Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Nothing could motivate you like the simple idea that something you always thought was impossible was just within your reach. Admittedly, it was Sirius's freedom he was excited about but, at this stage, he was happy with whatever he could get.
Harry ran from the Shrieking Shack to Hogwarts at breakneck speeds but due to his short legs, he only reached the entrance to the Great Hall before collapsing in exhaustion. He blamed his magic and teleportation skills for his lack of stamina, for, after all, nothing made you lazier than fact that you could deal with anything with a flick of your hand.
So, when Remus found him, Harry was drenched in sweat and his face was flushed like he ran a marathon in the middle of the night during winter. Which he totally did.
"Moony! We... found… the...ra...rat!" Harry informed as he took gulps of air like a man dying of suffocation.
"Breathe, Harry," Remus said patiently.
Harry leaned over Remus's desk and waited until he got his racing heart under control. "The rat is under my bed!"
"Yes," Remus nodded like he knew everything Harry had in his mind. "At this age, it's common to fear rats or any other creatures. You only need to keep in mind that they won't harm you unless you threaten them."
Harry stared at Remus as though the older man had said that werewolves were excellent for cuddling. Remus had the sense to look flustered. After all, it wasn't a comforting stare. Here Harry was, dealing with giant spiders for the morning, Severus Snape during afternoon and dementors during night and Remus dared to assume that Harry came running all the way to his office to complain about a rat?
People simply lacked any sense of appreciation, Harry decided in his mind.
"Yes, Moony. This advice is enough to change my whole outlook on life," Harry remarked with a dryness that could make Snape proud.
"What's the issue then?" Remus pinched the bridge of his nose. He wondered just how he forgot that anything concerned with Harry Potter was not normal. It could determine the fate of the world for all he knew but it definitely wouldn't be ordinary.
Harry brought out the marauder's map, smirking at the look of shock on Remus's face. "Two good friends of mine gifted this map to me this afternoon."
"I solemnly swear I am up to no good," Harry whispered before pointing at his room. "But look who decided to show up on the map after so many years! Literally."
Remus's eyes bulged out as he experienced his second major shock of the month in the last minute. "Peter!"
Remus was strangely silent as they hurried over to Harry's dorm while Harry fidgeted out of nervousness as he surmised that at any moment, the onslaught of questions would begin.
Sirius's only words of comfort were, 'It's Moony we're talking about. He's the type to ask questions without expecting answers.'
Considering that it had been nearly eleven years since they had seen each other, Harry didn't place a lot of confidence in Sirius's reassurances.
So, it came as no surprise when Harry nearly fell down the stairs when Remus spoke again. "I never told you the password for the Marauder's Map."
"My two good friends..." Harry began but the words froze in his mouth at Remus's 'you-can't-talk-out-of-this-one' look.
Harry glanced to the side to check the chances of not dying a painful death if he took the easier route and jumped down the stairs.
"After this, you'll tell me everything," Remus said with a stern gaze.
Harry breathed a sign of relief and gave a weak sign of approval. Their rather brief stroll ended as they stood before Harry's dorm and as Remus took out his wand, Harry followed suit. The door opened with a sharp creak and the light from the corridor illuminated the previously dark room.
Harry's bed was situated by the window, with Terry's bed attached to the wall facing the window. Realizing that their nocturnal adventures were not innocuous, Harry ambled over to Terry's bed to wake him up. But to Harry's surprise, Terry was wide awake, with his wand clutched tightly in his hand and a sheen of sweat coating his pale face. Considering that it's an hour past midnight and the cold winds of November were blowing harshly, no had the right to be sweating; Except kids who ran all over the Hogwarts grounds before getting caught red-handed by a professor.
"Um, Terry?" Harry whisper broke the harsh silence of the room.
Terry gave a sharp jolt, making Harry take a step back in fright. "Harry? WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU?"
Harry looked like a prey stuck in the corner. "I-I went around for a walk."
"It's one o'clock," Terry gave a disbelieving glance.
"Ah, the wonders of the night," Harry gave a sigh of nostalgia that managed to fool no one. "Why happened anyway?"
Terry gave a shudder as the fear returned to his eyes. "I feel like there's somebody in our room."
Harry and Remus shared a glance. Harry wondered if he was the only one in the castle who was oblivious to the fact that there was a person under his bed. It sure seemed that way.
"You must be seeing things," Harry fibbed as he waved it off and chuckled nervously.
Terry stared at Harry in suspicion. "I don't know. Whenever I am in the room, I get a feeling like someone's watching me."
Harry held back a sigh. Out of all the times for Terry to develop clairvoyance, it happened when there's a mass murderer hiding under his bed. "I am sure it's nothing."
"You're the one to talk," Terry glared at Harry, who suddenly found Terry's pillow interesting. "You disappear every day, coming back Merlin knows when. For all I know, it's you sneaking into the room at night that's scaring me."
