"I can't believe you two are here. Shouldn't you have gone to The Three Broomsticks instead?"
"We figured Madam Rosemerta wouldn't let us in, knowing us as Hogwarts students and all," Harry answered.
"Maybe… but still, did you have to drag my little brother to the Hogshead of all places?"
"Actually, it was his idea. Apparently, Fred and George are regulars here, when they sneak out."
Bill chuckled. "Doesn't really surprise me."
He threw a glance at Ron, who was staring into his glass, still not sure how to deal with his oldest brother catching him halfway getting drunk.
"But still, the Hogshead?"
"I could ask the same of you," Harry replied, with a sudden suspicious glance. "What are you doing here anyway? Why aren't you in Egypt?"
Bill was silent for a moment and then seemed to make up his mind. "I suppose I should tell you I'm just here for a drink or two, but somehow I doubt you'd believe me.
I'm here on business for Dumbledore, but that information had better not get any further and I'll tell you no more," he said in a stern voice.
Harry nodded his understanding, mostly very glad that Bill had not blown up in anger as he, and, by the way Ron had paled when he had first seen his oldest brother, his best friend feared he'd do. Instead the eldest Weasley son had sat down, ordered a glass and joined them.
Harry was quite sure he was not supposed to see, but he saw the barkeep slip Bill a note with the glass. He decided not to ask questions.
"As for not being in Egypt… I requested a transfer. I wanted to be close because of the return of You-Know-Who.
Harry, listen, were you a normal student I wouldn't have any problems with you being here. Great Wizards know I was here in my fourth year, and a lot more drunk than Ron is, but…
Well, you of all people should know who's out there.
We think Hogsmead is reasonably safe, but…"
"But you still think it too dangerous… for me," Harry finished, not even bothering to ask who 'we' meant: Dumbledore.
"Yes," Bill simply answered.
"But Bill, you can't just lock Harry up," Ron protested.
"Oh, believe me, there have been suggestions in that direction, but Dumbledore refused.
But I don't think he had this in mind…" Bill sighed, and seemingly looked heavenwards.
"Still, I can imagine that if anyone needs to relax from time to time, it's Harry, especially with what's been going on. Congratulations on that by the way. But…" Bill sighed again,deeply, clearly uncertain how to deal with the situation.
"Listen, I'll make you two a deal. You let me escort you back to Hogwarts and I'll see what I can do on getting you out once in a while."
Harry looked at the older redhead and clearly saw that Bill was not going to take no for an answer and it suddenly dawned on him that the cursebreaker was letting Harry save face more than anything else. He appreciated the gesture, being treated like an adult for as far as it went.
He nodded and the three of them stood as soon as they had all finished their glasses.
As they pulled on their cloaks the barkeep came over.
"I hope everything was too your liking, Milord, gentlemen?"
"Yes," Harry said hesitantly, not quiet sure what to make of the man's behaviour, "thank you for your hospitality."
"Oh, my pleasure, Milord. Always happy to serve the House of Potter," the man said with a beaming smile. "I was once in the service of your Great-Grandfather and Grandfather as a retainer before I retired and started this place. Great men they both were; both died too young, but as they would have wanted too, fighting off the darkness. That's how I recognized the crest on your chest."
Harry looked down and saw that he was indeed unknowingly wearing a jumper with the Dragon crest on it.
He was confounded though. Here was a man who knew more of his grandfather than he did. But even more than that: The man clearly felt that it made Harry special in some way.
He had to say something, the man was obviously waiting.
"I'm… glad that you think so highly of my family, and… I want to thank you for your… service to them," he stuttered. Not quite knowing what to do, Harry did the first thing that came to mind, remembering Dumbledore's words not so long ago about rebuilding the influence of the House of Potter; this was as good a place to start as any. He thrust his hand in his pocket and took out a handful of galleons. "Please buy everyone here a drink on me, to their health."
The man beamed as he took the gold from Harry.
"Of course, Milord." Harry suddenly became aware that most of the room was looking at him; including Ron, who was gaping at the amount of gold Harry had just given over.
The barkeep took out his wand and Harry could feel Bill stiffen behind him. He was certain that the oldest Weasley brother had grabbed his own wand only seconds after the bartender
But the man only waved it at the bar, muttering under his breath. Pints started to fill themselves with ale and flew to the customers. Bill seemed to relax.
"To your Health, Mr Potter," was heard, as well as "To your Health, Lord Potter."
One table, however, did not toast him immediately.
"If you would, My Lord?" The bartender asked, beckoning Harry towards the table
The men, all older and clearly weathered by life, rose from their seat and made formal half bows as Harry approached; Bill and Ron at his back, one redhead weary, one confused.
