Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to the authors, producers, and companies with whom the material in question is affiliated.
A/N: Here you go! Real life is starting back up again, so I may have to start posting weekly or bi-weekly rather than the insane pace I set for the last book. Thanks for your continued interest and for taking the time to read.
Not Not-Human Book Two: All Hail the Time Lord's Son
Chapter Two – Adventures at Twelve Years Old
A look back on Neville's birthday, Harry's birthday and London trip, Sky Park, Diagon Alley, the Train to Hogwarts
30 July – 1 August 2013
As it so happened, Great Uncle Algie and Great Auntie Enid, despite their great ages of 142 and 115, respectively, fortunately possessed just the sense of humour the Doctor approved of. Otherwise, the explosion that splattered them all with robin's-egg-blue frosting and sumptuous angel food cake might have steered the birthday tea a little off course. Still, the entire affair teetered between highly entertaining and nerve wracking for a number of reasons.
First, every so often, Jenny belched a shower of sparks over the dinner table, which would then bounce and change the colour of whatever they touched – It was later revealed she'd gotten into a package of Dr Fillibuster's Edible, Belchable Sparkler Sweets. Once, when Neville happened to look away from his food, he found his roast duck replaced with half a steak. He looked away again to find a slice of bacon and spinach quiche. When he asked Harry, his friend could only shrug.
"I think Dad was experimenting before Dippy started serving dinner," he said. "Anything could happen."
But the surprises hadn't ended at the rather odd dining experience. When they moved into the sitting room for tea and biscuits, Neville witnessed the most incredible thing he had ever seen.
He had, of course, noticed the large, flat mirror-like thing Harry called a 'telly' mounted on the wall of the sitting room, but what it could do awed and inspired him. As he sat between Harry and Jenny on the largest sofa, the telly came to life and the most extraordinary things came across its screen and cheery music filled the room. A beautiful woman in a jaunty hat wearing red lipstick sat upon a cloud with a large carpetbag and an umbrella with a handle like a bird.
"What a delightful portrait," Great Auntie Enid had said. "But where are all the subjects coming from? Do you have other portraits upstairs?"
"Auntie Enid," Rose said with a mischievous smile, "It's my pleasure to introduce you to the invention non-magical folk call a film."
The Doctor and Rose went into a quick explanation of what films were, all while Neville stared in wonder as the tale of Mary Poppins and the Banks family.
"Well," Augusta said when it had finished. "I can't say much for Mrs Banks' singing voice, I cannot help but agree with her sentiments. It is a shame to say, but a married woman has little say in her life, even now. If it weren't for my dear father's trust in me, there was every chance our Neville would have nothing to inherit at all, let alone the roof over our heads."
"My dear cousins the Selwyns certainly attempted to take it from me."
"But you were far too canny for that, sis," Algie croaked. "He still whinges about it."
"And you're sure this Mary Poppins wasn't a witch?" Great Auntie Enid asked, stirring a second shot of brandy into her tea. "Only wizards tidy up with a click of the fingers."
"Yes, very," Rose smiled. "I was mad about the film when I was a kid, so I looked up where Mr Disney got the idea from. There was a very real Mr Banks, just as cross as the one in the story, and his daughter wrote a novel about her childhood."
"Now–" The Doctor clapped his hands together and grinned about at everyone. "How about we open presents?"
"Presents!" Jenny crowed.
The visit ended soon thereafter. Once the boys had unwrapped their birthday gifts and said their thank-yous and what not, Neville's family departed and left the children and Smiths with the promise to meet Augusta on the first of August in Diagon Alley.
Exhausted and stuffed to the brim with pleasant memories and wonderful food, Neville and Harry barely managed to get up the stairs and into bed. Jenny, hyped up as she was on tea and sugar, only made it to half past eight before collapsing on the hammock downstairs.
"What do you think?" Rose whispered as she flipped off the last lights.
The Doctor smiled as he lifted his limp daughter into his arms. He waved a hand at the abandoned teacups and saucers, which sailed gracefully away to slip quietly into the sink, submitting themselves to the tender mercies of an animated scrub brush and dishrag.
"I think everyone had lots of fun," the Doctor replied. "The kids are cream crackered."
Rose smiled as she held open Jenny's bedroom door.
"I don't think Harry's ever enjoyed himself more."
When Neville woke the next morning, he could scarcely believe the evening before had happened at all. If it weren't for the gifts the Smiths gave him, he wouldn't have. The remote-control mouse Harry gifted him (fitted with a tiny camera and listening device for his snooping needs and adjusted for a magical environment) twirled and squeaked at him when he sat up to step into his slippers.
"Morning," Harry mumbled.
Neville laughed as the boy tossed off his covers. His hair stood up all over, as if someone had rubbed his scalp with a balloon.
"Happy birthday," Neville laughed. "What are we doing today?"
Harry yawned, slid out of bed and put on his glasses in one motion, and started toward his bureau.
"No idea. Mum and Dad planned a surprise."
Neville couldn't imagine what sort of surprise could top last night's festivities, but went along with it, anyway. Certainly, whatever it was, Mr and Mrs Smith seemed very excited about it all through breakfast. On his part, the Gryffindor felt a little naked and nervous without an outer robe over his trousers and short-sleeved, button-up shirt as he, Harry and Jenny sat in the back of the Smith's blue car. Harry, apparently, noticed because he drew him into a conversation as the car sped onto the motorway.
