A/N I don't know why this ended up as a oneshot, but I just couldn't break it into chapters. Hence it is a longshot. I do not own any of the characters except Jeff, Andrew, Sooty and Sweep. Hope you enjoy and perhaps leave a comment at the end?
Harry looked around himself warily. The people he was sitting with were laughing and joking as they filled their plates with food. Didn't they know the rules? Food that was on the table was not to be eaten by freaks. Freaks were fed on the floor with stale bread and mouldy bananas and they were grateful for it. Nobody had to feed a freak, they didn't deserve any better.
After the second case of food poisoning where he had been shut in his cupboard for a week so as not to infect the decent people, Harry chose not to eat anything they gave him. It didn't take them long to stop feeding him altogether. Instead, as he cooked he would hide food in the pockets or the folds of his gigantic clothing. Sometimes his aunt was watching him too closely and then he wouldn't get anything to eat that night but most of the time he could stash something small away.
One night, Harry remembered, they had gone out to a restaurant. Dudley had kicked and screamed all the way but his aunt refused to leave him in the house in his own and Mrs Figg was unavailable. Uncle Vernon refused to leave Harry in the car alone as well, so Harry found himself being shown to a table with his relatives. His uncle had ordered him macaroni cheese but it had made him violently sick. Since then, Harry had never eaten food that he had not prepared himself.
Just the smells of the Great Hall were enough to turn off what little appetite Harry possessed. His stomach felt queasy and he was fairly sure that to throw up over himself, the table and the people around him would not make a good impression. Harry really wanted to make a good impression. He heard his name being called and he looked around to find the Gryffindor prefect, Percy Weasley, staring at him earnestly.
"Aren't you going to eat anything Harry?" he asked.
"'M not hungry" Harry replied quietly.
"I know you probably ate lots of sweets on the train, but you do need to eat something proper afterwards. Besides you're not allowed dessert here if you haven't eaten any main course."
Harry stared at the boy in shock. He had certainly not eaten any sweets on the train and he had never had dessert in his life. He just knew the rules, and besides who knew what this food would do to him? What was this boy on about?
Percy, taking Harry's staring to be a sign to continue, placed a chicken leg and a few green beans onto Harry's plate. "There you are Harry, just eat that and then you can have dessert."
Harry took one look at the plate, filled with more food than he had ever seen for him and bolted from the room. He sprinted through the Entrance Hall and out onto the grounds. Once off the marble steps and out of sight, he dropped to his knees and let the queasiness overtake him ignoring the rain that pounded around him. A minute or so later, once he had recovered a little, he looked at the mess he had made and wished with all his might for it to be gone. Surprising him, it vanished. He stared at it for a brief moment and then he felt the adrenaline from his flight leave him. There was no other word for it: he was completely exhausted. He crawled around the side of the castle until he found an alcove. It was smaller than his cupboard at home, but it should at least keep most of the weather off him. He curled up into a ball and fell asleep.
Harry's flight through the Hall had of course attracted the attention of the Head Table. But he was running so quickly that all they could see was a flash of crimson trim to his robes and what they thought to be a black head. Minerva quickly made her way down to the Gryffindor table to see what they knew.
"Mr Weasley" she addressed Percy. "Could you enlighten me on what just happened?"
"Erm, Harry Potter hadn't eaten any dinner Professor and when I put some on his plate he just ran away."
"Did you say anything to him?"
"Just that he needed to eat and that if he did he could have dessert, otherwise he couldn't. He just stared at me the whole time."
"Do you have any idea why he ran?"
"No Professor, he just ran."
"Thankyou Mr Weasley. I will take it from here. Please continue your meal."
Minerva briskly headed out into the Entrance Hall. Harry was a first year so he had likely got lost in his blind panic run.
"Harry!" she called out. No response. It would have to be the locating spell then. "Point me Harry Potter."
Minerva gasped as her wand directed her to the front doors. Harry had run outside in this weather? Casting water repelling and warming charms on herself she opened the doors and stepped out, following her wand. The wind and rain hit her like a steam roller and it looked as if the weather was only going to worsen. She needed to find Harry, quickly.
Harry was asleep. His back was up against the wall of the alcove and therefore he was protected from most of the wind, but not the rain. It wasn't pleasant and he was shivering, but he was alone, in a small space and therefore he could sleep.
Minerva gasped again when she saw him. She had thought he was small and slight when she had welcomed all the first years before the sorting, but now she redefined that. The boy was near skeletal. There was not an ounce of fat or muscle on him anywhere. Throwing drying and warming charms on him, she picked him up and activated her emergency portkey.
The portkey sensation woke Harry with a start. He was not outside any more and he was being held by something. No, make that someone. He levelled a harsh kick at his captor and feeling the pressure loosen, wriggled out and ran for the door. He just wanted to be alone. All he had ever known was that other people hurt him. It wasn't always physical, but it was always pain. If he wanted a reprieve from the pain he had to be alone. So Harry did what he did best. He ran.
Minerva had staggered after the kick to her abdomen and had fallen into one of the bed posts. Once she had collected herself again Harry had gone. She was about to go and look for him again when Poppy entered the room.
"Minerva?" Poppy queried in concern. "What happened?"
"Nothing Poppy" Minerva replied, trying to stand straighter. She needed to find Harry.
"You activated your emergency portkey and are now holding your stomach. I do not believe that's nothing. So before I resort to diagnostic spells I shall ask again. What happened?"
Minerva sighed. "Harry kicked me and then ran away again. I need to find him. He'll catch pneumonia if he goes out again in this weather!"
Poppy glared at her colleague. "You /need/ to do nothing Minerva McGonagall except stay here. It is obvious you are in pain so you will not be going anywhere."
"Has not been in Hogwarts a day yet and is likely lost in the castle" Poppy interrupted. "He will not die by me waiting three minutes to treat you."
Minerva saw that Poppy would not budge. "Fine, get on with it then. I'm just winded. It will pass."
Poppy waved her wand in a complicated but familiar pattern. "With slight bruising to the stomach. He must have kicked you hard. Drink." Minerva downed the potion with a grimace. "You now have a choice: in here, my office or your quarters. The sooner you decide, the sooner I'll look for Harry."
Minerva glared. "Your office" she said.
The pair made their way to the mediwitch's office. Once inside Poppy picked out a locket and handed it to Minerva. "I cannot keep you here but I can make you wear this. It will report your stats back to me during the observation period. For query abdominal injuries that is three days. Only I or the Headmaster can remove it and Albus will not do so."
"So I wear the locket and you look for Harry?"
Minerva relaxed minutely and allowed Poppy to charm the locket around her neck. At the pointed look she received, Poppy then cast her own locating spell. "Point me Harry Potter."
Harry, as it happened, had not gone very far. He had been running on fear and adrenaline and once he was out of sight of anyone and everyone it had worn off very quickly. He found another alcove, this one guarded by a suit of armour and swiftly fell asleep again. He wondered if this time he might get to sleep uninterrupted.
Poppy's reaction to finding Harry was very similar to Minerva's. Her initial reaction was to do the same thing Minerva had. Get him to the Hospital Wing as quickly as possible. But then she remembered what Minerva had told her, so instead she walked up to him and shook his shoulder to wake him.
"Harry?" Poppy called softly.
"Mmm" Harry replied sleepily. His dream was great. His parents were alive and they loved him and he didn't have to do all the chores and he wasn't scared about the food. But then all of a sudden reality came back with a bang.
Poppy had knelt down in front of him and was casting a few diagnostic spells. Her wand was therefore out when Harry looked up at her and ran for it. A freezing jinx cut the escape off this time.
"Harry, why do you keep running? Nobody's going to hurt you, we want to help you" Poppy asked.
"Why would you want to help a freak like me?" He didn't care how it came out, he was exhausted and he had had to run twice today. He couldn't run now and it looked like this person wanted to talk.
"Harry, you're not a freak, you're a very special boy."
"Yeah Dudley says that too" Harry spat.
"Not like that Harry, you're a well loved wizard."
"I know, because I defeated that bad wizard guy when I was a baby. Hagrid told me."
"Come on Harry, you're wet and shivering and you look exhausted. Do you want to sleep?"
"Where no-one will interrupt me?" Harry asked almost eagerly.
"Yes. No-one will interrupt you."
Poppy cancelled the freezing spell but kept her wand out just in case he tried to run again. She settled him into a bed and sent a very visible spell at the door. The spell prevented anyone but herself from opening them and it would warn her if anyone else tried.
"No-one will come in now Harry" she said. "You can sleep."
Harry pretended to sleep until her footsteps died away and then he crawled under the bed. He was asleep within minutes.
The following morning Minerva escorted Harry to the Great Hall for breakfast. Harry again, touched none of the food. His first class was Charms and he loved it. He loved the teacher, Professor Flitwick, he loved the feeling of doing magic and he loved watching his feather float around the room. Harry wasn't sure anything would quite compare with that first Charms class. During lunch, he ate nothing, nor at dinner. After a few days of this Harry looked noticeably thinner.
"Does Harry look thinner to you?" Minerva asked Filius who was sitting next to her.
Filius looked over at the raven haired boy. "There was never much of him to start with, but yes I think you're probably right."
Minerva watched Harry like a hawk all through that meal and the next day. He never ate a single thing at any mealtime. Concerned, that evening she went to find Poppy.
"Harry's not eating" Minerva stated bluntly after the pleasantries had been exchanged. "He hasn't eaten a thing all day today or yesterday evening. I would go so far as to say he hasn't eaten whilst he's been in the castle."
"But that's been nearly a week now!" Poppy exclaimed, horrified. "Go and get him Minerva, bring him here. Without the portkey!" she added.
The two returned ten minutes later, Harry looking as if he wanted to be anywhere but there. His good impression was not happening, he realised.
"Mr Potter, what did you have for dinner?" Poppy asked.
"Erm, I wasn't hungry ma'am."
Well at least she didn't have to call him out for lying, Poppy thought. "So you ate no dinner?"
"Mr Potter do you know how serious that is? You are the size of an underweight seven year old and yet you seem not to care at all. Care to share the reason why you are not eating?"
"I didn't make it."
Poppy, not expecting a reply, missed his quiet voice. "You will take a potion before each meal which the house elves will provide. They will know if you do not drink it and you will not like the consequences."
"Yes ma'am" Harry mumbled with a yawn.
"Professor McGonagall will escort you to your dormitory, remember what I've said. You cannot afford to miss meals."
At breakfast, a bottle filled with sludge coloured liquid was indeed next to Harry when he sat down. He willed it to go away but it just sat there, unmoving. A little tag with "H. Potter" written on it was secured around the neck. Harry had no idea what was in the bottle and it certainly didn't look very appealing. But to drink the potion and face the consequences, or not to drink the potion and face the consequences. On the face of it, the consequences for breaking the rules would just be time without food (not likely in this case), being locked in the cupboard or a swat to the head and then being thrown in the cupboard. He had no idea of what the liquid would do to him.
Mind made up, he swung his bag onto his back and headed off to the Library to work more on his Charms assignment.
Poppy was informed by the elves that Harry had indeed not drunk his potion as he had been requested to. She decided to give him one more chance at lunchtime or else she would have to keep him in sight and watch as he ate. He would need several potions anyway to make up the nutrients he had lost. When Poppy received the after lunch statistics she sighed. It appeared Harry hadn't even gone to lunch. It had been a while since she had had to take such drastic action to get a student to eat.
Using a Point Me spell, Poppy found Harry still in the library.
"Mr Potter, come with me please" she requested firmly.
"Yes ma'am" Harry replied, packing away his books.
Once outside the library, Poppy continued. "Mr Potter you have not been taking the potion I prescribed. You knew there would be consequences if you did not. You will come to the Hospital Wing every mealtime and you will stay there until you have eaten a sensible amount."
"Would I make the food?" Harry queried softly.
"Don't be silly Mr Potter, the house elves will make it and send it up for you. Since you have not eaten in nearly a week and were in no condition to be missing meals to begin with we will start this now."
Harry sighed as he was directed to a bed in the Hospital Wing. He couldn't seem to get her to see that he would eat if he could prepare it. Not that he felt hungry, far from it, but he would eat his own food. A tray of food with a very similar potion appeared on his knee as he sat down. He knew she wouldn't let him go until he had eaten most of that but he was sure it would do something to him. He picked up a sandwich, it was a cheese one, and nibbled at a corner. Almost instantly he felt sick and he pushed the tray away.
Poppy returned twenty minutes later to find Harry engrossed in his Defence homework, potion untouched and with only a tiny corner nibbled off one of the sandwiches. For the potions to do their jobs Harry would have to eat more than that.
"Mr Potter which part of "you need to eat" did you not understand?"
Harry looked down at the sheets. Having someone angry at him wasn't unusual, in fact it was normal at home, but Harry was sad that he had upset this lady so much. The thing was, she wouldn't listen. He had told her twice now, he opened his mouth to tell her a third time but Poppy cut him off.
"I'm not here to listen to meaningless excuses Mr Potter. I'm here to make sure you don't die. You have two choices: eat the food or be confined to that bed. And I will be keeping your schoolbag until you stop behaving like a petulant two year old."
Harry cried that night. It was the first time in many years that he had, but the nurse lady just wouldn't listen. He chalked it up to just another one of life's unfairnesses, consoled himself to being stuck in the long white room for a while and fell asleep.
So it continued. Harry refused to eat and Poppy kept trying to force him. She had spelled the appetite stimulant into him that evening, but to no effect. Harry was exceptionally good at managing hunger pangs. She increased the strength of them until anyone else would be eating anything they could reach, food or not, but Harry still refused. She was also spelling nutrient potions into him three times a day, but they were having less effect as the days went by.
Poppy was incredibly glad that Harry was at least drinking. He would only touch water but it did allow some availability for getting other things into him. Unfortunately not many potions dissolved in water and if it looked or smelled wrong then he would ignore it. He also took only small sips from the glass and if at any point it tasted wrong he would refuse to drink any more. There was one occasion where Harry refused to touch anything, food or drink, for a solid twenty four hours because Poppy had laced his glass of water with a mild calming draught. It was only the threat of a drip, the promise of no more potions in his drinks and Poppy tasting the water first that got him drinking again. Poppy wondered what could have happened to him in his childhood to make him so picky about what went in his mouth.
A week into Harry's stay in the Hospital Wing, he was considering eating something, even if it was just the filling to the sandwiches he was constantly provided with. He was so hungry - he hadn't eaten anything at all in two weeks and it was beginning to take its toll on him. He had never gone this long at home without food, the worst had been when the Dursleys' went away for a week and had locked the kitchen. So he was tempted, but he just knew that the food would be soaked in potions and that idea he completely detested. He only continued to drink because of the threat of the drip and he hated needles more than anything else in the world. He was fairly sure some potions were still in there, despite assurances to the contrary, but at least he couldn't taste them any more.
He was broken from his musings by the appearance of two redheads.
"Harrykins" said one.
"We imagine you want to find the kitchen" said the other.
"I mean no one refuses"
"to eat completely because"
"they want to die. That would be an extremely"
"silly thing to do."
Harry chuckled in spite of himself. The way that these people finished off each other's sentences was great!
Seeing Harry's laughter, the twins introduced themselves. "Messrs Fred and George Weasley at your service" they said together.
"So which one of you's which?" Harry asked. He might not mind the solitude but company was excellent.
"He's Gred" said one.
"And I'm Forge" said the other.
At Harry's confused look, they introduced themselves properly.
"So you know how to get to the kitchen?" Harry asked breathlessly.
"Of course, you just call"
"for a house elf. They're great creatures, house elves."
"Our favourite is one called Sooty. She's always doing the odd jobs in the castle and loves to pop places."
With a quiet pop an elf appeared. "Is Master Fred or Master George wanting to go someplace?" Sooty asked eagerly.
"Yes Sooty, would you be so kind as to take us and Harry to the kitchens?" Fred asked. They never used their double speak with the elves, the elves didn't like it.
"Master Harry is so thin, Sooty can surely find food for him!" Sooty squealed.
"Just the kitchen please Sooty, we'll sort food when we're there."
"Yes Master George sir."
"Make sure you have a good grip of her Harry, you don't want to fall off before we get there!"
A pop later and Harry found himself surrounded by elves all pushing food at him. He squirmed and glared at the twins. George, seeing his reaction, raised his voice.
"Elves stand down. Harry Potter does not want your food!"
Instantly the elves stopped crowding him. The food disappeared and some of the elves started twisting their own large ears.
"Er thanks" Harry said softly. "What are they doing now?"
"They're punishing themselves"
"for not anticipating their master's wishes."
"How do I make them stop?" Harry whispered even more softly. "It looks painful."
"Just tell them to" Fred replied. "And then tell them what you do want. They'll provide anything."
"Erm, elves?" Harry said, not loudly, but audibly. Every house elf turned to look at him. "Please stop pulling your ears. It looks painful." Encouraged by Fred and George's looks he carried on. "I would like a frying pan and some bacon."
"Master Harry would like a bacon sandwich?" Sooty squeaked.
"Erm Fred, I need to make it myself" Harry whispered nervously.
"Sooty, Master Harry would like to make his own bacon sandwich" Fred stated with a smirk. "I'm sure you can provide that? It's not like he hasn't eaten in two weeks or anything..."
"Sooty is sorry Master Fred, Master Harry. Sooty will be getting you that right away." The elf ducked her head in shame but snapped her fingers nonetheless.
A second later, a pop up kitchen appeared in front of Harry and, watched by thoroughly disgruntled elves, Harry got to work. He had never eaten a full bacon sandwich before, only the burnt parts that he could hide away and wouldn't be missed. Fifteen minutes later Harry was stuffing his mouth with his first bacon sandwich, his face a picture of contentment.
"Harry, sorry to rush you, but we need to be getting back before Madame Pomfrey realises you've gone. We'll come and see you tomorrow yes?"
Harry felt a warm glow spread through his face. They wanted to come back? Even after they'd given him all of this? He thought that that was what friends did. With sudden Gryffindor bravery, aided perhaps by his full stomach he asked "do you want to be friends?"
"Of course we do Harrykins" replied the twins in unison. "Now Madam Pomfrey keeps you in a room on your own so that you might get bored with nothing to do, right?" Fred continued.
"Well I'm not allowed visitors until I start eating" Harry replied with a hint of confusion.
"We thought so. So how about we don't tell her about our trips to the kitchen?" Fred said, his eyes lighting up as we spoke.
