Eight year old Harry Potter was not unhappy. His uncle and aunt expected him to work hard doing chores, but they were not onerous. They also expected him to do well at school. Dudley had a tutor to help him do better at school, but Harry was encouraged to do better on his own. He usually had books for his birthday, and now he was to join Cub Scouts. And then Uncle Vernon sat him down, and explained, with great distaste in his voice and on his face, about the magical world. He went on,
"You live here for your protection and ours because of something your mother did, and there are wards which use your blood around the house. Your aunt and I did not agree to this; you were left on the doorstep with a letter, the cowards did not even speak to us." He almost spat.
The penny certainly dropped at that.
"I see. I am sorry, Uncle Vernon, I am sorry that others of my kind were so rude."
"Well, we've raised you to be more mannerly and more sensible, but the reason they want to protect you is because of their war," said Vernon. "Your mother died to save you and you are some sort of saviour to them; I heard them celebrating that the freak terrorist who killed your parents was dead because of some curse bouncing off you and killing him, but they never found a body. You see, I made a note of the freaks celebrating, and I've got a few of them drunk over the years to piece together what happened. And I reckon that the old coot who left you with us doesn't think he's dead and wants you to be a weapon."
"But I'm only a little boy!" he said.
"Yes, and this seems to be a point those lunatic freaks have missed," said Vernon. "Whatever we do, short of moving to Australia, if they even let us escape, they are going to use you. I didn't want you, but you've been a good nephew, and if you have to fight this war, I don't want it spilling over into the normal world, so I'm going to see that you are as good as you can be"
"Thank you, Uncle Vernon," said Harry, who was scared.
Vernon patted him on the shoulder.
"I shouldn't think you'll be expected to face him before you are 17, which is adult in their world, but I didn't want to take any chances. When you are 11 you'll be sent for to go to that freak school of theirs and I doubt they'll take no for an answer. This is one reason I've encouraged you to work hard, and get two years ahead, so you'll have some experience of school before going there, and know how to network, as well as having a good grounding in sensible studies like mathematics and the sciences. I'm going to send you to Smeltings, my old school. The uniform is ridiculous but you'll have to live with it, the education there is very good. I'll expect you to keep up with those studies in your own time when you are away at this freak school, and we can get a tutor over the holidays as well. Study ahead in their subjects too. When you are older, I'm going to enrol you in the Cadet Corp to teach you basic military skills. You might not think it to look at me now, but I was in the cadets, and in the Territorial Army when I was young, and, er, had a figure. I thought you could start karate now; you don't have the build to do boxing. It's about something called situational awareness, which will let you figure out what is going on around you."
"Yes, sir; I should think that will help," said Harry.
"You're a good lad, you take it all in and get on with life," said Vernon. "We've built some good muscles on you with the heavy garden work, and you've learned preparation when cooking, which will help with chemistry, and your aunt says they have subjects about the properties of herbs and making potions, like in Macbeth, I suppose, at that school, so it won't go amiss. One of the freaks thinks he's a friend of mine, and he's got you some books on how their world works, which I'm going to give you now, and he's going to get you some text books for you before you start, so you can read ahead. I'm hoping I can persuade him to take you to the freak bookshop when you've done some reading so you'll know what to get. I'm going to get you some good, normal books as well, SunTzu, Clausewitz and Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. They're a bit advanced for you at the moment, but you'll do well to read them when you can. Also 'Mein Kampf' by Hitler; it's a dreadful book written by a dreadful man, but it might help you understand the mind of a megalomaniac terrorist."
"Yes, Uncle Vernon, thank you for going to so much trouble and expense for me."
"It's a small investment if you are supposed to save the world," said Vernon. "You've been very good about not doing too much freakish stuff, and your aunt and I appreciate it, though turning your teacher's hair blue was, between you and me, hilariously funny. I didn't like the old bat either."
Uncle and nephew caught each other's eye and chuckled conspiratorially.
"Uncle Vernon, is being able to talk to snakes and understanding them part of it?" asked Harry.
His uncle blenched.
"More than likely, and please don't speak to me about it unless it becomes important," he said. "Maybe you can get a pet snake in the freak shopping centre and train it to sneak in and bite enemies. That would be a useful thing, unless it's common for wizards to speak to snakes, but I reckon it isn't, or they'd set them to watch you. Where have you spoken to snakes?" he asked suddenly.
"On the common when we went for a picnic," said Harry. "I've never seen any snakes in the garden; so I guess they don't use snakes to spy."
"Good. Reckon they use cats though; that Mrs. Figg is too nosy and too crazy to just be a crazy cat lady. And her cats are always watching. That's why I hector you in the front garden; when I see a cat. I reckon from the way that letter about you was written the old coot Dumbledore wants you to be a bit browbeaten. He needs you to be cowed and ready to accept anything he says, because you're glad to be away from home."
"Does he want me to die, do you think?"
"It wouldn't surprise me, my boy, but I wasn't going to say so. However if you've sussed it out for yourself, I won't lie. You had a nasty scar on your forehead which wouldn't heal when we took you in, and he hadn't bothered to get it treated. Took three operations to discover that there was something very nasty , they had to cut into your skull to cut it out, though I doubt you remember it."
"I do remember, it kept screaming at me," he said.
"These freaks are nasty types," said Vernon. "No care for other people, and they are very nasty to people like your mother who was the first in her family to be ... to be a witch. And even nastier to your aunt, not letting her learn anything about what her sister was studying."
"Perhaps she could study with me, some of the things I'm to learn," said Harry.
"I reckon she might like that," said Vernon.
The books on wizarding life were interesting, and the etiquette just took good manners a few stages further. Discovering his name in a who's who in the Wizarding World was a shock, and Harry took that to show Vernon, who huffed.
"Who would have thought that rude boy would have been one of the upper ten," he said. "Harry, my boy, this is more serious than I thought. It seems as though Dumbledore meant to deprive you of knowledge of the fact that you are the nearest thing they have to nobility in their world."
"Yes, sir, and without the etiquette book, I would have probably inadvertently insulted a lot of people I should either be allied to, or keeping my friends close and my enemies closer, like you told me."
Vernon shook his head.
"This is looking more and more sinister, I'm afraid, lad," he said. "Damnit, I may not have wanted you, but I've become more or less fond of you, and it riles me to see that old coot and his cohorts playing footsie with your life"
"I'm not overjoyed myself," said Harry.
"You will be as good as I can get you," vowed Vernon. "And look here, boy, if you keep it in your bedroom, I'll not interfere in you practising magic on your own before you get there, and Petunia has agreed to let you brew potions in the kitchen. You should be getting some books on what first years do very soon."
"Thank you, uncle," said Harry. It gave him a warm feeling to know that his uncle actually cared about him as a person.
Harry worked hard on starting to understand magic. He read that until he had a wand, anything he did would be considered accidental magic, and that even when he did, he could still brew potions. He could also try applying for an exemption. After all, they could only say no, and they might say yes, as he was supposed to be some saviour. This always made Harry snort; he was saved by his mother dying. And now he knew more about her because hesitantly at first, but with growing enthusiasm, his aunt had told him about her sister.
"I won't exclude you from what I do at the freak school," said Harry.
"I can't believe that I've made this potion and it seems to look like it's supposed to," said Petunia, looking at her boil-cure potion.
"I bet you're what they call a squib, someone who can't do spells, but who can do some things in their world," said Harry. "Normally it's someone without magic born to a magical family, but what if it's someone just not quite magical as well?"
"I don't know. I don't really want to be a part of it, but I know some of their cures work," said Petunia.
"Cool! We can make sure to stock up your medicine cabinet for when I'm off at Smeltings then," said Harry.
So they did.
Harry also visited Diagon Alley with Mr. Scarpin, the wizard Vernon had cultivated, and visited Gringott's bank, where he discovered that Headmaster Dumbledore held his key and that his parents' will had been sealed. He changed the money Vernon had given him for books since he could not access his account yet, and bought books on runes and arithmancy, to ally with classics and mathematics. He also got one on goblin etiquette, so he would be ready to assume control of his account when he was eleven, and wizarding law in case he wanted to sue anyone, like the publishers of some very silly books about him. He bought a couple to ask Vernon his opinion of whether he had a legal case. It was nice, however, not to be recognised, since he had no scar, and was wearing contact lenses not the glasses he wore for yard work. Someone must be taking photographs of him to use for the illustrations, thought Harry, but at least they were assuming the scar was still there. It was a nuisance that his hair had grown back overnight when Aunt Petunia had cut it for him, but perhaps he could work on willing it to look different. It was a dreadful hairstyle.
With books on mind magic as well, it took Harry three weeks to learn how to control his hair to look just how he wanted. He would go to Smeltings with a neat, side parting and look totally normal.
It did freak Petunia out a bit when he turned his hair the same colour as his mother's hair in the photos Petunia had showed him.
"Haha, my boy, if you do that for Hogwarts, you'll seriously upset those idiots who think they know who you are," laughed Vernon, patting Petunia on the back comfortingly. "Show them you're our family, not that twat James Potter's kin!"
"Vernon! Language!" said Petunia.
"Do you think I should freak them out, or be what they expect?" asked Harry, quizzically.
"There are tactical advantages to both," he said. "To be as they expect lulls them into a false sense of security, but to freak them out keeps them wrong-footed."
"I reckon I could make more friends and contacts on this five-hour train journey to Scotland if I make friends with people who want to know Harry rather than people who want to know the Boy-Who-Lived-in-a-hyphenated-trope."
"That's a very good point, my boy, and you will want all the friends you can get. Those who are the right sort, who are on a par with you socially and who are allied to your family will ally with your family, not with who you look like, so long as your behaviour is correct. Of the others, those who want to know the Trope-who-has-a-scar you are well shut of. Besides, Dumbledore might even have persuaded one or more to latch onto you by doing their family some favour, and before you know it, the silly brat is busy pratting to the headmaster of all your doings."
Harry grinned viciously.
He would have neat, black hair for Smeltings, James Potter hair in the holidays, and Lily Evans hair for Hogwarts
Smeltings was fun, and Harry duly networked and made sure there were other boys in his own class who would look out for Dudley when he came in two years time.
"My cousin isn't very clever, or hard working, but he'll be useful on the boxing team, and at rugger," said Harry. "He just needs someone to keep his nose to the grindstone so he gets passing marks for his schoolwork."
"Won't you be looking out for him?" asked Harry's friend, Alan Smethwyk.
Harry made a face.
"Unfortunately it's a condition of my parents' will that I go to their old school when I'm eleven," he said. "It's a pain, but it's paid for and I don't get my inheritance unless I do go there." This was a lie, of course, but a convenient one.
Smethwyk pulled a face.
"We'll look out for your little cousin," he said.
Harry decided that it was not a good time to mention that Dudley was a lot bigger than he was, though at least the slimming potions he and Petunia had brewed had helped both Vernon and Dudley to achieve a healthier weight.
Potions and Chemistry were enough alike that Harry enjoyed that class, and excelled in it. Indeed, he excelled at most of his lessons, and enjoyed himself. He hated rugger, but loved cricket, and athletics, and gymnastics Smeltings definitely promulgated mens sana in corpore sano. Harry studied particularly hard at Latin, to help him ultimately to cast spells, and mathematics, to cross-correlate that with arithmancy, to help with crafting spells. That he loved learning for its own sake helped, and he was never apostrophised as a swot since he played as hard as he studied and was not averse to a bit of extra-curricular fun like a midnight feast in the observatory, and using an amber rod to charge with static electricity to sneak behind the physics master to make his hair stand on end.
He was caned for firing a metal pencil erasor out of the solenoid and breaking the window.
As Harry had achieved a place at Smeltings by examination, he was not asked his age when he joined the school Combined Cadet Force. He loved it, and found he was a natural with the L98A2, 5.56 mm Cadet General Purpose rifle, was good at first aid, had great fun in kayaks, and was too short to learn to fly the Grob Tutor aircraft. He started work towards skills he would need for his Duke of Edinburgh Award, when he was over 14, which he could work on in the holidays from Hogwarts with the local Army Cadet Force. He was a bit peeved that he would probably not have a chance to fly, but he was able to fly the Grob Viking glider, which was great fun. He spent three nights in detention writing "I am not a bird and the Viking does not like stooping like a falcon" and "I am not the Red Baron, or Snoopy, or Han Solo and it is forbidden to do Immelmann turns in a glider.
Harry strongly suspected he had used magic to make the glider do things it was not supposed to do, because he had seriously freaked out his instructors with pulling out of a dive into an Immelmann turn.
Dr. Masterston, who taught chemistry as well as teaching flying in the CCF had said that anyone as crazy as Harry would be a shoe-in for the Airforce. Harry was currently considering flying Harriers off carriers as a career.
Harry sighed, when his eleventh birthday brought a letter through the door written in green pen. He took it to Vernon.
"You were right, sir, and here it is," he said. "How am I supposed to send a return by owl? At least I know owls carry the post, but have they forgotten that I'm supposed to have been raised as a non-magical boy with no knowledge?"
"Well, let's not let it spoil your birthday," said Vernon. "We need to hurry if we want to take in the best of the air show."
"Thanks for giving me a treat like Dudley," said Harry.
