After Harry finished explaining everyone was staring at him wide-eyed and slack-jawed. He smirked to himself, having expected this reaction. While wondering who would speak first Harry mentally requested food and drink from the ROR, only to once again feel the warmth of the castle in his mind. 'I cannot create food for you little Lord, you will have to call your loyal elf.'
"Dobby! Can you please bring some Butterbeer and lunch for everyone?" He asked once the elf appeared.
"Of course, Sir!" With two more pops the elf was gone and a full tray of sandwiches, chips, and other assortments took his place. Another pop announced the arrival of a case of Butterbeer. This seemed to snap everyone out of their daze. The girls all rushed to hug him and the twins helped carefully extract him from their grasp. Everyone grabbed a drink and seated themselves once more. After a moment of silence Hermione was the first to speak.
"You don't do anything by halves Harry. So what is our next step then? What do we need to do?" Everyone in the group nodded, chiming in with their own offers of help. Harry smiled, feeling more loved than he ever had in that moment.
"Honestly, there's not much to do at the moment. The Prophet will have an article about my new status tomorrow and Bumblefuck will most likely want to talk to me about it. He will probably call me up to his office, but I can handle that just fine. I'm mostly worried about him calling an emergency Wizengamot meeting to revoke the emancipation. I was able to get a few law books off the goblins and planned on reviewing them for anything that will help my argument. If one or two of you would help me look through them?" Surprisingly the twins were the first to volunteer themselves.
"We can certainly - help you there. We know our way - in and around - quite a few - pesky laws." Harry laughed and nodded.
"Alright, knowing you two you've walked a thin line around many 'pesky' laws." They just flashed him Cheshire grins as he handed them the books.
"We will - find you - once we - know anything." They spoke over their shoulders as they left the room, already heading off to start.
"Well, if you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask one of us, ok Harry? We don't want to see you hurt and with everything else happening I wouldn't be surprised if you found yourself in trouble before the First Task even starts." Oliver was the one who spoke as the rest of the Quidditch team rose to leave as well. He just nodded once more in reply and turned to Hermione as the door shut, leaving them alone.
"Before you say anything, I want you to know that I am probably going to cut ties with Ron. Even though he was my first friend if he is acting the way you said, then I don't believe that he really is a friend to me. With everything happening I can't deal with his crap right now. I need to focus on Bumblefuck, training my new 'powers', and trying to keep myself alive in this stupid Tournament." Before he could say anything else she shushed him.
"Oh, Harry do you honestly think I would be mad at you for that? Ronald doesn't matter at all, I was never as close to him as I am with you. You're my brother and I will stand by you. He can go to hell if he tries anything with you." Harry grinned in response and pulled her into a tight hug.
"Thank you, you're like a sister to me as well 'Mione. I don't know what I would do without you."
"Probably get yourself killed!" They both laughed, before sobering. "You need to let Sirius know everything that has happened. You know he's probably going to do something stupid, but he will react better hearing it from you."
"I know, I'll write him tonight and hope Hedwig gets to him before the morning Prophet. Now come on, lets get back to the common room. I need to face the music and see who in Gryffindor is on my side in this mess. And I know Ron's going to be there waiting to pounce, better deal with him sooner rather than later." He stood up and offered her his arm. Smiling Hermione laced hers through his and they left the ROR, taking the fastest route to the common room.
Silence fell as soon as the Fat Lady's portrait swung open and Harry stepped through, followed by Hermione. Everyone stared, waiting for some sort of explaination. His name had come out of the goblet the night before and he had mysteriously diasappeared for the rest of the night. His brief appearance at breakfast only caused more unrest within the Gryffindors, since no one was able to question him then either.
"Did you do it?" A voice called from within the crowd of students. Harry just scowled in response.
"I did not put my name in or ask anyone else to help me either. I think this whole thing is stupid and a waste of my time. I would rather have Quidditch back than have to face possible death for the rest of the year." Few in the crowd seemed to relax at his answer, the majority still looked disbelieving. Before anyone else could say anything Ron stepped forward.
"That's the biggest bloody lie I've ever heard. How did you really do it? And why didn't you tell me or help me enter too?" His face was contorted in rage as he stepped even closer.
aside if it was allowed. The only reason I'm actually competing is because Bumblefuck said there's no way without losing my magic! And that's not going to happen!"
"Yeah, right. You alway want attention. The-Boy-Who-Lived, once again in the spotlight. First trolls and that stupid stone, then the bloody Chamber, now this? I should have known, I always get left behind right? Not good enough to share the glory with am I? Well you can take all your glory and shove it right up your arse!" With that said Ron stormed off to the dorm. Dean and Seamus followed, shooting glares over their shoulders as they went. The Quidditch team all stepped forward, gathering around Harry in a large semi-circle. They sent glares at everyone else and ushered him over to a couch in the corner.