George must have come to the same conclusion because he pounced on his brother. "Forge that's genius! We've never been able to prank Pomfrey! Come on Harry, say you'll join in" George begged.
"I get to come here and eat and just don't tell her?"
"Yup that's about it. She'll get really confused, just you wait! It'll be hilarious to watch!"
"But I can't leave the Hospital Wing until I've eaten to her satisfaction. How will I learn anything?"
George had a sudden brainwave. "We'll teach you at night. You can sleep through the day, Pomfrey will expect that anyway because you're "not eating". " George indicated the phrase with air quotes.
"We'll work it all out and tell you tomorrow. For now just act like you always have done."
"Elves! Noone is to tell Madam Pomfrey about anything that happens in this room, understood? Harry has never been here and never will be without the permission of a teacher."
"Yes Master Fred" came the chorus back.
"Good. Now we really must be off. Sooty if you would?"
A pop later and they were back in Harry's room, fortunately without alerting the mediwitch.
"Don't worry Master Harry. Mistress Pomfrey-dragon will not hear anything from us. She has become too serious and boring. Sooty will do all she can to help you." The elf put her hand on Harry's stomach and Harry felt a wave of magic pass through him.
"What was that?" Somehow he knew instinctively it wasn't a bad thing.
"That will fool any spell Mistress Pomfrey-dragon casts into thinking you have still not eaten."
Fred and George looked at the elf with undisguised awe. And more than a little amusement at her name for the mediwitch. "Er, thanks Sooty?" Harry said.
Just then they heard footsteps approaching. "We have to go" said Sooty. The three of them popped out and not a second later, Poppy walked into the room.
"You have been without food for two weeks Mr Potter. You will face permanent damage to your magical core if you go on like this any longer. For a young wizard such as yourself, the consequences are severe" she said briskly as she waved her wand over him and summoned more food.
"What are the consequences ma'am?" He was genuinely curious about what could have happened to him if Fred and George had not turned up when they did.
Poppy reined in a smile. Maybe he would listen this time.
"Your magical core shrinks as you use it as energy to sustain you. You are unlikely therefore ever to reach your magical maturity or your full potential. You begin to lose control of your magic, or in your case, you will never learn to control your magic fully. It becomes wild and unpredictable and there is nothing that can be done about it. You cannot live around muggles because your magic could lash out at anyone or anything and wizards will shun you because you cannot control it. You will not be able to get a job in either world and life will become a very lonely existence. Often the witch or wizard has to be sentenced to the secure ward of St Mungo's for their own safety. And all because you wouldn't eat at the age of eleven." She ended with a sigh and a shake of her head.
"How likely is that to happen?" Most of the words had gone over his head, but by listening to the speed and tone of her voice he could tell that there was a lot of it and it was bad. Uncle Vernon was forever going on about how things that sounded bad only had a small chance of happening and he would be damned if he let the doom-mongers change how he lived his life.
"The longer you leave it, the more likely it becomes. The body can cope for two weeks without food but then starts degrading as I have described. Due to your poor condition to before you started this ridiculous fast I would say you are already at 50% chance. Whilst the chance to recover completely at this level is slim, it is there. Any longer and it is nigh on impossible to reverse any damage done. If you continue not to eat, you will have irreparably damaged your magic by Wednesday. That's four days. You will have thrown your entire life away in two and a half weeks. What would your parents have thought? You're a bright boy Harry, don't do this to yourself."
What would they have thought, Harry wondered. From what Hagrid had told him and the little he had learned from the first week, his dad loved pranks and his mum loved Charms. Thinking about them like this made him feel sad and angry at the same time.
"I don't know what my parents would have thought. I don't remember them. In case you don't remember they were killed when I was a baby" he spat out eventually. He turned his head away and buried it in his pillow, letting the emotions overcome him.
Of all the reactions to her speech, Poppy did not expect that. It was almost as if he had never grieved for his parents' deaths. But that was ten years ago now, did she need to find a counsellor for him?
"There now Harry I'm sorry. If you want we could talk about them over dinner?"
Harry slowly calmed from his crying and shook his head. "I just want to sleep please."
Poppy nodded and patted him on the arm. He was distraught right now and wouldn't be able to do anything. She would try again in the morning. If she got nowhere she would find a counsellor and see if his parents' death had anything to do with his state. Satisfied, Poppy spelled the usual potions into her patient, frowned at the almost non-existent effect of the nutrient potion, and made her own way to dinner.
Harry didn't eat any breakfast and so Poppy called to St Mungo's for a counsellor. She was getting more and more frustrated at her lack of progress with Harry and extremely worried that he was going to get a permanent disability from it. The counsellor came, shocked that the patient was the famous Harry Potter but professional all the way, and stayed for several hours. Unfortunately when he left he informed Poppy that the deaths of Lily and James were not the reason behind Harry's not eating. He finished off asking if she had done the obvious and simply asked him why he didn't want to eat?
Poppy sat in her office, fuming, after he had left. Of course she had done that. Did the man think she was completely incompetent? She'd been in this job for thirty years now! She conjured a big mug full of tea and sat there for a while, trying to get her temper under control. Shocked she suddenly realised it was past lunchtime and Harry had missed it because of the counsellor's visit. She hurriedly summoned some sandwiches from a house elf and went out to his room.
Harry ignored the food as he always did. This time however it was because he couldn't fit anything more in, he felt like he had eaten so much in the kitchens. George had dared him to have both ham and tomato in the sandwich he was making. He had accepted and completed it but now his small stomach was fit to burst.
Poppy was angry at Harry still not eating. He was going to kill himself! No, she decided. She wouldn't allow that if she had to body bind and force feed him to get him to eat. Fortunately, she calmed herself down before carrying out that thought, but she did file it away for later use. She stared at Harry, clearing her throat once or twice and pointing meaningfully at the food but Harry stared right back. After twenty minutes, Poppy stormed out, unable to be sure that she wouldn't do something she would later regret.
Several days passed this way. The nutrient potion showed to have stopped working entirely which indicated the onset of permanent damage, but the relating effect to Harry's magic wasn't to be seen. It was as if the lack of food wasn't affecting his core at all. Harry also wasn't showing the physical signs of starvation either as he should be beginning to. In short, Poppy was utterly perplexed. She cast spell after spell at him, at different times of day, sometimes whilst he was sleeping and sometimes awake, whilst she was distracting him or whilst she concentrated solely on it. They all gave the same result. Harry was almost fatally malnourished, but his magic unaffected. She monitored his sleep pattern and his daily actions, searching for anything she could find to explain his behaviour, but found nothing. Ten days in Harry refused to get out of bed at all, complaining that he didn't have the energy. He proceeded to sleep throughout the day, waking only when Poppy came to see him. Poppy got more and more frantic, especially when she found that his weight had remained level. Harry must have nothing left to give, she thought.
Harry, the twins and Sooty found the whole thing hilarious. The twins because they had never managed to prank Pomfrey before, Sooty because she thought that Mistress Pomfrey-dragon needed lightening up and Harry because over the last few days the mediwitch had become incredibly awkward and almost suffocating in her insistence that he eat. Sooty had told him that all food made for him was indeed coated in nutritive, appetite and stomach sealing potions which made Harry even more amused at the poor woman's plight and even more adamant to avoid the food. Additionally Harry loved the acting and telling Fred and George about it later on.
On the day that marked Harry's two week stay in the Hospital Wing, things came to a head. Poppy came storming into his room and slammed a tray down on his bed.
"Mr Potter, you will eat this if I have to bind you and force it into your mouth! I refuse to see you kill yourself because of some stubborn idea you have got in your head. Now eat this or I will make you" she ended threateningly.
Harry looked at the plate. It was cheese sandwiches again. He sighed, this was not going to end well. "Please ma'am I don't like cheese sandwiches. They make me feel sick."
Poppy was too angry to pay proper attention to what her patient was saying. All she could tell was that it was a denial.
"One more chance Mr Potter. If that sandwich is not in your mouth by the time I get to five you will lose your right to feed yourself. One."
Oh dear, thought Harry.
What am I going to do? I'll be sick all over her and me and the food.
I'll eat a corner and see what it's like. He picked up the sandwich and bit into it, quickly putting it down again as he realised that it was still making him feel sick.
Poppy watched as he picked it up, but then he put it down again. "Four" she said, willing him to start eating again.
"Four and a half."
Harry held back a snort. She didn't want to get to five. However being sick was probably less unpleasant than being being force fed and being sick so Harry took a deep breath and a put the whole quarter sandwich in his mouth. He had barely swallowed it before it came up again, all over everything as he had expected.
"Well done Harry!" Poppy praised. "Don't worry about that, your body's just not used to food yet. The next one will be better." She cleaned up the mess with a flick of her wand and pointed encouragingly at the plate.
Harry groaned. How long was she going to take to get the message? He picked up another quarter and stuffed it into his mouth whole again. Again it came right back up. He wiped his mouth and asked for a glass of water, being sick was not fun.
As he tasted the slightly chemically taste to the water he realised that the reason he was in such a state was because this person wouldn't listen. She thought she knew better than him. The Dursleys weren't meant to listen. Harry understood that it was always his fault there, but here? Wasn't here meant to be a break from all that? Well he wouldn't do what she wanted any more. She had stolen his first month of Hogwarts away from him with her need for everything to be done her way. Well, no more he decided.
"Harry, why didn't you tell me you were allergic to cheese?" Poppy exclaimed. Without waiting for a reply she continued "here's a ham one. Eat it please."
Well that clears that up, Harry thought. However vomiting twice had completely killed his appetite. "No" he said.
"Harry you have reached the stage of permanent damage. I will not take it any more. Eat."
"No. I've just thrown up twice."
Harry sighed. She could go all the way this time, he wasn't eating.
"Don't you ever listen or are you too good for that?" Harry's temper was flaring now.
"Watch your language Mr Potter. Four."
"Have you not got it yet? I'm not eating that sandwich!"
"Four and a half. Last chance."
Poppy was glaring as much as she could at him as if daring him to test her. Harry glared right back.
"I did warn you. Five."
Before Harry could blink he was as stiff as a board. He couldn't move anything but his eyes. He watched as Poppy floated him against the wall and stuck him there. She had the sandwich in one hand and with the other she prised open his mouth. Harry knew there was nothing he could do but watch in fascinated horror as she shoved the food none too gently into his mouth. However, as it hit his tongue, Harry's anger snapped and his magic reacted. The mediwitch was thrown away from him and crashed into his bed. He felt the body bind break and he spat out the offending sandwich before sprinting from the room and the Hospital Wing.
He got just outside before calling to his favourite elf.
"Yes Master Harry?"
Poppy came round to find herself on the floor of one of the private rooms in the Hospital Wing. What was she doing here, she wondered. Standing up carefully and allowing the dizziness to pass, she saw a tray filled with ham and cheese sandwiches. The bed looked slept in also. Suddenly it all came back to her. "Harry!" she gasped.
Maybe she had pushed too far but he was determined to kill himself. She would ask her friend at St Mungo's, Andrew to help her. He was head of paediatrics, he should have more of an idea. In all of her years she had never encountered another quite as stubborn as Harry Potter. Her hand crept to the side of her head where a lump was forming; she would assess it later she decided, when she had got Harry back. He couldn't have gone far, he wouldn't have the energy. Summoning a headache potion she downed it and headed out into the castle.
Half an hour later she was still searching. Point me spells seemed to say that he was in the corridor outside the Hospital Wing where he blatantly was not. Poppy sighed and decided to call Andrew now rather than later. Maybe he would have ideas on how to find him.
"Andrew Cokeworth, St Mungo's Hospital" she called into the flames.
"Poppy! Good to see you! To what do I owe the honour of this night time call?"
"I have a conundrum for you Andrew, you know how you love them."
"I've had a patient for two weeks in for not eating. He's been liquids only for nearly three weeks and bedridden for four days but yet he still managed to run away. Add to that point me spells don't work and he did some impressive magic before he left, I don't know what to do. Help me find him?"
"Well I'm on the late shift tomorrow so I imagine I can spare a couple of hours now to hunt for your stray patient. I'll be over in five."
Five minutes later Andrew was in Poppy's office. "So who is this elusive non-eater then?" he asked with a chuckle.
"A first year. Harry Potter" Poppy replied quietly.
"And the impressive bit of magic?" Andrew thought he managed to hide his shock quite well. He knew there were rumours but he didn't think they were true.
"He broke through a body bind, a sticking charm and threw me across the room."
Andrew gasped. "Are you alright?"
Poppy nodded. "I'll assess myself when we've found him."
By this time Andrew had his wand out and was waving it in a familiar pattern.
"Andrew stop! We need to find Harry!"
Andrew ignored her. "Sit" he commanded. "Follow my wand with your eyes."
"Andrew, you're being ridiculous! I'm fine, we need to find Harry!"
Andrew once again ignored her and went to the floo. "Minerva McGonagall's Office" he called.
"Andrew!" she greeted him in surprise. "Is everything all right?"
"I hope it will be, could you come through please?"
"Of course, I'll be right there!"
She stepped out of the fireplace a few seconds later. "So what can I do for you?" she asked.
"I need you to get Poppy to allow me to assess her fully. She took a head injury earlier today but is refusing treatment."
Poppy saw the pair huddle by the fireplace. By the time she had steadied herself on her feet, they were heading towards her. "Sit" commanded Andrew sharply again. "Do not stand until I give you leave. I'll leave Minerva with you for a few minutes."
Andrew left the office and headed into the main ward. "Elf?" he called.
"How can Sweep help you sir?" The elf bowed low as it finished.
"Could you please show me where Harry Potter has been staying?"
"Certainly sir. Right this way sir."
"Thankyou Sweep" Andrew said as they entered the room.
"Will sir be wanting Sweep for anything else?"
"No... Errr yes. Do you know where Harry Potter is now, Sweep?"
Sweep looked at his feet before looking up again. "No sir" he said.
"Thankyou, you may go."
Andrew looked around the room but didn't really find anything. He was more interested in the elf's reaction to his last question. That eye movement was typical right before trying to avoid speaking the truth. Which meant the elf did know where Harry was and he was likely fine. Elves could tell emotion and intent much better than any other being. They'd know he just wanted to help. If someone was hurt or in trouble elves could defy even their master's orders for a direct question like that.
A flicker on the bedstead caught his attention. There were hairs, trapped between the joins of two pieces of the metal. Harry was safe, he needed to get back to Poppy.
"Any luck?" he asked as he returned to the office.
"Afraid not, she's adamant."
"Well maybe this will help." He conjured a card and scribbled on it for a few seconds. "Recognise this Poppy?" he asked.
"What is it?" Minerva asked as Poppy gasped and glared at him.
"Admittance card to St. Mungo's observation ward" he replied with a smirk. "Now I'm willing to leave this in my pocket and not file it, if you let me treat you now. Otherwise that's where I'm going and then I'm afraid you will have no choice but to accompany me. I'll give you thirty seconds."
"You aren't going to stop are you?"
"Nope. Twenty five."
"What about Harry?"
"He's safe. Eighteen."
"What what what? You've seen him?" Poppy struggled to get up and get to the door. Andrew placed a hand on her chest to prevent her.
"Nope. No standing I said. Ten."
"Poppy, you know he doesn't make idle threats. You'll cope better here, you know he can't do anything once you're there" Minerva added, hoping to get through her friend's thick pride.
"Precisely. Three." Andrew took a pinch of floo powder out of the pot. "Two. I need an answer. One." He threw the powder into the fire but just before he called out his destination Poppy interrupted him.
"Alright, but only you. Noone else."
Andrew took a step back from the fire with a smile. "Understood. Thankyou so much for your help Minerva."
"You're welcome. Floo again if you need anything."
Once Minerva had departed, Andrew held out his arm to Poppy. "Shall we?"
Poppy was infinitely glad he had used the bed in her quarters. It was bad enough having to be assessed let alone where students and other teachers could see.
Once more Andrew's wand traced the pattern of the diagnostic charm, pleased to see that nothing had worsened. He gently examined her head until he found the injured area and let out a sigh of relief that the skin wasn't broken. "I need you to explain everything that happened to me. From when you went into Harry's room to flooing me."
"I was really angry with Harry for throwing away his life so I decided today that if he wouldn't eat I would force feed him. It's been three weeks dammit!"
"Poppy calm down. This isn't doing your head injury any good." He summoned a calming draught and placed it next to him.
Poppy took a deep breath. "Again he wouldn't eat. I told him that if I got to five I would bind him and feed him. I got to four and a half the first time. He ate a cheese sandwich and immediately vomited. I reassured him that this was fine and asked that he take another. He did but vomited it again. Then I realised he was allergic to cheese and held out a ham one for him. He refused so I started counting again. He threw several rude comments at me and completely ignored the food. I got to five and carried out the threat. He was bound and stuck to the wall but as soon as the food entered his mouth something happened. I was flung backwards and collided with his bed. When I woke up, he was gone. I took a headache potion, hunted for him for a while and then flooed you.
"You woke up? So you were unconscious for a time?"
"Probably." Poppy glared at Andrew. She understood the ramifications of what she had just admitted. Chances of getting out of this were slipping away quickly.
"Were you disorientated when you woke?"
Poppy glared at him again, but answered truthfully. "A little."
"You are showing the signs of concussion. As of this moment you are my patient Poppy Pomfrey. For the duration of your care, your patients will be my patients. You are hereby relieved of any Healer duties until I pronounce you fit to resume them. Do you understand?"
"Yes, but it's not bloody fair! What about Harry, what about the rest of the students, what about the schoolyard injuries?" Poppy ranted suddenly.
"Be calm Poppy. Agitation will just make your recovery take longer."
"To hell will I be calm!" Poppy raged. "I have a little boy, missing, on death's door because he won't eat and you're telling me to be calm!"
"What has got into you? Firstly Harry is now my patient and secondly I have a bottle of calming draught here. I believe you are familiar with the ways of administering this potion? I doubt you'll take it orally and spelling it into you would not nearly have the desired effect, so that leaves me with only one option. You have thirty seconds."
"I don't need it."
"I'll be the judge of that. Fifteen."
"Oh fine, give it here then." She downed the potion with a grimace. "Happy?"
"I will be when you've drunk these as well." He handed over three more phials which she drank dutifully. "Now you know I'll be waking you up during the night so I would advise you get some sleep now. You will be under observation for twenty four hours and then under monitoring charm for a further three days. I will see you in a couple of hours. Try to rest."