"It's your last year to do totally normal things," said Vernon, who did not add that Harry's fascination for things military would stand him in good stead if he was being turned into a child soldier. Harry had recreated his school rifle from tin cans using something called 'transfiguration', and Vernon had been much impressed. There were going to be side shows where you could strip done other weapons, and Vernon reckoned that if Harry had stripped down a weapon, he could make it. His eye for detail was excellent, honed by playing Kim's game at cubs, and later at home as an exercise, and in the street, memorising details while Vernon took photographs to verify the details against. Vernon had got the idea when they saw 'Kim' on TV, and when Harry had excitedly said that they played this game at cubs.
It was all part of situational awareness.
Harry had a great time at the airshow, and Dudley ate a great many American-style hot-dogs. Harry had no trouble stripping guns, and chatted to soldiers. It was hot, and loud, and smelled of aviation spirit all day and Harry loved it. When they got home, there was treacle tart with ice cream, which Harry had requested instead of a cake, in case Hogwarts did not provide such a thing, and they sat and discussed the letter.
"Does Harry have to go to the freak school? I want him to help me with my homework at Smeltings," whined Dudley.
"My friend Smethwyk will look out for you, and also Pig, er, that's Porkins, and Fido, that's Tempest."
"Ok, I get Porkins but why Fido?" said Dudley, looking mystified.
"Oh, his name is Charles Abernethy Tempest, which spells CAT so of course we called him Fido because it's a dog's name," said Harry.
"Oh, I see," said Dudley, who was young enough to understand the logic of other small boys.
"I remember I went to school with a kid named Martin, so we thought of 'Doc' Martin shoes and called him Bunny, short for Bunny-slipper," said Vernon.
Petunia rolled her eyes.
"School nicknames apart, yes, Harry has to go to this school because he will be kidnapped and forced to go if he is anywhere else, and it is better to seem compliant," said Petunia. "I suggest you write a 'to whom it may concern' letter, Harry, and see if you can forget all the calligraphy you've been learning and make it a bit messy. Be disbelieving. Something along the lines of "To whom it may concern, I do not appreciate stupid jokes, and what on earth do you mean by owling an answer? Not that this will find your stupid made up address."
"I like that," he said. "I suppose I'd better put a stamp on it."
"Probably; they don't understand good English money to pay for it if it even gets sent," said Petunia.
"Albus, have you ever been to tell Harry Potter anything about his wizarding family?" demanded Minerva.
The old man twinkled at her.
"Now, that would only be counterproductive in introducing him to the wonders of the wizarding world, wouldn't it?" he said.
"I rather fancy he is too taken with his own wonder in his world," said Minerva, ironically. "Read this."
The smudged and grubby letter said,
"To whom it may concern,
You missed April Fool's day you idiot, and I don't appreciate silly jokes.
If you meant to insult my hawking training at school by talking about owls, you're a long way off course, the RAF use owls at night to keep runways clear of bats and other night birds. I have my falconer third class badge already.
Next year I get to fly aeroplanes because I'm nearly tall enough, why on earth would you, whoever you are [I bet you're that little creep Piers Polkiss who beats on Dudley and steals from the little kids] think I would consider something like magic, which is for babies, cooler than flying an aircraft, even if it's not a jet? You're just a jealous prat.
"Oh dear," said Albus. "What is an aircraft?"
Minerva rolled her eyes.
"Albus, muggles have been flying in heavier than air machines for a verra long time. You must have seen some of them go over the castle, leaving a trail of vapour behind them."
Albus looked surprised.
"Those are aircraft? I always thought they were particularly flatulent dragons."
"Some of them ar e bigger than dragons, Albus, and apparently the school he attends teaches children to fly them. Presumably small ones. I have never heard of a achool doing that, but then, I'm not that well in tune with the muggle world. He appears to have knowledge of falconry as well, which is not something I've heard of being taught in muggle schools either."
"Well, you will have to go and see him, and explain why he has to attend Hogwarts, Minerva," said Albus. "His relatives may be a little ... difficult."
"What did you do to them?" asked Minerva, suspiciously.
"Why, nothing really," Albus looked shifty. "The wards make them accept him as kin, but they will not be mollycoddling him."
Minerva pursed her lips. That sounded to her suspiciously as though Albus had left some kind of an aversion charm on the wards.
She had no idea that Harry's accidental magic had taken down that aspect of it when Vernon had first been so furious about him being on the doorstep; the baby had instinctively wanted the loud man not to dislike him.
And he never knew how close Vernon had come to mollycoddling him and spoiling him rotten when that rage suddenly evaporated, and Vernon figured out he had been played.
"Mum, there's a strange old lady come to see Harry."
"Well tell her he's out," said Petunia.
"I did but she won't believe me," said Dudley.
"How rude!" said Petunia. She dried her hands and went out into the hall. "I remember you," she said. "Harry's out; Dudley did tell you."
"You'll understand if I find it hard to believe," said Minerva.
"No, not at all," said Petunia. "The boys have different interests. Harry's gone to a military tattoo with some of his school friends."
"Whit is a military tattoo?" asked Minerva, puzzled.
"It's a display by various units; parachuting, marching with bands, gymnastics, assault courses, and this one has falconry, so Harry was dead keen. He likes his birds. Oh, and now I understand, you are the one responsible for the letter he said some prankster had written to him. He didn't show it to me, so how could I be expected to tell him that your sort wanted to get your hooks into him? I had forgotten you would probably want to spoil the brat once he reached eleven, like you did with Lily."
"Your sister was the smartest witch of her age!" said Minerva, sharply.
"She was very clever, but she had no street-smarts," said Petunia. "She let herself be bamboozled into a supposed safe house where she was sacrificed for some whimsical experiment on the part of your precious Headmaster, who told her of a ritual to protect her son, by dying for him."
"Nonsense; Albus would never do that!" said Minerva, angrily.
"Oh? When I have the letter from Lily telling me about the ritual and offering to help me do it in case Dudley was attacked, do you think I believe you?" sneered Petunia.
The back door banged.
"I'm home, Aunt Petunia!" called Harry.
"Wipe your feet! And get presentable, that letter you had isn't a hoax!" called Petunia. "You'd better come into the parlour, Professor McWhisky."
"McGonagall," said Minerva.
"It's all the same to me," she said.
Harry came through presently, carrying a tea tray, with a coke for Dudley, who had trailed into the parlour with his best gormless face on. Dudley was not as stupid as he sometimes liked to pretend, and he was well aware of what was going on. He rather enjoyed the idea of pranking the wizards who had killed his aunt and uncle before he could ever know them.
Minerva stared at Harry. He was wearing Lily hair.
"But ... but ..." she spluttered.
"Goats but, Aunt Petunia says," said Harry. "Are you really responsible for that shameful letter? As a grown-up you ought to be ashamed of yourself for such a puerile prank."
Petunia laid a hand on Harry's arm.
"If you had showed it to me, I would have known," she said. "My sister had one, your mother, and she went off to a freak school to learn to be a freak."
"A witch," said McGonagall, disapprovingly.
"What, an actress?" asked Harry.
"No, a witch. You are a wizard," said McGonagall.
"Pull the other one, it has bells on, lady," he said. "Magic is for babies; and moreover it violates the second law of thermodynamics."
"What is that?" demanded Minerva.
"A system will not produce more energy than is placed into it," said Harry. "All the magic in books and films show energy being produced which isn't coming from anywhere."
"Oh, now that's where you are wrong, Mr. Potter," said Minerva. "And it's the basis of Gamp's law which says you cannot summon food, because all summoned articles will return from whence they came, the surrounding ambient heat of where you summon them, and of course that would do terrible things inside your body once the digestive process was underway."
"Ewww, yes," said Harry. "So you're saying it comes from ambient heat?"
"And within the power of the witch or wizard themselves," said Minerva. "The food a magical child is expected to eat in order to produce that energy is between two and three times what is needed for a muggle child, as they burn off those calories in learning to use magic"
"Huh, interesting," said Harry. "Assuming that I go along with this farce for a while, and let you come up with logical self-consistency. Of course, a bit of proof would be even better"
Minerva got out her wand, and turned an occasional table into a pig. Petunia yelped. Harry put out his hand automatically and turned it back.
"You didn't ought to do that to people's furnishings without warning, it's very rude," he said "Are you okay, Aunt Petunia?"
"It's better than a cloud raining tadpoles, which that Snape boy did to me once," sighed Petunia. "Harry, did you put that back?"
Harry looked at his hand, and shrugged.
"I guess I did," he said. "Maybe it's not a fraud after all. I don't like their manners though. Seem to think they can walk all over us, and that letter was pretty peremptory as well. And telling me to 'owl a reply' whatever that means."
He glared at Minerva.
"I'm sorry, Harry, you must have got the standard letter for those of wizarding parents who know what it all means," said Minerva. "The muggleborn receive a letter which explains that a member of the faculty will visit them."
"What a derogatory term," said Harry. "I think first generation would be nicer; muggle sounds very nasty. Mundane would be politer."
"Er, yes, but it is the way things are," said Minerva. "And you may hear worse terms for mu ... first generation people."
"Mudblood," spat Petunia. "Yes, the pure bloods have such pretty ways, exquisite bows, beautiful courtesies to each other and potty mouths."
"I'm afraid that's so in some cases," said Minerva, sadly.
"What does your school teach?" asked Harry.
"Transfiguration, Charms, Defence against the Dark Arts, Potions, Astronomy, Herbology and History of Magic," said Minerva "In the third year there are electives of Care of Magical Beasts, Arithmancy, Runes, Muggle studies and Divination."
"And the rest of the time on the curriculum for the first and second years is taken up with things like English, Mathematics, Sciences, History, Geography, Civics, and a couple of sports?" asked Harry.
"Oh, no, you aren't expected to continue to learn muggle subjects," said Minerva. "Quiddich, our sport, is an extracurricular activity."
"Nothing doing then," said Harry. "Sounds boring. My extracurricular activities include hawking, shooting, flying an aeroplane, kayacking and sailing. We do sports as part of the curriculum and I really enjoy my lessons. You don't have anything to offer me."
"Don't you want to learn about magic?"
"Not really. If I can fix an assault on our table by some weirdo, I know all I need to know," he shrugged.
"Mr. Potter, you do not know all you need to know," said Minerva, sharply. "By learning to focus your magic in classes, you avoid having bouts of accidental magic, which can be deadly. Only when you have learned control can you say you have learned all you need to know."
Harry regarded her thoughtfully.
"I want you to swear an oath that this is true," he said.
Minerva gaped, but got out her wand.
"I swear on my magic that it is true that magic needs formal training not to be dangerous," she said. A gold glow enfolded her and her wand. She then said "Lumos!" and a light glowed at the end of her wand. "A magical oath binds the caster, and if I had lied, it would have taken my magic and I would not have been able to cast the lumos spell."
"You could just be saying that, but I suppose I have to believe you," said Harry. "What other school options do I have? Could I have a tutor in the holidays to keep my magic in check? Or what about other schools?"
"Tutors would be possible in theory, and there are other schools, but your place in Hogwarts is already paid for, by your parents, and they would have wanted you to be there," said Minerva.
"That's easy for you to say when your lot got them killed," said Harry.
"Oh Albus, what have you done?" moaned Minerva. "I told him he should have you raised by a wizarding family so you knew about the society, I said he shouldn't leave you here!"
"So you are complicit with leaving a toddler on the doorstep in the middle of the night on one of the coldest days of the year, without ascertaining whether the family was even at home to take him in?" demanded Harry. "And you want me to go to school with a ruddy child abuser like you? I'm thinking of calling the police and having you arrested." His rage caused the ornaments to rattle.
"Harry!" Petunia said sharply "Breathe!"
Harry took deep breathes and the magic flying off him subsided.
"Albus Dumbledore did not want to wake you in the middle of the night," said Minerva.
"Then he should have come at a reasonable time of day and spoken to me directly," said Petunia. "Suppose Harry had frozen to death? Or got up to go look for Lily, and wandered into the road and was run over by a truck? Or wandered off and got lost and died of exposure? Supposing we had been away for a night or two? Your Albus Dumbledore might be mighty and powerful in magic, but he's decidedly wanting when it comes to intellect"
"And I get to go to a school where this child abuser is a headmaster? What sort of laws do you have protecting children?" demanded Harry. "First thing I'm going to do if you make me go to this school is to get me a wizard lawyer and have you and this Dumb character up on charges."
"Harry, please," said Minerva "Albus Dumbledore always has his very good reasons for doing things. He wouldn't leave you without charms to keep you warm and prevent you from wandering off."
"A lot of good that would have done if my uncle and aunt had been in Brighton for a week on holiday," said Harry, cynically.
"He checked they were at home," said Minerva, hoping that he had. "It was a time of great confusion and putting you somewhere safe, where the followers of You-Know-Who couldn't find you was of paramount importance."
"No," said Harry.
"I beg your pardon?" Minerva stared.
"No, I don't know who," said Harry. "Are all witches and wizards this childish?"
"Names can have power," she said. "His name is Lord Voldermort."
"Lord Flees-death? What a stupid name," said Harry. "Better than 'You-know-who' though, which makes him win by having people scared to say his ... his nom de guerre, 'cos I bet it ain't his real name. You imply he could hear if someone said his name?"
"It ... it might have been so," said Minerva.
