Chapter 1: What Could Happen?
"Gringotts is this way 'Arry. We'll get you some coin and get yer school supplies. First I have ter pick something up for old Dumbledore. Good man Dumbledore. Trusts me see." Boomed the unlikely sized man beside him.
They approached a building that to Harry's eye seemed like a giant, marble chess piece. He saw a small, dangerous looking creature keeping guard. The spear and the armor gave it away. It reminded him so much of a storybook he'd stolen from Dudley. One of many books he'd taken. Coming nearer to the guard Harry found he couldn't help himself. As the giant of a man, whom Harry very much suspected to in fact BE a giant, began up the stairs Harry slowed. He turned to the guard as he came to stand even with him.
"Fearsome Guard!" He called. "Is all well within your halls?"
The creature stared at him for a full minute. Just when Harry was beginning to think he maybe should have refrained from indulging in his childishness -the creature gave a grin. It was just as fearsome as the creature it belonged to; all shining, sharp teeth pulled into a Cheshire crescent. If nothing else came of today Harry set himself to learning to smile just so. It would certainly scare the pants off Dudley and his friends. If he was lucky he might even get out of Harry Hunting. The game his cousin, who was the aforementioned Dudley, thoroughly enjoyed to play. It involved chasing Harry down until he was trapped or ran out of breath, and then pummeling him until the bell rang and class started. Harry was not a fan of the game.
"The walls stand firm child of magic. All who dwell within fair well in body if not in pocket." Declared the little guard.
Harry felt his jaw open just a bit. This creature knew the tale. He knew it and knew it well enough to answer back! Feeling daring Harry continued with the next line. "Fortuitous for I have come to venture within your walls."
The guard laughed then. It was a deliciously unnerving sound.
"Is this your first visit thus young mage?"
A small crowd had gathered by then though Harry did not notice. He was far too entranced to pay mind to anything but the lovely being before him with the mischievous smile and murderous laugh. The creature indulging in his game. No one ever played with him! Certainly no one as important as the guard for a magical bank. First Harry finds out that magic is real, then he gets cake, finds a magical world hidden behind a brick wall and now...now he was making a friend. This was the best twenty four hours in Harry's entire eleven years of life. Not very much in the grander scheme of things maybe. When one lived in a cupboard under the stairs one didn't often have wonderful memories to fall back on when the bulb went out and your aunt refused to replace it. Spiders made for poor companionship in the darkness.
"It is indeed." Harry managed to refrain from jumping and clapping. Just barely.
He was given a considering look. The guard nodded decisively. "I shall insure you are given a proper first impression, shall I? If you will direct your eyes upward tot he archway young mag you will see a rhyme I suggest you memories. Then I shall lead you into the main hall of it pleases you."
There were many surprised and incredulous glances exchanged at the last. Harry of course remained oblivious. Green eyes were roaming the the word engraved int he stone, soaking them in. The warning was magnificent. Everything a magical keep of treasure ought to have, in Harry's opinion.
"Enter, stranger, but take heed of what awaits the sin of greed. For those who take but do not earn, must pay most dearly in their turn. So if you seek beneath out floors a treasure that was never yours, thief you have been warned -beware!- of finding more than treasure there."
Harry was ushered unto the main hall of the building, Hagrid off to the side uncertain about the entire situation. Several people were staring. Harry didn't know what was so exciting. Perhaps it was a first visit for some of them as well? In that case they could go get their own guard, this one was his. They stopped at a desk further along the counter with an older creature. It had small spectacles perched on a very long nose. The creature lifted on brought at the guard, the other at Harry and then both at the sight of their audience. Roughly half the hall. The other half was politely pretending they weren't paying them any attention.
"How might I assist you?" Its gravely voice inquired.
Harry's guard motioned at him with his spear. "Young master visits Gringotts for the first time. He has used the proper greetings according to custom. I have, as the guard with whom he initiated the process, brought him directly here."
Many whispers echoed about at that. Even Hagrid said something under his breath.
"Well done." Murmured the teller. His beady eyes looked Harry over with interest. It was enough to make Harry want to squirm. It was quite hard to resist the temptation. Luckily he had a lot of practice standing still and being quiet thanks to his aunt. "Do you have an account awaiting your arrival mister...?"
"Potter sir. Harry James Potter."
The other people watching didn't keep their voices down at that.
"Potter he said."
"That is the Potter heir!?"
"Is he really mummy?"
Harry blinked. Feeling self-conscious he curled in on himself just a bit. Attention like that never went well for him. He was meant to be polite enough to be passable and remain invisible to his best ability otherwise. Harry didn't seem to be doing a good job of it and he couldn't help feeling unbalanced for not getting a good smack when he knew he ought to. If his family here he certainly would have.
Hagrid cleared his throat, taking a step closer. "I got his keep right here." With that the man pulled unlikely object after unlikely object out from his pocket, placing each item on the counter. Much to the teller's dismay. When a cage of mice, a lunch box, three balls of yarn, a crate of corked glass vials and another owl were placed there it finally happened. Harry giggled.
Several small bouts of laughter followed and the tense air that had built in hall lessened.
"I don't suppose you've been looking in the right pocket?" The teller snarked.
Hagrid paused to consider the idea. The teller looked as though he might be considering stabbing himself with his own quill. Seeking to avoid such a thing -it would put a damper on an otherwise promising adventure- Harry tilted onto the very tips of his toes to better look over the counter. He inquired, in his politest voice, "Is there perhaps another way?"
The teller looked at Hagrid who looked at the guard who in turn looked at the teller.
"Er...is there?" Harry trailed off.
"Yes little magician. Clever thinking on your part." Assured his guard, smug. Harry didn't know why. In fact, he didn't know more and more things as the day went on.
"The teller pulled out a narrow drawer to his left and Hagrid began the task of somehow fitting everything he'd unpacked back into his pocket. Why the man did not carry a knapsack or something similar was something Harry decided not to bring up. Perhaps he would arrange for someone to get the man one for the winter holidays. He had to have some magical friends, maybe on of the other staff members would so. If that failed Harry supposed he could make one. He did love to sew.
Eventually the teller brought out a glass ball which he handed to harry. The boy took it carefully. A small glass vial was set on the counter top. "This won't hurt." Said the teller.
Harry hadn't even thought that it might and was now concerned that it would.
Almost immediately he felt a sort of pull from somewhere in his middle, the ball yanked him forward half a foot. Harry put up a shoe against the side of the teller's counter to keep from moving any further. The strength of the pull increased. A dim light grew within the orb until it was completely filled. After nothing else happening but the pull increasing and the light growing brighter, Harry called out to the teller. "How much longer do you need me to do this? I think I'm going to go flying though the wall behind you in another minute. Just so you're prepared for that."
The teller snapped out of whatever trance he was in, waving a hand. A light filled the vial on the counter. He waved his hand once more and the pulling stopped. Harry fell to the floor with a surprised yelp. He scrambled to his feet intent upon glaring at the creature for not warning him, sharp teeth or no, when he noticed it. Every one in the building stood still, staring. Mouths open, eyes wide.
Uncomfortable Harry turned to his guard for as suitable explanation.
"What? What did I do?"
The fact is guard was rubbing his hands together and looking him over like a particularly favoured possession did nothing to ease his discomfort.
Chapter 2: What are Wards?
The Teller cleared his throat, casting a glare about the hall.
Everyone quickly turned away and pretended they were paying attention once more. Hagrid was watching Harry with a vacant expression. As if the giant didn't know what to think or his perceptions of the world were shaken. Harry didn't know what he could possible have done that could be that interesting. Still, he crossed his arms over his chest and studied his shoes. He didn't like attention, let alone the sort that didn't seem like it was positive. He was a freak at home, he didn't need to be one here too. If people were just going to act like this all of the time he might prefer going home and being invisible again. At least than wasn't noticed unless he messed up and then he got roughed up a bit before he was invisible again. There wasn't any of this constant attention and analyzation.
"Mister Potter to verify your identity we take a sample of your magic. We'll use it to run through the rune-lock on the main Potter vault. It will access that small piece of your magic and analyze your identity. This process is one created and passed down by older families like your own, it is not Goblin made. The process of taking this sample of your magic is one we know well."
He indicated the vial in his hands and then the orb Harry still held. "What we do is provide three CPMs. One is a lower power CPM and the other two or of course higher. Each CPM has to levels of its own, a lower and a higher. This is for maximum accuracy. As your magic is drawn into the orb it is attracted toward the CPM that is closest to your own power level. Generally it takes less than three minutes to find the appropriate CPM and fill the orb. Shortly after your magick is rather drained and the pull stops."
Power levels. He wondered if the titles Mage, Wizard and Sorcerer corresponded to specific levels of power or magical mastery? He knew his headmaster had several titles though he did not know what they represented. Was there a type of magic that came harder or easier depending on your level? Could you improve it? Conceal it? Did everyone get it measured? Was there a way to tell what someone else's power level was without using an orb? He glanced sideways. Hagrid looked uncomfortable and impatient. Harry would have to make his question count. The giant might have them leave before Harry got to ask anything at all otherwise. But he had so many questions!
Harry stared up at the teller, shifting the orb back and forth in his hands. "I have three questions. First, what is a CPM?"
"Compressed Power Monolith." Really that gave more questions that it answered. People kept expecting him to know these things. Even Hagrid was surprised he didn't know of Hogwarts. Honestly, he grew up with muggles. Magic hating muggles. It wasn't as if they'd let him find out how to turn them into to toads. Could you turn someone into a toad? If you did would they keep their human mind or would they forget they were human and be like a real toad? Could you turn them back?
Compressed Power Monolith. What was a Monolith?
"I'm going to pretend I understood that," Said Harry, his guard snorted, "Moving on. There's a Potter vault?"
"It's a branch of magick called Warding young mage. Gringotts employs the best Warders in the world, human, goblin and magical creature alike. It isn't a subject you'll learn much of in school if you attend Hogwarts-"
The teller pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't get paid for this. Take young master to a conference room. I think some things need to be explained without all of the wizarding world listening in." Harry turned around. Once more everyone seemed to be paying attention to him rather than their own business. Shouldn't they know these things already? And if they didn't they should find their own guard and figure it out for themselves. They could their own mysterious orbs as well while they were at it. This was Harry's adventure and they weren't invited.
"Well come along." Said the guard, nodding toward a smaller hallway to the right.
When Hagrid tried to follow him he was held up by three other guards. Harry turned to his guard. "Guard." he began, "Can you tell me why that giant is being harassed?" Harry figured the best way to go about this was to emulate the boy from the book the best he could. It seemed to be the only way anyone made any sense around here. This suited Harry just fine.
"The goblins are more than capable of keeping you safe young master. The giant delivered you to us and we shall take it from here. Even he should know the codes by now if not the bylaws." Harry pretended once more that he understood.
He nodded wisely. "Ah." Deciding that gibberish was boring he skipped up to walk beside the guard. The goblin guard he now knew. Various weapons decorated the walls as they continued. Or least he assumed decoration. They could be conveniently placed for those thieves he'd read about it earlier. "Alright fearsome guard of mine, to whence do we quest?" Harry asked brightly.
The goblin gave a smile. "I am taking you to a private room where we can discuss all manner of secret things."
He bounced up and down for a bit. It was all so exciting. His very own adventure with giants and magic and everything. If this was a dream and he woke up back in his cupboard he didn't know if he could go on. How do you live a normal life after seeing this? For the first time in his life he felt sort of like he belonged. He wasn't the same as everyone else and that was okay because no one else was the same as everyone else anyway. He was only just with a giant and now he was with a goblin. Who knew what else he might discover today? Who knew what else this world held for him. No, he was never going back to plain old Harry the Freak. He'd rather be a freak among freaks than a freak amongst the Dursleys.
"That sounds fantastic. I was just thinking I needed to learn something knew. It was a good three minutes since the last new thing I learned and I don't know what I'd do with myself if the space between lasted longer than that." Said Harry. "And you know what they say! Idle minds are the Devil's playground.
A sharp grin. "There are many secrets within these walls young master. If you play your cards right you just might learn some more of them." The guard slowed and glanced around. "You remember the rhyme little magician?"
Harry beamed. Of course he did. It was only the coolest warning in the history of any proper fantasy adventure ever! It was just begging for someone to wandering and discovering. "...so if you seek beneath our floors a treasure that was never yours, thief you have been warned -beware!- of finding more than treasure there." He shivered. It was an awesome rhyme.
"Just so." Said the goblin. "There is far more within these halls than mere treasure. The wizards would have you believe we goblins care for nothing but gold. Secrets, child, secrets weigh far more than gold. Wealth and strength are all well and good but never undervalue the use of a good secret. Knowledge is power young master. And speaking of power..." Beady eyes bored into his own, sharp smile widening into a ferocious Cheshire crescent.
"Can you keep a secret?"
Chapter 3: Was it Supposed to Be That Easy?
Hagrid never mentioned that the Goblin Nation lay beneath the bank. Perhaps he wasn't let in on the secret.
Harry, shaking with barely contained excitement, walked determinedly down less than welcoming hallways with his faithful goblin guard. Long passed were the slick walls of white polished marble dominating the first floor of the bank. Now those walls were made of thick carved stone. Every inch depicting scenes important to Goblin history and indeed the history of the realms. Harry was surprised to see he recognized several just from reading his books. Honestly! Who leaves books with so much factual information about secrets societies just lying about where anyone could find them? No one else seemed to have connected the dots between the series and the magical world. There were many other muggle raised and even muggleborn children out there. Surely one other had read the books.
The floor and the ceiling were of the same carved stone. At times the halls were narrow and the ceiling low. Harry, if he were larger, may have had to duck down. Hagrid wouldn't have fit. Perhaps if he crawled maybe. Though that would be uncomfortable for the giant man. In some of the halls the walls were quite far apart and the ceiling very high, every little sound was loud. Harry's light steps made slight reverberations off the wall. The goblin's made none at all. Harry frowned and narrowed his eyes and concentrated on emulating the goblins manner of walking. He wanted to be silent too. His goblin was quick to reassure him his steps were far quieter than most humans and he ought to be proud. Still, Harry thought there was room for improvement. There was that wicked Cheshire grin of the goblin guard that Harry wanted to learn as well. Who knew goblins were so educational?
In some places pipes and odd machines stuck out of the walls or the floor, all in bronze. There were large levers, small dials and some of them even puffed out hot steam. The first of these they encountered whistled out with a stern hiss which had sent Harry shrieking in delight to hide behind his goblin. The goblin, to his credit, took this in stride. In fact he seemed quite pleased and, perhaps, entertained by Harry's reactions. It had been quite sometime since a wizard was allowed this deep into goblin territory. A great deal longer for a wizard child. There were passages here and there shut off to the main hallways by tall bronze gates with thin, sharp bars. Though they seemed to be secured with the simplest of locks Harry knew enough of secret magical worlds from his books to know appearances were often times deceiving. He did not try to unlock the gates.
Harry began rifling mentally through the various fantasy books he'd read. Did of their information apply as well? Were magical secrets just lying around like that? Did this world have dragons? Were there princesses in towers? With hair that reached the ground? Did leprechauns hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows, can fairies swap children at infancy? Were there fairy godmothers? Rings that turned you invisible? Bags that held more than they should? Shows that moved you quicker? Could you fly? Why were the goblins separated from the wizards? Goblins did magick, could a boy goblin be a wizard? Was there a difference? How did someone get all of this down here? Why? Where were the other goblins? Did goblins attend Hogwarts?
Harry looked up. They entered an even wider, taller room circular in fashion with raised seats carved from bronze placed high in a half circle. In the middle lay a raised platform with stone steps leading down from two sides. The entire feel of the room reminded Harry of the ancient Romans. He quite hoped that this wasn't the case. He had nothing against the ancient Romans, he had no desire to try his hand at being a magical gladiator. At least not at eleven.
Was there magical jousting?
Far more interesting than the room was the man standing on the platform waiting for them. He had a long auburn beard bound in many thick braids at the ends, his hair was just as long and braided as well. He wore a scarlet coat with large golden buttons, square in shape, and far too many pockets. What was most interesting about this man? This non-goblin here waiting for them just within the Goblin Nation? His height. Perhaps a foot taller than Harry himself though no doubt full grown. It was, he must be, a Dwarf.
"Let's get this over with." Boomed the stout man. Harry startled at the sudden loudness. He was eleven, not deaf.
Not giving him time to inquire what, exactly, was going on, the Dwarf twirled a small wheel on the floor of the platform. It turned and clicked and sucked its self into the floor. A piece of stone slid over it. All around the room there was clicking and whirling. Small, glowing orbs brightened along the edges. The room far more light now than it had coming in. His goblin touched a claw to Harry's shoulder. "Look there, young mage."
The far wall was covered in a mural. One Harry recognized straight away.
"The Luck Gambler!" Harry exclaimed. He jumped down the steps and crossed to the wall. It depicted the Luck Gambler sprawled on the steps leading to the Fate's Haven. His left hand was outstretched, inside it a piece of obsidian. It's Merit was knowledge and cunning. Fitting, considering the Luck Gambler, known for his cunning, was the Daemon Lord of Knowledge, however acquired, and his stone was the Obsidian. The mural was very well done. Harry approved.
Behind him the conversation taking place finally began to filter in.
"...not waste my time on a child, a child of man no less, just because he knows things he oughtn't. He's already tied to the wizards' world, in more ways than one. Why throw another crown at him? Look at him. He's a scrawny, pale little thing. Can you be certain you understood-"
"Yes, Ralaph," the Goblin said, voice a bit edged. "I am quite certain that I understood the readings from a Sensor Monolith created by my own kind."
"No need to get your leathers twisted. Aside from his unusual readings, I thought you lot had left the old Sightings as lost or unfulfilled. Why this child? Why now?" Asked the Dwarf, Ralaph.
Harry cleared his throat. "Excuse me, if I may, why is it you've brought me here? Exactly?"
The two turned to the wizard child. "You see young Master," the Dwarf shot the Goblin a look at that but did not speak. "we were hoping you might give us a hand with a small problem. You've been so clever this morning and I didn't think we had anything to lose. And you are adept at keeping secrets, yes young mage?"
Harry nodded. "The best."
"There is a story and an odd sort of riddle that go with the mural before you." The goblin indicated over Harry's shoulder at the picture of the Luck Gambler. Harry almost squealed with glee. He did not. The Dwarf did not look like the sort of person to approve of squealing. Or glee for that matter.
"Sail on." Said Harry, matter-of-factly.
Ralaph raised a brow. "Pardon boy?"
"The answer to the Luck Gambler's riddle. That's what you need isn't it? When asked for his help he gives a riddle within a poem or statement and something important in always hidden inside of it. If you can figure out the answer to your question the Luck Gambler grants your request."
"Yes, we know," said the Dwarf, sounding very bored. "But how did you come by that as the answer? It doesn't make sense. It doesn't actually answer anything does it? That's why no one knows the answer to it, it's been long forgotten. We do that a group of individuals, humans and Elphar and children of magick alike were lead by a young man to-"
"Yes, I know," Harry repeated, mimicking the Dwarf's condescending tone. "When asked for his help in ascending the Tower, the Luck Gambler asks them how he can help them ascend when they did not know the way. He points out that while they believe, rightly by the way, that they will need his help, what they need is to know how to get there in the first place. After all agreeing to come along hasn't anything at all to do with telling them how to get there. Those are two different requests, see? So the Luck Gambler, pleased they heed his advice and change their question, gives them a clue. It goes: Sail on till you reach the Promised Land, we all wait for a new tomorrow, we'll bring a new age, reborn as Aeon Gods, as Aeon Gods we'll break through." Harry stepped back and pointed at different parts of the mural. He explained, "They have to find the Obsidian Lake and sail beneath the sea in a ship that breathes ink. This ship will bring them to the Emerald Isle. The Viridian. Avalon." Avalon, where the Lady of the Lake took Arthur...
The last word spoken in an awed whisper. He reached out and pushed against the piece of obsidian inlaid within the mural hand of the Luck Gambler. It clicked, as he thought it might, and was sucked within the wall. A bronzed, square lever stuck its self out in its place. Harry looked over his shoulder, beaming. "You see?"
The dwarf's mouth hung open, he didn't appear to be blinking. Or breathing. Regaining his composure he said, "I have looked for the answer to this riddle my entire life. As did my father before me. How is it you figured it out in moments? Do you know how many years of my life I've spent within this room, staring at this very mural?"
Giving him a kind smile Harry looked back to the lever, fingers tracing it.
"Those who do not believe in Magick will never find it. You had only to open your eyes and see." Harry turned the lever.
Chapter 4: Am I seeing Double?
The walls opened long enough for Harry to glimpse small bronze globes, perhaps a foot and one half in diameter, begin spinning.
They gave a series of loud pops and unwound to reveal mechanical spiders. They were really very cute, to Harry at least, with their little menacing clicks and hisses of steam. Had anyone ever heard of something so intricate made from bronze? They moved so lightly! How did they work? Were they steam powered? Access Stones? His mind positively buzzed with the ideas in it. He must know! He must unwind every screw, every bolt, examine every part. It was fascinating. Who made them? Why? Did they have a function beyond imitating life? Were they sentient? Could they be controlled somehow with a remote or did they follow verbal commands? Perhaps pre-installed commands? How did they activate? As they began the scuttle across the large newly revealed hall toward a cooing and questioning Harry, the goblin and the dwarf shook themselves out of their shocked trances. His goblin guard thrust himself between Harry and the metal arachnids. The dwarf had Harry by the shoulders, dragging him to the wall with a sharp order to "Put it right!" Disappointed Harry reactivated the lever, speaking the same password as before. It worked. The wall slammed shut.
The return trip to the upper floors was spent in a power pout by the little dark haired boy. Finally, after Harry's third dramatic sigh, Ralaph snapped. "What is wrong with you boy?"
Harry turned his head slightly to see the dwarf from his peripheral vision. "I wanted one."
Ralaph stopped. "You jest. Those things were dangerous lad." He said slowly, his tone suggesting Harry might not be as bright as he'd been led to believe.
"They were adorable," Harry argued, "I couldn't wait to rip them apart and see how they worked..." he trailed off, imagining it dreamily. Thus he missed the disturbed look the dwarf shot at the goblin. The guard, being a goblin, had a sharp smile for response. Ralaph bemoaned the woes of being the only sane sentient creature present. The goblin wasn't offended in the slightest.
They stopped and turned to the right. Down this hall it was nearly all stone, slick and uncarved. He could hear voices reverberating from somewhere nearby. Puzzled, for he was certain they weren't at the main level yet Harry turned to his goblin. "Where are we now?"
"I thought we'd drop by your trust before returning to the surface proper. Your giant isn't known for his love of the carts and two rides in a day, what with the other shocks he's had, might be more than even a heart his size can manage." Said his guard. As always the most useful of his new friends. He answered questions with information that only provided more questions. Both fun and frustrating. Fortunately Harry's next volley of questions was stymied by the appearance of the previously mentioned carts situated on rails. The subsequent ride cleared most of the goblin's speech right up. Harry enjoyed the ride himself. Harry raised his hands over his head shrieking. He urged the driver, a smaller goblin whose named tag read Griphook, to go even faster. With a sidelong glance at the eager young wizard, the small goblin gave a viscous smile and a nod. They cart shot forward. The force of it sending Harry backward into his seat with a hard thump. Behind him he heard snippets of the dwarf cursing. Perhaps he wasn't a fan of speed?
They reached their destination and a rather wobbly Harry departed the cart with a loopy expression. The goblins exchanged amused grins behind his back. Just ahead in the noticeably colder environment lay a door in the wall with no lock. Or none that could be seen. Considering he'd needed a key to begin with Harry wondered if he'd need to solve another riddle in order to get in. Or slay a dragon. Or go on a quest. Or-
"You must submit a sacrifice of blood to verify your relation and activate your identity for the other vaults. If you only wish to enter this vault at this time it is not necessary however I would highly recommend it. You need to be brought up to speed as quickly as possible considering your accounts." Advised Griphook.
