A/N: Don't own a thing, especially not HP. This takes place in a world where Harry and Co. never found all the Horcruxes. I hope you enjoy chapter fifty-one. Italics denote thoughts. Bold is for spells. Authors note: Well, this is the last chapter. There's not a lot to say here except thank you. We have one epilogue just to bring things to modern-day so to speak and that'll be that for Narcissa's Chance.
Chapter Fifty-One: The First Term
Harry groaned as he watched the little boats sail across the lake from the window of his office. This was it, his first welcoming feast. Idly, he wondered if he could get his hands on the Veil and try another reality. Did Albus feel this nervous on his feast? He looked at the portrait of the headmaster, it had another week before it completely awoke. As it stood Albus was sleeping in the same chair that sat behind Harry's desk, very occasionally opening his eyes before closing them again.
The office was different now. Gone were whirring items puffing tiny jets of steam. Instead, Harry had pictures along the wall. He smiled as he looked at the largest one, a picture of Bellatrix laying in the bed at St. Mungos with their son, James Cygnus Fawkes in her arms. The baby, already possessing his parent's black hair, was sleepily clutching the front of his mother's robes.
Beside that picture was Andromeda and Harry sitting in a swan-shaped paddleboat. Once she felt that Nymphadora could stay overnight with Narcissa and Apolline, they had left for a short trip to decide what they could be to one another. The answer, after much talk and wine as well as one kiss, was that while they would co-parent, she wasn't ready for anything else.
His hand twitched slightly. His situation with his magic hadn't changed much. All he got were tingles now and again. His discussion with Croaker hadn't been promising, but he had hope. He continued the meditations Narcissa had found on a visit to see her father and Harry hoped that it would bear fruit. He looked back at the pictures, it had taken so much but now he had a family of his own.
He wished they were all here tonight. But with Apolline and Andromeda watching James and Nymphadora, Narcissa and Bellatrix were the only ones at the castle with him. Bellatrix was taking her place as Defense professor, as well as teaching the Dueling elective and Narcissa was beginning her Mastery in Healing as well as her apprenticeship with Madam Pomfrey.
"Headmaster Fawkes, Professor McGonagall is on her way to see you." One of the portraits called from by the door. Harry smoothed his robes out of nerves as Minerva opened the door. The tall Scotswoman was going over a list in hand as she walked inside. She might not have wanted to be Headmistress, but Harry knew she would have been fantastic at it.
"The first-year students are on their way across the lake with Hagrid," She began as she looked up from her list, "The carriages were a bit late due to Peeves sticking the doors shut with what the new caretakers believe to be a mixture of glue and Thestral dung. Ms. Norris had some very choice words about it. Beyond that though, it's time."
The words 'it's time' hit Harry like an iron weight. No matter how he felt, he was the head of this school now. There were a lot of students who were counting on Hogwarts, and on Harry. "Alright, I'm as ready as I'll ever be." He said as they made their way out of his office, "Where's Bellatrix and Narcissa?" He asked her as the gargoyle jumped back to its place in front of the false wall.
"We were giving you some privacy to sort yourself out." Bellatrix said as she and Narcissa joined them at the stairs leading down to the Great Hall. "So, ready for the first Welcoming Feast?" She asked as they paused to allow a gaggle of ghosts drift past them.
"No, but at this point, it doesn't matter. Whether I'm ready or not, the students are on their way and they deserve better than my breakdown." Harry said shrugging as they stepped into the Great Hall and walked toward the staff table.
Harry looked along the staff table at the row of teachers. It had been amazing to him that none of the others had complained when he was named Headmaster. He'd expected at least one of them to question why he had been chosen over the others. Bellatrix, in annoyance at his lack of self-confidence, had reminded him that he had beaten Voldemort into a 'quivering pile of giblets' before bringing him to the Mirror. "Magic or not, I don't think any of them would want to start a fight that could end with them being dropped like a bag of flobberworms." Bellatrix had said acidly when he'd brought it up.