"A few weeks ago, this car wouldn't have fit three of us back here, even though Jen's so tiny."
"Hey!" Jenny complained.
Harry smirked at her.
"You'll grow, eventually."
The little girl stuck her tongue out at him.
"Did you resize it, Mr Smith?"
Harry's dad winked and smiled secretively.
"I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. It's technically illegal to magically alter non-magically produced vehicles and items without special dispensation from the Ministry."
Neville smiled shyly.
"We're nearly there," Rose commented. The car slowed and took off ramp into a tunnel lit with electric lights and helpful signs. Excitement radiated off the woman as they turned again at a sign that read Wimbledon Commons Underground Parking.
"You're going to love this," she said, bouncing a little in her seat.
"But this just goes to the W-C car park," Jenny pouted. "Are we going to ride in Grandpa's zeppelin?"
The little blue car pulled into a space. The Doctor immediately began pulling badges out of the glove compartment as the children watched in bemusement.
"Nope," Rose grinned. "Everyone out. You'll see soon enough."
The air ship docks, better known as the Wimbledon Sky Palace (or simply Sky Palace, for short), were located on the grounds of Wimbledon Common. A beautiful construction of sparkling glass spires and domes made up the terminal, over which several large air ships idled as passengers boarded and disembarked. Smaller vessels docked at shining steel and glass platforms stretching behind the Palace. Neat gardens overflowing with English roses and other such flora lay at its feet, among which one could ride his or her horse (if so inclined), a golf cart (as was more common), or walk as the zeppelins took off and landed overhead.
The sight overwhelmed Neville just as Mary Poppins had the night before as he and his hosts rode the glass-encased lift from the car park to the top level of the palace (with the help of the Doctor's shining badges).
A pleasant, disembodied voice, not unlike the one he once heard in a Ministry lift, welcomed them as the lift slowed from a quick clip to a graceful stop.
"Level fifteen, First Class concourse. British LuxAir wishes you a pleasant journey!"
Masterfully etched doors slid smoothly open for them and Neville looked everywhere at once. He'd never seen a station like this. There were brass and marble ticketing desks, and seating arranged for reception, but that was all Neville recognized from his few dealings with travel.
International portkey terminals were cramped, with a few spindly chairs to sit in while you waited to stand, elbow-to-elbow, next to crotchety strangers too early in the morning or very late at night. These, after all, were the only times wizards could travel en masse without being noticed for their odd dress or mannerisms leaving a landing platform.
The Sky Palace had seating, but it was comprised of luxurious settees, velvet-upholstered chairs, and marble-topped side tables upon which passengers rest fine china cups of coffee and tea, and, in some cases, sparkling flutes of champagne or colourful cocktails.
On top of all that, every single red-uniformed employee looked like they had been cut from one of Lavender Brown's magazines, as far as Neville could tell.
"This way, kids," Rose instructed, leading them all past the shining desks and glamorous patrons.
Neville and Harry allowed themselves to be dragged along as Jenny rushed to keep up with her parents.
"Something feels different about this place today," Harry whispered as they approached the largest desk at the end of the long room.
The Doctor and Rose presented the badges to the man posted there and commenced a whispered conversation as Neville continued staring around.
"I've heard about zeppelins, Harry, but I never thought I'd ride in one," he said a little hesitantly. "How does it stay up?"
"You know how McGonagall's always on about the type of materials used in transfiguration?"
"And how if you transfigured a lump of iron into a fish, it would still sink to the bottom of the tank even if it looked and acted like a fish?"
"That's because a lump of iron's a lot denser than the bits of organic carbon and calcium making up a real fish. The transfigured fish is still made of iron. It still has the properties of iron."
"I'm following," said Neville, confusion clear on his face.
"Well, just like iron's denser than the stuff making up the fish, the air around the zeppelin's denser than what's inside it. So…"
"The zeppelin floats!"
Harry beamed at him. Neville smiled.
"So its basically a big balloon?"
"Yep. With a motor and climate control."
"And we're going to ride in one?"
"Really, I don't know. I gave up trying to guess what my parents are up to ages ago. We once rode a giant worm through an underground station."
"Jallyngorolis named Jeff. Nice chap. A little slimy, though."
Neville decided he never wanted to really know what a Jallyngorolis was. He shuddered a little at the thought.
"Brilliant!" Rose crowed as she turned to the kids.
Harry and Neville watched as the concierge dashed off with their badges in hand. The Doctor rocked on the balls of his feet and practically twinkled as he smiled at them.
"Oh, you're in for a treat, boys," he breathed. "Really wonderful timing, this."
"What?" Jenny begged. "Daddy, please, I don't like surprises!"
"Liar. You love surprises. You're just very impatient."
"That's it! Let's go!" Rose squealed.
The concierge had nodded at them just once from the far end of the concourse, where he stood before a scarlet curtain. The curtain draped the spot gate nineteen should have been, based on the numbers over the adjacent archways, and had been cordoned off in velvet rope.
Rose led them forward and held the rope back for the children to pass. She kissed the Doctor before linking arms and following them through the curtain. Like the other gates, the arched entrance led to a glass corridor carpeted with the same burgundy as the First Class concourse. Jenny curiously followed the gangway onward, but couldn't see the point, as there seemed to be nothing on the end of it. But, seeing as Mummy wanted them to, she figured there had to be.