With a shrug Harry took the offered knife, slashed his palm and smeared it across the door. As it opened, which Harry assumed meant his offering was accepted, Harry looked back over his shoulder and tossed the knife back to Griphook. The small goblin barely caught it in time, busy staring at the young wizard. Ralaph snorted.
"It only gets worse." He said.
Harry would have been indignant, as he was unaware of any behavior he may have shown that warranted such a comment, but he was far too bust staring at the piles of gold, bronze and silver filling the space before him. With reckless abandon Harry leaped forward and attempted snow angels in the piles of valuable metal coins. His companions watched in silence the young wizard, the wizard who defeated the dark lord, the wizard who activated goblin prophecy, skitter through the piles of coin like a cat high on nip. The lad jumped and leaped and dug through the coins. Twenty minutes later and partially through erecting a fort with the aid of Ralaph, Griphook cleared his throat and announced they'd best return to the surface. Ralaph promised they'd continue the fort when the boy next returned to Gringotts.
The ride back was even faster and more perilous then it's predecessor much to Harry's delight. Ralaph was more enthusiastic about vacating the cart once in stopped. Harry thought the dwarf must be excited to view the upper level. Perhaps he didn't get there often. Poor thing.
"Now young mage I think it's best we find your giant." Said his guard.
Harry sighed but nodded his assent. The adventure was grand while it lasted.
"I will have a personal messenger bird appointed for you master Potter." Said Griphook, who it turns out was in fact his vault guard and assistant account manager. "We will keep in touch. Feel free to use it to contact whomever you wish, it will be yours. I do advise you use it foremost to keep in contact with myself. We have much to discuss."
"In fact," The guard said, "I should like to have you come back tomorrow. I think there are many things you should know before you begin at Hogwarts and officially enter the wizarding world."
Harry looked between his new friends. His beginning excitement at the prospect of more secrets faded at the looks on their faces. They had things to tell him he wouldn't like. He could tell. He'd seen that look before. Of course it was usually joined with delight but he recognized it all the same. His heart twisted at the revelation. He didn't want anything to dampen his new world, this adventure. Even in the books though, there were sad things. As the Alchema said to the Luck Gambler when he lost his powers and was made temporarily mortal, "We must acknowledge and accept the darker pieces of ourselves and our lives and the obstacles that come with them if we are ever to overcome them."
His new friends blinked.
"Well said." Whispered his goblin guard. The other two nodded.
In the main hall of the bank Hagrid paced. Upon seeing his charge returned the giant of a man swept Harry into his arms and hugged him, attempting to squeeze the life out of him in retribution Harry suspected, then planted him on his feet. "I'm so glad yer alright 'Arry. I didn't know where they'd taken yeh. Never run off like that again, scared me half to me grave yeh did." The giant chastised.
Harry felt immediately horrid. Here he was off having fun and the giant had worried for him. He'd never had someone to worry for him before. His aunt would have been delighted to have lost Harry. It, really, may have been selfish of him to run off like that. Hagrid did bring him here after-all. He shouldn't have let himself get so caught up. Yes this was a new adventure but, maybe, these sort of adventures were better left...to people...better than him.
"Gee I'm sorry Hagrid." Harry said, looking down at his shoes. He missed the disapproving glares the giant received on his behalf.
Harry followed the giant dutifully with a quick wave to the goblins and dwarf he was leaving behind. Once outside Hagrid lead him to the side of the alley. Just beyond Harry could make out a store with a rather blond family trio leaving with many bags. He didn't feel the anxiety he would once have felt at the sight. He had quite a lot of money of his own now. This reminded him of his adventure and Hagrid's worry. Guilt stung at his heart. Harry didn't think he was being a very good friend, if the man's reaction was anything to measure it by. He'd never been a friend to someone before. He wouldn't tell the giant that though. He would just have to try harder.
He jumped and looked up. "Yes Hagrid?"
"I asked if you wanted to get robes next?"
Harry examined the still nervous giant before. "Why don't you have a rest?" He suggested gently.
To his relieve the large man smiled. "I think I would like tha'. Mighty nice of yeh Harry, won't take long. I think just a short sit down will do me." With that the giant walked back toward the Leaky Cauldron, or Harry assumed. He was goign back the way that had come anyway.
Harry turned and looked around the alley, suddenly intimidated. He was a stranger to this world. Reguardless of his foreknowledge from his books, or his apparent ancestry, Harry was new. And intruder almost. With a sense of resolution Harry darted toward the first bookstore he spied. He would learn everythign he could about this new world. Thinsg not in his books. Where id the Dwarfs live? Where were the Goblins underground? How did those spiders function? Could he make one? Was sort of magic was that? How did wards work? The goblin guard had said he wouldn't learn that at Hogwarts. Harry turned in a circle, staring at the books he found. They seemed mostly school oriented, which while useful weren't quite what he was looking for.
Spying the clerk Harry stepped up to the counter, rose to the tips of his toes and cleared his throat.
"How can I help you?" Asked the man, wizard, behind it. Or perhaps not? He had tawny hair and amber eyes, his teeth just sharp enough to be abnormal. He had a lovely smile though Harry admitted. Best of all, it was another secret for Harry to figure out.
"I was wondering," Harry began, he paused, how to word it? "I am more than happy with product you provide however I have found it does not meet the requirements of my current interests. Do you think you might direct me to a store with...a wider selection?"
Rather than be offended the man laughed. He murmured something under his breath that sounded like 'Not Gryffindor then'. Harry made a mental note to look that up as well. In short order Harry had a map of the alleys, for the were many, in his hands. He'd never seen such a map. At first glance it showed only the inside of the store he was in. Of course, it also showed everyone in it as well as the subject of every bookcase.
"Wicked." He breathed. The things he could do with this!
The clerk smiled knowingly. "Add a few drops of your blood just there," he pointed to small square in the corner. "and it will activate for you alone unless you add in alternative requirements later on. It'll show details of every location you go to if it's been added. You can always add more later on. If you press on it lightly and drag your finger just so it'll take the view further out and you'll be able to see more around you. Drag it the other way and you'll see more details where you are." He demonstrated. "I'd be careful with bit about the blood magic. There are some people who don't like it."
Thrilled Harry added his blood to the map.
"Don't forget to give it a password of some sort." Added the clerk.
"How much?" Harry asked. It had to be a lot.
The possibly inhuman clerk waved him off "Free. Something tells me...you'll make good use of it. Come back and visit when you get the chance."
With a grateful smile flashed at the clerk and a nod, Harry was out the door and in the main alley. It took a minute to learn just how to balance looking at the map while navigating the streets and avoiding running into the many people wandering the street. He managed. Soon enough he found the new store just off in a side alley. It was a quieter alley, its occupants' attire matching with muted hues. Harry's faded hand me down jeans and gray jumper fit in here far more than the main alley. He still stuck out just a bit, it was muggle clothing, but the inhabitants seemed content to let it slide. In fact none of them seemed even remotely interested in what anyone else was doing. Harry approved on one hand. It was good to pay mind to yourself and let others do what they were doing without interfering. That did not keep him from staring at the lot of them from the corners of the eyes as much as he dared.
Curiosity may have killed the cat but when you found yourself in a world of magic there was every chance you might be able to circumvent that. And anyway satisfaction brought it back didn't it? So it was only right Harry looked as much as he liked and got all the answers he desired. They wouldn't want to encourage the death of a child would they?
Smiling to himself Harry skipped into the new store. It was shabby on the outside, completely uninteresting. On the inside however...
Harry's eyes widened until they might have popped out of his head. This. This was perfect. Triangular, for whatever reason, with an impossibly large area. He saw rows and rows of twenty feet high bookcases. The smell. The feeling. There was nothing like books! With a squeal Harry bounded through the aisles grabbing every tome that caught his interest. Transfiguration; the art of turning on thing into another. Transmutation and Alchemy; the basics. Ancient Magicks, Lore, Theory, Runes, Magical Languages. He was in heaven. That's all there was to it. He'd died and gone to bookworm heaven.
Harry dropped his newest collection at the table he'd claimed for himself and started back for more. Hagrid mentioned something about a trunk so he'd have room for all of these. Right? Pushing that aside as unimportant -they had magic surely there was a solution!- Harry spied a tome on the top most shelf. Spell Creation: The Magical Inventor's Handbook. He needed it. Had to have it. He was going to prove to everyone he belonged here. He was going to earn his place. He'd show his aunt he wasn't worthless. He knew his parents had been, he was told all the time. Well, he would show his family that magic was good. That magic could do great things. He would do great things. He would be more than they expected. He could this. Maybe then, maybe they'd finally... He let his thoughts trail off, swallowing hard.
Determinedly Harry began climbing up the shelves. He ignored the books falling beneath him and just how high he was. Reaching the top Harry's hand shot out and grabbed the book. "Gotcha!" He exclaimed just in time to realize he'd let go of the bookcase. With a squeak Harry descended far quicker than he'd ascended. Just before Harry was fairly certain he'd fall and crack his skull open a pair of arms came out of nowhere to surround the small wizard and prevent injury. His breaths left his chest violently. "That was so exciting!" Harry shouted, blood pumping with adrenaline.
"Think he may have bumped his head?" Inquired a voice. Harry tilted his head up to see an upside down face with blue-green eyes and freckles.
"Sounds like it doesn't it?" Said a voice to his left. Harry glanced and stared. It was the exact same face only this time right side up. Confused Harry's emerald orbs bounced back and forth at the mirror images. Same red hair, same eyes, same freckles.
"Perhaps I did hit my head." Harry said finally.
Chapter 5: Didn't see that coming, did you?
"You're alright aren't you?"
He was set on his feet by a pair of concerned and guilty looking twins. They stood before him side by side, identical from head to toe. Same hair cut, same clothing style and colour, same facial expressions. It was uncanny. The only other ginger twins Harry knew of were girls. Fictional characters in a book. Of course, everything else he thought was fictional was quickly turning out to be not quite as make believe as he'd initially presumed.
Curious Harry blurted. "I don't suppose you're foxes as well?" As the twins in the book were fox demons.
They blinked in unison. "We aren't animagus." They said in unison, crossing their arms in unison. That was a lot of unison. The amount they were attuned to one another was incredible. Did they practice that? It must have taken a lot of time if they did. Harry pondered a polite way to ask. The twin to his left gave him a small grin and said, "Being Animagi at this age is highly unlikely."
"Highly unlikely and frowned upon." Continued the other without missing a beat.
"Though if we were," said the first. "to illegally attempt to become non-registered Animagi I imagine we would have started when we first came upon information to do so. Which may have been in our first year-"
"And we may or may not have progressed rather well since." Finished the second.
Harry bounced on his feet. They had animal demons here! Animagi, that's what they called them. And they had all but admitted they were at least learning how to produce their forms. How convenient. He would love to learn if he had a form as well and how to go about transforming. Could anyone be an Animagi? Did you have to be born with the ability? How long did it take? Why did you have to register? What happened if you didn't? Were many wizards Animagi or only some? Were they considered human? Could that man with the sharp teeth who gave him the map be an Animagi of some kind? "Fantastic! Could you give me a look of your notes sometime? Or at least recommend me to some suitable material? How did you learn about it? Is it a genetic ability? Why don't you register-"
The twins grinned widely. "Seeing as we haven't admitted to anything we don't see any harm in insinuating we might allow you to peruse our possibly fictional notes at a future point in time."
"Is the speaking at the same time with exactly the same words a magical twin thing or are you unique? Did you acquire the skill on your own or was it perhaps developed as you grew? Can it be imitated? Can I learn to do something similar? Did you have to practice? Can you do the same even if you aren't together yet are asked the same question? What if you don't agree on the answer-" The twin to his right put a hand over Harry's mouth, laughing.
Harry could see just behind them the blonde family from earlier entering the shop. Their clothing very fine. It made two thoughts appear in his head. The first; the twins he was conversing with had either very poor taste in clothing or little care for their appearance. Or they were otherwise unable to procure better clothing. They wore clothing long used and rather thread bare. The second thing he thought of was his meeting with the goblins the next day as well as his robes mentioned on the school supply list. He would need to find a place that did the finer looking clothes. Not because he was vain but because he'd come to the conclusion he had a far higher station in the magical world than the muggle world. While his current attire would blend him in well for the side alleys, so would a nicely tailored black tunic. Whats more he could wear that in all of the alleys. Far more efficient.
Oh magical tailors there was a thought. Could he hide pockets all over to carry his things? Could he make them bigger on the inside, like the bookshop? Or have secrets compartments and pockets sewn in? Ones only he could open, like his map? Maybe he would find that man again sometime and ask him. He seemed the clever sort. And dangerous but really that was par for the course in Harry's magical experience of one day. After all the Goblins were dangerous and they were very clever.
It also gave him an idea of how he could pay them back for not letting him fall to his death. He really was grateful. Imagine dying after only just entering the magical world! He'd never find out what else was beyond the wall. O under the bank. Or how those spiders worked. How wards were made or... Harry shuddered. It was too horrible to even think about.
"Got ourselves a Ravenclaw I think Gred." Said the twin with his hand covering Harry's mouth.
Twin number looked at Harry. "With hints of snake I think Forge. Just a little too clever." He mused.
"A dangerous combination indeed." Said twin number one wisely. He may or may not be named Forge.
Harry had absolutely no idea what they were talking about and not being able to ask was driving him insane. He thought he might explode if they didn't let him go soon. At home he was never allowed to ask questions. Harry intended to milk this situation for all it was worth and learn as much as he could while he was able. However in order to do that...The younger boy burst into tears.
A fair skinned woman in a rather nice dress turned to look at them. Her gray eyes narrowed. "Just what are you doing to that poor child?" She demanded, handing a large package to a tall man he assumed was either her husband or brother. Shoving it at his face really. Then she was walking up to them. "Unhand him at once."
The twins released him. "We didn't mean to frighten you." Said one of them uncertainly.
The woman knelt before Harry. She snapped her gloved hands and a monogrammed handkerchief was placed in it. She proceed to wipe Harry's face, throwing glares at the twins every so often. All the years of seeing Dudley do this very act and get whatever he wanted was finally paying off. It wasn't so hard to do and seemed to work. The woman did not seem to notice Harry's face was not red, his breathing not uneven. All things Harry often noticed when Dudley did this very thing to Aunt Petunia. In the rare moments she attempted to tell the boy no.
Those moments didn't happen often.
This close Harry could see she wasn't blonde as he'd first assumed, rather her hair was light on the top half and darker underneath. It was very odd. Harry liked it. After another minute of checking him over and glaring at the twins she leaned back on her heels and gave him a reassuring smile. "Now, what was all of that about?"
Harry gave her his shyest smile. "It's my fault really. I had so many questions. I suppose I annoyed them. They did just save my life so I should be grateful, shouldn't I? I'm just so curious, there's just so much I want to know. Need to know. How else will I learn if I don't ask?"
"Saved your life?" She repeated, fine brows raising.
He nodded. "Oh yes they were very noble. I climbed up to that shelf there," Harry twisted to point, "to get this book here," He raised it up for her to see. Behind the woman the tall, long haired man with her mouthed the title incredulously. Harry didn't notice. "And as I retrieved it I lost my hold and fell."
She made a startled noise in the back of her throat. "You fell from way up there?"
"Oh yes. It was absolutely terrifying." He reassured her, unconsciously mimicking his goblin guard's Cheshire grin. "Then, right before I was certain I was doomed, these two here came from no where and caught me." He finished dramatically.
The woman gave a stick a little twirl in his direction. Her wand he thought. A red light of some sort glowed in front of him. She then flickered her wand again to get rid of it. As she did it her gray eyes locked on the twins. "And after you saved him you decided to what exactly? He said something about asking questions. Why did I see him crying in your arms with your hand over his mouth? He wasn't hurt by the fall, his read out states no injuries in the last ten minutes."
The twins shifted on their feet. "We may have wanted to shut him up."
"Just for a bit." Said one.
"He was asking too fast for us to answer." Said the other.
She didn't seem wholly convinced. "The next time a small child asks you questions after nearly dying, you answer them." She ordered. Harry was pleased with himself until he heard her next question, addressed to him. "Where are your parents?"
Out of other options Harry promptly burst into tears again to but himself time. What to say? Hagrid had implied back in the shack on the rocks that his parents did not die in a car crash as his relatives had always led him to believe. He knew they were both magical. Surely if he mentioned how thrilled he was to be there and how willing he was to learn they'd give him some help? He might even be able to figure out how he could get back to Gringotts tomorrow. He doubted he would be able to convince Aunt Petunia to bring him back. Honestly he was half afraid they would throw him back into his cupboard as soon as they saw him and never let him out again. Coming back to himself he realized that the woman's arms were wrapped around him in a hug. Surprised Harry immediately stiffened.
She let him go promptly. "Are you alright?" She asked for the second time that day.
"It's just," Harry whispered hoarsely, trying his best to imitate Uncle Vernon when he was sick and wanted Petunia to bring him his drink to the big chair in the living room rather than the kitchen table. "...it's all been so much to take in. In a single day I've lost the world I once knew and gained an entire universe to take its place. I must ask as many questions as I can while I can today, because, you see, the people I live with I doubt will let me come back tomorrow. I am supposed to have a meeting at Gringotts and I just know they won't bring me back. A giant came and knocked our door down to give me my letter and they only let him take me away because he bent Uncle Vernon's shotgun before he could shoot him." Here he paused to take in the reactions of his audience. The twins were as pale as the blondes who had varying degrees of surprise and indignation flickering briefly on their faces. The real test came next. Whether they would care for him as a fellow member of the magical community. "My parents were a witch and a wizard but they died and I've had to live with these horrid muggles you see."
"Did you say you were forced to live with muggles?" Came a softer voice.
Harry turned around to see a boy about his age with the lightest blonde hair he'd ever seen and the palest skin as well.
"Father are you hearing this?" The child demanded.
Harry snapped back around to see the woman who had hugged him standing back up beside the tall man with long hair. Harry ran his fingers through his own hair, hoping he hadn't overdone it. His bangs stuck back for a moment and then flopped back across his eyes. Harry didn't bother to sigh. He'd long since given up his hair ever doing anything other than exactly what it wanted. The man's silver eyes narrowed for a moment at the action, then softened. He leaned down just a bit to get a better look at Harry and spoke for the first time, his voice a deeper more polished version of the boys. "Yes Draco." He said, glancing at the boy before looking back at Harry.
The woman gave Harry a small smile, leaning down and intertwining her arm with her husbands. The package from earlier no where to be seen. "Your relatives aren't here with you then. You're alone. Have you finished your school shopping?"
"No ma'am. I may have gotten a little side tracked when I found this store." He gestured to the table with his piles of books on it.
The woman covered her mouth with her hand and gave a cough that was suspiciously laugh-like. "I see. Why don't we shrink those for you so you may carry them and invite you along with us to finish? We can show you everywhere you need to go and tell you more of that information you mentioned being so curious about earlier." She glanced at the twins. "Your friends are of course invited. In fact, heroes ought to rewarded, don't you think?'
"Yes." Said Harry, bouncing on his feet. He was pleased.
"Have you picked up your robes yet?" She asked.
She clasped her hands together cheerfully. "Excellent. Come along with us we'll make sure you get the right sort. You two," she pointed at the twins, "will receive a new clothing set from us as reward. No, I won't hear any arguments. I insist." She eyed them with gray eyes glittering.
The twins gulped. Expressions somewhere between awe, hopeful and terrified.
Harry wondered why.
Chapter 6: Want to see my Fort?
They began tidying his books into piles, shrinking them one by one.
The man picked up a few and glanced over the titles and subjects. "You have a lot of above level books here. Experimental Runes, Inadvisable Illusionary Experimentation, Spell Creation." He raised a brow, "Isn't this a little much for a first year?"
Harry shrugged. "Maybe. If everyone waited until the world agreed they were ready to do the things they wanted to try the human race would have died off a long time ago. If I am ever going to understand magick fully, well, I may as well start off with something that explains how the spells are made and how they function don't you think? From what I've seen of the school books they give you a word to say -an incantation- and you spend your time practicing pronunciation and wand movement. Now, from the other books here it appears the words are, for the most part, unnecessary and the perfection of the wand movement is less needed as you go along. I can only assume this has something to do with gaining a better understanding of how to control your magic and get it to do what you want. Why not understand some of that now? Why not experiment now?"
"-There's so much I want to know! I don't just want to memorize books and spit out facts and do well on tests. I want to really understand how things work and why they work and how I can alter them. I don't want use magic, I want to be one with it. I want it to encompass every cell in my body. I am a child of magick. Both of my parents were once a part of this world. I can't help but want to do everything I can to be a part of this world I should have grown up in. I am a stranger here and yet this is my world, these are my people, this is where I belong. To do anything less seems an insult to my blood, the very magic in my veins." Harry finished, cheeks flush, eyes shining. That was a lot to say all in one sitting.
His excitement must have been contagious. The twins were each looking at their own wands as if they'd never seen them before. While his companions stood in silence contemplating their place in the world Harry skipped up to the counter and stacked the mini books there for the clerk to ring up. To his disappointment this clerk did not have pointed teeth or glinting amber eyes. Well, can't always have everything Harry he chastised himself. The clerk rang up the total and then gave Harry a rather condescending facial expression.
"Don't suppose you've got three hundred galleons stashed away somewhere eh lad?"
Harry gave him a beaming smile. "Just a tic!" He reached into his pocket and pulled out the special bag given to him by Griphook. Without further ado he rocked onto the tips of his toes and dumped it over. Galleon after galleon fell from the small back with a metallic thud against the counter followed by clinks as it hit other galleons. "Say when." Instructed Harry. "I'm not altogether certain I can eyeball that much at this point."
"Stop! Stop!" Said the clerk, frazzled. Galleons were covering the counter and falling off the ends and the other customers in line were shooting him horrid glares. As one of them was Lord Malfoy the clerk wasn't in a hurry to be on the end of anyone's wand.
Books bought and paid for and stuffed carefully into his pocket Harry turned back to his friends. "Ready?" They followed along behind him as he bounded out the door, the lot of them amused and bewildered.
After a couple of minutes of walking the twins burst out, "Where did you get that many galleons?"
Should he not be walking around with that much? Well he was given it by the goblins and as they had all of the money he was certain they knew best how to handle it. Perhaps they had never seen all of that much at once before. Well, he'd have to bring them to his treasure sometime and show it off. It was spectacularly shiny. "Oh from my vault. The trust vault anyway. There were heaps of them. Couldn't see the floor. Like a dragon's treasure horde."
"What can you possibly do with all of that gold?" The twins teased. "Buy a library?"
Gred grinned. "Buy all of the libraries?"
"Buy all of the books to fill the libraries?" Suggested Forge.
"Build a fort." Said Harry. Really, a much better use of his time considering he had other vaults with money. He had plans for that fort. He would finish the structure, add in a moat, an armory, maybe a tower...
Draco's eyes widened. "You've got a fort made out of galleons?" He seemed rather jealous.
Harry sympathized. A fort made from gold coins in a treasure vault was something everyone ought to strive for. Most especially if they were dragons. "Well," said Harry, "Only partially made. We've got a solid building plan though. Ralaph promised he'll help me finish the next time I go and that's tomorrow. You can come with me if you like." Maybe they could but their trust vaults together and make an even bigger fort. Did Gringotts have vaults that big? He'd ask his goblin guard tomorrow morning. He would know. He was clever.
"I thought you only just came to the wizarding world today?" Asked the twins.
"And who is Ralaph? I though you were here alone." Pointed out Draco. He was the littlest of the blonds.
