and Neville were soon on either side of Harry, giving him the strangest glances to try and see if he was all right while at the same time acting just like the best friends of someone who had been told they would die soon would act.

It was an odd sort of combination and Harry was further impressed with how they mastered it.

The looks that he was given by the other students on their way to Transfiguration were less impressive. Mostly because they annoyed him to no end.

Again, Harry was struck with how his response to them was so much different than his reaction to Trelawney. Even he was surprised with how little he was displeased with her given how displeased he was with what she had created.

However, those thoughts were soon pushed to the side as Transfiguration began and Professor McGonagall quickly explained given the mood of the class how Trelawney predicted the death of a student at the beginning of every year.

“Why she is allowed to teach is beyond me,” she then mumbled low although Harry heard her from where he sat in the front.

With that out of his mind for the time being, Harry and his boys buckled down and applied themselves to a class they always enjoyed.


 

“I still can’t believe that she did that!” Cedric commented a week later.

They were in the private room that Harry had discovered in his first year and had subsequently been used as their meeting place.

“What kind of teacher tells a student that they will die soon at the end of a lesson.”

Harry peered over the tip of the book that he had been reading. He allowed Cedric to continue with his rant because he had an undeniable soft spot for the older Hufflepuff. After being separated from him for the majority of the last year and then the entire summer, Harry just didn’t have it in him to calm the boy down.

For one, they were in private and Harry normally gave them free reign in how they chose to act when no one else was present.

On the other hand his magic was vibrating warmly in response to how riled up the subject made Cedric’s magic. It was cute that Cedric cared so much about him.

The final reason that Harry put up with any of this was simple.

“Be that as it may that she probably shouldn’t be let around children, Professor McGonagall swiftly calmed the school from making a big deal of it.”

Cedric calmed somewhat with that and moved to sit down to the right of Harry.

“Perhaps I am even more amazed that you didn’t do anything to her.”

Harry just shrugged.

“It was more amusing than anything I suppose.”

Then he went back to reading his book while Cedric casually began to rub the base of Harry’s neck as he addressed the others in the room.

“I trust that your classes are going well?” Cedric pressed Ginny and Luna.

The two girls of Harry’s inner circle were lying side-by-side on the floor and working through their homework for Potions.

“Oh yes,” Luna said.

No matter who she was talking to Luna always had that dream-like quality to her voice.

“It’s fun to see Severus glance my way every so often. I like to think that he sometimes stays up very late at night troubled over how last year ended. I hope the Nargles make it hard for him to fall back asleep.”

Ginny laughed at that; she loved the way that Luna spoke.

“But on a more serious note,” the fiery red-head continued, “I’m happy that this year is so much easier than last year. Magic seems so much easier now to both understand and to perform that part of me wonders how others fail to grasp how simple one’s magic responds to one’s own will and intent. ”

“It only gets better and easier the longer you are with Harry,” Neville chimed in from next to Justin.

“The hard part becomes not remaining bored out of your mind in class. Luckily Hogwarts has a rather obscene library full of material that they do not teach.”

Just then there was a knock at the door.

Both Harry and his followers turned their heads to the door in unison.

Each of their wands then appeared in their hands and Cedric moved to stand to get a better view of the door.

A nod from Harry next sent both Neville and Justin to the door. The two moved as one and everyone was prepared when they opened the door.

“Fred, George?” Ginny commented as all of the wands quickly – and without being seen – disappeared from view.

“Hey little sis,” the twins said in a their most unique speaking pattern.

“We just wanted to check on you,” Fred supplied by himself as the pair walked through the door.

“You’ve been spending a lot of time down here and we were curious. We just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

Harry’s ears perked up with what George had said because he was sure that Ginny hadn’t actually relayed her activities to her brothers. As far as Harry could tell he was the only one that knew this part of the castle even existed.

He watched the pair closely as they came to stand next to their sister.

Harry had always been curious about them; however, Ginny commented before he could.

“I can’t believe you followed me down here,” she chastised.

“I’m old enough to make my own friends and have my own life.”

“Relax,” their voices again sounded together.

“We didn’t follow you.”

“Then how else did you know where I have been spending my time?”

Harry could have laughed at how smart his Ginny was. She could certainly hold her own and for a brief moment he saw the wheels began to churn behind their eyes.

“The castle is only so big,” George finally said.

“Yes,” Harry agreed while standing.

He then set his book down and moved to stand closer to the twins.

“Hogwarts is only so large, and yet this room, this part of the castle hasn’t been used in years. I think it is a fair question on Ginny’s part as to how you knew she has been spending her time down here.

As Harry stopped short just a few feet away, it was clear that the twins hadn’t expected someone to correctly focus on that aspect.

“Brotherly instinct, then!”

Fred and George laughed.

But Harry wasn’t amused and rather annoyed that someone else had stumbled upon his room and his friends and was not being upfront with him.

Therefore, there was only one way that he saw fit to deal with this situation, and a second later his magic had burst forth from his center and surrounded the pair.

It wanted to play.

The next step was for him to enter their minds and he couldn’t believe what he saw.

 

The twin’s mental landscapes were oddly similar to each other. Their memories were mostly identical and also stored in almost exactly the same way.

But that wasn’t what ultimately caught Harry’s attention because he soon found the secret to how Fred and George Weasley had made a name for themselves as the preeminent pranksters that Hogwarts had seen in many long years.

And it all had to do with a map. Except that this map was more magical and useful than anything he could have expected to see that explained just how Fred and George were able to know both how long Harry and his friends had been coming down here and that this place even existed.

Naturally, he spent the next few moments going from memory to memory to understand how the map worked and what, if any, limitations it had.

From his delving into their minds he learned how they had first caught sight of it from Filch’s collection of student contraband to the many hours it had taken them to unravel its secrets.

Of course, once Harry had known that such a thing existed it was a very natural thing for him to want it for himself. Besides, he reasoned that he needed it far more than they did and so he worked his magic and covered up everything that the twins had ever associated with this map.

 

And when Harry exited their minds there was a smile on his face that stretched very wide.

For a moment the others looked at him curiously, but when Harry’s magic called forth the map from where Fred had it stored they begin to understand that Harry had found the answer to his question.

Once the map was in his possession, another flick of his magic sent the twins on their way. Never again would they think about this map or their encounter with Harry.

With his smile still very wide Harry examined the parchment paper very closely. His magic wove in and out of the magical object and he felt a strange sense of belonging. Much like his wand, this felt like it was made for him.

Harry’s eyes flicked upwards to find his followers standing before him in a semi circle with an expectant look on their faces.

He nearly cackled with delight as he held the map out to them.

“I present to you the Marauder’s Map, and I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

They continued to look at him in an odd sort of way until they saw the map unfurl and come to life.

One by one their faces brightened and their eyes sparkled with mirth.

“We now have a map that shows everyone and everything inside the castle.”

This was a huge boon to him and his plans and Harry could hardly contain his excitement.

He felt unstoppable and at a loss for words at how much easier this made everything. Nothing and no one could hide from him inside the castle now.

While everyone present fixated on various parts of the castle that called to them Harry quickly search out Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.

He followed the path where he knew the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets to be and inside he found two things. The first was a bubble labeled ‘Basil’ that Harry assumed belonged to the Basilisk of Salazar Slytherin that he had seen in Ginny’s memories.

The next bubble, ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle,’ sent a warm feeling down not only his spine but those of his friends that he was constantly connected to.

In that moment he knew that it wouldn’t be long now until Harry was ready to meet his equal.

 


 

Let me know what you think! I’m going to assume the map lit up because Harry had opened the chamber and had dropped Tom down into it. Also, Ginny had technically been there (and by extension himself through Tom’s memories). Anyways, we continue to progress and there are 4 chapters left for year 3.