Meanwhile Harry and the twins were having a wonderful time. The pair taught Harry how to fire a paint spell and how to change its colour, which naturally led on to a massive paint fight. After the three had cleaned up and Harry had made them all toast, they sat chatting in the kitchen. Dinner came and went, the three boys cooking a big spaghetti bolognese together and they started discussing adding colours to other charms.
"Wouldn't it be cool if you could make the light spell, say blue?" Harry asked. Over the week they had known him, the twins had realised that Harry really wanted to learn. He was inquisitive about everything and hadn't been told "that can't be done", so he believed that magic could, truly, do anything. The twins knew how to change the colour of a lumos charm, but they wanted to see if Harry could figure it out for himself.
"You just need to talk with your magic. How about you try something a bit more straight forward first. Try making that paint charm say... Green and pink striped" George said.
Harry screwed his eyes shut in concentration. A minute later he opened them again and shot a beam of paint at Fred. Seeing Harry's grin of triumph, Fred wiped his hand down his face to find that indeed Harry had created stripy paint. Albeit green and red but it was bloody good nonetheless.
The twins loved Harry's sense of humour. It had really come out in the last few days. He was definitely a prankster and the current state of Fred's face meant he was quick thinking too.
"Oh brother of mine" George started. "I think it's about time we got Harry back where he belongs."
"I couldn't agree more brother of mine. I think we've tortured the poor woman enough."
"But how will we do that, friend of mine?" Harry asked with an impish grin.
"Easy, we just take you to the Great Hall one mealtime."
"You'll have made all the food before of course and we'll just tell everyone that you're being kept to a strict diet. Noone who matters will care what you're eating."
Harry smiled through a yawn. "Can we go to bed soon?" he asked a little sheepishly.
"Of course Harrykins." The twins looked at each other and then Fred called out "Sooty!"
"What can Sooty do for Master Fred?"
"Harry here wants a sleep. Please set the room up for three."
"Yes Master Fred. May Sooty be allowed to bring Sweep to help?"
"Of course, thankyou Sooty" said George.
"What's going on?" Harry asked in confusion and slight fear.
"You didn't want"
"in the Hospital Wing"
"What we've got planned is much more fun!" George added.
"We're having a sleepover" Fred finished with a grin.
Poppy had fallen asleep and so Andrew turned his attention to his other patient: Harry Potter. If the boy truly had been liquids only for three weeks then Andrew needed to find him and ask him why.
If the problems could not be resolved then he would have to turn to drastic action, but as with all paediatric cases, he needed to hear the child's story first. He had an inkling that the boy had been eating, however, and that somehow the house elves were in on it. With point me spells no use, Andrew turned back to the only other source of information: the elves themselves.
"Sweep?" he called, remembering the one from earlier.
"How can Sweep help sir?" the elf ask a second later.
"Do you know where Harry Potter is?"
Sweep looked at his feet and up again. "No sir."
Andrew sighed. Of course, he had phrased that wrongly.
"I do not wish to know his whereabouts, nor do I wish to be taken there. I merely wish to know whether someone knows where he is or whether he is lost" Andrew tried again.
"Master Harry is not lost sir!" the elf blurted out. "Master Harry is just avoiding-" Sweep cut himself off as he realised both what he had said and what he was about to say.
"Harry is avoiding Madam Pomfrey?" Andrew guessed. The elf's look of utter shame and failure told him all he needed to know.
"Sweep is sorry sir, Sweep must not say anything more."
"I understand Sweep, you gave your word to another. I've got one last question I hope you can help me with: is he happy?"
Sweep beamed. "Oh yes sir, Master Harry is very happy."
Andrew smiled in return. "Thankyou Sweep, you may go."
Later that evening, the very same elf popped back in, just as Andrew was about to floo back to St Mungo's.
"Master Harry forgave Sweep for talking and said that if sir wants to see him, then sir should go to breakfast in the Great Hall tomorrow." His message delivered, the little elf popped out again, allowing Andrew to leave also.
Breakfast the following morning was great fun for three Gryffindors and exceptionally confusing for everyone else. For a start, Harry Potter was there, a boy who nobody had seen hide nor hair of in two weeks, chatting extremely amicably to the Weasley twins as if he had known them a while. Then, they were loudly asking him things like "Harry can you pass the butter?" or "aren't the pancakes wonderful this morning?" and Harry was replying in an equally loud tone as if to ensure that the entire Hall heard their conversation. To cap it all off, Harry never took a thing from the table. As soon as he finished his plate, more appeared on it, occasionally adding to Fred and George's as well. When Harry had finished, stripy paint shot out of his wand at the twins. As if on some prearranged signal the three got up and left, being heard to say they would use that room opposite the Charms classroom on the second floor as they passed by the Head Table. Amidst all the commotion, no-one noticed the addition of a new person in the Hall.
Andrew walked briskly to the second floor, hoping Harry was there and he wasn't interrupting anything uninvited. The whole breakfast thing had to be a set up for something. On entering the mentioned classroom, Andrew found not three boys but a house elf. With a second look he realised it was Sweep. This particular elf had to be in this classroom for a reason.
"Do you have a message for me Sweep?" Andrew asked as casually as he could.
"If sir would take Sweep's hand, Sweep will take sir to Master Harry and his friends. Master Harry thought sir might like somewhere more private to meet" Sweep replied. The elf thought that Master Harry would like this sir, whomever he was.
Andrew did as instructed and a pop later found himself in a very pleasant room. It was still in Hogwarts and on one of the higher floors, judging from the view out the window. Further than that, he couldn't tell. There was just one boy in the room, a flaming redhead.
"Where are we?" he asked before he could stop himself.
"In a room, in Hogwarts, with Harry Potter" George replied with a smirk. "Sweep will return you to that classroom when you have finished here. How soon or late that is depends on you."
Andrew smiled. They must be clever. They had brought him by elf travel to an unknown location and could send him back as soon as they wished. Andrew had no doubt that the house elves would not listen to or answer him without permission here.
"Understood. I only wish to talk to Harry to check for myself that he does not require medical assistance. If he does not, then I shall leave you to your day in peace, and providing that Harry continues to attend meals, I shall not bother you again."
George smiled. They would get on well with this man.
"Sounds good. Please ask before casting any spells."
"I always do, unless in self-defence."
"Great. Harry's through here."
Upon seeing the pale, extremely thin and sickly boy, Andrew nearly ignored his promise and apparated him away then and there. Harry had his shirt off and Andrew could count every one of his vertebrae and ribs. He was obviously bloated, with sunken cheeks and his eyes were unnaturally bright. The boy's arms were so thin that Andrew thought any one of the spells being thrown at him would snap them in two. He was almost glad that Harry was wearing trousers and he didn't have to see the state his legs were in. How Harry kept dodging the spells was astounding. As Andrew watched, Harry misjudged a shot and it hit him slap bang in the middle of his chest. Andrew gasped loudly as he realised the spell was going to impact and he heard Harry cough once or twice. When the pair looked to start again, Andrew decided he'd seen enough and cleared his throat loudly. He was mentally running through which chest and lung treatments would work with the malnourishment ones.
"Hey Harry - we've got company!" Fred called.
Harry stopped firing and turned around. Andrew could see a spot of red on Harry's chest. He hoped it was just paint. However as he looked he was sure he saw the spot grow. The desire to portkey out with this patient was almost overwhelming but Harry was treating it as just a slight annoyance. He would hang on for now, but the moment he saw Harry give any indication of weakness he was getting them both out of here.
"Mr Potter? My name's Andrew Cokeworth. I see you were in a bit of a brutal fight just there."
Harry shrugged noncommittally with a slight wince.
Andrew's fingers itched to grab his portkey. "I noticed you at breakfast as you suggested, but I must admit you did not look quite like this there? You are skin and bones! Add to that the effects of that spell to the chest..." Andrew trailed off, unsure of how to say what he wanted to.
"Delights of glamour charms" Harry shrugged back as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
Glamour charms? But after all that why take it off now? Was it that he wanted help but didn't want others to know? As Andrew pondered this, he noticed that the stain on Harry's chest had indeed got larger. It also appeared that a rib had broken that he had missed before.
"Are you in any pain Mr Potter?" Andrew asked.
Andrew started, he must be lying. Trying to appear unfazed by such large wounds.
Andrew was desperate to get some results he could trust and get Harry to a hospital. "I'm afraid I don't believe you. Do you mind if I cast a diagnostic spell to check the extent of your injuries? It does not hurt, just tickles a little."
"Wahey!" called out Fred suddenly. "What's the time Georgey boy?"
"Five thirty eight Freddy my love. He lasted three minutes watching you two spar!"
"Hahaha! You both owe me two sickles!" Harry said with a grin. "You said within two minutes and Fred said within three! I was the only one who thought he'd last five! Come on, pay up!" He gestured with his hand for the money.
Andrew whirled around to the redheads. "Errrr, I imagine you are Mr Potter's friends? Can't you see the state of him? He could be bleeding out dangerously and none of you care! Harry, if you don't get help soon you will die! How can you ignore that?" Andrew was completely baffled by what was going on and why they all seemed to be ignoring the obviously very injured boy. Harry needed emergency treatment and time was slipping away from him.
Harry winked. "George, put this fine gentleman out of his misery will you?"
George winked back and waved his wand. "Finite."
The red stain vanished and flesh seemed to appear before their very eyes. A few seconds later a much healthier looking Harry Potter stood there. He was still thin, but not so skeletally so.
"Delights of glamour charms" Harry smirked. "Sooty!"
"Yes Master Harry?"
"Coming right up, Master Harry!"
Harry then turned back to Andrew. "So now we've scared you half to death, I won the bet and you passed the first test, what did you want to talk about?" he asked with a wry grin.
"Well firstly, what was the bet?" Andrew asked with a smile.
"Why, how long it would be before you did something Healer-ish" Fred replied innocently.
"And did I impress you?"
"Definitely" all three boys replied.
Andrew left many hours later, a wiser but more annoyed man. He understood the reasons why Harry had done what he had, but he didn't like them. He wasn't upset with Harry exactly, the boy had done what he thought best. No, he was upset with Poppy. Regardless of the status of the child or their relationship to them a Healer had to remain professional at all times. It was why Healers could not treat their own family or friends in hospital. They lacked the impartiality required. When emotions started overcoming a Healer, they often made bad decisions. It was the mark of a good Healer to know when their emotions were starting to build and to step away or stand down from the case. It sounded like Poppy had paid very little attention to what Harry told her and just assumed that he was being stubborn for no good reason. She had laced Harry's food and drink with potions without telling him and then got angry that he didn't eat them. She gave him demands and ultimatums instead of requests which just had the effect of scaring him and him avoiding as much as possible. All that together had led to the situation that Andrew now found himself in.
Although Harry was not quite so on the brink of death as he might have been, he was still malnourished. Andrew wanted him to take a vitamin potion to try and help replenish what he had lost but Harry was vehemently against it. In the end, Andrew agreed that Harry would eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and Andrew would return in a week's time to see him and discuss it again. Harry was to eat at least three meals a day and more whenever he felt hungry. He could eat whenever he liked, wherever he liked, as long as someone could verify his eating.
Andrew pondered on what to tell Poppy about his day. Clearly he would need some excuse for leaving her with Minerva all day. He was angry at her, but he knew Harry hadn't made it easy for her, especially in the last week or so. Nevertheless if she was going to be a school mediwitch she needed to be able to handle it.
"Good evening Poppy, Minerva" he greeted as he swept into Poppy's bedroom some minutes later. "How are you both? I trust she hasn't been any trouble?"
"Nothing a few well placed words couldn't sort" Minerva replied with a smile. "No recurring unconsciousness, dizziness, deafness, eyesight issues or memory problems."
"Good." His wand flashed over her. "Your head's still swollen so I'm afraid you can't come off observation until it's gone down more. Hopefully the swelling reducer will get it this time and you'll be fine by morning." He handed Poppy a bright red potion which she gulped down with a glare.
"Have you found Harry?" she asked anxiously.
"And?" Poppy asked, now sitting up eagerly.
"He could be in worse shape."
"What does that mean, can I see him?"
"No. Neither you nor he are up to visitors. Sleep and you'll get better more quickly."
Andrew decided that he would wait until Poppy was more fit before giving her the bollocking of the century. It would also give him time to decide whether he wanted Minerva there or not when he did. Noticing Poppy not even trying to sleep, he quietly spelled a sleeping draught into her system. After she had succumbed to it, he thanked and dismissed Minerva before completing the paperwork to transfer Harry to an outpatient.
The following day was a Monday and Harry again had Charms first thing after breakfast. The twins and him had decided that breakfast would be eaten in the Great Hall and lunch and dinner eaten in the kitchen or training room depending on what they felt like. Harry was extremely excited to get back to lessons again, but he worried that what the twins had taught him wouldn't be enough for him to be on par with his classmates. However, in their Charms lesson, Harry was the first to make his block of wood move. In fact he thought it was really rather easy, which thoroughly irritated a bushy haired girl who was sitting close to him. After that, in Transfiguration, they were transforming buttons into beads. It appeared to be the first lesson on this topic so there was a lecture on the properties of each substance to sit through first. After the lecture was finished and they were left to practise, Harry succeeded on his second try. Really he thought, what was the point of this lesson? You just asked your magic to do something and it did it. What was the big problem?
Later that evening Harry was still pondering that question. He wondered if Fred and/or George would know the answer. He also hoped that they would continue their nightly training sessions. In Harry's opinion the twins were much better teachers than his professors.
"You alright Harry?" Fred asked over dinner. "Good first day back?"
"Yeah, it was... interesting."
"Oh? How so?" George asked.
"Well we were doing moving charms in Charms. We had to move a wooden block two feet across our desks without touching it or getting out of our seats. It was incredibly straightforward. Then in Transfiguration we were turning buttons into beads. It just seemed a really pointless exercise. I mean why would I ever need to turn a button into a bead? And also people were struggling with it, some hadn't even managed to change the button's colour by the end of the lesson! How can it be so difficult? You just ask your magic to change the thing and it does it. What's the big problem?" Harry looked around at the twins' expressions when he finished and realised how much he had been babbling. "Sorry, it just kinda got me intrigued" he ended sheepishly.
Fred and George realised that they were looking at a future Charms Master. The limit of what Harry's magic could do was bounded only by his imagination. And perhaps Gamp's Law. The potential for greatness was huge.
"I hesitate to say this, in fear of getting struck by stripy paint, but I think you have Pomfrey to thank for your present predicament" Fred said.
George stared at his brother in confusion. For once, George couldn't carry on the talking because he didn't know what to say.
"Yeah, she kept me from classes for two weeks. I would have been way behind if not for you two. They obviously went over that in lessons that I wasn't in." Harry was confused about why Fred thought that would cause retaliation.
George's face suddenly cleared. "Ah but Harry if you had been taught in those lessons you would be learning in the same way this the others are! In a way, Pomfrey actually did you a favour by confining you to the Hospital Wing!"
Now Harry could see the twins fear of being painted. How could she have done him a favour? He glared at them to continue before he did hex them for their ridiculous ideas.
Fred grinned. "George and I taught you a different way. You say you ask your magic to do something and it does it, right?" Harry nodded slowly. "Your classmates are forcing their magic to do what they want it to with words and wands."
"Magic doesn't like being forced, so it pushes back. It kind of has to be worn down to be convinced to work. That's why most spells fail the first few times. The magic is rebelling" George continued.
"So kind of like me these last few weeks then? Andrew asked nicely and listened so I told him but the other nurse demanded and forced food on me which I did everything I could to avoid?" Harry asked.
"In rough terms yes. Andrew is like your magic"
"and Madam Pomfrey is like everybody else's."
The twins chuckled as they finished. "We only briefly touched on the theory of magic, neither of us were much interested in it once we found out that all we had to do was ask rather than force. Flitwick could tell you more if you wanted to know."
"If your way is so much better, why do they teach it the way they do?" Harry asked curiously.
"That Harrykins, you will have to ask Flitwick about!" the twins replied in unison.
All three boys laughed. "We've still got a couple of hours before curfew. Fancy a moonlight flight Fred? We haven't hit the skies since we met Harry here" George asked after a pause.
"How about moonlight quidditch Georgey boy?" Fred replied with a smirk. "I'll ask Lee and the others, we haven't seen them much either."
"Excellent plan dear brother. Want to come Harry? You'll love it!"
"Erm, I suppose?"
They left towards the Gryffindor Common Room, the twins explaining all the rules behind the game and what positions everyone played. When Fred mentioned that James Potter had been a chaser for Gryffindor, Harry was instantly hooked. This would connect him to his Dad. He wanted in.
Andrew's Monday had not been nearly so fun as Harry's. He had been on the late shift Sunday night so he had to co-ordinate being in St Mungo's with still observing Poppy through the night. If she hadn't recovered by the morning he was going to have to take time off; he just couldn't be in two places at once! More than once he regretted his decision to allow Poppy to stay at Hogwarts. He wasn't scheduled in until lunchtime on Monday which he hoped would allow him to see to Poppy and get a few hours sleep first.
Unfortunately that wasn't to be. He was relieved to find that her head swelling had gone down, but just as he handed Poppy the observation locket to wear, his emergency pager went off. Apparently there had been a major incident and he was needed immediately at St Mungo's. Tired, stressed and stretched too thinly, Andrew snapped at Poppy. "Wear that. Stay in your quarters. No healing magic. I'll be back as soon as I can." With that Andrew hurried to the floo and left.
It was after dinner by the time he returned. He was in a foul mood. They had lost three patients that day, one of them a seven year old girl. She had just bled out too much too quickly. He arrived in Poppy's quarters to find her not there and the locket on a side table. He grabbed the locket and stormed out into the main wing. There he found Poppy just handing a student a pair of pyjamas. Andrew stormed over to them with a face like thunder. His wand flashed over the boy.
"It was a simple, clean break. It's not infected, he has no fever. He can go." Andrew sent a pointed look at the boy, who grabbed his bag and fled as quickly as he could. Andrew then rounded on Poppy. "Office. Now" he growled.
"I've lost three patients today. I will not lose a fourth" Andrew started as soon as they were both inside. "You disregarded all three of my requests. May I remind you that you are still relieved of Healer duties? You are still my patient and you will do as I say." He swiftly charmed the locket around her neck.
"I'm sorry Andrew. I was looking for Harry. I honestly did not mean to do any healing magic, but the boy turned up with a broken arm and I couldn't leave him like that."
"You should have sent for Severus."