"I did just come into the wizarding world. Funny huh? Turns out I'm totally loaded. My parents were wealthy. Ralaph is one of my new friends, I met him earlier today. A dwarf actually. He's pretty good at building forts." And not the best at solving riddles he added silently smothering a giggle. It wasn't Ralaph's fault really, Harry did in fact cheat. It wasn't as if the dwarf knew there was an entire book series out there detailing that information.
"Where the Hell did you meet a dwarf?" Demanded Draco. His mother smacked the back of his head.
Harry bounced up and down, clapping his hands together, "I had an adventure! First I needed to get into my vault but Hagrid couldn't find his key so I had to do this magic power thing only I think they ended up taking it to research instead of open my vaults because I ended up slicing my hand open and giving a blood sacrifice instead. I opened a wall and was almost attacked by the cutest mechanical arachnids I've ever seen, went for a ride on a roller-coaster under the earth, built a fort out of gold- Oh! I'm rambling aren't I? I met Ralaph during my journey into the goblin nation. Not far in, we had to come back before the giant had a heart attack. I do wish I'd gotten one of those mechanical spiders though, they were fascinating. I don't suppose any of you have ever seen one? No? Pity. They were supremely creepy. The next time I go down there I'm bringing a camera so I can at least have pictures if Ralaph won't let me keep them. I've told him I want to take them apart and dig around at their little mechanical insides. That's all, not keep one as a pet. He just doesn't understand me." He sighed.
Draco looked at the twins and mouthed 'GIANT?'
"Are you trying to tell me you were invited into the goblin nation on your first day in the wizarding world?" Asked the blonde man. Honestly Harry thought that was the least interesting bit of his day so far.
He didn't need to answer the question. The crowd which gathered and followed after them was whispering loudly to one another. Pointing at him directly.
"That's the one from the bank this morning."
"I heard his magic pulled on the wards."
Embarrassed Harry ducked his head. "I didn't mean to yank on their wards." He mumbled.
The tall blonde man looked like he couldn't decide if he wanted to devour Harry or lock him up somewhere. He was smiling though so Harry assumed this was a good thing. When he noticed Harry watching him from under his bangs he cleared his throat and snapped his fingers. A sturdy cane with a snake for a handle came into being with a pop. The man tapped it against the ground. The crowd quieted. "I think that is more than enough gawking like idiots in public, don't you?" He intoned, voice clear and polite while being utterly insulting.
The woman leaned toward the boys while her husband dealt with the crowd. "I don't suppose any of you boys know the quickest way to-?"
"Oh I can help." Said Harry, perking up. This sort of attention was alright. He could deal with this. Harry pulled out his map and opened it up. "Whats the name?"
"Let's see." He put his finger to the page and pulled it across gently to make the image zoom out as the man with the sharp teeth had instructed. "There. If we duck through this little alley here and the go around that ap...apothe...that place there we should be at our destination in no time."
She raised a brow at his map. She didn't ask about though. Instead she turned to the other boys and gave a nod. "Alright then. Lets go shall we?"
The twins stared at Harry for the entire journey sending him knowing looks the boy did not understand. They glanced at the map in his hands, to him, then back. Whispering with each other, nodding their heads and glancing at him again. When they were back in the main alley, looking for the next side alley down, they finally spoke to him. "Hey," they started, then paused. "Wait, what's your name kid?"
It was surprising it took this long. "Harry."
"Right. Harry. So, where did you say you got that map?"
He turned to point and froze. Harry could have sworn the shoppe was right there. He narrowed his eyes and thought he could sort of see a sign come in and out of focus. As if it were there but hidden. How curious. Harry took a couple steps toward it and suddenly he could see it perfectly.
"Where are you going?"
Harry looked up to see the twins beside him.
"I was just going to look at a shop-"
"-well you're headed toward a wall at the moment." Said one twin, grinning.
"Not all walls can be walked through like the platform." Added the second, whom Harry thought was Gred because his shirt had an F on it. He couldn't think why though. It wasn't as if they forgot their own names. Did they?
He looked between them and the shop, which he now saw clearly, he could even make out the clerk through the window, back to them. They couldn't see it. Odd. Why ever not? The store can't get much business that way if no one can ever find it. It seemed nice enough though, everything was clean and well kept. It had to exist. It had to receive enough clients to stay in business and stay looking neat and tidy. He had the map still and everyone could see it. He remembered the clerk vividly. Was there a trick to it? But he didn't say a password or anything. The clerk did say to come back and visit sometime. Maybe just a quick look to ask why...
"Oh no you don't." Said the twins. They each grabbed him about an arm, picked him up and started back the way they came. "We'll never get your school list finished this way."
Chapter 7: Could I Offer a Suggestion?
"Innovation is deviance
Which means that the rebellious personality is a natural resource for practical creativity
As an innovator, you need to reject the old to establish a new, better status quo
And one of the most powerful sources of newness
Is the rebel or maverick mind."
"That is a lot of fabric."
Harry had never before had the pleasure of entering any sort of clothing store. Partly because his relatives considered Dudley's hand-me-downs more than suitable. Partly because they wanted to emphasize their distaste for Harry. A freak he was of course unworthy of new clothing. In a world of other freaks, a bag of never ending gold pieces and an opportunity laid at his feet, well. Harry was less than enthusiastic to continue the status quo.
This was, essentially, the first time he'd ever been rebellious. Not counting sneaking out to the library or stealing books his cousin never read. Or altering his and Dudley's report cards to make it appear the oaf was doing better than Harry. He considered that deceit, thievery, and forgery. Not rebellion.
It was all part of his tragic childhood back-story. A prerequisite for every proper hero, antihero and even villain. Harry felt zero remorse. Confident in his standing as either a protagonist or antagonist in his adventure.
He of course aimed to be the hero. The hero was the main character and who didn't want to be the main character of an adventure? All of that aside, what was a proper adventurer, a hero without his adventuring attire? Knights, Paladin, Warriormages, and Hunters. They all had a way of dressing announcing what they were to the world and that helped them in their journeys. A knight without his armor or trusty steed? A hunter without his bow or knife? Preposterous. Surely in such a world where golden coins, dwarves and secrets walls were possible one ought to be able to dress according to their station? If not he'd have to make them see it his way. One should boldly announce their adventuring or knightly tendencies! Subtly maybe, if needed, but they should be there for those who knew what to look for.
Besides he'd be lying if he said he hadn't dreamed of his ideal adventurers garb since he was five.
That settled Harry intended to fully embrace this first act of rebellion. After he asked a few questions. "What does it do?" Currently he was stood upon a stool dressed in a rather plain black robe. He was hopeful it had a compartment of hidden throwing daggers dripping in poison. Maybe some magic dust in a handy pouch. Maps to hidden treasure. The one ring to rule them all. Something.
The saleswoman's brows came closer together. "Do? It's a uniform. It designates you as a Hogwarts student."
Harry felt the corners of his mouth pulling downward. That just wouldn't do. This was a uniform showing the world he was a magician. An ugly, shapeless robe with no effects didn't really do that position justice. In his opinion at least. "So are these the only styles available? Can you request alternative styles or unique one-of-a-kind styles? Can you enchant the fabric?" Harry asked. He glanced over the large rolls of fabric lining from floor to ceiling.
He particularly wanted pockets that were like his bag, larger on the inside. Maybe even hidden ones or ones only he could access. Able to fit his books, shrinking as they went in and enlarging coming out, would be convenient. Otherwise he'd be getting a lot of exercise running back to his room to get them. Or he might not leave his room, if that were the case. Less time running around meant more time reading after all.
"If you can I'd like shoes that get me places faster, a book-bag of holding-"
"Enchant the fabric? Whatever for?" Asked the salesperson. Sales clerk. Sales witch?
"Well yeah, you know? To sorta enhance the skills or the...er...attributes of the wearer or look as if they do." All three clerks were staring at him, the first sales witch thinly veiled disapproval.. As if the very thought of adding something to her clothing was offensive. "No one else ever considered that? Seriously?"
A magical world without magically enhanced clothing. That...that was absurd. He needed to remedy this. Harry dug out his coin bag.
"What about stuff like this? It's obviously pretty small but it's been spelled to have a bigger inside than its outside. Right? Why not apply the same kind of idea to our clothing and jewelery? Like...boots or shoes that don't make footsteps or are magically buoyant enough to allow the wearer to walk on water? Or ones that can stick to the surface at command allowing you to I don't know walk up a wall or over a fence like Spider-man? Ones that make you jump higher? Run faster? More graceful? Coats and jackets that deflect water so you won't get wet in the rain or from snow. That keep you warmer or cooler depending on the weather?"
Everyone turned to look at everyone else.
"Why hasn't anyone thought of that?" Asked Lady Malfoy.
The first sales witch's lips thinned. "I do not think our customers will be interested in such an...unorthodox idea. Perhaps just the normal clothing options?"
It was silent for a moment and then-
"Any other ideas?" Asked a younger sales witch. Standing beside her were two similar looking witches maybe about Harry's age. They appeared to be twins. Were twins a thing with magical people? He thought they might be her younger sisters or cousins. The two witches seemed eager as well, smiling at him hopefully.
Harry started to bounce. "Actually I've got a lot if you really want to hear them. You could-"
"Wait just a moment." Intervened Lord Malfoy. "I'd like to speak on behalf of the young lad, whom my family is proudly sponsoring." He paused to allow the other patrons in the store to murmur their approval of his generosity. Harry just wondered what being sponsored meant and why he was suddenly a good candidate for it. "I feel I ought to make it plain. Unless the young wizard wishes to sell you his idea, all suggestions are his property. They can not be used without going through the proper channels. We would't want anyone accusing anyone of profiting from a child without giving that child his do, would we?" The blond man said in a smooth, almost bored tone. It made it clear that no, no one wanted that to happen and if they did he would be glad to oblige.
The clerk's face started to fall. Harry stumbled toward her on the hem of his ugly robe, trying to comfort her. "Why don't we come to some sort of an arrangement? I would very much like such apparel to use, so, why don't we create a...uh...a line that's just for me-" He glanced at the twins. "er...and whomever I favour as an exclusive of sorts. In exchange I will allow you to use some of my ideas. I get profits and you make it clear the clothing is from an...independent designer." Harry hoped that made any kind of sense.
Really he'd just garbled together various phrases he knew from his aunt. For someone so obsessed with fashion you'd think she might have tried to implement some of the things she'd learned. Wearing Dudley's hand-me-downs Harry supposed he couldn't say much. It hadn't been his decision though so figured he could at least say a little, if only in his own head.
"Agreed." Said the young clerk. A glance at the map told him her name which he decided to use rather than continue calling her the Young Clerk in his head. He didn't want to accidentally call her that aloud.
"Where should we start Miss Priyanka Pat-"
"Er, Priya. I prefer Priya." She corrected, tugging on a long strand of black hair. Her possibly related friends laughed at her.
It was easier to spell anyway and he himself preferred Harry to Freak so who was he to judge? Half an hour later Harry sat on a chair with his feet dangling off the end. A seamstress, two clerks, several patrons and his new friends were seated around him, as if he were a king holding court. A king.
Harry liked that. One step at a time though.
"...enchanted clothing could be done with a generic sort of formula for use by most anybody. Things that will work with anyone. Like something to make it so your backpack never gets heavy or your shoes are silenced. But I think that you could do so much more with personalized artifacts. Objects that are keyed to work only for certain people or only one person entirely. My family vaults are accessed by giving a sacrifice measured through family magicks. This is usually done, or so I was told by the goblins, through a sample of magic siphoned from your core. Which I did. However I ended up doing a blood sacrifice instead. The point is you can totally programme the object to be keyed to work for an individual in ways the generic version could never do. It could be designed to enhance your traits or talents, more specifically those valued by your house, family or bloodline. And because it is keyed into your blood and your family magicks no other house, family or bloodline will be able to...re...replicate your exact formula or results. No one will know. They'll only see that your people always seem to be a bit more clever, more graceful, quicker learners, wittier or even better looking than others."
His audience watched and listened in rapt attention. He couldn't help but think, privately, that this was very cool. No one ever listened when he talked. When he left this place he would go back to plain Harry. The Freak under the stairs. Invisible. Silent. But here...he belonged here. He could feel it. And what's more, they wanted him here too. They listened. They saw him. Harry swallowed. "...right. And what about deflecting lower level hexes and jinxes? We could..."
Later they headed out of the shop, new, exclusive, alternative school uniforms in hand. With Lady Malfoy's help Harry was able to design what would probably go down in Hogwarts history as the best uniform ever. All of it black but for a white button up with sleeves rolled up above the elbow. It came with a long vest and a blank emblem over the heart where their school house logo would go after sorting. Slacks that fit into boots. Silenced of course with charms for balance and slight levitation to prevent slipping or falling. He'd heard the stair cases in the school moved. A pin with your family crest or symbol went on the collar of the shirt. He managed to convince them in the end to add thin bracers, a long sort of wrist band covering wrist to just below the elbow, and some fingerless gloves as well. The bracers were tougher than they looked to deflect physical attacks as well put up a strong shield. The gloves could deflect minor hexes and jinxes. It was perfect.
Now if only he could find some awesome daggers or swords to go with it.
"Goodbye Harry." Called Priya.
Her younger sisters waved from beside her. "Bye Harry," They echoed.
Harry waved back enthusiastically. Who knew he would be so good at this making friends thing? Ones he'd see at magic school no less.
The ginger twins walked beside Harry. Draco up front and talking to his mother with lots of animated hand movements. The twins were holding their bags with their uniforms and everyday clothing reverently. They turned to Harry, giving him a small smile. "Befriending dwarves. Visits to other nations. Nearly falling and killing yourself from a bookshelf and becoming an entrepreneur. That's a lot for one day."
Harry looked up from his supply list with a sharp Cheshire grin. "The day's not over yet lads."
His thumb lay beside the next item on the list.
Chapter 8: Where does one get a dragon heart?
The shop wasn't impressive from the outside.
Neither was the Leaky Cauldron but it held the secret entrance to the secret wizarding world so Harry wasn't concerned. Gringotts was just a bank unless you knew the entrance to the Goblin Nation lay beneath it. As far as he could tell the more unassuming something seemed the greater the secret it held. If that were the case than this wand shop was promising indeed. Just inside the door a deep silence pressed down saturated with magic. It had to be magic. This feeling. It swept over Harry, every inch, soft and cottony and alive. Did the collection of boxes in the many shelves, which Harry assumed contained the magical rods, add to the magic within the building in a way magic beings themselves did not or was there more to it? About then Harry noticed ab old wizard who might have appeared out of nowhere. Disappointed he'd missed such a neat trick he listened to the conversation taking place, pushing aside the voice inside of him asking what he was doing here.
He belonged here. He was a wizard.
"...pleased to see you. I hope you are not dissatisfied with your wand. Dragon heartstring-"
Harry popped up, unable to control himself. "Dragon heartstring? Like an artery? So there really are dragons then. Does the sort of dragon matter? If it's male or female? Young or old? I imagine different dragon species would have different traits and thus would be reflected in their DNA, right? Am I right? And would their heartstrings be different sizes effecting the length of the wand containing them? Or its flexibility?" The shop's thickening silence had seemingly no effect on Harry who was close to exploding. He was in a magic wand shop! Magic. Wand. He was getting a wand. How did they work? His mind whirled quickly, mouth open and question pouring out almost without conscious thought on his part.
Ollivander's odd eyes fixed on Harry. "Yes Mr P-"
"Is their any specific trait of dragon heartstring that indicates why they're used in wands? I imagine it's not just because having a piece of dragon you get to carry around is really cool."
The old wizard's lips curved into smile. "Dragon heartstring wands form very close bonds with their wielders. Their owners will never feel comfortable using other wands even if they can cast with them well, because most wands do bond so fiercely. Additionally they can change their allegiance. While the wand chooses the wizard these wands take that up a notch or two, as they wish to only be wielded by those they deem truly worthy. If you are bested in a duel your wand may change its allegiance to the one who defeated you. This is true to an extent of all wands but most especially the dragon heartstring. Your friend Mr Malfoy received a dragon heartstring only this morning."
Harry turned to Draco, patting his back. "Well done!"
The little blonde was both confused and proud at this response.
"And the wand's wood effects? It's length..." This went on for a while. During this time Ollivander decided to get two birds with one stone as they say by having the excited lad try out wands as he asked his questions. To the adult's amazement Ollivander never lost his patience with the constant barrage of questions. In fact he seemed quite pleased. They had an entire conversation discussing the various woods and cores used in wandcrafting, the differences in Britain versus other parts of world, what cores and woods complimented each other best and what was best for which sort of magic. Harry was rather thorough in his questioning wanting to know if the time of day or year had any effect on it as well as the age of the wood or core.
"And what of alternative foci?" Asked Harry, balancing on a stack of rejected wand boxes.
Ollivander spoke around his own stack of wand boxes, these ones he was holding and transporting to the quickly overfilling counter. "Using something other than or in addition to wands do you mean?"
The old wizard put down his stack, opened a box and held out a wand. "Explain. Give that a wave."
Harry waved his wand about dutifully. It was snatched away. "While I understand that wands are the primary foci used I can't help but wonder if anyone's thought of experimenting with other foci? They could be rings, staves, staffs, a fan, a quill, a dagger, playing cards. Things that wouldn't be altogether surprising to find on another person. Something you could be seen with all of-"
Mrs Malfoy tilted her head. "I'm not sure that's possible."
"Try this one."
"-the time so people stop even noticing it. Should you lose your wand -has anyone ever tried Mrs Malfoy?- in a fight wouldn't it be helpful to have an alternative focus you can wield, one your enemy isn't expecting? particularly one, I think, with other functions? A dagger for-"
"No not that one. Try this."
"Not that I know of." She admitted.
"-instance could appear strictly ornamental however -then how do you know unless someone tries?- without your wand and in close combat it can be a deterrent through intimidation, it can be used for physical combat to dispatch or otherwise render harmless your opponent. Not needing a wand at all could be quite an intimidating reputation to have don't you think? Or how about..." Harry's enthusiasm was hard to resist and soon the others were adding their own questions in now and then.
Unknown to the other occupants of the room Harry was having an inner panic attack he was struggling to keep to himself. None of the wands were working for him. Not one. The magical rods only worked in conjunction with a magical reservoir contained within the wielder. Thus a muggle couldn't use a wand but another an elf or a centaur or something similar could as they had more innate magic within them. Muggles only had enough to have the spark of life. He'd read the information in one of his magical experimenting books. While interesting at the time because it meant Dudley wouldn't be able to use Harry's wand against him, that information was now terrifying the boy. What if someone made a mistake? What if he was one of those squibs? What if he didn't really belong here? Harry's heart jolted in his chest.
Breathe Harry. Breathe.
Finally came a thin, delicate looking wand. Ollivander examined it with a considering eye then held it out to Harry gently. Harry's questioning quieted. His green eyes flickered between Ollivander and the wand he was offering him. None of the other wands had been well suited to him. Piles of wand boxes towered on either side of the counter. He reached out his small hand and grasped the handle. That was all it took. None of the brightly coloured sparks the adults were expecting. Instead it grew even quieter, the boy and his wand glowing softly. The magic of their bonding almost visible in the sign of wind kicking up around them, messing up the boy's already messy hair. As the magic settled the glow brightened for just a moment and then faded.
It took his twins to ask what the adults were thinking. "What was that?"
Draco stepped closer to Harry and peered at the wand in his hand. The handle hardly wider than the tip. Small. Almost insignificant really. "It looks fragile." He commented. "Like you could break it easily."
"The body of the wand," murmured Ollivander drawing the room's attention to himself, "is from Ivy. The handle from Reed. Seven inches. Augery feather core. Swishy. For a wizard who is perhaps misunderstood. For you see Young Malfoy," His pale eyes moved to Draco for a moment, "appearances can be deceiving."
The old wizard reached out and brushed back Harry's hair. "Rather like it's owner I would imagine."
"I'm a big fan of imagination." Whispered Harry.
They exited the shop some time later. Harry companions thinking over the things they were learning about their new friend. Harry himself bubbling over with energy. Two hours talking nonstop and standing you'd think the tiny eleven year old would be exhausted. Not even close. He was magic! He really, really did belong here. He was a wizard. This was a magical world and he was a wizard and there were dragons and dwarves and it wasn't a dream. Harry had a magical wand. Now if only it was a staff like Gandalf or bracelet with different boosts on each bead that could be activated like Eridanous received from the Luck Gambler. A pair of daggers? That would be cool just ot have. Oh and he could practice neat tricks with them-
"We can't believe you received an offer of apprenticeship from Ollivander!" Burst out one of his twins. Harry jumped.
"You can't?" he asked when he could breathe again.
The other twin nodded. "That's a big deal Harry. His entire family is known for wandmaking. His are some of the best in the world. People have been after his secrets for ages and now he's just handing them over."
Harry laughed. "Not quite. I have to do independent research projects on my ideas for him, create prototypes to bring him and experiment with, and keep up my grades. My actual apprenticeship can't start until I'm at least thirteen, it's usually fifteen, and then he has to agree and be pleased with the progress I've made. He may decide I'm not a good fit."
Draco snorted on his other side. "Please. You'd just convince him otherwise."
"You think so?" Asked Harry.
"See this here? That symbol in the wood just by the handle? You've got copper in your wand it encourages charisma and creativity." Explained the youngest Malfoy. "We've already seen both of those characteristics from you several times today."
"Does it? What about other metals? Where did you learn that?"
Draco raised his chin in a mocking superior way, "My godfather is a potions master. The material of your cauldron, stirrer and even that you're wearing can have an effect on the potions you're trying to make. I've been learning potions from him since I was seven."
"Potions...that's related to Alchemy right?" Harry asked.
"Do you mind if I pick at your brain a bit? I've done a lot of cooking and I'm pretty good at it. When I was six I started mixing up pretend recipes in the garden. Once one of them made all of the daises turn blue. That's the week I turned my teacher's wig blue. I think I was inspired by the daises." Harry reminisced.
Harry stopped walking when he realized he was walking alone. He turned around. His companions were staring at him. Again.
"What? What did I do?"
Draco pointed at him opened his mouth, closed it and sighed. "You know what? Don't worry about it." The twins snickered. Harry didn't know why. "I'll lend you some of my books Harry."
Lord Malfoy took the pause to clear his throat and get the young wizards' attention, eyes on the twins. "I understand your family may not be welcoming of our show of admiration and so to prevent any unsavory confrontations how about a compromise? You keep this ordeal to yourselves and when you are on the Hogwarts express you can change over entirely. While your other siblings will see it you will not be in the same room as your parents until the holidays. That should give you enough time to come up with a suitable explanation. I've heard you're proficient at hiding and covering things up, much to your father's distress."
The twins grinned atone another. "You might say that. Or you might not. Afraid we can't confirm these allegations."
"Quite." Lord Malfoy agreed. Harry rather thought the man approved of their non-answer.
A trip to a nearby shop filled with dead or pieces of dead things was short. Harry was told these were potions ingredients. He was more interested in whether they could be used in wandcrafting or or the creation of other foci, how they figured out the ingredients various uses and who it was they sent to go after the ingredients. That sounded like a properly adventures magical profession. More importantly, he wanted the chance to experiment with them. Eyes of newt, basilisk scales, flubberworms... What sort of worm was a flubberworm anyway? How did none of the non magical people ever discover them? Were they blind or what-
"Is that a sword?" Harry turned and darted across the street. There lay a shop with a dagger on the sign and a sword in the display window. Two arms came out of now where, picked him up and start walking him back. "No. Wait. I just wanna see." Harry whined.
"Sorry Harry..." Said one of his twins. Fred he thought.
George grinned at him from the other side. "...but we don't want you anywhere near something sharp..."
"...you almost died in a bookstore." They finished together.
