Harry Potter, Squatter
Harry grinned at his friends as he sunk into the seats of the Hogwarts Express. It seemed quite a few of them had gone home over the Christmas holidays and they were now bound and determined to ride the Express up together. He ended up in a compartment with Susan, Hannah, Hermione, Draco, Greg, and Vin. Normally, compartments only held six, but they were tiny little first years so they managed to squeeze in.
First came the obligatory 'how was your break' conversation, where everyone was very happy to hear about Harry's adoption and he got lots of hugs from his female friends and a 'congratulations' from Draco, Vin, and Greg.
To everyone's surprise, Hermione and Draco eventually engaged in – somewhat stilted – polite conversation with one another. Hermione had apparently enjoyed the book on Wizarding plays, and Draco admitted that he believed Shakespeare to have some wizarding background.
The two had dropped the 'stilted' from their conversation when they started debating the magical world of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.
Harry grinned, he'd gotten Hermione and Draco to engage in rational conversation without biting each other's heads off. Through the power of friendship. He grinned to himself. That sounded like something some cheesy cartoon hero from Saturday morning cartoons would say while brandishing a sword. He restrained a laugh. He could call himself Captain Friendship and go around fixing the world's problems through the power of Hestia and by the force of Friendship.
"What has you so amused?" Susan asked, noticing his inner chuckles.
So Harry first explained what cartoons were, since only Hermione seemed to know what they were, and then explained about cheesy cartoon heroes. Once he started explaining, the magical children picked up on them pretty quickly – apparently, the Wizarding Wireless had Saturday morning broadcasts for kids in an eerily similar way to the old 1930's non-magical radio shows. Cheese and camp included.
"I could call myself Captain Friendship," Harry finally said, getting grins and groans in equal measure.
It turned into a game, and by the time the lady with the lunch trolly knocked on their door, they had all chosen a code name.
Hermione had become The Scarlet Librarian, which wasn't a surprise to the others.
Draco had chosen to become "The Pureblood Defender', while Greg and Vin, not the most imaginative, had chosen to become 'The Wall' and 'The Mountain' respectively.
Susan, considering her aunt, wasn't a surprise when she opted as 'Lawbringer' for her codename, while Hannah apparently preferred being a reformed villainess and had chosen 'The Dark Avenger' as her cheesy hero incarnation.
They bought some food from the trolly, and ate and joked about their new hero personas.
A few hours later Harry entered the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts, dragging his enchanted wheelie bag behind him. The group was engaged in a vigorous debate on whether The Scarlet Librarian's Book Powers extended to pulling items from text as well as from pictures.
Nemmy did that elegant kind of flowing jump that felines were so good at, hopping from Harry's shoulders to the floor of Hogwarts' Entrance Hall, and disappeared down a corridor.
The young demigod watched his pet with amusement, wondering for a moment what was so urgent that Nemmy would forgo using Harry's shoulders as a sedan chair.
"Cats," he chuckled. His friends with experience with felines nodded agreeably. The Ways of the Feline were inscrutable to mere mortals.
Harry wondered if he should ask one of his godly friends, then decided against it. For all he knew it would be the trigger to cause cats to take over the world. He still remembered Nemmy's admission.
He drew a breath. Despite everything, he was happy to be back at Hogwarts.
The small group split up, going to their respective Common Rooms.
When they entered the Hufflepuff Common Room, Harry and friends were beset by the other Hufflepuffs. Very few had stayed over the holiday, but most had made their own way back to the castle.
When Harry told everyone who would listen about his adoption, his housemates cheered and clapped, genuinely happy for him.
Harry had never felt more accepted then at that point. It really did feel like he had a large family.
Tonks even teased him about it, making a show of wondering whether Hestia was good enough to adopt her cousin.
Harry just laughed at the joke, and told Tonks that Hestia would likely invite her in, serve her favorite tea and cookies, and make her wonder what she was upset about in the first place.
It had become a custom in Hufflepuff for Professor Sprout to hold a 'supplementary Herbology lesson' in Greenhouse number three – the one with the most exotic plants.