The Doctor took the lead as they approached the corridor's end and pressed his palm to a consol housed in the centre of the left-side wall. Rose mirrored him with the consol on the opposite side.
A previously hidden door slid open, and salty, humid air spilled out. Harry thought he heard the call of a howler monkey and definitely saw a flash of green and blue as some tropical bird flew out of sight.
"Go on," Rose urged them. "It's a project Torchwood's research team have been working on to test compression fields and miniaturisation. It's perfectly safe, now that the Doctor's tweaked it to be bigger on the inside, instead. Also, the animals are all designated non-harmful to humans larger than infant-sized. Try not to squish anything by accident, though."
"Well, me and a bunch of non-wizard-raised chaps that decided working in the magical world wasn't worth the stigma," the Doctor admitted. "We've signed loads of wizards onto both Unit and Torchwood since you lot started Hogwarts."
Jenny stepped aboard eagerly, followed by a more sedate Harry and Neville as they stared at their surroundings. It was a rain forest inside the cabin of an air ship.
The Doctor and Rose watched in smug satisfaction as the kids dashed off to explore the jungle beyond the handsome teak door. Hardwood floors gave way to peaty soil and lush greens as they wandered after their kids' happy voices. Blue winged butterflies, hand-length dragonflies, shining honeybees, colourful birds, scurrying reptiles, neon amphibians and nearly invisible rodents flew, scurried and crawled through the canopy and underbrush. Eventually, they all wound up on the bank of a slow-moving river and settled in for a picnic to watch the clouds float over the transparent ceiling.
"Is it magic or is it really see-through?" Neville wondered aloud before biting into an excellent beef and cucumber sandwich.
Rose smiled and leaned into the Doctor's chest.
"Both. Ceiling's made of a super-strong safety glass, and the zeppelin's gas chamber's rigged to project the sky outside, except when it's time for it to rain."
"When's that?" Harry asked as he tossed bits of salad to the ducks swimming just off the bank.
The Doctor checked his wristwatch.
"Not for another hour or so. There's a hut we can go to when it does. Or we can swim."
"That's alright. I didn't bring my costume," Neville mumbled.
"It was a pre-planned surprise. I had Gussie leave it with us," Rose grinned.
One rain shower, several sandwiches, nineteen bottles of juice and water, and one very nice swim, another birthday cake (to make up for the exploded one), and one sunset later, the Doctor announced it was time to disembark.
"We've just landed," he said, leading the way back to the entrance.
"I didn't know we were moving at all," Jenny yawned. She was only almost six-years-old and it wasn't often she explored a flying rain forest. "Where are we now?"
"Hotel for the night," Rose answered, ushering them out the door and down a rope ladder onto a very ordinary looking rooftop. "We'll have dinner in the restaurant and tomorrow, it'll be off to Diagon Alley."
Neville thought he had never slept better than when, thoroughly exhausted after a day of adventure, he curled up in the tidy twin bed at the super-clean and uncluttered hotel from which the Smiths rented their room. He was glad, too, that this time, the enterprise didn't involve breaking into forbidden corridors to fight dark wizards. Harry could invite him along on this sort of adventure any time, because Neville had been more right than he could have imagined: It was the best birthday he had ever enjoyed.
Compared to the previous day, Diagon Alley seemed almost too tame. Augusta met them in the Leaky Cauldron for breakfast and delighted in listening to her grandson's account of his visit.
"Thank you for inviting Neville along for your birthday Mr Potter, Mr and Mrs Smith," Madam Longbottom said once he'd finished. "It sounds as if you went through quite a lot of trouble to entertain him."
"Please, it's Rose for me."
"And John," the Doctor added with a cheeky grin. "Especially since you let me call you Gussie."
"Well, I should hope you would," the witch smiled, waving a dismissive, green-gloved hand. "As old as I am, hardly anyone ever calls me by my name. It's always 'Madam' this and 'Madam' that."
"Anyway, it wasn't any trouble at all," Rose assured her. "We always do something for Harry's birthday, and we've always wanted him to enjoy it with another kid his age. I hope we can do it again next year."
"Perhaps we shall have to arrange a visit to our winter house in Switzerland, then," Augusta said graciously. "There's a wonderful dragon reserve not far from the chateau, and I daresay the house has stood empty long enough."
"Ooh, that'd be lovely."
"Real dragons?" Jenny asked, eyes wide.
The old woman gave the little girl a playful smile.
"Swedish Short Snouts, Norwegian Ridgebacks, and Finnish Seawürms, if I remember correctly."
Jenny peppered her parents and Augusta with questions on magical creatures for the rest of breakfast, after which she demanded to be taken to Gringotts so she could see a dragon for herself. The Doctor, curious after Harry's encounter with Norbert the baby dragon, eagerly obliged.
"Augusta?" Rose asked as she stared up the alley toward the bank.
"No, I think I'll visit my club for a nice sherry, if Neville and Harry want to go it alone."
The boys reassured her of that desire very quickly, and she smiled.
"Very well then. Shall we meet up at Flourish and Blotts at two?"
Everyone agreed and Harry set off with Neville toward Madam Malkin's. Both of them could see their ankles when they donned their school robes and needed to have them let down.
"I'm so glad its just books and a top-off for standard supplies this year," Harry said as they ducked inside the shop. "I think my trunk would have weighed half a tonne without those feather-light charms last year."
"I don't really understand why they make us take everything home, you know?" Neville commented as he shrugged out of his blue outer robe and slid on his Hogwarts one. "They could let us keep our cauldrons and most of our books at school, not to mention most of our supplies."