"That was one time!"
Chapter 9: What do you mean there are rules?
"I will expand this universe
I will not stay on or within the lines."
(If this chapter seems repetitive go back to the prior chapter. I accidentally double posted. The one before this chapter now contains the wand shop.)
"Lord Malfoy, sir, I'm afraid I don't actually understand what a sponsorship...is."
They sat around a circular, wire framed table decorated with an embroidered tablecloth. Harry was pretty certain it cost more than Uncle Vernon made in a month. For whatever reason the Malfoys considered not eating for more than ten hours alarming. It seemed to him that wizards took nutrition seriously.
In a large platter on the table lay sandwiches. In a smaller platter lay sliced cucumber with salt, cubes of cheese and some fruit on short sticks. Before each of the was a small plate. Harry discovered, after waiting to observe the Malfoy's, that you took a little food at a time. His ginger Twins seemed to have had the same idea. He could see them watching the Malfoys and the food with interest. Before either twin took a bite they made sure to eat only what they'd already seen the Malfoy's eat.
That was dedication to social graces right there.
Lord Malfoy leaned forward. "Think of it as a beneficial arrangement."
"Exactly. I have seen that you are reasonably intelligent, and interested in wizarding culture. Both attributes I approve of. I gathered that you intend on becoming a contributing member of magical society. This is where the sponsorship comes in. I am Lord of House Malfoy. Through my sponsorship I willingly take on responsibility toward you. I insure you're eating properly and have decent clothing, things like that. Make certain you receive the appropriate medical attention when needed. I also maintain an eye on your education. Weekly, Monthly and Yearly reports will come to me where I can see how you are doing in your classes. I can supply alternative educational materials and opportunities as I see fit. If you have hobbies or talents that I find worthy I will find tutors to enhance your understanding and skill. In addition, it will be my responsibility to help you integrate into magical society."
"What do you want from me in return?" Harry gained the faint sense of making a deal with the devil. Odd.
"You will bring honour and prestige to your sponsored family's name through your academics. Through your presentation. Through your behavior. Everywhere you go you are a representation of this family. The more of a boon you prove to be the more you can come to expect from me. If you fail to attend to your studies, or other duties, you will find my generosity...limited. It may even lead to my withdrawal of sponsorship." The Lord took a sip of his tea. "I will be aware of and keep track of any apprenticeship offers you receive and intend to take on. I should also mention that your living arrangements and guardians are consequently of interest."
"Oh that's really not-"
"I will be sending an elf to deliver my sponsorship agreement to your relatives. We need to be certain they understand the situation."
Harry choked on his water. "Please sir you don't have to do that, in fact I would prefer if you wouldn't-"
"We'll provide accommodations for the night and accompany you to Gringotts in the morning. This is nonnegotiable. Understand?" The Lord finished as if he hadn't heard a single Harry said.
"Yes sir." He did his best to ignore the feeling of imminent danger in the back of his mind. Maybe it would be okay? Maybe his relatives would be pleased. They'd never been pleased with him before. Perhaps they would take the information in stride? He saw a dwarf this morning, it could happen. More than that though, the thought of someone expecting him to bring them honour... That someone expected Harry to make him proud. Harry swallowed. No one had ever been proud of him before.
He wondered what it would feel like.
"So, what classes are you looking forward to?" Asked Draco.
"All of them really," Said Harry. " I don't much care what the subject is, I'm learning magic."
Fred thumped Harry on the back. "That's the spirit."
"Remember that when you've got Binns," Muttered George.
"I'm looking forward to Care of Magical Creatures. Of course that's not until third year but I'm looking forward to it anyway. We get to learn all sorts of things. A lot of it is in books of course but the class actually brings in some of the animals. We get to see them, feed them and that sort of thing. There are things you can only learn properly through experience you know? It's the class I most look forward to. I don't know how I'll ever manage to wait another two years," Said Draco. His eyes were wide and shining. It was the most emotion Harry had seen from him.
Fred grinned. "I don't suppose it has anything to do with your namesake does it?"
Draco's cheeks flushed. "A bit."
"I named Draco for the dragon constellation." Revealed Mrs Malfoy. "I come from the House of Black and it is tradition to name our children after stars."
Harry clapped his hands. "Oh! So you like dragons then. I wonder if that's why you've got the heartstring of one in your wand. Sort of poetic that. Do you know much about them? Have you ever seen one? Mr Ollivander-"
"You must call him Master Ollivander now that you are under an apprenticeship contract." Reminded Mrs Malfoy.
"-Master Ollivander said there's all different kinds. Ridgebacks and Fireballs. I bet they're terrifying. Are there any dragon reserves in Britain? I didn't have time to ask. I think I'd like to visit one someday. We should go together. We could take pictures and ask the trainers all sorts of questions." Harry leaned forward. "Wouldn't it be amazing to ride one?"
"Ride. One." Apparently that had never occurred to Draco.
"I think it would be so exciting. Especially if you could train them or maybe create a charm to allow you to somehow communicate with them? Or at least learn how to do so on your own. You could ask it all sorts of things and give it proper commands it would understand when you were riding it. Wouldn't that be-"
"Exciting?" Draco supplied, amused. "yes I think it would be."
Mrs Malfoy gave them indulgent smiles. "Wherever did you think of that?"
"Well," said Harry. "I can't speak for everyone but I know communication with snakes is possible. I'm pretty-" Lord Malfoy made a motion with his wand. A transparent barrier winked into and out of existence around their table. "-sure it's a magical thing too. My cousin and his friend couldn't understand the snake and they're both muggles. So I have to imagine there must be a way to produce this effect for other creatures. What about a translation charm for foreign languages? It's something I was thinking anyway."
It was quiet.
"So, you speak with snakes." Stated Draco.
"Not often. We were at the zoo. That's where I get the idea from. I think it would be interesting to give it a go. Do we have any translation type spells?"
"I am afraid," Said Mrs Malfoy softly. "wizard to creature translation isn't something at all explored. I am also certain no one ever thought of speaking to dragons either."
"Well, I'll just have to introduce them to the idea won't I?" Declared Harry.
Lord Malfoy studied him. "I would advise you to be...careful. Not everyone will like your eccentricities, your ideas and curiosities. There are rules in this world concerning acceptable feats of magic. Those who step outside the lines are not always looked upon with...favour."
"That's absurd. We're children of magic. We are designed to be boundaryless. Limit-less." Putting handcuffs on magic was just so wrong! These people lived in a world of magic but what was the point if no one ever did anything with it? What a waste. "We can create water from thin air, change into animal forms. We weren't born knowing these things, someone somewhere wondered if it could happen. They created these spells and incantations. They used their imagination and the power at their fingertips to do the impossible. Telling someone what they can or can't do with their magic is an insult to the magic its self. I just, I can't..." Harry trailed off in distress. His Twins were silent during the conversation. Blue-green eyes bounced between Harry and Lord Malfoy. Perhaps they wanted to ask some questions of their own but didn't dare. Harry knew the feeling.
The older wizard gave him a tight smile. "I agree. Unfortunately you will find we are also skillful in creating boundaries and enforcing limits."
"Enough politics." Said Mrs Malfoy giving her husband a look. "There is more than enough time for that later. Let's finish up shall we? Now that Harry's plans for the rest of the day and the night are settled, what about the two of you?"
"I'm aware your father works at the ministry but I haven't seen your mother or elder brothers around. Are they in the alleys or are you allowed to come on your own?" No one pointed out that everyone present was very much aware that she knew this. Lord Malfoy and Mr Weasley often got into altercations while at the Ministry. Harry of course knew nothing about it, chewing on a mini sandwich happily. They were really good! He hadn't ever gotten so much food to himself all at once. Unless he'd stolen it when the Dursley's weren't looking. Here he was eating at a cafe.
Never thought he ever would to be honest.
"Our parents have absolutely no idea where we are." Said Fred.
"And," said George, "we won't be missed. As long we get back home before dinner no one notices." He waved skewered fruit as he gestured.
"Sometimes even after." Added Fred. "If we have something in our room making noises every so often no one will even think about us."
"It's when we're quiet they get suspicious.We're far cleverer than that." George rolled his eyes and took a bite of kiwi.
Fred nodded. "Too right George. We'd never be so obvious unless it was on purpose."
"They don't know where you are?" Cut in Mrs Malfoy before they could continue. The Twins had a silent conversation with one another. Harry finished the last of his mini sandwiches in the ensuing silence. He had the exact opposite problem at home. It was when he made noises that he was in trouble. Dropping a plate. Coughing too loud. Breathing.
"Honestly unless we're in trouble our mum doesn't pay us much attention." Said Fred.
George nodded. "Call it a beneficial arrangement. When she does notice she asks why we aren't studying. Or why can't be more like Percy. That there is a pipe dream if there ever was one I'm afraid."
"How did you get here?" Asked Draco who looked impressed.
"Floo." They said. "Walked right by her in the kitchen. Never noticed."
Chapter 10: What's in a Name?
A small child with messy raven hair dashed along the main alley dragging a fair headed child behind him. Just ahead in the morning sun was the shining, white exterior of Gringotts. All around them the wizarding world was waking up and beginning a new day.
"I can't...run...as fast as...you." His companion panted. He didn't look like the sort to often break a sweat.
Harry swerved around an elderly wizard. "If you're coming on adventures with me you're going to have too keep up with the group. What if we're chased by a dragon or a horde of angry ogres? Would you turn around and ask them to please wait for you to catch your breath?" Harry shouted an apology over his shoulder to a woman who dropped her bags in surprise when he pelted past her. The alley wasn't crowded yet but the sun was rising ever higher and with it came more magic users. Behind them Lucius and Narcissa followed if at a more reasonable measurement of speed.
"Of course not." The blonde said, raising his soft voice in as close to a yell as the boy seemed to get. He pumped his legs a little faster to keep pace. "I'd trip whomever we needed the least."
They came to a stumbling halt at the bottom step leading into the goblin bank. There at the top stood Harry's guard, holding his spear. The goblin eyeballed the wizards passing him. When he saw Harry he unleashed a sharp crescent smile. Pleased, Harry tugged Draco up the steps. The goblin looked just as he did the morning before, the bank did as well. Yet so many things had changed between then and now. Harry knew so much more and as a result had so many more questions.
The goblin's sharp teeth glistened in the morning light. "Well met young mage. She stands as firm as yesterday, or at least as firm as she can with you around to play with her wards."
"It was an accident." Harry repeated for what seemed like the millionth time. "And you won't believe what's happened-"
"He theorized a new form of enchanted wizarding fashion. He also managed to get himself an offer of apprenticeship from Ollivander." Draco informed the goblin.
Harry stomped his foot. "I was going to tell the story! Oh and I found all sorts of things about wand cores and do you see what I'm wearing do you like it? I have all sorts of interesting charms and things on it. Now I don't know how a lot of it works yet but..."
"Would have been here for hours if I didn't summarize." Explained Draco.
Harry bounded into the building, chattering all the way. Contrary to Harry's first excursion, only yesterday, Harry didn't bother looking around. The bright coloured walls weren't as interesting now that he knew what lay beneath the bank. Harry and Draco waited for the adult Malfoys to finish speaking with the teller. It was the same teller from yesterday so Harry was certain the man could not have forgotten him already. When he asked Draco told him that Harry had 'people' now. Having 'people' meant they did some things for you you were too important to have to do yourself. With Lord Malfoy becoming Harry's sponsor he took on one of the roles of Harry's 'people'.
"Father has his own people too of course." Draco finished.
Harry's goblin guard gave Harry a nod. "Good choice for sponsor young master. Well connected and a relation as well."
"We're related?" Asked both Harry and Draco. The boys blinked then grinned at one another. Draco held up his hand tentatively and Harry hit in a high five. It was one of the things Harry taught the other boy last night. That and how to jump on a bed.
Lucius nodded at Harry from the teller's counter. The goblin leaned around him. "Mister..." He trailed off. "Little wizard with the messy hair."
Harry blinked. "Yes?"
The goblin pointed a clawed finger at Lord Malfoy. "This wizard claims to be your sponsor. Is that so?"
"Yes it is." Said Harry.
With exasperation the teller snapped his fingers at the guard and waved them off. Harry swore he heard the teller mutter 'I don't get paid for this'. Just as he had the day before. Harry thought the goblin should put up a sign if people were that confused about his job specifications. He skipped along beside his goblin guard. Draco walked to his right, silver eyes shining with amusement. The boy entertained Harry's lack of 'proper decorum' earlier but seemed to draw the line at skipping. Harry determined to have the blonde skipping by the end of the year. They were going to Hogwarts together in the same year, it would give him plenty of time to rub off on the other boy.
A familiar figure waited for them outside the meeting room.
The dwarf's lips twitched. "Hello little wizard. Just as hyperactive as yesterday I see."
"It's early. Give it time." Draco deadpanned.
Harry pretended to be offended. "Will we work on the fort again today?"
Ralaph glanced between Harry and the elder Malfoys. "Perhaps. I think you might have other things to think about today."
He was ushered into the room. None of the Malfoys came with him. Harry looked around, gulping. It was a very nice office. The weapons on the walls were very shiny. At the table in the middle of the room sat Griphook and an older goblin Harry didn't know. Cautiously Harry walked forward and pulled out one of the little chairs. Not so little for him, just right really. For anyone else they were ridiculously tiny. Neither goblin paid Harry any attention aside from a quick nod in greeting. Nervousness soon devolved into boredom. Harry kicked his leg, eyes casting about the room. There wasn't much in it. A long dark wood table with chairs, metal axes hung on the walls, a low book shelf off to the right and another door. He zeroed in on the bookshelf. Harry had a private debate with himself for several minutes over whether it'd be worth it to look them through. He doubted they'd be in English. How long did it take to learn goblin language anyway?
A goblin cleared his throat. Harry nearly jumped out of his seat in response.
"Mister Potter if we can have your attention." The older goblin asked and ordered dryly. He was pretty sure Griphook was laughing at him on the inside but Harry couldn't think of a polite way to accuse him of it.
"I'm sorry. I was thinking." Said Harry, quietly. He was feeling nervous again.
The goblin nodded curtly. A collection of paper -parchment- lay on the table between them. "You were made aware of your parent's wealth yesterday during your visit to Gringotts, is that right?"
The goblin blinked. "Right. Is it fair to assume your guardians have not shared this information with you prior to the visit?"
"Yes sir. My Aunt and her family aren't fond of magic and as far as I can tell know little about it."
A nod. "Yes...yes..." Much rearranging of paperwork. "We will summarize I think. To give you the highest degree of understanding with the least amount of confusion. You are Hadrian James Potter son of James Potter of the House of Potter."
"Er...I think so?"
"Your father was a son of both the House of Potter and the House of Black, his biological mother being a direct member of the House of Black. Through your father you yourself are a son of the House of Potter and a son of the House of Black. Your father's House through his father, your grandfather, is what we wish to discuss with you. The Potters belong to the Noble Houses. As a result your father was known as Master James, son of House Potter, Heir of House. He did not take on his duties and title as Lord before his death. He was in fact due to do so the summer of his twenty first year. Instead he had a son, you, and went in to hiding. As an active member in the wizarding war he chose to give preference to his duties within the war over his duties to his House. A decision frowned upon but a decision that was ultimately his own to make."
Griphook pulled out another stack of parchment. "Are you following along Mister Potter?"
"Yes Griphook." Harry said, numb. A noble house was like royalty or something, wasn't it? He thought he may have stopped breathing.
Giphook raised a brow. If he disagreed with Harry's assessment he didn't say so. "The eldest son of a Noble House is heir presumptive, in accordance with the guidelines set out in the father's will and according to family traditions. You are expected to earn your right to claim Head of House and claimed status as the heir confirmed. You'll learn more about claiming when you are closer to your fourteenth birthday. On that day you receive the ability to remove some of the contents of your family vaults outside your personal trust. You will also receive your family grimoire-"
"A book?" Harry perked up. "What sort of book?"
"The family grimoire contains detailed information on family specific magicks and talents. It also holds information and knowledge passed down through generations within the house. It is information none outside of the house ever learn..."
Harry liked the sound of that. Mentally salivating. Harry envisioned the different things the books could hold. Knowledge no one else would ever know. How many years until he turned fourteen again?
"...to prove yourself. The heir is expected to making something of himself. To carve out his own career and maintain an acceptable status in society..."
What were his family magics? Something special only Potter's could do? Harry wanted to know if the animagus ability was inherited through family magic. He didn't get a clear answer on it yesterday. Were some families already known for specific traits? There had to be a book somewhere on this. He would go back to the shop where he was given his special map. Maybe the clerk there would know where Harry should look. The man had known exactly the right book store to send Harry to after all. The little wizard would be able to ask him more questions about the map while he was at it.
"...bringing honour to the family. At eleven the heir presumptive unlocks limited access to the family magic. A journal is provided-"
Harry's attention snapped back to the conversation. "A journal?"
With a frustrated grunt the older goblin handed Harry a thin leather book. "Full access to more complex understandings of the magic is found within the grimoire. You will receive it on your fourteenth birthday if you become heir confirmed and accept your responsibility..." Harry tuned him out again. He ran his fingers over the book. This was passed down in his family. That meant once his father held in it his hands. His grandfather too. And his grandfather's grandfather.
It was a bit overwhelming.
"...generally through a sponsorship. They are started between the ages of seven and twelve for boys. The sponsor instructs the heir in appropriate social skills for noble society. This is in accordance with general and family tradition. They also provide training for skills and talents the heir might possess, and take an interest in their academics. We have a list of families you might consider-"
Harry looked up in alarm. "I already have an offer of sponsorship. I'd like to keep him if I can. My guard even said it was a good choice. Apparently we're related." He didn't quite know why he was getting so defensive about it. Harry rather liked Draco. The blonde was soft spoken and vain and so much fun to tease. Harry was just as fond of Mrs Malfoy. And if they were related...if they were related... Well anyone was better than the Dursleys, right?
Both goblins stared at him.
"Have you by chance advertised your identity Mister Potter?" The older goblin asked after a moment.
That was an odd question. "No sir."
Griphook pinched the bridge of his nose, taking in a deep breath. "And which Lord or Lady has offered to sponsor you?"
Griphook looked at the older goblin. The older goblin looked at Griphook. Then Griphook flung several pages of parchment in the air with exasperation. Harry watched them float to the ground. The goblins seemed a bit stressed. Maybe they ought to take a time out.
"I need a drink." Said Griphook to no one in particular.
Harry blinked. "Then...get one."
Griphook's head snapped up. "You don't mind?"
Why on earth would Harry mind if the goblin was thirsty? Sometimes magical people were strange.
Chapter 11: Famous?
Harry's mind rolled around beneath his cheerful demeanor.
He was famous. That was certainly new. People listened to people who were famous didn't they? Having the freedom and money to do as he liked along with a celebrity status to get away with it finally hit him. He was going to have to focus on what Mister Malfoy taught him. He had a chance. Harry -even in his relative naivety of the magical world- could understand that. He had a chance to make something of himself. To be more than the odd boy who tended to the garden in over-sized clothing outside number four. A strong decisiveness welled with him. Harry would learn everything he could from everyone with anything to teach him. He would learn and practice and perfect everything he was taught, all of the information he was offered. Harry didn't want to be the freak under the stairs anymore.
If he played his cards right he wouldn't have to be.
Harry blinked rapidly, clearing the glaze from his eyes. "I...er...huh?"
"Did you understan-"
Harry huffed. "Yes, yes. Certain people disagreed with certain other people. The disagreement escalated. War came about. The leader of one of the warring ...um...factions... targeted my family. I survived. I'm famous." He paused. "Is that about right?"
Griphook rubbed his temples. "Mister Potter I am not sure you grasp the severity of the situation. Or at least the potentially precarious position you are in. If you were anyone else I would commend you on receiving such an offer from the Malfoys. They are wealthy, well connected and there is none better to teach you the ways of wizarding society. Ignoring their somewhat questionable hobbies. As it is, Lord Malfoy is-"
"-an exceptionally clever bastard?" Harry offered. The older goblin choked on his unidentified liquid. Harry flushed.
"I read that in a book once." Harry admitted. He didn't want the goblins dying. At least not in front of him. Stuff like that is traumatic for a kid. "I've always wanted to say it."
Griphook cleared his throat. "Yes well. An astute observation none the less."
"So...are we finished? Great. Can we take Draco to show off my gold fort now? Because he's totally jealous and he hasn't even seen it yet." Harry stood up and started bouncing. "No one is ever jealous of something I have. This is great!"
"Mister Potter are you sure you understood the information we just gave you?" The older goblin seemed skeptical even as he asked.
Harry nodded. "Oh yes. I'm the wealthy heir to a large fortune and my new friends' families were on opposing sides of the war. Oh and I'm famous for not dying." He paused. "I am going to have to do something about that by the way. It's not any fun being famous for something I don't even remember. Well I might remember it. Sort of. I dreamed of this bright green light sometimes? And you said the killing curse is green. So I maybe remember some of it. But I want to be famous for something cooler than just not dying. You know?
Griphook held up one finger, poured a large glass of -something- and drank it down. "Alright Potter. Let's rub your wealth in the face of the only son of Lucius Malfoy-because why not?"
"That's the spirit!" Harry beamed.
A moment later Harry burst from the doors. Or tried to. They were really heavy.
"Draco!" Harry took the startled blonde by the hand and pulled him along. "This way Draco, this way." To his credit Draco allowed Harry to pull him along once more. Lord Malfoy waved them off when Harry called out to them. The man had two goblins of his own talking to him so Harry figured he must be busy with important magic stuff.
"Where are we going Harry?" Draco asked politely.
Harry got the impression Draco was even more unused to other children than Harry. The boy was soft as well. His clothes and his voice and even his skin. Everything soft. It worried Harry. Life was hard. He didn't think Draco would take it well when he finally got knocked down. Well, Harry would just have to help him out wouldn't he? It could be part of his repayment for Lord Malfoy sponsoring him. Mister Malfoy would make sure Harry didn't make a fool of himself in the wizarding world. Harry would make sure Draco didn't get banged up too bad. He sort of liked the other boy. Even if he was soft and spoiled.
"I'm taking you to my vaults. You wanted see my fort right?"
Draco stumbled a little, tightening his hold on Harry. "We're going in the carts? Down in the mine?"
Harry stopped and turned to Draco. The boy's silver eyes were wide and shiny. Nervous? Maybe he hadn't ever been down there. Or he was afraid of the dark or something? Harry bit his lip, thinking. "Yes. You're going to be the first person I've shown! It's not scary. Well okay it kind of is but it's a fun scary, okay? And they have lanterns all over the place for you to see and there's really good protections on everything. It'll be fine okay? You can sit with me in the front."
Draco blinked, schooled his face and lifted his chin. "I wasn't frightened. Go on then. Take me to your fort."
Pulling him along once more Harry held back a smile. His friend was being brave for him so he could see the fort. It was sweet of him. Still. Harry made certain that they did sit together in the front. When Draco moved closer as the cart started moving, hands clamped on the seat Harry didn't mention it. No one had ever done something to make Harry happy. Especially not when it was something they didn't want to do. From the strained neutral expression on the blonde's face, the way his nails were digging into the leather of the seat Harry knew the boy was afraid. It made it hard for Harry to breathe for a minute.
He had an honest to goodness friend. A human one and everything.
Who ever would have thought?
Griphook stopped the cart at a midway point Harry recognized from the day before. There on the small platform stood his guard and- "Ralaph!" Harry stood up and waved, cheerful. "Are you coming along to the fort?"
The bearded man nodded. "I promised I would." He glanced at Draco. "Who's this then?"
Harry rushed to introduce them. He'd never had to introduce friends before. Friends -plural! "This is my cousin Draco. He's coming with us to see my fort." He turned part way to Draco. "Draco this is Ralaph. He's the one helping me build my fort. He has some pretty good ideas."