"Thanks guys, I knew he was going to react badly but I didn't expect that."
"Don't worry - Harry-kins - we all know - Ickle-Ronnie has - a nasty temper - he'll get over it."
"I don't think so. He gets mad at the smallest things, and I'm tired of going out of my way to keep him happy. If he's not going to be a real friend, then I don't care anymore. What I worry about right now is Dean and Seamus, with all three of them against me, there's no way I'll get any real rest in the dorms."
"Oh, Harry!" Hermione flung herself at him for another hug. "We'll think of something! They can't honestly do anything to you in there!" He shot her a look.
"Do you honestly think a few 'school rules' are going to stop a pissed off and jealous Ron?" He shook his head. "Maybe I could go stay in the ROR? I can have a nice quiet place to study and train and sleep, without having to watch my back constantly." She looked hesitant but nodded anyway.
"That would be a good solution. But what about Professor McGonagall, I doubt she will let you sleep anywhere but the dorm?"
"Who says she has to know?" With a mischevious smile he stood and slipped out of the common room. Before the portrait closed he looked back, "I won't tell anyone if you don't." Hermione shook her head fondly and after exchanging a look with the others she headed off to bed herself. After all she had a long day ahead of her, Harry needed her help!
Harry flung himself into same bed from the night before, the Room once more reading his mind and adapting. He had just sent Hedwig off with a LONG letter detailing the past few days to Sirius. He knew it was possible she wouldn't get there until morning, but there was nothing else to do except cross his fingers that the weather permitted a swift arrival - hopefully before the next mornings paper.
He was exhausted but he knew that Bumblefuck would want to meet with him tomorrow so he needed to work on his Occlumency gift now. With a sigh he rolled over and got comfortable, he didn't know much about meditation, but he knew he needed to be comfortable, relaxed, and clear his thoughts as much as possible. He had heard on the tele once - through the crack in the cupboard door of course - about using something specific as a focus to keep the mind from wandering. He was tempted to use fire, he knew it could have hypnotizing qualities, but he didn't think it would be the best focus for him. After a few more minutes of searching his mind for something, Prongs infiltrated his thoughts. His patronus was perfect! The silvery glow of his flank, the proud and protective stance, the warmth and love radiating off him.
Bit by bit Harry relaxed more and focused solely on Prongs. For a moment he almost felt like he was falling, before he could panic he realized that he was no longer laying in his bed. He was surrounded by inky blackness, with a few globes of light floating here and there. A larger glow off in the distance provided miniscule light to see by. Reaching out to one of the orbs floating by he was tugged into a memory.
"Freak! What have I said about burning the bacon!" Pain seared across his palm as it was held to the hot stove. "Get into your cupboard before you ruin anything else! And don't think I won't be telling Vernon about this either! NOW GO!"
Harry flinched away, once more in his mind, pain slowly fading from his hand. He knew he needed to do something to sort all his memories before he started in on defences. Not sure what to do he cycled through a few thoughts. Library? No, books were too obvious. Forest? No, there's no where to hide memories there. Gringotts? Hmm, that idea had merit.
Instantly the foyer to the bank appeared in his mind, it was strange seeing the room so empty. Deciding to focus on that later, he instead started directing the orbs to different vaults. The deepest vaults held memories of the Dursleys, Voldemort, the basilisk, and other such horrors he had seen. He set them disguised as galleons, trinkets, and other odds and ends. What wizard would look for anything of the sort hidden in a muggle contraption?
Neutral memories were all sorted into another vault, this time as random portraits and books. If anyone got this deep they would hopefully think that was all they needed to look for and would dismiss the other vault as a decoy. Of course he set up many decoy vaults as well, many with the same group of memories repeated across a smattering of items. All happy and loving memories were pushed into a larger than life sized replica of Prongs, who was set to roam the tunnels in defense.
Returning to the foyer saw many goblins burst into existence and begin shuffling around doing 'jobs'. They would be in charge of sorting any new memories into the correct areas. An idea crossed his mind, why stop with just the bank? Why not recreate the whole alley? Harry existed the bank and allowed his memories to bring a replica of Diagon Alley into existence around him. This would be the first line of defense before anyone even reached the bank. He willed 'people' into existence and set them to run 'errands' through the alley. The instant a foreign mind touched his they would all rally in defense. He made sure each store also held a smattering of both good, neutral, and semi-bad memories to act as deterrents and hopefully slow an intruder.
Harry slowly brought himself out of his trance. He knew that he needed to work on everything some more and add a few touches here and there. But for the moment he was exhausted and knew the next day was going to be very stressful. With a thought the lights in the ROR extinguished and he rolled over cuddling into his pillow. As he drifted off he once more felt Hogwarts' presence in his mind, wrapping him in warmth and love. His last thought before sleep claimed him was to make sure he searched for the ward stone as soon as possible.