A tape measure began flying around him of its own volition and a slate and chalk hanging on the mirror started recording the figures.
"Homework, remember?" Harry said wryly. "Most people don't do it until the week before we get back."
"I still think there ought to be a better way to do it. Not everyone can afford feather-light charms or do them properly, and books are really dear."
"You're probably right, but I bet it's the way it is because of some stodgy old board member."
"That's it for you two," Madam Malkin interrupted with an indulgent smile. "Just leave your robes and cloaks with me, dears, and I'll have them finished by the time you're done shopping."
"Thank you," Harry said, handing his uniforms over.
"I'll debit your accounts, boys. Have a good time, now, and be safe."
"Yes ma'am," they said together.
Harry looked down the street and eyed their lists. A queue of mostly witches had formed outside Flourish and Blotts, which, for some reason, hadn't yet opened its doors. The boys eyed each other warily.
"Quills and parchment?" Harry suggested. "I want to buy some metal nibs."
In an effort to while away the time before they had to brave the crowd at the bookseller, the boys ended up replenishing notebooks, folios and bottles of fadeless colour-change ink (a tap of the wand to switch from black, to green, to blue, to red, and back again) on top of their parchment and quills. Then they visited the sweets shop, Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, and the apothecary, and they still determined it wasn't close enough to two (and the crowd hadn't dwindled enough) for them to try finding their books, yet. So, in need of a distraction, they went into the Magical Menagerie on a lark.
Hedwig and Sir Wibbly would both be cross with him when he came home, Harry decided. The odour of magical animals hung heavy in the air, and if he could smell it, Hedwig and Jenny's kneezle would definitely notice. Neville eyed a tank full of fat, glowing horse flies as they buzzed around in helical patterns.
"The sign says they'll make whatever ingests them glow. Do you think I should get some for Trevor?"
Harry pursed his lips.
"Might make him easier to find when he tries to run off again."
Neville laughed and picked one of the faintly buzzing, pre-filled cartons from the shelf.
"I still don't know how he keeps escaping. We've done everything from putting heavy things over his cage to magically locking it."
"Maybe he's more magical than he lets on," Harry mused.
Neville gave the shopkeeper five knuts for the flies. She dropped them in the till without looking at either of them and turned the page of her novel.
"What about you? Anything catch your eye?" he asked.
Harry's gaze flickered to a tiny tank in the window display, where a little snake with iridescent blue scales sunned itself in a placid coil. It was only about four inches long, at most, and thinner than the shaft of a quill. Its tiny rounded head raised a scant quarter-inch to turn and stare with little black eyes as Harry looked at it.
"Oh," Neville shivered a little.
He did not like snakes. One had tried to eat Trevor over the summer, and it was all he could do to levitate it away.
"I couldn't take it to school, though," Harry said wistfully. "She's just really cute."
Neville grimaced and shuffled his feet.
"Well… Technically you're not disallowed a second pet, so long as you're not careless about it. It's one of those rules they don't enforce unless someone causes problems."
Harry eyed the little snake thoughtfully. She sat up a little taller. Coiled as she was, she only stood about an inch high.
"D'you think I should?"
"If your parents won't mind, and you want her." Neville shrugged and pointed to the sign. "I think Iridescent Bluescales are used for potions ingredients, otherwise."
Harry met pretty blue snake's beady-eyed stare and grinned.
"That settles it, then."
They left the store with the snake's little tank, a box of live crickets to feed her, and Neville's carton of flies, just as the clock turned a quarter of two. The snake, dubbed 'Kilat' ('lightning,' in Malay, for her speed and country of origin), curled happily inside Harry's breast pocket and hissed happily about the warmth and joy of leaving the house of predators.
The post owls, apparently, did not respect the shopkeepers' desire to keep Kilat alive, and had often attempted to eat her when left unattended.
"What did you do?" asked Harry in an undertone so quiet it sounded like he was just breathing through his teeth.
"I bit the owl, of course. Not enough to kill it, but it learned not to be so bold."
"So you're venomous?"
"Not really. Only enough to kill mice and insects and to protect myself. It only causes temporary pain in larger things. At least, until I am bigger."
"How big can you get?"
"My mother was as long as you are tall, but she was very old. Most of us do not live that long," Kilat said in a near silent hiss.
"What's she say?" Neville asked.
"She's a baby, still. Her mum was as long as we're tall."
Harry clapped him on the shoulder. They had just reached the crowded front door to the bookseller. A banner spanning the upper floor windows explained the reason for the hullabaloo, and made Neville even less motivated to go in for his books:
Meet GILDEROY LOCKHART in the flesh – Book signing for new release, MAGICAL ME today 12:30 – 4:30 p.m.
"No worries. It'll be ages by the time she gets that big. And she's really quite sweet."
Neville didn't get a chance to respond because it became nearly impossible to hear each other, let alone stay together, as they tried to wind their way through the mad throng gathered in the too-small main floor of the bookshop. They had no trouble finding their books, however. Standard Book of Spells: Grade Two and two sets of Gilderoy Lockhart's complete works sailed into their arms as soon as they found an adequately unobserved spot behind one of the taller bookshelves. Making it to the register proved harder.
"Do you think Gran and your parents will be able to find us in this?" Neville shouted as they squeezed between two particularly excitable witches.