Deep within said greenhouse was a nice little open spot where the professor held her 'supplementary' lesson, which basically consisted of the Hufflepuffs interested and a large picnic hamper.
In essence, it was a way for the Hufflepuffs to interact with their Head of House in a less formal and stringent manner, allowing to the chance to speak out loud things they wouldn't normally have said out loud.
"Unfortunately, Professor Snape is who he is," the professor told Susan. "That doesn't mean you shouldn't let me know when you feel he steps out of line. I will take any and all complaints to the Headmaster, for all the good they'll do, and I make it a point to discuss excesses with Professor Snape in person. There's a reason why he normally leaves Hufflepuffs be – but sometimes he tries to step a toe over the line."
Harry smiled as the Professor spoke. Sprout was awesome. Even if she didn't let him call her by her first name. He did wonder why everyone had such a bias against Professor Snape, though. Granted, he could be churlish and acidic, but in the end the man knew what he was talking about. Besides, it wasn't anything any chef de cuisine would throw at their sous-chefs.
Suddenly, his eye fell on a specific plant, and he felt his instincts flare up.
He resisted the urge to sigh loudly. This was either going to be very good or very bad, he could tell.
He wished he could tell which one it would be, though.
"Excuse me, Professor Sprout?" Harry said, raising his hand.
"Yes, Harry?" Sprout asked.
"What's this plant?" he asked, pointing to the strange purplish-green plant.
"That's a mandrake," Sprout explained. "Its root resembled a human and when mature, its cries can kill, so be careful with it."
"Oh," Harry said, wondering why his instincts wanted him to ask about the plant.
"It's also good for potions, the Mandrake Draught can undo petrifaction, for example," Sprout, ever the professor, explained.
Harry nodded, that made more sense for his instincts to want to know. Apparently, he needed some mandrake draught for some reason or other. Oh well, if he couldn't just buy some, he'd have to make some. He liked Potions well enough. Magic in a kitchen, it really was Hestia's kind of magic.
Apparently, owl-ordering was a thing among the wizards. The biggest problem was that Mandrake Draughts had two serious downsides to them.
The first was that they could only be made using fully-grown mandrakes. Unfortunately, since mandrakes were a magical plant, it wasn't enough to just get a greenhouse and plant them at a different time of the year to have a constant supply of fresh, fully-grown mandrakes. In other words, fully-matured mandrakes only appeared around May, give or take a few weeks.
The second was that the draught didn't keep for very long.
As such, Harry would have to wait to buy Mandrake draughts until May – and hope that the event or problem his instincts had driven him to didn't take too long to materialize or the potions would be worthless.
In either case, it wasn't something he could take care of right now.
And so, he focused on other problems.
The winter had left scars, despite how it resolved; Harry was now wondering how he could stop similar events from ever happening again. Would he, the next time Zeus got angry, get kicked off the mountain again?
And if that happened, would he once again lose everything that he wouldn't be able to carry out in his backpack?
He knew that wizard-space was a thing, and he could expand his backpack, but even so he wouldn't be able to carry out his huge-screen TV and the large amplifier and speaker setup attached to it. Or that wonderful chest he'd won off of Hermes, the one that tried to kill people trying to break in to it. It held his gold.
Not that he used his gold that often, but considering his luck he'd get kicked off of Olympus the day of a Maths Party and not have access to his poker chips.
No, wizard-space, as fun as it was, wouldn't be enough. He needed something else, something bigger, something that couldn't be taken from him.
"Mate?" Justin asked, snapping his fingers in front of Harry's face. "Mate!"
Harry blinked. "Sorry, Justin," he said, distractedly.
"What has you lost in thought?" his friend asked. "It took three tries to get your attention!"
"Sorry, man," Harry apologized again. "I was just lost in thought."
"I could see that," Justin said with a chuckle. "So what was you lost in thought?" he repeated the same phrase, not wanting to let his friend off the hook before he got an answer.
"Remember how I told what happened over Christmas Break?" Harry asked.
"Yeah?" Justin wondered. "Don't tell me you're having second thoughts."
"Of course not!" Harry replied, indignantly. "No, I was just worrying about something like that happening again in the future, and how I could make sure I could take my stuff with me."
