The House of Potter Rebuilt
A/N: I had never listened to the audio book of a Harry Potter novel before, but the Sorceror's Stone/Philosopher's Stone was a good experience on a long drive last fall. It also started this story gestating.
What if a curious 11-year-old Harry, newly freed from his relatives, began acting on the strange and wonderful things he noticed in the wizarding world? He might just turn out very differently, and the world with him.
The train chugged along and the red-haired boy bragged about his chocolate frog cards. "I have about five hundred..." He grinned.
"Amazing," Harry said. And it was.
Why? Ron knew far more than Harry did about this new world he'd entered. Each of those cards contained some hints about this world. For Harry, who knew little of this new place he was going to, each card seemed like something he should know, must know.
He was trying to soak it in as quickly as he could. He was rather desperate to fit in, not that he would admit it.
So, five hundred of anything valuable seemed like a huge number to Harry, enough to be memorable and exotic. Five hundred things, witches or wizards or accomplishments, he had never known before today.
The boys moved on to other topics, including why one shouldn't eat Bertie Bott's Every Flavored Beans if they were brown, green, black, or really any color, but Harry continued to think about a collection of cards. Not as a collection of facts this time, but as cards purchased with bronze or silver.
Five hundred of them. How much would that cost?
Harry wasn't sure. He'd bought a number of different treats a few minutes earlier, but he hadn't asked the individual prices of things.
They weren't free, Harry supposed.
So, five hundred items which cost something. How had Ron gotten them? Ron had made several remarks, very unsubtle ones, about how poor his family was. His clothes he was ashamed of, the packed sandwiches he didn't want to eat, the handed-down pet he seemed to loathe, the wand that looked like it had been sold from Ollivander's shop some time in the distant past...
So Harry wasn't sure of what he was seeing and hearing. A poor family, there was nothing wrong with poor... Harry had thought he was poor, too. But buying five hundred chocolate frogs to eat so someone could collect the cards? Five hundred frogs rather than, well, anything else?
No. Maybe Ron found some of the cards. Maybe he'd received gifts. Or paid a little at a jumble sale (did wizards have jumble sales?) for a large already formed collection...
Fewer frog cards might have meant new robes or a wand that didn't appear in need of replacement. It might have meant a slightly more comfortable life for all of the brothers, and the sister, Ron had.
Five hundred cards... Ron had to be exaggerating. Right?
Harry kept turning that question over until the train deposited them in Hogsmeade. It was a puzzle.
Harry's curiosity and his sense of mischief, which had withered in close proximity to his extremely, ferociously normal aunt, uncle, and cousin, returned as a faint ember. All it took was one observation and one rather insignificant question, which he didn't yet dare to speak aloud. It was something he found some pleasure in batting around.
Great things often began inconspicuously.
Several days after classes commenced, Harry discovered the misery of Defense with Professor Quirrel. Harry had had trouble staying awake, couldn't recall one thing he'd learned from the professor's stuttered explanations, and found he could still smell garlic – maybe rotten garlic – every time he took a breath. The smell had seeped into his lungs and pores of his skin.
He returned with Ron and Dean to the common room. Seamus and Neville had lagged behind with some of the girls.
"I'll be in the shower," Dean said. "I'm going to scrub that garlic out. Maybe I'll drown my robes, too. It's on everything."
Harry flopped onto a couch. He thought about a shower, too, but his head was still aching.
"Why's he teaching, making us miserable? Quirrel's afraid of his own shadow," Ron said, echoing something others had said before.
"I guess we're learning from the book for Defense and History," Harry said.
It was unfortunate, but nothing new. He'd had a poor teacher for maths in primary and had had to keep up by relying on his workbooks rather than the teacher's explanations. He could do it again.
"Huh?" Ron asked.
"Well, isn't he following along with the text he assigned?" Harry asked.
"I don't know what he said. I don't think he knows what he said. How do you compare the book to an hour of mumbles and stutters?"
Harry shrugged. He didn't know, either. Hadn't there been something about iguanas in the lecture? No. Maybe the man just liked holding an iguana. Harry's head was really misty, billowy like how he imagined a packet of candy floss might taste, if he were ever allowed some.
Harry pulled out his defense book and started paging through it. He had looked at it before, but he'd been so excited then and had had so many books. Now that he was focused on one for a desperate reason, he could take the time to be impressed by the book. This he could learn from far better than sitting in Professor Quirrel's torture room/garlic storage area.
"Did you know you can bewitch a person?" Harry asked.
"Well, yes," Ron said. "Dad told some stories about it in the last war."
"I didn't know one wizard could control what another one does. Horrible. But something happens to the eyes. They go cloudy or dull. I'd never have guessed. At least there's a way to tell..."
"It was horrible," Ron agreed, half asleep. He really could sleep anywhere, anytime, for any reason.
Harry dipped back into the book. It was fascinating. He wasn't much of a reader, never had the time or the quiet for it. But today he thought he might just read the whole book. The writing was rather dry, but the topics were so interesting. Hags! Dragons! Descriptions of spells that made your teeth fall out or your skin feel on fire. Potions that could change the appearance of anyone. You might have an enemy sneak up on you while looking like your father or your best mate and not even know.
It was terrifying, but Harry didn't stop. He needed to know soon. He felt so out of place right now, so ignorant.
He turned the page and turned another and lost track of the time.
Seamus had to wake Ron and rouse Harry from his reading so they wouldn't be late for supper. The light had changed in the common room and Harry hadn't even noticed.