"Huh, well, if everyone in Wizarding Britain chanted 'Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldemort' for two minutes at eight o'clock in the morning every day, I wager that if he could hear it, he'd have too much of a headache for the rest of the day to do any terroristing," said Harry. "Anyway, he's supposed to be dead; at least, Aunt Petunia said the terrorist who killed my parents is dead. How cowardly do you have to be to fail to say the name of a dead man?" he sneered.
"I am not cowardly!" snapped McGonagall.
Harry smirked inwardly. Score one for team Dursley. She'd lost her rag.
"Harry, whatever you do, Dumbledore is going to insist on you going to Hogwarts," said Minerva, tiredly. "He sees the big picture, and he wants you in the castle as the safest place in Britain"
"Now I recall you just saying that he felt me safe here," said Harry. "So which is it? Here, or Hogwarts? Does that mean I'm not allowed to come back to Privet Drive ever again if I go off to your freak school?"
"No, of course not, in fact Albus says you have to return each summer to renew the wards," said Minerva.
"Well, he can't have it both ways, can he?" said Harry. "Either I'm safe here because of these wards, or I'm not. Why should I leave them for the dubious safety of a school run by someone who sounds like a nutter, and who has no idea when it comes to childcare? Why can't I have a tutor?"
"I'm going to kill Albus when I see him," muttered Minerva, who was quickly coming unravelled. "Because Albus Dumbledore is also the chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and he can have a court order placed to have you ordered to Hogwarts. And he will do it if you are recalcitrant, I fear."
"And I take it you support such a heavy handed tyranny?" asked Harry, coldly.
Minerva could not meet the searing green eyes so like Lily's.
"I ... I think Albus has been less than good in his judgement in his later years," she said. "But I am afraid to cross him."
"There, now, honesty is the best policy, Uncle Vernon always says so," said Harry kindly, patting her on the arm and pouring her another cup of tea. "It's a little cold," he said, with a frown, absently warming it.
"Did you just perform a warming charm?" whispered Minerva.
"Is that what it's called? I thought it was a parlour trick," said Harry.
"No, it is a warming charm, perfectly performed with magic," said McGonagall, tight lipped.
"That's such a disappointment," mourned Harry. "I thought my little parlour tricks were instances of using the force and I so hoped I might turn out to be a Jedi. Or a Vulcan," he added.
"Listen, Albus will make you come to the school, so you might as well make it easy not hard," said Minerva.
"Does he force all first generation witches and wizards to go?" asked Harry.
"No, those who do not want anything to do with it have their magic bound, and their memories of the magical world removed," said Minerva.
"High handed," said Harry. "And you won't bind my magic and let me forget your shenanigans?"
"No, you are too important to be lost to the wizarding world," said Minerva. "But I will help you to avoid too much contact alone with him; I am head of House Gryffindor, where you are likely to be sorted. Both your parents were in Gryffindor."
"Is it compulsory that I follow them?" asked Harry.
Minerva looked startled.
"Well, no, but I had assumed ..."
"To assume makes an Ass out of U and Me," said Harry, gravely. "I will see what happens."
"Well! If by some strange chance you are not sorted into Gryffindor, you must insist that your head of house accompanies you at all times to see the headmaster. And don't meet his eyes; he is a legilimens," she added, flushing.
"He reads minds? Isn't that assault?" asked Harry.
"He ... it means he knows if people are lying, which helps him do his job."
"Most headmasters do that by reading body language and by knowledge of the student; so he cheats and assaults his students as well as bending the law to his purpose. Does he fuck little girls as well?" asked Harry.
"Harry Potter!" Minerva was shocked.
"Well, does he?" asked Harry.
"No, of course not," said Minerva. Harry shrugged.
"Oh, well, an abuser of one kind is not always an abuser of another," he said.
Petunia was glad she had turned on the tape recorder she had prepared for this meeting. Vernon would be so proud of the boy.
"Well, as you appear to have accepted that you are going to Hogwarts ..."
"Accepted, no. Resigned to the abuses and tyrannies of the headmaster, yes. And be aware, when I am old enough to do so, I will bring him down, Professor, and the question then will be if you support him, or me," said Harry.
"He does not mean you ill," Minerva tried.
"He goes a bloody funny way about it," said Harry.
"Language," said Petunia.
"My apologies, Aunt Petunia, and for using a crude descriptive earlier."
"Under the circumstances, I forgave that one," said Petunia. "I fear you are going to Hogwarts, though."
"Yes, he is," said Minerva. "And we need a good date for me to show him around Diagon Alley to get the kit on his kit list."
"I can go on my own, thank you," said Harry. "Uncle Vernon will drop me off if you tell me where to find it, and you'll have to send me another kit list as well as sending me directions; I burned the first one."
"Of course," said Minerva. "And as you have been reared by mu ... mundanes, I will send you the kit list for, er, first generation witches and wizards, which includes a few orientation books and booklets."
"Thank you," said Harry, who figured he already had more than she would put on her list. "I am very sorry. I am very sorry that I have ever met you or heard of your world. However, I will not cause unnecessary trouble in the school in which I am to be incarcerated, since it would be unfair to the other pupils."
"Thank you, Mr. Potter," said Minerva, reflecting that a child whose magical core rolled magic out the way Harry's did could cause more trouble, if he put his mind to it, than all the Marauders and the Weasley twins added together. "I will send your vault key for Gringotts with it"
That magic rolled forth again and the window shook as well as the ornaments. Petunia thumped him on the back, and Harry fought himself back under control.
"And why do YOU have my vault key for ... I assume ... my parents' account?" he asked, coldly. "My aunt and uncle have gone without occasionally to see both of us had what we needed to go to the Montessori school and for me to go to Smeltings. If I had known there was a legacy I could have helped out."
"It is your school vault for school supplies," said Minerva. "I believe Albus found the key in the debris of your parents' house. You will not be eligible to touch their full legacy until you are seventeen."
"Dumbthedork again; why am I not surprised?" said Harry. "I'd be obliged if you also mail me anything else he 'just happened to find' in the debris or anything that belonged to my parents. I am sure my lawyer is going to be very interested in all this. And if it was my school vault, then paying for Montessori and Smeltings would have been eligible. I so am going to have a big civil case against the headmaster when I am grown up."
"If you live to grow up and they don't sacrifice you to Mouldyshorts," said Dudley. Harry grinned at him out of sight of Minerva as she looked horrified.
"Such a thing would not happen!" she cried.
"Fine. But first time I'm put in danger, I'm outa there," said Harry.
"Hogwarts is the safest place in the world," said Minerva.
"Sure," said Harry. "Of course it is"
Minerva found herself swept out, feeling rather as though she was being humoured.
Diagon Alley was now a known quantity. Harry already had all the books on the book list for the first year, and most of those for up to the fourth year in the core subjects. It was all very straightforward, and he did not expect to have any trouble with school work. He was good at writing structured essays, it being a subject taught at Smeltings as a matter of course. Vernon had let him have the use of his old schoolbooks and notes, to keep up with his studies. Not that Vernon's notes were going to be terribly useful, since he was an indifferent student in everything except Maths, but the text books would be handy.
Harry went to Gringotts, and queued to see a teller.
"Good afternoon, may your gold increase and your enemies be shorter by a head," he said. The teller's customary sneer slipped.
"May your wealth outstrip all expectations as your enemies bleed on the floor," he returned. Harry gave him a feral grin.
"I'll probably settle for stripping them of all their assets and making them live to regret irritating me," he said.
"Are you sure you aren't a goblin in disguise?" asked the teller.
"Alas no, I think goblins have more fun than wizards do, but now I'm a wizard I must make the best of it," said Harry. "My name is Harry Potter and I believe I have a school vault; my key."
"You don't look much like the pictures in the books about you," said the goblin.
"Bartok," said Harry, reading the name off the name tag, "You don't look much like David Bowie, who is king of the goblins in a fiction. Likewise, those books are fiction."
"I accept the rebuke," said Bartok. "My apologies, Mr. Potter."
"Accepted. I would like to know how to get bank statements as well, now I'm here."
"Bank statements are sent out automatically as soon as you are 10 years old," he said.
"They may be sent, but none of them have arrived," said Harry. "So, tell me, good Bartok, is there a way Dumbthedork can stop me getting them? Or have they been going to him as he has held on to my key?"
"They should come to you regardless," said Bartok. "I'll arrange to have you scanned for mail wards when you've been to your vault. Er, did you want anyone else to have access to it?"
"No, I do not," said Harry. "Although I would have liked to have had access to it for my schooling prior to Hogwarts, to help out my family. Family is the heart of the being of any warrior."
"You know your goblin lore, Mr. Potter," said Bartok. "I don't normally go out of my way for wizards, but I'll certainly put a lock on your account to any other key. Keep it safe!"
"I will," said Harry. He soon found himself with another goblin called Griphook taking a wild roller-coaster ride, which had him whooping.
"Can it go faster?" he asked Griphook.
"No other speed, can't slow down ... did you say faster?"
"Hell, yes," said Harry.
Griphook gave an evil grin and pulled a lever, and Harry left his belly behind.
"YES!" he shouted.
He bought a pouch which was charmed thief proof and to return to him if lost, as well as being featherlight, and he decided to stow his key in there as well. He took plenty of money; his entry into the wizarding world was important, and he needed to be well equipped, not just for school, but with good robes and other equipment. Except he would be using his own telescope from astronomy and navigation club from Smeltings; the one on the list was, in Harry's idiom, naff.
He was led to a room on the way out, where a grizzled goblin ran a device over him, grunted a few times, and asked,
"You want the mail wards and tracking charms off, squire?"
"Please," said Harry.
The goblin nodded and the device hummed a bit.
"Done," said the goblin, turning and leaving.
Presumably, thought Harry, his middle name was 'taciturn.'
Money obtained, Harry bought a trunk with an inside larger than the outside, and featherlight and reducing charms on the outside, keyed to his own blood, to make it anti-tamper. Then he headed for Flourish and Blott's.
He bought a few more books on runes, the introductory books for muggle studies, divination and care of magical beasts, to give him more choices when the electives came along, or in case he decided to study all of them on his own time, and some more books on Wizarding law, genealogy and politics. He also bought a book on tracking charms, and how to detect and remove them. Then he went to purchase robes.
There was another boy in there, a blond boy with a pointed chin.
"Hogwarts?" asked the boy.
"Yes," said Harry. "And I need more robes for everyday as well as school robes."
"You're our sort, then, not some kind of mudblood."
"What an offensive word for someone who pretends to be a gentleman," said Harry. "I'm a half-blood, as it happens, and I feel that rather than running down those who are first generation, it behoves any gentleman to teach them the proper way to go on in Wizarding society. If they then reject the ways of their new life, one might be at liberty to despise them, but forgive me, aren't you heir Malfoy, and didn't you have an aunt who was a squib?"
"I am heir Malfoy, and yes, I did, what's that to the point?"
"The point is that people who are inbred soon produce squibs, or those with worse inbreeding problems. I have seen it suggested that the entire of the Black family are barking mad."
"Not my mother," said Malfoy, defensively.
"My apologies; no offence meant to your mother," said Harry. "I'd forgotten she was a Black, please forgive me."
"Accepted," said Malfoy. "Um, whom am I addressing?"
"To be honest, I'm not sure if I count as heir Potter or Lord Potter," said Harry. "The statutes seem to be a little vague in their designation of a minor who is the last of his line."
"I'd hold off claiming Lordship for a while," said Draco. "It's a lot of hard work which you could do without while you're at school. Leave it to your steward. Who is your steward, and who is your magical guardian?"
"Now that, heir Malfoy, is why I am at a bit of a loss," said Harry "You see, I've been raised by mundane relatives – a less offensive word, I think, then muggle – who have done their best to see me properly educated to rejoin the wizarding world, but they are, of course, limited."
"Merlin!" breathed Draco. "And please will you call me Draco?" he extended a hand.
"Harry," Harry shook the hand. "And please don't say I don't look like those wretched books. I've noticed."
"I've seen a picture of your father, and they're based on him," he said. "I ... I have to say your relatives have done pretty well."
"Yes, I'm proud of them for embracing a world they cannot fully enter," said Harry "I wonder how well many witches and wizards would cope if they had to educate a child to enter the muggle world."
"Not half as well, actually," said Draco, feeling a sneaking respect for those muggles. "Well, I'm glad you're not a Weasley; they are definitely the wrong sort to know."
"Draco," said Harry, "I'll listen to your comments, but I'm going to make up my own mind on who is the right person to know. I haven't yet decided if my politics will be traditionalist or radical, or somewhere in between, or indeed, my own path. Probably my own path. I don't trust Dumbledore, and to be honest, I'm not about to ally with people who supported the killer of my parents. You take my point, of course, old boy?"
"Um, yes," said Draco. "Actually, yes, I really can understand that."
"I do want to ask you a question, though," said Harry.
"I'll do my best to answer it," said Draco.
"Do many wizards speak to snakes?" asked Harry.
Draco was shocked.
"No! Salazar Slytherin, founder of Slytherin House, was a parselmouth, and so was ... the dark lord, but I don't know of any others."
"What about Paracelsus?" asked Harry.
"Oh, yeah, and Herpo the Foul," said Draco. "But it's not common. Do you ..."
"Yes, and I'm torn between getting a snake as a familiar or a hawk of some kind, a Saker, maybe, because I really like falconry," said Harry. "Parselmouth, is that what it's called? I wonder if there are any books on it?"