"Harry." Whispered Draco. "That's a dwarf!"
The raven haired boy grinned. "I told you. Just wait until you see my fort. And I'll have to introduce to Hagrid when we get to Hogwarts -that's the giant- oh and there's the mapmaker-"
"Cartographer." Draco corrected.
"-Right, who I am fairly certain isn't all human..."
Ralaph and Griphook attached an additional two carts to their one. The dwarf loaded some things into the third. He and the guard climbed into the back seat as Harry rattled on. When everyone settled the cart lurched forward. Harry felt a hand pull him down to his seat as their cart began its decent after a large upward curve. He turned to look at Draco, his hand still fisted in Harry's jumper.
"Sit. Down." The blonde managed to order.
Harry sat back against the seat, removing the blonde's hand and squeezing it between his own. "Of course, sorry Draco." The other boy gave a shaky nod, his hand tightening around Harry's. That was how his second trip in the mines went far more subdued than the first. He didn't urge Griphook to go faster or try to stand and raise his arms at the more dangerous curves. He spoke quietly, encouraging Draco to enjoy the ride.
Once Draco was back on land that didn't move he seemed just fine. Well enough to look over Harry's fort with a critical eye and tell him everything that was wrong with it. An argument between the blonde and the dwarf ensued. There was much waving of hands and blunt condescension from Ralaph. Draco returned it with soft sarcasm. In the end they redrew the initial plans for the fort together. It included two towers, an armory and -at Draco's suggestion- a large library with a breakfast nook.
Harry was ecstatic.
The real excitement, however, came when Harry spotted a bit of wall at the far end of the tunnel. They'd just closed his vault and there it was. He could see it clearly. Stepping closer to it Harry tilted his head. It looked a lot like the sort of stones he'd seen down in that chamber. The one with the mural. Inlaid with stone. Surrounded by carvings. Were there other secret rooms hidden in Gringotts? It would quickly become his favourite place if that were the case.
"Ralaph?" Harry called. Hearing the dwarf's footsteps and assuming he was coming to see what Harry was looking at, the new wizard -with all of the bravery of youth- reached out and pressed on the stone. The walled shuddered and with a low groan moved aside. To Harry's delight and Ralaph's horror silver balls of various sizes lay within. Something whirled and something clicked and then they were spinning. Harry didn't get to stay and see what exactly all of the spinning balls would be come. This was because after the expected spiders made an appearance, so to did a mechanical dog and rather large something with a small head and thick arms.
The resultant flee for their lives was so exciting.
Harry and Draco were rushed to the carts. Griphook slid into the drivers seat on the far left, Ralaph and Harry's guard jumped into the second cart and they were off. Speeding in rattling carts up and down the mine far faster than ever before. The larger mechanical something -"That's a troll Harry, what are trolls doing in Gringotts? It's made out of metal."- was very quick for being as large as it was. The stone flooring on either side of carts cracked ominously.
"It's metal. How is it metal and alive?"
Who knew Draco could be just as curious as Harry given the proper motivation?
Unfortunately just before they breached the main tunnel a crash thundered down behind them. The mechanical humanoid's weight caused a large portion of the floor to cave in. This had the following side effects. The floor caved in and the railing attached to it went along with it. The carts on the railing found themselves moving backward rather than forward and thus in exactly the opposite direction they wanted to go. 'They' being everyone but Harry who would love to see what other mechanical creatures lay down the other end of the tunnel.
"Going the wrong way, going the wrong way, going the wrong way..." Draco looked behind them. "I can see the teeth in its mouth. I can see the teeth in its mouth!"
Harry whipped around, pulling up on the back of the seat to look. "It has teeth?"
"Sit down child." Ralaph growled.
Working together Ralaph and the two goblins managed to cave in the ceiling and walls behind them, sealing the mechanical anomalies behind. The remaining twenty minutes of their ride to the surface was spent attempting to regain their ability to breathe. Harry spent it sketching pictures of the mechanical humanoid in one of his notebooks. Finally the cart came to a stop.
Harry climbed out first. He jumped up and down, flailing his arms. "That was so exciting!" To his -and everyone's- surprise Draco launched himself at the smaller boy, wrapping him in a hug. Harry froze. Malfoys sure were tactile. He looked up through a curtain of pale blonde hair. "Draco?"
"You really did all those things you said you did...didn't you?" Draco murmured. His soft voice the softest Harry had ever heard.
He nodded. "Yes."
Harry was hugged even tighter for a moment. Then Draco released him slowly, pulling back enough to look Harry in the eye. "Please don't be in Gryffindor. I don't think my nerves could handle it."
Harry smile. "Everyone says I'm headed for Ravenclaw."
Draco took in a deep breath, let it out and patted Harry's head. He seemed relieved. "Good. Good." Said Draco, absently. "How much trouble can you get into reading a book anyway?"
Harry decided not to comment.
Hours later small hands held a thin journal. Green eyes flitted over the page in the dim light. A clever mind soaking up every word from every page. Just outside the door the owner of those hands and those eyes and that mind could hear laughter. Momentarily distracted he pulled the door open and peer out. Through the bright light streaming in he could make out two figures in the hall near his room. A young boy stood resigned as his mother washed his face and kissed cheek. He watched them for a second longer and then closed the door with a nearly inaudible click. He curled up on his cot and resumed his reading. After all he had two weeks until the start of term. He was determined to be ready. Two weeks and then he'd be free.
Harry spent the days and nights in the cupboard under the stairs, his mind -when it wasn't filling its self with newly acquired knowledge- entertained him with imagined worlds. In these day dreams new faces often made appearances. Mischievous twins. A dwarf with a long red beard. A tiny goblin with a tall glass. And a fair skinned boy who gave the best hugs. He thought of the sounds of their voices and the conversation they'd had. He thought of Ralaph drawing a sword from no where and slashing at the mechanical humanoid. He thought of Draco jumping on a bed for the first time. Anything but where he was.
He drew pictures of his adventures and placed them on the wall. He would lay awake and gaze at them, running his fingers along the edges of the paper. Eyes suspiciously glassy. He drew as many as he could to remind himself it was real. It happened. Soon he would be there once more. In the magical world. Where he belonged. When Harry returned from his adventure in Diagon Alley it was made clear to him that the Status Quo would not be changed. They would tolerate his sponsorship with the stipulation he'd be even more invisible while he was home. With that he was shoved into the cupboard under the stairs will all of his new things. They did not lock him in. Perhaps worried the other 'freaks' would somehow notice. That he was not to leave did not need to be said. Harry made trips to the bathroom at night and made do with what food his aunt saw fit to give him. Where before his presence was allowed during the day, with chores for him to complete...now it was as if he didn't exist at all. It hurt him in the beginning.
With one day left until he left for Hogwarts Harry decided didn't care. He would change their minds.
Harry had a plan.
He wasn't a Freak. He wasn't worthless or stupid or any of the other things he'd been told. Harry was a child of magic. Harry was the heir to a fortune. He had a quick enough mind and remembered the things he read. Every spell he tried he got within a day or two and he was already experimenting with its implementation. Soon he'd have access to even more knowledge. More things to practice and to learn. Harry was going to show them.
One day Harry Potter was going to show them all.
Chapter 12: What did you say?
"All of our choices have echoes."
I know I've been gone for ages. I accept thrown rotten veggies as punishment. No stones though. No need to get medieval up in here.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A small wizard with dark messy hair stood in the middle of the train station. He had an odd collection of items in his trolley, including a large trunk and an owl. The oddest thing he had was a golden ticket in his hand which read Platform 9 3/4. It wasn't the most unlikely thing he'd seen in his life. In fact recently he'd seen many unlikely things. Moving maps. Goblins. Dwarfs. Mechanical Humanoids and Arachnids. One of those things was a doorway through a brick wall which lead to a secret magical world. Another was a special shoppe with special maps no one else ever seemed to see.
These experiences combined together were the reason this boy wasn't panicking.
There's a trick to it, Harry decided. You can only find the way to the platform if you know the trick. So what is it? Would he have to tap on the barriers between platforms with his wand? Did he need to fulfill a set of requirements to see it as he suspected was the case with that shoppe? Or answer a riddle as he had in the goblin nation? Or even find a lever to turn? He'd seen many secret entrances lately so he was sure, in that way only the very young ever are, that he would work it out.
Harry stood there and let his large green eyes flicker about the world around him. Up and over various non-magical people -muggles- and their luggage, up and across the barrier between platforms nine and ten. It was there. Somewhere. He just had to find it. During all of this looking Harry noticed some things. He noticed none of the muggles eyes every stayed on the barrier. None of them approached it. It was definitely there. But how to get through it? Even the muggles would notice if the barrier slid away to reveal another platform that hadn't been there before.
So it must be a more subtle method to get through.
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Whispered Harry. He looked around once more, took a breath and pushed his trolley toward the barrier. Oh so casually he reached out and put a hand to it. Only he didn't. His hand was gone! Beaming Harry put his hand farther through. It disappeared, along with part of his arm and he could swear he felt something brush it on the other side. Either he'd found the right platform or he was about to appear in a completely unknown place with no idea where he was or how to get back.
Bouncing up and down Harry clapped his hands. Okay, calm down Potter. Be cool.
And the adventurer stood before the threshold of his newest adventure, Harry narrated to himself, ready for whatever came next. He held faith in his fearsome goblin guard, his trusty dwarf and his new magical friends. He would face the unknown bravely.
Harry took a couple steps backward, steeled himself and pushed his trolley at the barrier full speed ahead. He didn't crash. He didn't find himself in Middle Earth or the Tardis. It was even better. It was a platform complete with a bright red steam engine and hundreds of trunks on trolleys. He'd done it. There weren't Elvin archers or dual-hearted time travelers but it was better than that. Because it was real. In his pocket lay Harry's carefully folded pictures. Every picture he'd made while in his cupboard. Every single Harry would look at them and convince himself all of this was true. And now it really was.
His breath caught in his chest and his eyes burned. He was a wizard. He was leaving the Dursleys. He was going to learn magic and meet up with his new friends and it was all actually happening. Harry had new friends, new books and owl-
"Oops!" Harry turned around.
His messenger bird -a gift from the goblins- arrived just that morning as he was preparing to leave. It was a small snowy owl and Harry adored her. He'd left her on the other side of the barrier! The little wizard left his trolley just to the side of the barrier and darted back through. To his relief the cage and the owl within it remained where he'd left them. Unharmed. He ran forward and lifted it into his arms, eyeing the bird inside.
"I am so sorry." He wailed. Harry hugged the cage to his chest willing his avian friend to believe him. He needed to pay more attention.
Precisely then he saw a sea of gingers headed straight for them. This would have been somewhat alarming if it weren't for two familiar heads of red hair. It was his Twins. Bouncing on his toes Harry shook with excitement. He waited impatiently for them to see him.
"Percy first." Instructed a red headed woman. Their mum probably.
A very tall red head pushed his trolley through the barrier.
"You next Fred. Then George." Said the mother pointing at one of the Twins.
Harry knew that it was hard to see things right in front of you if you're eyes weren't open. So while their mother was looking right at them he wasn't surprised -going off what he knew of her from the Twins- that she didn't notice the way the Twins' smiles were forced, or the glimmer to their eyes.
"I'm George." Said the Twin she'd pointed at.
The other gripped the first's shoulder, smiling wider at their mum. "Honestly. And you call yourself our mother."
The woman rolled her eyes and waved a head. "Yes, yes sorry George."
The Twins wilted before Harry's eyes. He decided then and there that he didn't like their mum. Fred, and Harry knew it was Fred because he was talking for the both of them, shrugged his shoulder's like he hadn't a care in the world. "Just kidding he really is Fred!" And his mother bought it.
She nodded at them absently while she fixed the shirt on the younger boy standing beside her. The Twins kept their smiles pasted to their faces, grabbed their Trolley's and started for the barrier. Harry quickly slipped back through. He didn't want to embarrass them. When they came through Harry pounced on them.
"My Twins!" He exclaimed.
"Our accident prone bookworm!" They exclaimed in return.
Harry stepped back, smiling. "What are you wearing?" He asked. They weren't in the lovely new clothes the Malfoys bought them. Didn't they like them? Had they only pretended to? Oh no what if Draco noticed and it hurt his feelings? What would he-
The Twins shuffled on their feet. "We're waiting to change until we've said goodbye to mum and we're on the train."
"To the train!" Harry shouted, fist high in the air.
The Twins looked at one another. "To the train!"
"Is this the only locomotive travel used by the magical world or are there other platforms with other trains to other destinations? Do you really need a ticket? What happens if you lose it? How do you buy it? Where do you buy it? Does this train go to Hogwarts directly? Can it go anywhere else? Who is the conductor? Can you go to school to be a magical transportation conductor? Are their other physical forms of transportation? I've read about floo-"
Fred clamped his hand for Harry's mouth.
"Oh look." Said George. "There's blondie." And indeed there was Draco just a bit further down the hallway perhaps looking for a compartment.
Fred grinned. "Oi Malfoy!"
Draco whirled around, startled.
"Can you take Harry to find a compartment? We'll put up the trunks. We have to go say goodbye to our mum and change so we'll catch up with you yeah? Great." Without giving Draco much time to say anything George took the blonde's trunk and Fred pushed Harry into Draco's arms. "See you in a bit." And the Twins were gone.
Harry looked up at Draco who blinked down at him. "Hi Harry." He said.
"Hi Draco." Said Harry. "Oh you're wearing the uniform!" Sure enough the blonde rich boy was already dressed in the special uniform Harry designed for him and his friends. It looked so cool Harry thought he might explode.
"Well yes. Is that okay? I mean you let my mother get one for me as well so I assumed I was invited but you did know the twins before you met me so may have only been being polite so I-"
And the arrogant rich boy was gone replaced with an insecure, soft child with even less experience with other kids than Harry. It was sort of adorable how worked up the blonde got over Harry's opinion. No one had ever cared about Harry's opinion before. His opinion hadn't ever mattered before. He bet if he said he didn't want him to wear it Draco would take it off and not bring it up again. He was so sweet. And so stupid.
Harry threw his arms around the blonde and hugged him. "I'm glad to see you Draco." He felt Draco relax.
"Shall we find a compartment?"
They did. Shortly after entering the Twins reappeared, stowing their trunks and heading out with their new clothes in their arms to change. They seemed excited. Harry was as well. As soon as the door shut Draco locked it for him and Harry changed into the uniform. The uniform he designed. With a little help from Draco he had it on and his old clothes stashed in his trunk. He ignored Draco's urging to set them to flame. Mostly because he didn't know how because honestly he'd love to see...hang on he could ask.
"Draco do you have any idea if these compartments are warded to contain magical events? In out early teens accidental magic though rare isn't unheard of and so many children leaving their families forced together in small spaces has to be a good recipe for disaster. Do you think if we really did set something to flame using magic that the room would contain it if it got out of hand? Or at least prevent the other passengers from knowing what we've done? For instance if I wanted to conduct a few experiments? I have this book-"
Draco placed his hand over Harry's mouth, smiling widely. Fondly. "It's really great to see you Harry."
Harry's questions left him along with his breath. No one ever looked at him like that. No one ever said something like that to him. No one ever meant it. Certainly no one as important as Draco. He was the only son of one of the richest and most influential families in magical Britain. He could be friends with anyone. And he'd chosen Harry. The orphaned muggle-raised boy with hand-me-down clothes he'd first met crying in a book store.
How was it he was so lucky?
"Here." said Draco, pretending not to notice Harry's large, wet eyes. "Let me help you with your presentation. Can't have you shaming my family on the very first day, can we?" Draco took Harry's glasses and managed to make the frames thinner, fixing the crack in one of the lenses as he did so. Next he took a jar from his trunk and sat Harry down on the seat. He stood before him, rubbing a dollop of silvery stuffy between his hands. Long white fingers ran through Harry's hair, smoothing down his curls, untangling knots. He finished and put it away. "There." He said.
Harry didn't recognize himself. It was awesome.
Draco sat down. "Oh gross." He exclaimed. One of Draco's hands was squished in left-over hair product that escaped the jar it belong to and made a new home on the seat. Draco scowled at the stuff as if it had personally offended him. Harry descended into giggles. "It's not funny Harry."
The door slid open. "Excuse me. Have any of you seen a toad?"
Draco's eyes snapped to the round faced boy standing in the doorway of the compartment. "You. Come here." The boy blinked. He took a tentative step forward. Draco rolled his eyes, reached out and tugged the boy closer. "Excellent." Draco wiped his hand off on the boy's sleeve.
Harry sucked in breaths trying to calm down enough to talk. "Draco."
"What? Oh right. Thank you." He said to the new comer. "We haven't seen a toad. I'm Malfoy. Draco Malfoy."
Someone laughed. It wasn't Harry. A red haired boy stood there just beyond the doorway, looking in. He was tall with a long nose and, Harry estimated, a million freckles. He didn't know what was so funny. Draco did. The blonde stiffened in his seat, straightening his posture and narrowing his eyes. Closed off. "Think my name is funny do you?"
The red head had no sense of self preservation. He made his way into the room, sat on the seats across from them and nodded. "Yup."
Draco stood. His face flickered. He glanced at Harry, took a breath and looked at the other boy. "Well there's no need to ask yours." He began. "Freckles and blindingly red hair. You must be-"
"A Weasley?" The boy spat, smiling face gone. "And you're a Malfoy." Draco and the round faced boy both looked taken aback. Harry had never heard someone use someone else's name an insult before. It was sort of impressive. And also really mean. "My father says your family shoves gold down the throat of every ministry official that even looks their way. That your father is a cowardly, lying Death Eater and I must say I don't think you'll be any better-"
To everyone's surprise it was the round faced boy who reacted first. He shoved at the red head, pushing him out of their compartment and into the hallway. The boy glared at them then marched off.
"I...I..." The boy stuttered, as surprised at his actions as everyone else. "He was being such a prat." He offered in explanation.
Draco wasn't listening. He stood there with a look to his face Harry couldn't explain. "It's okay. If you don't want to be seen with me." Said Draco. "It'll be easier for you that way and I want you to know that I understand if that's what you do." His silver eyes were small and dull, back straight and chin raised. He expected Harry to ignore him. He expected Harry to give him up. He didn't really believe, as arrogant as he came across, that anyone would want to stay with him. It hurt Harry's heart.
The smaller boy took Draco by the hands and squeezed them. "The moment I saw you." Said Harry. "I knew it was the start of an adventure."
"Well we did flee for our lives from a mechanical troll." Said Draco, uncertainly.
Harry swatted his arm. "No you idiot. I knew we'd be friends. And friendship is the greatest of adventures." With that Harry flung open the compartment door once more and started down the hallway.
"Wait, where are you going?" The round faced boy had followed Harry into the hallway.
Harry thought he was a good sort of boy and because he seemed a good sort of boy Harry answered him. "I've never had friends before so I might make some mistakes but even I know you don't let people hurt your friends. And he's not only my friend, he's my cousin. He's my family." Harry's small hands tightened into fists. "You protect family. That's the way family is supposed to work."
Harry only had a vague understanding of the term Death Eater. He did however know an insult when he heard one. He knew a bully when he saw one. He didn't like bullies. Beyond that Draco was a son of the family sponsoring Harry in the magical world. Well, if Lucius demanded Harry to protect the family's honour that's what the man would get. Harry read every book he was given on wizarding customs and etiquette. He would show everyone that he deserved his sponsorship. He'd show them not to mess with his friends. Here he wasn't the Freak under the stairs. He didn't have to sit back and let these things happen. Not anymore.
He was the main character of his own story and he would defend the honour of his friend against any foe, let alone a fellow eleven year old.
Harry turned and locked his eyes dead ahead on the other end of the hallway. There the red head, the Weasley, stood. The boy was talking to an even taller red head with a 'P' pinned to his shirt. And then Harry did something he'd never done before in his life.
Harry Potter started a fight.
Are you lot still interested in this story?
Chapter 13: Are you ready for this?
Ten minutes after he set out Harry reached the middle of the hallway. The trip shouldn't have taken nearly that long. In fact it was highly unlikely for it to have been as epic a journey as it was. There should not have been a mob. There should not have been a fist fight. There should not have been hair pulling. Or mind games. Or a familial civil war.
"You look so adorable!"
It was just a hallway.
"Where did you get that uniform? I've never seen that style."
A hallway filled with teenage girls who spotted Harry's uniform like a pack of Parana. Paranha? Pharana. Prahna? Fish with teeth! Fish with teased hair and lip gloss and surprisingly strong grips. Surrounding him before he could react. Holding him in place with a sharp gleam to their eyes the smiles they wore could not cover. In fact the smiles were sort of scary too.
"I haven't either and my mother knows all of the designers."
Did Par-pra-pha- fish with teeth move in packs? Flocks? Were fish mammals? No they had eggs. Were there magical fish? He wasn't sure. Did mermaids count? They probably moved in groups. But fish with teeth? Mobs maybe?
"I mean she knows anyone who is anyone."
"Yes we all know about your mother."
Schools! Holy Tolkien it all made sense now.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
At this point Harry took the chance that had been given to him and hit the floor. Carefully, so as not to attract their attention, the small wizard crawled along the floor until he reached the edge of the crowd. He stood slowly, glancing around. No one noticed. Score! Well no one but Weasley and the older red head who were both staring. What was with people and staring at him? Like they'd never seen a boy crawl away from a group of girls before...
Harry cleared his throat. "Er hi."
"Fantastic." Said Weasley. "He sent a lackey to do me in."
What in Narnia was a lackey?
"I'm not a lackey!" He didn't think he was anyway. Harry pointed at the older teen. A Prefect if the badge was anything to go by. "What's a lackey?" He stage whispered. The older teen's lips twitched. Like he found it funny but normally didn't approve of such things. Another Ralaph huh? Harry would break him.
"Well you see-" The boy began.
"Shut up Percy!"
The Prefect -Percy- pinched the bridge of his nose. "Alright. Ron, I'm going to be right back. Try not to do anything stupid." Percy entered a compartment to their right leaving them alone.
Harry glared at Weasley. "I don't know what a lackey is but I am not one. You shouldn't call people names." Or at least not explain them afterward. How was Harry to know if he should be offended or secretly delighted? A notebook. He had the feeling he was going to need a lot more of them.
"You are kind of small." Ron agreed. Lackeys were big, Harry noted mentally. "But that doesn't mean much. You could still know some nasty spells. Lackeys don't have be intimidating they just have to be effective."
Harry considered this. That was sort of a back-handed compliment wasn't it? And also kind of interesting. "So, what would you define as a nasty spell? Is it a spell you find distasteful or is that an actual term? Is it just a way to reference certain types of magicks that you assume I'm aware of? What's the difference between it and other types of magick? Are their other categories? Do you know if-"
Ron scowled. "Are trying to make me feel stupid?"
"No?" Harry blinked. He was trying to get answers so 'he' wouldn't feel stupid. Wasn't that obvious? Oh he was still talking. Huh.
"...It's bad enough I'm poor you've gotta make me feel stupid too? You're not a dark arts specialist you're an emotional terrorist! Gee Malfoy really can pick them. I actually thought you might be an okay sort at first. Boy was I wrong-"
What did being poor have to do with anything? Harry lived in a cupboard. If anyone should be whining about life it was him. He wouldn't of course because it was the backstory that would lead to his ultimate role in his adventure. Harry cleared his throat. "I was just going to ask you to apologize to my-"
Did this boy ever let anyone finish speaking? Did he have a complex? Some sort of Obsessive Compulsive need to get his own opinion in as soon as he thought of it? Or maybe he had short term memory loss or something. He had to say things before he forgot them. That would be unfortunate. Maybe Harry ought to get him a notebook. Or hit him with one.