"Thanks, Seamus." Harry was unhappy to put the book down. He doubted that his stuttering professor would even cover a tenth of this material. Harry knew it was here, though, and he vowed to himself he wasn't going to ignore it.
The curiosity in him strengthened that day in September.
After supper, Harry tried a few spells referenced in the chapters he'd read. They worked for him. They worked for him, better than anything he'd tried yet in Transfiguration. Or his first attempts at making sense of the Charms text.
He could do this. He wanted to do it. He found a little well of confidence inside him and began to chip away at its hardened borders, enlarging the sections that were free and lively and mischievous.
Harry liked magic.
He found he was good at magic.
The teachers might be so-so, but he could learn it anyway. Because he wanted to.
He had learned something very important that day because of those events and that book. It would be some time before someone helped him put this learning into words he could use to explain what had happened. Still, this nameless lesson performed its magic inside Harry's mind.
He would eventually come to call it hope.
Three days later, after he finished his read-through of the Defense text, Harry tried to dive into his history book. It was like leaping head first onto a thick stone make of sleep and bafflement. He woke with his face attempting to peel letters from the page. Apparently Harry drooled in his sleep.
In short, for history, the professor and the text were both dreadful, at least as far as Harry could tell.
Some of what the history book was trying to explain was also covered in the The Dark Forces, Harry remembered. Some of it, though not all.
He still should learn it. This history book was inadequate and the ghost-teacher couldn't even tell he was putting the class to sleep. So, how to learn about history?
The question lingered in Harry's mind. He began re-reading the Defense book, including all the stuff in the very back which he had skipped before. This time, he knew about the topics that had surprised him. He wasn't amazed about the fact dragons existed; he was amazed at the details. He was also reading for the bits of history that were tucked into the Quentin Trimble book, as he was beginning to think of it.
Ron looked despondent at how much Harry was reading. He'd prefer heading to lunch early or playing wizard chess or, really, anything other than reading.
Harry could be persistent when he needed, like when he'd kept Hedwig safe from his relatives for the month before he got on the Hogwarts Express. Or when he'd spent the prior summer mostly away from Privet Drive and Dudley and his followers, who were even stupider than he was.
So Harry's curiosity won this round against Ron's love of games and sloth.
Ron pulled a book from his battered bag. His copy of the Defense book.
Harry noticed that Ron's copy of the book was rather different from Harry's. It had a slightly larger dimension and more pages and the cover was a different color.
Harry looked between the two for a moment. There was a brief note in his that it was the fourth revised edition.
"Hey Ron, can I look at your Defense book?"
Ron nodded. "Careful, it's kinda battered."
Harry opened Ron's copy of The Dark Forces and discovered it was the second revised edition. It included chapters and appendices that Harry's did not, including advanced topics no first year student would touch on. Inferi and necromantic constructs, dueling and magical combat, an introduction to identifying rituals, and chapters on dangerous plants and combat- or trap-related potions.
"Can we swap for the evening? Yours is a little different from mine."
To Ron, each book was just as evil as the next. But Harry didn't ask for a favor often. "Better you than me."
Harry plunged in. Ron cracked the book Harry had already finished, but didn't read much if anything.
Harry skimmed some sections and read anything that seemed new. He didn't have a perfect or even a great memory, but the topics were memorable. He returned Ron's copy and got his own back the next day.
That weekend, Harry ventured into the library and found Madam Pince. Hogwarts had a copy of all four editions of the Trimble book, though only because the author had once been Headmaster of the school. He had bequeathed the copyright to Hogwarts, therefore the royalties and the right to revise and update the book. None of the copies had cost Hogwarts anything. That was what Madam Pince had told Harry, even though he hadn't asked.
Harry would later learn that none of Hogwart's books cost Hogwarts anything. They had all been donations of one sort or other. Odd that, and cheap.
He checked out the first edition of the Trimble text and began making notes with a ferocity that would have impressed Hermione Granger, had she known. Harry didn't know her well, except for what she said in classes and what books she selected when they were both in the library at the same time. Harry didn't know many of his classmates well, yet.
Harry might have been considered a middling-to-poor student at the Muggle schools he'd attended, but once he latched onto something that caught his interest...well, for the first time, he was actually enjoying learning what there was to learn.
Some of it was horrifying, like the inferi or some of the curses used to torture and maim people, but it was still interesting. This is what the people in his new world had chosen to do or chosen to fight against.
There were notes to take and spells to learn. There was magic that seemed useful, very useful.
Harry dreamed of what he might be able to do with some of it.
He sat in the library and read. Sometimes Ron was there. Sometimes others, including that lonely girl Hermione. Harry smiled at her and chatted sometimes. She was rather loud, or fierce, or persistent, for Harry's taste when she asked questions. But nice and desperate to help. Harry understood all too well.
As they neared the end of October, Harry had a better sense of what was happening in his new school. How? He started paying attention not just to his classes, but to how they compared with their assigned books.
Harry found that Professor Flitwick stuck the closest to the Standard Book of Spells, but he only covered forty percent of the spells in class for the chapters they'd touched on. The others they were expected to pick up on their own, a fact the Professor had not announced.
Professor McGonagall covered one example of each sub-type of transfiguration. Say match to needle. But there were many other exercises in the transfiguration text that Harry knew he needed to try. This book was supposed to last for five years, according to the things older students mentioned in the Gryffindor common room.