Again, reviews are very helpful! Don’t make me beg (anymore than I already am).

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

 

Hello again. So I lied. There are now 5 chapters left for year three because I just couldn’t help myself and this is a small bonus gift for the holidays from me to you. Hope you all enjoy no matter how you celebrated (or didn’t).

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

“Line up,” Harry’s voice echoed off the walls.

Harry and his followers were all in their secret training place, far away from any of the numerous and would-be prying eyes that were present in the castle.

Not that it mattered, of course. Not when Harry had such a powerful magical object that showed him the true and exact location of everyone inside of Hogwarts. Nothing that Harry could think of had managed to fool the map when he had tested its limits with his followers during the first few weeks of his third year.

No amount or strength of magic – even when he had willed his own considerable power to hide himself – seemed to matter to the map; for Cedric still had been able to follow Harry’s every movements.

Harry’s name and footsteps had appeared just like everyone else’s did.

In the end, this Marauder’s Map was something that Harry knew he could use to ensure their privacy in this part of the castle.

From now until graduation they would be able to expand their training options with the sweet knowledge that no one had the ability to sneak up on them.

Which was why Harry had planned this particular exercise for the group. It was one thing to learn from books and practice the requisite spells and charms in the controlled environment that was a classroom.

It was a different thing altogether to be tested with what you knew and were capable of in the real world. Or as realistic as a setting that Harry could provide since he had no intention of actually letting harm touch those who had pledged their life and magic to him.

“I’ve arranged for a little scrimmage of sorts for our training this evening. Every room and interconnecting hallway from this room to the end of the hall is in play. You will be free to use any and all capabilities that you possess with the exception of the Killing Curse or anything else that could kill immediately.”

Harry’s eyes briefly scanned each of their faces. No one had flinched with the mention of that particular Unforgivable, even thought it was left unsaid that the other two curses were fair game. Harry also knew that no matter what they were about to face they would never betray another that followed him by using any Unforgivable or spell that would cause any lasting damage; and yet he didn’t want to limit their creativity by formally placing a limit on what was available to them. Those restrictions would come in subsequent trainings depending on their progress and what he needed them to learn.

“The goal is simple,” Harry instructed in his purposeful and measured voice, “be the last one among you left standing. I am giving you these badges to wear on your chest and on your back,” he then explained while handing two badges to each of his followers.

“Each pair of them has been charmed to receive ten blasts. Once the tenth one registers – counting both front and back hits – you will be rendered incapacitated”

Harry’s followers fingered the small metallic objects, examining them in detail as if to say, ‘don’t worry: I won’t let a combined ten blasts hit either one of you.’

“Of course,” he clarified, “I will be watching, unseen, to see how each of you perform.”

A similar feeling of dread and panic soon rippled over each of their faces, though to their credit they did their best to hide their abject fear from him. In fact he was quite impressed when he saw each of them gather themselves to stand at their full height and swallow whatever terror had risen from within their chests at the thought of performing in front of him.

Harry knew that their greatest fear was to fail him; he didn’t need a Boggart or to see into their minds to know that.

But he didn’t want them to have any doubt whatsoever that they would fail him. That would have compromised their magic and abilities, and he most certainly didn’t want that.

“I want to see how much you have learned,” Harry continued in a softer voice.

It was a voice that he used exclusively with them.

“But more than that, I want you to see how much you have learned. Each of you has already shown me great potential and I only want to develop that into the greatest version of yourself.”

With every word that Harry spoke their fear lessoned and was replaced with their usual feeling of desiring nothing more than to make their Harry proud. One by one each of their nerves settled and each then ran his or her wand between their fingers as they did their best to focus and prepare for what was to come.

“I know that each of you will make me proud,” Harry finished.

They were now ready; it was time.

“You have thirty seconds to get yourself into position and then we stop when we have a winner.”

The room was silent as they looked upon him.

But just for a moment because in the next instant Harry set them loose.

“Go.”

They dispersed rapidly, each going a separate way to find a place to hide and gather their footing.

Needing to be entirely invisible to them Harry flicked the wrist that held his wand as all sounds coming from him became muffled and then silent. Next he donned his invisibility cloak and moved out into the hallway to see how the action would unfold.

When he had first thought of putting together this little exercise for them he wondered if Cedric would have been too heavily favored given his age, his experience with Quidditch, and the simple fact that he knew more magic.

But the more he thought about it the less sure he became that Cedric had an advantage at all. Each of his disciples had their strengths and weakness and he honestly had no idea who would triumph.

So as the thirty seconds ended his eyes and ears swept the hall so as not to miss any of the action. Of course, he also had the Marauder’s Map open and in his hand to both know where all of them were and to keep an eye on any outsiders that might disturb them.

He was not surprised at all to see where Ginny had positioned herself. Though she might have been the youngest, she had a very good take on what was likely to be the main area that would see the most action. So of course that was where she positioned herself.

Despite each of the five different rooms being connected to one another through a side door to form a circle of sorts at the end of their hallway, Ginny had chosen to take cover underneath the legs of suit of armor situated in the main hallway that also connected to each of the rooms.

It was the perfect vantage point, something that she no doubt had considerable experience with on account of growing up in a house full of six older brothers.

Harry decided to sit across from her and a few seconds later Ginny had her first victim. Justin had stumbled out of the farthest room and Ginny managed to get two direct hits before Justin had even understood what had happened.

Justin nearly tripped in the hallway as his badge shocked him twice to register that he had eight chances left.

The slipup allowed Ginny to send another burst of magic from her wand to connect with Justin before Cedric emerged from the room that Justin had just come out of.

Of course, Cedric then became Ginny’s next target as she directed her wand at Cedric’s chest while the fourth year Hufflepuff aimed his wand at Justin. Cedric smirked as his two blasts registered against the badge on Justin’s back, but then he nearly dropped his own wand when two shots connected with him and caused his own badge to vibrate.

Cedric looked around the hall for the source of those unknown hits and his brows narrowed as he caught sight of Ginny sending a third and fourth blast his way.

But Cedric was quick to react and swished his own wand through the air to wordlessly call forth the shield from the suit of armor to him.

Ginny’s attempts connect harmlessly with the shield and her pupils constricted as she made her counter move.

She furiously flicked her wand from side to side to send two blue streams at ninety-degree angles. Cedric’s eyes tried to follow both and he realized too late that he would only be able to prevent one from ricocheting off the mirrors behind him and connecting with his back.

Seeing as how he had suffered three strikes in the span of less than a minute, Cedric decided to regroup and disappeared into the room that Justin had crawled into while Ginny and him had been fighting.

However, Harry knew that Justin was waiting for Cedric right behind the door and only moments after the fourth year Hufflepuff had exited the hallway Harry heard the trap that was sprung.

“Petrificus Totalus!” Justin cried.

A second later Cedric’s body thumped down onto the floor.

Five seconds later and Cedric was officially the first one out.

“Argh!” Cedric moaned unhappily as the tenth hit had ended his second and much shorter stint with being petrified.

Ginny, meanwhile, had smartly taken the time to move from her original hiding place to a new one. The only problem with her strategy was that Luna was already perfectly concealed from behind the heavy red curtain and sent off two bursts of pinkish lights in quick succession.

Ginny was furious at not knowing that Luna had been there across from her original spot under the suit of armor all this time.

In fact, the youngest and only female Weasley was momentarily distracted and suffered a further demoralizing strike. This time, however, it came from behind her as Neville decided to make his entrance into the game.

Of course, and somewhat predictably, Justin had a perfect view of both Neville and Ginny from where he stood in the doorway to the room that he had just taken out Cedric in.