"I dunno, but I doubt you'll find any in Flourish and Blotts," said Draco. "You could try the secondhand bookshop; I mean, normally one wouldn't buy secondhand, but sometimes there are some gems of books that are out of print or rare."
"Cool," said Harry.
"I can ask my dad, too," said Draco. "He's into falconry as well. Where did you learn?"
"At my old school which Dumbledore insists I have to leave," said Harry, bitterly. "And by the way, the telescope on my kit list isn't half so good as the one you can buy in the muggle shop just down the road from the Leaky Cauldron; because I'm keeping my muggle telescope, thank you very much."
"Thanks for the tip," said Draco. "And you need to get a couple of extra books for potions, and there's a little shop at the top of Knockturn Alley which sells better quality potion supplies, scales and so on."
"Thanks," said Harry.
He did not think much of what he had read about the older Malfoy, but that was no reason to blow off the man's son. Even if he didn't like him. And they had traded favours. Uncle Vernon had taught him how to be civil to people he did not like, so long as they played by the rules.
When it was Harry's turn to be measured, he ordered a set of everything Madam Malkin thought he might need, as he had grown out of his previous year's clothes. It was easier.
He duly got the potion supplies Draco recommended, and was pleased with the quality. He bought a second set for Petunia. He already had the books Draco had mentioned, and cursed that he had been sidetracked by his abilities as a parselmouth and had forgotten to ask how to find out about a magical guardian.
Well, it would wait.
Harry was almost late for the train; events had conspired against him. He was in time to see a large family of redheads, and the materfamilias was holding forth very loudly about lots of muggles and asking for a reminder of the platform number. It was provided by the only girl in the group. The oldest boy was busy bleating,
"Mum, statute of secrecy."
Harry let them go through the barrier, and then followed them, able to be more agile for having his shrunken trunk in his pocket. Harry sauntered along the train and got on, while the red-heads shouted, quarrelled, and made a huge to-do about the whole business. Harry shuddered. His aunt would call them chavs, and would never let him play with them. Unfortunately the younger of the four boys was rubbernecking enough to look as though he was a fellow first year. Harry went in search of other first years
He found Draco in a compartment with two lumpy-looking boys and a girl who looked like a pug.
"Draco," he nodded formally.
"Harry," Draco nodded back. "Vince Crabbe, Greg Goyle and Pansy Parkinson."
"Aren't you supposed to introduce a lady first?" asked Harry, kissing Pansy's hand.
"She's not a lady, she's Pansy," said Draco. He got poked for his pains, accompanied by an outraged screech. "I'm afraid we're contracted to be betrothed"
"Bad luck," said Harry, then added quickly, "being betrothed, not necessarily who."
"Well saved," said Pansy, sourly.
"Did you ever find out who your magical guardian is?" asked Draco. "You might have a contract as well."
Harry's eyes went wild.
"I, uh, hadn't got to that, but I have a horrid feeling it might turn out to be Dumbledore," he mumbled.
"Damn, that's a pill," said Draco. "But say, you're my cousin; I could maybe get my mum to apply to be your magical guardian."
"I'll certainly be glad to consider holding that in reserve if she was willing," said Harry. He knew no harm, after all, of Narcissa Black Malfoy, other than some dodgy politics, and he knew plenty he did not like about Dumbledlore.
"Draco, you said at least I wasn't a Weasley. Would that be because of my hair?"
"I see you've met the hoard of poverty-stricken blood traitors," said Draco.
"I don't care that much about either their politics or their economic status, but I'm inclined to believe you that they are not the right sort," said Harry.
"What convinced you then?" Draco was genuinely puzzled and interested.
"The volume," said Harry. "Man, that woman's voice could bite through glass, chew on the shards and swallow them. The oldest boy is ashamed of her, the youngest boy looks gormless, the girl was whining that she wanted to see Harry Potter, so nothing much above the neck there. The twins, I think they are twins, look jolly and they weren't as loud."
Draco nodded gloomily.
"They're just ... low," he said. "But they are favourites of Dumbledore's, being muggle lovers. And I mean without thinking, because they've got nothing to think with. Do you want us to squeeze up?"
"No, it's okay, thanks, I was planning to circulate and press flesh and start networking," said Harry. He made himself not frown. Favourites of Dumbledore, shouting out about the wizarding world's secrets. Hmm, suspicious much?
"I thought you said you weren't interested in politics?" said Draco.
"I never said that. I said I wasn't sure yet where I stood in the matter of politics. And I need to find those people connected to the Potter alliance, to decide whether I want them around if I revive it or not. You know."
"Harry, how come you know so much, and me, a pure blood, doesn't know how to do that?" Draco was aggrieved.
"Well, Draco, it's like this. Mundane public schools, those you pay fees for like Hogwarts, with a board of governors, are much like the wizarding world in many ways. There are rules about etiquette, and it's important to make the right friends and influence the right people. I passed my exams to move to my uncle's old school two years young, and he taught me how to do it."
"Well I'm damned," said Draco. "Plainly there's more to Muggles, mundanes, even, than I realised; that there's a right kind and a wrong kind. Harry's mu-undane relatives went out of their way to prepare him for coming to the wizarding world, and to find out what he needed to know. I told my father about that, and he was willing to give them kudos."
"Are you Harry Potter?" asked Greg.
"Yes," said Harry. "Books; fiction. Not about me. Don't even look like me."
"Right," said Greg. "Do you have the scar?"
"Nope," said Harry. "Muggle medicine got rid of it."
"Everyone says it was impossible to remove with magic," he said, awed
"Muggles don't do things better or worse; they do them differently," he said. "And as nobody bothered to try to use magic to get rid of my scar, then we can't be sure it couldn't do it. I just know that my aunt and uncle pestered the medicos until they managed to get rid of it."
"How do you know nobody tried to get rid of it?" asked Vince.
"Well, Vince, my parents died on October 31st, some time in the afternoon or evening, I believe," said Harry. "I was left on my relatives' doorstep some time after midnight on the very early morning of November 1st. So you think there was time for anyone to try any serious magic?"
"Nobody would leave a baby on a doorstep!" Pansy gasped.
"Congratulations, Pansy, you passed the intelligence test Dumbledore failed," said Harry. "Now I really must go and network. I'll pop in later."
"So you're the niece of the head of the DMLE, Susan? Wow, do you know all about the law, or are you avoiding learning?"
Susan Bones laughed.
"I know a fair bit about the law," she said.
Harry grinned at her.
"Now should I wonder if that's to use it to get off on a loophole when you've been caught, or because you actually behave yourself?" he teased.
"A bit of both, you bad boy," said Susan.
"May I pick your brains? Being muggle-raised, I may have got the wrong idea," said Harry, with a wistful smile.
"I'll do my best to answer any questions."
"Isn't it against the statute of secrecy to hold forth about wizarding things in a public place?" asked Harry.
"Yes, totally, it occasions a reprimand and often a stiff fine," said Susan. "You haven't been, have you?"
"Oh! No, not me," said Harry. "But as I was coming through the barrier, there was this ghastly red-haired woman screeching about how many muggles there were, and asking at the top of her horrible voice which platform it was for the Hogwarts express. She had four boys and a girl with her."
"Oh, my goodness, it sounds like Molly Weasley," said Susan. "I know Ron; he's our age." Her face said that she wished she did not know Ron. "I can't think what could have got into Mrs. Weasley, she went to school at Hogwarts, and so have all her children. Do you think someone might have confounded her?"
"I don't know; it struck me as odd."
"I'll write to my aunt, and she'll have a word with Mrs. Weasley," she promised.
"Probably a good idea," said Harry, meekly. Inside he smirked; Dumbthedork's tool would get a dressing down, even if the word Madam Bones had was a friendly one.
Harry was not sure what to make of the Granger girl when he helped her find heir Longbottom's toad. He did, however, pull her aside, and loan her his book on etiquette.
"But I am perfectly polite," said Granger.
"No you aren't," said Harry. "You're like some chav turning up in France to watch a football match and insulting the locals about snail-eating. Read that, and you'll see what I mean, and it should have been on the list McGonagall gives out."
"You should call her Professor McGonagall."
"If she shows herself to be more professional than the day she was an accomplice to Dumbledore in leaving a toddler on a doorstep in the middle of a winter's night, I'll grant her the honorific," said Harry.
"Oh Harry! You can't have got that right, or someone's been telling you tall stories, Dumbledore wouldn't do something like that!"
"It was me who was left. And before you accuse my aunt and uncle of lying, McGonagall confirmed it when she visited. There's a lot of twaddle written about Dumbledore, because he's so powerful people don't dare write anything that isn't complimentary about him. He may be a powerful wizard, but he's a user, and he is not a very nice man. Now, the pictures I've seen of him show his eyes twinkling and offering sweeties. Didn't you do The Talk at primary school about men who smile kindly and offer sweeties?"
"Are you saying he ..."
"All I'm saying is that he smiles a lot and offers sweeties, and has been known to practice abuse by abandonment in the past," said Harry "Haven't you noticed that most of the history books are published by the same firm? They all tell the same line."
"But books don't lie," said Hermione, horrified. "It's in print!"
"Hermione Jane Granger, have you never read the nonsense that is in the tabloids? That's in print. What about the fact that the Jews are responsible for all the ills of the world? Mein Kampf. A book. Printed. Have you seen the books in the history section supposed to be about Harry Potter? I mean, really, I was supposed to take down a manticore at the age of five? I wouldn't know how to take down a manticore now!"
"You're Harry Potter? But you don't look anything like ... oh. Lies."
"Lies. It's a picture of my dad with my mum's eyes, and the scar nobody in the wizarding world tried to get rid of. Muggle surgery did though," said Harry. "I will be sueing the writers of that twaddle, of course, but life got very busy when McGonagall told me I had to go to Hogwarts and I would be kidnapped and made to go if I did not, because as Chief Warlock, Dumbledore can write the laws to suit him."
Hermione went pale.
"I ... I admired her! And he sounded so ... so ..."
"Like Merlin? A carefully cultivated image. I loved my other school, I was up to secondary school early, and I was going to start flying lessons this year, having mastered the glider. And sailing, shooting, falconry and the best labs I've ever seen, and a maths section to die for, and computers for every subject."
"Oh my!" said Hermione, almost drooling. "I can see why you wanted to stay. But that's iniquitous! What are you going to do?"
"Work hard with my uncle's mundane books to try to keep up, work hard on the spell work, exercise passive resistance to Dumbthedork, keep fit, and have a tutor in the hols to check I'm keeping up," said Harry. "My Chemistry teacher volunteered; we get on well. He's a fully qualified pilot too. Oh, you'll want to read this, too," he passed her his supplemental potions book. She frowned.
"That looks like it explains the fundamentals the text book assumes you know."
"Yes, because apparently Snape is a bit of a bastard to people outside of Slytherin," said Harry, shrugging.
"Will you study with me? Muggle subjects too?"
"So long as you don't try to boss me," said Harry. "I have enough of bossy women with my aunt. Stay a good pal and don't turn into a female, and I'm fine with it."
"I'd like to be your pal," said Hermione, firmly. "Well, I don't want to be a Gryffindor any more, where do you want to go?"
"I fancy both of us would be a shoe-in for Slytherin but we'd have to watch out all the time for people who don't like first generation and half bloods," said Harry. "I thought it would be particularly Slytherinish to go into Hufflepuff, and look harmless. Moreover, we'd be sharing with the niece and heir of the head of the DMLE, which means we have our own Legal Eagle on tap. And Susan is nice, which is always a bonus."
Minerva McGonagall had Hermione tapped to be Ravenclaw, and hoped she would be Gryffindor for her indomitable spirit. Being a Hufflepuff confused her no end.
That Harry Potter also went into Hufflepuff was mystifying.
It was not such a surprise to lose the Longbottom boy to the Badgers
Most of the staff stared at Harry in bewilderment as he sorted. Snape gasped and swayed in his seat as quizzical green eyes turned his way under a shining cap of auburn hair.
"You showed me pictures of him looking like James," he hissed to Dumbledore.
"I really don't understand it," said Dumbledore, perplexed. "Arabella Figg took photographs. I ... that can't be the Dursley cousin can it? He might look like his aunt ..."
"We'll soon find out in lessons," hissed Snape. "Minerva! Are you sure that's Potter, not the Dursley boy?"
"Of course it's Potter; he's the dead spit of Lily," said Minerva. "I was taken aback, fooled by the doctored pictures of James that Albus has been using on those children's stories. The Dursley boy is a big beefy blond."
"They are not doctored pictures of James, they are the pictures Arabella took," said Dumbledore.
"Then maybe she's been feathering her nest at your expense and used old pictures of James to save herself trouble," said Snape, maliciously. "What sort of reports has she given you?"
"Well, nothing much," said Dumbledore. "The uncle is impatient with him when he's doing chores, but that's it."
"If you'd picked someone who knew how to live amongst muggles, not a batty old cat woman, they would have known who his friends are, what his favourite food is, what football team, if any, he follows, and what his grades are like," said Snape, sarcastically.
"And I suppose you could have done better?" said Minerva.
"Of course I could, if only I wasn't known to Petunia," said Snape. "I could have taken a job in the local primary school, played golf with Vernon – I am sure he plays golf, he's the sort who would, even if my memory is faulty – and found out everything down to how often the boy wanks."