Snape seemed to skip around their text, but it took Harry a while to determine that. He wished the Professor would announce what their next class would be on. Harry would like to read what the text book actually said – and have more than a recipe chalked onto the board. All of the recipes Snape had given them so far were slightly different from the ones in the text, for some reason.
He wondered if they were more or less effective, not that he would ask the old grump.
What did it mean? No one was saying.
Harry decided he was responsible for what was said in class and in the book, no matter what the homework was about. He didn't see many others following the same principle, but it seemed correct to him.
The teachers seemed to be attempting to stoke interest in them, not enforce it or require it or even suggest it. Well, Snape appeared to be attempting to drown interest, but that was unlikely to be his real job. Perhaps his unpaid favorite hobby?
Harry wished all of the subjects clicked for him. But he had a way into studying them all. Defense touched on every other form of magic, perhaps excepting astronomy and divination. If Harry could keep himself interested in the one type of magic, he could find ways to learn all of them.
On Halloween, every simple thing fell apart. All the goodwill in Gryffindor among the first years evaporated and it was Ron Weasley's fault.
Ron had a temper, a vicious one. Harry wasn't quite sure why it exploded that day, he couldn't get that part of the story. He'd laid into Hermione Granger for being clever and helpful, Parvati had been insulted for – well, Harry wasn't quite sure what Ron had meant. It hadn't sounded pleasant. Then he'd had scathing things to say about, and to, some Slytherins.
Which all reinforced what Harry knew about himself: Harry disliked people with tempers.
Ron found himself knocked to the ground and soaked in ink. And he hadn't even seen Peeves anywhere.
Harry went around apologizing to unhappy girls, even the Slytherins. (Harry didn't apologize to Malfoy on Ron's behalf. The big mouth could do that on his own if he ever wised up.)
Hermione only accepted Harry's apology because Ron had been cruel to so many people.
"It was just his time of the month," she said.
"What?" Harry asked.
"Nothing, Harry. Nothing." She had very pink cheeks.
Harry shrugged and went about his day. Hermione and probably some of the others got their revenges on Ron. Perhaps he'd learn some manners, perhaps not. Maybe that was the point of Hogwarts: letting people stumble into trouble and see if they could stumble out again before they lost fingers or an ankle or their sanity.
The first-year Gryffindors all attended the Halloween feast together – and they were all evacuated back to Gryffindor Tower when a troll got loose. Trolls?
That, too, had to be Ron Weasley's fault, Harry decided. The angry boy had jinxed all of them with his cursed mouth. Harry was sure of that.
The students in Gryffindor were locked in their common room, so Harry pulled out the first edition Trimble which he had checked out for a second time. He hadn't wanted to miss anything. Harry tried to find a corner that had some light. The common room really was too small for all the students in Gryffindor, at least when they were all locked in together.
He started by investigating what Trimble had to write about trolls, of course, but soon got less interested. They were rather easy to distract, so most troll keepers used illusions on them. Harry hadn't found much instruction on that kind of magic yet. It must be fairly advanced.
He paged through the first edition Trimble and found material at the back he wasn't expecting. He must have skipped it on his first read-through. It was only two pages long, but what pages they were.
Appendix AD: The Explorer's Best Friends and Enemies
One who travels the dark places of the world will realize that most spells are useless in a desperate moment. One can know dozens of spells and still fall into peril. However, one need not possess warlock-level strength to remain safe while exploring. In fact, I have taught these precautions to young people who have not yet completed their schooling at Hogwarts. These are particularly simple spells to learn, effective for novices. They are also spells that gain effectiveness the more familiar one becomes with them. So they start out as fairly useful and become much better with repetition. (For reasons I cannot explain, they have also become very uncommon to find in any ordinary curriculum. As an aside, politics is a game no one should enjoy playing because it is a game where all parties agree to lose.)
Ignis Solis, Sunfire.
Most beasts and dangers in the world will succumb to fire if it is sufficiently hot and durable. This particular spell, spoken with the wand's flick toward the intended target, creates a small, single, hot projectile of fire. More comfort with the spell will produce hotter projectiles with a longer burn duration, though this spell will not produce larger projectiles. It is a precision spell, all the better because fire isn't something to splash in every direction.
Aquamenti Globus, Mind's Water Globe.
Note: Learn this before practicing the Sunfire spell to counter any problematic fires.
The Water Globe is cast by speaking the spell and holding the wand steadily in the desired direction. The force with which the spell is cast will influence how far and fast the globe of water travels, which makes it a rather unique spell. Variable speeds and variable forces can be quite useful against unwary opponents, whether creature or wizard.
The Water Globe is useful against several water-fearing creatures and a forceful casting can batter at other creatures or obstacles. It is also a superior spell for refilling canteens or bathing. I suggest combining this spell with the Lightning-Bearer in times of extreme danger as a wet creature may feel the effects of lightning far more deeply.
Note: Do not practice this spell in the presence of water, particularly water you may be standing in. This includes wet or rain-soaked clothing.
What doesn't succumb to flame will almost certainly succumb to electricity or lightning, even dragons and other flame-proof creatures. This spell, by speaking its name and jabbing the wand at the intended target, produces a small bolt suitable for handling individual creatures or small groups. In dire straights, aim for the eyes. (When cast by an expert? Larger bolts, multiple bolts, continuous bolts, all have been observed. The sky is the limit.)
A bonus suggestion for the traveler or explorer.
Learn a multipurpose cutting spell. You can clear dense vegetative growth or attack dangers with it. Food preparation is also a benefit. There are a minimum of thirty spells of this type, though none are truly meant for novices to succeed with them. Select one you can cast with some degree of force and practice it until it is combat-useful.