Justin managed to hit both of them twice before fading into the darkness of the room to avoid them knowing exactly where he was.

Frustrated that she had only five chances left, Ginny also conceded her standoff with Neville and Luna and disappeared into their main training room before Neville was able to recover from being hit from behind.

As he was the only one visible in the hallway, Neville took an opportunity to even the playing field and severed the thick red drape that Luna was hiding behind.

His wand was ready and he connected twice with Luna’s badge before twisting to the side and running down the length of the hallway before he too disappeared into what he hoped was an empty classroom.

Luckily for Neville it was and Luna then also made her way to the far end of the hallway to regroup. Harry next turned his eyes to the map to see that each of the four remaining players were holding still in separate places, no doubt refocusing and getting his or her head back into the game.

For the next ten minutes there was not much action, but then – as if they had all agreed to act at the same time – the four of them were all in the hallway and ready to continue their mock battle.

Justin surprised Harry by being the boldest, and also for grabbing a hold of Cedric’s shield.

He charged into the hallway and expertly deflected several blasts using the curved and rounded metal. However, Harry noticed that Justin had a plan and in the next moment his wand shot forth a dizzying array of colors in all directions that ended with the creation of a luminous disco ball hanging in the middle of the ceiling. The myriad reflections continuously circling and blinding those in the hallway distracted Ginny, Neville, and Luna long enough for Justin to connect with both Luna and Neville two times.

Ginny, however, had dived onto the floor just in the nick of time and fired several volleys of her own back at Justin.

The look on her face was all business as each of her three swishes landed on Justin’s chest.

Knowing that he was down to four, Justin again flicked his wand upwards to try something else.

The disco ball soon changed into a fire sprinkler and began to make it rain quite hard.

Harry had to give Justin props for his creativity but noted that his reaction time needed to be improved upon when Luna, drenched and nearly shivering with water shot forth a rope from her wand and brought Justin to the floor.

“Oh shit!” he sighed as both Neville and Luna took the opportunity to end his chance at winning.

Interestingly, Ginny had not participated and instead focused her efforts on disarming Neville.

Harry’s smile was very wide indeed to see Ginny’s attempt to take Neville out of the competition, knowing that he would have been focused on Justin and left himself undefended.

Harry’s smile turned into a full-on Cheshire grin though when he saw Neville react instinctually and call back his wand using a masterful display of wandless magic.

Harry was so proud and it made his magic sing to know that his lessons were causing them to grow in leaps and bounds.

Unfortunately for Neville, Luna had now moved to stand behind Neville and ended Neville’s chances at being the last one standing just as Longbottom’s fingers closed around his newly recaptured wand.

Now it was down to two and Harry’s two girls were quite evenly matched. Luna had only received four hits while Ginny had suffered an additional blow.

Neither of them wanted to be the next to go and each smartly caused a flurry of colors and smoke to emanate from the tips of their wand to buy themselves a few seconds in which they could escape to opposing rooms on opposite sides of the hallway.

Harry’s eyes again inched downward to focus on the map, expecting to see that each would do as they did before and take a few moments to recover.

However, much to his surprise and approval Ginny had not taken a moment to stand still but instead had seemingly decided to sprint as fast as she could through the connecting rooms to reach Luna on the other side.

Harry quickly made for the entrance of the room that Luna was in and got there just as Ginny burst through the side door.

Ginny wasted no time in sending volley after volley from her wand, and even though quite a few of her shots had missed on account of not knowing exactly where Luna stood, in the end it didn’t matter.

The damage had been done and Luna had received her tenth and final strike. Her badge had glowed briefly before immobilizing her like it had all of the others aside from Ginny.

The victor had sweat on her brow and a look of triumph in her eyes, and Harry would have understood if Ginny had felt the need to more verbally celebrate her victory.

However, there were no whoops or other exclamations that came from the second year Gryffindor. Instead, her first act was to go over to where Luna was lying on the floor and extend her arm to help the other girl to her feet.

“Brilliant job hiding behind that curtain,” said Ginny.

“I had no idea that you were there!”

“You were right to be so bold in the end,” Luna countered dreamily.

“I thought I had more time to consider my options and call upon the Nargles for aid.”

The boys soon joined them, each offering similar words of praise for the actions that had stood out.

“Good idea with that shield, Cedric,” Ginny beamed.

“You still got my anyways,” he lamented.

“And you certainly got me, Justin. I can’t believe I overlooked something as simple as the body-bind curse. Allowed you to finish me off rather quickly didn’t I?”

“It didn’t do me much good in the end, though. I need to learn to put my plans into action faster,” Justin responded.

“Yes, well, whatever that light thing you did on the ceiling followed by that water bit – those were two really great ideas.”

Justin nodded his head forward and returned the favor.

“Kudos to you on regaining your wand like that even though there was simply not enough time to recover.”

“I need to learn to watch my back more, I guess,” he shook his head while wrapping one arm around Luna.

“And I agree with Ginny. This one here has a way of moving without being seen.”

Each of the five smiled and nodded at each other and not for the last time Harry was struck with how much of a family they were, and it only emphasized why he had done this in the first place. Because Harry cared for them more than he had ever thought that he would care for someone else, and aside from his desire to achieve the potential that he believed to be inside himself he felt it almost equally important that they achieve the greatness he saw in each of them.

Harry watched approvingly for several more minutes before making his presence known.

“I agree with everything that was said. Each of you displayed your strengths and each of you is now aware of some key areas that you have to work on.”

His smile and pride in them was reflected in their eyes and he chose to further reward them with another lick of his magic.

It spread out quickly from his own center and connected with each of his follower’s cores, his magic basking in the familiar and unbreakable warmth that linked them until the end of time.

“And congratulations to you, Ginny, on a job well done.”

He then sent a separate tendril just at her, to add to the extraordinary feeling that she felt well up inside of her.

“My one critique to you, however, and aside from keeping a sharper watch over your surroundings is to not always be so bold. Your daring certainly worked in this situation but I don’t want you, or any of you,” he paused to look pointedly at each of them. This was a training session after all.

“I don’t want you to think that such rashness is always appropriate. But for now,” Harry quickly continued, not wanting to deflate their high coming off this event, “I am most pleased with what I saw and think that the next time will be even more spectacular.”

He was further proud of how the others each silently and respectfully nodded to him and to their compatriots, and with the training over with they gathered their things and called it a night.

 


 

Just a short thing but felt really into writing this chapter.

 

Additional notes: I plan on reworking The Chamber’s Secret into Hogwarts: A History of Meddling instead of discontinuing the story. I feel it’s better to work on something that excites me rather than work on something that I’ve lost interest in and just put out crap.

Also, started Angel of Death because I was home sick one day with a fever and clearly thought starting something else would be a good idea. At any rate I have made some progress with this fic and even though this update was short you can expect more soon.

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:

 

Am trying to keep up the pace with once-a-month updates. Here is to hoping that this trend continues in the future; it helps that I am really inspired to write now.

Also, there have been a few common reviews that I should address. I suppose though if you are reading this then you have forgiven me for putting Harry into Hufflepuff. That placement does not go over well with most people and I lose quite a bit of my readers there. There are plenty of Harry in Slytherin stories out there and I wanted to do something different, and I feel it fits well with this Harry. The next big issue is Harry taking Divination. I didn’t want to belabor his decision (because it is impossible and very boring to describe all of his actions) but feel I addressed it. Also, there is a very good reason he is in there (much like I expect the subject exists in the books).

Anyways, hope you like this new addition to the story and are pleased with the person who next joins Harry.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

 

Here is my disclaimer that says I do not own anything Harry Potter related. Everything belongs to JK Rowling, except in universe 47837. Probably.