"Now that was uncalled for," said Minerva. "I can tell you that he's really keen on flying,"
"He can't have a broom there!" Snape's voice was harsh.
"Aeroplanes, Severus. They have training ones at his school," said Minerva.
"Wbat sort of school has aeroplanes? He was lying," sneered Snape.
"Very expensive schools," said Minerva. "I looked up the prospectus; he wasn't lying. He was angry that if his school vault was for education, he could have helped out his aunt and uncle in sending him there."
"So despite the headmaster saying he had a hard life, he is a pampered prince," said Snape.
"I think he has to work hard for the privileges; he has muscles like whipcord, and he went on to that school two years early. You don't work hard enough to go early to a school with an entry exam if you're a pampered prince."
Snape conceded this.
"We'll see how he adapts to our world," he said.
"You aren't Harry Potter," said the red haired Gryffindor.
"Excuse me? I believe I should know who I am," said Harry. "My name is Harry James Potter, and apparently Gringotts agree with me, because they let me in."
"You can't be Harry Potter, you don't look like him!" the red head was going red in the face too.
"I look like me, and I'm Harry Potter. I am not, and I never have been, the little twat in those stupid adventure books," said Harry. "I am also not Spartacus, but I doubt you'd get that mundane literary reference."
Hermione sniggered. She got it. She mouthed "Tell you later", to Sue, Hannah, and Neville as Justin was nodding. They had made good friends in Hufflepuff.
Ron actually stamped his foot.
"You are an imposter!" he screeched "Everyone knows Harry Potter is the image of his father, and you are not Harry Potter!" he drew wand. Sue squeaked, and Harry folded his arms, power roiling off him, and curling into a shield, for anyone who had enough understanding to see it.
The rude red-haired boy did not have enough understanding, and cast ... something.
"Mr. Weasley! Twenty points from Gryffindor for duelling ... for attacking an unarmed student in the corridor," said Snape, silkily. "Potter, very restrained. What would you have done if a spell of his had hit one of your little girl friends?"
"It wouldn't sir. I am shielded, and extended it to them," said Harry. "If I couldn't shield, I'd have rammed his teeth so far down his stupid throat he'd have been chewing turds."
"Five points from Hufflepuff for a far too graphic description," said Snape. "Mr. Potter, I am sure you are aware how like your mother you look."
"Yes, sir, and my aunt likes it that way," said Harry.
Snape bent down and said in a low voice,
"You're a metamorphagus, aren't you?"
"I'm not sure, sir, but life and appearance are about choices."
"I suggest you read about metamorphagi," said Snape, neutrally, and strode on his way.
"And as Professor Snape points out, I look like my mother," said Harry. "And if those stupid books are based on pictures of my father, it doesn't make him look very good does it?"
"What do you mean? The Harry Potter in the books is a hero!" shouted Weasley.
"Nope, he's a nincompoop," said Harry. "I read them, so I know how many ways to sue the perpetrator of such drivel, which I will be doing. And the so-called hero is a brainless, beef-witted little fool who has no thought for his own safety or that of other people. He is careless of his friends and relatives, and he breaks rules left right and centre. I am appalled to be associated with that travesty, and I'm glad I don't look like him."
Snape, lurking round the corner, was chuckling to himself. Potter had his mother's way with words too, but knew how to direct the temper. Nincompoop! Wonderful description of James. Well, Dumbledore had better look out if Potter really did sue.
"What you are describing, Harry, is a typical Gryffindor," drawled Draco, adorned by the inevitable Pansy and with Crabbe and Goyle as accessories.
"Oh, that would explain it, Draco," said Harry.
"Draco? You call Malfoy by his first name?" Weasley was disgusted.
"He is my cousin, you know," said Harry. Weasley goggled.
"You've gone dark, that's what it is," he said.
"Are your whole family stupid, Weasley?" asked Harry "I heard your mother telling every mundane in England how there were too many of them, and how she couldn't remember which platform to use, despite having already brought a positive hoard of you to school. Your prefect brother knows what's what, he remembered the statute of secrecy, but maybe it's all the childbearing has drained your mother's brain out between her legs. Never heard of contraceptives I suppose as well as being a big blood snob to complain about muggles using their own railway station."
"I'll get you for that, Potter!"
"Oh, Harry, did you have to insult his mother?" said Hermione.
"He wants to fight me, might as well get it over with," shrugged Harry, swaying out of the way of a roundhouse punch from Ron. A quick kick to the knee and a chop to the shoulder blades had the redhead on the floor. "Weasley; I don't like you, but I didn't start this, as many people can testify if you go telling lying tales. I insulted your mother, and you insulted mine by failing to accept that I look like her. Honours are even on that score. You fired a spell at me and missed and punched me, and missed. I hit you and did not miss. I don't care if you have fallen in love with the fictional scarhead in the books, but don't take out your sexual frustrations on me."
Harry had forgotten that he had been around boys two years his senior and had been a party to much riper conversations than most eleven year olds hear.
It raised a laugh from the audience, however.
"Potter, what do you get if you add wormwood and asphodel?" Snape asked.
"Symbolically, you get regret and bitterness over the death of a loved one, and you need a good bit more than that ingredient-wise to make the draught of living death," said Harry.
"And what is the counter to the draught of living death?" asked Snape.
""The Wiggenweld Potion, sir, and a difficult one to make as it required powdered unicorn horn," said Harry.
"Well one of you reads in his spare time, anyway. Boot, where would you find a Bezoar?"
The Ravenclaw gulped
"In the potion stores under 'B'?" he guessed.
Snape sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Twenty points to Hufflepuff for making Ravenclaw look stupid," he said.
Harry loved potions. He was able to stop Neville from blowing up his cauldron by hissing to him to take it off the heat before adding porcupine quills. Snape was right, most of the class were dunderheads.
McGonagall frowned at Harry Potter.
"Mr. Potter, get your wand out and try to ... goodness gracious!"
Harry had found transfiguring the matchstick into a needle so easy he had not even bothered with his wand.
"It didn't need a wand, ma'am, pushing the magic into the visualisation was quite enough," said Harry.
"You are supposed to be using a wand to focus your will!"
"It focuses just fine without," said Harry. "After all, before wands were invented, people didn't need to fall back on lazy ways and crutches. I bet Neville would be better without that grotty antique he carries around than with it."
This was a discussion of the Hufflepuff common room, and Harry had been patiently teaching Neville to focus his magic wandlessly.
Naturally this had Hermione wanting to do it too.
She had improved a lot having read the etiquette book, however, and was less bossy than Harry suspected she might have been. She still corrected Terry Boot's pronunciation of 'Wingardium Leviosa', but as he was making a mess of it, and Hermione was able to demonstrate that her incantation worked, the Ravenclaw boy huffed a bit, and worked on his pronunciation and wand work.
Harry had a free period before the Halloween Feast, and wandered down to the dungeons.
"What do you want, Potter?" asked Snape. "You shouldn't be down here on your own, someone might jump you."
"I was rather relying on a mix of being an evil little bastard and Cousin Draco if anyone did jump me," said Harry, with a sweet smile. Snape raised an eyebrow.
"Evil little bastard?"
"Well, the hat wanted me to go into Slytherin but I told it I would be far more Slytherin if I struck from cover as a nice innocent looking Hufflepuff," said Harry. "Why was my mother a Gryffindor? So far as Aunt Petunia's stories tell me she was clever enough for Ravenclaw, loyal enough for Hufflepuff, and cunning enough for Slytherin."
"She got put off Slytherin on the train," said Severus, shortly. "Someone pointed out all the dark wizards come from Slytherin and she would have been called mudblood."
"I thought Rupert the Mad was a Gryffindor?" said Harry. "The one who tried to take the place of Rupert of the Rhine to take over Mundane England during the Civil War. Nutter."
"He was a Gryffindor and as you so rightly say, as mad as a hatter. Most people forget him."
"Including Binns, who can't remember anything if a goblin isn't involved," said Harry. "History is awfully interesting, I may have to look up how to exorcise ghosts."
"Don't get caught," said Snape. "I think it's an expulsion offence."
"Is it? I shan't get caught then," said Harry. "I came to ask you a favour."
"I'd like to know the spell of how to give someone their personal raincloud raining tadpoles."
"Petunia actually told you about that?"
"Yes, she said it was worse than having McGonagall assaulting her furnishings with transfiguration spells," said Harry. "And I guessed from your reference to Asphodel and Wormwood that you wished to send an oblique message of sympathy and shared grief and so you must be 'that Snape boy Lily hung out with', and I would love to have ... somebody ... in the damp zone of that cloud."
"You weren't going to tell me who?"
"No, sir, but I won't rat you up as the originator if I get caught for casting it," said Harry. "I'll claim to have found it in a notebook my mother left."
"Don't bug Weasley too much. The Weasleys, like your father and his friends before them, are favourites of the headmaster. You'll be the one in detention if there's any contretemps between you."
"Oh," said Harry. "Was my father as much of a prat as the false Harry Potter in the books?"
"Yes," said Snape.
Harry nodded, sagely.
"Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon didn't like him at all, either," he said. "Did he slip my mother a love potion?"
"He couldn't have brewed a love potion to save his life."
"Dumbledore could, though, couldn't he? Gryffindor princess, muggleborn, brilliant, perfect token wife for king of quidditch pure blood wealthy Dumbledore supporting bone-headed perfect weapon to point and press."
"That's a conspiracy theory that takes the biscuit."
"Aunt Petunia has a better one. My mother wrote to her about a ritual Dumbledore gave her to sacrifice her life for her baby. She offered to show Petunia how to do it for Dudley. She never trusted the wards at their hiding place, but my father was stubborn and wouldn't move. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon and I think that Dumbledore set her up to die, and used the ritual as an experiment in the hopes it killed Mr. Flees-death."
"There was a prophesy, Potter, and it referred to one born as the seventh month dies. I ... The dark lord heard of it."
"Easy enough to get someone to over-act and make a prophecy. Or to mislead people about who it referred to"
"Get out. I'll write up the spell for you, but I want you out of my office so I can think about what you've said."
"Yes, sir. My aunt says 'deep breaths' when I start breaking things; it does work," said Harry, and slipped out.
Harry was much surprised to run into a troll on his way back up to make a token appearance at the feast.
The troll was even more surprised when Harry transfigured some plumbing into a bazooka.
He was not surprised for long, however, being dead, but Harry was left shaking, never having fired a bazooka before.
"Bloody hell that has a powerful backjet," he muttered. He quickly returned the component parts into bits of plumbing and shouted, "Man in the ladies' shithouse" as he heard sobs.
The sobbing came from Millicent Bulstrode, a rather chunky girl with square, sallow features, and lank black hair.
"Hello Miss Bulstrode, did that troll mistake you for lunch?" asked Harry, who had been about to ask if the creature had got fresh with her, but remembered at the last minute having heard Weasley taunting her that she was ugly enough to need to go out with a troll.
"I think so," said Millie. "Did you kill it, Mr. Potter?"
"It appears so. You can call me Harry; it's not really a very formal situation sitting in a toilet stall together," said Harry.
"You can call me Millie," she said. "And I think my leg is broken so we can't repair to more formal situations."
"Let me see," said Harry. He examined the leg. "It's fractured but not broken badly; here, have a boneset potion," he got one out of the belt which had been another acquisition from Diagon Alley. The shrunk potion grew to size on removing it.
"Uh, do you make a habit of carrying medical potions?" asked Millie.
"Oh, yes," said Harry. "You never know what might happen, especially with a crazy abusive old coot like Dumbledore in charge of a school. And I wasn't wrong, was I?"
"No," said Millie
"What were you in here for when everyone else is stuffing their faces? Or is that a rude question, in which case I apologise," said Harry.
"Oh, Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil and Ronald Weasley were telling me how ugly I am, and I know I am, but it's not nice to hear it," said Millie.
Harry regarded her thoughtfully.
"You'll grow out of greasy hair and zits, and probably at a time when they look as zit-ridden as a mouldy pizza, because you got them early," he said. "You've got a firm bone structure but it's not ugly, and you've got nice eyes. If I was you, I'd grow out the fringe 'cos Aunt Petunia says fringes give you zits on the forehead. And if you like you can run with me in the mornings and get rid of the puppy fat. Neville is, and he's already looking tons less like a baby boy."
"He is, isn't he?" said Millie. "Will you 'Puffs mind?"
"Why would we? We're dungeon dwellers like you Slythers, not stuck in either an ivory tower like the 'Claws or so far up their own arse they can examine their own tonsils backwards like the Gryffs."
"You say the most awful things."
"I think worse," grinned Harry. "How's your leg?"
"It seems to be fine," said Millie, moving gingerly. Harry helped her up.
They met Snape and McGonagall on the way out.
"What are you doing here, Potter?" demanded McGonagall.
"Getting interrupted in my romantic assignation by an ugly great lout who didn't know three's a crowd," said Harry, waving at the troll.
"Did you kill that thing?" gasped McGonagall.
"Well, Transfiguration is the works," said Harry. "I managed to shove a bit of metal in him and when it expanded he sort of died."
That more or less covered it, anyway.
Snape gave him a suspicious look, and Harry winked at him.
After all, the potions master knew fine well that he had to have been on his way up to the feast, not making an assignation with Bulstrode. Bulstrode would tell her house master all about it, if she wanted to.