"Severus scares all the students."
"That is not my problem. He is there for just this reason. You should have sent for him" Andrew snapped.
"Where's Harry, Andrew? You said you'd found him. Why isn't he here?" Poppy feared the worst.
"Harry is an outpatient now."
Andrew tried to rein in his temper. It seemed that Poppy was going to force this discussion now and anger wouldn't help. The fact that he had neither slept nor eaten in twenty four hours was going to make that difficult however.
He took a deep breath. "Mr Potter, no thanks to you, is recovering well with his friends. He is on orders to eat as much fruit, vegetables and fish as possible and I have an appointment with him later this week to assess his progress" Andrew started as calmly as he could.
"What do you mean, no thanks to me? The boy wouldn't eat!" Poppy replied loudly and indignantly.
"Because you wouldn't listen to him" Andrew snapped back. The grasp he held on his temper was slipping quickly.
"He never gave me an answer!" Poppy roared. Andrew quickly set up a silencing charm on the office. "He was just like all the others wanting to starve himself for some stupid reason! He had even started before he came to Hogwarts!"
Andrew lost all control of his temper at that point. "Every time someone gave him food he would be sick! Can you imagine getting food poisoning once a week and throwing up in a posh restaurant? He learnt that the only food he could trust was what he made himself! He answered every one of your questions and you ignored him! You ignored him, belittled him, imprisoned him and drugged him and then you wonder why his magic reacted to you as it did!"
"That does not explain why he turned up to Hogwarts looking so thin. You did not see him whilst he was here, appetite stimulants didn't work and nutrition potions stopped having any effect whatsoever! You would have done no better in that situation!"
The temperature in the room dropped sharply. "Are you implying that I do not know how to do my job?" Andrew asked in an icy tone. "That the head of children's medicine does not know how to treat children?"
Poppy dropped her head as she realised what she'd just said. "No Andrew, sorry."
"I would not have let it get to that stage in the first place. You failed in your duty of care to that poor boy. You assumed you knew about him when you did not." Andrew's voice began to shake with rage again. "You forgot to perform the necessary allergy checks when he was first admitted and continued to provide cheese in his diet. You tried to medicate him without him knowing and when he found out about it you were angry that he wouldn't take them! He told you that the food made him sick and you ignored him. By doing this you reinforced his beliefs that everything he has not made is tainted! Did you tell his guardians what you were doing? Did you get their permission to take such measures? I can assure you the Dursleys' would never have allowed that, if only that it sounded like you were helping their nephew! They hate him! You wonder why he is so small? Because he only ate what he could hide in his clothing! His bedroom was the cupboard under the stairs! So before you try to bluff your way out of this, anything that could benefit Mr Potter would have been an absolute no from the start!"
There was silence, broken only by Andrew's deep breathing as he tried to control himself.
"You got close to breaking the Hippocratic Oath Poppy. I hope you realise how serious that is. Fortunately for you, Harry found another way to get food and so he has not done too much damage to himself. Damage I hope that I will be able to repair. Whether he is able to eat other foods long term is up to him and his friends. He has been pushed too much on this front, I will not do so any more. If you are too involved with a patient you must step away. You cannot allow emotions to take part in your decision making. If I get word of anything like this happening again, I will have no choice but to report you to the Wizarding Medical Council for misconduct. Your health is one thing, but if your pride affects children, then I will not stand by and watch. Do you understand?"
"Yes Andrew" Poppy replied shamefully. "Might I be able to apologise to Harry?"
"He is upset also. I think it might be wise to wait until he is more recovered, don't you?"
"OK. Please let me know when he'll let me see him."
"I will. Now let's move on from Harry to you. Get into bed please. That discussion can't have done your head any good."
Poppy obeyed quietly. She really didn't want Andrew any more annoyed with her. Once she was settled Andrew checked her over.
"It's swelled a bit, but not too much. Inter-cranial pressure hasn't increased so I'm happy to leave you just with the locket on. However you will inform me instantly if you feel any pain. Just grip the locket."
"You are to stay in bed or on the sofa until I return, understood? I will be taking your wand and locking your quarters since I cannot trust you to obey instructions. You may call a house elf for breakfast. Good night Poppy."
"Good night Andrew."
The week passed and Harry found himself dreading Andrew's visit. He sincerely hoped that he wouldn't be asked to meet the Healer in the Hospital Wing, he wasn't sure he could take that. Fortunately his fears were unfounded: Andrew came to him in the training room. Andrew ran his wand in the familiar diagnostic pattern, not overly happy with the results. Harry's stats were going in the right direction but not quickly enough for Andrew's liking. It was frustrating to know that if only Harry would take the vitamin supplement, he would be back to full health in less than a month. By denying it, Harry was stretching out his recovery and making it a lot more uncertain.
Andrew had a sudden brainwave, he just hoped the twins were as smart as he thought.
"Mr Weasley, may I check you as well?"
"Um, sure if you want to Andrew. I don't feel ill or anything though" Fred replied slightly confused.
"Your vitamin A and D levels are down Mr Weasley" Andrew said after consulting the results of his scan. "They don't present with symptoms at your level, but they can lead to very dangerous conditions later on if not treated. A lack of the correct vitamins often leads to stunted growth, soft bones, loss of stamina and potential respiratory issues."
"Y-yes sir" Fred stammered, shocked.
"At this level, I'm hopeful that it should clear up in a week or so with just a daily potion. Of course, you need to get as much sunshine as you can as well." Andrew sincerely hoped that Fred understood soon what he was trying to do. He couldn't spell it out much more without being obvious.
"What if he doesn't take the potion?" George asked. He locked eyes with Andrew and subtly indicated Harry. Andrew sighed in relief. One boy had understood at least.
"Yeah, I've managed this far, I don't want to have to take a potion every day!" Fred added in convincing outrage. George flashed him a quick wink. If Andrew was going to use Fred to get to Harry, Fred was going to antagonise the man for all he was worth.
"Well we could try increasing it by changing your diet, adding in lots of carrots, milk, eggs, oily fish and liver. But this would be a six month treatment with only a forty percent chance of success. You would also have to spend as much time as you could outdoors."
"But Harry doesn't cook those things. And we've come to really like Harry's food" Fred pouted.
"Oh come on Fred, be a sport about this. At least we've got an excuse for more flying time now if you need to be outside all the time." George tried to console his brother.
"Sorry, no sports are allowed until your levels are up. Vitamin D especially. I will not have you putting yourself at risk with soft bones and ruining your development" Andrew said, playing the concerned Healer to the fore. "With the potion it would only be a week and has a high chance of success. Without it you're looking at six months to a year, easily."
"Fine" Fred grumped.
"Well done Fred. A week's not long. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish. You'll be back to mischief in no time!" Andrew smiled and patted Fred on the shoulder in a fatherly way.
"Andrew?" George asked slowly. "Is this because of Fred's lifestyle? I mean him and I do everything and eat everything together. We eat the same food and live in exactly the same way. If he has it, is it possible that I might also have this problem?"
Forget clever, Andrew thought. This boy was genius! "It is often related to a person's eating habits, but there are also some genetic factors. Do you want me to check you over as well?"
"Y-yes p-please" George stuttered.
Fred put his arm around his brother's shoulders for support whilst Andrew did his work.
"Your vitamin D levels are down a little, but that could be attributed to the overcast autumn we've had." He raised his hand to stop George interrupting him. "However, if it will set your mind at rest I will prescribe you the same potion as your brother."
"Thanks Andrew. I mean I know you're good but I wouldn't like you to have missed something and me suffer for it for the sake of a week."
"Not a problem. Now I'll leave you fine gentlemen to enjoy the outside. No flying remember."
"Harry, find us a good spot outside for a sunbathe, would you? George and I just need to confirm a few things with Andrew about this bloody potion."
"Sure Fred. See you soon?"
"We'll be less than ten minutes Harry."
Harry popped out with Sooty and the twins turned on Andrew. "You had me there!" Fred accused with a chuckle. "Wasn't until George joined in that I worked out what was going on!"
"Sorry about putting you on the spot so much but I thought if I shifted the focus from him to someone else, then he might see that potions aren't the worst thing in the world. He's improving, just not fast enough when I know I could crack the back of it in under a month with supplements!"
"I think Fred's initial, genuine reaction got Harry worried as well. He likes us and he didn't like to see Fred in that much pain when you told him about it" George added.
"Which brings me to my next question" Fred said. "Do I actually have vitamin deficiencies?"
Andrew chuckled. "I didn't lie. Your levels are low but they are within healthy tolerance, especially for this time of year. You are not deficient in anything, either of you. That said, you will be getting low strength supplements. Do not take more than one per day or you risk having too much in your systems. That is as bad, if not worse, than being too low. I really do not want this to backfire on me and you both end up with genuine problems. That would be awkward to explain to Harry, don't you think?" he ended with a raised eyebrow.
"Talking of him, he'll be wondering where we are. We'll keep you informed of anything."
"Thank you. Take these to Madam Pomfrey in the morning and she'll sort you out." He handed the pair a pair of cards. They thanked him and called Sooty and Sweep to take them out to Harry and Andrew back to a floo.
The following morning the three headed to the Hospital Wing before breakfast. Harry had all but demanded that Fred start on the potion as soon as he could. However as they approached the doors Harry faltered.
"I don't think I can go in there" he muttered.
"We'll be in and out in under five minutes Harry, I assure you" Fred said.
"B-but she'll be there..."
"Who? Madam Pomfrey? She won't do anything to you. George and I will make sure of that."
By this time Harry was shaking in fear. "She'll-she'll w-want to t-talk to me" he stuttered. "I can't!"
Harry sunk down onto the floor, sobbing. George indicated that Fred should go on on his own whilst he tried to calm Harry.
"There now Harry, we won't go in if you feel so bad. We'll stay right here" George soothed.
"B-but the p-potion?" Harry asked through hiccoughs.
"Fred's gone to get it, you can see him if you stand here. Look. He'll get both of them and we'll be out of here in just a minute. Just you wait. Why don't you pick the colours for an epic paint fight whilst we wait?"
With Harry distracted and crisis averted for now, George paid attention to his twin. He had now reached the mediwitch's office. Greeting her, he guided her back into George's hearing range.
"George and I appear to require vitamin potions" Fred started, spitting out the word vitamin with vitriol.
"Well you'll be pleased to know that I cannot give them out without prescription. If you would submit yourselves to a physical examination then I might be able to help but without that I'm afraid I cannot assist you in this." Poppy knew from experience that threatening a full physical sorted out those who were serious from those who were not with teenage boys.
"I have a prescription."
Poppy took the pair of cards and looked at them closely. "Mr Weasley, I do not know where you got these but-" She could not continue her tirade because Fred started coughing loudly and harshly. Fred glared at her and jerked his head sharply to the door where Harry and George were.
Not understanding what Fred was doing she tried again. "Mr Weasley, the information on here does not suggest-" Again a coughing fit from Fred cut her off.
"Are you alright Mr Weasley?" she enquired.
"Just got something caught in my throat, that's all" Fred replied with a sheepish smile.
Poppy gave him a hard look before turning her attention back to the bizarre prescription. Her eyes travelled down it until she reached the prescribing physician's signature. A. Cokeworth. What was Andrew doing prescribing vitamin potions to patients who didn't need them? Fred mouthed "Harry" and although she still didn't know what was happening it became obvious that Andrew had a plan for Harry and these potions were a part of it. She nodded.
"That seems all in order Mr Weasley, I shall get them for you right away." Returning half a minute later, she said "that cough did not sound good however. If it has not gone by tomorrow you will return, understood?" There was a twinkle in her eyes as she spoke.
"Certainly Madam Pomfrey" Fred replied with a nod.
A minute later, Fred rejoined his friends. "Sorry that took so long, she wanted to know all sorts of things. Got them now though." Fred held up the two phials with a grimace.
"The sun's out, do you think we should have breakfast outside?" Harry asked as innocently as he could. He wanted his friends to get better quickly.
"We know your games Harrykins!" the twins replied with a chuckle.
"But yes" said George.
"I suppose, why not?" said Fred
The elves must have been listening because by the time the three boys reached their usual spot there was a full breakfast laid out. There must have also been warming charms placed because no Scottish highland late September morning was warm enough to sit outside in.
Ten minutes into their breakfast Fred was still scowling at his potion. He wondered why he had agreed to do this at all, but at least the scowl didn't ruin the act. It was well known that the Weasley twins despised healing potions.
"You know what?" said George suddenly. "I'm going to add the potion to my orange juice."
"Did Andrew say you could do that?" Harry asked in return.
"Well he didn't say I couldn't."
"How about a little wager Georgey boy?" Fred asked with a grin.
"I'll put your potion in one of our drinks. Five knuts says you can't tell which by drinking them."
George grinned back. "You're on."
George turned around and Fred emptied the potion into George's orange juice. Giving it a stir to make them look the same again, he arranged the two glasses side by side next to George's plate.
"Drink away Georgey boy" Fred said with a grin.
The difference was extremely subtle between the two drinks. George wasn't even completely sure if it was there at all or if he was just making it up.
"That one" he said pointing to Fred's glass, "didn't taste like orange juice."
"Well I hate to tell you but you owe me five knuts dear brother. I'll prove it just for you. Revelio." George's glass glowed bright blue, showing that something with magical properties had been added.
"Well Freddy my love are you up for double or quits? You can't taste a thing."
"You know I could always taste things better than you. But I'll happily take more of your money! Deal."
Two more glasses of orange appeared on the table and Fred turned his back. Would George go for the obvious option or would he attempt the double bluff? Or would George think that he would be thinking like this and so try the triple? Fred realised that they just knew each other too well and it would just be random. He hoped he could taste it and at the same time hoped he couldn't.
"Drink up Freddy" came George's call.
Fred drank half of the first glass in one mouthful. He swilled it around his mouth and tongue trying to establish anything unusual. He then drank half of the second one. Neither tasted as if they contained anything extra. He tried again with the second halves of each.
"The left one" he said finally.
"Nope!" George returned with glee. He cast the reveal spell to prove his point.
"We're square. For today" Fred said mischievously. "Tomorrow however is a whole new day!"
"Can you really not taste them?" Harry asked excitedly. He knew that Andrew wanted him to take some potions but he didn't like the thought of what they could do to him.
"Haven't we just proved that Harrykins? We bet to win!" Fred replied.
"It's serious business" his twin added.
"It looked almost... fun" Harry said quietly.
"Neither of us can stand medicine" Fred said. "Never have done."
"But if there's both of us"
"and we can do things like that"
"it makes it better."
Harry smiled. It certainly seemed much better when they started playing with it. Harry remembered how Fred had been glaring at the potion bottle before.
"George!" Fred said suddenly. "What if Harry's low too? We never thought about him during that last session. Andrew checked me and you, but not Harry. If Mum throw-food-at-you-until-you-can't-move Weasley has left us needing to take the damned medicine what will Harry's if-you-can't-hide-it-you-can't-eat-it relatives have done to him?"
"Good point brother of mine. There's no telling, but he probably would be low too. If he was then we could have a three way taste competition at breakfast. Would you like that Harry?"
"Yeah I think so."
"Excellent, we'll write to Andrew at lunch and ask him to come over again. It's now twenty minutes to first class and we've barely touched breakfast! Dunno about you but I'm starving!"
There was very limited conversation after that.
Andrew read the letter in delight. His gamble was paying off more than he thought possible. Being optimistic he'd thought that after a week Harry might be persuaded that potions weren't evil incarnate and could do good things. Not ever did Andrew believe that just one day in, all three were requesting his presence to see if Harry needed vitamin supplements too. He knew he would have to tread incredibly carefully though. Harry could and would turn his back on it if he suspected even the slightest foul play. Andrew knew that he would never get another opportunity like this if he blew it. He checked his diary carefully. He wanted to get Harry on these potions as soon as he could but if he came too soon, Harry would see through it and blow the whole thing. He was quite busy tomorrow anyway. He'd wait until Wednesday. The afternoon had the perfect slot in between two consultations.
At Hogwarts the next morning, the trio were awaiting the mail. They had played the orange juice game again before they left for the Great Hall. Fred had guessed correctly that time but George had not. It now appeared that Fred was going to lord his tasting abilities over them all day. A tawny owl landed on George's arm and he took the offered letter eagerly. The owl nicked some bacon off Fred's plate and then took flight again before the redhead could do anything.
"C'mon Fred, let's go read this" George said, seeing the disgruntled look on his twin's face.
"Outside" Harry finished firmly.
Once in their spot, George opened the letter and read aloud.
"Dear Messrs Potter and Weasley
Firstly let me apologise for my lack a judgement in not checking Harry over on Sunday. In the heat of the moment discovering Fred's condition and the subsequent discussion and diagnosis of his brother, I forgot there was a quiet third person there who may also be requiring attention.
Regarding your request for a visit, my first available time is three pm on Wednesday. Unfortunately Tuesdays are very busy for me in the hospital so I'm afraid I cannot come before then. If Wednesday is unsuitable please let me know as soon as possible.
"So he's coming tomorrow then?" Harry asked in a resigned voice.
"Yeah. Are you in a lesson at three?" George asked.
"Yeah but it's only Charms and we'll probably still be practising that moving charm. I won't miss anything."
"Nevertheless, you will ask Professor Flitwick to be excused from his lesson, won't you" Fred added sternly.
"Yes Fred" Harry mumbled.
"Good. We'd best be off lest Snape remove points again"
"for us being only on time to his lesson! Good point. Come on."
"See ya lunchtime Harry" Fred yelled as George dragged him away.
Harry chuckled as he made his own way to Herbology. He hoped the twins would be with him when Andrew visited.
Harry waited warily for Andrew to arrive after his Defence lesson ended at two thirty on Wednesday. He had been excused all of Charms and he needed to burn off the nervous energy. He also had a massive headache, he hoped it would go soon, he'd hate to be coming down with something right before a Healer turned up. He headed for the dummies and threw paint at them, imagining each one to have Dudley's face.
The headache did indeed fade and by the time Andrew and the other two turned up he had forgotten about it.
"Good afternoon Harry!" Andrew greeted him warmly. "How are you today?"
"Alright" Harry replied with a shrug.
"Been up to much?" Andrew asked, taking in Harry's sweaty and slightly dishevelled appearance.
"Just painting dummies. I was imagining them to be my cousin and practising my aim."
"Good. And Misters Weasley how are you doing?"