"Oh!" Susan said, showing she was dropping a lot of eaves. "Like an expanded trunk or a tent!"
Harry nodded, showing he didn't care about his friend's eavesdropping. "Yeah, like that, but then I'd have the risk of someone taking it from me, you know? And losing a tent or a trunk or a backpack with all your worldly possessions would suck."
"And not in the fun way," Justin said.
"Ew! That's disgusting! Wash your mouth out with soap!" Susan playfully scolded Justin, who laughed.
Harry ignored the innuendo; his friends were perverts, just like everybody else. Justin turned to Harry, and said, "You need something like Hammer Space."
Harry blinked. Susan blinked. Hannah, who had been silently dropping her own eaves, blinked as well.
"Hammer Space?" Harry asked.
Justin nodded. "In Japanese cartoons, certain characters, mostly girls, are able to draw a hammer or other blunt instrument out of thin air, strike someone with it, then put it back. It's called Hammer Space."
"Out of thin air? You mean like conjuration and de-conjuration?" Susan asked. "Because Harry wanted storage, I doubt he'd be interested in conjuring his possessions every time he needed something."
Harry snorted. "That would probably be fun, but it'd get tiring pretty quickly," he replied. "But, if I hear the description correctly, you're talking about some kind of personal interdimensional storage locker or something? Invisible and intangible, but the user is able to pull items from it and stuff items back into it?"
"Something like that, yeah," Justin said.
"I need to visit the library," Harry decided.
"Tomorrow," Justin counseled. "It's after nine, and there's a curfew."
"Aww… do I have to?" Harry sulked outrageously, causing them all to laugh. He probably could have gone while invisible, but he likely needed the librarian's help to find books on dimensional storage lockers. The Hogwarts Library was huge, but no-one ever heard of the Dewey Decimal System so it was a disorganized mess.
He missed Athena's library even more now.
The next day was a Sunday, and while most of his friends were relaxing, a small subset of them had gathered in one of the private study rooms off the Hogwarts Library. While Hermione, Justin, Susan, and strangely enough, Cedric, were working in the study room, Harry went to have a chat with Madam Pince, the librarian.
"Excuse me, Madam Pince?" Harry asked, politely.
Irma Pince, the Hogwarts Librarian, looked up from the tally sheet where she kept track of overdue library books. "Yes, Mister Potter?"
"I am looking for books on Wizard Space and their analogies, like dimensional storage lockers and such," Harry explained. "Anything related to demiplanes, pocket dimensions, and other spaces that exist outside of the material plane will do."
The librarian eyed him for a moment. "I'm sorry to say I can't help you, Mister Potter," she replied.
Harry frowned, that sounded disingenuous. Since he was Athena's student, and the ancient Greek elevated the debate to an art form, he wouldn't just take that answer and leave. "You mean to tell me that the vaunted Hogwarts Library has no books at all on expanded space?"
He went straight for the ego; it seemed to work best for wizards and witches. Logic sometimes was a problem, but ego always seemed to work.
Madam Pince looked… pinched. "Very well, Mister Potter, since you seem intent on it – yes, we do have books on those topics. They are, however, in the Restricted Section, and as such, I can not help you with them."
"Oh," Harry said. Having had the complete free run of Athena's marvelous library, the concept of knowledge being restricted came completely out of the left field. Not to mention, it rankled. "Alright, then," he acknowledged while swallowing the anger that bubbled up every time an adult restricted him from doing what he needed to do.
He gave her a careful nod, turned, and walked to the private study room. Once sure that she was no longer staring at his back, he built up the image in his mind and threw some Shen at it.
Immediately, he turned invisible, while simultaneously cloaking his sounds and smell. If it was good enough to get through the gauntlet in the Simulator, it would be good enough to check out a book in the library.
He vanished into the restricted section, carefully crossing the rope that cordoned it off.
Fifteen minutes later, he gave up on finding anything the normal way and pulled on his luck-senses.
Thirty seconds later, he was holding a book called 'The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces'; the tome was heavy, its cover made of ornately worked leather.
Even better, just flipping through it quickly, the previous owner had annotated the volume. It was in some sort of shorthand but logic dictated the annotations detailed enhancements and improvements.