Harry had told his own crowd all about his accidental rescue of Millie Bulstrode, and the 'Puffs welcomed the lonely girl into their midst. Harry suspected that Hermione was glad to be the only other person in their muggle study group, however! The purebloods had been horrified at how easy it was to kill a troll with a muggle weapon, but impressed by Harry's transfigurational abilities.
Harry received a visit from Mr. Bulstrode, who went through Professor Snape, not the headmaster.
"Millie owes you a life debt, Mr. Potter, and I know we are a grey family not a light one, but I would like to offer alliance to you, because if the dark lord is coming back, I want nothing to do with him," he said. "It is traditional to suggest a betrothal between you and Millie, but I understand you are muggle raised?"
"Sir, if it would protect Millie, I'd be willing to have a betrothal which can be broken easily by either, so Millie can be courted when she comes into her own and the other prats realise she's going to be a stunner when she grows up," said Harry. "I'm not that idiot in the books, though Millie seems too sensible to fall for the Trope-who-lived twaddle."
"She always said those books were tripe," said Mr. Bulstrode, relieved. "If you would be happy to consider that, I'll have an agreement drawn up. I have to say, I wasn't expecting you to be so ready to embrace tradition like that."
"I've got no argument with tradition, my argument is that a wizard or a witch is special no matter what their birth status, and supportive muggle parent figures are head and shoulders above ordinary muggles or those who are not supportive," said Harry.
"Degrees of muggles? Interesting," said Mr. Bulstrode.
"Well, mine went out of their way to make sure I wasn't ignorant of what was my proper stance on things," said Harry. "And incidentally, when filing a betrothal contract, will you be able to find out if anyone has slipped one in on me without me knowing?"
"Couldn't your magical guardian do that?"
"I suspect that's Dumbledore, and it's him I suspect of considering tying me to one of his favoured families," said Harry. "And if there are get out clauses they'd probably involve me paying most of what I may be worth."
"I'll find out," said Mr. Bulstrode. "What's more, my brother is a solicitor; and if there is anything I'll have him all over it like dragonpox for loopholes."
"Thank you, sir. I might even marry Millie for a nice father-in-law," said Harry, grinning. "and as she seems to have a nice understated sense of humour, I wouldn't mind the bride either. And I look forward to starting up the Potter alliance again with you and Mr. Longbottom at my side."
Mr. Bulstrode laughed.
"You are too young to be thinking about marriage seriously, of course," he said. "But I have to say that having my girl protected in a contract means that she'd owe you for that too."
"It's what friends do," said Harry "All that Hufflepuff friendship ethic."
"Sure," said Mr. Bulstrode, who would have though Harry to be a Slytherin had his robes not sported yellow trim
Harry encountered Professor Snape, limping.
"Crumbs, sir, did that three headed dog bite you?" he asked. "Blood replenishing potion, and muscle knit potion." He dug them out and handed them over.
"Where did you get those?" demanded Snape.
"Aunt Petunia and I brewed them over the holidays so I'd have plenty to help me survive the safest place in Britain," said Harry, with heavy irony. "Aunt Petunia can brew, she's not totally without magic, you know."
Snape sniffed cautiously, tasted, and downed the potions.
"You and your aunt appear to have the touch," he said. "brewed to survive the safest place in Britian? Paranoia, much?"
"Never ask if I'm paranoid; ask if I'm paranoid enough to survive Dumbledore," said Harry, tersely. "I fear him and I don't trust him. He wants to turn me into a child soldier."
"Hmph," said Snape. "And have you peered upon Fluffy to know there's a three headed dog?"
"Do I look stupid, sir?" said Harry, injured. "Fluffy? What sort of name is that? Have you any idea how good the Hufflepuff intelligence ring is? People talk in front of us like they talk in front of children. I doubt there's anything that goes on in the castle we don't know about, well my group anyway, we're the most Slytherin Hufflepuffs so we don't always share all we know. Why is Professor Quirrel hiding whatever it is that's decaying on the back of his head with a turban and garlic, instead of going to the nurse?"
"Definitely decaying, sir, I invented a scent-analysing spell to check, and it breaks smells down into their component parts."
"You invented ... you're a first year."
"Yes, sir, but Aunt Petunia says you were always inventing spells, so I have my mother's friend to live up to."
"Write it up, and I'll sign it as your work and if you want, you can send it to be published."
"I sent a copy to Sue's auntie, because I thought aurors might find it useful,."
"Well, she won't cheat you of recognition, anyway," said Snape. "Your potions are actually rather good. Does your intelligence gathering know if Quirrel has gone to see Fluffy?"
"Oh yes, sir, he tried the night the troll gatecrashed the party," said Harry. "I wonder how long it's going to take for him to figure out all you need to do is to play some music to get it to go to sleep?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Well, Fluffy is a Cerberus, isn't he? And in mythology, you put them to sleep with music, Justin and I knew it straight away."
"And you didn't want to test your theory?"
"What for?" asked Harry. "We did sell it to the Weasley twins however. They owe us three pranks on marks of our choice, one for each head."
"I didn't need to know that," groaned Snape. "Go away, you pest. Oh, and here's your spell."
"Thank you sir!" said Harry.
Dumbledore wondered later why it was raining tadpoles just on him, and in November at that.
Dumbledore cornered Harry after breakfast.
"My dear boy, I think you should stay for Christmas," he said.
"If I was dear to you, Dumbledore, you wouldn't have left me on a doorstep ten Novembers ago," said Harry "I am a boy, but I am not yours. I think you need a grammar check."
"Harry, there's no need to be like that. I am just asking you to stay for Christmas."
"Nothing doing; I'm going home."
"Harry, you will stay for Christmas, I'll write to your aunt and uncle and ..."
"If you do, I'll tell Sue to ask her aunt what I do about you touching me up, and trying to get me into your bed," said Harry.
"Harry! I would not behave like that!"
"You have your hand on me; and you are trying to force me to be in a place without the support of a large number of people, and I read that as a way to facilitate your attempts upon my virtue," said Harry. "And I intend to go into my betrothal contract pure."
"B ... betrothal contract?" stammered Dumbledore. "What betrothal contract? I haven't made a betrothal contract for you yet."
"That was a very revealing last word," said Harry. "I am glad I got my retaliation in first, then, because as I am in a betrothal contract regarding a life-debt, a recognised and acceptable reason for a minor to sign such a thing, you can't pull another one on me. And I am staying for part of the holiday with my betrothed and her family."
"Who?" demanded Dumbledore.
Harry shook his head.
"That's for me to know and you to wonder about, old man," he said. "But don't you dare interfere or I'll be getting Sue to write to her auntie about your attempted Line Theft."
He shouldn't even know about life debts and line theft thought Dumbledore
"Harry, be reasonable," said Dumbledore.
"I am being reasonable," said Harry. "I haven't even screamed 'rape' yet, even though you are still touching me."
Dumbledore hastily removed his arm from about the boy-who-knew-too-much's shoulders.
"I have no improper designs on you," he said
"Good. Then you will not place an impediment in my way to prevent me from going home, since to do so would count as illegal detention, and is covered by the statute of 1753, when the wizarding world adopted much of the new muggle marriage code regarding abduction of a minor, but covers other clauses of abducting a minor."
"Harry, I'm your magical guardian, I cannot be accused of abduction of you."
"Oh, please, use that argument, headmaster, in court I will shred you thoroughly for your dereliction of duty to your charge in never having visited me not to mention abandoning an infant in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of the night, failure to attempt to heal a nasty wound on my head, and anything else I can think of."
"Harry! Are you attempting to blackmail me?"
"I thought I was succeeding, actually," said Harry.
"Oh Harry, blackmail is a very dark thing to do," said Dumbledore, sadly.
"Dumbledore, McGonagall made it quite clear that if I did not attend your chicken-shit school you would force me to do so. I am here under protest. I never wanted to be a wizard. I will go through your curriculum, pass top of the class, and then walk back out into the life you have stolen from me. I don't much care for this 'dark' or 'light' crap as though we lived in a children's fairy tale. There is no dark or light, there is doing what you have to do to survive. I am doing what I have to do to survive, but if you make that difficult for me, I can make things difficult for you. You have been given fair warning. Get on my tit and I will engage in civil disobedience. I will sit and sing loudly and off key through all my lessons. I will refuse to turn in assignments. I will tell the truth about all my feelings about the teachers, and I will have Peeves sing ditties about them too."
"I was only hoping to tell you something about your parents," said Dumbledore, sadly. It wasn't entirely a lie, as he hoped Harry would see his parents in the mirror of Erised and learn what it was for.
"I learned about my mother from my aunt, and neither my aunt nor my uncle had any time for my father," said Harry. "Professor Snape confirmed that he was like the so-called Harry Potter of those stupid books, so a prat not worth knowing about."
"Harry! Those books might depict James, but they show a heroic, gallant figure!"
"I don't think we've read the same books; the ones I read showed a stupid, reckless idiot, who has no thought for consequences, and I have a solicitor already finding out which daft moron wrote them so I can sue the arse of the fraudulent fellow," said Harry. "It's sold in the history section not fiction, and I never gave permission to have such tripe written."
"Ah, but as your magical guardian, I did give permission," said Dumbeldore.
"Bang! Another nail in your coffin as a guardian," said Harry. "No responsible adult would even consider exploiting a child like that. Moreover, I was told in Gringotts that I haven't seen a penny of the royalties, which I will be sueing for."
"But Harry, I thought you'd want the money to go to a good cause," said Dumbledore
"I don't think that thinking is your long suit," said Harry. "You assume what people want, you interfere in their lives, and I consider it oppressive and abusive. Why should I want any money made from exploiting my name to go to a good cause? The best good cause is me, thank you very much, and my aunt and uncle who have paid out to raise me. You are not doing a good job of persuading me to even stay in England right now, I am so angry."
"Harry, you are needed to fight Voldemort, he will return..."
"Why the hell should I? He's not my problem, he's yours. My mother killed him last time with her protection on me Did you set her up to die when you told her that spell? She wrote to my aunt about it, you know. You sacrificed my father and mother, and how you can say you want to tell me about them beggars belief, now you had better not prevent me from going home for Christmas or there will be the devil to pay," said Harry, reining in his magic.
"I ... suppose you will do as you wish," said Dumbledore sulkily. Where was the meek, biddable cowed boy he had designed and set up conditions to make? What had gone wrong? Would he lose Harry to the dark?
"I will indeed," said Harry, grimly, stalking off with his robes billowing like Snape's.
It was all about runes sewn into the hem, an easy matter after all.
Harry had a happy Christmas. Mr. Bulstrode cautiously invited Petunia, Vernon and Dudley to Christmas dinner, and found them pleasant enough conversationalists, and if Vernon knew one or two rather coarse stories once the ladies and children had retired, well, they were no worse than those Crabbe senior told, and were a lot funnier.
"My boss taught me," said Vernon, "Crack a coarse joke, and the client will be amused but look down on you slightly. Then you close the deal and because he underestimates you, you get a better one."
"Very clever," said Bulstrode.
"Harry wrote about the betrothal and why it's important to him as well as to your girl, who seems a very nice young lady," said Vernon. "Pet and I were concerned at first, but Harry laid it out clearly. They're too young to even think about dating."
"Yes, and it disgusts me the way Parkinson and his lady encourage Pansy to hang around Draco's neck. They've been betrothed from the cradle, but there's nothing more likely to put off a prepubescent boy than having a girl hanging around always clinging to him. He might do his duty to her, but I wager he'll take a mistress," said Bulstrode. "My Millie has more sense. She's happy to marry Harry, who is a kind boy and isn't going to knock a wife about like some would, and it's them that I want to protect her from. Those and the children of Death Eaters who will drag her down with them. And Harry is my ticket out of having to follow the Death Eaters, because he is a symbol and a rallying point against them. And I don't like Dumbledore, and as Millie tells me Harry doesn't either, it puts me in a stronger position. And I'll talk to other grey families, and if they'll join, that puts Harry in a stronger position too. I want to be on the winning side, and I want to help make sure my potential son-in-law comes out of this alive and sane."
"You have my support on that," said Vernon. "I've seen him trained in mundane arts of war, and that gives him more flexibility. A wand is all very well, but a hold-out pistol in the sock is a surprise to the enemy."
"I have no idea what modern pistols may be like, but if they are small enough to go in the sock without compromising the power of a harquebus, then I like the idea," said Bulstrode.
"Oh, they're a good deal more powerful than a harquebus," said Vernon "We need to get you a gun licence and I'll teach you how to shoot."
"What a very convivial fellow you are, to be sure," said Bulstrode. "I'm beginning to think I should perhaps be investing in the muggle world."
"Nobody ever got poor investing in the arms trade," he said, dryly. "And computers are the coming thing as well. I'll put you in touch with my stockbroker; I haven't got much spare to invest because of putting Harry through my old school for a couple of years, but bless the boy, he drew out as much as he was allowed to give to me to help make it up."
"That boy is our last, best hope," said Bulstrode. "And I'm prepared to modify my beliefs about you muggles, given the evidence of my own eyes, to support him."
"I reckon it was Harry's lucky day when he turned all chivalrous and rescued your Millie," chuckled Vernon. "Don't tell him, but it was almost as reckless as his father."