"You think you can tell me what to do do you? You think I'm gonna jump just because you say jump..." And people say Harry talked a lot. Okay think Potter. What Would a Hero Do? No, heroically beating him to a pulp and rescuing the damsel wasn't a good choice right now. First off, this kid was way bigger than Harry and secondly Malfoy would hex Harry if he knew he just referred to him as a damsel. Malfoy wasn't a damsel, he could take care of himself. He just shouldn't have to expect to.
Alright so, What Would a Villain Do? Manipulate the situation to his own benefit. Trick his opponent into defeating himself. Not noble. He shrugged mentally. He was a main character. they weren't always perfect. The best weren't. And this was a great opportunity to start an experiment! In situations he encountered in the magical world Harry would ask him self What Would a Hero Do and What Would a Villain Do. He'd score of which worked out best most often and in which sort of situation. He could apply what he learned to the way people around reacted to situations and use the information to make non-permanent judgement calls about that person's affinity. Good. Lawful Good. Chaotic Neutral. Evil. That would in turn help him deal with them later on.
Harry could do that.
He was going to owl order three dozen notebooks when he got to the school. And maybe look into retrofitting a computer that would work in an area saturated with magic. It would save time.
"...you think I'm just some stupid poor kid who.."
"I think you're insecure." Harry interrupted. "I think you hurt my cousin before he could hurt you because you judged him to be that sort of person."
"Oh so I'm a horrible person. Great. And for the record your cousin's family-"
"No. I don't think you're a horrible person." Harry spoke over the other boy. He didn't want to give him a chance to rant about Malfoy's family again. That was his sponsorship family after all. "I know horrible people. They stuff inconvenient truths into closets. You haven't got in you to be like that. I think you have it in you to be mean though. I think you lash out in self defense. I don't think you fully realize the consequences of your actions yet. Because of that I'm going to give you a chance to apologize."
Weasley puffed up a bit, clenching his fists.
"You want me to apologize to him?" He took a step forward.
Oh my gosh this kid is huge. Harry swallowed. What did this kid's mother feed him and where could Harry get some of it? Aw Hell he was gonna die wasn't he? This kid was either going to beat him to mush or eat him. Dying before even making it to the school. A record. It had to be. Would they have a funeral? Did wizards do that? Did they believe in an afterlife? He'd read about ghosts. So there was some sort of something at work after death. And that Dark Lord tried to kill him once and it didn't work right? So would it work again or was that only with Dark Lords? Harry guessed there was no time like the present to find out. He just really wished he'd gotten to go to a class first.
Get a grip Potter! Stick to the plan.
Harry sucked in a breath. He could do this. He know what he was doing. It worked for the villains in books anyway and when had books ever failed him?
"Yes. Unless you lack the honour -or mental facilities- to perform such a task."
This was it. He was dead. The red head pulled back his fist and... Harry stared at the fist roughly six inches from his face. Six inches and no closer. 'Percy' was back, his hand on Weasley's shoulder, firm. Two more hands were fixed tightly to the boy's wrist. The owners of those hands stood to either side of Harry, wearing identical serious expressions.
"Hey little brother." Said the twins. In unison. "It looks like we might have a conflict of interest."
Ron looked between the twins in bewilderment. "Whaddya mean?"
"If you keep trying to hit our friend here we're interested in starting a conflict." Said George.
"With you." Elaborated Fred.
With everyone's attention on Ron Harry leant a little to the side. The youngest red head's face came into view. As soon as their eyes met Harry did the most annoying, obnoxious thing he could think of. He batted his eye lashes. Ron reacted the way Harry thought he might. Based purely on the boy's own actions so far. He growled -growled!- and lunged at Harry.
He almost grinned. He almost gave himself away with a grin but he managed to keep it inside. Instead Harry gave a startled shriek and burst into tears. In exactly the same amount of time His Twins had Harry behind them defensively.
They were the best bodyguards.
You know something as dramatic as this deserved an audience. Oh look. That compartment Percy the Prefect came from was slowly emptying into the hallway. Withe other older teens that wore shining Prefect badges. What were the odds a boy standing outside a compartment with a shiny badge on his shirt would be about to enter it because there were more of his kind inside of it? In some sort of meeting it would seem. Fancy that.
They poured out to see what all of the commotion was about and what they found was four Weasleys apparently manhandling a first year. A rather adorable first year with huge green eyes filled with tears. "What in Merlin's name is going on here?" Demanded a girl with long hair and green trimmed robes.
She too was a Prefect. The crowd of regular students that started accumulating at some point was more than willing to give her a summary of events. Or at least of what they thought happened based on what they saw through their windows as they spied, and what they heard when they finally came out of them. Luckily for Harry this basically amounted to Harry talking to Ron with a smile while Ron glared and made threatening movements culminating with him trying to hit Harry and then attempting to tackle him. That Harry was tiny in comparison to Ron and his own brothers seemed to have sided against him did not look good.
For Ron. Not Harry. For Harry this was great.
All around him students whispered to one another, chattering excitedly. This was the single most interesting thing to happen on the train to school in years. As a result rumours spread like fiend fire though out the locomotive. Children from the furthest reached of the train tried to force their way into the carriage. The girl prefect from earlier finally had enough and shoved most of the people out, sealing the doors on either side after them. With an exasperated sigh she turned to the remaining students.
"Alright, what started this?"
In the midst of the outbreak of even more talking Harry noticed Draco standing off to the side. Next to him stood the round faced boy, his expression shy defiance. Harry locked eyes with Draco, nodded at the twins then raised his brows. The blonde raised one of his own. So he's the one who fetched the Twins. Harry supposed the round faced boy -whose name he really needed to learn- explained what Harry planned to do as soon as Harry left. He really was the good sort of boy. It played right into Harry's poorly thought out yet remarkably well ending plan perfectly. He was grateful for the consideration regardless.
Ron was huge.
Harry needed to eat more vegetables or something.
"...and he was a prat immediately. I left and then this one." Ron pointed at Harry. "Came after me to pick up where his boss left off." Harry could hear Draco choking somewhere behind him. "It was entirely unprovoked."
Everyone turned to Harry.
Chapter 14: You Saw That Right?
They leaned a little closer to hear him better. Harry could really get used to this. "From my own point of view I didn't see or hear anyone in our compartment do something to make the ginger act like a psycho. I had heard gingers were soulless but I didn't think it was true. These guys are awesome." He indicated His Twins which stood on either side of him protectively. "I was surprised that their younger brother seems to be less so."
"In your own words, from your own point of view," Repeated the female Prefect, her lips were struggling not to move as Percy's had been earlier. It was proof. Harry was invincible. "What prompted Mister Weasley, that Weasley, to get so upset that he felt the need to throw his fist at you?"
"I asked him to apologize."
Silence. They turned to look at Ron who was getting very red at this point. "I didn't need to apologize. Malfoy was being a prat so I was one back and then I left. What did I do wrong?"
"You tried to beat up someone half your size." Muttered one of the other prefects.
Harry gave Ron his fiercest glare. "You accused my cousin and his family of bribing ministry officials, controversial political affiliations and cowardice."
The prefect with the long hair raised a brow at Ron as shocked exclamations broke out. "And where did you get this information from? It must be a very reliable source if you felt confidant enough to say it directly to Mister Malfoy's face."
It was then the reality of the situation seemed to hit Ron. He stiffened, face paling. Percy and the twins went pale as well. They knew exactly who Ron would have claimed the information came from. Ron's loud mouth could lose his father more than his job. Even Harry knew that. He didn't have to be a wizard to know you didn't accuse people more powerful than yourself. Especially not within earshot.
Rather than try to placate Harry to avoid shaming his family more than he was Ron went on the defensive. "Listen to me! Who are you going to believe, me or one of Malfoy's lackeys? They took one look at me and judged me." Harry thought that was hypocritical.
Draco looked scandalized. "He isn't a lackey!"
"I'm a cousin." Harry clarified.
Ron's eyes flickered between them. "His cousin? Great. What're you a bloody Lestrange? A Black?"
Harry could have said a lot of things right then. The boy was giving himself to Harry on a silver platter. It was tempting. So tempting. He really did want to see everyone's faces. What Would a Hero Do? Let it go probably. And Harry might forget all about it after classes started. Right now he wanted to have some fun. He wanted to make a point. What Would a Villain Do? Sick his Hell Hounds on the boy most likely. Villains weren't known for their tolerance. Well then what would a morally ambiguous character do? Oh. Oh he could do this.
Harry smiled. A sharp, Cheshire crescent.
And said nothing.
Chapter 15: Who's the Tough Girl?
Right when the creepy cute first year was seriously starting to unnerve people, something else happened which distracted everyone entirely.
The door to the last compartment slammed open. An older girl in torn muggle jeans and a flashing tie-die shirt that was very much not muggle stumbled out. Neon blue laces weaved in high top shoes pulled and stretched until both pairs of footwear were kicked off. They landed with thuds beside the same wall she pressed her back against and slid down. Reaching the floor she let out a sigh. "Silence at last." She murmured. Her finger popped a stick of gum in her mouth. A comic book was produced, resting against one of her knees. She settled in to read.
When she finally noticed the group of students gathered in the hallway, including every single prefect, she froze mid page turn.
"...what did I miss?"
And then her hair turned purple.
Harry had so many questions he honestly thought he might explode. "It doesn't matter. The soulless wonder over there was just being an idiot. Anyway what are you wearing? How is your shirt doing that? Is that a muggle comic book or a magical one? Your hair changed colours. Are you using a spell or is it like my Twins in-sync vocalization? Some sort of magical genetic trait? Is it only your hair colour that changes or can you-"
"Oh shut up Lestrange." Growled Ron. That's right, his insecurity was such that he actually brought the attention back toward him and his loose tongued father. Harry thought the other boy needed some hobby to be really good at so he could bulk up on confidence and maybe think a little before he spoke. Might do wonders for his general life experience. He wouldn't be so angry at the world if had validation. Did the Twin's mum give any of her children proper attention? He should send an owl to the sharp toothed clerk and ask him if he knew where to get an idiots guide to not raising a psychopath. Or the magical alternative. Either one.
What was the ginger talking about?
"Everything was fine until you chased after me. If your cousin wasn't such a git we wouldn't have had a problem anyway."
Harry's mind was already three topics away at that point and it took him a moment to even remember what Ron was talking about. So he stared at him blankly while his brain tried to backpedal. Psychopaths. Insecurity. Soulless. Purple Hair...
"He was not." Said round faced boy, half hiding behind Draco who seemed amused at being a human shield. "Y-you were the one being rude. Not him." That kid was seriously growing on Harry. He was shy but there was a backbone in there if a flexible one. Harry could work with that.
Ron turned on round faced boy. "Aren't you Neville Longbottom? Why are you defending a Malfoy? Don't you know who his aunt is? Merlin she's probably this ones mum." He shoved a finger in Harry's face. "What are you thinking?"
Harry was actually sort of offended. He had no idea who Ron was talking about but you shouldn't say things like that. "Leave mums out of it." Harry ordered, frowning. He never knew his own mum true,that didn't mean it was okay to talk about a hypothetical mother in that tone of voice. Any mother of Harry's -fictional or not- would be totally awesome.
"Shut it Lestrange." Ron pushed him. Harry tumbling to the ground was all it took for the spectators to decide to step in. Percy and the dark haired Prefect pulled their wands. Someone else was faster. "You don't have a mum you have a monster. You're just monster spawn-" Ron's mouth kept moving for a minute before he realized there wasn't any sound coming out. Harry was fascinated. Sure he was mentally murdering Ron at the same time but that wasn't anyone else's business. besides, the kid just needed to stop letting his mouth run away with him. And learn to take a hit. Sometimes you make a mistake. Sometimes you make it publicly. It happens. Let it go.
Tie Dye girl stood in the middle of the room, wand pointed at the red headed first year. Slacker tendencies long gone. Her wand, Harry saw, was twisty and iridescent. The flashing blue and yellow shirt and torn jeans were suddenly intimidating. The long black hair swirling around her helped a bit. That and the cool expression. "Bellatrix Lestrange was my mother's sister. I am the daughter of Andromeda Black. You wanna push me around too?"
Ron's mouth clicked shut.
Chapter 16: Like That?
Ron's mouth clicked shut. He shook his head back and forth, eyes wide. Good choice. See? Ginger was making progress already. It appeared female influences made more headway with him than male ones. Or at least pretty females with quick wand reflexes.
"Leave the kid alone, you understand me? All of you." Tie Dye girl's gray eyes surveyed the students in the hallway. Everyone nodded. Satisfied Tie Dye girl held a hand out to Harry. "Need a hand?"
He let her pull him to his feet. "How did you do that?"
"What?" Her brows creased.
"The flicking and the muting of the ginger? What was that?" Harry bounced on his feet. "Was it a spell? I didn't hear an incantation. When do we learn that? Can I do it? Is there a distance requirement or will it work as long as it hits the target even if they're really far away? How long does it last? Is it a physical effect or does it interfere with our ability to hear him? Would someone who came by after the spell was cast him be able...oh no I guess they wouldn't..."
"Oh, uh it's a spell. It's not a physical effect. The incantation is silencio and this is the wand movement." She showed him.
Harry twisted his wrist. His wand popped out of the holster. Harry mimicked her. "Like that?" He looked up with large hopeful eyes. "Did I do it right?"
She gave a small squeal. "You're so cute- I mean yes just like that." She ruffled his hair. Tie Die girl glanced between him and Ron. "Hey lets have an impromptu lesson okay? I'll reverse the spell and you try to put it back on him."
Harry shook with excitement. "Lets!"
To Ron's shock and everyone else's amusement the girl flicked her wand again.
"You can't really be using me for a less-"
He was ignored though The Twins did take a moment to conjure some ropes around him to keep him in place. Strictly for academic purposes Harry was sure. They were so sweet to indulge Harry's need to express his curiosity. How did he manage to make such great friends? And a lesson already. Was it too early to earn points? He wasn't assigned a house yet. Harry would ask later.
"Okay. Not physical altering him...which is good because I don't want to accidentally hurt him...this must have some affect on the sound waves leaving him then that negates our reception of his voice...like interference on the telly only without the scratchy noise and all of the pixel-ated chaos." Harry muttered to himself. Confident he knew what he wanted his magic to do Harry flicked his wand at Ron. Thankfully for the sake of the lesson the boy was still yapping away in indignation. Whether he was really that upset or he was finally playing along was anyone's guess.
To Harry's delight it totally worked.
"I did it." Harry spun in a circle. "Fred, George did you see? Draco did you see it? Did you see what I did?" He cast a spell! With an audience and everything. He was a wizard. The best wizard ever. He had no proof of that yet but really it was only a matter of time. All of his family magicks in his little introductory journal worked for him of course but almost never on the very first try. And his aunt said he'd be a failure. He'd show her.
Tie Dye girl's mouth fell open. "He cast non verbally."
Chapter 17: Did Somebody Say makeover?
Everyone began talking at once.
"Isn't that the kid who tore the wards at Gringotts?"
"I was there that day."
"He did what!?"
Recovered amongst the gossiping Tie Dye girl approached Harry where he animatedly explained his thought process to two red headed twins and a Slytherin Prefect and several Ravenclaws who'd managed to remain in the carriage when it's occupancy went through the earlier downsize. She tapped his shoulder. Large green eyes turned to meet her.
"So are you related then? To the Lestranges I mean."
Harry ran through what he knew of his family tree. "Yes actually. Through a marriage but not by blood. I don't think." He may have been stretching that a bit but having the girl believe he was related kept him from getting beaten up in front of a frozen by shock group of older more experienced magic users and that would have been a horrible first day. In fact Harry shoved that realization somewhere into a corner of his mind. Think positive Potter. The Twins would have done something. Hopefully before Draco did.
She smiled. "That makes us cousins then I think."
"Are we?" How, with all of these family members popping up, did he end up with Aunt Petunia? The one member of his family who hated magic? Didn't anyone in the magical world think things through before they did them? Honestly who thought that was a good idea? He pulled on Draco's sleeve. "Are we related to Tie Dye girl?"
Draco and the Slytherin Prefect he'd been talking to struggled not to smile at that. The blonde shrugged elegantly. Elegantly. Who does that? "If her mum is Andromeda Black then her mum is sisters with my mum. Cousins of a sort."
"I have another cousin! And she's not hideously overweight or trying to chase me down and kick my teeth in at the park. This is great."
"Wait what?" Draco asked.
"Oh!" He spun back to Tie Dye girl. "I'm related to the Blacks too. Through my father. So we might be like cousin cousins or something."
Tie Dye girl laughed. "Oh yeah? Who is...your...father?" She trailed off, examining him suspiciously.
Harry jumped, startled. "Was that an intercom? You don't have Internet but you have intercoms?"
The Prefects stared at one another. "Okay everyone, hit the carriages. Get them changed and ready to go, meet back here in five. Go!" They scattered. The students scattered with them. There was barking of orders and pushing through doors until the hallway was almost empty.
"You'd think they would have paid more attention." Murmured round faced boy, also known as Neville Longbottom. "It is their responsibility."
"Not the best examples we could have." The Twins agreed.
"Aren't you going to get ready?" Harry asked Tie Dye girl. She had picked up her comic book and was carefully putting it into a plastic sleeve and tucking it away. Tie Dye girl looked down at herself. Flashing shirt, ripped jeans. Smiley face toe socks. "Huh. Maybe you're right. Hold on." Her hair straightened, fell to her shoulders and turned blonder.
Harry made a face. Boring. "Wait, I have an idea." The little wizard ran down the hall and into the last compartment on the right.
"Uh..." She stared at the empty hallway.
Draco reached out awkwardly and patted Tie Dye girl's arm. "It'll be okay." He soothed. Familial obligations were a bother.
The raven haired boy reappeared a moment later holding a muggle fashion magazine in the air. He held it out to her. "Here...third page...hair..." He gasped. Harry leaned against the wall. He probably should have breathed at some point. One of the Twins offered Harry a glass of water. "Thanks."
Tie Dye girl raised a brow and flipped through the magazine.
Draco tilted his head. "Rebellious Fashion for the Misunderstood Youth." The blonde smirked.
Harry blushed. "Don't judge me."
"Not bad." Tie Dye girl's hair shortened, locks twisting and pulling upward into striking spikes. "Like that?"
Harry bounced around her. "Make it pink."
"Pink?" It turned a bubblegum pink. "Anyone have a mirror?" She turned and tried to examine her reflection in the window. The Twins offered her a small hand mirror.
Tie Dye girl glanced in it, grinning. "Wicked."
"What about your outfit?" Asked Longbottom. The round faced boy stood just behind Draco. He seemed uncertain if he should be there yet afraid to offended anyone if he tried to leave. Harry was sure to give him a bright smile when their eyes met. He was the good sort of boy after all and Harry though having a few of those around couldn't hurt.
Tie Dye girl got out a tie, from, somewhere, and put it around her neck. Harry would need research alternative space or storage means in the magical world. That or girls had extra pockets boys didn't know about. The tie was thin, red and black checkerboard. It clashed with her flashing shirt magnificently. "How do I look?"
"Fantastic." Assured Harry. He suspected she thought out her outfit much as he had when he designed his new school uniform. What image she was going for or her motives he didn't know. Yet. Harry was an awfully curious boy after all.
Draco cleared his throat. "I'm not sure that's an appropriate choice for uniform." Harry elbowed him. "But it looks lovely anyway."
"Oh I'm not a student. I'm an assistant professor."
Chapter 18: Do I Smell Foreshadowing?
"I'm Assistant Professor Tonks. Muggle Studies and Defense are my subjects. You know, part of the time. There's no rule for dress for the teachers. I checked. I could run around in a pillowcase if I was in the mood."
"Assistant Professor? Is that a thing?" Draco asked skeptically. Silver eyes narrowed at the multi coloured girl.
Her cheeks flushed. "Oh well you see I'm trying to be an auror. And my scores are really good but they think I'm too young and inexperienced. I was originally going to take the next year to intern under Alastor Moody -he's retiring next summer- and use his hopefully good recommendation to get into the program." She bent down and collected her shoes somewhat embarrassed.
"So how'd you go from Auror wannabe to glorified teacher's aide?" Asked the Twins. In unison. Raising their left brow in unison.
Tie Dye girl blinked like someone exposed to something far too shiny. When her eyes refocused and she came tot he conclusion there were in fact two boys in front of her and not one twice -which would be odd indeed- she rallied. Tie Dye girl shrugged. "It was spur of the moment. The Defense Instructor for this year is usually the Muggle Studies teacher. He volunteered to take the Defense position for this year and had someone else set to fill in his old position for the year. Apparently she was caught screaming in the Gringotts foyer about robots down in the mines. The Goblins took her into custody and reassured the Ministry they were going to take get information from her then deliver her to Saint Mungos." There was an awkward silence where Harry and Draco didn't look at one another. "So then they called me to help Professor Quirrel juggle both positions. We're pretty much all going to pretend that woman wasn't locked up somewhere never to see the light of day again. There'll probably be an article about it in the Prophet tomorrow."
"Seems like a good time to have possibly plot relevant information come out." Harry guessed.
Neville blinked. "What?"
Percy returned then dragging a sullen Ron behind him. "Time to go everyone."
Oh good, school! The unlikely group made their way through the train doing their best to ignore the gawking students doing their best to get a glimpse at the subject of so many rumours over the trip. Harry was as always somewhat oblivious.
"You know for such a small squirt you're actually pretty powerful." Said Assistant Professor Tonks. Her shoes dangled from her left hand carelessly. She was the least teacherly looking teacher he had ever seen. Harry hadn't actually known any magical instructors prior to this so maybe it was par for the course. Or she was a rebel. Harry approved of both.
Draco smoothed Harry's hair like a proud parent. "Ollivander did say appearances would be deceiving where it came to you and your wand."
"Oh there's an idea. I'll send my owl to Master Ollivander asking for more information-"
"Did he say Master Ollivander?" Tonk's eyes widened.
"He's an apprentice?" The students weren't busy enough dressing themselves -or you know minding their own business- to not purposely over hear their conversation and then shamelessly advertise the fact. Rumours immediately began circulating. That seemed to be a thing with people here.
"-ingredients. I know the basic mechanics of wands -this magic frequency resonating with that magical frequency combine to effect most magical frequencies in such and such sort of way when a complimentary energy is forced through- but I have to wonder how the representation of the foci corresponds to its wielder's personality traits as well as their magical frequency. Does the temperamentallity of that branch of magic compare to that of the user attempting to use it? How does the wand know so much about its potential wielder? Is there a test? Does it interact with our innate magical at a subconscious level and give a reaction to indicate to its preference? Is there a-"
"Don't be ridiculous. Wand mechanics? Isn't it just magic?" The poor witch who spoke was herself oblivious to the look of horror developing on Draco's face. "I don't think it is nearly as complicated as you're trying to make it. But it's okay, you're starting school now and I am sure you'll catch on..."
Harry's entire body tensed up. He paused mid step and turned to meet a witch with unfortunate teeth and a superior facial expression. "I'm sorry. Did you say just magic?"
"Of course. It's just magic. Our magic makes the wand work, it's not a mystery." She lifted her chin. It wasn't endearing the way it was when Draco did it. It was annoying. And pushy. And oh-my-Tolkien-she-really-believes-what-she's-saying.
Harry crossed his arms, shoulders back and feet apart. It was a stance he'd practiced in the mirror. The stance the guard at the entrance to Gringotts took. Giving the slightest of a facial tic -indicating he was either trying not to smile or not to scowl, thus either amused or irritated without confirming which- he addressed in as sickeningly polite a voice as he could manage. With Aunt Petunia as a guide it wasn't all that hard to do. "I'm sorry, it's just from your Nikes I assumed you were muggleborn and quite new to the magical world. I hadn't realized you were an expert. I hadn't realized you'd extensively researched magic."