 


 

One week. Seven days. That was how long Harry’s followers managed to make it without insisting that they had to have another mock battle. Their first scrimmage had been so captivating and enriching that Harry’s followers had spent all week envisioning how they would do even better the next time.

Therefore, the first Saturday night in October found them all back in their training room. Everyone was present except for Luna, who had grumpily mumbled something to Harry after dinner about Nuckelavees causing mischief again. While she would have preferred another chance to come out on top, she informed Harry that it was both vital and necessary that she be at a certain place at a certain time to prevent their spread.

Harry hadn’t even blinked twice at Luna’s odd request. He had already accepted and embraced Luna for everything that she was. Her quirks and unique abilities made her the Luna that he knew and had received without question into his core.

Therefore, he had no trouble excusing her for the evening. Of course, that didn’t mean that Harry thought that Nuckelavees were real, especially after learning that they were apparently evil elves from the Orkney Islands in Scotland.

It just didn’t matter. Those little devils that liked to ruin crops and cause epidemics were important to Luna and so they were important to him.

Therefore, Harry only had four of his followers with him that evening to take part in another scrimmage. Neville, Justin, and Cedric were each looking forward to another opportunity to succeed where they have previously fallen. Ginny, meanwhile, was plotting the different ways that she would come out on top again.

Each had spent all week thinking about this moment.

Of course, Harry wasn’t going to make things as easy for them this time. He wanted to continually challenge them and not have them become complacent with any one thing; his desire was to have them be able to face the unknown and triumph because they were better than any unexpected thing placed in front of them.

As such he was adding a few modifications to the four rooms and connecting hallway outside of their original training location.

“So, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer,” Harry broke the quiet contemplation of the others as he reentered the room.

“The arena is ready.”

The others turned their heads towards him as he shut the door to the hallway. Their eyes were alight with want.

“The same rules will apply as the last time, and you still have a maximum of ten hits before you are taken out.”

He used his magic to send out the badges that they would use to record the hits.

“This time, however,” he said with a mysterious smile, “I have added something a little extra to keep you on your toes. But I’ll leave you to discover just what that little something is.”

Harry’s surprise announcement didn’t even phase them: they had known that things would always be changing. It just wasn’t Harry’s style to repeat the same thing over and over again.

“And two more things. The first is that I have modified your badges so that once they receive a combined ten shots they will grow bright white.”

He then looked at each pointedly.

“Once that happens you will no longer be in the match; however, instead of remaining incapacitated on the ground until we have a victor you will then be allowed to exit the arena.”

Cedric really appreciated that given that he had been the first one out last week.

“The second is that this main room that we are in,” Harry motioned with his hands, “will be off limits for this battle and thus will be the place you return to when you receive ten hits.”

In reality, the second obviously had something to do with the first but both were related to the surprise, rather surprises, that Harry had left outside.

But he wasn’t going to tell them that.

“So without further adieu, you have thirty seconds. Starting now.”

Instantly, they scattered. Ginny and Cedric headed out into the hallway while both Neville and Justin each went to the side doors that led to the adjoining rooms.

Harry smiled as he soon heard the surprised sounds that each of his followers gave off in different ways; for Harry’s addition to this training exercise had been to scatter the arena with harmless snakes that would weave in and out of their paths, thus offering a distraction and teaching them the importance of remaining centered and calm no matter the surroundings.

As he moved to sit down on the comfortable couch that he had just transformed from one of the chairs that had been there, he idly wondered if any one of them would have the advantage in this situation.

Although he could have hazarded a few guesses depending on their progress, Harry arrived at a similar conclusion that he had come to right before their first mock battle: each had their own strengths and weakness and there was just too much uncertainty to give any one of them the clear edge.

That, and Harry also preferred to spend this available time with his Marauder’s Map.

He hated to admit that aside from the tests on whether the map was one hundred percent accurate, he hadn’t had the time yet to examine it as thoroughly as he would have liked.

Especially with the continued uncertainty that surrounded Sirius Black, the wily Headmaster, and basically everything else unresolved in his life. Which meant that Harry had instead thought that it would be more prudent to ensure the rapid progress in the magical education, both applied and theoretical, of his followers.

He wanted them to be prepared and ready for whatever the future held.

Now though, with the sounds of their wands swishing and flicking as they battled amongst each other, Harry took the time to penetrate the map with his magic.

He wanted to discover its secrets and how it was that something like this had come into existence in the first place.

It didn’t take long for his magic to slither out of his core and into the intricately folded parchment; however, there were so many spells, charms, and enchantments woven throughout its many layers that it took him some time to figure out just how this sort of magic was even possible.

Because Harry was certain that if Albus Dumbledore knew of this map’s existence then he would have been most displeased to know that his every movement could be easily followed. For instance, the man was currently walking around his office in a small circle and it told Harry that the man was thinking about something.

Most individuals didn’t pace unless something was festering inside of their minds and it only made Harry more determined to get to the bottom of whatever thing kept the man up at night.

Harry was sure that it had something to do with him.

Returning his focus to understanding the map, Harry could feel something tying the map to the castle itself.

Which made sense all things considered. With a semblance of some idea in his mind, Harry then began to dig through the different layers of the castle and discovered that there was a room at what looked to be the very heart and bottom of the castle.

And inside a small, circular room that looked to be very difficult to get to he saw that there was a nametag that looked like all of the others; except that this white bubble with dark, black letters said ‘Hogwarts.’

Which wasn’t that terribly shocking to Harry since he figured that since most magical structures had lay lines to focus their magical energies, it wasn’t that much of a leap to then think that those magical entities could have a name if they were strong enough.

And Hogwarts certainly had enough magic coursing through her halls given the sheer number of magical people that had entered it over the centuries.

At least that theory would also explain how the map potentially worked if the tracker function was somehow locked first to the castle and then to every other magical core that resided within it.

From there, Harry next wanted to discover how the map knew the shape and layout of the castle. It turned out to be a rather simple charm that linked the knowledge of the user with the map itself. Which would then have explained how the map knew where Tom Riddle had traveled within the Chamber of Secrets. After that thought, however, Harry then began to wonder if Tom Riddle had created the map. Surely, the creation of this map was something that could have been possible given the other boy’s prodigious talent. Even Harry knew that what he held in his hands was something that he could have created had he only thought about combining all of these various spells, charms, and enchantments together.

However, Harry had a feeling that Tom – or really anyone for that matter – would not have been able to give up something this useful and unique willingly.

Which was frustrating because one thing that the map didn’t do was have a record of any of the individuals that had held it in their hands. The sheer amount of magic that had been infused within and throughout this parchment had covered any of the magical traces that would have naturally remained from coming into contact with a certain witch or wizard.

In the end, Harry was just happy that he had the map in his possession and had more or less been able to work out how it had been made even if he didn’t have a clue as to who had created it.

The map really was a priceless treasure, and some part of him would have liked to have met the genius responsible for it.

Nonetheless, it pleased both Harry and his magic to know that he could keep an eye out on his followers, those irreplaceable individuals whom he had accepted right into his own magical core.

Just a quick glance at the map was all it took for Harry to see Ginny and Neville likely dueling in one of the rooms on the opposite side of their main training location. Moving his eyes to the right and he caught sight of Justin and Cedric, likely locked in a similar clash.

The only person who belonged to him that he didn’t know the exact location of was Luna. Thumbing through the well-worn pages it took Harry a little longer locating her than he was comfortable with. In fact he was surprised that his magic hadn’t guided him to where she was on instinct alone.

However, from the moment that he finally saw her name and whom it was next to his muscles seized and his magic ran cold and retreated back into his body. For a brief second it was like all the breath had been knocked out of his lungs and his mind grew lightheaded and dizzy; and then his muscles started working again and his magic burned brighter than it ever had.