"I'm fantastic Andrew! I've got so much energy and I can concentrate more and everything is just brilliant!" Fred replied, hopping from foot to foot as he spoke.
"Glad to hear it. Amazing what just three days can do isn't it? And you George?"
"Well this one hasn't stopped bouncing since Monday" George said, elbowing Fred in the ribs. "So I've not been so aware of myself much but I suppose I am more alert than I was."
"Well Fred's dose was slightly higher than yours so that's to be expected. When the influx of nutrients calms down so will he." He clapped George on the shoulder and sent him a smile before turning back to Harry. "In your letter you said that you wanted to know if you were low in vitamins too. Shall we find out?"
"Okay" Harry said quietly. He stood like a statue whilst Andrew traced the charm. He was shaking by the time Andrew finished.
"Well done Harry!" Andrew praised. "That was an excellent job. However, I'm afraid your levels are down as well. Were you listening to me talk to Fred on Sunday?" Harry nodded. "Good, so you know that I can probably cure this in a week with a potion. Or you can try the diet way if you'd prefer?" Harry needed to make this decision himself. It was the first big step to recovery.
Harry looked over at the twins. Fred grinned and nodded whilst George held up a glass of orange juice.
"P-potion please" Harry quietly replied after a minute of silence.
"Good boy Harry!" Andrew praised again. "I'll write you a prescription to give to Madam Pomfrey okay?"
Andrew thought keeping it as similar to the twins as possible would be the best thing, but he realised that something was wrong when a look of absolute terror crossed Harry's face. Fred bounded over to Andrew, childish energy gone, and frantically whispered in the Healer's ear.
"Is there something the matter Harry?" he asked. Harry shook his head and took the offered prescription from Andrew's hand. The haunted, terrified look didn't leave his face though and his hands were shaking.
"Harry, can you look at me please?" Andrew requested softly. "That's it. Now breathe with me. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Good boy!" Andrew did not want to have to deal with a full out panic attack as well right now. "That's it, keep breathing. Good boy."
"I'm sorry" Harry whispered once he could speak again.
"That's alright Harry, everyone gets scared sometimes. Do you want to tell me why?"
Harry shook his head.
"You know I would never lie to you don't you?" Andrew continued in his soft voice. Harry nodded. "Well then, listen to me now. I cannot promise that I can fix whatever the problem is, but I can promise that I will try. You will feel better if you tell someone, otherwise it will eat you up inside. Will you let me try and fix it for you, little one?"
Harry took a deep breath. "Madam P- Madam P-" he stuttered, looking at the floor.
"Madam Pomfrey scares you?" Andrew asked. Harry nodded, not looking up.
"And h-hosp-hospital wing" Harry finally forced out in a quiet whisper.
Harry was traumatised by his stay with Poppy, that much was obvious. What was not obvious was why. However that conundrum would have to wait for now, until he had calmed his patient.
Andrew sat down on the floor close to Harry. "Harry, do you trust me?" he asked the now slowly rocking boy. This was obviously a move Harry had done before to give himself comfort.
Harry looked up and met the warm brown gaze of Andrew. The two stared at each other for a few long seconds before Harry slowly nodded.
Andrew withdrew a Calming Draught from his robe pocket, careful to keep all his moves slow, obvious and deliberate and his voice low and calming. "Will you drink this for me?"
He unstoppered the bottle and held it out. Harry stared at it for a while but Andrew was patient and slowly Harry reached out to take it. He brought it gingerly to his mouth and took a sip. When nothing happened he took another. Still Andrew didn't move from his position on the floor. Harry drank the entire potion whilst Andrew looked on with pride. He never moved from his position, even when Harry handed him the empty phial back he stayed where he was. Only once the calm had settled and Harry wore a smile of contentment did Andrew speak.
"Well done Harry. I'm extremely proud of you."
The proud, approving smile never leaving his face, nor his eyes ever leaving Harry's, Andrew closed the gap so that he was sitting right next to him. Slowly Andrew wrapped his arms around Harry's slim frame and for the first time in his life, Harry felt a father's hug. The two sat there, Harry feeling safe in Andrew's arms, for several minutes before Harry finally fell asleep.
Wiping a few stray tears off his own cheeks, Andrew stood up carefully and went over to the wide eyed twins.
"I've got more appointments at St Mungo's now I'm afraid but I'll try and get back tomorrow to see him. Don't mention anything about the hospital wing in the meantime, I'll bring some things with me. Take care of yourselves" he said quietly. He conjured a small, comfortable, neutral coloured bed under Harry and with a last look and smile, exited the room.
The difference the potion made to Harry was remarkable. Within two days of starting it he was bouncing around like any eleven year old child who doesn't feel the weight on his shoulders all the time. Of course, Harry being Harry this extended energy made itself known more in discussions that went late on into the night.
"Rather than just colouring spells, couldn't we do other things with them?" Harry asked one evening.
"What do you mean Harry?" asked George.
"Like adding effects onto spells. So take the light spell and make it say, blue. Then you hit Fred with the beam. Couldn't we make it so that he would get a blue spot on him where the beam touched him?"
"Possibly, especially with our way of casting. Go on, try it Harry."
Harry grinned and cast blue light out of his wand. It looked remarkably like a lightsaber, he thought. He swung it at Fred who did not move out of its path. Nothing happened.
"It was a good idea Harry, we'll try it more again soon. I'm surprised it hasn't worked to be honest. We'll get it to work, don't you worry."
Fred clapped his hand around Harry's shoulder which allowed him to glance at the time on his watch.
"We'll sort it Harry, it will work. However it's now curfew and we are still out so I suggest we get back to the dorm sharpish before McGonagall removes points."
"Can we practice again tomorrow?"
"I'm sure we can" George butted in. "But we really have to go now!"
When Fred got undressed for bed that night, he found a blue mark on his side, directly where Harry had hit him. It could not be seen at all through his clothes but Harry had undeniably managed what he wanted.
"Harry?" Fred asked when they met the following day. "Try that light-paint spell again at George. Imagine it being a square mark this time. I want to test something." He grinned mischievously.
Harry did as he was asked, but again there was no obvious result.
"It's not working. We need to change it somehow. One of you try" Harry said.
"George, take your shirt off" Fred said.
"Why Freddy my love, I didn't know you returned me!" George mocked, removing his shirt.
There, obviously on George's stomach, was a perfect blue square.
"Hey Harry, you did it!" George announced.
"Yeah I did." Harry smiled.
"You know what this calls for?" Fred added cheekily. "Bare chest paint fight! Lumos only, I'll be red hearts, Harry you're blue squares and Georgey boy can be green circles."
After Charms on Monday morning, Harry hung back to talk to Professor Flitwick. It had become increasingly apparent that the twins couldn't satisfy Harry's thirst for knowledge on magical theory or manipulation.
"Mr Potter, what can I do for you?" Flitwick asked.
"Is this a bad time sir? I wouldn't want to be in your way or anything" Harry started nervously.
"Not at all Harry, I'm only too happy to help."
"Well sir, Fred and George said you told them about magical theory. They've told me as much as they know but it just doesn't seem to make sense."
"Magical theory is an extremely complicated subject Harry. I'm not surprised it doesn't make sense to you! What is it that you wanted to know about it?"
"Fred and George kind of taught me magic and now lessons don't really make sense. They said that lessons force the magic but I'm asking my magic to do things instead which it prefers. Why is that sir?"
Flitwick was shocked. He knew that Harry was very good at Charms and that he was often the first to complete a task, but he didn't realise the boy's talent went this far.
"I think Harry that this requires a longer discussion than the time we have available now. Can you come to my office after your last class today?"
"Yes sir." Harry hung his head. He knew this was a bad idea but the twins said that the charms teacher would listen. They were wrong. Nobody ever wanted to listen to a freak.
Flitwick was surprised by the dejected tone to Harry's voice. What had he said to make the boy so upset?
"Harry, this isn't a punishment. It has just been many years since anyone showed so much interest in my field. The last person to do so was your mother in fact. Lily was amazed by everything magic and she could do anything with a wand. I only say come back later because otherwise you will be late for your next class. What do you have?"
"Errrr, Herbology sir."
"Take this note to Professor Sprout and apologise for being late. I'll see you this afternoon. If you want to bring anyone with you then by all means please do."
"Not a problem Harry. See you later."
Flitwick smiled at the boy as he left the room. Once he was gone, Flitwick allowed himself a shiver of anticipation. He had another protÃ©gÃ©, another one who wanted to learn everything he could teach. If this was how excited he was getting before he'd even properly met Harry, then Merlin knew how excited he was going to get teaching him! The afternoon couldn't come quickly enough.
At 4.15 that afternoon, three students knocked on the door to the Charms professor's office.
"Good afternoon Mister Potter, Misters Weasley. Do come in." The excitement in Flitwick's voice was difficult to miss. "Would you like a drink or snack?"
"No thanks sir" Harry replied.
"Very well. So you wanted to learn about magical theory?"
"Yes please sir. Magic is so cool I really want to know why it works the way it does!"
"You know that your magic comes from inside you, that it is a force that you can control?" Harry nodded. "It wants to do what you ask, you just have to find a way to tell it in a way it understands."
"You mean spells?" Harry asked.
"Yes. Spells give the intent to the magic and the magic responds."
"So you can't do magic without spells?"
"Some people can, but only very few. Spells are the easiest and fastest way to get your magic to respond."
Harry disagreed here. Spells were useless and limiting. Talking to your magic was the best way. However, he wasn't the teacher, how was he to know? And also what would Professor Flitwick do if he outright questioned him?
George saw the expressions on Harry's face and knew that he didn't agree but wouldn't say anything. Both he and Fred wanted the Professor's help with Harry's unique idea about magic, so maybe a little question here and there wouldn't go amiss.
"With all due respect sir, I don't agree" George replied. "What do you think Harry?"
"Dunno" Harry mumbled.
"Why do you say that Mr Weasley?"
"Well spells can only do one thing can't they?"
Fred saw that his brother was now winging this conversation in the hope that Harry would join in. He decided to join in.
"You know, the light spell, the levitation spell, the stunning spell, the paint spell. They all do what they say, but only that."
"Is magic stupid Professor?" George asked suddenly.
"Stupid Mr Weasley? What could you possibly mean by that?"
"As in can it only do one thing at once or could you make it do more than one?"
"As in can you combine spells together? That is possible but it is well beyond NEWT level."
Harry's eyes widened in shock. It wasn't hard to make two things happen at once. All you had to do was ask your magic.
"Can you do two things at once Professor?"
"I can. I am one of the best in the country at multiple effect spells. It was what I did my Mastery on. What would you like to see?" Flitwick didn't get chance to show off this particular talent very often, although he was curious about what this had to do with Harry.
"Can you mix the paint and light spell?" Harry spoke up.
"Of course." Flitwick cleared a space on his desk and thought for a moment. "Lumos pingere" he said eventually.
He traced a smiley face with his wand onto his desk and then with another quick flick noxed the lights. There smiling up at them was a glowing face.
"Very nice sir" Fred praised.
"Thankyou Mr Weasley. Much as I appreciate your enthusiasm into my area of Charms, I believe we are leaving out Mr Potter and his request to discuss magical theory."
"It's fine, I don't mind" Harry said quickly.
"Professor Flitwick, this probably sounds really strange, but do you remember the last time we came to talk to you about theory?" George asked.
"And you told us all about magical cores and finding our cores" Fred continued.
"We told Harry about that one day and he has been asking us for more information ever since. We can't really tell him any more!"
"Have you found your core yet Harry?" Flitwick asked.
"Errrr, I think so?" Harry answered, looking confusedly at the twins.
"We could perhaps give you a demonstration about what we mean?" Fred asked.
"Yeah, that would be easier than trying to explain I think" George added.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Fred said to George.
"I think so. You up for a paint fight Harry?" Harry nodded enthusiastically, though he had no idea what was really going on.
"It's your call Harry" George said with a smirk.
"Sorry, I forgot." Harry looked nervously at Flitwick before calling out "Sooty!"
The elf arrived with a pop. "Yes Master Harry?"
"Could you, erm, could you take us to the room please?" Harry licked his lips nervously. What was Professor Flitwick going to make out of this?
"Including Master Flitwick?"
"Yes please Sooty" George replied when it seemed like Harry wasn't going to. "Professor, I promise this will all make sense soon and you will like it."
"It had better start making sense very soon Mr Weasley or you will find yourselves in detention for a very long time."
"You will come with us?" Fred asked.
"You have just asked an elf to transport you somewhere. It would be entirely remiss of me not to accompany you."
"Are sirs ready to go?"
"Yes. Thankyou Sooty" Harry replied.
A pop later and they were in their training room.
"We use this most days to play in sir" Harry replied to Flitwick's remark that the room looked well used.
"Bare chests Harry? What do you want to be?" George asked.
"Sure. Green stars please."
"OK, I'll be red circles, Fred you can be-"
"Ummmm..." Harry started just as they took their shirts off.
"Yes Harry?" George asked.
"Professor Flitwick's here" Harry muttered.
"Ignore him, he'll look after himself just like Andrew does. He wants to see what you can do, so no holding back okay?"
"Do any of you have any intention of enlightening me on what is going on before Christmas?" Flitwick asked as he watched the three interact. Certainly Harry was a lot more comfortable here than in the classroom or office.
"We want you to watch Harry Professor. He invented this game a few days ago"
"and we thought you might like to see it."
If they had done all this for nothing more than a prank, then he would have them in detention until the end of the year. It had better be worth it. "What is this game Mr Potter?"
The perfect question. "Well sir, you choose your colour and shape and then cast the lumos charm. You change the beam colour so you can see it and then you move your wand around like a lightsaber. If anyone gets hit by anyone else's beams, they get the shape painted on them where it hit. Each hit is recorded and the person who got the most hits on others wins."
"Just watch sir. You'll understand soon, I promise" Fred said to the bewildered Professor.
"Go!" yelled George suddenly.
Flitwick was blinded by red, green and blue light streaming out of three wands. As his eyes adjusted, he could see that, indeed, these three students were flinging the lumos charm at each other. As he watched, Fred dodged one from George only to step into one from Harry. A green star appeared where the light had hit. The boys were not casting constantly, it seemed to be one spell. The twins were doing well, dotted only lightly with marks but Harry was yet to receive one. Flitwick watched the twins team up and send a flurry of spells ,that even he'd be hard pressed to deflect all of, at Harry. Harry continued to send spells back, whilst dodging as many of the barrage as he could. When they finally stopped, Harry had eight marks on him, whilst the twins had fourteen apiece.
Flitwick could now see why the twins had asked for a practical demonstration. There was no need to teach Harry to bond with his core, he was using it instinctively. No wonder he found the classroom lessons easy. And he had created that game a couple of days ago? After three weeks of not eating and only a week of formal magic training?
Seeing the three look at him in expectation, Flitwick left his thoughts to ponder later.
"That was quite something Mr Potter. How did you learn to do that?"
"I could do the paint spell any colour and the light spell any colour so I wondered if I could mix them. It took a bit of trial and error to get right, but I like it now." Harry smiled proudly as he spoke.
You just wondered if you could do some post-NEWT level spellcrafting, Flitwick thought to himself. At the age of eleven. And you think that's normal.
"What else can you do?"
"Well magic can do anything can't it?" Harry asked with a hint of confusion. "All you have to do is ask it."
Naive his thoughts might be, but there seemed to be some sense in them. To Harry, magic could do anything, therefore he could do anything. He didn't need wand movements or words to give the intent, he just knew what he wanted to achieve and it happened. They were the same thing in the end, Flitwick mused.
Lost in his thoughts, Flitwick missed the end of Sweep's conversation with the boys.
"Will Master Flitwick be staying for tea?"
"Did we make enough for four?" Harry asked.
"Definitely Master Harry, there will be plenty."
"OK, if he wants. I am quite hungry now" he added sheepishly.
With those words, a table laden with food appeared. The pop alerted Flitwick from his thoughts.
"Sorry Professor. Harry uttered the magic 'h' word" Fred said with a grin, helping himself to a scone.
"Hungry" George supplied with a smirk.
"Ah yes, you gave us quite a scare there young man. Madam Pomfrey was at her wit's end. You are doing well now?"
"Yes thankyou sir" Harry replied. "The orange juice game makes taking potions much more enjoyable."
Harry chatted on about what he and the twins had done whilst they ate. Flitwick was in awe of what Harry could do, just because he didn't know he shouldn't be able to.
"It is nearly time for dinner gentlemen, although I expect that none of you will be hungry still?"
"We'll cook something later, sir. Andrew would murder us if we let Harry miss a meal" George replied.
Flitwick had been thinking all night about Harry and what the boy could do. He would be a Charms Master, no doubt about that, but he could also be an exceptional dueller, if given the right training. He was intrigued to see how far Harry would get in the Dueller's Test - a magical obstacle course. He called back the twins after their Charms lesson that day, to get their reactions.
"Is this about Harry sir?" Fred asked, seeing the excited look on their professor's face.
"Am I that obvious Mr Weasley?" Flitwick chuckled in response. "Yes. I assume you two know how unique Harry's view on magic is?"
"That's why we wanted your help sir."
"I believe that young Mr Potter could become an exceptional dueller if he wished. Have you two heard of Dueller's Test?"
"No sir" the twins answered in unison.
"It is a magical obstacle course, designed to test an individual's aptitude for the duelling circuit. Each professional duel has a threshold which an applicant must prove they are above in order to compete."
"What's in it sir?" Fred asked excitedly.
"That, Mister Weasley, would be telling!" Flitwick replied with a grin. "Do you think Harry would be interested?"
"I'm sure he would sir, but you would have to ask him."
"And Andrew" George added.
"And Andrew" Fred agreed. "He told us not to let Harry do too much. We don't want to let him down."
"Of course. I'll be sure to ask. Thankyou very much gentlemen."
"Not a problem sir."
It was another couple of weeks before Andrew would consent to Harry trying the Dueller's Test. He insisted on being present whilst it was attempted because of Harry still being underweight. The earliest that everyone could make it was the day before Halloween, Wednesday 30 October.
"Perhaps a Mr Weasley would like to go first?" Flitwick asked, indicating the twins. He could see Harry was scared about this now he was here.
"I'll go" George said. He walked to the front of the course and studied it. He couldn't see much but a shimmer.
"Ready, Go!" called Flitwick.
The other two watched from the sides but they could make out very little detail. A couple of minutes went by before a loud ring was heard and a panting George came up to them, sweat covering his features.
"Wow" he said. "That was tough."