The barkeep joined the men and picked up a mug of ale and all the men stood facing Harry.
"TO THE HOUSE OF THE DRAGON, CEDO NULLI," they called out as one, lifting their drinks in salute.
Only just remembering what Sirius had taught him, Harry inclined his head slightly and returned the toast "Cedo Nulli."
"We are all former retainers of the House of Potter, My Lord," The oldest of the men said. "We served with pride, and we all regretted the fact of Lord Stewart's death. I see much of him in you and if you have need we will answer the call again and stand behind the Dragon Banner."
Harry felt fully out of his depth by now. He had no idea who these men were or what exactly it was they wanted. He had been raised in an English suburb. He knew nothing of Nobility and its ways, except for what he had learned over the past few days. He did not know what these men expected.
What he did know was that he had to answer. He took a deep breath and took the plunge.
"Thank you, for your… loyalty. If I need comes, I will call." He inclined his head again.
The men apparently thought the answer was proper enough and made half bows.
"It's time for us to leave, Harry," Bill said softly and as they turned and left, he added, "You did good."
Harry smiled. It was a beginning, a small one, but most definitely a beginning.
"That was so weird," ranted Ron. He had been at it most of the way up from Hogsmead. "And what was it you said to them? 'kiedo nully'? What does it mean?"
"Cedo Nulli," Harry corrected him. He tapped on his chest where the crest was located. "Those are apparently my family's Words. I don't know what they mean."
"I Yield To No Man," Bill said absently.
"How do you know that?" Ron asked, surprised.
"It's Latin," Bill said, his eyes wandering back to Harry as he spoke to Ron.
Ron rolled his eyes. "That still doesn't explain how come you know it."
"What?" Bill said indignantly, his attention now focused. "I took ancient languages as a NEWT."
Bill chose to ignore his little brother.
"I think you two can find your way safely from here. I need to go talk to Dumbledore," he said, as they walked through the main doors.
"Goodnight, Bill," the two boys said and started their ascend of the main stairwell.
"That was too close," Ron said as they reached the first landing, "I hope he doesn't tell mum, I'd get a howler for sure."
"I wouldn't worry; Bill seemed quite alright with it. He was more worried about security."
"That's the strangest thing, isn't it? Needing security."
Harry only nodded; his face dark. He didn't like it, and he starting to worry that it'd get worse.
The two separated at the third landing, Ron going further up to Gryffindor Tower, Harry going to the Proctor's dorm.
Harry felt relaxed. There had been too much stress the last few days, but now he knew he could tackle most of it, he had just needed a moment to himself.
He passed the two suits of armour that had sprang away when Harry muttered the password.
The common room was empty, the fireplace only filled with a few glowing embers, so Harry made straight for his bedroom at the end of the hallway.
As he passed the last door before his own he heard muffled moaning.
Not quite sure what the sound was, he stood still for a moment.
He heard it again. Was someone in pain?
Then he heard it, but louder, coming from the room he was standing next to.
It was Zabini's room.
"Oh God, yes," he heard her voice, the sound muffled by the door. He leaned in, to better hear.
Suddenly, when hearing another moan, he realised what must be going on.
His face turned red and he felt his cheeks burn. What the…
Hadn't she been kissing him a few days ago? And now she was…
He couldn't believe it. Not that he was in love or anything, but this?
Then he heard a distinct male grunt. He didn't want to know. He was not going to stand here and listen to whoever it was she was with go at it. He wasn't.
"Don't stop," Zabini seemed to say breathlessly.
Damn, he was just going to go into his room, look up how to cast a silencing spell and hope it worked. He was not going to stand there and…
Another loud moan.
Why was he still standing here? It wasn't like he wanted to know who was in there.
"Michael!" was the last shriek Harry heard before he ran into his room and covered his ears with his pillow when he realised he couldn't risk casting a silencing charm without Dumbledore there.
The next morning Harry forwent the Proctor table again to sit with his friends.
Hermione was cheerfully talking during breakfast, ignoring Ron, who was just sitting with his head on the table, letting out soft whimpers of distress from time to time. Hermione seemed to take this as the next step in Ron's lamentation on early mornings, something that was beneath her notice.
Their first lesson was Care of Magical Creatures.
"I still wonder where Hagrid is. Have you asked Dumbledore, Harry? You see him regularly now," Hermione asked him, "being his apprentice." Harry secretly smiled. The longing in Hermione's voice was clear to anyone listening. She would have given anything to be in his shoes. Ha, she probably would be a hell of a lot better at it.
Last night he had gone straight to bed, trying to forget what he had heard, had still been hearing even, and he had not even tried to work at the schedule he was supposed to make.