Luna, his Luna, was in trouble and he needed to get to her as soon as possible. Without even having to intentionally think about willing his body to action Harry was halfway to the door, and a fraction of a second later he had exited into the hallway. The map was in his left hand while his wand was in his right, and without even having to actively inform his other followers what was going on they had abandoned their game and fallen into step behind him.

The group of five managed to cover significant ground in a short amount of time, and Harry was utilizing every last part of his extraordinary senses and abilities to get them to their destination faster.

His magical will had extended to the others and was helping to fuel their journey, even so far as to allow them to take three steps at a time upward towards the top of the Astronomy Tower. Harry’s magic seeped into each of his friends’ lungs and muscles and staved off the effects of the fatigue and exhaustion that would normally have accompanied such an arduous climb at this pace.

As they neared the top they began to hear the muffled shouts of battle. However, before they managed to get to the top Harry nearly careened into Daphne Greengrass, who was running just as fast as Harry was but in the opposite direction.

Her clothes were partly torn and the third year Slytherin’s face was blotchy and red. Her right eye also looked like it was ripening into a light purple color.

The dots connected in a far away corner of Harry’s mind but he paid Daphne no further attention as he led his group past her and to the top of the landing.

Normally people came here for the spectacular view of the lake and mountains in the distance, but Harry only had a desire to see that Luna was okay. Thankfully, he saw that she was alive and well and standing with her wand in hand behind the obviously injured but still fighting form of Roger Davies. The fifth year Ravenclaw had large gashes up and down his left side that oozed a dark red color, but still his wand was moving through the air to counter the relentless attacks of Phineas and Icarus.

The pompous and arrogant pricks of Slytherin were gleeful in their continual assault of curses and were so focused on their prey that they never saw Harry’s magic coming. Not that they could have blocked it anyway.

Instantly their forms froze as Harry reached out with his magic and compelled them to be still.

His eyes were smoldering with the promise of revenge and he was seconds away from unleashing the most amount of pain that he had ever subjected another human being to when Roger collapsed forward, unconscious.

Luna’s voice then broke through the rest of Harry’s thoughts on immediate retribution.

“Harry, he needs you.”

It surprised Harry how soft and serene the sound of her voice was, almost as if she had seen this moment and had known that it was coming. Almost.

“The Nuckelavees can wait!” she then commanded in a voice that had some force behind it.

“Phineas and Icarus won’t go anywhere, Harry,” Neville promised without taking his eyes off of his target.

Even as Neville said that, the boy’s magic had beckoned both Phineas and Icarus’ wands to him, which he caught in his outstretched hand.

Neville’s wand, along with the wands of Cedric, Ginny, and Justin were held steadfast towards them.

Following Luna’s pleas Harry quickly moved over to her.

“He needs your magic,” Luna said simply once Harry knelt down beside her and leaned over Roger’s dying body.

The boy’s body was twitching, but Harry was at a loss for the situation that he now found himself in.

He looked up and into Luna’s eyes and saw in them many things that he didn’t understand. However, he saw a glimmer of something that he had seen before. It was then that Luna nodded her head towards him ever so slightly as if to say, ‘yes, and I will explain later.’

Harry returned his green eyes to Roger, whose blood was now pouring in earnest out of his many wounds.

Not knowing really what else to do, Harry trusted his magic and steadied his hands over the older boy’s body. He then willed his magic into the Ravenclaw. He focused on how grateful he was that the boy had protected his Luna until the very end and that was the only thing that drove Harry’s magic to connect with the boy’s core in an attempt to help the boy heal himself.

But that thought was abandoned from the instant that Harry’s magic touched the other boy’s fading core. For in that moment he knew just as clearly as he had known about the others that Roger belonged to him. Roger’s magic softly called to his and it was withering, threatening to disappear forever. That thought caused Harry to momentarily shiver since he couldn’t bear the thought of losing something that belonged to him.

Instantly Harry’s core took on another defined shape and soon all of his will and power poured into that connection. It hit Roger’s core with such force and intent that Roger’s spine arched upwards as Harry’s magic flooded into and within every inch of the boy’s body. There wasn’t a single cell that was left untouched.

Harry’s magic coursed through Roger and with more concentration than Harry had ever applied towards another person he began to mend the tears and gashes and broken bones that had threatened to end Roger’s life.

Slowly, the blood began to reverse its course and was absorbed back into the same open wounds that it had spilled from. As more of Roger’s blood returned to his body so to did the older boy’s magic become more concentrated and stronger.

Roger’s core began to pulse just a little bit brighter and with beads of sweat starting to pour down his face Harry pushed on until each and every cut had mended itself.

When the task was finished, Harry nearly collapsed forward with momentary magical exhaustion. Just as Harry’s head was about to connect with Roger’s chest, however, Luna reached out with her arms and held him next to her.

“It’s okay, Harry,” she sang softly to him.

“He’s going to be okay now. He’s one of us, and one of yours.”

Harry could barely keep his eyes open but forced himself to remain awake until he saw Roger’s eyes flicker open. His tired core had demanded to see its new addition.

In the end though it had all been worth it because he had done it; he had saved one of his own. It didn’t matter that Harry barely knew anything about the other boy. His magic knew him, and that was all that mattered to him in this moment.

And the others felt the addition to Harry’s circle as well. Cedric and Neville shuddered as their magic reoriented itself to the new insertion to their group. Meanwhile, Justin and Ginny had needed to lean against the other one’s shoulder as the gain of another follower had pushed their senses over the top. Both of them had been standing too close to where Harry had been working his magic with Roger, and so they had been subjected to more of the magic that Harry had had used to save Roger’s life than Cedric and Neville had.

It was in this moment that Phineas and Icarus thought to use the group’s obvious distraction to collect their wands and escape.

Harry, however, had been able to collect his breath somewhat as a shared magic passed through the group. That, and despite him exerting a great deal of effort and energy in saving Roger, he had much, much more reserves to call upon.

Especially when his magic had to be directed at those who had almost caused the unthinkable.

Again, Phineas and Icarus were frozen in place.

“This is the second person that you have almost taken from me,” Harry said standing up.

His eyes were a bright emerald green and his jet-black hair shined in the moonlight. Harry looked like a dark prince come to collect his sacrifice.

“I could tear you limb from limb and put you back together to do it all over again.”

In this moment Harry didn’t need his magic to strike fear into their hearts; his words and his voice, so fiercely protectively towards those that served him were enough to prevent the two from moving.

As such, Harry drew his magic back into himself; the event with Roger had drained him more than he wanted to admit but he knew that he would need his strength to clean up the mess that was about to happen here.

After all, Harry had enough of his wherewithal to keep the bigger picture in play. No matter how much Phineas and Icarus deserved to die, Harry knew that this wasn’t the moment. They deserved so much more than what he could provide for them at Hogwarts and he didn’t want to chance being discovered by Dumbledore or anyone else with something coming back to bite him because he was caught up in the heat of the moment.

In the meantime, he would just have to find a suitable alternative to let out some of his aggression.

And he knew just how to proceed.

“But tonight you are lucky, or, rather, I guess still very unlucky. You may survive to live a few more years because I have rules about killing at Hogwarts. For the most part…” Harry said under his breath after thinking back fondly to Lockhart.

“However, from this day on you will know that your moments are numbered and one day, when you least expect it, we will be there to make it right. You have harmed those under my protection and that is unacceptable. They are mine; they are a part of me. Their magic is my magic and their lives belong to me and no one else. I love them,” Harry said without even being aware of the strength of his words.

There was such conviction in his voice that his skin had begun to softly glow with an ethereal green that matched the color of his eyes. Harry had not only made a declaration with his words but also with his magic, and it was incredible to behold.