"Every day?" Remus repeated and crossed his arms as he gave a look that shouted, 'You're-in-trouble'. Remus's looks tended to be self-explanatory.
"I am sure he's exaggerating," Harry nodded repeatedly and wisely refrained himself from meeting the gaze of the irate professor.
"Every day," Terry confirmed, taking guilty pleasure as Harry deflated under the scrutiny of Remus.
"Come on, Terry. Nobody wants to get into the details," Harry drawled as nonchalantly as possible.
'You don't want to get into the details,' rang loud and clear in the silence of the room.
"That aside, Harry, we have other matters to deal with" Remus interjected in a whisper.
"Why is Professor Lupin here?!" Terry's paranoia rushed forth in full force as he pointed at Remus in fright.
If it had been any other situation, Remus would've rushed to the window to see if there's a full moon outside. You couldn't be too careful in a school full of paranoid kids.
"We were hunting for rats!" Harry blurted out.
"A rat, to be precise," Remus nodded. "Some student lost his pet and Harry here is trying to help me."
"So, Terry, can you stay outside for a few minutes?" Harry said as he stepped back from the bed. "Until we can find it?"
"Why? It's just a pet, right?"
'Oh, you have no idea.' "It's a violent one" Harry warned.
"It's not like you're good with pets!" Terry protested as his sleep-deprived mind conjured imaginary scenarios of rat turning into a man and killing everyone. "The only reason Hedwig is still alive because she might be an extraterrestrial being of higher intelligence and has more common sense than whole Gryffindor house combined."
Harry could only blink at the accusation. He still couldn't figure out whether he should be insulted or proud on his owl's behalf. Who knew a paranoid Terry was so much fun?
"It's not like you have a pet to have any idea about these things," Harry pointed out.
Terry instantly sunk into depression and gathered his blankets in his hands. "I told mum that others will pick on me if I didn't get a pet!"
"Nobody's picking on you, Terry," Harry sighed as Terry began to walk out of the room.
"This is discrimination!" Terry gave a final shout as he slammed the door closed.
"Hmph, kids these days," Harry shook his head in a disturbingly McGonagall way.
As Harry was contemplating how he should apologize to Terry once this escapade comes to an end, Remus cautiously levitated Harry's trunk and placed it on the floor before them. Sharing a look, the professor and the student crouched down in front of it, with Harry across Remus on the other side of the trunk.
With a snap, Remus opened the latch and the noise echoed in the scarily silent room. Remus hesitated as the corner section of the trunk came into view, knowing that everything he had believed for the last ten years would turn into a lie the moment he opened it. It was like the Pandora's box of his previous ten years of existence.
Meanwhile, Harry had no such reservations and with an almost curious look on his face, he unlocked the box.
"HARRY~!" Remus would forever deny that he released an unmanly squeak as he shot to his feet and pointed his wand at the box.
A single twig like paw that was almost too thin to even notice from a few meters clutched at the edge of the box and with utmost struggle that was only seen from people climbing Mt. Everest, a trembling rat – if the gray-haired, dull-eyed, buck-toothed and skeleton-like thing could even be called that – stumbled out of the box.
"Harry, get away from that!" Remus shouted in fear and his wand was already shooting out sparks in a threatening manner. "You don't know how dangerous he is!"
The still-unconfirmed rat-like 'being' took a tiny step forward and then tried to take another but collapsed in exhaustion midway.
Harry looked at the barely breathing rat and then directed a deadpanned expression at Remus. "Yes, Moony. I am terrified."
All the adrenaline rushing through his body disappeared out of trace as Remus stared at the unconscious animagus. That was strangely anti-climatic.
"How long has he been staying there?" Remus asked in a bland tone. He was still trying to make sense of it.
"Three months, give or take," Harry replied in an equally bland tone. Now that he thought about it, how on earth did Pettigrew survive in his trunk for three months?
And what was he doing there for three months?
Not even daring to look at his trunk, Harry cast an overpowered cleaning charm and promptly incinerated the corner portion of his trunk to ashes for good measure.
Remus ignored the ashes floating in the air and cast an Incarcerous to bind the rat in tight ropes. Conjuring a cage out of thin air, he levitated the rat into it and promptly collapsed onto the bed beside him. Remus needed no proof that this was Pettigrew, other than the missing finger on the rat's right paw.
"How is he still alive?" Harry asked hesitantly as a shred of guilt wormed its way into his heart. Damn his forgetfulness and selective memory.
"Witches and wizards are highly durable," Remus explained tiredly. "That's how prisoners survive for so long in places like Azkaban. Animagus take that durability to the extreme. And you know how rats can eat anything."
At the mention of Azkaban, even the shred of guilt waned as he remembered that this rat was the reason why Sirius had to stay in that hellhole for ten years.