Closing the book, and making sure it was wrapped in his veiling spell, Harry exited the Restricted Section and made his way to the study room.
"Hi everybody," Harry said as he entered. He received various waves and grunts from the working people. "Can you believe that I had to veil myself to get a book checked out?"
Hermione looked up from where she had been revising. "What?" she asked, as if she hadn't heard him correctly.
"It's restricted, apparently," Harry said. "So I had to turn invisible and get the book myself."
"Knowledge should be free," Hermione stated firmly. "I knew there was a restricted section, but I thought it was related to student records or other private information."
"Some knowledge is dangerous," Susan said, looking up.
"And how can we know that if we can't access it?" Hermione asked. "Censorship is evil, who knows what kind of knowledge is being hidden from us."
Susan shrugged. "We have to trust people at some point," she answered. "Again, some things are too dangerous to mess with unless you know what you're doing."
"I'm not talking about messing with things beyond our understanding," Hermione replied. "But books never hurt anybody, and simply reading them shouldn't be illegal. I mean, I've known how to build a nuclear bomb since I was eight, that doesn't mean I'm going to go out and build one."
Everyone familiar with the non-magical world dutifully ignored Hermione casually admitting to knowing how to build nuclear weapons. Instead, Harry nodded silently, as her point was a good one.
"And yet, some things are dangerous," Susan repeated, apparently getting frustrated at failing to get her point across.
"Books never hurt anybody," Hermione replied, apparently getting just as frustrated.
Seeing an impending argument and wanting to nip that in the bud, Harry coughed. "I agree with you, Hermione, but maybe it is because we didn't grow up in the magical world. Maybe there are things we don't know, so we should keep an open mind."
Hermione looked at him, and nodded softly. Harry turned to Susan, and said, "Hermione and I both grew up outside the magical world, like Hermione said, books never hurt anybody, and restricting access to information is usually because of things like state secrets or so."
He thought for a moment, then added, "Well, in a decently free society, at least. Knowing something and doing something are two different things – you can know a something that you shouldn't do."
"Oh," Susan said. "Well, in the magical world, books can be cursed, haunted, enchanted, or otherwise protected, and sometimes even reading something can be a problem."
"Oh," Hermione and Harry said, simultaneously, looking at each other.
"So, yeah, you should only read something when you know what you're doing," Susan stated.
"That makes sense," Harry muttered. "I wonder why nobody else bothered to tell us this, though… instead it's straight with the banhammer and 'no, bad!'."
Susan shrugged. "Adults," she offered as an explanation, knowing that would get on Harry's good side.
He snorted. "Adults," he agreed. "Anyway, I already flipped through this book and it hasn't harmed me while reading it, so I don't think this one is haunted and/or cursed."
"Just be careful," Susan replied.
Harry grinned "Always," he said, unveiling 'The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces', and thumping the heavy bookwork onto the table. In the better lights of the study room, Harry could see the gold filigree decorating the finely worked leather cover, as well as a strange illustration on the front. It showed the bust of an imposing spellcaster, and strangely enough it seemed to have three-dimensional effects despite being just an illustration – it moved as Harry looked at it from different angles.
"Whoa," Justin breathed, triggering agreeing nods from Hermione, Susan, and Cedric.
"I can see why they won't check this book out," Hermione added. "That must be worth a fortune."
Harry grinned. "It's why I'll be studying it in here and replacing it when I'm done. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not low enough to steal a book from a library."
Despite its beauty and ornate decorations, the book wasn't able to hold the attention of the other children for long, and soon the room descended into silence as they all returned to their own projects, leaving Harry to peruse the book in peace.
He skimmed it first, using every trick Athena had taught him to quick-read books and gather the big lines. The book seemed to be about creating a temporary mansion in an extradimensional space, something Harry thought would most definitely help him. If he could find a way to make it permanent, then people wouldn't even be able to take his home from him, let alone his possessions!
Done with his skimming of the various chapters, he started reading it in earnest, wondering what the various annotations in shorthand were about. He guessed that, logically, those were comments or enhancements related to the topic at hand, but he would need to find a way to decipher the shorthand first.