Soon, a similar color spread over each and every one of the people that belonged to him.

They looked like gods and goddesses to Phineas and Icarus, and Harry was the divine being from which it was all possible.

In that moment Harry wasn’t entirely aware of everything that he had said; his magic and the strength of his connection to his followers had taken him to a place where he had seen some of what they would become.

But even if he had been aware of what he had said and the eerie effects of his magic he wouldn’t have cared.

It was the truth; he did love them in a way that was only possible with magic; his magic.

“So know that you will suffer,” Harry returned to the present with an otherworldly look in his eyes.

“And that you will find in the weeks and months to come that you have no one to protect you, to turn to when you leave Hogwarts. Because the death I have in store for you will be more terrible than any pathetic torture that you could ever imagine.”

While Harry’s cold and nearly inhuman words had nearly caused Phineas and Icarus to lose their balance, his words only further captured the absolute adoration that his followers looked upon him with. For each knew that Harry cared greatly for them; that much was evident long before the vents of this night.

Even Roger had been able to sit up and bask in that feeling.

But to hear that Harry loved them caused their magic to hum happily into the cool, crisp air.

“But as I have said, that is a little ways away,” Harry continued from where he walked in between his followers, touching their arms as if his magic required that he physically connect with each of them after what had just occurred.

“Until then, however, a promise is a promise,” he whispered almost seductively into Neville’s ear.

“You are more than ready and have the greatest claim to strike back at them first,” Harry purred.

Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw Neville’s grip tighten around his Cherry wand.

“Just don’t kill Neville; I think I can clean up most things but bringing someone back from the dead is probably beyond even me and we have appearances to maintain.”

“It will be my absolute pleasure, my Lord,” Neville replied in an even tone.

He had been waiting for this moment ever since he had realized that Harry had protected him until he could take care of himself.

However, even as Neville readied his wand to let his magic flow through him he knew that this was different, that his revenge was now more important because of what Harry had just said.

They belonged to Harry, but they were also family.

And families took care of their own; they defended themselves from those that sought to hurt a single member.

Therefore, Neville didn’t even flinch as the Crucios left his wand.

He was protecting the family that he belonged to and making sure that Phineas and Icarus knew that this would only be the beginning on their long road to death.

Naturally, the feeling of exacting retribution filled Neville with a sense of euphoria and satisfaction. Which weren’t exactly the sort of feelings that supported the prolonged and continued use of the Cruciatus Curse for first-time casters.

Though that didn’t matter since after five minutes of absolute agony the damage had been done and Phineas and Icarus were lying in their own filth.

Being held under that curse for that length of time would render control over bodily functions impossible for anyone.

However, that was the least of the worries for the two despicable Slytherins. Their nerves had also been fried and their bodies were thrashing violently even though the curse was no longer being applied.

By this time Roger had found the strength to stand with the help of Luna and Ginny, and he looked down at the two with no pity. They had more than deserved this, which was saying something considering that Roger Davies came from a very light family and had never so much as thought ill of someone before.

Roger then looked to Harry and took in the young man who had essentially willed his body to stop dying and come back to life. He had no words in that moment but felt like he had to try, to tell Harry, his Harry, just how thankful he was.

“You do not owe me anything,” Harry cut him off before he even began.

“You are one of us, one of mine, and that is all that matters.”

Roger’s mouth shut and he remained looking at Harry with the beginnings of an undying devotion.

Harry tore his eyes away from Roger’s tall and muscular frame and then turned his attention towards the idiot twins on the ground.

Again Harry called on the magic from his core and used just enough to remove any traces of Neville’s Cruciatus from their limbs and nerves. He wasn’t going to remove all traces of damage or the pain, though; he still wanted them to remember something about what had happened.

Just not enough to call attention to this night, because while he was sure that Daphne Greengrass would keep the events to herself and use magic to cover up her bruises he didn’t want to take the chance that she would turn to Draco.

Of course, in those brief moments where the chilly wind brushed against their faces, he did slightly alter their memories to cover his tracks; however, he made sure that they knew they were doomed. He wanted them to suffer for the rest of the their lives and so they would have a certain dream every single time they closed their eyes.

Knowing then that Phineas and Icarus would be able to make their way back to Slytherin in a few hours, Harry turned and looked at his group.

“Come,” he said simply before he began walking towards the stairs.

Harry’s followers fell into step behind him as he led them at a much slower pace back towards their training room.

Once they were inside, Harry moved to sit on the couch again and the others took to the open chairs around him. Each were glad to be safe and in Harry’s presence.

Harry’s voice was tired but also very content. He had gotten another follower, but it had cost him a great deal of energy. So much so that a hunger began to stir in his gut, reminding him of just how much magic he had used. It nearly brought him back to that first night of starvation after discovering magic at Privet Drive until he remembered just how close they were to the kitchens.

“Neville, Justin,” he said while sitting down on his usual spot on the couch.

“Please go to the kitchens and get the elves to whip us up something substantial. I think we could all use some extra nourishment.”

The boys made to leave but Harry’s voice stopped them at the door.

“And Neville,” Harry waited until Neville turned to face him, “textbook Cruciatus.”

Neville nodded solemnly but his eyes had trouble containing his delight over Harry’s praise.

Nevertheless he bowed his head once more and left as Harry turned to face Luna.

“How much of tonight had you seen, Luna?”

Harry’s voice sounded harsher than it meant it to be, but he was still not altogether happy that Luna had put herself in that position. Even if he had solidified the second-to-last part of his core.

“I didn’t know that that would happen,” her calm and carefree voice returned.

“It was like I said: the Nuckelavees were causing mischief and I just knew that I had to be somewhere.”

Roger didn’t know how to process any of what he was hearing but Cedric and Ginny had some idea as to what was going on.

“But even if I did know how the night was going to turn out,” she surprised the group by saying, “I would have done it anyways. For you.”

Harry’s eyes met hers for the second time that evening, and just like before he was the first one to break contact.

Harry wasn’t exactly happy to concede that there was nothing he could do to prevent her from acting on her gift – or curse – depending on how one looked at it.

Mostly he just didn’t like the thought of harm coming to any one of them, but it was partly because of how tired he was and relieved that his magic had been enough to save Roger that he didn’t press the subject.

“So how did it begin?” Harry asked instead.

“Well, I felt that I had to be near that part of the castle,” Luna answered.

“I was walking away from the Ravenclaw Tower and ran into Roger.”

The older boy that they were talking about looked to Luna and then to Harry. He was still uncertain as to what they were all talking about. To him it sounded like Luna could see the future, or parts of it at any rate.

If Roger had heard all of this just hours ago he wouldn’t have believed it, but the magic that kept continuing to strengthen in his gut told him that everything was as it should be.

It made him feel like he belonged to something greater than he could have ever hoped to put into words, and it only grew stronger as Luna continued to describe the events leading up to where they had just come from.

“Roger and I were just about to pass each other when we heard a muffled yell coming from the stairs leading to the Astronomy Tower. Naturally we both set out to investigate.”

Harry nodded his head as he put the rest together in his mind.

“Daphne was there,” Luna went on to describe for the benefit of the others.

“She was being groped and had been shoved up against the wall. The boys were laughing at her attempts to plead with them.”

Roger looked downwards, thinking about his younger sister and how wanting to prevent that sort of thing from happening to anyone had spurred him into action.

“Roger was very brave; he went at once to her aid.”

The others turned to glance at Roger. Harry, however, didn’t remove his eyes from Luna.

“He fought bravely and till the end,” Luna’s voice dropped softly.

“Until you got there, Harry.”

Harry then blinked his eyes away from Luna to stare again at Roger.