Less useful options?
Most adventurers recommend preparing options like stunners or petrifying spells. They require a considerable degree of practice before being at all useful. In addition, most significant dangers to an adventurer are resistant to stunning, including trolls, dragons, nundu, and nearly all magical serpents. Finally, if your danger is another wizard, stunners are of little use against someone who has practiced shielding spells, wears certain enchantments, or possesses significantly greater magical potential. Skilled wizards or witches are also capable of dodging spells, redirecting them, or intercepting them with solid objects.
Freezing spells are often suggested to work in combination with water spells. It produces a pleasing visual effect in a covered, indoor environment, plus slipperiness. Outdoors, in a hot environment, you may exhaust your magical reserves trying to freeze any significant amount of water. Be wary.
Blasting spells are dangerous to their own caster in many circumstances, particularly when underground, such as in tunnels. Cave-ins have killed many an explorer. Used in dense vegetative growth, they may also bring down trees in unpredictable directions. Finally, blasting spells that hit solid materials, such as stone or metal, may create flying shards that fly in many directions, including backward. Opt for more precise spells when possible.
Piercing spells are supposed to provide precision, but they often lack power, except in the case of spells that have been truly mastered. I recommend developing other resources before attempting to perfect piercing spells. Also, many armored creatures are highly resistant to spells in this class. Never attempt a piercing spell on a dragon or basilisk, except against the eyes or the soft palate. Do ask yourself this question: Do you really wish to get that close to try piercing the eyes of a basilisk?
Illusion spells are one class of spell that are no longer commonly taught, which is a shame. They are incredibly versatile. They also require years of work to make them useful, which might explain why they have largely been abandoned. Young adventurers should develop the fire-water-lightning combination, along with a cutter. Once those are mastered, one might consider developing illusion spells. By then, however, a young adventurer is more likely to be an old adventurer.
Note: Some creatures are unaffected by illusions, or at least some illusions. One would have to have a truly astounding collection of illusions to be truly safe using them while exploring. Wizards who have developed skills in the mind magics may also be resistant to illusions.
Yes, these were the clearest and most useful two pages Harry had yet read in a book. He wanted to leave the common room right now to practice these three new spells.
He also wanted to research cutters. He hadn't come across any in the Trimble book, any edition. Nor could he remember one from his charms book, though he only had the first volume.
Harry thought about trolls. If he took this advice from this book, what could he do if he came across a troll...
Fire? No, they had thick, tough skins. The flame would have to be blistering to do much.
He leaned toward water and electricity. That'd knock it out, surely. Assuming Harry was any good with the spells.
The other sections of the book didn't mention exactly how to handle a troll. A shame. They talked about the dimensions of the animal and how to avoid them. Well, avoiding a troll which was walking around the hallways of a school might not be that easy.
Still, he wanted to know. Harry would keep his ears open and perhaps he'd hear how the professors handled this one.
It was no easy thing to pick through the gossip and find the nibble of truth. Harry spent a week listening and prodding the other students for real information. The jerks kept telling increasingly ridiculous stories. The troll had been turned into salt or a mound of stinky cheese. It had been levitated and hauled out of the castle. It had been chopped up for Trollbane Potion which they would start preparing in Potions class. It had been reverse transfigured into Professor Snape who had forgotten to take his Trollbane Potion and so had transformed one evening.
Harry did like that last one, as impossible as it was.
Harry finally waited until Charms class concluded. He asked Professor Flitwick how the troll had been handled.
Harry was expecting a fight of some type. Maybe even a lightning spell. But not a stunner or a cutting charm. Transfiguration?
"Ahh, yes. The stories have gotten out of hand. Professor Dumbledore used a sleep charm."
Harry blinked a few times. His brain was inclined to reject what the Professor had just said. "He put it to sleep?"
That didn't seem possible. A troll...just falling asleep.
"There are charms that will do that for wizards, but they don't work on creatures like trolls. The one Albus used only worked on trolls. I admit I'd never heard of it before. After all, I never joined the Troll Dueling League."
"A sleeping charm just for trolls?"
"I was also disbelieving at first, Mr. Potter. The spell was something that Professor Dumbledore learned from an obscure book."
"Thank you, Professor," Harry said. He was more than a little disappointed and fairly confused.
"I'm glad you asked, Mr. Potter. You are the first. Better to have the real stories, though I did like the one about Severus scaring the troll to death with one of his glares. Though, the one about some unnamed student levitating the troll's own club to knock it out... That was a step too far."
Harry tried to smile before he walked away. Professor Flitwick invariably said something very funny or smart when Harry asked him a question.
He was a man who had seen much. He was a man who cared. Perhaps he was also too busy to do anything unless someone asked him a question. But he cared.
Ron was arguing with Hermione. They had both waited for Harry to ask his question. The argument didn't sound heated. Harry was just glad Ron could be passionate about something, even the silly question he was quibbling over. Harry wasn't listening as they all walked back to the common room.
Harry was thinking about the professor's answer: a sleep spell tailored to trolls. He couldn't get excited about it.
In fact, Harry came down on the opposite side. He decided such a specific spell was rather useless. It was good that Professor Dumbledore knew it when confronted by a troll, but useless. How many times had the man run into a troll? How many times had he had a chance to practice it and refine it? What if it hadn't worked when he needed it decades after learning it?
That afternoon Harry excused himself from his friends in Gryffindor and went walking outside. He needed to practice. He could cast Sunfire against the bark of very old trees. The projectile was really small, but ever so hot.