Well, at least no one ever blamed him for being cruel.
"Freaking hell, that's outright animal cruelty!" Sirius gaped as he watched the carcass-like form of the rat animagus.
Well, there went that thought.
Harry walked off to a corner to wallow in depression while Remus tied the rat to a wooden beam at the edge of the room. A quick Animagus Reversal Spell and there laid the unconscious form of one Peter Pettigrew. Wasting no time, Remus cast another Incarcerous and another two binding spells. Remus was cautious at best and downright paranoid at worst. Harry chalked it off as habits developed from keeping his furry form a secret for years.
The once pot belly of Pettigrew now resembled a shallow crater as it sunk up to his spine and even a half-blind man could count the clearly visible ribs. His skin was of an unhealthy pallor and combined with the sunken cheeks, it gave him the appearance of a corpse. He lost most of his hair and the few remaining strands were of a dirty gray color. His grubby rags hung loosely on his frame, like blankets draped on a body, and his skin clung to his bones like plaster. Overall, the rat animagus looked like he was inches away from death door.
Despite feeling pity for the man before him, Sirius couldn't help but feel a vindictive pleasure at seeing Pettigrew like this; Looking just like how Sirius himself was when he escaped from Azkaban. Albeit less sexy and lacking his devilishly handsome and rogue looks. Couldn't miss that one.
They stared at Pettigrew for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts until Harry's question snapped them out of their trip down the memory lane. "What do we do now?"
"I am hungry," Sirius said and his stomach rumbled as proof of his statement. Sirius shifted his gaze to Pettigrew again and then continued in an unsure tone. "That guy is probably hungry too."
"You think so?" Harry retorted in a tone dripping with sarcasm.
That sarcasm went right over Sirius's head. "Hey, I am no Auror but that looks like one starving man to me."
Harry withheld the urge to facepalm. He wondered how in a room filled with two adults and an eleven-year-old boy, the boy was the least oblivious. "Yes, Padfoot. It sure looks like it."
With that dry statement, Harry disappeared without a pop to fetch some food from the kitchens. He hoped that house elves would understand this time that forcibly stuffing food into him was not the way to worship him.
After Harry left, Sirius let out a yawn and was about to walk over to sit on his transfigured bed but the presence of another man stopped him in his tracks. The anxiety at finding Pettigrew made the two adults take no note of each other until then but now that they were the only two conscious people in the room, the presence of the other was quite unnerving.
Remus looked he was about to pop a vein with how distressed he was feeling. What if Sirius hated him for how he had so easily believed that the Black heir betrayed James? Had their friendship degraded over the years that Sirius couldn't even talk to him? He could accept if Sirius declared that they could never go back to what they were but was Sirius even willing to ever forgive him? What if….
All those rampant thoughts came to an abrupt halt as Sirius spoke. "Hey, Moony, got a girl yet?"
And just like that, all his worries came crashing down.
When Harry teleported back into the shack, he found Sirius and Remus on the floor, hugging each other for all its worth; With tears streaming down their faces and laughter on their lips.
"Oh, Moony, Bellatrix was in my adjacent cell!" Sirius wept on Remus's shoulder while the werewolf awkwardly patted his friend's back. "We knew she was a crazy bitch but I never expected her to be a crazy bitch overdosed on drugs and my mom's secretly stacked alcohol. It was all over like my childhood again."
Harry silently stood by the door and pondered how anyone's childhood could be compared to a stay in Azkaban. Then he remembered his own less than stellar pre-Hogwarts days. The less he said about it, the better.
But Harry's presence outside the grounds once again attracted his pet dementor, who was patiently – Harry had no idea how dementors of all things could be patient – waiting for him outside the shack for a late night snack.
His magic could do marvelous and, sometimes, impossible things. Or so he had thought until a dementor had so easily gobbled it away.
As was customary of Remus, he freaked out the moment he sensed the bone-chilling aura of the dementor. "There's a dementor outside!"
Once again, Sirius didn't get the memo. "Yeah. The Dementors were there too. Cheeky buggers always trying to kiss me...and it's not as awesome as I am making it sound."
Remus's face was already red with agitation. "No! There's a dementor! Outside the shack!"
"Oh, that..." Sirius was not to be bothered. "Just ignore it for some time and it will stop bugging us."
"It's not a dog, Sirius!" Remus seethed, not understanding how anyone could be this unconcerned. Especially, Sirius Black – the most wanted criminal – of all people.
"Hey! That's offensive to me," Sirius shot back...and then paused. "Wait, why is it offensive to me?"
Harry ignored the petty squabble of the two responsible adults in his life and went outside. He threw a card at the dementor, who happily plucked it out of the air. "That's it! No more night snacks for you, Demi."
It would've been a comical sight to see a dementor whine before flying away with a depressed rain cloud over its head.