Just thinking back to how it felt when Roger’s life force was leaving his body unsettled Harry. He had come so close to losing something that he hadn’t even known belonged to him. The longer Harry thought about it the more it caused his skin to shiver, and then it worked its way into his magic.

Once there, a pulse shot out across every connection to his core; his magic needed to touch his followers, to make sure they were all okay.

Knowing where each of their core’s were made Harry feel better and he quietly smiled as he felt the response from Justin and Neville, who were both returning from the kitchen and trying not to drop any of the food.

Harry continued to stare at the new person in his life while he waited for them to arrive.

Roger may not have been as pretty as Cedric was but he was handsome in his own right. He was taller than anyone else that followed Harry and his shoulders were quite broad. Roger also had the same color hair that Harry did, and would have looked like Harry’s older brother except that Roger’s eyes were a light brown.

“Hello,” Harry smiled gently at his new boy.

He was finished with taking in the other boy’s features and figured he would have questions.

“Harry,” Roger’s deep voice echoed off the silent walls.

It was full of several different emotions.

“Thank you,” he then said, not quite finding his voice to say everything that he felt.

“I expect that you have many things on your mind but just know that you are safe now.”

Harry really didn’t know how much more to say that than, and thankfully he didn’t have to worry about it any longer because Justin and Neville had returned in that moment with a full feast hovering behind them.

The sight was welcome to Harry’s tired frame and he rather enjoyed witnessing the bonding experience that followed as they all hungrily dug into their food. Roger had become the center of attention from the rest of his followers, which was fine by him since his magic and energy were quite spent.

Never before had Harry exerted himself to this extent and in his very core he was just thankful that Luna had made saving Roger possible – even if that presented such a conundrum that he would rather not focus on it.

By the time they finished it was well past curfew.

“I would like you to stay with me tonight,” he said quietly in the dimming candlelight.

With a wave of his hand comfortable looking sleeping bags appeared, and his followers rolled them out and made themselves at home. They didn’t even question what would happen if they were caught.

“I can’t bare to part with any of you after what happened tonight, and think we could get away with simply losing track of time if we are disturbed. We can honestly say that we were too tired and fell asleep. I would gladly serve a detention for that and do not think it would draw unwanted attention.”

It was a very content and full Harry that fell asleep that night surrounded by those whom he would lead to greatness.

 


 

Nothing further from that night was ever discussed inside of the castle again. Both Phineas and Icarus managed to get themselves to their dormitory very early the next morning thinking that they had imbibed a little too much Firewhiskey that Phineas had pilfered from his father’s bar.

Of course, their dreams had been unpleasant and would continue to be so.

Daphne, however, never told another soul what had happened. She continued to use glamour charms until the bruising around her eye returned to normal and made it a point to never stray from Draco’s side.

Her actions were something that Harry expected given she came from a household that still subscribed to antiquated and out-of-date beliefs that women were property. Still, Harry was glad to see that she had taken to Draco’s company but he would be keeping an eye out for her in the future.

While Harry knew that Daphne would never become one of his, he had been impressed by her tenacity.

Speaking of his growing brood, Harry was allowing them a real treat on account of what they had accomplished in the two weeks since Roger had joined them.

Like the others Roger had seamlessly adapted to their heavy training schedule and already he felt like he could have cast circles around Phineas and Icarus.

“It’s like my eyes have opened,” Roger had exclaimed after winning the previous night’s scrimmage in the arena.

Harry had been most pleased; his own magic had even grown in the days following his exhaustion.

In fact, it gave him the idea that every so often him and his group should exert themselves to find out what their limits were.

But that was not for tonight as his followers sat around him, reading books on magic that interested them or talking quietly with their neighbors.

Cedric and Roger were on either side of him as Harry had the Marauder’s Map spread out in front of them.

Over the course of the past two weeks Harry had discovered the multiple secret passageways both inside of the castle and those that led to the outside.

He had been most interested in those.

“Harry, look here!” Cedric’s voice sounded with amusement.

Harry’s eyes followed Cedric’s pointed fingers.

“Haha,” the fourth year Hufflepuff chuckled.

“Having your legs spread that far is a rather compromising position to be found in.”

The others became interested in what was going on and seven pairs of eyes were now all looking at the same thing.

“Brave of them,” Harry commented dryly. “That close to the Slytherin Common Room; they are almost begging to be discovered.”

“I had no idea Marcus Jugson and Penelope Clearwater were even an item!” Roger barked out with laughter.

“Isn’t she dating your brother, Ginny?” Luna looked over to her nearest neighbor.

“It would appear that he isn’t giving her everything that she requires,” Ginny smiled back.

“The prat went on and on about her all summer!”

“I still can’t believe it,” Roger said on a more serious note.

“Isn’t she a Muggleborn? I can’t imagine Marcus’ father jumping over the moon if that came out.”

“Unfortunately,” Harry commented, “to those of a certain mindset, blood is conveniently forgotten about at times like these. A respectable pureblood would be most conscientious of partaking in sexual activities unless they were very far along in their courtship.”

No one wondered just how Harry knew something so intimately related to pureblood culture.

“A Muggleborn on the other hand…” Harry trailed off. “They are often seen as a way for young pureblood males to have a spot of fun just as long as no one catches them.”

“It doesn’t matter that others do it too?”

“No Justin,” Harry replied.

“Image is everything, and it would be very costly for someone in Marcus’ position to be caught publically embarrassing his family name.”

Justin nodded his head.

“That makes sense. What happens behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors.”

“Exactly!” Cedric agreed.

“Now then,” Harry moved the topic along.

“What else is happening inside of Hogwarts on this Saturday evening?”

“Umm, Harry,” Neville spoke up.

“Sirius Black is coming into the castle.”

There was a surprised tone to Neville’s voice, almost like he didn’t believe the map.

But Harry did.

“He’s using the passageway behind the one-eyed witch.”

“That’s not far from here,” Roger stood and readied his wand at the door.

The others moved to follow his lead.

“Wait!” Harry called out.

“He’s going the opposite way. I don’t think he is coming towards us.”

“I wonder where he is going then?” Luna mused as she sank to her knees to look at the map while keeping her wand trained towards the door.

“He’s heading away from the Great Hall now,” Cedric chimed in.

His wand had also never moved from where he had it pointed at the door.

“Wherever he is going he is sticking to the least-traveled routes. Very smart.”

No one was surprised Harry pointed that out.

“Is he…” Ginny then trailed off.

“He’s not going to Gryffindor is he?”

“That would appear to be the case,” Justin confirmed.

“Most definitely, I’ve had to patrol those hallways many times this year as Prefect.”

“Fred and George,” Roger then clarified when the others shot him a questioning stare.

Satisfied with his answer, all seven of them then watched Sirius approach the portrait door and sneak inside.

“But the common room is full of people,” Ginny raised her voice.

“He must be disillusioned then.”

“Odd that he is entering at such a busy time. I wonder if he thinks that you are a Gryffindor, Harry,” Cedric pointed out.

“That could be a plausible explanation. Let’s see where he goes next, then.”

“That’s where the third-year dormitory is!” Ginny gasped as if to confirm Cedric’s theory.

They all looked to see who was present inside the circular room.

“Ron’s in there… and …”

Ginny paused. She wasn’t concerned in the least over her idiot brother. He deserved to be found by Sirius after how he had ruined her Egyptian holiday with all the whining about his stupid rat not feeling well.

There was another name right next to her brother, a name she had never heard before.

“Who’s Peter Pettigrew?” she then asked.

“I’ve never heard that name,” Cedric answered.

But Harry had; at least he had read about him when finding out about being the Boy Who Lived and then again with the topic of Sirius Black.

