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Chapter Forty-Two—New Alliances

Harry stares blankly at the package in his hands. It's from Greengrass, he can see that, but he honestly didn't think he would get a Christmas present from her. And it has a tingle of magic that makes him want to put it straight in the box Theo got him.

"Open it or not, Potter, but stop dawdling and making me anxious."

Harry makes sure to look at Blaise and not the gift as he casts spells on it. It's wrapped in plain paper, a faint silver color that borders on grey, and not one of the spells returns a thing wrong with it. It seems to be just a gift.

That doesn't tell him what it is or why she got it for him, though.

"I could open it for you."

Harry sighs, dodges Blaise's grab from the next common room couch, and says, "Fine. I'll open it." He still makes sure to use spells to slit the paper and take apart the string, just in case.

Inside is a box. Harry rolls his eyes and uses a spell to open that, too. A faint sweet smell hits him in the face. Is the box made of cedar or something?

Then he forgets about that when he sees the thing in the box, and recoils. Blaise immediately moves around the back of the couch so he can see. Harry hears him catch his breath, which does not make him feel better.

"Is that what I think it is?"

"Greengrass thinks I'm a bloody girl, apparently," Harry mutters, and Levitates the pendant out of the box. Or the necklace, or the locket. Whatever it is. It's jewelry. He's never going to wear it. "How do I go about telling her I appreciate this gift and then never, ever wearing it?"

"You have to wear it. It would be an insult not to, and it's powerful protective magic. Plus it opens, see? You can put pictures inside it, and the necklace will extend a little bit of protection to them, too. Good luck, mostly."

"I'm not a bloody girl."

"Did anyone say you are?"

Harry deflates a little at the unimpressed look Blaise is giving him. "Well, this thing." He turns it around. The necklace looks like it's made of interwoven thorns, and the pendant at the end is an irregular circle of some purple gem. Amethyst? Harry doesn't know. He just knows it's jewelry. "Boys don't wear this kind of thing, Blaise. Not where I come from."

"You're a wizard."

"But not a pure-blood." Harry has never been so glad for that excuse before.

"You're part of our culture," Blaise says, and adds before Harry can object, "Wizards, not pure-bloods." He lifts the pendant and turns it around thoughtfully. "Once you put it on, you tap it with your wand and tell it what you want it to protect you against. It can be a single spell, like the Blasting Curse, or a single kind of spell, like all curses."

"What about potions?"

"That, too. But it has to be magic. You can't charm it to protect you against falling down the stairs or something." Blaise pauses. "And it can't defend you against the Killing Curse."

Harry sighs. He supposes the pendant is valuable, but he doesn't like the way putting it around his neck will make him look. Maybe he can keep it under his robes for the most part. "What will wearing it mean? I mean, will it signal to Greengrass that she's my friend, or to everyone else that we're about to be married, or something?"

"Oh, Harry, so suspicious."

"You learn to be, in Slytherin."

"I suppose you do." Blaise thinks for a second, and then shakes his head. "No. I recognized the necklace because I've seen others made like this. The chain and the pendant aren't different from the way the others were made, and they just meant whoever was wearing them had protection. Not marriage."

"But friendship?"

"Don't you want to be friends with Greengrass?"

Blaise sounds honestly curious, so Harry strokes the clockwork snake that is pausing on his shoulder and tells the truth. "I don't know. She seems quiet enough, and she hasn't insulted my friends like Draco used to..." Harry wrinkles his nose. He's getting to the point where he'll have to get Draco to apologize to Hermione and Ron, too, and that is going to be a mess. "But she's so cold, and she's always staring."

"Probably taking lessons in leadership from you." Blaise's voice is light as he passes the pendant back to Harry. "You know, because you radiate that kind of special light that attracts everyone everywhere you go."

Harry flushes horribly, not amused by the way Blaise laughs. "Stop it."

"But why? Don't you enjoy being on display?"

"No. And you know it." Harry snatches the pendant and holds it up. "What do you have to do to activate it?"

"Touch it with your wand. Give the gem a moment to absorb your magic. Then announce your name and say Defendere, followed by the name of the spell or kind of spell."

Harry thinks about it. Then he nods, holds the pendant up, and touches his wand to it. An odd tingle runs through him. He feels as if the pendant is thinking about him, too, making up its mind about him in some way.

When it feels right, he says, "Harry Potter. Defendere malicious potions."

The gem blinks, once, as if it's an eye that's opening and closing. Then it gleams, and the pendant suddenly turns really light and flies out of Harry's hand. Harry snatches his wand back, convinced this was a trick after all, but the pendant settles firmly around his neck and clasps there. When Harry reaches back, he can't find the place where the chain would have parted to let him take it off.

"Blaise," he whines.