"Doubt it! We should just pay and wait outside."
"Ow!" Neville shouted.
A wizard in wrinkled robes and a tattered hat nearly knocked Neville over in his haste to snap a photo of the elaborately dressed wizard seated on the dais in the centre of the shop. Harry caught him just before he could topple a column of precariously stacked books and sent a glare at the photographer.
"Oi, watch it! You could hurt someone!"
"Shut it, you, it's for the Prophet."
"That's no excuse for failing at common decency," Harry snapped. He turned to help Neville gather up his spilled books, but someone's hand clamped down hard on his bicep and yanked him backwards.
"Dear Lord! It's Harry Potter!"
The crowd parted and the cacophony faded to a faint, whispering hum. Harry felt his face and ears burn red as the blonde wizard bodily dragged him to the pedestal. Everyone started applauding. A flash and a purple cloud of smoke momentarily blinded and choked him while Gilderoy Lockhart forcibly shook his right hand.
"Big smile, Harry, my boy," the author said through his own blindingly bright smile. "Together we'll make the front page."
Harry's brain reengaged as the photographer raised his camera again.
"Excuse you, sir," he spat as coldly and clearly as he could, "But I never gave you or this photographer leave to be so familiar. Just who do you think you are?"
The fastidiously groomed and colour-coordinated wizard only beamed brighter even as his right eye twitched. He reached out as if to pull Harry into a one-armed hug, and Harry stepped back.
"Harry! Don't be melodramatic, my boy. Bad form, you know–"
People had begun whispering. Lockhart's smile flickered just a moment and Harry sneered.
"No, I do not. You're out of order. Your photographer knocked over my friend, and you take it upon yourself to manhandle me for a photo-op?" Harry turned to the crowd and affected his most innocent, putout expression.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry if I seem rude, but I didn't plan on being assaulted today and I don't know what this man's on about."
The murmurs got a little louder and several of people in the queue sent confused looks at one another and the wizard in question. Harry tried not to grin. Gramps had given him quite a lot of coaching on how to handle a forced media confrontation, and he intended to put those hours to good use. The bruise he felt growing on his left arm demanded as much.
"Now, now, my boy, I simply wished to shake your hand–"
"I'm not your boy, and I don't want my photo taken. I want an immediate apology for your indecorous behaviour, or I shall notify my guardian of your actions today. I'm just a kid. You can't just grab me and haul me around like your pet monkey."
Several people began to grumble as Harry's words sank in.
"I know he's famous, but that's The-Boy-Who-Lived."
"He's right. If he were my boy, I'd give the man a smack."
"Just what does he think he's playing at?"
Neville very helpfully yelled "You should be ashamed, you overgrown peacock!" and a few others echoed the sentiment. It didn't take long until they started shouting at him in earnest. Lockhart shrunk under their fury, unable to manage more than a few half-formed stammers.
"You can't treat The-Boy-Who-Lived that way!"
"N-now see here–"
"Interrupting someone's day for your vanity!"
"…owe that poor boy–"
"…should be ashamed–"
Someone threw a wad of paper, and others immediately followed. Harry ducked off the little stage as the debris really began flying.
"Please, ladies! Please!" a very harassed looking wizard with a manager's badge shouted. He finally gave up and whistled shrilly.
By inches, he restored order to the upset queue, but by then, Harry and Neville had already made it to the register. Neville handed him back his books (which had fallen out of his arms upon his impromptu ascent to the dais), grinning.
"That was wicked, Harry. You handled that like a politician."
"I am in Slytherin. Besides, he's a berk. I hope he's a good writer, at least, or classes are going to drag this year."
They paid without further incident, but as the signing had picked back up (albeit with fewer people in the queue), they ended up pushing through the crowd again. They ended up having to go around the back of the shop and up onto the second level only to fight their way down the main staircase toward the door.
"This shop's not even that big," Neville complained. "How can there be so many people in here?"
"Someone – Oof! – Got lazy," Harry grunted, squeezing behind a particularly solid wizard.
A dignified man with shoulder-length, platinum blonde hair and piercing grey eyes stepped out from behind a shelf to nod slightly at them both.
"May I offer my assistance? It's a shame to say most people are too…" The man smiled unpleasantly. "Shall we say, uncouth, to recognize when they stand in the way of their betters, regardless of relative height. Hopefully, they'll know better as you grow."
Harry regarded the man neutrally. He recognised him from Draco's family photo at school, but even if he hadn't, the imposing wizard looked and walked quite a lot like Draco.
"I'm sorry, Sir," Harry said. "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of an introduction. Are you Draco's father? Only, he resembles you very closely."
The man's thin lips pressed into a ghost of a smile.
"My son's told me a lot about you, Mr Potter. The pleasure is all mine."
They shook hands. Harry tried to appear relaxed, and Neville shifted beside him nervously.
"While we wait for you to grow, shall I escort you downstairs? I believe I saw Madam Longbottom at the café across the way."
Harry thanked him and gestured for the man to lead them before glancing back at Neville.
"Do you see Draco?" he mouthed.
The boy shook his head slightly.
Fred and George Weasley, solidly built fourth-year beaters for Gryffindor and semi-professional troublemakers, muscled their way through the throng toward them, casting cautious glances at the sneering Mr Malfoy as they approached. Relief washed over the second years.
"Red hair, complexion of the oft-afield…" Malfoy looked the twins over. "Second-hand attire of questionable origin."