"Because that is the only reason I can think of for someone who appears to be muggle raised to act as if they know everything there is to know about a world they've never even lived in."
"I read about it." She defended. Her eyes flicked over the students who stopped to watch. "And I'm rather clever too. I read quite a few books in the time I've learned about the magical world and I think I can say with some confidence that Magic is just Magic. Some sort of energy we posses to encourage a change upon the world around us. Interesting enough certainly but not so mysterious. We're just harnessing a tool, like electricity..."
The little wizard shook like he was going to explode. Harry's hands curled into fists. He opened his mouth and-
"Quick, get him and run." Whispered Draco.
"Why?" Asked Tonks.
"Yeah," Said one Twin, leaning on his brother. "Why ruin the show?" They shared wide amused smiles at the unsuspecting victim...er...witch.
Draco told himself he couldn't choke Tonks because she was a professor and he couldn't choke the Twins because it was rude and Harry wouldn't like it. He took a deep breath. "If we don't stop it now I'm never getting sorted and you'll never get to the feast. We'll be on the way back to the platform before he's half finished telling her everything wrong with that sentence."
The Twins shrugged. "No school. I'm not seeing a downside."
"And then you'll have to explain more than where you got your clothes to your mum." Draco finished, crossing his arms.
The Twins picked up Harry and made a beeline for the closest exit. Harry to his credit kept berating the girl over their shoulders. Which was easy to do since Fred had tossed him over a shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Harry stopped trying to get back to the unknown muggleborn when he saw the moving carriages drawn by nothing. Unfortunately he was three steps that way when a twin scooped him up again and pointed him in the other direction.
A sign said Forbidden Forest. Harry made for it.
A twin once again picked him up. "Harry you're never going to make it to class if you don't get to school. You need to get in the boats so you can-"
"Aw Fred," Harry whined, "I just want to have a look! There are so many interesting things I can't help it." The arms around Harry stiffened. Harry squirmed around in Fred's grasp to look up at him. The boy examined Harry without blinking. "Um George I think I broke your...brother." He trailed off. To the left George stood, examining Harry in much the same way. The little wizard squired and turned around entirely, wrapping his legs around the taller boy as he did. Fred was frozen at the moment and Harry didn't fancy falling and tumbling down the hill into the lake below. He couldn't swim. Harry reached out a finger and poked the boy's cheek. "Fred?"
And then he was suddenly squeezed tightly. George joined in from behind after a moment. Harry squeaked in surprised. A few minutes later he said. "Oh look. Remember those you were talking about? They're leaving without me." And they were. "Bye boats." He waved.
They set him down. Harry turned to make his way to the boats. If he was lucky there would be one left. He really couldn't swim. Before he could make it far he was spun in a circle several times. Dizzy, he looked up at His Twins in confusion.
"Which one of us is which?" The Twins demanded in unison.
Harry blinked. "You're Fred and he," Harry pointed, "is George. Do you need those shirts with initials again?"
"Are you guys okay?"
Finally Fred patted Harry's head with a shaky hand. "We're just fine Harry. Go get on a boat."
"We'll see you at the welcoming feast." Added George.
Harry watched them walked away, puzzled. Magical people were strange.
He glanced at the lake and then signed. Well he supposed walking was better than boats anyway. He went to a pool only once in his life. He remembered it vividly. His cousin had held him under water until he blacked out. He hated aquatic related activities ever since. Of course he could spend some time checking out that Forbidden Forrest now since no one was around to see him doing so...
"Oi Black." Tonks called.
Chapter 19: Am I Forgetting Something?
"You might as well ride with us." She stood on the steps of the last horseless carriage. A tan boy stood beside her.
He gave Harry a wide smile when he caught up with them. "I can't cross the lake." Said the boy. He sucked on a bright red lollipop.
Harry shrugged. "I can't either." The boats were gone.
The other boy's grin grew. "I'm Blaise." Some of his teeth were really pointy Harry noted. Not like the clerk who gave him the map. All of his teeth were pointy. Blaise only had a few on either side that were pointy. Was that significant? He should get a book on magical races at some point.
"I'm Hadrian James Po-"
"Harry get in I'm hungry." Draco complained quietly, his head stuck out the window.
The little wizard followed Tonks and Blaise into the carriage. "You know," Harry said to himself. "I always get interrupted when I try to introduce myself properly. I wonder if it's relevant." He promptly forgot about it. He may be the Boy-Who-Lived and famous but that was from events with the old war. Kids his age didn't care about that kind of thing.
Chapter 20: Are we there yet?
"Expect anything from anyone
The Devil was once an Angel."
The carriage ride wasn't as exciting as a potentially life threatening boating trip across a lake in the dead of night.
It was comfortable and lacked water so Harry forgave it this offense. He even patted the seat beside him fondly. Anything but water was fine by him. There was the added bonus of discovering Draco knew of Blaise from events they both attended and from his mother's reputation. What this reputation was Harry was uncertain. Blaise however -as he insisted Harry call him- didn't seem offended at the brief mention of it at all. In fact he only bared his teeth in a challenging sort of smile and continued on with their discussion. Whatever the rumours about his mother were they were either true and he was okay with that, or they weren't anywhere close to the truth and he was okay with that too. All in all nothing seemed to phase the kid. His face always looked amused, like he was holding in a laugh at something no one else would understand. And it stayed that way for the entire trip.
Draco was Malfoy to Blaise and to Tonks, and Blaise was Zabini to Draco and to Tonks. Harry was Harry. Well Tonks had taken to calling him Black, perhaps as a dig to Ron whom she did not like. No really. She said as much the second she climbed into the carriage and shut the door.
"I kinda wish I'd smacked that ginger kid." She said aloud. "Of course then Charlie would have been upset. He's interning at the Dragon Camps and I'm not sure if his sense of duty to family is enough for him to let me get roasted when I visit. I know mine is." She winked at Harry.
He really liked her.
"Charlie?" Draco asked. The blonde sat beside Harry with Blaise across from them and Tonks on Harry's other side by the door. Not that any other seating arrangement was an option. The moment Harry came through the door his cousin took him by the arm and pulled him beside him on the seat, putting his feet up to stretch out on the rest of it. He did all of it while eyeballing Blaise. The darker boy had only grinned in response.
"One of his elder brothers. We went to school together. Way better attitude." She explained. "Same temper though. I think it's genetic."
"Yes well ginger. Soulless. All that." Harry waved a hand.
Draco gave a soft sigh. "That's offensive you know. And the Twins are ginger besides."
Excuse me? Harry twisted in his seat to face Draco. "My Twins."Harry corrected. He made sure to keep his face set in a serious expression. "And they're awesome even if they are soulless demons." There.
He didn't understand why everyone laughed.
About twenty minutes later every hair on the little wizard's body stood on end, shivers combing up and down his arms. His breath left in an involuntary burst of air. Eyes wide Harry glanced around to see if anyone else noticed. Directly across from him Blaise's dark eyes were locked on Harry. The other boy raised an eyebrow, grinning around his third red lollipop. His fondness for the colour noted and shoved into a corner for later consideration.
Harry leaned forward. "Did you feel that?"
Blaise crossed his legs, arms laying along the top of the seat on either side of him. "The wards?" He offered. "Sure."
"You can feel the wards?" Tonks looked between them curiously. A comic book resting in her lap, forgotten. Neither of her shoes were on yet. "That's pretty good. Most people aren't this sensitive to magic yet. Or sometimes at all." She cocked her head. "I'm not as surprised at Zabini though. I figured he would be a little sensitive to it. You'd sort of have to be."
"Always good to know when one is welcome." Blaise agreed.
And what did that even mean?
"Harry's familiar with wards." Said Draco. He was shining his nails using the fabric of his shirt. The only indication he was purposely being mischievous was the slight twitching of his lips.
"Draco." Harry whined. "Can't we just let that go?"
His cousin glanced up through his lashes. "We can never let it go Harry. No one is ever going to let that go."
"They will if they don't know that I did it." Harry crossed his arms and frowned.
Blaise leaned forward at that, though his arms remained touching the back of the seat. It was rather predatory. "That was you." He didn't say it like he was asking, he said it more like he was confirming something he already thought. Was Blaise there that day? Harry didn't know He hadn't paid much attention to those around him outside of wishing they'd stop staring at him. Now he wished he'd paid more attention. Mental note Potter, said Harry to himself, notice who is around especially when you do something like mess with wards. People pay attention to that sort of thing. Unintentional or not.
Tonks stuck her head out the window and called, "There's the castle. We're just passed the gates."
Chapter 21: This won't go on my permanent record, will it?
Everyone else stuck their heads out as well. In the dark of the landscape hundred of windows shone brightly out of a massive castle. More a fortress in Harry's opinion. He grasped the rail along the top of the carriage and began pulling himself out of the window enough to sit on it. He surveyed the carriage roof for a good hand hold and decided the rail was all he got. He had one foot beneath him before anyone else noticed.
"What do you think you're doing?" That was Draco.
Harry smiled to himself. Such a worrier. "Getting a better look." He shouted. Harry shoved upward with his leg sliding the rest of his body from the window. Standing on the window sill with the wind beating against him Harry paused. The castle was even larger the closer they came to it. Towers rose above the walls into the sky fading from view. He shivered. Adventure.
With a low grunt, he tried to pulled himself onto the top of the carriage. He nearly slipped and for a minute he thought he might actually fall. His foot found a spot to stabilize him though and he succeeded and getting to the roof. He gave a small victory cry. It looked amazing up here. He could see the ground in every direction. Or as much as was visible in the night. Harry grasped the rail carefully and ducked his head through the window. The upside down faces of his riding companions greeted him.
"Well? You coming?"
Draco stared. "Are you out of your bloody-" Oh he was cursing. Yeah, he was upset with him. "-mind. What are you thinking? And no, none of us is as stupid as you to climb out the. No. Zabini sit down. Zabini!" Blaise swung out from the window and leaped to the roof of the carriage with enviable ease. Tonks was next. Her spiky hair appeared first. Blaise and Harry had to lunge forward and grab her hand when she slipped. With a sheepish smile, she joined them. Five minutes later Draco was sat atop the carriage as well.
"The view is excellent and I'm going to enjoy the ride but I want you to know I am highly offended by your lack of self-preservation," Draco informed him.
Harry bumped his arm against his cousin. The castle really was magnificent. Fueled by a slight adrenaline rush Harry found he couldn't sit still. So he stood up. He nearly fell off. He didn't. Harry spread his legs a bit further apart, planted firmly and held out his arms to keep himself balanced. Mouth drawn in a sharp crescent, he watched the castle come closer. He felt like the king of the world.
"It feels like coming home after a long time away." He whispered.
Draco stopped berating him after that.
Quicker than he liked they reached the end of the path. One by one the hopped off the carriage. Draco was pleased no one else was around to notice. Blaise jumped down first. Tonks followed. Draco went next and then Harry. Draco breathed a suspiciously relieved sigh when Harry's feet were on the ground again. Really he worried too much.
Tonks twirled around to make sure there weren't any other stragglers. -"That's everybody. This way."- Their flashing guide in the darkness stumbled up the steps and yanked on what Harry assumed was the door to the front entrance. She frowned. Tonks took out her swirly wand and flicked it at the knob. -"Alohomora!"- She pulled on the door again.
"So...we're locked out." Announced the Assistant Professor.
"We're skiving the welcoming feast? Nice." Blaise grinned around his lollipop. Harry couldn't help but grin as well. Being locked out of a magical castle in the night sounded exciting. To Harry at least. Draco...not so much. The blonde skittered back from the shadows into the light of the torches on either side of the door.
"Aren't you a teacher?" He asked, silver eyes wide. Apart from the slight shake in his voice -and that Harry already knew it from the trip into the mines- his fear of the dark wasn't obvious. Harry was impressed. His cousin's anxiousness could be attributed to not wanting to miss being sorted and perhaps a healthy respect for the forbidden forest. Speaking of, Harry leaned around his blonde cousin to peer at the path toward the forest. They had nothing better to do after all.
Tonks gave a sheepish smile. "I haven't got a key to let us in and I haven't been keyed to the wards yet."
"And why haven't you got a key?" Draco almost whined.
Blaise tossed his empty lolly stick into one pocket and dug in the other for a new one. Tan fingers unraveled the wrapper and popped it into his mouth. "How are we getting in then?" He pondered aloud. A go-with-the-flow sort of person this one, Harry thought.
Tonks' shoes squeaked on the steps as she backed up a bit. "A window?" She suggested.
Blaise snickered around his lollipop.
Did this happen often? You would think someone would have a procedure in place in case it happened. They can't have been the only ones a little late by carriage in the history of the school. Would they just have to grin and bare it and shimmy up the drain pipes or what? That did sound adventurous. Oh but he didn't have his twins to catch him. Draco might but he'd quietly berate him afterward and make him feel guilty. Harry huffed, his breath making the slightest of appearances in the air. He supposed it was just as illegal to break into a place in the magical world as it was in the muggle. Technically they did have permission, though. And three of them were minors and minors were usually let off easier right? Oh, he hoped no one would contact his relatives over it if they were caught. Harry liked eating even if it was once a day.
Draco was poking him.
Harry watched him from the corner of his eye. "Hmm?"
"You've been staring at the wall for five minutes."
"I'm contemplating the punishment for breaking and entering if I've got no prior convictions." Said Harry, honestly. Surely the Dursleys were punishment enough for any crime he might commit?
Blaise drew out his lolly and tapped it against his sharp teeth. "None at all actually. If we don't get caught."
Tonks pulled herself up some vines growing on the wall, putting her weight against them experimentally. "Zabini's got a good point." She grasped another vine and slowly climbed upward.
"Aren't you trying to be an Auror? A magical cop type deal?" Harry asked.
"Not one yet. I'm too young." Tonks muttered, climbing up a bit farther. She put her wand between her teeth. It lit its self, giving her light as she left the light of the torches. Harry couldn't fault her reasoning though he imagined this was one of those things she wouldn't be telling them when they did their evaluation next year.
Draco stomped a foot. "He doesn't have a good point at all. Malfoys do not sneak through windows in the dead of night!" He turned about them as if his father might be hiding in the bushes taking notes on his heir's conduct. For someone whose close family members were all rumoured bribers, blackmailers, terrorists and politicians; you'd think Draco would be right at home in this sort of situation.
Blaise shrugged. "As long as we're inside by daybreak I don't much care. Call it an adventure." Harry really liked Blaise.
"Daybreak?" Draco squeaked.
"Ah but then none of you get sorted." Pointed out Tonks. She was just above the level of the door now, about ten feet down from the closest window. Which was hopefully less secure than the door. "And I can't be late my first day. Won't look good."
"Yes because acting like a felon is much more appropriate." Draco scowled. He started pacing the outline of light on the ground around them, agitated. "Great going Draco. You should have just got on a boat but no you waited for your cousin. The same cousin who is going to get you a criminal record before twelve and possibly expelled. I'll have to go to Durmstrang of all places then and I hate the cold. Sure it's cold here but not the way it is there. It's his eyes that does it. Large and shiny. Like a kicked kitten. Salazar help us..." The blonde ranted under his breath, to the amusement of Harry and Blaise.
"Kicked kitten huh?" Blaise asked idly, watching Draco pace. They all ignored their wayward professor climbing the wall behind them.
Harry flushed. "I'm not feline in the least."
Chapter 22: Open Sesame?
Harry flushed. "I'm not feline in the least."
He crossed his arms. A kitten? Neither a hero nor a villain was ever accused of being a kitten. There was nothing noble about a kitten, nothing frightening or intimidating. He refused to be a kitten thanks. Harry turned and glared at a random wall. Wait a second. Harry shuffled forward. One of the bricks was decorated with carvings. His small hands brushed who knew how many years worth of dust and grime from the face of the brick. He tried to get it out of the grooves of the carvings as well. Runic symbols along the top and the bottom and a language he couldn't guess at written in a phrase on the left within a circle. The largest portion was a snakelike carving in an S shape with some sort of knob just above it. He pulled on it and frowned when nothing happened.
"Come on, come on." Harry pleaded. The last two secret doors he opened were awesome, who knew where a secret door in a magical castle would go? Harry blinked in surprise when the strange words on the side were almost readable for a moment. As if he ought to know what it said but just couldn't remember. That did it. Harry had to know where the door went. He pulled all his focus and glared at the brick.
"Open up!" The little wizard ordered.
And it did. The wall slid open and Harry went tumbling through it. His cheek hit the cold stone floor with a loud smack. Harry squealed in a spectacularly undignified way, sitting up and pressing a hand to his face. That hurt! Harry glared over his shoulder at the wall. To spite him the wall slid shut. Who ever knew magical architecture could be so moody? Throwing one last look at the wall Harry pushed himself to his feet. He was in a small square room of stone. Not as interesting a stone room as in the depths of Gringotts but the centuries of magic soaked in the walls gave it character. On the opposite wall there was a circular seam in the stone. Interested, and having no other option, Harry went to investigate. Along the right-hand side, he saw small metal fastenings he thought might be hinges.
"Open?" He tried. Nothing. "Open!"
A circle shaped bit of wall swung out. Harry blinked. Okay then. The little wizard scrambled over the bottom of the circle, which was about a foot from the floor. He tripped into the hall outside the room. He stood and turned around in time to see the wall slam shut. It was a portrait he noted. Of a man with shoulder length dark hair in robes. Of course he was in robes, he was a wizard. Harry rolled his eyes at himself.
"Lost?" Harry spun, heart thumping against his chest.
There stood a very tall man. His pale skin easily visible in the dark hallway. Beyond him, Harry could make out a hall of some kind with a few torches keeping it dimly lighted. The low murmur of voices came from somewhere. The other students probably. Harry jumped. The man was a little closer now, dark eyes assessing him. He didn't say anything. He just stood there in black robes in the shadows like there was nothing out of the ordinary about a strange boy falling out of a wall.
It was then it occurred to Harry the man was waiting for an answer to his question.
"I might be." Said Harry.
A single dark brow rose. "I see." Dark eyes swam over him once more. Harry fidgeted. If this was a teacher Harry couldn't think of a worst first impression he may have made. Way to look like a delinquent Potter.
"Oh! Draco. I forgot." Harry spun in a circle. He spun back the other way. Nothing. "And I have no idea where I am." He declared. What now? Why weren't there signs or something? This place was huge. How was he supposed to find any of his classes? Provided he wasn't about to be expelled for breaking and entering. Voices meant people. People meant someone who could help right?
"You know Draco? Malfoy?" Harry jumped. How did that guy move so quietly? Did he learn it from the goblins? Harry pouted. He just had to learn to do it. It was such a neat trick. Harry nodded up at the man.
"Yes, sir. He's my cousin. Him, my other cousin and Blaise are all outside still. When we arrived from the carriages the door was locked." He hopped from one foot to the other. Draco was going to kill him for leaving him like that.
"I was unaware Draco had any cousins his age."
Harry shrugged. "Only me really. Tonks is eighteen I think. Or maybe nineteen."
"Nymphadora Tonks?" The man asked.
The little wizard turned to stare up at him in awe. "Do you know everyone?" He demanded.
Thin pale lips twitched. "Not everyone."
Harry scowled, kicking at the floor. "Yes, Tonks. Assistant Professor Tonks now actually." Harry started walking toward the outer hall he saw the light coming from. There had to be a door around here somewhere right? In fact, it should have been right beside him. No door, though. How could that even happen?
The man made an odd sound. "Is that who the old man recruited? Salazar save us..." He wrapped long thin arms about his waist as he followed after Harry, his dark robes falling around him like clingy shadows.
Harry grinned. "Draco says something like that when he's talking about me sometimes."
The stone of the corridor and the hall he was seeing more of as they walked had the same feel of years of magical build up as the room Harry entered if perhaps less oppressive. He didn't see any other carvings. There were one or two empty portraits along the way and a single large tapestry hung on the wall. The floor was smooth from centuries of feet. He didn't see any dust in here. He supposed this part of the castle was cleaned more regularly than his mystery room. Indeed it looked as if no one had been in it in a very long time. Harry would have to come back at a later date to explore it some more. If he was lucky maybe there would be other hidden places in the castle. He felt himself smiling. Harry bounced on his feet lightly while he looked around. Lots of room and centuries and centuries of magical people? There had to be secrets. Loads of them even. He nearly squealed with delight. Nearly.
Reaching the end of the corridor Harry ran around the shadow man and into the hall. The door to the left was thankfully familiar. Harry skipped up to it and tugged. It didn't budge. Harry stomped a foot. "Oh come on. Open!" Metallic clicks sounded. It unlocked itself.
Gee, being polite had a lot of advantages in the wizarding world. Unfortunately, the door was still heavy.
"What did you say?"
Tall, dark and possibly inhuman stood just behind Harry with a hand outstretched toward the door. Had he intended to open it? Well Harry beat him to it if he was. Cocking his head to the side Harry replied, "I said open."
The man blinked but otherwise remained impassive. "Say it again."
"Once more." The man commanded.
Harry turned all the way around, raising an eyebrow. "Open. I said open." He enunciated clearly. Was English not his first language?
Something slammed behind him and somebody shrieked. Harry and the tall man whirled around. The door was wide open and Tonks hung upside down by her leg. One of her feet tangled in vines. She spotted them and flushed. "Hey, Snape."
Tall man -Snape- closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. "What...are you...doing?"
"Trying to get into the castle?" She suggested.
A blur and a shout -harry!- was all the warning Harry had before being tackled. Both embarrassed and pleased Harry patted Draco's arm. "It's alright. I got the door open see?"
To his confusion, Draco pulled back and punched him in the arm.
"I worried about you, idiot. You can't just go running off in the middle of the night. Especially around here. What were you thinking? What if you ran into something? I thought you'd gone into the forest when I wasn't looking! I was half way through mentally composing a letter to explain how I lost my cousin to father! He would have killed me." Draco's eyes were wide at the thought.
Snape cleared his throat. "Draco?"
"Severus." Said Draco, suddenly standing very tall, his face calm. "How are you?"
"Oh fine. Looking over the halls for any pre-school pranks or mischief. Caught my godson attempting to break into the castle. Nothing note worthy I'm sure." Said the man. His tongue sharp. He looked exasperated.
Draco relaxed. Why, was a mystery to Harry. The sounded rather sarcastic and pointed to him. Yet his cousin seemed relieved.
"Thank you." He murmured.
Snape nodded, turned on his heel and started toward the other end of the hall. His strides were long and hard to keep up with. "Come along. Let's get you situated while we wait for your peers. I trust that is the end of drama for tonight?" Harry was pretty sure that was a rhetorical question but he answered just the same.
"Yes, sir." They chorused, Tonks included. The Assistant Professor began chattering to the other teacher, leaving the students to follow in their wake.
Draco bumped his shoulder against Harry's. They walked at the back of the group. Everyone in higher spirits now that they were inside. "You're a lot of work, you know that Potter?" Harry froze. "Harry?"
Green eyes snapped up. "You know?"
Draco's face flickered in confusion then cleared. "I know." He confirmed.
"How do you know?"
"I fixed your hair this morning." He said, averting his eyes. One of his hands smoothed down his entirely wrinkle-free outfit.
"And?" Harry pressed.
Draco rolled his silver eyes and huffed, crossing his arms. A stance he learned from Harry. "What have you got under your hair, Harry?" He asked. It was said in a tone of voice implying Harry was being stupid. This offended Harry.
"A migraine?" He shot back.
The blonde gave him a small smile. "A forehead. With a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt. Harry Potter is said to have one just like it and really how many eleven-year-old Harry's with lightning bolt scars on their foreheads can there be?"
Wait. Wait a second. Hold on. "You people know what my scar looks like? How?" Harry turned around in a circle. Were people watching him?