"Harry?" Hermione repeated, shaking him from his thoughts.
"I haven't asked," he muttered.
"You haven't asked? Why not?" she pushed on.
"Haven't had time, you'd be surprised how busy he is, or how tiring his lessons are."
"Hmppf," Hermione reacted, not wanting to say that he should be happy getting those extra lessons. "It could make a nice change of pace though. I do hope this new professor is capable, she seems rather young," she said, worry in her voice that Harry found exaggerated.
"She could never be as good as Hagrid," Harry answered distracted, throwing glances at the Proctor table.
"But this will be a chance to study some interesting Magical Creatures without the risk of bites, burns, poisoning or trampling. I'm not saying Hagrid's lessons weren't interesting, but like I said, it's a nice change."
"Yes, a nice chance to study girly animals, like that unicorn Grubbly-Plank showed us," Ron commented from his prone position.
"That was a very interesting lesson," Hermione protested.
"We couldn't even get close," Ron answered in an impatient tone.
"That's because only maidens can come close. She told us only the girls could come closer."
"Not anymore," Harry mumbled sullenly.
The three of them walked to Care of Magical Creatures, Ron and Hermione continuing to bicker, Ron clearly not keeping his end up as good as he normally would. As they arrived at Hagrid's hut Harry finally couldn't take it anymore. "Will you two please stop fighting? It's driving me barmy."
Both of them looked at Harry, abashed. "Sorry,' they both muttered.
Nothing more could be said because at that moment the new teacher signalled for the class, consisting of Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, to assemble.
"Good morning class. For those of you who missed it, I am Professor Desiree Eravi, I'm apprentice to Sister Ellbridge, and I will be teaching Care of Magical Creatures for now," she said with exuberance. "I'm quite sure you'll enjoy my class and I have a lot of interesting animals planned for you as well as the OWL standards. I'd like to just dive in and get to know you all during classes. The first animal we'll be studying is the Glumbumble. Follow me."
She led to the class to what seemed like a glass cage, but it did not seem to stop sound and the class could hear the buzzing of insects. Inside were indeed furry bugs. They were larger than one would expect, about the length of a finger.
"Now, who can tell me why Glumbumbles are useful and therefore worth studying?" Professor Eravi asked.
Hermione's hand shot up immediately, together with those of several Ravenclaws.
"Yes, you," she said, pointing at Hermione. "I'm sorry I don't know any names yet, could you please say them before you answer? I'll try to remember them as quickly as possible."
"Hermione Granger, Professor, Gryffindor," she added to be complete.
"According to 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' a Glumbumble secretes a fluid which produces melancholy. This fluid can be absorbed through the skin, or by ingestion, which is more powerful. This is the reason why this insect has an XXX rating. According to specified literature, namely 'Natural Mind Manipulators' the fluids of especially old Glumbumbles have been known to drive wizards and witches to suicide.
However, it can also be used as a counteractive to the hysteria caused by eating Alihotsy leaves. This is, of course, very useful as these leaves are used in several potions with mind altering properties. Overdoses or bad measuring when mixing the potion can be counteracted or balanced…"
"Yes, yes, thank you, Miss Granger," Professor Eravi said with a smile. "Take three points for Gryffindor." She addressed the class again. "Miss Granger is quite right about the properties of Glumbumble fluid, so use your gloves when feeding them, which is today's lesson. Nettles can be found behind the cage, and you'll find that the cage itself lets through your hand but not the Glumbumbles."
The class broke up to get nettles and started to feed the furry insects.
"Excuse me, Professor?" Harry asked out of earshot of most of the class.
"Harry Potter, Professor. Where is Hagrid?"
Professor Eravi gave him a kind smile and said: "I'm afraid I don't know. They don't tell me very much, only being an apprentice, but I'm quite sure you understand that. I've heard you are Professor Dumbledore's apprentice?"
Harry could not help but smile a bit. She had not had the usual reaction people had to hearing his name.
"Only since a short while," Harry mumbled.
"I take it you liked Professor Hagrid?" she asked.
"He's my friend," Harry answered truthfully. "I was hoping you knew. Guess I'll have to ask Professor Dumbledore.
"I'm sorry I couldn't help you, but I'm quite sure he's perfectly alright, else they would have said something. He's probably just extending his vacation.
Better go back to your lesson. I hope you'll enjoy this class just as much as if Professor Hagrid was here."
"I might not be here for all of the lessons," Harry said tentatively, "Professor Dumbledore is rearranging my schedule."
"Oh yes, quite right, I remember it marked on my class list. Well, I hope you'll be here as often as you can, and if you need some extra help for your OWL just ask," she said.
"Thank you, Professor," Harry answered. He quite liked this new Professor… even if she wasn't Hagrid, he added mentally.