"You did well. You passed the first stage that most fail at. Mr Weasley or Mr Potter next?"
"I'll go" Fred said.
Fred lasted nearly four minutes in the maze, but came out in the same state as George did.
"I agree, that's tough. Got further than you though" Fred teased his twin.
"Your turn Mister Potter" Flitwick said with a smile.
Harry walked shakily upto the start. He wasn't sure he wanted to do this. Fred and George were two years older than him and they looked like they'd had to fight hard. He turned around with fear plastered on his face to see the twins looking encouraging.
"Enjoy it Harry. Flitwick's thrown everything in there. You've been saying you want to know where your limit is - here's your chance to find out!" George said.
"You'll be fine Harry" Fred added. "If you want to stop at any point just throw some paint at George and we'll come get you."
"Oi! Why throw paint at me?! You're much more paintable" George retorted in mock outrage.
"I'm right here if you have any problems Harry" Andrew said gently.
Harry gave a slight smile and took a deep breath. "Okay" he said.
"Ready?" Flitwick asked. Harry gave a shaky nod. "Go!"
Suddenly in front of him was a tunnel. Harry made his way cautiously in, glad of the light coming from the walls. The tunnel twisted and turned with weird noises everywhere. There were bats flying around, plants that seemed to want to eat him and parts of the floor threw him forwards, others backwards. Suddenly all the noise stopped. The silence was eerie. Harry continued until he tripped over an invisible bar on the floor. As soon as he hit the floor, he was attacked by creatures and spells. He threw up his arms to protect himself as he scooted backwards and made it to his feet, the only sound his breathing. He started running again and he felt the temperature got hotter and hotter. He knew he was beginning to tire but then the world suddenly went black. He was still on his feet but he couldn't see anything. However there were now noises. He could hear heavy footsteps. They weren't his own. There was something in here that he couldn't see. He remembered the light spell but it made no difference. He was blind and the thing was getting closer. He could smell it now. It completely stank. He couldn't see it, the footsteps were too echoey and he couldn't avoid it. This was supposed to be a magical obstacle course, and so far he hadn't used magic. The steps were so loud now that Harry thought he would be deafened. He was sure that he could feel its breath on the back of his neck even. He sprinted as fast as he could forwards whilst at the same time trying to get his magic to stop the thing from getting him. A few seconds later, there was a grunt and the footsteps stopped. Harry gave a sigh of relief, but before he had chance to collect himself, spells were being cast at him. He could see the beams so he wondered if a light spell would work. It did. Light poured from his wand and he saw a man staring at him with his wand out. Harry began to panic. He didn't know enough spells to stop a fully grown wizard! As one beam of red light came perilously close to him and as the man advanced towards him, Harry realised he would have to fight anyway. He went back to the first spell he learned with the twins: the paint spell. He flung it at the man and as it hit him in the eye, the man disappeared. Harry stopped for a moment to catch his breath, but quickly realised that the tunnel was closing in on him. He needed to run if he didn't want to be caught.
Whilst Harry was having to run, keep his lumos active so be could see and fight, Flitwick and the twins watched in awe. Flitwick had removed the fuzzy charm so they could all see what Harry was doing. Flitwick had expected Harry to be good, but with so little training he didn't know how far the boy could go. Harry was now approaching the second dark stage. If he made it through there, then Flitwick would take him as his apprentice on the spot. Having already completed so much before, the participant then had to contend with bright flashes of light then no light, no sound, the tunnel closing in and two people firing at you. You basically had to be able to sense magic to get past this stage.
Harry was surprising himself. He didn't know how he was avoiding these spells but somehow there was a voice in his head telling him what to do. He could feel the edge of the tunnel was approaching so he started to run. The lights flashed dazzlingly bright as a green spell was shot at him. Harry froze, the whole tunnel becoming unimportant. He had seen that green light before... Through the bars of his cot! It was the light that had struck his mummy. The same spell that had then been fired at him. The darkness closed in again in the tunnel and Harry spurted into action. He did not want to be hit with that spell. He dived to the side then sprinted forwards, blasting away everything in his path in his haste to outrun the spell until he came out the other end panting, shivering and shaking.
He collapsed into Andrew's arms and gripped the man's robes as hard as he could. Andrew held him strongly and comforted him as best he could. They stayed that way for a solid ten minutes, Andrew's attention never wavering from the boy clutched into him.
"That's a good boy Harry. Breathe with me. In and out. Good boy."
A couple of minutes later, Harry raised his head and spoke shakily to Andrew. "The g-green li-light" he stuttered.
Andrew had a pretty good idea of what Harry meant, but he wanted Harry to vocalise it.
"What about it Harry?" he asked softly.
"It m-made me r-remember that night. I was in my cot and I couldn't do anything!" Harry broke down into loud sobs and buried himself back in Andrew's robes.
Andrew shared a glance with Flitwick. Harry was undeniably talented. He had literally blasted through the last two stages in his panic. But this also showed how far he still had to go. There was a lot to do before Harry would be fully recovered from his upbringing.
Harry didn't feel like attending the Halloween Feast the following day, so he and the twins had their own in their training room. Fortunately they told Flitwick what they were doing and he was able to calm the other teachers with Harry's whereabouts when Quirrell mentioned the troll. Unfortunately, no one noticed that Hermione Granger was not at the feast also and when the troll was finally apprehended, there was little that could be done for her.
And so the term passed. Harry happily signed his name to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas and was very pleased when Fred and George did the same.
"are going to Romania"
"to visit our brother Charlie."
"It was stay at Hogwarts"
"or stay with our Great Aunt Muriel."
"Bit of a no-brainer really" they told him.
Harry grinned. "Can we still use the room?"
"Of course" Fred replied. "Who's on cake duty today?"
"You are Fred" George threw in with a smirk.
Harry had taught the twins to bake during November and he seemed comfortable accepting their creations. Given how he had been at the start of the year, this was a massive step forward. Now they had cake duty where they rotated who made cake each day and they would all enjoy it with their lunch, if it was made early enough, or with their evening meal. Harry still cooked all of his main meals but the twins sometimes helped him. He still seriously distrusted the elves, except for Sooty and Sweep and he would still eat no food or drink that he hadn't seen prepared without magic.
One day, shortly before Christmas, the three were cooking dinner when Fred broached the subject of a Christmas prank.
"You know Harry, I bet McGonagall loves you being friends with us" he said. "We've not really done any pranks since we've met you!"
"So we have Freddy, so we have. We need to change that" George added with mock sincerity.
"You up for a Christmas prank Harry? We could come up with some amazing stuff!" Fred asked.
"We could make Snape's robes pink or turn Malfoy into a ferret, why couldn't he have gone home for Christmas?!" George pouted.
"Nobody gets hurt?" Harry asked.
"Only pride will be hurt Harry. It's just a bit of fun."
Harry recalled what Dudley called "just a bit of fun". It was how Harry Hunting had started.
"It happens to everyone? Including us?"
"If that's what you want Harry."
"Ok then, what were you thinking of doing?"
After a few hours of discussion the three headed to bed, plans set in their heads.
Christmas morning dawned bright and cold. There was even a covering of snow on the ground. It was, to all intents and purposes, the perfect Scottish Christmas weather.
Harry and the twins headed to breakfast eagerly, hoping that the charms they had cast the night before, would work. Sure enough, as everyone started eating, their clothing changed. The staff all became Santas, complete with red robes and white fur trim. If they were wearing hats, the hats also became red and displayed a white bobble on the end. Of course the Headmaster's beard had turned bright white too. The students became elves, with green robes, pointy hats and backpacks. Dumbledore seemed quite excited and impressed by the display of magic, but Snape looked absolutely livid.
"I do hope the perpetrators of this monstrosity will be suitably punished Headmaster" Snape sneered.
"Oh certainly. I would like to give them house points for such a remarkable display of charms. What do you say Professor Flitwick?"
"It is indeed excellent charmwork. I believe it helps everyone get into the spirit of Christmas. Cracker Albus?" Flitwick asked with a grin.
As the bang and smoke subsided, the hall could clearly see that Flitwick was back dressed in his usual robes. All traces of his Santa costume had vanished. Whispers broke out around the room about how he had done it, most assuming that because he was the Charms teacher he had cancelled it with another spell.
"Hey Fred, Happy Christmas" called Harry as he tossed a wrapped parcel towards the redhead.
"And to you to Harry" Fred replied as he chucked one back.
Once Harry had caught his parcel, their outfits also changed back.
"Wow!" they both breathed. "Christmas spirit. You've got to get into the Christmas spirit to change back again!"
Suddenly there was a flurry of movement as everyone moved to do something that the magic might class as Christmas spirit. Harry and the twins looked delighted at the chaos caused and slipped out of the Hall. They were going for a snowball fight.
Some hours later, three wet, bedraggled spectres made their way back inside. Harry was shivering badly.
"I'll get us some Pepper-Up, meet you in the room, yes? Just keep Harry on his feet a little while longer" George said.
By the time George had reached them, Harry had stopped shivering. Once they had all drunk their potions and laughed at the comical effect of the steam, the twins felt much better but Harry was shivering again.
"What should we do Fred? I daren't ask Madam Pomfrey for more Pepper-Up, she nearly didn't give me these."
"We could call Andrew?"
"No Andrew. It's C-Christmas. He won't want to be disturbed today. He'll be annoyed." Woe betide anyone who disturbed the Dursleys at Christmas. Harry knew this from bitter experience.
"He wouldn't mind if he knew you were ill Harry" Fred replied. "He'd want to know."
"I'll be fine tomorrow. It would all be a fuss over n-nothing. I've had a w-wonderful day today, th-thankyou." Harry was slowly falling onto the floor as he spoke, eyes drooping.
"Harry, you can't sleep here, remember what Andrew said. If you want to sleep somewhere other than the dorm you have to let at least Flitwick know. We'll call Sooty to take you to bed. Would you like another Pepper Up?"
Harry shook his head.
"OK. Sooty, please bring three hot chocolates to Harry's bed as well. If you're not better in the morning we'll call Andrew, understand?"
There was a pop and Harry felt himself being tucked into bed. It was a very comforting feeling, having somebody who liked you enough to make sure you were comfortable. He felt a mug be pressed into his hands and gently moved to his lips. He swallowed without thinking and as he felt the warmth hit his stomach he fell asleep.
"I still think we should get someone to look at him. He doesn't look good at all" whispered George to his brother.
"Yes, but not Andrew." Fred paused in thought.
"Madam Pomfrey? She knows we're friends with Harry and all she'll see is this room."
"I was going to suggest asking Flitwick for advice. He might not be our Head of House but he knows everything."
"Ok, ask Flitwick about Pomfrey. Let's go."
After hearing what had happened, Flitwick sent a patronus to the medi-witch who met them outside the Portrait of the Fat Lady.
"You said a student was ill, Filius? Who are they?"
"Harry Potter. He's in the first year boys' dorm" Flitwick replied.
Poppy stared at the half-goblin for a brief moment before hurriedly striding into Gryffindor Tower. Reaching Harry's dorm and bed, she took in his sweaty face and shallow breathing before casting her diagnostic charm over him.
"He has the beginnings of pneumonia and mild hypothermia. He really needs the Hospital Wing before I can do much more."
Frantic muttering broke out between the twins and Flitwick.
"I don't think that would be the best thing to do right now, Poppy" Flitwick started. "The phrase Hospital Wing sends Harry into a near panic attack and you remember what happened the last time he was portkeyed there."
"Yes, I remember. But he does need medical attention and observation to stop his condition getting worse."
"What can you do for him here? I believe the twins have an agreement to call Andrew if he has not improved by morning?"
"Why was he not called when you suspected something was wrong?" Poppy asked.
"Harry begged us not to. He said Andrew would be annoyed if he was disturbed on Christmas Day" George answered.
"Much as trust is a valued thing, do you not think health comes beyond that?"
"Do you know what Harry would do if he knew you were here right now?" George asked in return.
"He'd sprint as far as he could away from us, he wouldn't care about what time it was, what he was wearing, anything. He'd just run. He's scared of you Madam Pomfrey and we know that. He will probably get over us asking you to see him, but we would lose him if we did something directly against what he said" Fred replied.
"I see" Poppy said slowly. "So you want me to let his condition worsen until tomorrow when you can call Andrew to fix it." The mediwitch's lips pursed as she showed what she thought to that idea.
"They know you would never allow that Poppy. They just want to know what you can do without moving him now. I will call Andrew myself later if you believe it really won't wait until tomorrow" Flitwick replied.
"I can give him a fever reducer and a warming draught. If you can charm the sheets for warmth, that should keep him stable until morning. I would like to meet with Andrew in the morning however."
"I'll see what can be arranged. Five points each to Gryffindor for helping a friend. Now it's nearing party time in the Great Hall. Here's hoping that those final Santa and Elf suits will be coming off then. Professor Snape is annoyed isn't he?" Flitwick gave a chuckle. "Come on, Harry will be fine."
"OK sir, goodnight sir" the twins chorused. "Get better soon, Harry!"
The twins actions overnight did prevent Harry's pneumonia from getting worse, but it certainly hadn't improved by the morning. So when Harry did open his achy eyes that day, his first sight was Andrew observing him critically.
"Harry what am I going to do with you, hey?" he asked fondly. "You left yourself with pneumonia just so that I wouldn't be disturbed at Christmas. Much as I appreciate your thoughts, your health is always more important. Will you promise me something?"
"Mmmm?" replied Harry.
"Will you promise that you will get someone to call me if you feel unwell again? Any time of the day."
"But-but you must have a life too" Harry quietly stuttered.
"My life is for helping people Harry. I want to help you, will you let me do that?"
"You're not just here because I'm ill?"
"I'm a Healer. I heal people as much as I can. But there's more types of pain than just physical pain. You can hurt inside your head too. I want to be here. I want to help you. If I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't be. It's as simple as that. But I can't help you if you don't want to be helped."
Harry's foggy brain couldn't quite process everything that Andrew was saying but he got the message. Andrew wanted to be called if this happened again.
"OK. If it happens again I'll call for you."
"That'll do for now Harry. We'll talk later. Can you take this potion for me?" Andrew held out a bright red flask. "It will help you get better."
Harry stared at it for several long moments as if deciding why someone was helping him but he slowly took hold of the flask and drank its contents. A minute or so later he fell asleep again, relaxed comfortably against the pillows.
"He needs to take another dose in four hours. I'll try and be here, but if an emergency comes in I might not manage it. Keep him calm and warm. Call me if you need anything at all, or if his condition changes."
"Thankyou Andrew. Sorry for calling you out so early on Boxing Day. We were just worried" Fred said.
"Not a problem boys. I'd much rather lose some of my sleep than see anyone else suffer. See you shortly."
It was another week before Andrew declared Harry fit enough to continue his spell sessions with the twins. Harry was slowly but surely gaining weight and he had also started to grow taller. He would never be tall and would probably always be slight but at least the damage had been limited. Unfortunately his upbringing had also affected his immune system so illnesses such as pneumonia took longer to get over.
When he was allowed to continue his life, Andrew asked Flitwick to observe the first few sessions to make sure that Harry didn't overwork himself. Flitwick jumped at the chance to work more with the trio, which found the four of them once again in the room after dinner.
"I take it you plan on playing your light/paint game again today?" Flitwick asked.
"Yes, that's normally how we start" Fred replied.
"Then we sit and have juice and cake and talk about whatever we feel like" Harry added in.
"Sounds excellent. Do you want me to referee?"
The three nodded excitedly and started to remove their shirts.
"May I ask why you take your shirts off?" Flitwick asked curiously.
George shrugged. "Spell goes through them so we can't see where we've hit otherwise."
"But it still makes a mark on your skin, even through the shirt?"
"Yes sir. At least it did when we started" George replied.
"Why do you ask?" Fred asked.
"With the way you three wield magic I can see you becoming excellent duellers as well as wizards. I have an idea if you'd like to hear it?" At the expectant looks on the three boys' faces Flitwick carried on. "A great asset for a wizard to have is to be able to sense magic, especially directed towards themselves. If you play with your shirts on, then at the end guess how many times you have been hit you can work on this. You will be able to see the spells but not whether they have hit you or not. If you concentrate over time you will learn to distinguish the feel of spells that hit you to those that do not."
"But duels use spells other than paint spells" Harry replied, confused.
"Indeed but the technique is easily transferred. With true mastery of magic sensing, you can distinguish what the effect of a spell is by its feel alone."
"I'm still not sure we understand sir" George said, looking at the others.
"Okay, how about a demonstration? You can cast wordlessly I believe?"
"Excellent! So if all three of you can cast something at me, I will get hit by the least damaging and tell you what the other two are. I'll even shut my eyes."
"You want us to cast any spell we like AT you? Like try to hit you?" Harry asked in shock.
Flitwick smiled. "Yes Mr Potter. I assure you that I will not be hurt. Why don't the three of you confer about what you are going to do for a minute?"
Precisely one minute later three spells left their wands. Flitwick reacted on instinct and dodged two, putting him into the path of the third. The boys howled with laughter as Flitwick's skin turned blue to match his robes.
"Very good!" Flitwick praised. "A disarming spell, a body bind and this blue paint spell. Very strong casts from all of you."
"And by playing the paint game we can learn that?" Fred asked in awe.
"You can begin to learn, yes. It will take a while before you reach my level but I am happy to teach you if you wish."
"Yes please sir!" Harry blurted out.
"Harrykins is so excited"
"we couldn't let him"
"learn it on his own!" The twins said in double speak.
"Ok then!" Flitwick said with a chuckle. "For today just try to guess how many hits you receive. That will show me where to start from."
A brutal paint fight followed. When they had finished Flitwick asked how many times they thought they had been hit.
"I don't know, ten?" said Fred.
"Twelve?" said George.
"Four" said Harry confidently.
"You're confident Harry. Why are you so sure?" Flitwick asked.
"I can feel where they are now we've stopped, can't you?" he asked the twins. The twins shook their heads.
"Well let's see shall we boys?" said Flitwick excitedly. "Shirts off!"
Harry shut his eyes before he removed his shirt. Once it was off he muttered "there, there, here and here" pointing to parts of his torso. He opened his eyes and wooped.
"Well done Mr Potter. Four. Not bad you two. Fourteen each."
"I got them all in the right places too!" Harry added with a grin. "I shut my eyes when I took my shirt off and prodded them all!"
"Could you tell what colour they were before you looked as well?" Flitwick asked.