Bulstrode chuckled, then sobered.
"Millie tells me that if he'd stuck to magic, however, he and Millie would both have been dead. I need to know about muggle weapons."
"I'll get you books and see what I can do," promised Vernon. At last, an ally in the magical world, unexpected and so all the more valuable.
When term started again, Snape surprised Draco and his cohorts in an unused classroom near the dungeons peering into the mirror of erased
"What the devil are you lot up to?" asked Snape, testily, who knew what the mirror was.
"It shows the future," said Draco, excitedly.
"Oh?" said Snape.
"Yes, I'm with my mother and father, and the dark lord is dead and my father worked against him," said Draco. "I'm going to write to him and tell him how glad I am he picked the right side."
"That might not be a bad idea at that," said Snape. If Lucius thought his son had seen the future, it might even sway him. "What did the rest of you see?"
"I passed my OWLs!" said Vincent, excitedly.
"Well, the future sometimes needs a little nudge to get it going," said Snape. "You should ask Millie Bulstrode to take the both of you along to the library and ask help from her study group."
"Ok, sir," said Vince, and Greg nodded. Snape hid a smirk; with those two as bodyguards, Millie would be protected from anyone objecting to her working with 'Puffs. And it would improve the grades of both of them too.
"Greg?" Snape asked. Greg flushed.
"I was kissing the Granger girl," he said.
"EEEWWWW, mudblood!" cried Pansy.
"If you don't modify your dirty mouth, Miss Parkinson, you won't have a future outside of scrubbing cauldrons for the rest of your school career," said Snape. "Hermione Granger is a high prize to aspire to, Greg, but you will only win her if you support her academic aspirations – her hopes to get good grades," he modified as Greg looked confused, "- and don't get jealous of how clever she is. If you are ever in a position to be her boyfriend, you should respect her, and stand by her."
"Yes, sir," said Greg. "She's sump'n else."
Well, at that, Miss Granger might even prefer an adoring worshipper to an academic equal she might spend her marriage sniping at, and Greg's family could do with the hybrid vigour, goodness knows. And his purebred status would be enough to get her the jobs she craved in the ministry.
"I was married to Draco with two perfect children," said Pansy, smugly.
"Yuck," said Draco. "I suppose it's my doom."
"Always in motion is the future," murmured Snape, who had seen the first two Star Wars films in his own teen years.
A complaint to the headmaster was in order regarding this wretched mirror.
The Puffs heard about the mirror when Greg, Vince and Draco came to their study group. Pansy had thrown a hissy fit, and Draco cheerfully admitted that it was escape from her as much as studying which had moved him to come along.
Harry went to see Professor Snape. He trusted Professor Sprout, but Professor Snape knew about the mirror and had been a friend of his mother, and so was almost spare family. He explained this in a rather tangled way.
Snape raised an eyebrow.
"And have you been peering in the mirror?" he asked.
"Well, no, sir, but I wanted to ask your advice about it," said Harry. "As you've seen it. Knowing the future might be a powerful tool, but on the other hand, I'm with Yoda, that the future can be changed by trying to go along with it. Does that make sense?"
"Always in motion is the future," Snape said again. "You're thinking of that rather vague prophecy the headmaster thinks is about you, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir. Did you take it to Flees-Death? Only you seem to know the half of it."
"Yes, I did, and when I realised he took it seriously, I became a spy for Dumbledore to protect your mother," he said, harshly.
"I expect he must have had a silver tongue to get people to follow him willingly, like Hitler," said Harry. "I don't get it myself, I've listened to Hitler's speeches, and it's full of memes repeated over and over, and his voice isn't that attractive, but it seemed to get people stirred up."
"I suspect it may have been his charisma if you were there in person," said Snape, "But you're right, the Dark Lord repeated the things people wanted to hear about blood purity and the foulness of muggles and their infecting blood, and his voice was magic in itself. And I was looking for a way out," he added.
"Do you go for the pure blood stuff?" he asked.
Snape gave a harsh laugh.
"Hardly; I'm a half-blood, but my father was a muggle, not muggleborn. He trammelled my mother until she forgot she was a witch. I hated muggles."
Harry nodded again.
"I guess if my aunt and uncle had done what Uncle Vernon thinks they were charmed to do, I'd hate muggles too," he said. "Only the curse to hate me broke, suddenly. Uncle Vernon thinks I broke it with accidental magic. That's when he started training me to be as good as I can be."
"How very Slytherin of him," said Snape. "I would not have had him down as so clever when I first met him, but you are lucky that he is. Now, as regards the Mirror of Erised, think about its name very hard."
"Desire!" he said suddenly. "It's the mirror of desire, not the future. Well, that would be a naff guide to negotiating the rocky path of uncertainty."
"How can you use wonderful language with words like 'naff' in the sentence?" demanded Snape, waspishly.
Harry grinned at him.
"Because I'm not even a teenager yet," he said. "Thank you, I'm glad I came to you. Should I enlighten Cousin Draco and co?"
"No, I don't think so," said Snape. "Draco's desires might yet, if he believes them to be future, be of use to you in winning against the Dark Lord. If he can persuade his father out of the fight, that's a massive revenue source to the dark side cut off."
"I'd rather have Darth Vader on our side," grumbled Harry.
"I don't wear the mask in school," quipped Snape.
"Get rid of the mirror before it causes problems," hissed Snape.
"I was hoping it would show Harry pictures of his parents," said Dumbledore, wistfully.
"He has seen pictures of his parents. I suspect his greatest desire right now is to be flying a fighter aircraft at speeds greater than the speed of sound," said Snape.
"An impossible dream, of course," said Dumbledore.
"Hardly; if he keeps up his studies of the muggle world he has every expectation of getting into the airforce if he wants," shrugged Snape.
"No, I mean the idea of going faster than sound," said Dumbledore.
"Are you completely ignorant of the muggle world? Aircraft have been able to go faster than sound since just after the second muggle world war," said Snape, sneering. "The first being piloted by a man called Chuck Jaeger, with broken ribs he didn't tell anyone about. I was reared a muggle, remember, and people like him were the heroes of my childhood, along with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong who were the first men to walk on the moon."
"But how would they get there? Even apparation couldn't go that far."
"They used technology you silly old man," sneered Snape. "Muggles do not copy magic. They have their own ideas of what to do, and if you really want to support the muggle born, you had better have a better idea of what muggles are actually capable of doing."
"Dear me, I do seem to be out of touch."
"Since those are events of my childhood and before, extremely so," said Snape. "I have Draco writing excitedly to his father of how he saw the future where Lucius eschewed the Dark Lord, not that his vocabulary is sufficiently advanced to put it that way, and they helped defeat him. Powers help me, I didn't stop him; if Draco believes in that to be the future and can convince Lucius, he's a powerful man to have on our side. If, as I fear, Lucius construes this as weakness on Draco's part, then heaven help the boy. And what untold harm might be done if some ambitious under-achiever like ... like the youngest Weasley boy finds it, and assumes it is his destiny to be Quidditch captain and snog any of the girls he fancies regardless of what they want? It's dangerous, and not just in trapping those who do hope to see lost family."
"I'd be interested to know what Harry sees," he said.
"He asked me if it was more dangerous to know the future than not, and if he should look in it. I told him the mirror's name, and he worked it out. I don't think you'll be getting him to look, short of tying him up and gluing his eyes open, and if you do that, he will lie to you and tell you something along the lines of seeing himself living in a castle made of treacle tart, chocolate ginger and vanilla ice cream."
"I hoped to use him to retrieve the stone, for having no desire to use it," he said.
"Are you sure he would have no desire to use it?" asked Snape.
"My dear boy! He is pure of heart, of course he would have no desire to use it."
"I think, you know, I might just ask him."
"A word, Potter," said Snape. Harry stayed obediently after class.
"Do you know what the Philosopher's Stone is?" asked Snape.
"It was made by Nicholas Flamel with alchemy and is said to be the source of the elixir of life and endless gold," he said. "According to Hagrid, it was the target of a failed break in to Gringotts, after Hagrid had retrieved it for the Headmaster. Does the elixir of life cure senility, sir? 'cos if so the headmaster really needs it."
"I have no idea," said Snape, silently agreeing, Hagrid had been that loose mouthed? No, it was probably just those Hufflepuffs. "If you had it in your hands, what would you do with it?"
"Well, that depends," he said. "If the elixir of life only prolongs life it's pretty useless, but if it can cure diseases as well, I'd use it to make a heap for St Mungo's and to sneak into mundane hospices, and keep some in a vial to stop old Flees-death from killing me."
"I believe it merely prolongs life, whilst healing the damage due to age," said Snape. Harry made a face.
"Moderately useless then," he said.
"There's the making of gold," said Snape.
"You'd have to be very careful, though, not to flood the economy, because then you might as well have a pile of smarties, because gold would become worthless for being too common. Less useful; you could eat the smarties," he added. "However, I suppose if you were prolonging your life, you could make a bit from time to time so it didn't show. Or, actually, here's an idea," his face glowed. "With a whole heap of gold, you could totally wreck the wizarding economy, taking down everyone who funds Flees-death, having already transferred the money of the good guys into the muggle world, and enough to provide charity for the ordinary little guys who would need to be taken care of. Mind, if I ever got my hands on it, I might just wreck the wizarding economy anyway for shits and giggles as revenge for being forced to be a wizard. That would cook Dumbledore's goose, and then all the people who connived at letting him be head of the Wizengamot as well as headmaster, because he couldn't rule if people didn't sit back and let him, would be well served and they'd be forced into the muggle world the way I've been forced into the wizarding world."
Dumbledore came out of the Pensieve, having watched that memory, utterly shaken.
"He's gone dark!" he said
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," said Snape. "He's a little boy who has had his dream trampled on by a grown up, taken away from a school he loves and shoved into an alien environment, of course he wants revenge on you and on the whole wizarding world at the moment. What I didn't show you is that I pointed out to him that most people have little to do with choosing who is chief warlock, and that the ordinary folk would be the ones to suffer if he did this, since half the wizengamot probably weaselled their way into getting shares in muggle businesses as well as wizarding. I left him shouting about democracy, Simon de Montfort, the evils of Charles the first and wicked old men who think they are god. You are not his favourite person."
"I only wanted him to experience the wonders of the wizarding world and learn how to fulfil his destiny."
Snape guffawed; he couldn't help it. He had a vision of Darth Vader in 'Empire Strikes Back' telling Luke that he would need to fulfil his destiny and join him. Dumbledore looked at him in some concern.
"You reminded me of a literary reference," spluttered Snape. "Problem is, Headmaster, that Potter doesn't believe in destiny, or in divination. He prefers to make his own destiny, and I really would not advise you to try to force him into a path he does not want."
"But I have to guide him so he knows how to defeat Voldemort."
"No, actually, you do not, with all due respect. If destiny is real, nothing will stop a final meeting with Voldemort, and he will be prepared by having prepared himself on the offchance that the, er, frantic maunderings of some dippy old moo reading tea leaves in the bottom of her sherry glass – his description – might have some basis in the, er, folding of the space-time continuum permitting a memory of the future to become implanted in what she laughingly calls her brain."
"So are you guiding him?"
"I am teaching him. The boy will respond to neither carrot nor stick, and you'd have more luck getting one of Aberforth's goats to perform to your will."
"Just so long as he trusts you enough to prevent him from going dark," said Dumbledore, sadly. "I may have made a mistake in his upbringing."
"Yes, and the big one was in not actually seeing to his upbringing," said Snape, acidly. "May I go? I have a class of dunderheads to try to prevent from blowing up the classroom."
Ron Weasley and Harry Potter were to serve a detention with Mr. Filch for fighting, but it was Ron who was sent off with Hagrid, as Argus Filch liked Harry, a polite boy who had made friends with Mrs. Norris early in the year, and who had helped the caretaker to clean graffiti off toilet doors. Harry had also pulled off an enchantment on the fly on some greenbacked sponges to always scrub off vile words, so Filch would have something useful if Harry was not around. He had taught Filch how to brew some potions, and the squib was delighted to be able to succeed, and respected Harry for admitting cheerfully that the aunt who had raised him was a squib. While Ron was being terrorised by Quirrelmort in the Forbidden Forest, Harry and Mr. Filch were making brownies and lemon meringues.
Mr. Filch did not like Ron, who pulled Mrs. Norris' tail and called Mr. Filch rude names. He told Harry so.
"He's an idiot and a blood snob, but I repeat myself," sighed Harry. "He said I couldn't be Harry Potter because I don't look like the pictures on the book covers which are based on my idiot of a father."
"Ar, well, James Potter was a nasty piece of work," said Argus. "I have no idea why your ma married him, a nice polite girl she was. Never put me down. You look like her."
"Thank goodness I do," said Harry. "If I looked like my father, you might think I acted like him, and so might Professor Snape."
"Ar, poor scrawny little thing young Severus Snape was, beaten on at home if you ask me, and targeted by all four of them Marauders, and half the time the headmaster let them get away with it," said the caretaker. "Those meringues do come out so much nicer with you able to use magic to beat the egg whites, Mr. Potter, thank you for that."
"Well, I am at your disposal, being in detention."
"Huh, and so you should not be, those Weasleys are as bad as the Marauders ... well, no, they ain't because they ain't as arrogant, except this young one, but they're as much trouble. I don't doubt he started it."