For the next several moments, however, no one commented as the seven of them watched with interest as Sirius entered the dormitory.

Sirius’ footsteps danced across the map as he made his way over to Ron’s bed, upon which both Ron and this Peter person sat.

Slowly, Sirius crept towards the bed and a light bulb went off in Harry’s mind.

A certain memory of a shared train compartment from first year was seen from a different angle in one of Harry’s memories. It all made sense now.

However, while he had come to that epiphany all hell broke loose on the map. Something must have alerted Peter to Sirius’ presence and for the next several moments there was an epic chase. Peter’s name was the first out of the room and Sirius followed as they tore through the common room.

Sirius must have been visible now or something else had occurred because those present scattered to the walls and remained there for several minutes after the pair had exited Gryffindor.

Harry and his follower’s watched this game of cat and mouse until Peter disappeared into what appeared to be a wall and kept running through the other side, leaving Sirius alone in a hallway on the fifth floor.

“He lost him,” Harry broke the silence.

After standing in the same place for twenty seconds, Sirius must have also realized that his attempt had failed and quickly made for the statue of the one-eyed witch and his name vanished from the map a little more than a minute later.

“So Sirius Black is after Peter Pettigrew?” Roger put out.

“That names sounds familiar. Ginny, how does your brother know him?”

While Ginny simply shrugged her shoulders it was Harry who answered.

“I don’t think he realizes who it is. Merlin, this makes so much sense. But still leaves so many questions.”

Harry ran his hands through his thick, unruly hair.

The others waited for Harry to explain.

“You all know how Sirius earned his ticket to Azkaban: he killed thirteen Muggles in the middle of London the day after my parents died. But what is harder to find is that he also killed one wizard that day, none other than Peter Pettigrew.”

Six pairs of eyes widened.

“However, they never found Peter’s body. All they could salvage from the wreckage was a finger.”

The others continued to stare at him, waiting for Harry to tie everything together.

“I should have realized it on the train first year since I shared a compartment with Ron. He was the first wizard I used my magic on; I wanted to see if magical people were different than non-magical ones.”

Harry’s voice was quiet and contemplative.

“I was too busy basking in the success of taking over his mind to notice something that when I look back now was all too obvious. My magic had felt him,” Harry lamented.

“Tell me, Ginny,” Harry recovered, “how long has your family had Scabbers?”

The redhead’s eyes went wide as her mind jumped to all the right conclusions.

“Twelve years…” she whispered.

“A bit long for a common rat, right?”

“Wait, you’re saying that Peter Pettigrew is an Animagus and has been hiding out with the Weasleys?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Harry said.

“So how did Sirius know?”

“That I can’t answer, Justin, but I think I know someone that might.”

Harry sat up and drew his legs underneath of him as he continued.

“Apparently, both Sirius and Professor Lupin were good friends with my parents when I was born. I wonder then if they were good friends with each other, especially considering the weird coincidence of Lupin coming to Hogwarts right after Sirius escaped Azkaban.”

“That does sound rather convenient,” Neville agreed slowly, thinking back to how Dumbledore had visited his house over the summer to speak with Harry.

“Yes, well, perhaps we should go and find this little rat then,” Harry said pointing to Pettigrew’s location between two adjacent hallways.

However, no sooner had Harry said that than did McGonagall’s voice sound throughout the castle.

“All students are to head to the Great Hall. Immediately,” she announced.

“I guess we will wait until later,” Harry instructed as the group rose and then left their training room.

They arrived at their destination alongside several hundred other students.

The tables were gone and the students just milled about until everyone was present and accounted before.

Then, everyone’s attention was directed towards Dumbledore at the front of the hall.

“The teachers and I need to conduct a thorough search of the castle,” the man said while the other teachers secured the doors as Dumbledore kept talking.

“I am afraid that you will have to spend the night here,” he told while flicking his wand to conjure hundreds of very similar sleeping bags that Harry had produced two weeks ago.

“For your safety I am leaving the Head Boy and Girl in charge, and any disturbance should be reported to me immediately. Send word with the ghosts,” he instructed while Percy puffed his chest out.

“Sleep well,” were his last words before disappearing behind the doors to the side of the teacher’s table.

If Percy thought that he would have been able to quiet the many voices that erupted after the Headmaster’s disappearance then he was in for a rude awakening.

Harry watched as the dramatic exclamations of Sirius Black entering into the Gryffindor Common Room from those who were there spread like wild fire throughout the hall.

Soon everyone had heard a tale that somehow centered on Ron Weasley, who finally felt like his life was going right.

He was the center of attention and even some of the Slytherins were approaching him to hear his side of the story.

Of course, Harry and his crew already knew more than anyone else in the hall.

“Come on, this way,” Harry led them to collect their sleeping bags and then to a place near one of the alcoves by the grand fireplace alongside the wall that ran parallel to the tables that had been vanished.

As they settled into a semicircle-like arrangement with Harry positioned with his back to the wall, only one question kept being repeated by those next to them.

How did Sirius Black get in?

And the answers that he heard caused him and his friends to shake their heads in mild amusement.

“Honestly, hasn’t anyone read Hogwarts: A History?”

Harry’s group kept to themselves as the noise eventually died down several hours later after several failed attempts by Percy to make them all go to bed.

“I wonder if he knows about Penelope?” Ginny whispered as Harry’s group shared a chuckle before closing their eyes.

Harry, however, kept his open. He didn’t feel like sleeping just now and was content to just let his magic leak out and cover his sleeping followers.

He watched as they moaned in their sleep and snuggled under their covers. The act comforted him too, since every time he connected with their cores he could only feel his own expanding inside his chest.

Harry spent the next two hours lying down with his eyes open and his awareness connecting his mind to watch his friend’s dreams.

They were all of him, with the exception of Luna. Her mind couldn’t remain focused on a single thought for very long but Harry’s face kept popping up between the flashes of Merlin knew what.

Finally, sometime between two and four in the morning if Harry had to guess the front doors opened and Dumbledore walked in with Severus Snape.

            Percy, of course, was striding over sleeping students to give his report.

Harry could barely hear their whispers but gathered that they hadn’t found Sirius and had improved security at each of the entrances to the four houses.

            Harry was watching them out of the corner of his eye and soon Dumbledore and Snape were walking amidst the students by themselves.

            “Headmaster?” Harry heard Snape question when they were close to where he was pretending to be asleep.

            “What is your theory, sir, on how he got in?”

            “Many, Severus, and each of them as unlikely as the next.”

            Harry chanced repositioning his body to allow one of his ears to hear better. The rolling over onto his side went unnoticed to the adult’s conversation.

“You remember the conversation we had at the beginning of the school year, Headmaster,” Harry heard Snape state more than question.

“I do, Severus,” Albus responded with a hint of warning in his voice.

“It seems rather difficult to imagine – perhaps even impossible – someone entering the castle given the increased security unless they had the help of someone on the inside. I did express my concerns when you appointed,” but Dumbledore cut him off.

“I do not believe that a single person, even an old friend, would have helped Black enter.”

His tone was final and Severus didn’t the press the subject.

Dumbledore next talked about informing the Dementors of their search and then excused himself why Severus lingered for a moment before heading out through the front of the Great Hall.

Harry rolled over onto his back and thought about the exchange.

“Well it seems like Black and Lupin did know each other back then,” Harry whispered to himself.

Harry spent the rest of the night thinking about how Black, Lupin, and now Pettigrew were linked.

By the time the sunlight began to illuminate the hall Harry was still no closer into figuring out how everything was linked together.

He had, however, come to the conclusion that he was long overdue in taking Remus Lupin up on his offer and getting to know his Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor better.

Harry had a lot of questions and he was nearly positive that Lupin had at least some of the answers.

 

Let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.