"The pendant is working the exact way it's supposed to," Blaise says firmly. "But why malicious potions and not something else?"

"Because I can defend myself against a lot of curses and I can learn the counters, but I didn't see people putting potions into my food once already, and learning to brew antivenin would take a long time." Harry tugs cautiously at the chain. It remains smooth, like it was something forged all in one piece. "You're sure it's not meant to come off?"

"It can't protect you if it's off."

"But how do I get it off?"

"Tap the gem with your wand and say Finite."

Blaise sounds like he's weary of the world. Harry sighs and doesn't do it. "And I can hide the pendant under my clothes and no one will know what it means or think I look like a girl?"

"No one would think you look like a girl," Blaise says, in an exaggerated way. He moves around the couch and sits down next to Harry, staring at him. "You're so worried about this. Why? Other wizards won't care, and if some random Muggleborn from a weird place says something, why would you care?"

Harry winces and glances aside. He would have to tell Blaise a lot about the Dursleys to really answer that question, and he doesn't want to.

"Okay, fine," Blaise says. "You can wear the chain under your robes. But you should at least thank Daphne and tell her that you got the gift and you like it."

"Even if you had to explain to me what it was?"

"She probably thought you'd ask her."

Blaise sounds smug for some reason, but after thinking about whether he really wants to hear the reason, Harry ends up rolling his eyes and letting it go. There are things he has to learn to survive in Slytherin, and there are things he wants to learn, and then there are things that are neither and just annoying. And it sounds like Blaise being triumphant over Daphne is the third.

He has no idea just how influential he can be.

Well, Blaise doesn't mind that. He can explain the pendant and other important pieces of magical culture to Harry, and Harry can be his friend and depend on him for wisdom. Blaise doesn't think that's a bad place to be at all.

Besides, Harry can't remain ignorant of his true potential forever. He'll embrace it when it comes time to defend his friends or his godfather or—hopefully, anyway—his place in Slytherin House someday. And Blaise will be right at his side to laugh at him and tell him that he told him so when that happens.

And benefit.

And maybe even laugh with him.

"Look at you go, pup! I can't believe how fast you are on that broom!"

Harry zooms back down and over Sirius's head, laughing. Sirius came out to watch him in the form of a dog at first, but from what Harry has been able to figure out, the Ministry is almost through trying Pettigrew and has all but declared that Sirius will be free and able to claim his life back soon. That means he's a man now, laughing and shouting and waving his arms.

Harry knows he has to go through a trial visit with a qualified Mind-Healer, too. But Sirius seems so much better now. That won't be a problem.

Harry doesn't want it to be a problem. God, does he ever. He wants to go and live with Sirius and have Remus and Professor Snape and his friends visit and live happily ever after.

He knows Snape doesn't think Sirius is perfect yet. Or Remus, Snape doesn't like him, either. But Remus has been kinder since Christmas, and he's the one who told Harry how much better Sirius was doing over the holidays. Harry wants to live with Sirius.

He wants someone who's just his own. Maybe it's selfish, but he does. Hermione has her parents since she's an only child, and Ron can't have his parents to himself but he wants them, and Snape has to be the Head of Slytherin House for everyone and can't give Harry anything special, and his other friends have parents or best friends. It has to be Sirius.

Harry turns once more on the Firebolt and leans sideways. This is something he's been waiting to show Sirius. Snape would have a heart attack, and so would some of his friends, and people like Oliver Wood would try to drag Harry back onto the Quidditch team even if they had to imprison him in the dungeons.

"Watch, Sirius!"

Sirius's shining eyes say he's watching. Harry leans to the side as he speeds across the pitch, straight towards the Keeper's hoop. Then he swings again, to the side, and executes a spiral so tight around the pole of the hoop that Sirius actually yells, "Don't do that, pup!"

But Harry does, and he reaches the bottom of the spiral and lands in the grass. He's laughing so hard tears are streaming down his face, and then Sirius runs over and hugs him and his sides are hurting in a good way. The move isn't anything special for Quidditch, but it sure looks brilliant.

"I'd love to see you do a Wronski Feint," Sirius murmurs into his hair.

Harry perks up. That's not a move he thought of, since he isn't actually chasing a Snitch right now, just showing Sirius how he can fly on his Firebolt. "Do you have something I can enchant into a Snitch?"

"Sure!" Sirius picks up a pebble from the grass next to his feet after a little searching. He throws it to Harry, and Harry casts a charm on it that makes it lighter, one that makes it glow gold, and one that makes it fly. He's a lot better at magic like that than he was a few months ago. The study group sessions with different students are really helping.

"Okay, watch, Sirius," he commands, and tosses the pebble in the air. Then he's after it, flying as close as he can without actually capturing it.