The water globe was harder so he hadn't done it successfully yet, aside from some water starting to ball up. As for the third spell, Harry preferred not to be outside before trying to create lightning. It was awfully moist in the places he found to work. That was a major draw back to this spell, Harry decided. Maybe with practice it would be useful in more places.
He needed somewhere he could work indoors. He was going to have to find a room no one else was using, something far away from the usual corridors.
Yule break had arrived. Harry had stayed at Hogwarts and so had all four Weasleys and a few others.
A strange owl wearing a tag from Diagon Alley Owl Delivery interrupted Harry's conversation with Hedwig, which he had every morning at breakfast. The owl brought Harry a Christmas gift from Hermione, along with a note.
She had become a fine friend since that day Ron had been so horrible to her. Harry had become a little less Ron's friend, too, over it. Jerks weren't his favorites.
The note said, "Dear Harry, Happy Christmas. I wanted to get you something you'd appreciate. One of the used bookstores in Diagon Alley had a couple copies of the first edition Trimble book. I got one for myself, too. Your friend, Hermione."
What a gift. Harry ripped open the wrapping paper. The book was in good shape, but it had some years on it. Harry would treasure it. It was the first book Harry had intended to put into his collection. (He didn't think of his schoolbooks off a booklist as items he'd chosen.)
He needed to find a better gift for Hermione. He'd sent her some chocolate frogs, as he'd done for Ron and a few others. Some Ravenclaws had had them on offer, smart ones who'd stocked up in the summer knowing that folks would want some during the school term.
Now Harry needed to find something better. A book, of course, that he could find two copies of, one for him and one for her.
That meant Harry needed to dig around in the library again. He had mined what he could from the different editions of Trimble. He still needed to practice and keep current with his fire – water – lightning, but he was making progress. He might wait until next year to read it again. Perhaps he'd see more after sitting on it for a while.
Harry fed the delivery owl then collected Hedwig and walked back to Gryffindor Tower. He wanted to show Hedwig his other gifts. He'd gotten a sweater and sweets from Ron and the twin's mother. Letters from people Harry didn't know wishing him greetings. A cloak that made his body appear invisible. That was great fun and even Hedwig seemed to like it.
Harry had already begun thinking about how to use it to his advantage, though no one in the school knew about it. Sneaking out at night with it? Getting it pinched by someone like Filch or Snape – no.
Eventually Hedwig ruffled her feathers. She was ready to leave. Harry opened a window and Harry's good friend flew out.
Harry closed the window and walked down to the common room. Ron was sprawled on in front of the fire. How could he stand it? It was blistering in here.
"Ron, let's do something," Harry said.
"I'm napping. I had a big breakfast."
"Nap later. Let's go explore."
"Explore later," Ron said, sounding like he'd ingested a hillock of sausages and neither Ron nor the sausages had yet managed to conquer the opposing side of the battle.
Harry was whining and he didn't like that, so he stopped. Ron really had eaten a big breakfast. Fine.
"I'll be back later."
Harry's friend really didn't care about new things or adventures or exciting stories written down in books. Oh, well. Harry would take what he could – and seek out whatever was missing.
Today he decided to look into the fifth floor. Part of the third was off limits and he'd looked into other parts, aside from the upper and lower dungeons. Hmm, the dungeons. Maybe tomorrow?
The trouble with exploring was sometimes you met up with someone or something else that was also exploring. Harry felt something hit him, then something else. He looked at the floor. He had been hit three, no four, times with wire rubbish bins.
And there the poltergeist was, grinning and laughing, loaded up with another three or four bins. How did he get hold of so many?
"Potty, Potty, got a knotty, knotty on your skull!"
Harry had and didn't appreciate it. He didn't know anything about poltergeists. For some reason neither they nor ghosts had been mentioned in any detail in any of the Trimble books. Perhaps the late Headmaster Trimble hadn't thought ghosts should be attacked?
So Harry had to guess... Fire? No. Water? No. That cutter, Diviso, he'd been working on? No.
"Fulmenifer." Harry jabbed his wand.
The lightning was a pitiful bolt, but it hit true. Harry had to wait for the flash of light to stop adding spots to his vision. He blinked a lot. This was another drawback to the lightning-bearer.
However, it worked. Peeves was now a bunch of muck splattered on a wall, like an ooze.
"Potty, Potty, my new best friend. You bring the best Yule gifts..." A much dimmer-seeming poltergeist floated out of the wall, through the ooze that had once been part of his...being. He was laughing, but his voice was thicker... In pain?
Harry was going to have to make a note in his book. The lightning-bearer could hurt a poltergeist.
"Truce," Harry said.
"What is a truce?"
"You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone."
Peeves looked horrified. "Never. Zappy-zappy is my favorite friend, Potty-Potty."
The dimmed poltergeist flew through a door and disappeared.
What a strange entity. Harry had almost killed it and it pretended to like lightning just to be contrary. Like Harry's aunt pretending to like chocolate biscuits just because Mrs. Wangle in Number Eleven Privet Drive liked to serve them. Petunia Dursley was actually allergic to chocolate which might explain why she was so sour.
Harry opened the door that Peeves had flown through and looked inside. It wasn't a classroom. It wasn't much of anything but empty space. There were more doors off the room, though. Harry found three smaller rooms attached, one a water closet.
An idea began to form in his head.