The twins glared at the man fearlessly.
"Of course, you must be Weasley spawn. Is there something you wanted? I was escorting Mr Potter and Mr Longbottom to their guardians."
"Actually, sir, I just remembered we were supposed to meet Fred and George before we left," Harry said hastily. "Thanks for your assistance, though."
He nudged Neville to walk past the Malfoy patriarch as he stared down at them coolly.
"If you wish, Mr Potter. I'm sure your first-hand judgment of these–" He paused and smirked around the word he undoubtedly wanted to say. "–Delightful folk supersedes my own. Good day."
It would have ended there, but luck wasn't with Harry and Neville that day. A tall, balding redhead in well-worn robes and a slightly lumpy hand-knitted jumper squeezed between the twins and smiled down at the boys. Harry had never met him, but there was no doubt the man could be no other than Fred and George's dad and his mum's previous boss. Ron Weasley and a girl with equally flaming hair followed in his wake.
Ron glared at Harry. He had never forgiven Harry's Slytherin sorting. The girl, Ginny, if Harry remembered correctly, clutched a dented cauldron overflowing with very shabby second-hand books to her chest and did her best to look anywhere but at them.
"Harry, Neville," he said. "There you are. I just saw Ms Roselyn and Madam Longbottom outside. I told them I'd fetch you for them."
"Thanks, Mr Weasley," Neville gushed. "We were just telling Mr Malfoy–"
Mr Weasley looked up, and his pleasant disposition evaporated.
"Lucius," he said by way of cool greeting.
"Arthur," the statuesque blonde drawled, smirking. "My, you look exhausted. I do hope the Ministry's paying you overtime what with all those late-night raids."
He raised a white eyebrow and plucked a very worn, dog-eared, stained copy of Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling from the girl's collection.
"Then again, perhaps not," he sneered. "Tell me, what is the point of your disgraces against wizardry if they don't even pay you for your efforts?"
Mr Weasley's mouth thinned into a white line in his reddening face as he grabbed hold of his sons, who had twitched as if to attack the man.
"Obviously, we have very different ideas of what disgraces a wizard," he ground out.
Harry pulled Neville back slightly until they stood just behind the twins. He could smell and taste the opposing magic between these men building, and he really didn't want to get between them if they started flinging hexes. As nice as he thought the Weasleys based on the twins and slightly uptight Percy, he recognized a quick temper in all of them.
"Indeed," Lucius glanced at Mrs Weasley, who watched anxiously nearby. "Yet, I shouldn't be surprised, really. After all, how much farther can you fall when your wife, the only surviving descendent of the Prewett line, becomes a brood mare–"
Harry yanked the girl out of the way as Mr Weasley, the twins, and Ron tackled Malfoy into a bookcase. The cauldron clattered across the floor, and patrons jumped out of the way of the flailing limbs and falling books.
"Don't you ever talk about my wife!" Mr Weasley shouted.
Fred, George and Ron's contributions to the dialogue were far less tame.
"Boys! Arthur!" Mrs Weasley shrilly yelled. "Stop this at once!"
They kept on, though, and Harry felt fairly certain they wouldn't stop until Malfoy resembled a bit of rare meat.
"You okay?" Neville asked the redheaded girl as she stared at the chaos with wide brown eyes.
"Want help with your books?" he offered.
Harry looked down. The cauldron had spilled its contents all over the place. He ducked and snatched up two volumes before the swaying crowd could, or Mrs Weasley (who was attempting to extricate her husband and children from the fight by applying liberal stinging hexes), could trample them.
"Here," Harry grunted, passing the books to Neville, who had just righted the cauldron. "What's your name?" he asked the girl, who had chased down two other books before they could be scattered by the stampede.
"Ginny," she squeaked. "Thanks for helping. Sorry about them."
"They're boys," Harry shrugged.
Neville frowned at him.
"Someday, we'll get into a fight, too, I just hope we have the sense not to do it in front of witnesses.
"Sometimes, Harry, you scare me," Neville sighed.
"Arthur Weasley, stop this right this second or you shall sleep in the sitting room for a month!" Mrs Weasley tried again.
"Please! Gentlemen!" an assistant shouted.
The press began screaming around them as they knocked over teetering stacks of books and overburdened bookshelves.
"Gerroff me you git!"
It was becoming a brawl. A brawl in a bookshop.
Harry ducked low, his arms over his head to protect himself from the falling tomes, and squinted through the dust and bodies. Kilat hissed at him in fear and frustration from his pocket. He patted the writhing lump in light reassurance.
"We can get out over there," he shouted over his shoulder. "Coming, Nev, Ginny?"
The other two nodded eagerly.
He screwed up his face and tried to corral his frayed emotions into check, then expelled a long breath. Immediately, the crowd parted just enough to allow fairly thin adults or three normal sized children to pass through unhindered. Harry felt Neville grab onto his cloak as he led the way out of the rapidly deteriorating store, their purchases clutched tightly to their chests.
The boys and Ginny sighed in relief as Harry's parents and Augusta Longbottom came into view.
"What on Earth is going on? Tell me this instant," she demanded, her face devoid of any amusement.
"My dad and Mr Malfoy are fighting," Ginny explained, her cheeks flaming. "He was saying stuff about my mum."
"Foolish man," Augusta grumbled. "Molly's well equipped to handle mere words. He coddles her too much. Did you know, young Weasley, your mother won two duelling championships before she graduated Hogwarts?"