"No sir. Sorry." Harry hung his head as if he had just failed a test.
"You still did better than we did Harry! You can't do everything first time every time!" Fred said, trying to cheer him up.
"You will learn that soon Harry. It is nothing to be ashamed of" Flitwick added in. "I believe you said you normally had juice and cake now? This type of magic is very tiring. You must make sure you eat a lot, get enough rest and do not do too much at a time."
A table behind them was soon covered with a large cake and different juices. The conversation naturally revolved around sensing magic, the different exercises for practising and their abilities. Harry was extremely enthusiastic to practise as much as he could.
"Harry as keen as you are, this type of magic is dangerous. It uses a lot of energy to do it, especially at first and it makes people very ill if they do it too much. Because of your upbringing, you are particularly vulnerable and it would definitely make me persona non grata with Andrew if anything were to happen. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir" Harry muttered. "I shouldn't do it because Andrew will get angry with you."
"Mind your tone young man. That is not what I said and you know it. I am merely asking you to do no practise on it without an adult there to supervise you. Andrew would likely not be happy with me teaching you this at all, especially so soon after an illness. I trust you to be sensible, please don't make me feel that that was wrong."
"Harry, you promised Andrew you'd call him if you were ill again. How do you think he would react if he realised you were ill because of something Professor Flitwick taught you? How do you think that would make the Professor feel?" Fred added.
"Have you ever seen Andrew angry Harry?" Flitwick asked.
"You want to keep it that way. Especially on the topic of your own health. He can be extremely scary when he wants to be."
"OK sir. I won't practise on my own."
"Thankyou Harry. I'll leave you in the care of these two wonderful gentlemen. No more intensive magic tonight please. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight sir" the three chorused.
The discussion continued, but Harry was now only half participating. He might have promised not to practise sensing magic as they had been doing here on his own, but that didn't mean he couldn't just keep the channel open to other magic. Lessons were boring anyway, this would make them much more fun.
By the time the following weekend came Harry had progressed to having other, slightly harder spells thrown at him during the paint fights to try to learn the differences in their feeling. It also added another layer of avoidance since Harry had gone through a fight without being hit a single time a few days earlier. He could sense all three but he could not tell which was which and it was sometimes seemingly impossible to avoid all of them at once. This resulted in several fits of giggles, statue moments and even a couple of stunners. Flitwick was ecstatic with his progress but Harry was not. He wanted to be able to do it and do it now. Reminders from the twins and Professor that this was beyond NEWT level and he shouldn't feel upset for not being able to accomplish it immediately did not help him much. Harry had convinced himself he should be able to sense individual magic by now and was annoyed that he could not.
The twins had made large improvements as well. Harry had persuaded Flitwick to let them practise every night and so there had been lots of time to play with. Their first exercise was to learn to feel magic that hit them. They stood still whilst Harry and Flitwick fired paint at them. They had to embrace their magical core as the paint hit and try to find the change that occurred. When they had established that then they were blindfolded and the process repeated. They had to say how many times they could feel their magic change. They could not pinpoint exactly the location of spell impact from feel alone yet, but they were working on it. They did not want to hold Harry back too much and he was so determined to master this NOW that they felt that they could not let up either.
During his classes, Harry did indeed try to learn to sense the magic around him. He could sense, with his eyes closed, the magic that the other students were casting. The spells appeared as bright white lines on the silhouette of the classroom in his head. He didn't often try in Charms: for one, the Professor might realise what he was doing and for a second, spells were being sent all over the place leaving the sensed image image too bright for Harry to understand properly.
Transfiguration and Defence however were perfect. They had a blend of theory and practical and the spells were directed at an animal or object. There was one particularly boring Defence lesson where Quirrell was just droning on and on about some animal he had met in the forests of Albania where Harry made a startling breakthrough. There were many magical objects in the room and Harry was trying to sense their magic. After all magic was all around him and if he could sense spells then surely he could sense magic? Because, really, what was a spell if not a beam of magic?
He was struggling to make any headway at all with it, studying the sneakoscope on the side of the room with his full attention. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a dark glow and his head quickly snapped towards it. He got only a brief vision of a halo surrounding the Professor's turban before he felt a sharp pain in his scar. The pain broke his concentration and the halo disappeared. He couldn't focus at all after that and by the end of the lesson his head was pounding. Harry wondered whether he should do anything about it but the further away from Defence classroom he got, the less his head seemed to hurt. His next class was Transfiguration and by the time he got there his headache had gone completely.
He quickly bored of McGonagall's lecture about a seemingly simple task Harry looked around for something to practise his sensing on. Unfortunately McGonagall kept a tidy classroom so there was nothing about. Remembering the halo he'd seen around Quirrell he focused intently on a classmate sitting near to him. Harry thought that the halo showed around every magical person so if he could sense magic he could sense people. That sounded a very useful skill. He was so engrossed that he didn't notice McGonagall stop talking and come up to him.
"Mr Potter?" she said.
Harry didn't hear her and continued to stare.
"Potter I don't appreciate being ignored."
Harry still didn't respond. McGonagall's mouth thinned. She flicked her wand and sent a light stinging hex at him. Harry yelped.
"Five points from Gryffindor Potter. Is there a reason you were staring at the back of Miss Patil's head and not listening to my explanation?"
Apart from the fact she was strict and she'd been one of the ones in the whole food/Hospital Wing fiasco Harry knew nothing about the Scottish witch. But noone except Flitwick and the twins knew about their advanced lessons and noone except himself knew about his side project. No way was he telling her.
"No ma'am" he said, head down.
"Miss Patil's head will not teach you to pass your exams Potter. Pay attention."
Harry did try to listen a little after that but it was just so boring that he gave up after a couple of minutes and went back to trying to sense the magic on people. This time he picked McGonagall so that it looked like he was listening. Shortly afterwards McGonagall ended her lecture and the students all rummaged around in their bags looking for wands and quills. All except for Harry.
An elbow in the side from Dean Thomas who was sitting next to him alerted Harry to the fact that McGonagall was once again frowning at him.
"Which part of get out your wand and practise did you not understand Potter?"
"I'm sorry ma'am I wasn't paying attention."
"I can tell that Mr Potter. Detention with me, tonight. Since you ignored both my explanations and instructions you obviously think you know better. Change this quill to a different feather."
Expecting him to splutter, fail and admit that he couldn't do it, McGonagall wasn't ready for Harry to present her with a barn owl quill. She looked at it once, then again and again. It was obviously different to his others but she had neither heard an incantation nor observed the wand movement. She turned from the feather to demand an explanation and found Harry slumped over his desk.
"Potter?" she called. No response.
McGonagall cast a quick tempus charm and found it close enough to the end of the lesson. "Class dismissed. For homework practise the spell. You need to be able to perform it by the next lesson."
The class scarpered quickly wondering what had got McGonagall to give lenient homework and let them out early.
"Potter?" McGonagall called again. Still no response. Another stinging hex. No response.
In all her years teaching McGonagall had never had a student just fall unconscious in her classroom for no apparent reason. There was a first time for everything though she thought worriedly as she conjured a stretcher underneath him. It had been an impressive bit of magic for a first year to achieve silent and almost wandless casting. But why? What happened? Did he do it on purpose and under control or was it accidental?
These thoughts didn't get answered whilst McGonagall floated the stretcher to the hospital wing.
Harry woke to a very white room. Finding his glasses he looked around and realised he was in the Hospital Wing. He tried to remember what he was doing last and the Transfiguration lesson came to mind. But what had he done? He'd only been watching the magic and trying to see if he could see it on the professor.
"You do get yourself into things don't you Harry!" Madam Pomfrey said when she saw he was awake. "What did you do to give yourself magical exhaustion?"
Suddenly it dawned on Harry that this was what Professor Flitwick meant when he said sensing magic was dangerous. There were more ways of sensing it than when it was directed at himself. Looking for it rather than looking at it.
"Did something I shouldn't have" Harry mumbled quietly. "Can I speak to Professor Flitwick?"
"If you lie on that bed and do not move I will go and call him for you." Poppy wondered why he wanted that particular professor. As far as she was aware, he was only the boy's Charms teacher.
When Flitwick arrived, Harry immediately started apologising.
"Sorry sir, I know you said not to but I didn't realise I was doing it! I thought I was just watching the magic!" he blurted out.
"Harry Harry calm down. Start at the beginning. Are you hurt?"
Harry shook his head. "No sir, just tired."
Flitwick nodded. "That's to be expected. You'll need to sleep a lot in the next few days." He smiled across at the boy. "Now then, what's got you so bothered?"
"You said not to practise sensing sir and I really didn't mean to! I was just watching the magic as we were casting the spells!"
"And then?" Flitwick prompted. He was fairly sure that there was more to this story.
"And then I started looking for it rather than just at it" Harry mumbled.
Flitwick stared briefly. "I see" he said. "And you fainted whilst doing this?"
"Oh no sir. The last thing I remember is changing a feather for Professor McGonagall. I've been looking at the magic during Transfiguration and Defence since you told us about it. Sorry sir." Harry hung his head.
"Harry you knew it was dangerous and you promised you wouldn't." Flitwick sounded disappointed rather than angry. "I assume you never tried it in my lesson?"
"Only once sir, it was too bright."
"I shall be telling Andrew about this and you will serve detention with me when you are released by Madam Pomfrey. An evening spent clearing gum off desks without magic should show you how useful magic is and why you want to keep it."
"OK sir" Harry replied with a yawn.
"I expect you to do everything Madam Pomfrey tells you to. I will be checking."
Harry looked around him before he replied. "What about food?" he asked quietly.
"I shall send Sooty up with your dinner and breakfast, will that be alright?"
Harry relaxed onto his pillows. "Yes sir" he said. However he quickly sat up again. "Do I, do I..." He looked around again, as if making sure they were alone.
"Do you what Harry?"
"Do I have to talk to her?" Harry whispered.
Flitwick sighed. Harry was obviously still traumatised about the last time. "About your current health, yes. About anything that happened in the past, not if you don't want to. Please know that Madam Pomfrey does care about you. She knows she handled it wrongly last time, just you wait and see. She feels as sorry about that as you do about what you did. Just keep an open mind if you can."
"I'll... I'll try."
"Thankyou Harry. Now I shall leave you to rest. Get some sleep and I'll see you later okay?"
Harry nodded sleepily as Flitwick tucked him in. The boy was asleep shortly after.
Flitwick knew that when he told Andrew about this he would be treated to a lecture on the dangers of children over-stretching their cores. However Harry would receive the "you will look after yourself" speech as Flitwick called it. Hopefully that more than anything would get through to him the danger of what he had attempted.
Andrew came the following evening. Of course he did have a stern word or several with Flitwick about the dangers of what he had taught the boys and doing it without a medical professional present, but Flitwick let it all roll off him like water on a duck's back. He knew it was just Andrew's way.
The pair went from Flitwick's office to the Hospital Wing. Andrew was not surprised that Minerva had taken Harry there but he was surprised that Harry had stayed. He must trust the small Charms professor a lot.
"Good evening Harry. I trust you are recovering?"
"Yes sir. Sleeping, eating and taking potions is all I'm doing at the moment."
Andrew nodded. "Good." He removed his wand from its holster. "May I?" he asked. Harry nodded.
The wash of magic fled through him and Harry couldn't help but admire the pattern it made. He didn't realise he was watching it on a magical level: silhouetted against himself rather than a classroom.
"Were you watching that Harry?" Andrew asked.
"Yes sir, it was very pretty."
Andrew pinched the bridge of his nose before he replied. It seemed like Harry was determined to severely injure himself.
"Please remind me why you are in that bed? I don't think I can quite understand it."
Harry stared at Andrew. The tone of his voice implied that he wasn't happy, but Harry wasn't sure why not. What had he done? He decided to play it safe.
"Erm I did what Professor Flitwick told me not to and I fainted in Transfiguration yesterday."
"You magically exhausted yourself Harry." Andrew corrected with a glare and a sigh. "Do you know what that means?" Harry shook his head. "You used too much magic too quickly and your body couldn't keep up. You now have to wait for your magic to recharge before you can do anything, let alone start sensing magic again. If you keep trying to use your magic when it's not there, you will injure yourself badly. Injuries that can take months and years to get better from. No magic at all until you are released and no sessions with the Weasleys until I say so." Here Andrew's voice calmed. "You are only eleven, you will be able to do these things as you grow, but if you try too early you'll just injure yourself more. If you continue to overstretch yourself I will have to stop you, do you understand? If you don't know where your limits are, other people will have to set them for you until you do."
"Yes Andrew" Harry mumbled with his eyes closed. "Can I go back to sleep now?"
Andrew ran his hands tiredly over his face. "After you eat Harry" he said.
It was a solid month before Andrew allowed the spell sessions to happen again and even then he limited them to one per week with himself there. Harry was sure that the reasons weren't solely medical, he'd overheard the man mumbling about how hard it was to get Harry to act his age. The boys did not know what Andrew had said or done to the house elves, but there was always one in the room with them if Andrew was not. The first time they tried an unauthorised spell session, they had only fired one shot before they found themselves frozen solid. Andrew had blocked all three of their magics for the entirety of that weekend and they never tried it a second time.
Things came to a head a few weeks in. Andrew had come to observe the spell session. He always scanned Harry at the start and at the end to make sure Harry hadn't overexerted himself either before or during the session. On this occasion however Harry refused.
"May I?" Andrew asked as he did every week.
"No" Harry replied.
Andrew started to cast before he processed what Harry had said. "No?"
"No. I've had enough of your rules saying what I can and can't do. I know what I did was stupid but that was months ago and I've recovered now you said it yourself. Noone else has to have a Healer present every time they pick up a wand. I want to play with my friends, that's what eleven year olds do isn't it?" He glared pointedly as he said that. "Just because we use magic in its natural form does not mean we don't know what we're doing. We were going along just fine until you started going on about overstretching and overexerting and got everyone all stressed out. It was new, it was exciting, I went too far. Who doesn't first time? I do not want or need to be wrapped up in your fear that I will kill myself if I don't follow your every request like everyone else seems to be. I want to be with my friends and I want to learn magic, so for God's sake let me!"
Harry's magic was glowing around him and lacing his voice as he vented his frustration. Andrew was momentarily speechless at the angry child before he regained himself.
"Noone else needs a Healer because noone else tries to perform the magic you do. You worried us when you collapsed like that, we didn't know what you'd done. I'm just trying to make sure it doesn't happen again, that you're not overworking yourself and you get some fun as well." Andrew tried to justify his decisions.
"You won't know until it happens, if it does and this is how I want to spend my free time" Harry shot back before turning to the twins. "All out? I've got two months of energy to burn off."
"In here? Or?" George left the sentence unfinished. Andrew didn't know that there was another room they had been using.
"In here" Harry replied with a sigh. "Better let him watch."
"Shall we try and get all the new ones in?" Fred asked with a grin.
"ALL of them?" George said whilst Harry nodded vigorously.
"Yep I think he'd like the last one."
"Especially at me" Harry added.
"Ok then, if you really want to. Independents?" George asked.
"Nah two on one should do it I think."
Both twins' eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Just for me to clarify" Fred said. "You want an all out, two on one duel, including all the new spells with Andrew in the room?"
"Yes" Harry replied simply. Fred let out a low whistle.
"Alright. Andrew you might want to find a corner and conjure a shield. I feel this could get messy. You've pushed Harry too far and now he's pushing back. Nothing's permanent." George tried to warn the Healer as much as he could.
"Ready? Go!" Fred called.
Harry let loose with a barrage of spells that made Andrew cringe. The twins shielded all of them, occasionally sending something back but mainly just letting Harry get it all out. When he showed signs of slowing, about two minutes in, the redheads started fighting back flinging everything including the kitchen sink at him. Harry ducked the sink and continued to fight. The sink bounced off Andrew's hastily conjured shield and came to rest by his feet. As the duel progressed, Andrew was sure that the spells were becoming more curses rather than jinxes. He both heard and saw George get hit by a bone breaker and Fred take a cutting curse to the knee. By five minutes in, all three of them were bloodied and by seven minutes Andrew wondered how they were even standing up. He wouldn't leave them even if he could but they were blocking his exit, ducking and diving and weaving around each other. Suddenly Andrew's heart stopped, a bolt of brilliant green light was heading to one side of Harry whilst another headed directly at him. He couldn't see who cast them because of the smoke that had been cast earlier. Never had Andrew been so grateful for Harry's incredible agility as he leapt out of the way of both. Harry might have avoided that one but he needed back up and he needed it now. Andrew didn't know what had happened to the Weasley twins, but it was something must have snapped inside them. None of his messenger patroni could make it through the spell fire and the house elves weren't answering his summons. He was just about to stun Fred who he was closest to, when the room was once more obscured by thick smoke. He couldn't even see his hand in front of his face. All of a sudden the room cleared and Andrew could see three distinct beams of green light. They traded shots for a few seconds before Harry tripped and fell into one. Instantly he toppled to the ground, within arms reach of Andrew who grabbed him and activated his emergency portkey.
In the room Fred and George were breathing hard but both had big grins. They had never lasted that long against Harry before. He always knew what they were going to do before they did! Slowly they began to remove the "injuries" from themselves. Harry's favourite new spell was an imitation spell. It would imitate the outward effects of a spell without affecting the person too badly. They had been using that spell almost exclusively once the duel got going. The green spell however had been one that's entire purpose was to look like the killing curse. All it did was make you feel cold. That was all the twins had been using. For Harry to fall like that he had to have cast that imitation curse himself and then purposely fallen into it. They hoped that that had helped Harry and that when he woke up he wouldn't be feeling too bad. None of them had tested that curse until now.
The emergency room in St Mungo's was in chaos. The head of paediatrics had portkeyed in with a critical patient that showed no signs of breathing or heartbeat and their resuscitation spells were having no effect. One junior muggleborn Healer had started CPR and another was telling the senior staff what was happening. After a few minutes of watching, Andrew left the room. He felt so helpless and more than a little guilty. It was him who had driven Harry to this, Harry had shouted that in his face before starting the suicide mission of the duel. Thinking of which there were two others that were involved and injured. Andrew knew the colour of that spell and didn't think that Harry would respond to anything they tried but there were many others here if he did. Aurors would be alerted anyway so he might as well go and see what the twins had to say for themselves.
As he entered his office to floo to Hogwarts however, the two gentlemen in question materialised in his office with a couple of quiet pops.