"He seems to lose his temper whenever he sees me," said Harry. "I do try to stay out of his way." He did; he didn't account Weasley important enough to hex, even if this was more because he despised the boy rather than because he was in any wise virtuous.
And if it led to being fed tea and cakes by Mr. Filch, Harry was not going to complain. One of Uncle Vernon's maxims was 'always make friends with the caretaker and the secretary'. He was right, not that Hogwarts had a secretary, but it had worked at Smeltings. Harry had got into a lot of things he was technically under age for by using a charm offensive on the school secretary. Harry was a great believer in using personality rather than using controlling spells. Spells could be negated and were so very limited.
Wizards and witches on the whole were very limited.
"You know, Mr. Filch, it's nice having a friend like you who isn't a moron like most wizards are," said Harry. "Not so much the first generation ones, though some of them are so seduced by magic they think it can do anything."
"Ar?" Mr. Filch was interested
"It's because they grow up waving a wand and things get done, or calling for house elves or seeing their parents wave a wand and things get done," said Harry, propounding a theory he was formulating "And because they are used to magic, they think of it as the only way to do things. And some muggleborn are conned into thinking that suddenly there's no other way to do things. Muggles don't copy magic, they do things independently of magic, how can they copy it? The statute of secrecy takes care of that. And they do things differently. Magic is a useful tool, but it's only a tool, and I am not a wizard."
"Yes, you are, Mr. Potter," said Filch.
"No, Mr. Filch, I am Harry Potter," said Harry. "I have magical powers but that is not who or what I am, it is a part of what I do. Unlike most of the idiots here, I can also work a computer, find my way around on the tube, which I bet you can do too, and other things, like read a bus timetable, phone for a takeaway meal, clean up a mess without needing a wand and so on. A wizard whose wand is broken is useless, unable to cope. A person with wizarding skills whose wand is broken shrugs and gets on with life in the normal fashion."
"I take your point," he said. "And them going on about how they're better than sliced bread, I wants to hang them in chains at times."
"I'd like to hang Dumbledore in chains, anyway," said Harry.
He finished his tea and helped Mr. Filch brew another batch of extra strong cleaning potion, and went off to finish the assignments he had set himself to complete that evening.
The year ended in the tragic injury of George Weasley. The Puffs knew that the Weasley twins had followed Professor Quirrel into the third floor room, but little more than that. They had reported to Professor Sprout that Quirrel was after the stone, and she had told them that the headmaster was out of the castle. They had gone to Snape, but it was almost too late. The Puffs did not know that both twins managed to get through the curtain of fire by using reducing spells on themselves to split one dose between them, and had managed to prank Quirrelmort by wishing to see the stone somewhere else in the castle. Unable to obtain the stone, Voldemort had turned on George in fury, with the cruciatus curse, just before Snape arrived. Snape had no hesitation in using the killing curse to save the twins, and Quirrel was already rotting, and singed from Fred's spellwork so the precise manner of his death was easy enough to cover up by firing a blasting curse into the dead chest.
George was shaking from extreme exposure to the cruciatus curse, and it would be a while before he would be well enough to be back at school. Snape poured a number of potions into him, and got the pair up to the hospital wing. Just in time for Dumbledore to arrive and declare that he had everything under control.
Quirrel was also reported dead, having gone mad, hurt two students and killed himself; and Fred was confined with his brother in the Janus Thickey ward in St Mungo's for making wild accusations about possession and the return of Voldemort. Dumbledore had no intention of letting it be known that he had willingly accepted Quirrelmort into the castle to test whether the protection Lily had bestowed on her son still held good.
Snape was furious. He made a trip to St Mungos, and told Fred that he would do what he could, as he knew that Fred was telling the truth. The Weasley twins switched allegiance from Dumbledore to their snarky potions master over this. Snape told Fred to tell the healers that he thought only Voldemort could cast the cruciatus curse, as all his death eaters were in Azkaban, and never mind looking innocent and stupid, but to look on it as a prank to get himself out of there with nothing on his record but temporary insanity engendered by being subject to the curse himself.
Volatile as Fred might be, he was no fool, and went along with the suggestion. The twins vowed retribution when they were able to return to school. Dumbledore might be safe from them next year, but after that he would not know what was going to hit him. And both boys hoped to be recovered by the end of the holidays.
"Was it my fault for telling the twins how to get past Fluffy?" Harry asked Snape, later, as the head of Slytherin fed a selection of Hufflepuffs and Slytherin hot chocolate.
"No, because it was easy enough to get that out of Hagrid," said Snape. "It was nobody's fault except the headmaster's for setting up a maze to entice ... well, to entice you, Potter, into going after the stone to keep it from Voldemort."
"He knew Quirrel was possessed?" gasped Harry. "Sir, how can you follow him and be his spy?"
Snape laughed, bitterly.
"Because I made that stupid decision in my youth to become a marked Death Eater, before I knew what I was getting into. He spoke for me at my trial and consequently, he owns me."
"I really, really think that if I'm supposed to defeat any dark lord, that dark lord is Dumbledore," hissed Harry. "We'll look out for you, sir; you've looked out for us."
Harry had even more reason to distrust wizards in general, and Dumbledore in particular. He withdrew more money from Gringotts, and asked Vernon to invest in arms factories.
"And if you can get some replica guns that are legal which I can quickly change, so much the better, sir," he said to his uncle.
"Ammunition is the problem."
"Spent rounds from shooting ranges and fill our own," said Harry. "It doesn't have to be chemically perfect cordite because if I can make serpentine gunpowder, I can transfigure it. I have a heap of nitre towards making gunpowder," Harry told Vernon, "Because I've been cleaning the owl loft for Mr. Filch and collecting all the guano. I can turn it into saltpetre quickly and easily with transfiguration, but with a starting point, the spell work is easier. Sulphur we may have to buy, and charcoal I can make. Once I have a basic gunpowder, the rest is easy. If my friends all have guns, and know how to use them, we will be safer than if we only have wands."
"And if this ruddy headmaster permits trolls, three-headed dogs and ... well, I don't know what you'd call a two faced undead monster ... into the castle, I don't even think you sound paranoid," said Vernon. "Leo Bulstrode is learning about firearms too, and we're getting him some claymore mines to add to his wards, and he's coming up with a magical detonator as electronics don't work around magic."
"And Mum wouldn't let us have any claymores in Privet Drive because they'd make a mess of her roses," said Dudley.
"I dunno, nice bit of bone and blood meal to feed them," said Harry. "I guess the fuzz would get antsy though if we had to use them."
Vernon drove Harry into outer London and they took the tube to go to St Mungos, being a cheaper alternative than the heavy city parking costs, or paying the fines for being in the inner London zone. Parking at Stratford was a lot easier.
They were able to get into St Mungo's fairly easily, and Harry used his bright smile to get to the ward the twins shared.
"This is my Uncle Vernon," said Harry. "He's been helping train me to take down Voldemort, without needing Dumbthedork, and if you're in, we can work together. Professor Snape said you guys are useful types with explosions and all."
"P...p...professor S...S...Snape nev...never said 't...types' I bet," stuttered George.
"No, but it's what he meant, old boy," said Harry. "Are you in or are you still giving mindless obedience to the old coot who dumped you in here?"
"We're in, and he lost any loyalty we had for him," said Fred. "He had the cheek to say that he knew it was a manifestation of Voldemort, but for the greater good it was better that nobody else knew that yet. We're going to have to lie to get out of here, and he's going to keep us on a leash."
"Well, it's just as well he returned my father's invisibility cloak then," said Harry. "I haven't had much occasion to use it yet, because we've managed intel gathering without it, but I'm sure we can manage to sneak you into meetings."
"Great," said Fred. "Professor Snape said he'd try to get George up to par to come back in September, but if we can't, we'll just have to work at home."
Leomer Bulstrode waited until Dumbledore was away at a long summer conference of the ICW, and filed for guardianship of his daughter's orphaned betrothed.
The paperwork went through without a hitch because nobody bothered to ask the boy's name until it was due to be finalised, and by then, Bulstrode had managed to convince the Wizengamot that it was an excellent idea to protect his daughter's investment, and the few people who would protest were hamstrung by their agreement in principle. Augusta Longbottom knew that Leomer Bulstrode had joined the Potter alliance, since Harry had written to her to ask if she would renew old bonds as well. Harry was to stay with Neville for two weeks to be firmly drilled in such etiquettes as his book did not cover, and on how to run an alliance. It turned out that Augusta was not surprised to hear that Harry suspected that both his parents and Neville's had been set up, since Alice had been given the same ritual Lily had, but had not died for Neville.
Harry thought living in a damaged limbo must be worse, but it wasn't up to him.
And now that the Wizengamot had uncovered that there had been no formal magical guardianship for him, he would be glad to have Augusta's scary support as well as guardianship by Leo, as his potential future father-in-law had asked to be called.
Draco Malfoy was having an interesting holiday. His father had asked him exactly why he thought a muggle-raised brat who had sorted into Hufflepuff had a cat's chance in hell of winning against the dark lord, should he return.
And Draco had giggled.
"What, does he have you fooled as well, father?" he said.
"What do you mean?"
"Cousin Harry is the most Slytherin person I know, not excluding Uncle Severus," he said. "He and the other 'Puffs he calls friends have the biggest information gathering system I've ever heard of. They have files on every kid with death eater families and their parents, and Harry discusses whether it is better to offer friendship to turn away from the self-styled lord, Flees-Death, or whether to blackmail them into staying neutral. He said Vince and Greg and I could do what we could to convince our fathers, before he let fly with anything he has. His uncle has fifteen years back copies of the Daily Prophet to make dossiers with, and Susan Bones has raided her aunt's files, and the 'Puffs have eavesdropped on the older ones. He interviewed Binns on all the Death Eaters he had taught, and as he's a Parselmouth he let himself into our common room one night and chatted to the portrait of Salazar Slytherin. He killed a troll by himself to save Millie Bulstrode, and he's made friends with Severus. I mean, who makes friends with Severus? And got him making hot chocolate? He's friends with Filch too, and has all the detentions ever served by anyone he has dossiers on. And that includes Dumbledore, whom he hates."
"He hates Dumbledore?"
"Yes, he says the prophecy Severus half overheard could refer to Dumbledore as the dark lord," said Draco. "I will not bow to some self-styled lord with the sort of name a kid my age with proficiency in French would think too childish to use."
"I see," said Lucius.
Lucius Malfoy was not a nice man. His affection for his wife and his utter devotion to his son, however, were unquestionable. And if Draco refused to bow to the Dark Lord, Draco would die horribly and he and Narcissa would be punished.
"You will go with what I saw in the future, you and Mother?" asked Draco, anxiously.
"I believe I will, my son," said Lucius "I will draught a letter to Mr. Potter, requesting to be a part of his alliance, and as an act of good will, I will take a certain item entrusted to me to Gringott's for a curse breaker to deal with."
"There's one in my sister's vault as well," said Narcissa. "I could probably access it. If it's good will you are looking for, destroying two of the Dark Lord's soul-anchors would go a long way."
"Is that what they are?" asked Lucius, startled. "How do you know?"
Narcissa threw him a pitying look.
"I'm a child of the family Black of course," she said. "How do you think I know?"
"Oh," said Lucius. He had the ear of the minister and sometimes forgot that in order to reach his exalted position, he had allied with the oldest, purest, most noble, darkest and, if truth were admitted, battiest family in England.
He would make sure the older Goyle and Crabbe stood by him as well; and he would ask Peter Parkinson, in such a way that Parkinson would loudly declare allegiance to the dark lord, and then Lucius could use the support in political ends clause to end that bloody betrothal which Draco was most decidedly not in favour of. And nor was Lucius now the cute toddler had grown into a cross between a crup and a jarvey.
Harry would not say he enjoyed his extra etiquette lessons, but then, he learned a lot. And his friends all convened for a week's intensive firearms course at Bulstrode Manor. Running every morning had made them all fit, hard-bodied young people, even Hermione, because Harry had told her that even if she was one of his officers for her intellect, a good officer could do anything his or her men could do.
It might be noted that Hermione did not enjoy the assault course Harry devised, but she put up with it. This wasn't a silly sport for the glory of the school, like netball at her primary school. This was about living, or dying. And George's close call had been a sobering brush with reality for all of them.
The twins were excused the assault course this holiday; but they spent a lot of time talking to Vernon about explosives, and looked more maniacally gleeful than they had since before the incident. They were supposedly recuperating in a private rest home, paid for by a wellwisher, knowing that the Weasleys would never permit any of their sons to visit a Slytherin family, and Amelia Bones took their statements. Vernon and Leo spoke to her.
"I know you have enough with the Cerberus and the employment of someone as unstable as Quirrel, even discounting possession by the Wannabe Hitler," said Vernon, "But can you guarantee Dumbledore won't weasel out of it and then know who is against him? I'd be inclined to keep him in the school for now and let the kids keep a close eye on him. Too many people believe he's Santa Claus and Merlin with gold-plated underpants worn outside his tights, you need to let a few stories get into the press and have the public ask what was going on. Get some sleaze merchant onto researching his early life."
"I know just the reporter," said Bones, grimly. "Well, I'm sure the children can drop some hints near more reputable reporters to get the stories followed up."
Harry and his friends grinned.
Next year was going to be ... interesting.