"He named a dementor 'Demi'," Sirius rolled his eyes. "How uncool is that?"
"That's what you find uncool?" Remus palmed his face and slowly slid down to his knees. "Just what is happening here?"
A lot of exclamations, a lot fewer explanations and a dozen half-truths and half-lies later.
"This reminds me of the phrase, 'Pig for slaughter'," Remus, ever the philosopher, stated as he watched Harry place the food into a neat pile in front of an unconscious Pettigrew.
"Slaughter?!" the apparently not-unconscious man squeaked in fright. He fumbled around in an effort to get out of his bindings or to transform into a rat but realized a minute later that it was futile. His gaze fell onto the blank-faced Harry in front of him. "Harry! You look just like your father... Please...you've got to help me, Harry."
"HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO HARRY?" Sirius roared. "HOW DARE YOU SPEAK OF JAMES IN FRONT OF HIM?"
Remus, on the other hand, was much calmer. But his scathing look and his venomous tone betrayed his thoughts. "Harry, don't listen..."
Harry cut Remus off with a small wave of his hand, indicating that he had it under control. "I can't believe this idiot is the cause of all this...pain in our lives."
Pettigrew looked like he swallowed something sour. "What...what are you saying, Harry...I didn't..."
"Oh, you don't know...right," Harry had an amused smile playing on his lips; which was in stark contrast with the sharp, almost cruel, look in his eyes. "Your home for the last three months, the trunk...is mine."
No one needed to know that Harry didn't even remember that he had a rat in his trunk.
Pettigrew's eyes widened in fear as he remembered the familiar green eyes he had seen before everything went dark for him. "Wha...that boy...green eyes...you..."
"Yes, it's me," Harry replied cheerfully. "You understand, don't you? You have no one to beg. No escape. Now, I had to go to the kitchen *cue shudder* to bring all this food. So, please eat. We want you strong and alive until we can hand you over to the Aurors."
Pettigrew shook pitifully and mumbled to himself in fear. A sheen of sweat coated his ghostly pale face and his eyes wandered all over the room to at least find an avenue to escape. He nearly collapsed in terror when he found none. "Please, Harry...Mercy….James! James wouldn't…he will help his friend…mercy, please!"
Harry thought he had the evil overlord act down pat. Evidently not, if Pettigrew still thought Harry would be his divine savior, instead of his two former best friends, who were just standing behind the green-eyed boy.
Harry pretended to think about it for a while and with each hum, Pettigrew's face grew more hopeful. "Nah. Nothing strikes my mind."
The rat animagus nearly face-faulted in incredulity. "Nothing?"
Harry shrugged in a 'what-can-you-do' manner before punching his fist into his palm in triumph. "I know!"
It was bewildering just how quickly Pettigrew's expression changed from frightened to hopeful to nervous and then to hopeful again.
"So, you have three choices," Harry declared as held up three fingers. "You already heard the first. Eat, sleep, have some nice dreams and before you know it, you'll be in Azkaban, surrounded by a lot of your old friends."
Though Harry made it sound appealing, it was clear from Pettigrew's constipated look that he didn't find it so.
"Okay, the second one. I recently got a very persistent stalker in the form of a dementor," Harry informed with a twitching eye. When he found the one who had the brilliant idea of sending dementors to Hogwarts, he would make sure that they understood just how much he appreciated the idea; With the use of a lot of cards and two lemon drops. "You know how pets are, being one yourself. They can never have enough food. A simple kiss and you'll never have to worry about anything again. Sounds interesting, doesn't it?"
Pettigrew discreetly inched closer to the wall and responded with a tiny, nearly imperceptible, shake of his head.
"Talk about greedy," Harry mumbled to himself. "So, the last option. I really wanted to try this for a long time but I don't want to try this on some innocent person. You see, I don't know what happens if I teleport another person with my cards. It works on animagus when they are in their animal form but I have no idea about humans."
Harry fished out his cards and shuffled them in his hands. At the sight of the cards, Pettigrew made a valiant effort to disappear into the wall, even though he had no idea what they did.
"You'll be..." Harry waited for the dramatic effect. "A lab rat!" he declared, waiting for the applause. "Fitting, isn't it?"
"Personally," Harry said in a stage-whisper. "I suggest taking the third one. My option may be biased, though."
"You...you," Pettigrew pointed a trembling finger at Harry. "You're nothing like James or Lily! You're not their son!"
Harry recoiled like he was struck and the cards fell down to the floor from his limp hands. Pettigrew grew triumphant as he stared at the speechless form of the green eyed boy. "They're kind and loving people...you are -"
Before the despicable rat could do any more damage, Sirius silenced Pettigrew with a swift 'Silencio'.
"That's enough out of you," Sirius growled and the tip of his wand glowed green as he grit his teeth in rage.