The pebble starts to fall. Harry pretends there's a Seeker in the air opposite him, and aims the Firebolt straight at the ground.

For a second he wonders if it counts as a Wronski Feint if there's no actual Seeker there and he's really diving after the Snitch instead of just pretending to see it near the ground.

Then he's diving.

There's no room for anything else. The air tears at his nostrils. His eyes stream so hard that he's afraid he'll cloud up his glasses. His hair blows straight backwards. The Firebolt is faster than anything he's ever ridden.

He doesn't know how close the ground is. He can't see.

He goes by feel, in the end, the feel of grass skimming along his arms for a second, and then his feet pull up and he's almost rolling around the broom as it barrels above the pitch. He whoops as he forces it back and up. He couldn't do this at all if he wasn't small and slight. He bellows with his mouth open.

Sirius is cheering and shouting madly when Harry glances at him. He grins and checks to make sure that all his teeth are still there. Then he flies back and lands in front of Sirius.

"The hard thing is—"

Just making sure that I don't crash into the Bludgers by accident, he's about to say, but Sirius flings his arms around him and squeezes him breathless. Harry wheezes and pats Sirius's shoulder.

"I do have classes tomorrow, you know," he says, when Sirius pulls back. "I need to be able to walk."

"Not even James could have done that." Sirius is beaming down at him, his hand rubbing back and forth as if he enjoys making Harry's hair stand up more than normal. "He was a great Chaser, and he flew a fast broom, but not that fast."

Harry ducks his head. It still makes him feel sticky and uneasy when someone is complimenting him. "Well, the Firebolt hadn't been invented then. I'm sure he would have been an even better Chaser with a broom that fast."

"Harry." Sirius kneels down in front of him and puts his hands on Harry's shoulders and looks him right in the eye. "I promise, your dad would be happy that his son could do something even better than he could. You should have seen him when you were born. I thought he'd burst with pride and happiness. He kept telling me all about your little freckles and how many times a day you waved your hands and how long you slept and all these other details, because he couldn't conceive that someone else wouldn't be as interested as he and Lily were."

Harry flushes a little, and nods. This is another reason he wants to stay with Sirius. People keep telling him that his parents were heroes and that he has his father's hair and his mum's eyes, and that they played lots of pranks during school. But no one tells him anything else. It's this kind of details that only Sirius and Remus can tell him.

"Do you think he would be okay with me being in Slytherin?"

"He might have been disappointed at first. But he would understand that the Hat did a stupid thing and re-Sorted you. You'll always be a Gryffindor at heart."

Harry swallows. It's not what he hoped to hear, but Sirius knows his parents better than he does—well, got to know them at all. "And my mum?"

"She would understand the same thing! She was a real Gryffindor, Harry, true of heart and brave and loyal and strong."

Harry could point out that loyalty is supposedly a Hufflepuff trait, but he's not going to. He picks up the Firebolt and turns back towards the school. Sirius bounces along beside him, looking longingly at the horizon. "It's not dark yet. Why do we have to go inside?"

"I have one of those talks with Snape tonight."

"With Snivellus? Don't go, Harry! Did you know Dumbledore is getting a Mind-Healer for me? You could come to the same Mind-Healer! We could have talks together! Then we could get to know each other!"

"Um—I thought the Ministry or St. Mungo's was going to choose the Mind-Healer."

Harry says it calmly, but that's because he's inwardly reeling in shock. He really did think that was what was going to happen. He has no idea why Dumbledore would be the one choosing the Mind-Healer. Does he actually know anything about Mind-Healing? Does he think that he can pick better than St. Mungo's? Why?

"Yeah, he'll choose someone who's Gryffindor and understands things." Sirius bounces again and grins at Harry. "Most of the Healers that are at St. Mungo's are Ravenclaws, you know, or sometimes even Slytherins." Sirius pretends to shudder. "He'll find one who's Gryffindor. He told me that I didn't even have to thank him for it. And he'll fight to make sure that I get custody of you and get to take you home with me."

"Tell me about the house that we're going to live in."

While Sirius goes into a rant about the horrible house of his childhood and how he's going to choose a home that's the opposite in all possible ways, Harry thinks of what Dumbledore's doing. He has to know that Sirius would blab about him at some point. So why did he tell him that?

It doesn't take much training in Slytherin politics for Harry to figure out an answer. Dumbledore is offering his help, offering to make Sirius free and make sure Harry can live with him. He's walking back into Harry's life, he's interfering, but this is the price. And the prize is a great one.

Harry hates the thought that Dumbledore is trying to control him. But at least him living with Sirius means Dumbledore can't force him back into trying to live with Dudley or Aunt Marge.

With a little shiver, Harry decides he's going to accept it. He has to.

Family of his own, just for himself, is worth any price.