The dust here suggested this set of rooms wasn't used often. It had a restroom. One of the small rooms could be a bedroom maybe. Harry was no stranger to doing without a shower, but if he got a bucket he could still wash himself. That would give him someplace to hide out for the summer. No more Dursleys.
Harry spent the next hour looking through the rest of the floor. It really was disused, this whole section.
He returned every remaining day of the holiday break.
By the time the Hogwarts Express returned the students to the school, Harry had begun to fill his little area with things of value. A chair that he had mended with a reparo, a cot he'd found in a closet (and why had there been a cot in a closet?), boxes that would work in place of drawers and shelves.
Harry greeted Seamus, Dean, and Neville when they stumbled into the common room. Ron was napping again. He said hello to Hermione and a few of the other girls.
They all disappeared to their rooms. Neville took a seat in front of the fire. The shy boy who rarely spoke was smiling that day so Harry spent more time trying to become his friend.
It was rare, and pleasant, to see Neville so happy.
"How were your holidays, Neville?" Harry asked.
The happiness waned. "Good."
The boy couldn't lie. Harry could, of course, and he could tell when others were. Lots of odd skills that the Dursley family were useful for honing.
"But you're grateful to be back?"
That smile returned as bright as the sun. "Oh, yes."
Neville was another who thought better of Hogwarts than his own home. Harry, at least, wasn't alone in that. Sadly enough.
Harry's friend had grown up knowing magical things, though.
"I had a question," Harry said.
"About lightning, electricity..."
"Err, I don't know much about it. Sorry." Downtrodden Neville was a sad thing to hear or see.
"No worries, mate. I was just wondering if lightning had an effect on ghosts..."
"Well, yes." He wasn't going to admit zapping Peeves – or how much Peeves seemed to enjoy it. Peeves had sought Harry out twice before the holiday ended and pestered Harry to point where Peeves got himself zapped. It was getting irritating.
"Well, Gran did give me some books for New Year's. Maybe... Yes, there was one volume she insisted I read first. On things an Auror had to know..."
"And what's an Auror?"
"They put evil wizards in prison."
Police, Harry thought. Magical police.
"What did your book say?"
"Yes. Right. Well, it mentioned negotiating with ghosts for information. It said that ghosts did like certain things and would sometimes trade information for a gift. Strong smells, like rotten food. The sound of wailing. And lightning, especially lightning storms. Didn't say why."
"I wonder if that's why there's no electricity here. Don't want ghosts zapping themselves all the time?"
The idea made Harry smile. Ghosts as addicts to electricity...
"I could ask..."
Neville was so desperate to help. Like Harry had been, like Hermione still was.
"Just curiosity, mate. Let's get to the Spring Term Feast, shall we?"
"Can I dump my things first? I'm warmer now."
"I'll wait," Harry said.
That night after the feast, Ron remembered to thank Harry for the chocolate frogs. He must have heard others extending their thanks for various gifts during the feast.
"You're welcome, Ron. Did you get the cards you were looking for?" Harry asked.
"Not yet, soon though." Hope sprang eternal in him.
"You said you had a lot."
"How did you get so many? Your family really like chocolate?"
"What? No. Not that much. The frogs are..." He shrugged. Not his favorite was how Harry interpreted it. "The cards, though, are wizard. I bought some with pocket money, sometimes I'd help with chores or help the Diggorys. Not the Lovegoods, though. They never had chores, for some reason. Lawn was so overgrown that cutting it down wouldn't have made a difference..."
"You said you had five hundred. You bought them all with pocket money?"
"No. We hand them down, don't we? Got some from my uncles on my dad's side, got Dad's and Bill's. Charlie refused to share what he had. Percy...well, I don't know if he collected anything other than books of rules. Never asked the twins, safer that way."
"So the cards have been around a long time?" Harry asked.
"Oh, they change sometimes, but Paracelsus and Hengist aren't going anywhere. They've been dead for ages."
"So the Dumbledore card has always said what it did?" Harry struggled to think of any other current wizards who might have cards. He just didn't know. History certainly didn't talk about anyone who was still alive.
"Don't know. I guess so."
That answered that. Ron probably did have five hundred cards, but they were family heirlooms. Maybe like Harry's cloak. That had belonged to Harry's father, at least the note had said so.
Harry didn't say what he'd thought of Ron's collection before. He still wondered if a few fewer chocolate frogs would have meant his friend was a bit happier about his life? But how did one phrase that without getting into a row the height and heft of Gryffindor Tower?
Harry took the prompt about gifts and sought out Hermione to thank her for the wonderful book she'd found him.
"I'm glad you liked it." She was almost tongue-tied. Perhaps she wasn't much used to receiving gratitude?
"Have you read it?" Harry asked.
"Oh, yes. It was very helpful, but I don't especially like Defense."
"Well, I don't like the class, but I do like some of the books I've found. They're brilliant."
"Have you read..." Hermione was willing to talk to anyone who was willing to talk books.
Harry spent considerable time in the library looking for things to enjoy or learn, but the collection had strange gaps. For one, tales of wizarding explorers and adventurers were in short supply. Harry didn't like the Lockhart books much, but he found volumes about the wizards who had explored the Nile Valley during Roman times, the people who had excavated Celtic burial mounds, and the daft wizards who first explored the New World and forgot about what they'd found. None of the books talked much about the spells they used, but the stories were good, if dry.
Harry also found Hagrid in the library reading about dragons. Eventually Harry broke down Hagrid's babble-mouthed protestations. The large wizard was hatching an egg, a dragon egg.