McGonagall caught up with Harry as he walked to the Gargoyle in front of Professor Dumbledore's office.
"Potter, a word."
"Professor Dumbledore is not here, so he asked me to give you this note," McGonagall said and handed Harry a folded up piece of parchment. It was sealed with wax bearing an imprint of the Hogwarts crest.
"He also said that if you had any questions, he had instructed you to ask them to me. If you have any later on, I will be in my office."
She waited for him to open the note and read it.
Unfortunately, I have been called away on business.
For today I would like you go through the basic meditation techniques I taught you. Do not attempt the more advanced skills we have been practising.
You have an appointment with Professor Sinistra in her quarters at dinner time. She will be one of your tutors.
If you have any problems, or need anything, you may direct your questions to Professor McGonagall.
"Any questions, Potter?"
"Just one, Professor. Where can I find Professor Sinistra's quarters?"
"Why do you wish to know, Mr. Potter? It's not common policy to know where a Professor's quarters are, unless they are Head of House, of course."
"I have to report to her after dinner. She's to be one of my tutors."
McGonagall seemed to make a disapproving clicking sound in the back of her throat at that.
"Very well. She has her quarters in the Astronomy Tower, on the floor beneath the observation level, behind the painting of Copernicus 'The Muggle Teacher'. Just knock on the frame."
"Thank you, Professor."
"Run along, Potter."
Harry was running.
His meditation had lasted longer than he had thought so he was late. He hadn't even had time to go down to the kitchens and ask Dobby for some food as he would be missing dinner.
He was winded as he arrived at the portrait of Copernicus, a strict looking wizard with black hair that was as long as Snape's. He was most famous in the wizarding world for his discovery of the ninth planet of the solar system, then named Hera, but now more commonly known as Pluto, but his true passion had been teaching Muggles about the reality of the universe. He had almost been killed over it by an offended church.
Harry knocked on the portrait of the glaring Wizard. "Most students come up here to snog, you know; I'd better not catch you at it," the painted Wizard said with an east European accent.
"Come in, please," Harry heard and the painting moved to reveal a doorway.
"Professor, I'm here for my tutoring," Harry started, wanting to add that Dumbledore had sent him.
The Astronomy teacher turned sharply towards Harry, her green dress swishing. She was relatively young, compared to most of the other teachers. As the most attractive female teacher on staff (especially when she smiled, something she seldom seemed to do) she was a much talked about topic by the older Hogwarts boys.
"To start with," Professor Sinistra interrupted him, "you will not address me as Professor, but as Lady Sinistra during these sessions."
The Astronomy Professor observed Harry for any reaction but apparently did not see anything out of the ordinary.
"Furthermore, I will address you as Lord Potter. This is, of course, against Hogwarts' regulations which forbid the using of or even referring to any titles or social status beyond that of teacher and student, but, then again, you are here to learn just that."
This time around she must have seen surprise on Harry's face because she asked: "You were not… aware of the nature of your tutoring? Didn't Headmaster Dumbledore tell you anything?"
"No, Prof…" the Professor flicked up an elegant hand to call attention to Harry's mistake… "Lady Sinistra. I haven't spoken to Professor Dumbledore today; he's been called away on business."
"I see," she mused. "Let me elaborate then. It is the Headmaster's wish that you be taught the manners and etiquette befitting your new station. Of course, this should have been started years ago, but we will do what we can.
To explain why he has requested this task specifically of me, let me tell you that my father is Lord of House Sinistra, one of the more influential members of the Greater Council… I do take it you are aware of the relationship between the Greater and Higher Council?" she asked in a slightly haughty tone.
Harry quickly nodded, not wanting to seem completely ignorant. Dumbledore had explained this part.
"Very well, to continue: As I am the only teacher born of nobility, it was deemed that I would be best capable of instructing you. I will continue your etiquette instruction and build on what you have learned as a Proctor. As I have observed you during your astronomy lessons I am sad to say you will also need speech lessons.
After that, we will move on to teaching you what every young lord should know, such as a Wizards' Honour, but also discerning taste in wine, food and other such things. I'm quite pleased to see that your taste in clothes has at least improved since last year, even if your tastes run to dark. I will teach you to dress, walk and move like a young nobleman should.
In short, I will make you presentable in front of the Wizards' Council.
Oh shite was Harry's only thought.
"Now, My Lord, have you dined yet?" Sinistra asked while gesturing to a table that was set for two in such an elaborate manner that Harry counted at least five forks with every plate.
A/N If you would like to be informed of the next update, sign up for my Yahoogroup. The address can be found in my profile. The next chapter of Path to Power is available there right now.
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