The book itself was rather dry, and before long Harry found himself more interested in breaking the shorthand than reading the rest of the book.
Thankfully, the previous owner that had written all over the precious volume hadn't seemed interested in protecting their writings – the shorthand was just a shorter version of written English and it took Harry very little time to decipher the various annotations.
He'd been right, the previous owner had been working on improving the temporary nature of the inter-dimensional mansion spell described in the book itself and had been working to set up a permanent version instead.
Close to an hour later, Harry frowned; he'd found some kind of command spell. Curiously, he built the spell inside of his own mind, only to reach the trigger word.
"Scepter?" he asked, out loud, wondering what kind of invocation word that was.
The moment he spoke it out loud, he knew he'd made a mistake; Shen was sucked from him as the entire spell matrix activated and yanked the energy straight out of his energy network.
The next moment, translucent white doors hung in the middle of the room. They slowly started to fade and Harry guesstimated that they would be completely gone within the next ten minutes.
"Harry?" Cedric asked, as oldest student in the private study room he managed to collect his thoughts first.
"Yes?" the demigod asked, studying the spelled doors. What an interesting spell it was, too; He'd invoked the spell matrix in this room and had thereby set up a permanent connection to the -wherever – it was these doors went. From now on, anyone speaking the command word would bring the doors back without the need of the entire spell matrix.
"What are these?" Cedric asked, pulling him from his thoughts once more.
"Doors," Harry replied.
"Leading to… ?" the senior student asked, not even bothering to sound annoyed.
"A mansion in extra-dimensional space, I think," Harry said, standing up and approaching the doors. "I'm going to take a peek."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Susan asked, showing she'd regained her senses. Hermione, on the other hand, seemed just as intrigued with the spell as Harry was and didn't bother saying anything and just approached the ghostly spell, which was still slowly fading.
Harry shrugged. "Why not?" he asked. "I reckon that same command will re-open the doors here."
"Hmm," Susan hemmed, not impressed.
"I'm just going to take a look," Harry said. "Anyone else coming?"
"You're not leaving me behind!" Hermione immediately stated, showing once and for all that the Hat chose correctly by putting her in Gryffindor.
Susan sighed. "Fine, I'm curious about this mansion, too," she said. "Besides, Hufflepuffs don't leave friends behind."
Cedric nodded. "True. Let's have a look at this magical mansion."
The group stepped through the gate.
The group arrive in a grand foyer. The portal looked like an elaborate set of double doors from this end, disguised like the front door of the mansion. The ceilings arched nearly four and a half meters above their hears, and the foyer terminated into a long hallway, with several doors in the wall opposite the entrance.
The entire structure looked luxurious without being ostentatious, and had a bright and airy feel to it, despite being constructed from stone blocks. The floors were hardwood, and the fixtures seemed to be either brass or bronze. The doors appeared to be made of ironbound wood, probably oak.
"Whoa," Harry said. "This is nifty!" He took a look down the hallway that stretched out from the foyer, and found it hallway terminated on both ends with a door.
"Incredible," Cedric muttered. Susan, Justin, and Hermione nodded.
Behind them, the large double doors slammed shut.
Harry turned and opened them; only to find himself faced with a glowing indigo-purple miasma.
"Harry? You can get us home, right?" Susan asked, suddenly worried.
Harry nodded confidently. "Sure, it just needs the codeword," he said, closing the doors and speaking the word. "Scepter."
Nothing happened, and Harry pulled the doors open again.
Only to be face with the same hazy indigo miasma.
"Ehm," he spoke, suddenly floored by the development.
"You promised!" Susan shouted. "You promised you could get us home!"
"I…" Harry said, trailing off, for a moment wondering about what to do now.
"This isn't funny," Cedric scolded. "Get us home. Now."
Harry looked and felt worried, and closed the doors. "Scepter!" he intoned again, only to be met with the same results. "Eh…"
"We're stuck here?" Justin demanded.
"I'm sure we can find the proper command word," Harry stated, although he didn't feel nearly as confident as he felt a minute or two ago.
"We are!" Susan shouted, her voice climbing towards hysteria. "We're stuck here! I don't want to be stuck here! I want to go home!"