So Harry began to split some of his free time: some went to Ron or Neville or the others, some went to Hermione who was looking into various magics referenced in the library but not taught in the school, some went to Harry's own projects, including mastering a few spells...and now some went to nurse-maiding a dragon egg inside an extremely hot, stuffy wooden hut.
Harry couldn't talk Hagrid from the name Norbert, but he did manage to get Hagrid to hide the dragon in the forest after the hatching. By the time spring was in full bloom, the dragon could fend for itself. It seemed to prefer dining on spiders, massive ones. Hagrid wasn't well-pleased with that, but he liked dragons better than spiders so he just grumbled about Norbert's dietary choices.
Harry visited Norbert several times a week. The dragon, which turned out not to be a male dragon, was larger than Harry, but she regarded Harry with some fondness. As if Harry were a rather malformed younger dragon.
That day Harry arrived to find the dragon with her head on the leafy ground, but she wasn't sleeping.
"I suppose you're lonely," Harry said.
The dragon seemed to understand. She nodded.
"I've read about preserves for dragons. You'd have people to take care of you. You'd have other dragons to chat with."
There was a noise on the wind that sounded like where.
Was the dragon talking to Harry?
"Let me look that up. I know there's one close enough. The bigger ones are in Romania, I think, and the Ukraine. They're pretty far away."
Harry returned the next day with two books and a map. He felt a little silly chatting away to Norbert. Although the wind had informed Harry that Norbert's real name was Bobminth. A strange name that.
A week later, Hagrid was despondent. Norbert was gone, flown away.
Harry wondered if he'd told Bobminth exactly where to go. He made a point not to mention his conversations with Norbert or his work with maps. Hagrid might not believe Harry, which would be bad, or Hagrid might believe Harry and be furious, which would be worse.
Harry held out the letter and Hedwig hooted her agreement. Harry tied the letter to her leg and thanked her. She was off, on the wing toward Diagon Alley.
Harry's digging in the library had finally discovered what he should purchase for Hermione. She was much enthused of the current Hogwarts: A History, which Harry had paged through. However, the library had a few earlier editions. The ninth edition, rather than the twenty-first, was fascinating. There were spells mentioned in it. There were lessons from history. There were explanations of how the school ran back then. It was a more brutal place where they did use chains on misbehaving wizards and more than one naughty person was transfigured into a rabbit for a day or three.
Harry had written a letter to a used book store he'd heard about in the common room. It wasn't the one that Hermione had found, this one was bigger. Harry wanted two copies of the ninth edition Hogwarts: A History, which would become the second book Harry would shelve in his personal library. There were things mentioned in there that conflicted with the recent version, there were things in there that Harry hadn't seen mentioned anywhere else. That meant it was a book he ought to own. He had asked in his letter for the price for two copies.
He had plenty of money in his coin purse and nothing to spend it on. Not yet, at least.
The summer might be different. Harry left the owlery and returned to the castle. He had finally worked out the last of the details for his summer. He wasn't going 'home' to Little Whinging for the summer break. No. He was going to camp out in the rooms he'd found.
He wasn't going to ask nicely first. He decided there was no point in asking permission. He would just do what he needed to do, which was to stay in the magical world.
He was going to look into something the ninth edition mentioned, too. It might take care of his food worries.
When he got back into the castle he went walking down corridors he'd never used before. There. It looked like a still-life painting. Tickling a pear, wasn't it?
The framed painting opened.
The house elves in the kitchen were more than happy to chat with Harry. When he brought up his question of acquiring food for the summer, he learned that they were also happy to supply him with what he needed daily.
That seemed too easy so Harry probed.
From what he could make out, more than one clever student who couldn't return home for the summer had made a spot for themselves in Hogwarts. While the ones who asked were refused, the ones who just did as they needed made sure not to be found.
"Why?" Harry asked.
There was a lot of parsing to do, but the answer was that the house elves preferred a full castle to an empty one. Even if the person staying wasn't technically supposed to be there. They had lots of stories of people who'd hidden out in Hogwarts over the last decades. Criminals in the dungeons, rat-men in the Gryffindor Tower, infants in conjured cribs who the house elves cooed over in varied abandoned rooms before they were smuggled out and away on a long weekend. So long as they hurt no one, visitors were welcomed by the house elves.
That was a relief. Harry would have to be careful not to be seen or heard, but the few teachers and staff staying on for the summer wouldn't expect someone to be in the school. Plus he had an invisibility cloak.
The house elves knew differently. Harry was the third planning to remain this year. They wouldn't tell. They wished the number was higher. Maybe two or three more might decide to also remain. The castle would still be mostly empty.
One week before classes ended, Quirrel had a red stone in his hand as he moved through the halls. Harry had the misfortune to leave a few moments late from the library so he could snag lunch in the Great Hall.
"Harry. Potter," Quirrel said with an otherworldly voice.
Harry turned and noted the red stone...and the red splashed on the man's clothes. Quirrel looked rather spell-worn, like he'd been attacked.
Harry knew those words. He dropped to the floor hoping to dodge the spell aimed at him, but the green hit his face. He slumped to the floor, unmoving.
There was a keening wail in the hallway. It wasn't Harry's voice. It was Quirrel's.
For he had done as he desired, but the cost had been too high.
Harry woke up from his uncomfortable spot on the floor. The green hadn't killed him, for a second time.
He saw that Quirrel was still close by, kneeling on the floor as two voices wailed over a number of red shards that decorated the flagstones.
That red stone he'd been holding had shattered somehow.