"Really? She never said."
Harry and Neville slumped into the café chairs recently abandoned by curious spectators and set their purchases down.
"Where are Mum and Dad?" he asked as he drew Kilat from his pocket.
The brilliant blue snake coiled around his thumb and squeezed appreciatively. She was very glad to be away from the noise and potentially squashing objects. When he looked back at Augusta, her face had taken on a determined, hard look.
"Up the street picking up your robes with Jenny. They didn't know how long you'd be in the bookstore and thought it best to make sure we got them before we left.
"Now," she said, turning back to Ginny. "I think we are in need of a little order, are we not?"
"Yes, please," Neville groaned. "The last thirty minutes have been mad."
"I shall like a more detailed explanation later, young man," his grandmother assured him. "But for now, let's remind those silly people we're British."
The boys and Ginny watched in awe and appreciation as the Longbottom matriarch adjusted the of her hunter green suit, rolled back the sleeves of dark red robe, drew her wand, and marched into the fray with her vulture hat positioned rather jauntily on her white hair. What several shop clerks and countless fully-grown witches and wizards failed to do, Augusta accomplished with two cannon blasts and a widespread immobilising charm.
"That is quite enough of that, thank you," she boomed in her sternest voice. "Mr Hurst," she said in a lower tone, addressing the harassed looking manager frozen with his hands pulling at his candyfloss hair. "You may bill Mr Malfoy for the expenses of fixing your shop, seeing as he instigated this unworthy debacle."
Even from across the alley, Harry was sure he could see murder in the frozen Malfoy's eyes.
"Now, I am removing the Weasleys from this mess, and you may all go about your merry way. I hope you all feel ashamed of yourselves. You are grown men and women, wizards and witches all, and you panic at a few falling books? It is no wonder You-Know-Who nearly won."
She then proceeded to free the Weasleys from the spell. Harry would have laughed at their expressions if he wasn't feeling so tired, already. The twins and Ron were faintly smug, having upheld the family honour. Mr Weasley, though humble before his wife's ire, stood taller than when he entered the fight. Mrs Weasley, panicked as she was, nearly missed the fact Ginny had escaped the chaos with Harry and Neville, and spent five minutes searching through the frozen patrons before she heard her daughter yelling for her. Through it all, Harry felt like he was missing something important, something essential, but when he tried to focus on the elusive hint of intuition, it fled before the headache growing behind his eyelids.
At the end of the shopping trip, Harry was very glad to retreat home with his mum, dad, and sister.
"Anything interesting happen?" the Doctor asked once they settled in for dinner that evening.
"I'll tell you tomorrow," Harry groaned. "I did adopt a snake, though."
Kilat poked her head out of the neck of Harry's shirt, where he'd transfigured himself a rather sloppy hidden pocket. She tasted the air and hummed her approval to him.
"Wow," Jenny gushed. "She's really pretty."
"I'm fairly certain that species is poisonous, isn't it?" the Doctor frowned, his gaze a little faraway as he recalled the exact source he learned that from.
"Not lethal, just painful if she gets you, but she's promised not to bite anyone I approve of."
"Fine with me, then," Rose smiled. "She is gorgeous."
Kilat fairly wriggled with delight.
"I enjoy your nest mates. They have great taste," she hissed.
"You say that now, but we're all a bit mad."
"That just makes it more fun. Please feed me a nice, fat cricket when you take me to my new nest."
Sir Wibbly made his appearance at that moment. The orange, flat-faced cat hopped up into Jenny's lap and peered over the top of the table at Harry and his new companion.
"Excellent. A predator. When were you going to tell me about him?"
"Sir Wibbly won't eat you," Harry sighed in exasperation. At least the cat didn't seem too upset with him. "He's a kneezle. He knows the difference between intelligent life, threats, and prey. Trust me, that look doesn't mean you're in the latter two categories."
"And what of the owl I smell?"
Sir Wibbly hissed and sent Harry a positively piercing glare.
The snake laughed. Harry groaned. His family continued eating dinner as if multi-species conversations happened at every meal.
1 September 2013
August passed in a blur. Rose and the Doctor had already furnished most of the house in Hogsmeade, but there were still the last minute things. A whole list of tasks and questions, in fact, remained specific to Harry's preferences.
1) Pick the colour palette for your room.
2) Pets' room? Yes, no, or specific to primary caregiver? (Underline Preference)
3) Separate out books for new house.
4) Pack wizarding wardrobe for new house.
5) Separate out toys/keepsakes for new house.
6) Double-check bedroom for all new house things.
7) Triple-check bedroom.
8) Charge and activate stasis charm rune array on bedroom.
It was a fairly short list, but anyone who knew Harry knew items three and five would pose certain issues. Eventually, though, he muddled through.
His new room came together in shades of pale, soothing greens and light silvery greys with a hint of deep blue thrown in. Hedwig got a special owl recovery and launch spot nestled in the eaves over the great room, while Kilat and Sir Wibbly elected to sleep with their chosen humans. Harry chose all of his favourite books to take with him to the Hogsmeade address. His wardrobe was easily dealt with using magic, and he picked just a few photographs and a stuffed stag to accompany him in the way on other personal effects.