"Well, I don't really know them, do I?" Harry shot back bitingly but the tremor in his voice and his clenched fists displayed the effect the rat's words had on him. "Thanks to you."
Harry picked up a card and flicked it the vulnerable form of Pettigrew. It sailed through the air before slicing the bindings on Pettigrew's hands. The rat animagus nearly fainted as he saw the card embed itself in the wall. "Eat now. No one's going to feed you."
He gathered remaining cards into his hands and walked out of the door. "I'll be outside."
Remus's stared at Pettigrew with a glare that could've flayed the man before burying him alive. In a trunk. Meanwhile, Sirius was contemplating if keeping this rat alive was really worth all the trouble. He could do away with this whole dog and mouse game with a simple 'Reducto'.
"So, any idea what's that about?" Sirius asked as he gestured at the door through which disappeared.
Remus let out a mournful sigh. "Harry never spoke about it much but I know for sure that his home life is...not good."
Sirius met Remus's eyes inquisitively and comprehension dawned upon him. "Y-You think he's...abused?"
Sirius spat out the word like it's a curse and paced around in distress. Remus gave his friend a sidewise glance before making an effort at mollifying him. "It's not as bad as you think it is. But he's just a child, so, he might've been affected."
"You mean he's not entirely right in his mind?" Sirius retorted skeptically. "I've known Bellatrix for my whole life, Moony. I know what a crazy person looks like. This is not it."
"I never said that," Remus defended himself. "It's just...his morals are skewed. Not entirely sure what's right and what's wrong...that kind of issue. No one's ever been there to tell him what's what."
"That's not even an issue!" Sirius exclaimed as he waved his hands. "No one cares what's right or wrong."
Remus simply answered with a shrug, eliciting a sigh out of Sirius. "How did we let it happen, Moony?"
"At least you have a reason," Remus looked beyond contrite. "I didn't even check up on him."
"I was the one who forced James and Lily to make the rat the secret keeper," Sirius had a faraway look in his eyes as he held back a sob. "I was one who chased after the rat without even thinking of my godson. If anyone's to blame, it's me."
"Both of us fucked up, didn't we?" Remus said rhetorically.
"It's not entirely us, though..." Sirius drawled and both of them turned at once to stare at Pettigrew.
Pettigrew was gobbling up an impressive amount of Treacle Tart when he felt two murderous stares on him. He warily looked up and let out a self-deprecating chuckle. "Hey…let's not go pointing fingers, shall we?"
Sirius hit him with another 'Silencio' out of sheer spite.
Harry was sitting on a gigantic rock by the black lake when Sirius found him. He was idly flinging stones into the water and the subsequent ripples shimmered under the light of the moon.
"You have to throw the rocks at an angle for them to skip," Sirius advised as he stood beside Harry.
"I am not trying to make them skip," Harry replied as he threw another stone into the water. "I'm playing catch with the giant squid in the lake."
Even if Sirius wasn't about to believe his godson, the stone that was flung out of the lake to hit him on the head would have convinced him.
"We used to scare the first years by throwing them into the lake. Think he's not too happy that he had to bring them back every time," Sirius winced as he nursed the bruise forming on his head.
The silence that followed was broken by Harry's hesitant words. "Do you think I'm cruel?"
"Of course, you're not cruel!" Sirius argued with passion before lowering his voice to a whisper. "You're just a kid who lost his parents."
"But...dad and mom...they won't be happy..."
"You always heard that James is a good and honest man...Lily is the kindest person you ever see….You need to understand that even they were human, Harry," Sirius slowly sat down and put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "James was no saint and Lily is not the Holy Maiden."
"We Marauders hurt more people than we can count. I can say for sure that Snape turned out the way he did because of us. Hell, Lily's temper knew no bounds once she snapped. All of us….we were all kids once and we made mistakes...a lot of them. You remember how I almost killed Snape, right?"
Harry nodded as he leaned against Sirius and let out the breath he was holding. Sirius simply pulled his godson closer and continued. "To be honest, you turned out much better than any of us. Lily must be really proud of you and I am sure James is crying tears of joy."
Harry furrowed his brows. "Shouldn't it be the reverse?"
"Eh, not really," Sirius shrugged. "James was always the emotional one."
Harry blinked and then accepted it the way it was. "Who knew, Sirius? You're really good at this comforting people thing."
"When you try to get into the pants of enough girls, you become good at this empathizing with others thing," Sirius answered proudly.
All the emotion he built up on his godfather's behalf burst like a balloon. "Forget I ever asked."
"No, really," Sirius turned to face Harry with a mile-wide creepy grin. "Especially when you wake up in the morning and have no idea who the girl beside you is. You never know how a morning can turn out..."
Sirius wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and Harry pondered the benefits of a taking a dive into the Black Lake in the middle of the night. He was sure the giant squid wouldn't let him drown. "You've effectively ruined the mood. What more are you hoping for?"