Harry didn't care. His teacher had just tried to murder him. Harry felt anger at Quirrel, then he felt anger at himself for being unprepared. Danger wasn't just confined to the outside when an adventurer was wandering. It could be anywhere.
This was a lesson Harry knew and had thought he was prepared for.
Harry pulled his wand from his robe pocket.
"Aquamenti Globus." He'd said it quietly, but he had practiced up the spell. Quirrel flew against the wall from the force of the water globe.
The lightning struck true. The professor was smoking, though one of his voices was still wailing and screaming. How? His mouth wasn't moving.
The red shards on the stone floor had dissolved in the water. They were little more than errant flashes of red light now.
Harry got up, slowed his breathing, and resumed his walk to the Great Hall. He managed to finish most of his lunch before someone burst into the room to proclaim that Professor Quirrel was dead.
No one seemed to mourn him, least of all the boy he'd attacked.
It wasn't until that evening that Harry looked into a mirror and discovered that his scar, the one that he had quite liked as a young child, was completely gone.
He didn't understand that at all. He also couldn't mention it to anyone.
An old man found Harry when he was walking outside the next day. He introduced himself as Nicholas Flamel. Harry hadn't heard the name before.
They continued walking in silence for a time. Harry found all of this very strange.
All of a sudden, Flamel said he would be filling in for a time at Hogwarts.
"For who, sir?"
"Professor Dumbledore was attacked and killed yesterday..."
Harry began to shake his head. No, Quirrel had been killed...
"Albus's body was found early this morning."
Harry tried to summon up some emotion, but found that Dumbledore had been so remote in Harry's day-to-day life he really had no thoughts or feelings for the man.
"Yesterday was a dark day," Flamel said.
"A teacher murdered the Headmaster. No duel, just an ambush. Blood everywhere. An old master taken down through treachery. He felt too secure in this castle..."
The man looked back at Hogwarts.
"And particularly dark for you."
"Attacked by a teacher who had just murdered, attacked with a Killing Curse..."
Harry hadn't reported anything, but this man knew.
"Tell me, Mr. Potter, tell me what happened. What did you see?"
So Harry told. What little he had seen before he was cursed. What little he saw before he responded.
Flamel was interested in that red stone and in those fragments that had appeared on the floor.
"The Killing Curse?"
"You've survived it twice."
"That's it, then. The Elixir of Life cannot tolerate death. The Philosopher's Stone broke with the casting of that vile spell. I'm surprised it let that possessed fool hold it at all."
Elixir of Life? The hairs on his arms and the back of his neck were defying gravity at the moment. What was this feeling? He didn't understand any of it. Fear? Awe? Gratitude for a touch of good luck? It wasn't hope. Harry had felt that plenty of times this year.
He had only one question left right now, though surely others would occur to him in the future. He was still trying not to think of that green spell or those two words used to create it.
"Am I in trouble?" Harry asked.
He had, after all, murdered a teacher and kept silent about it. He'd been in trouble at the Dursley house for burning bacon. What kind of punishment would they have for a murderer?
"In trouble for killing the man who killed Dumbledore? No, I think not, Mr. Potter. I'd say you would become even more famous for that feat, should you wish to claim credit for it."
"Well, you're smarter than Albus ever was. I understand you're planning to remain in the castle over the summer. Made plans, you have."
Harry said nothing.
"In any event, I approve. Do try to keep out of sight. Perhaps a hat or a temporary aging potion if you have to walk around? The castle will be filled with busy bodies, people in fancy robes who believe they understand magic because some fool gave them a fancy job title at the Ministry. I will be able to keep you safe this summer, but they'll want their own man in place soon enough. Sad as it is. Albus was a brilliant wizard though a shocking failure as a schoolmaster, so I can't help but assume that any dimwitted hack sent here will be far worse for the school."
"I have enough strength to resist them until they're old enough for their death beds, though that is a rather obvious use of my strength. I prefer more subtle means."
Whatever that meant. "Yes, Professor," Harry said.
"Ahh, Perenelle would say I'm babbling. And she'd be right, for my wife is a very clever witch. Enjoy your summer, Mr. Potter."
"Thank you." He meant it in several forms, thank you for relieving his mind, thank you for allowing him to remain. Thank you for chatting and volunteering information.
It was more than anyone else had done, any staff member at least. If Harry had wanted to know something, he had had to buck up the courage and find a way to ask.
"We shall chat again in September," Professor Flamel said.
On the day that the Hogwarts Express was to take everyone back to King's Cross Station, London, Harry gave Hermione a book just before she left to get on the train.
"I've read Hogwarts: A History," she said, although she automatically opened it and began turning pages.
"This one is an old edition. It's quite different. I learned a lot from it," Harry said.
"Where did you find it?" she asked.
"Well, the library has a copy and I liked it. So I wrote to three different used book stores to find this copy for you. To thank you for your Christmas gift. It really was the nicest thing I've ever gotten."
She grinned at him, so pleased. "Thank you, Harry. Thank you."
Whether she meant for the gift or the compliment, she didn't say. She was very happy as she got into a carriage and began reading. Harry had walked outside with her, but was strangely without any of his belongings. Hermione didn't notice or comment.
She never did find him on the Hogwarts Express, though that could be because she was busy reading her new, and very different, book.
Hogwarts wasn't quite the place she believed it to be. Nor the recent editors of Hogwarts: A History. So much history had been stripped from the book over the ages.
A/N: I estimate three more full chapters and an epilogue. The next chapter should be up in a week.