"You two had better start talking quickly" Andrew growled as he held them at wandpoint, his other hand poised over his security button. A visual inspection gave him no indication of the boys' injuries, but with what he had seen today he wasn't assuming anything.
"Harry needed to release some of his energy. We've been inventing spells since you wouldn't let him do the spell sessions" Fred started.
"He's a damn good dueller, we wondered what he was waiting for because we've never gone on that long before" George added.
"His new spell is an imitation spell, it can mimic the effects of any other. He's been asking about the unforgivables for a couple of days now, he must have had faith that it would work, George and I never cast that."
"I saw you cast several" Andrew said with a frown. "I will tell the aurors what I saw."
"We would expect nothing less from you Andrew." Fred smiled. "That would be a spell the colour of the killing curse coming from mine and George's wands. Don't dodge" he added to George. Fred sent a very obvious bright green spell at George who instantly straightened and shivered when it hit.
"That's all we were sending him. He must have noticed that we weren't going to try the other so he did it himself. He really wanted to know what would happen and it was frustrating him no end that he couldn't test it."
"He wanted to test an imitation AK that he'd invented with no guarantee that he wouldn't kill himself?" Andrew asked in shock. "I am going to give him a piece of my mind if he wakes up."
Fred looked at his watch. "Well if he was right, he will be waking up in the next couple of minutes. We wouldn't want to miss all the fun now would we?"
"Definitely not. You should come too Andrew, he'll appreciate you being there."
"I'm certainly coming. I'm keeping you two where I can see you until the aurors arrive."
Harry looked worse than the last time. His lips were blue and his face was bloodless. When Andrew touched Harry's hand, it was cold. There were two Healers trying to drag the younger ones away. It was obvious that they were too late to save Harry Potter.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Didn't they know it was agony every time they did that? It had been going on now for over ten minutes and his chest was really beginning to hurt. Although the rest of him hurt anyway so he supposed it wasn't that much of an extra. But however much he tried to tell them to stop, he couldn't. He could make no noise or movement. He couldn't even open his eyes to see what was happening. Suddenly the thumping stopped.
Andrew and the twins waited in suspense as the minutes ticked by. There was no change to Harry's condition. Finally, twenty minutes after Harry had been portkeyed in, Andrew looked at his watch.
"Time of death 20:32" he said.
"No! Harry! HARRY!" George shrieked. When there was no response George slunk down and sobbed, ignoring everyone else in the room.
Ten minutes later there was only George, Fred and Andrew still in the room. Andrew refused to leave the twins alone, but allowed them to stay with Harry for now.
"Who died?" suddenly came a croaky remark from the bed. All three heads snapped around to see Harry awake but still looking like death. George, upon seeing Harry's eyes open promptly fainted. Fred's eyes were red and his jaw dropped but he managed to stay on his feet and tend to his brother.
"If you move even your little toe young man, you'll be confined to that bed until Christmas" Andrew said with a glare. It might only be March, but Harry knew that Andrew would follow through. He was just that kind of man. "How do you feel?"
"Like death" Harry replied. "I don't think there's anywhere I don't hurt, but my chest hurts the most from whatever they were doing earlier."
"Apparently you still have no heartbeat, yet I know that to be a lie since you are conscious. Tell me what happened" Andrew demanded.
"Tested the imitation killing curse" Harry replied softly. "I guess I got the times wrong?" he added, seeing the faces of the three around him.
"I pronounced your death ten minutes ago. There were ten Healers in here trying to save you, we had to physically remove the younger ones from you when I called it."
"Sorry" muttered Harry.
"Can you remove the illusion so I can treat you?" Andrew asked with a sigh.
Harry slowly shook his head. "I'm sorry. My magic doesn't want to behave." He looked extremely apologetic.
"Ok. Can you stay awake then?"
"So I can see you're alive."
"I'll try. Where are you going?"
"Just over to see George but none of my monitoring charms will work for you. They all send alarms if the patient's heartbeat or breathing drops lower than a certain level. Until you can remove the illusion, I need you to stay awake if you can so you can tell me if you start to feel worse."
Minerva McGonagall would be the first to admit that she wasn't a very hands-on Gryffindor Head. With being Transfiguration professor and Deputy Head, the admin was took up too much time to give the pastoral care needed to her lions. She did however care deeply for each one of them, so when a prefect came to her one evening just after curfew saying that three boys were missing and hadn't been seen all evening, she was instantly alert.
"Who is it?" she demanded.
"Harry Potter and the Weasley twins Professor. They are often out in an evening but they are always back for curfew."
"Thankyou for informing me Fowler. I shall ask the other members of staff if they have seen them. If they happen to come back to the tower, please notify me or another professor."
"Yes Professor McGonagall."
"Goodnight Fowler. I shall inform you if and when we learn more."
When the prefect had left the room, Minerva floo called the Hospital Wing.
"Good evening Minerva, what has you calling so late? Is everything alright?" Poppy answered.
"Good evening Poppy. You don't happen to have Harry or the Weasley twins with you tonight do you?"
"No I'm afraid I don't. You know I would have informed you if any Gryffindors had been admitted. Are they missing?"
"They are not in the Tower and it is now past curfew. I've just had one of the Gryffindor prefects come to tell me."
"At least they are together. Have you tried Filius? He sees the most of them."
"I thought I'd check with you first. I'll call him now, thankyou Poppy."
"Do let me know if I can help."
"Of course, I'll call you later."
Minerva smiled briefly and ended the call. The call to the Charms professor was very similar except that he recommended asking Andrew since it had been a spell session night.
"Minerva! Just the woman I was about to floo!" he greeted her. "I assume you're after three students?"
"Yes as a matter of fact I am. Do you have any information on Harry or the Weasley twins?"
"Yes. I'm keeping them here overnight."
"What happened?!" Minerva asked in horror.
"Nothing too disastrous but it's been a tough evening for all of them. They need some decent sleep." As do I, he added mentally.
"Do I need to send for their parents?"
"Not especially, they'll be back at Hogwarts before class starts tomorrow."
"OK. I trust you will inform me of the details of this tomorrow?"
"As soon as I have spoken to Filius. Goodnight Minerva."
"Goodnight Andrew. Call me if you need anything."
"I will. Goodnight."
Minerva notified the others that the boys had been found and then started her preparations for bed. Her mind was still running at a mile a minute though; what could have happened that required three boys have an overnight stay in St Mungo's? She knew she did need to inform the Weasleys but the owl wouldn't get there until after the boys were back in the castle anyway now, so she might as well send it in the morning, when hopefully she had some more information to tell.
It was still dark when Minerva was awoken the following morning by the loud ringing of her floo.
"Andrew" she gasped. "Why are you calling at this hour?"
"Can I come through?" he asked.
"Of course, I'll get us some tea."
Andrew started talking almost as soon as he had stepped into the office.
"I needed to see you before the Prophet comes out today. Don't believe anything about Harry you read, he's fine. The boys will be back for breakfast."
"Did you tell anything to the Weasley parents?"
"No, I planned on an owl first thing this morning. It wouldn't have got there any quicker if I sent it last night."
"True, we need to visit them."
"This has to do with the twins as well?"
"Yes and what happened last night. I'll give you ten minutes to get ready whilst I talk to Filius."
The headline of the Daily Prophet that morning certainly got the castle talking. It read HARRY POTTER PROCLAIMED DEAD AT ST MUNGOS, yet the whole castle could see Harry sitting at the Gryffindor table, eating his breakfast and doing his best to avoid the stares and whispers. He was flanked by Fred and George Weasley who were fielding all the questions and protecting Harry from the rest of the students.
Andrew on the other hand had called an emergency meeting of his staff. For the story to have got out so quickly one of the Healers must have talked to or been overheard by a journalist. Both of these scenarios were a breach of patient confidentiality and Andrew was determined to find out who the perpetrator was. In his opinion waiting until eight am to call the meeting was lenient enough and saying that if they weren't in his office in fifteen minutes they wouldn't have a job to come back to was justified, given the circumstances.
"Yesterday evening, we had a serious case come in, as you all know. A patient which we unfortunately lost. Would anyone like to tell me the name of that patient?" Andrew started. He realised that never once had he said Harry's full name last night.
All the Healers fidgeted. There was an undertone to their boss's question which boded horrific consequences if the answer was incorrect. After a tense minute one of the older Healers spoke.
"The redhead shouted Harry, but his surname was never mentioned and I never got a proper look at him."
Andrew smiled tightly. "Thanks Jeff" he said. "As Healer McLaren has just pointed out, those are the facts of last night. However somebody took it into their head that we had Harry Potter here last night and that he died. Since I personally witnessed him eating his breakfast in Hogwarts just half an hour ago, I can assure you that he is alive and well. Does anyone want to tell me anything?"
The silence that followed could have been cut with a knife.
"No? How about the definition of patient confidentiality?"
"Only the patient's le-legal guardian or D-Duty Healer can be told any details about the patient's c-condition or-or care" a young female Healer stuttered.
"Correct. So why did this appear on the front page?" Andrew slammed down the Daily Prophet as he spoke. "Somebody broke confidentiality with incomplete facts. Harry Potter has never been admitted to St Mungos. Does anyone want to own up?" Yet more silence. "Well let me try once more. If I do not find the perpetrator before lunchtime you will all be suspended without pay until I do. Do you understand?"
"Yes Healer Cokeworth" came the chorus of responses.
"Good. I will be in here until noon if anyone has information for me. If you don't, you are dismissed."
Seeing everyone else flee for the door, Jeff hung back.
"How is he?" Jeff asked.
Andrew smiled. "Harry? Fine. Far too happy to be released to care about anything else. Although I think I'll go talk to Poppy later and see if she can keep an eye in him for me."
"That was too high profile a case for you to sweep under the rug Andrew, everyone knows that a little boy passed away last night, how did you do it?"
Andrew smiled again, this time with a hint of mischievousness. "Harry Bloggs had a very severe anaphylactic shock last night and by the time I arrived, there was nothing I could do."
Jeff patted Andrew on the back with a matching grin. "Well done mate" he said. "If you need me for anything, just send a patronus. Let me know anything you find out."
"Will do Jeff, will do."
Harry didn't know how he got through his morning classes and then Professor McGonagall asked him to come to her office immediately after he had eaten lunch. Harry made his way to the Transfiguration classroom warily. He hadn't really had much contact with his Head of House so far. Once he arrived he found Andrew and Professor Flitwick also there.
"Harry!" Minerva welcomed him. "I saw you at breakfast but it's good to see properly that you're alright!" She gathered him into a hug which made Harry flinch at the sudden contact.
"Harry I know I released you this morning, but we needed you to be seen at breakfast to dispel the rumours of your death." Andrew said. "I would really like it if you rested today and then I'll see what I can do about tomorrow." Seeing Harry start to protest Andrew continued, "Poppy wanted you under observation in the Hospital Wing for a week, my request for just an afternoon of rest isn't that bad is it?"
Harry still wasn't convinced. "Please Harry. I won't force you, but I'm not asking much. You don't have to go to bed, just no magic and nothing strenuous please."
"Ok Andrew" Harry replied with a smile.
"Why are you smiling Harry?" Minerva asked.
"He asked me. He let me decide."
"Is that what all this was about Harry?" Andrew queried softly.
Harry nodded. "I didn't know that until just now though. I was just really angry with you stopping me doing the things I wanted to. I don't like it when other people decide what I can and can't do, it reminds me of Aunt Petunia."
"In what way?" Harry had never been this open about his relatives before, Andrew was hoping he could get some information he could use out of it.
"She always said that freaks had no opinions, they did what they were told and they were grateful for what they were given."
All three adults gasped. They knew Harry's home life was bad, but he had stated that so casually it was if he believed it.
"You know that isn't true right Harry?" Andrew asked gently.
"Yes sir, I know that here, but I need to remember it for next summer or it will be really bad."
"You will not be going back there Harry."
"Really?" Harry's face lit up with hope. But a second later it fell again. "But where would I live during the summer? I can't stay here."
"If it comes to it you can live with me Harry" Andrew replied with a smile. "But we have plenty of time to decide where you want to go."
"Really? You want to live with me? You want to be like my Dad?"
Harry blatantly hadn't heard the end of his sentence and Andrew sighed. He didn't want Harry latching onto the first person who offered him a way out, but to do anything but accept would seem to Harry that he didn't want him.
"If that is really what you want Harry then I would be happy to. However today is not the day for those kind of discussions. Please think about it, talk to people and make a list of at least three other people you would like to live with, writing down their good sides and bad sides. If you do this and then still decide that you want to live with me, then we can discuss it more. Whoever you pick, whether it be me or not, you will have to live with them for six years at least so choose wisely. You will not get a second choice if you decide you don't like it. Do you understand?"
"Think so. Do I still have to rest this afternoon?"
Andrew chuckled. "Of course, unless you want me to hand you over to Poppy after all? You did agree. She's just a floo call away you know."
"Um, no, I'll just go to the room and um, read a book." Harry scooted out the door as fast as he could leaving the adults chuckling at his retreat when faced with the possibility of the mothering mediwitch.
"I'll be up in a few minutes Harry, you'd better be there!" Andrew called after him.
A few days later Harry had his three names: the Weasley parents, Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick. He had done as Andrew had asked but he knew, even after this, that he wanted Andrew to take him. He told Andrew as much when they discussed it.
"OK Harry, but you need to know a few things if that's what you want. Once I become your guardian I can no longer be your Healer. That doesn't mean you stop telling me if you are hurt, just that if you have to go to hospital I won't be able to treat you and if you pull any more hair brained stunts like that last one you'll get my telling off and another's!"
"So you'll be looking after me, but someone else will be doing it officially?" Harry asked, trying to understand.
Andrew chuckled. "In a way Harry, yes."
"You'll have to be a bit more explicit than OK Harry! Is that OK you still want me, or OK you'd rather go somewhere else?"
"Will you be my guardian?" Harry asked sweetly.
Andrew smiled widely and held out his arms. "Yes Harry. Come here son."
"Harry!" Andrew yelled up the stairs. He didn't know what was keeping him but they were going to be late if they dawdled any longer.
"Coming!" Harry yelled back.
A minute later footsteps were heard thumping down the stairs. Harry was wearing deep blue dress robes with matching waistcoat along with a whirt shirt and pale green tie.
"What took you so long? Never mind let's get going! You're the guest of honour you can't be late!"
Harry smiled mischievously. "I'm sure the twins won't mind" he said.
"But I will! Come on floo quickly - or would you rather I apparate us?"
"No no floo is fine" Harry said moving quickly to the fireplace.
Harry'd never liked apparating and Andrew knew that. The fact that he could probably apparate at age fifteen first time if he tried was a moot point. Harry didn't like it so he wouldn't try it. For this Andrew was grateful. There were no wards he couldn't get through and no effect, within the laws of magic, that he couldn't make happen. This meant that there wasn't any way to keep Harry somewhere if he didn't want to be there - an excellent trait for if he was ever captured by Death Eaters, but bloody annoying when Harry wanted to avoid anything or anyone. A locked door wouldn't keep him in the room, he'd just unlock it which made for some very interesting situations when Andrew had tried to talk to him whilst he was angry. His wandless abilities had however found him a summer job in the muggle world: he was a magician. He got to show off his abilities to muggles and no-one was any the wiser.
"Oi! Harry!" yelled a different voice, breaking Harry out of his trance.
He looked up to see a carrot-topped Weasley standing next to him.
"Oh hey Fred" he said. "Happy birthday!"
"Why thankyou good sir. Spiffing to see you as well!"
Suddenly Molly came bustling over. "Oh there you are Harry! So glad to see you, you know I never thought the twins would allow this party, but coming of age is special don't you think?"
Fred rolled his eyes and gave a mock sigh. "Mother you don't need to bore Harry with every last thing, you know! Just get everyone together, cut the cake and then we can be done with a the formal stuff and have some fun!"
"Well said Gred."
"Why thankyou Forge." Turning back to Harry he stage whispered "you look almost respectable. I do hope you brought a change."
"Of course, do you take me for an amateur?" Harry hissed back with a grin. "Can you see Andrew letting me out the house in that though?!"
"Point taken Harrykins. So going to show us?"
"Later" was Harry's only response.
Andrew watched Harry interact with fondness as he cast his mind back over the last four years. When Harry had come to live with him the boy had no idea how either a parent or child was meant to be. Andrew had patiently un-taught him every lesson from the Dursleys and re-taught him the correct meaning of family. Of course the twins had helped immensely in ways that Andrew would never have managed. Even so, Harry's wariness of food had not diminished entirely and it was only during the previous month that he had started accepting food magically prepared. His control of magic was second to none, not even Dumbledore. The fact that he seemed to get the most enjoyment out of making muggle kids happy with his tricks was just the icing on the cake. He'd tried duelling on the junior circuit once but decided he didn't like all the focus placed on wands. Being a magician allowed him complete free rein and Andrew knew that was what Harry liked the most. He could see Harry making a career of it once he graduated.
The man returned to the present just as an almighty squawk erupted from the gigantic cake. Harry and the twins were holding their sides with laughter as Molly tried to glare at the twins for their prank. She couldn't hold it though and ended up joining in the laughter. Shortly afterwards Harry transfigured his outfit to his traditional magician and the twins to clowns. The magic show they performed for the guests was astounding even to those who had known magic all their lives.
It wasn't until much later, when they arrived home that Harry realised his head hurt. He knew he wouldn't sleep now and so asked Andrew for a headache and sleeping potion.
"If it is just a headache then yes, but it's no good treating only the symptoms if it's something worse" Andrew replied motioning to Harry to sit in the chair opposite him.
Harry rolled his eyes and started to object but Andrew raised his hand to stop him. "Your choice is me or Jeff Harry. You've got thirty seconds to decide."
Harry sighed and cast a quick tempus charm. Finding it to be approaching half one in the morning he knew Jeff would not appreciate being woken up at this time, and by Andrew no less. Jeff had been Harry's Healer since Andrew adopted him and was as bad as, if not worse than Andrew himself when it came to Harry's health. They were like a pair of mother hens if he ever did come down with something. No he didn't need that after such a good evening.
"Alright, go ahead" he muttered. Ten minutes later, Harry was snuggled in bed, potions taken and under an alert spell for Andrew's piece of mind. Harry thought it was probably just the beginnings of a hangover, because who knew what was in juice that the Weasley twins made, but it was easier to let Andrew fuss than fight him. Besides he always won anyway. Harry chuckled lightly before he slipped off to sleep, feeling warm, comfy and cared for.