"This just proves my theory that kids and women are not all that different," Sirius rubbed at his chin as he made a note to himself.
"This is abuse."
"Hey, you are not sad anymore," Sirius pointed out with glee. "I say it worked like a charm."
Harry, on the other hand, was not ecstatic. He tugged his robes closer to his body and it had nothing to do with the chill in the air. "I feel violated."
Susan leafed through her Transfiguration notes as she struggled to finish the day's assignment. The solitude and the quiet stillness of the library helped her to think clearly. This corner of the library, situated in a dark place between two huge book racks, was her personal sanctuary. A place that not even her closest friends knew about.
"Hey, Sue!" A head with a mop of black messy hair on top and two emerald green eyes suddenly appeared in the gap between her face and her notes.
"Kyaaa!" Her terrified scream reached every corner of the library and echoed for a few seconds. Her chair scraped back noisily as she rose to her feet and the body that was nearly lying on her lap fell on the floor in a heap.
"Ow!" Harry winced as his ears rung like a schoolyard bell. Freaking hell, could the girl scream...he might've become deaf for all her knew.
Madam Pince arrived at the scene in an instant – 'Did she just apparate within Hogwarts? Nobody can appear that fast!' Harry thought as he ducked under the table.
"Why are you causing a ruckus, girl?" Madam Pince snapped and a part of Harry felt horrible for leaving Susan alone deal with the scary librarian. He ignored that part with extreme prejudice.
"I-I...I saw a spider!" Susan blurted out.
Madam Pince gave a withering glare and left while muttering 'Stupid girls. Can't even handle spiders. Why in my day...'
Susan let out a sigh of relief as she collapsed on her chair. Harry poked his head out to check whether the territory was clear and swiftly rose back to his feet.
"So, Sue.." He was not allowed to finish as a five-inch thick tome was repeatedly smacked onto the top of his head.
"What.." Another smack. "Are you doing?" Susan bit out as she finally stopped her assault.
Harry felt like he just got another inch shorter. He knew he shouldn't have tried this whole appearing-disappearing act like he did with Daphne – Bless her pure, emotionless soul. "I need your help."
"Really?" Susan blinked in surprise. The Harry Potter needing help? The whole school assumed that he was born with a 'How-to-do-whatever-you-want-and-get-away-with-it' manual.
"Hmm," Harry nodded as he took a seat across her. "When did you last send your aunt a letter?"
"Two days ago," Susan answered with suspicion etched across her face.
"And what happens if you send another one today?"
"She will freak out," Susan replied without missing a beat.
Harry face-faulted. "What?"
"She is a busy woman, Harry," Susan explained. "I know it and I only send a letter once every two weeks. If I send two within a week, she will think something's wrong...and freak out."
"And what happens if she...freaks out?" Harry asked hesitantly.
"She will come here running."
"We don't want that," Harry agreed and shifted in his seat. This wasn't as easy as he hoped. "Okay. Send her a letter saying I'll be staying with you during the holidays."
"Oh," Susan nodded. That sounded like a valid reason to send a letter. Wait a minute, "WHAT!"
"I said, STOP MAKING A RUCKUS, GIRLIE!," Madam Pince's voice roared instantly.
"Sorry," Susan mumbled out of reflex, even though Madam Pince couldn't hear her.
Harry dug a finger into his ear to check if there was blood. "God, don't be so loud."
"Wh- What do you mean 'staying with me'?" Susan had steam blowing out her ears and her blush surpassed her red hair in brightness.
"Just that," Harry shrugged. "You don't want me to come over?"
Susan buckled under the pressure of his big, bright green eyes. Boys had no right to look that cute. "I-I...i-it's...y-you..."
Great. She was acting like Hannah right now. Susan took a deep breath and said in an almost steady voice. "I-I'll send her a letter today."
"Great!" Harry cheered triumphantly. "Now, can you send this card along with the letter? Write anything you want in there but just tell her to NEVER throw away this card."
The suspicion came back with a vengeance. "Why?"
"I am trying to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic," Harry answered honestly. Not like she'd ever believe his words. "So, the card?"
Susan stared warily at the seven of diamonds and took it with great reluctance. "Are you using me to do your dirty work, Harry Potter?"
Harry could attest to the fact that he didn't know anything at all about girls but he was certain that using a full name screamed, 'Trouble!'
"Of course not," Harry waved off her concerns with another one of his brilliant grins. Susan's anger abated a little at the honesty in his tone. "I brought you chocolates from Honeydukes in exchange!"
He never saw that book coming.
Madam Pince was fairly angry that the book that hit him right in the face had a small tear on its cover. He still didn't understand why she threw him out of the library. It was all Susan's fault.
So, he took a leaf out of Terry's book. "This is Discrimination!"
"SHUT YOUR MOUTH, YOU KID!" Once again, he never saw the book coming.