The doors opened and the older students entered. Harry saw the Marauders, now in their third year, coming in flanked by Alexandra and Jane. The fact that they would grow up and be able to enjoy their lives made him smile, a smile that was not unnoticed by Bellatrix who leaned in against him. Narcissa kissed his cheek and then made her way over to sit between Madam Pomfrey and Professor Kettleburn.
The Great Hall buzzed with activity as the students gossiped with their friends. When Minerva entered with the assembled first-year students, Harry watched as the Sorting Hat sang to them about building friendships even while being in different Houses. The sorting went faster than any of the ones Harry could remember from his time, though that might have been anxiety- he knew his speech would come afterward. Once Alford Wienrich was sorted into Ravenclaw there was nothing left to do but stand and begin talking. "Hello everyone and for our new students, welcome to Hogwarts. We have a few start of term notices but they can wait until after dinner." He waved his hand which signaled the plates to fill with food. With that, he sat back down and began to serve himself.
"Well, that was a rousing speech," Bellatrix said teasing him as she cut into her chicken. She laughed as Harry grumbled a response and busied himself with his own meal.
At the Gryffindor table, James and Sirius were deep in discussion. Peter was worried about how he would be seen by the others. His injuries had healed but he still tired easily. Due to his mother's worries, he had to walk with a cane to support himself. While Remus distracted him with a story about the quidditch match he and Jane had gone to over the summer the other two worked on a plan to cheer up their friend.
"We need to get Parkinson in on it," Sirius said nodding his head towards the Slytherin table where Regina and Patricia sat talking with Alexandra. "If she thought we were teasing him, she'd murder you."
"Just me?" James said puzzled.
Sirius chuckled quietly, "Of course you. The way things are going you will be cousins. Well, I think you're already seventh or eighth cousins now." He drifted off, counting on his fingers and muttering names of family members under his breath.
Beside them, Lilly sat with the McKinnon sisters. Alice and Marlene had spent part of the summer in the Maldives and wanted to share what they'd seen. Lily listened eagerly. She had spent part of her summer at Pounds House visiting with Sirius and the other Marauders and due in part to that, she had been very glad to sit with Alice and Marlene on the train.
Gradually the food was eaten, and Harry stood once more, "I just have a few notices to give out if everyone could stay seated for a few more moments." Once again, he felt the gaze of the assembled students and teachers and felt his mouth go dry. "As this will be my first year as your headmaster, I would like to ask your patience as we go through this learning process. The first thing I wish to bring up is that the Forbidden Forest is off-limits to all students and that our new caretakers have made a list of banned items. That is all that I have, so I'll just say 'goodnight' to you all." He sat down and watched as the students filed out, the newly sorted first-year students looking around as their prefects led them out the doors.
"Short and sweet eh Fawkes?" Madam Hooch said as she passed his table.
Harry shrugged awkwardly, "I'm not a speech person."
Hooch snorted in amusement and sat down in the seat vacated by Bellatrix who had gone to speak to Narcissa. "You know what you need?"
"I'm almost sure you'll tell me," Harry replied dryly.
She rolled her eyes, "You need to go out and get drunk. Trust me on this, I never fly as good as I do when I'm hungover. Feeling like shit forces me to concentrate more. Go get rat-assed."
"I'm not going out and getting drunk," Harry said the hall finally lay silent. "You are the worst source of advice ever." Hooch laughed and stood up clapping him on the shoulder. She walked out calling to Minerva about her holiday. He saw Minerva go pink and then hurry out with Hooch following her cackling.
Harry stood and walked over to Bellatrix and Narcissa, "Are we ready to go upstairs?"
Bellatrix smirked and took his hand as Narcissa did the same on his opposite side, "So, Headmaster Fawkes, how does it feel?" She asked as they walked out of the room. Harry turned his head and saw the candles going out on their own and turned back with a smile.
"It feels like a beginning."
The next morning saw trouble in Gryffindor Tower. The Marauders had decided upon the perfect way to get Peter out of his funk. It had begun when Alice McKinnon and her sister Marlen, first to wake up as they were excited to begin their third year, had come downstairs and found an enormous toad croaking wetly on the seat of the best couch. Their shrieks had awoken the others and thus the first commotion of the school year began.