Draco waved a hand. "I don't know. We just know. Just like we all know he came to your house that night."
"So someone saw it then. When I was a baby." Harry clarified.
"I expect so." Draco leaned against the wall.
Harry started pacing in front of his cousin, mind whirling. "Someone saw a baby who was recently cursed by the dark lord but no one thought to have said cut healed? Why leave me with a scar in the first place? I don't need reminding of what I did, I was there. Granted all I had until this point were unexplained nightmares of flashes of ominous green light and someone calling my name..."
Draco only looked a little horrified. "I don't know."
"Who makes a choice like that anyway?" Harry pondered.
"Oi, Black, Malfoy. Get a move on you two." Tonk's head stuck out of a set of double doors. "Come sit with me for a bit until the rest of you get here. We've got a little while to wait yet so you may as well get settled."
With that, they left the conversation for now and started toward the doors.
Chapter 23: Did I make a Mistake?
Outside the doors our would be hero -or villain- paused.
A choked breath, closed eyes, clenched fists. He could do this he told himself. I will do this. It was just a room. Full of people. Full of wizards and witches. The ones with the answers. Most of them were born to this. This was his shot. Harry's breath let out in a burst. He pulled off his glasses, pressing the palms of his hands against his eyes. He would do well because there was no other choice. Go home? Back to his cupboard beneath the stairs? No more goblins or secrets or riddles? No more magic.
With a low growl Harry removed his hands, slammed his glasses back on his face and raised his chin.
He was not going to screw this up.
Draco waited for him through it all. The blonde didn't ask any questions or make any assumptions. The pureblood waited. When he saw Harry was ready he gave him a small smile. Draco pushed the doors open and walked beside him down the center aisle. On either side of them were long tables seating the four houses. Harry could tell this by the identifying banners and colouring heavily visible. Ahead of them at the farther end of the hall were steps leading up to a platform. A shorter table directly in the front. Behind it and down some steps though not as low as the house tables were more. All shorter tables. Not filled, as the house tables were, and not empty. Harry was surprised to note those sitting here were school age or a bit older and not one of them were the heads of house or department heads or heads of faculty. All of them were seated at the raised table on the platform.
So, who were they?
At the table directly behind the head table and to Harry's left Tonk was seated. The pink hair and flashing tie easily seen amidst a wash of black robes. The Assistant Professor waved at them excitedly. He looked to Draco who shrugged. They took the seats beside her. He did not see the students nudging one another, turning to look in his direction. Whispering about the two first years sitting there. Questioning who the dark haired boy sat beside a Malfoy might be. The lower murmured whispers containing embellished details of the events of the train. Assumptions.
All of it passed over and around him.
"Harry!"Tonks smiled at them. "And Malfoy. Finally. It took you ages." Tonks turned to the others sat at her table. Both wizards, one appeared to be sleeping. "These are my cousins. You'll have guessed Malfoy I think, his mother is my aunt. One of them."
The wizard directly across Tonks opened one brown eye. His head rested on his arms among the empty goblets and platters littering the table. "Do you share your fathers fondness for politics?" He asked it without any inflection to his voice. Yet it said much.
Draco straightened in his seat. '"I have a fondness for my father.'"
Several eavesdroppers relaxed.
The raven haired wizard rolled his eyes. "On to far more interesting things. Who the heck are you people? Why are you sitting over here? My book only states the names of the current department heads -Like Snape for Potions and Flitwick for Charms- the Heads of House and the Headmaster and his Deputy. It doesn't say anything about you." Harry pulled a preshrunken tome from one of his pockets, enlarged it and use it as a pseudo booster seat while he waited for a response. He resolutely ignored Draco's soft smile at the sight.
"Were graduates." Said the wizard sat beside the other wizard, who appeared to have gone back to sleep. Or perhaps only pretending to be. He had scruffy dark blonde hair. "And they are the other professors, their assistants, pre and post-mastery scholars, apprentices. Some of us are researchers or theorists." He ticked them off. "Then there are the librarians, the archivists, the historian."' He waved a hand in a vague direction behind him. "Only parts of this school are devoted to the first through seventh year schooling. The rest of the castle is still an institution of learning however. We are part of it."
"That means you can eat over here Harry." Draco pointed out under his breath. At Harry's blank look he gave an aborted eye roll. Harry suspected the following rant about Potters and Gryffindors and Patience was purposely loud enough for Harry to hear.
Tonks knocked over a water goblet. "Hes right Harry. You'll get special privileges. Do you have the written agreement signed?" Her eyes glanced him over as if she expected him to pull it out of a pocket. Unfortunately that was one of the only things Harry did not keep in his pockets.
Draco huffed and elbowed the smaller wizard. "Apprenticeship." He muttered.
Harry's eyes lit up. "Oh. Yes. Well my sponsor has it. Should I send for a copy?" He tilted his head. "Speaking of owls. Where did I leave mine?"
"Yes send for it tonight after the Welcoming Feast." Tonk semi-ordered. "There are a lot of benefits to it I think you will enjoy. You know I don't think there's ever been one as young as you before. I should look in to that. And you still have to tell me how you worked that out. I had to beg for one from Moody and then I ended up coming here instead anyway." She sighed.
The sleeping boy and his friend were staring at them. "Care to elaborate." Asked the boy Harry decided to refer to as Sloth. His more awake friend leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms expectantly.
"Harry, my cousin, has an apprenticeship." Draco paused for a moment. Malfoys were so dramatic. "With Ollivander."
People stopped pretending they weren't eavesdropping at that point. Chairs squealed as other scholars and researchers dragged them to sit around the quickly crowded table. Papers were shuffled around, stuffed into bags or pushed off the table or out of seats on to the floor with none of their former regard. Harry felt stirrings of the same unease he'd felt at Gringotts that day 'IT' happened. Everyone was staring at him then as well. Did they have to stare? Couldn't they ask politely to sit there and just ask if they had a question? Of course not. These were wizards. Wizards were nutters.
"Are you really?" Demanded one.
"How on earth did you manage that?" Asked another.
"What did he say his name was?"
"Ain't that the kid everyones been talking about? Some prefect was-"
"He lies. He must."
"I was there." Draco continued. His voice -though soft- easily heard through the rumblings. Harry suspected his mother must have taught him how to do that. "I would say it was unexpected but my cousin tends to do the impossible on a daily basis. I have become desensitized to his disgraceful amounts of luck."
Harry shot him a wide grin. "I'm going to take that as a compliment."
Sloth sat up a bit in his seat. Stretching he asked, "Are you going professional or academics?" Scruffy uncrossed his arms and slip his chair forward in interest.
"I...what? This is a school, isn't it all academic?" Harry pointed out.
Scruffy huffed at Sloth. "He wants to know what track you're taking. Most of the other students have either familial obligations - training for their head of house duties or lordships or for entering the family business- while the rest have an occupation in mind. They want to be aurors," he nodded at Tonks, "or medi wizards or work at the ministry."
"We're the academics." Sloth added, motioning at the himself and the new residents of the table.
Harry thought for a moment. "Oh. I see. Then I suppose...I am going for the Academic Track."
After all he hadn't given a clue to any sort of job he might have one day. If there was one for exploring they could put him down for that one. Apart from that he had no idea what he wanted to do. Whatever he did though, he wanted to be the very best. That much was clear to the raven haired wizard. He wanted to be great. He wanted to learn things no one else knew, go places no one else had ever gone, discover things no one thought possible. But what sort of job did that? And surely it would be filled already.
Who wouldn't want that?
"Knew it." Sloth grinned. He held his hand out palm up toward Scruffy. Scruffy scowled, tossing him a few sickles.
"You bet on me?" Harry demanded. "How. Why? How did you even know to do it?" Harry looked between them, baffled. Were THEY mind readers? Harry immediately tried to think about nothing. He failed horribly.
Scruffy rubbed the back of his neck and cleared his throat. "We may have over heard a group of prefects talking about you."
"He means," said a red headed witch, "that they were leering at seventh years and only heard about you by accident." Several snickers broke out. Scruffy's face blossomed red while Sloth appeared to be entirely unrepentant.
"I wasn't leering." Scruffy defended. "I was keeping this one out of Azkaban." He jabbed Sloth in the arm with a finger.
"Don't be like that." Whined Sloth. He threw am arm about the other wizard much to Scruffy's obvious discomfort. "Seventeen is legal you know. It's okay if you looked. Some would say natural-"
"Oh shut up!" Scruffy snapped. He buried his face in his hands. Mortified. The red headed witch who sold them both out couldn't have been more smug. She turned and set her eyes on Harry.
"So. You're the one everybody is gossiping about are you?"
"Well ma'am." Said Harry. "How would I know? Isn't the point of gossiping that you're talking about someone behind their back? If I knew about it it wouldn't be gossiping it would be badly attempted defamation of character -if we assume its something bad- or at the very least outrageous lies." Why was everyone laughing? It was true wasn't it?
Her eyes narrowed. "Think you're special do you? Just because Ollivander had a 'moment' and offered you an apprenticeship doesn't make you somebody. Okay?"
"Okay?" Harry offered. Magical people were crazy.
"Who are your parents anyway? What do they do?" She asked sharply. Harry must have offended her somehow. He could not think what he may have done, having not even officially met her yet. Still, she definitely had it out for him. Harry swallowed. There were far too many people watching him.
"They don't do anything."
She scoffed. "Nobles then?"
Dread. That was this feeling. Dread.
"No. They're uh dead. Actually." Harry tapped his fingers against the table top nervously. He kept his eyes down. This was a test. Of some sort. He didn't understand it. He hated that he didn't understand it. Harry missed the glares Draco and Tonks leveled at the red headed witch. He missed Scruffy and Sloth moving closer to Harry and further from Her. He missed the significance of the moment.
He was busy trying to be invisible.
"Who raised you then?"
"My relatives." Harry answered into his hands.
Red Headed Witch sighed. "And they are...?"
"You wouldn't know them. They're muggles." Said Harry, his voice very small. He couldn't even bring himself to defend them. He knew they were the worst sort of people, even if they had magick he would have had a hard time finding a redeeming quality. They hadn't smothered him in his sleep yet, he reflected. Though for all he knew that wasn't for a lack of trying. His magick tended to do its best to keep him alive. He was pretty sure most people ate just a little more often anyway.
"An orphaned muggle-raised with ideas. Oh boy."
Something inside of Harry tightened at that. At the tone of her voice. He looked up, locking eyes with her. "What do you mean-"
"Harry let it go." Cautioned Draco.
Harry shoved his cousin's hand off his arm and ignored him. "No. What do you mean by that?"
The red headed witch place her elbows on the tables, steeped her fingers and examined him like a butterfly collector with a new specimen. "It is great you're excited, that your imagination is ignited -we've heard stories about you- at the end of the night you are just another kid strutting in here trying to change things around. Your uniforms? You're the mystery designer right? From Elmira's' Shoppe. The only apprentice to Ollivander. Making waves. But you're no one special. You have no name to claim apart from your birth, no back. Your questions seem brilliant to them."She motioned negligently to the researchers and scholars closer to Harry's side of the table. "I think they're asked in ignorance. Of our world. Our customs. Our heritage. Our ways. What they see as potential genius I see as a quick spark of intelligence that's going to be doused by weeks end. You got yourself a sponsorship sure. Yes, I heard."
"We all heard." Scruffy admitted.
"What is all of that really going to mean for you? How are you going to keep it, keep your sponsor interested when there are hundreds of other kids. Ones that were raised in this world, with this knowledge, ones with private tutors and parents supporting them with carefully cultivated connections borne through generations? Where do you fit in all of this? I'm not gonna give you credit kid just because you're curious. I don't hand out lollipops to the first-"
Lollipops. Harry's mind went off track. Why did that raise a bell in the back of his mind?
"-child with a decent question. You can't change the world, our world, by asking questions. You see? It doesn't matter how smart they think you are. You're just an orphaned muggle-raised first year. No one outside your no doubt limited circle is going top listen. Not seriously. They aren't going to care what you have to say. No one is even going to remember your name beyond a faded memory by the years end - I bet a galleon- I have seen children just like you. They come and they go and I can count on one hand the number that did something with themselves." She motioned at Sloth reluctantly. "Even if it is a waste."
"Give yourself a round of applause while you can. That's my advice. If you're smart enough to take it. Tomorrow someone else is going to come along that does what you do. Someone with better connections, better blood status and better at it besides. That's life."
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Harry's fists curled under the tables. "I'll take your bet." He said.
"You what?" She spoke for once without an undertone.
Harry's nails pressed in to the palms of his hands. His knees bounced. "I said...I'll take your bet. I'll raise it too. I bet three galleons." His mouth moved and words came out alomst without conhscious choice on his part. He was angry. Offended.
She reached out to shake his hand. Harry dragged one out from underneath the table, rubbing it against his slacks first. To hide the wetness he knew accumulated during her speech. Either he got it all off, she didn't notice, or she didn't care because she shook his hand and leaned back without commenting on the state of them.
"Wait, what are the terms of the bet?" Another witch asked, concerned.
Red Head shrugged one shoulder. "Who cares. I've got three galleons."
"What are the terms of the contract Harry?" Draco asked, quietly. The other members of the table stopped talking to listen.
Harry's mind raced. He hadn't though this through at all. Usually he did at least a little but he just reacted. She had rubbed him the wrong way. His whole life his aunt and his uncle loved to tell him that he was nothing and no one. The orphaned son of irresponsible drunks. But that wasn't true. It wasn't true then and it certainly wasn't true now. Harry was special. He was strong. His family journal of magicks weighed heavily in one of his pockets though the packet its self was light and thin. He'd done every spell. Every one. He was smart. He was strong. He would prove it. He would show everyone just how special he was.
And he would start with her.
"I bet three galleons the world will know my name." Harry declared.
"By years end?" Scruffy clarified, hazel eyes flicking between Harry and the witch.
"No." Harry said. "By tomorrow morning."
Murmurs broke out once more.
"He can't be serious."
A soft voice whispered to him directly. "Harry...are you sure you want to do this?"
"This is my chance Draco." Harry turned on his book to face Draco, ignoring the rest of the table. "You got your spot in this world just by being born. I have to earn mine. I have to prove myself. That I am more than what happened that night. More than an orphan."
"Yes but...by tomorrow?" Draco bit his lip in a stress related lapse of pureblood etiquette. "Even as The-Boy-Who-Lived your arrival won't make that sort of news."
"I can think of a way." Said Harry. For once his voice slow and perfectly serious.
Something flickered in Draco's silver eyes. "The sorting. What are you going to do-"
"Do you trust me?" Harry interrupted. Scenarios flashed through his mind, in and out, some set aside and others discarded. He could do this. Who knew just how. He wasn't sure if the sorting hat could be reasoned with but he did know how to cast a non verbal silencing spell. If persuasion failed he would silence it and project a copy pf its voice. He could do that. A simple mimicry charm of some sort. His mind pulled out different books that might have something on it,. While he mentally went through his book list his mouth distracted the blonde beside him.
Draco deflated. "Of course."
"-allowed to do it before we've started?" Scruffy's voice asked someone.
Harry turned back in his seat to look. Scruffy and Sloth appeared to be having a semi-serious conversation.
"We did it." Said Sloth.
"Yes but you're you." Said Scruffy. Apparently that meant something to Sloth who grinned. "I suppose we could-"
"I'll do it!" Shouted Sloth. He whirled in his seat, fully awake, eyes wide and shining. "Oi old man, we got a conundrum for you." He called. To Harry's surprise a wizard no more than his twenties answered.
"What have you done?" He asked without looking up from the parchments laid in front of him. Sloth calling for him like this must happen often enough that he knew who it was without looking. He didn't look old to Harry. His hair was a yellow blonde with no gray that he could see, his skin an unblemished fair that rivaled Draco's pale complexion.
Perhaps he was just the oldest?
Sloth put a hand to his chest, falling back into Scruffy who thought for a half a moment before catching his friend rather than allowing him to hit the floor. "You strike deep Gramps. Always so suspicious." Sloth thumbed at the Red Headed Witch. "Roman did it."
'Roman' glared at the back of Sloth's head.
This was enough to convince the wizard to come to their table. He put his paperwork into a neat pile reluctantly and made his way to them. He stopped when he reached Sloth's side of the table. "How may I help?"
"Sit down old man." Sloth pulled out a chair. "You're invited to the party."
Harry tilted his head, staring off vacantly. Unaware of the growing awkward silence around him when the newcomer greeted him and he said nothing. Inviting.Why did that ring some bells... Blaise. Oh My Tolkien we forgot Blaise. The small wizard's emerald eyes snapped back in to focus. He set them on the door at the other end of the hall. What if he wandered around while they were waiting and he got lost? Distressed Harry bolted from the table with a quick -excuse me!- up stairs, across the platform, down some stairs and down the middle aisle of the hall. This time he felt the eyes on him.
He didn't care. Pushing his unease aside, ignoring his shaking fingers, Harry opened the doors and stepped out into the hall. After his eyes adjusted he spied the entrance. Harry started down the corridor, his breath leaving in him in forceful breaths. The nearer he came to the door the more visible they became. Harry stumbled to a stop at the steps leading from the cracked doors to the outside. The small wizard poked a head of inky black hair out into the night.
Blaise was no where to be seen.
Oh how horrible would it be to come all this way and then believe you weren't really wanted? As if someone went through all of this trouble to pull some cruel prank on you? Or that they took one look at you and changed their minds? That you weren't good enough and wouldn't even be given a chance to prove them wrong?
"Blaise?" Harry called. He rubbed his arms reflexively. It was cold. "Come inside Blaise. You can come inside and sit with us now. I have a spot for you at my table, you can sit right across from me."
The slightest whoosh of air was all the warning he got before he found himself face to face with an upside down Blaise, hanging from the top of the door, staring. Blaise winked, let go and flipped over to his feet just in front of the smaller boy. At Harry's startled squeak Blaise's lips pulled upward. He pulled a lollipop from a pocket and popped it in his mouth.
His posture was in the state of relaxed confidence Harry had come to associate with the sharp tooth boy. There was a glimmer though. Fading from the corners of his eyes. Relief. For a moment the other boy had thought himself unwanted. This made something inside of Harry ache terribly.
He darted forward throwing his arms about the vampire's middle.
"You are always welcome Blaise." Whispered Harry.
They returned to the hall, or Harry did. Blaise saw it for the first time. Noting things Harry noticed in passing. Like the enchanted ceiling. The small wizard dragging him by the arm had eyes only for the tables sat just behind the head table. Harry stopped at his table locking eyes with Sloth. "Would you mind moving one over so my friend can sit there?" He asked. Harry sat in his own seat immediately after, confident his request would be fulfilled. He once again did not notice the looks exchanged or the raised eyebrows as those around him took note of seating arrangements. Such things did not yet register high on his list of things to pay close attention to.
He did notice he lacked one cousin.
"Where did Tonks go?"
Draco smiled a smile that was nearly a smirk. "McGonagal came in. Something about needing to get in contact with a first years parents. She won't be able to do the sorting so Tonks volunteered to do it for her. She was less than pleased."
"Tonks however was ecstatic." Sloth added. The now awake wizard sat across from Draco, to his left Blaise and the yellow haired Wizard Sloth called Gramps were sizing one another up. Harry felt one of his eyebrows raise. Go figure. How many non humans were there at Hogwarts anyway?
A throat cleared. Harry glanced up to see Sloth looking at him. His finger pointed to the side. Harry followed it. There just outside some sort of smaller chamber door Tonks stood beside McGonagoll and two familiar heads of red hair. His Twins! Perhaps sensing his gaze they turned as one. Spotting him they said something to the two adults and made their way over. The Twins didn't bother with asking people to move.
"McGonagol is going firecall our parents." Said Fred. "We told her Percy sent on an owl while we were on the train -we borrowed yours by the way- but she says she has to. Protocol or something or other."
George beamed. "Reckon ronnikins is gonna get hexed?"
"I reckon we won't be much better off." Said Fred, pulling on the sleeve of their new uniforms.
"Well damn." Said George. They shared a grimace.
Only Harry noticed the truth bits of panic lacing their words. The only one to know them well enough to see their tense shoulders, shining eyes, set jaws. Bracing themselves the way Harry might from a blow. This of an emotional sort rather than a fist. Harry still needed to deal with his Twins' parents.
"Black!" The raven haired wizard very nearly jumped out of his skin. He whirled around in his seat to find the eyes of the entire hall on him. Get your arse over here. You're second in line and the first is done. Pay attention your surroundings."
Tonks stood in front of the head table near a wooden stool with a ratty old hat perched upon it. On her other side the first years stood. Both Draco and Blaise were there. The blonde rubbing his temples, the vampire grinning. Neither of them bothered to say a word!
Harry stood from his eat, knees just a bit wobbly, and walked from the table up the stairs, across the platform, down the other side. He stopped beside Tonks.
"Well go on." She pushed him gently in the stools direction.
Harry recited all of his reasons for being here and doing this and his newly formed plan borne out of Roman's horrible speech and tried his very best to ignore the thousand and something people watching his every move. Small hands grasped the hat. He sat on the stool and carefully lowered it to his head. What followed was a discussion of greatness and questions and answers. Possibilities and consequences for the future. Harry charmed, and manipulated and through around logic. Memories rose to the front of his mind unbidden.
It was fifteen minutes later the hat made its decision.
The small wizard leaned forward, allowing himself to slip from the stool. His charmed shoes touched the floor without a single sound in the large hall. He twirled, placing the hate carefully on the stool. His unique uniform unknowingly on display. When he turned back he met impossibly wide silver eyes. Harry gave his cousin a small smile.
Surprise, he thought.
Tonks sighed. "Too much to hope I wouldn't be the only Black of this generation in Hufflepuff huh?"
"It did say I would do well in any of the houses." Harry offered. He let a pause draw on for a moment then took a breath."Though you really do need to call me by my name, at least some of the time."
Students and scholars and teachers alike quieted, listening. Interested.
"Black isn't wrong of course." Harry continued, "We both have Black blood through a parent. My father's mother was a Black by birth. Still, in my family tree she's known as Dorea Potter." Gasps, exclamations. "So perhaps I should be called Potter. I wouldn't want my tests scores going to someone else." He paused once more. "Of course, there aren't any other blacks about are there? Apart from Draco and we all know his father would throw a fit if he went by anything other than Malfoy. I guess it doesn't matter then. Call me what you like."
With that Harry skipped back to his previous seat. The entire hall watched him in stunned silence. He sat down on his large book seat, made himself comfortable and gave a little stretch.
Then, quietly so only his table could hear him he said, "Harry Potter gets into Slytherin. Think that'll make its way across the wizarding world?' He asked to seemingly no one. He tilted his head to spy Roman.
The witch looked like she was choking on a lemon.
A small pang of regret spiked in his chest when he turned back around. The sorting had resumed. His eyes kept flickering to the table decorated with bits of blue. Not a bad mind. Well, maybe so. But the hat also said he would do well in Slytherin. That it would lead him to greatness. So what if it wasn't the hat's first choice? It wasn't a big deal. harry would do just as well in the house of green as he would have in the house of blue he was sure of it.
He watched the students in that house sneaking peeks at the books in their laps. Some of them he could see from here at slips of parchment with notes on them keeping their place. For one wild moment he considered running back to the hat and ordering it change it back.
Harry took a breath. It was fine. He proved his point to Roman. Slytherins were ambitious and Harry did want to be great. Revealing himself to the hall like that wouldn't be a big deal right? And Draco would go in to that house anyway.
He wouldn't be alone.
Harry couldn't shake the feeling he'd made a really big choice without knowing. That he had somehow changed the way things were meant to go. That he had made a decision he wouldn't be able to take back. But that was silly wasn't it? It was just his house.
It's not like it would have unforeseen, plot relevant consequences or anything.