Meanwhile, a certain Hermione Granger was sitting just behind the book racks and, unfortunately, heard everything. 'He's trying to infiltrate the Ministry!'
From the day she had met him on the train, she knew that Harry Potter meant trouble and she had tried her best to stay away from him. But now, the situation had reached a critical point. What if he got caught and they shut down Hogwarts for training dangerous individuals?
With a speed that she didn't know she possessed, she ran all the way to the Gryffindor tower and quickly surveyed the common room to find the prefect. Luck favored her and to Prefects were lounging on the sofa set with their friends.
She sauntered over to where they were sitting with a purpose to her steps. The female prefect noticed her coming and gestured for her friends to pause. "Yes, Miss Granger."
"Harry Potter is trying to infiltrate the Ministry!"
The whole common room fell silent...and then they went back to what they were doing. Pfft, just what they needed. Another one of their house thinking Harry Potter lived a life of sin and debauchery.
All except one person.
Ron Weasely, who was sitting in a lonely corner of the common room with a chessboard in front of him, suddenly sprang up straight in his seat. His previously dull eyes, that seemed devoid of life and joy, retained their gleam.
"Miss Granger," the prefect said patiently. "You can't accuse another student without proof."
"But I heard him say it!" Hermione asserted passionately. "You can't let him do it. He might get killed...or worse, expelled!"
'This girl has it bad,' the prefect sweatdropped.
"And how do ya think he'll do it?" Angelina remarked from her place on the love seat. "Fly to the Ministry on a broom?"
The other students snickered while Hermione huffed indignantly. "You don't know about him!"
"Whatever it is, Miss Granger," the prefect interrupted before the girl could earn the ire of her housemates. "Until you have sufficient proof, there's nothing anyone can do about it."
"Bu..Bu..but..he!" Hermione tried to protest but the prefect already turned her back to the girl.
Hermione dropped onto a lone chair, thinking of ways to catch the green-eyed boy red-handed. Until a voice interrupted her musings.
"Hallucination," Ron Weasely declared as he adopted the expression of a wise man. "The first stage of Hallucination."
Ron readied himself for a lengthy explanation.
"First stage of Hallucination," he repeated and parroted the words Harry said to him. "You think you heard something when you didn't hear anything."
Hermione continued to blink in bafflement. "…just what?"
'Man, this girl is really thick, ain't she?' Ron thought tiredly.
"You think Harry said something when in fact, he didn't say anything," Ron explained with new-found patience. His days in the hospital wing were at least good for something.
"This is all your imagination, Granger," Ron dropped the bombshell. "I suffered from it too."
"I know I heard it!" Hermione finally snapped out of her stupor. 'Just who does this boy think he is...'
"Do you have a pet?" Ron asked out of the blue.
"You don't," Ron paused to build up the suspense. "Or you think you don't?"
Hermione couldn't have rolled her eyes harder. "You're out of your mind."
'This is a tough case,' Ron let out a sigh. "Do you remember how Malfoy was arrested by the Aurors?"
"Of course, I do," Hermione looked affronted. "How can anyone forget that?"
Ron held back tears at finally finding a kindred spirit. He really shouldn't have gone to the twins for confirmation. "That didn't happen, Hermione."
Hermione was speechless at the monumental stupidity of what she was witnessing. 'Is this boy for real?'
Ron used the silence to finally let out all the emotions he was holding back for months. "Marry me!"
That was definitely not the start of a beautiful friendship.
Harry was seated in his usual chair in the Headmaster office. This was his customary detention of the month. He was trying to lift objects into the air without a wand and suffice to say, it was coming along just horribly.
A dozen sophisticated and complex looking objects lay broken on the floor but the Headmaster reassured him that he could repair everything with a flick of his hand. He did it too! Harry just couldn't wait until he reached that level of mastery. The evil chuckle he let out at the thought of all things he could do with a flick of a hand elicited a wary glance from the headmaster.
Apparently, levitating objects wandlessly was the first step of many to reach that level of mastery.
The Headmaster was sitting in his throne-like chair as he read his mail. There was a foot high stack of letters on the table and Harry had no delusions that Headmaster would even mind him throughout the detention.
Harry ate a lemon drop every time he failed at levitating the object and from the rapid twitching of Dumbledore's left eye, he wasn't pleased about it. Good motivation, though. For the Headmaster.
"Yes, Harry?" Dumbledore looked relieved at the interruption. Or maybe he was happy that Harry at least wouldn't be snacking on his lemon drops if the green-eyed boy was talking. Dumbledore wondered whether the detention was a way to punish the boy or himself.
"How often do you go to the Ministry of Magic?"
Dumbledore placed the letter on his desk and steepled his fingers in front of his face. "Occasionally."
"Do you apparate?" Harry asked with evident curiosity.