"It's so horrible!" Alice cried looking disgustingly at the massive toad, easily the size of a small dog, "Where did it come from?"
"No one in Gryffindor Tower has a pet toad, do they?" A sleepy-eyed Lily asked as she blinked and tried to catch up to the world around her.
"It has to be Potter and his friends." Marlene replied, "If it's not someone's pet, they must have brought it!" She looked at the fat amphibian, it's muddy greyish-green body staining the cushions as it croaked as if the commotion was disrupting its nap.
"Wasn't us," James said as he and Sirius came down the stairs from the boy's dormitory. "Lily was with us, we didn't bring any toads onto the train." James looked thoughtful, "Only toad I saw was that Ministry witch Umbridge when Dad and I stopped for breakfast at the Leaky yesterday morning." He added remembering the disgust his father had when he'd pointed out the woman arguing with Tom over the price of the morning's fare.
Lily nodded, "It's true. I was with Sirius the whole morning before we got to the train. There's no way they could have sneaked a toad, especially not one that size, onto the train and none of us saw it."
"Peter, you didn't suddenly become a master of Transfiguration and turn one of the firsties into a toad, did you?" Remus asked as if the idea was perfectly rational.
"N-no." Peter squeaked then continued, "I don't like toads."
"Exactly!" Sirius barked, "If Peter had turned anyone into anything it would have been into something much more fun. Ooh! When you do become a master, will you turn me into an animal, maybe a dog or something?"
"Please do. Keep him that way too." James said dryly, earning a laugh from the others. Even the McKinnon sisters had to smile at that. Peter, too, seemed to find himself smiling.
"So where did the toad come from?" Frank Longbottom asked finally. He shared the dorm with the other four boys and had, since the first night of his first year, relegated himself to never quite knowing what to make of his friends.
No one knew the answer it seemed. Finally, the toad seemingly had had enough of the stares of children. It leaped at them crashing wetly into the arms of Sirius who grimaced and pushed the toad at Remus. With that, the toad seemed to turn into a mossy colored quaffle as it was pushed by one student at another, none willing to hold it for long.
Then with a puff of purple smoke, the toad was gone and in its place was a dazed but grinning second-year boy with straw-colored hair and brown eyes, who fell back against Remus who had been currently holding the toad, tossed at him by Alice. "Wicked!" The boy said as he slowly righted himself. "I took a piece of toffee from the table there and-" He made a gesture with both hands, "Poof! I was a toad!"
"Toffee?" Sirius looked at the boy and then where he pointed. On the table sat a bag of toffee-colored candies wrapped in bright green paper. "You finally, got the formula for you trick sweets working Peter? I take it back, forget Master of Transfiguration, you're the next great Potioneer of Hogwarts!"
Peter looked as shocked as anyone, "But those were in my trunk-" He began but was interrupted by the excited buzz from the others.
"Wait, he's been working on sweets that'll turn you into an animal?" Marlene asked confused, "Why?"
"It was something to do while I was resting," Peter said timidly, "It was Patricia's idea. The- it was-" He began to explain the time-delayed potions and how the mixture interacted, swiftly losing the interest of the crowd, minus Lily. It took Sirius grabbing the bag to get him to stop.
"Peter! You need to show this to Slughorn! He'll put you on his little wall of fame for sure!" He grabbed Peter's arm and began dragging him along.
Remus laughed as he helped the others clean the room from where the game of 'toss the toad' had caused several chairs to be moved and their cushions had fallen. The truth was the candy's potion had worked, but Peter hadn't thought it would last longer than a moment. And in fact, that was all they had expected themselves when James had crept down early and placed the bag in the common room. Either the second-year had really wanted to be a toad, or Peter had made a much stronger potion than he'd thought. Still, as he listened to the chatter as the former toad had begun to tell everyone about the transforming toffees, he thought that whichever it was, their friend deserved the boost to his confidence.