The family officially took up residence in the newly renovated home on the twenty-second, closed down the floos to and from the Gallop, and transitioned into village life easily. The Doctor and Rose spent their days at the school, preparing for term. Harry finished his summer homework and quizzed Jenny on magical creatures and herbology, which she enjoyed very much and seemed to have a knack for. Their days ended with flights over the village on their brooms (once the Doctor tweaked Jenny's to go as high as she wanted and to trigger an automatic sticking charm at heights greater than six feet from the ground).
Jenny loved it. There were witches and wizards her age in Hogsmeade on top of finally being able to see Hogwarts, if only by aerial view.
Harry, did too, but wondered why he should have to take the Hogwarts Express to school when he lived within ten minutes of walking from the castle.
"Security, student safety, and tradition, I imagine," the Doctor said in his most posh voice. "I'll drop you at the station after I get Jenny to school. Pack your uniform and a lunch in your school bag and leave your trunk with us. We'll take it up to the castle this afternoon and I'll have… Cuddie?"
"Deliver it to your dormitory," he finished. "Ah, and Tony made you a lovely little pouch to carry Kilat in."
Harry happily slipped the rather pretty wool-lined drawstring pouch over his head and tucked it under his robes. Kilat hissed happily when he lowered her into it.
"Very warm," she said appreciatively.
The morning of the first dawned brilliantly bright and warm. Jenny, who had wanted to go out and ride her broom (without either of her parents or brother to keep an eye out) attempted to argue her cause while her brother held an argument with Sir Wibbly, who desperately wanted to go to ride the train.
"I've already got Kilat and Hedwig. And you know as well as I do you're coming with the Doctor tonight.
The orange part-kneezle gave him a withering glare and meowed stubbornly.
Harry groaned and stared at the ceiling.
"Mum and Dad are technically professors in residence from now on out, so why don't you ask one of them to ride the train with you?"
Sir Wibbly twitched his bottlebrush tail irritably.
"Well, if you already asked them, why'd you ask me?"
The cat turned its back on him and walked off with its nose held in the air. Harry sighed and went back to eating breakfast.
At eight thirty, Harry, school bag in hand, met the Doctor in the small back garden.
"Ready?" he asked, looking his son over.
"Rose, Jenny, we're off!" he called through the house.
"See you soon, Harry!"
"You'd better take me flying this weekend, Harry!" Jenny shouted.
"Alright," the Doctor said, offering Harry his elbow. "Hold tight, take a deep breath, and hold it. It'll be uncomfortable, but we'll be there in a jiffy. Okay?"
The man twisted against their hold and a moment later, Harry felt sure he had just been stuffed through a straw. His head spun momentarily. Platform 9 ¾ buzzed with the usual rush of activity. Harry gulped air after the apparition and hitched his bag a little higher on his back as, around him, families bid goodbye to their children. The Doctor gave him a hug and clasped his shoulder.
"Keep any eye on Draco, okay? Based on what happened at Diagon Alley, I think the danger Dobby told us about definitely has something to do with Lucius."
"Alright. I'll see you in a few hours. Off you go."
The Slytherin boarded the train after some first years and set off to find Hermione's compartment, since she always arrived earliest to any occasion out of all of their friends. He looked in nearly all the compartments until he came to the last compartment of the second carriage from the end.
"Hi," he said a little anticlimactically even as he beamed about.
He was the last to arrive: Hermione, Daphne, Draco, Blaise, Tracy, Hannah, Susan and Neville sat inside the largest compartment he'd seen on the train aside from the prefects' carriages at the front. The standard carriage held seven adjacent compartments, which in turn contained facing seating for eight people in addition to a foldaway tabletop.
This compartment, however, stretched half again as long as the standard ones. A long bench of blue velvet spanned the space beneath a wide window in addition to the regular seating to the left and right. Daphne and Blaise had already begun a game of exploding snap on one of the three coffee tables standing about the room. It was a vast improvement to the cramped trip home earlier that summer.
"Where's your trunk?" Hermione asked as she shut the door.
"Dad's taking it to the castle for me."
The Hufflepuff threw her arms around Harry's neck as soon as he tucked his bag into the overhead wrack.
"Tell me everything about your summer. Did you and Neville really have a picnic in a tropical forest? Have you done your homework?"
"Let him sit down, at least," Daphne laughed. "One would think you haven't written all summer."
Harry threw himself happily onto the bench beneath the window. Susan's owl, perched on the wrack overhead, eyed him disapprovingly.
"Did you ever figure out what that was?" Hermione continued impatiently. "Your post problems, that is."
"I have to talk to someone about it first, before I tell you all."
"That sounds bad," Neville grumbled. "I was really hoping for a nice, quiet year."
"Don't count on it. Harry Potter's whole life seems to be one horrid scramble of unseemly excitement."
"Maybe," Harry shrugged. "But prior to last year, 'unseemly excitement' was a lot of fun. No evil wizards, no life-threatening obstacles…"
"We never did hear what was in there," Susan commented. "Don't you think the story's overdue?"
Daphne, Draco, Hermione, Neville and Harry all avoided making eye contact.
"We don't have the slightest idea what you're on about, Bones," Daphne said primly. "Why ever would you think we didn't fight a dragon?"
"That's just a rumour. How would they even fit a dragon?" Blaise said doubtfully. "You can't put one in a magically enlarged space and you certainly can't shrink one."
"You're assuming it was a full grown, dragon, though," Draco suggested.
The others of the Corridor Quartet (so called by the rest of them) broke out into giggles.
A/N: There you go! Thanks for taking the time to read, review, and favorite. I love you all.