"Just like Hogwarts, you can't apparate into the Ministry, Harry," Dumbledore answered. His eyes were twinkling like Christmas lights behind his glasses. A sign that the Headmaster was thinking over something furiously. Or that he knew something you didn't. Or he just wants to piss you off. "Why do you ask, my boy?"
"Since I am a part of the wizarding world now, I think it's my responsibility to learn about the Ministry of Magic," Harry fibbed, giving quite a convincing nod.
"Any other lie and I would've at least tried to believe it," Dumbledore replied just as convincingly.
'Knew it!' Harry cursed himself in his mind. 'Why do I keep forgetting that this is 'The Albus Dumbledore?''
"I know Hogwarts is the safest place in Britain," Harry began as he leaned back in his chair. "So, I was wondering how secure the Ministry is..."
Even though this was topic was as random as they came, Dumbledore decided to humor the boy. "Well, Hogwarts's wards were placed one above the other for centuries...so, it's surely the thickest defense, if not the strongest. While Ministry lacks the sheer quantity of wards Hogwarts has, its wards are of a better...quality. Nonetheless, every defense has its holes. So it's difficult to compare the two, Harry."
Dumbledore explained further after noticing the befuddled look on Harry's face. "Suppose, let's considered Phoenix Travel. Fawkes here can take me anywhere in the world and no amount or type of wards can stop me. What good is the defense then?"
'Without any markers?' Harry wanted to ask.
Harry, even though it's tough to tell at times, was a prideful person. So when he heard that this bird could do what his cards could without any limitations, skepticism bubbled within him. He jumped to his feet and walked over to the perch where the Phoenix was sitting.
"Are you saying that this little bird can take you anywhere on the planet?" Harry poked at the tiny golden-red bird with his thumb and withdrew his finger before it could bite in retaliation. He gave a snicker as he stared at the bird that could snugly fit in his palm. "Color me skeptical, Professor."
Before Harry could even hear Dumbledore's reply, he was engulfed in a torrent of flames and a moment later, the only sign that Harry Potter had stood there was a small scorch mark on the floor.
"Phoenixes are prideful creatures," Dumbledore spoke, even though there was no one in the room.
Phoenix Travel was a precarious thing, considered to be as dangerous as wrestling with a troll; Only insane people do it, or the stupidly strong ones. Especially when the Phoenixes were in their younger years since baby Phoenixes lack a sense of direction. You never knew where on the planet you appear.
Dumbledore let out a sigh. He couldn't let a student be harmed under his watch. He mused, not for the first time, if punishing the mischievous boy was worth all the headaches.
Harry landed on the ground in an ungraceful heap. "Stupid, little, deep fried, chicken!"
"Lâchez-moi!" An angry, feminine voice shouted from below him.
Harry looked down to stare into two stunningly dark-blue eyes. He didn't know how long he stared into her eyes but when she spoke again, his stare descended down to her lips. They moved so softly – so entrancing – that he couldn't even perceive what she was shouting.
His eyes deliberately roamed all over her face. Lustrous silver – Silver! - framed the most breathtakingly beautiful face he had ever seen. Her skin seemed to be glowing with a radiance that put the scorching sun above to shame. Her silver hair was sprawled over like a halo, with a few bangs falling down on her face.
Almost hesitantly, he moved a hand and gently tucked the stray strands of hair behind her ear. There! Perfect. She seemed stunned at what he did and once again she spoke something he could barely understand. Fair skin, Angular face, round eyes and softest lips he had ever seen on a human. Those seemed to be the only things he could concentrate on. Suddenly, getting up to his feet didn't seem like a wise idea.
He hoped he didn't die and stumble upon an angel.
Of course not. Heaven would be the last place he would be sent to after he died. Amen.
Any further thoughts were halted when a knee planted itself into his stomach. "Yikes!"
Harry rolled over on the ground in pain, with tears springing up to his eyes. That was one vicious kick. "You could have just asked me to get off!"
Now that she was standing, she looked older than him. His eyes drifted down to her body. Budding breasts and shapely curves. Yep, definitely older.
The sun was shining down upon him with a vengeance, as though it was punishing him for previously thinking that its radiance was no match for the girl's beauty. Harry still stood by his thoughts.
Now that he thought about it, it was warm. Warmer than it should be in the month of November. Even the trees were thinner and the air had a magical, almost excited, feel to it. "Where the hell am I?"
The blushing girl seemed to understand his question. She pointed at the land and then at him. "France."
Author's Note: Evidently, as fast as humanly possible is not that fast, after all.
To be honest, I started writing this chapter on March 1. One thing happened after the other and I picked it up again two days ago. A lot of ideas and plots changed from then to now. For the better, I'm sure.
So for those who thought that this story was dead, and were making plans to murder me...There's no need for that now.
Long Reviews make me post long chapters. That's all I'm going to say.