Harry didn't know what to feel, not at all used to his friends making a scene when things went wrong like this. Then, he realized, that these were just normal people – magical people, for sure, but normal – and not demigods.
He missed Luna. Luna wouldn't kick up a fuss, he was sure of it.
Cedric took a hold of Susan, and tried to comfort her. At the same time, he and Justin were throwing vicious looks at Harry. Hermione seemed indecisive, part of her seemed thrilled by the magic while the other part of her was with Susan and wanted to go home.
"Calm down, guys," Harry tried to soothe. "I'm sure we can find the proper codeword. The person who built this mansion had to have a way to leave."
"I want to go home!" Susan wailed against Cedric's chest.
Harry looked closed to panicking himself, he had no idea what to do or how to comfort someone in a situation like this. Feeling a slight push from his probability senses, he added, "It's probably something straightforward like 'freedom' or 'liberty'-"
As he spoke, the double doors flashed bright white, opened by themselves, and revealed their study area at Hogwarts. "Well… that happened," he said, relieved at seeing the entrance.
"Oh," the others said, virtually simultaneously.
"See? Home," Harry replied.
Susan's shoulders immediately sagged, all the tensions seemingly leaving her at the same time. Shakily, she let go of Cedric and gave him a tremulous smile in thanks.
"Better?" Harry asked her, feeling worried. He really hoped she felt better now.
"So we can go home at any time? Just with the word 'liberty'?" she redheaded witch asked.
"It seems that way," the young demigod said, poking at the doors and eyeing them with his magic sight. What an intricate piece of magic! "It goes back to the last location where the portal opened, in our case that's Hogwarts. If I were to open the portal in… say… London, that's where it would return to when opened from this side."
Susan wiped her eyes. "Then let's go explore!" she said enthusiastically, as if her breakdown hadn't happened.
Harry turned away from the doors and stared at her. The others turned and stared at her, too.
"You were crying about going home ten seconds ago," Justin informed her.
Susan blushed. "I think it was just a panic attack about never going home and seeing auntie ever again. But now we can go home any time, and there's this beautiful mansion to explore!"
Harry looked floored. What just happened?
He looked hesitantly at Cedric and Justin, who looked just as lost. He glanced at Hermione, who looked like this was completely normal and why were they not getting that?
Harry traded another look with Justin and Cedric. As only boys could do, their thoughts were clear on the matter.
Girls were really weird.
Smart enough not to vocalize that thought out loud, the three boys shrugged.
"Sure, let's go explore," Harry said, walking to the hallway. "Left or right?"
"Left?" Hermione suggested. "We can go counterclockwise, and make sure we don't miss anything."
"The Gryff's suggestion is as good as any," Cedric said.
Hermione crossed her arms and gave the older student a small glare.
"Careful, your face can get stuck that way," Cedric teased with a grin, and tried to ruffle the smaller girl's hair. She snorted back a laugh, then dodged his hands.
"Don't mess up my hair, please," she firmly stated a request. "I have enough complexions about it as it is."
"You should try sleakeazy," Susan suggested. "You should see my hair without it, so I have plenty. I can share some – I promise, you won't be able to live without it."
Once more, it showed that Hermione didn't have friends before, as she stared hopefully at Susan. "Really?" the young Gryffindor asked.
Susan gave her a supportive smile. "Really," the redhead replied, grabbing Hermione's arm. "Come on, let's go explore while Hermione and I have some girl talk."
Cedric, Justin, and Harry shared another look. And a shudder.
"Exploring it is!" Harry said, ignoring how the entrance doors slammed shut again. He looked over his shoulder. "Just to make sure – 'freedom'."
The doors didn't budge.
"Liberty?" Harry tried before people had another nervous breakdown. The doors flashed and opened.
"'Liberty' is the word," the demigod stated to his friends. "I think anyone can use it, so any time someone wants to go home, just come here and say 'Liberty'."
They all nodded, before sharing an awkward look. Harry grinned, ignoring the awkwardness, and turned to the hallway. "Let's go explore," he said calmly, and turned left. He ignored a number of doors in the opposite wall and followed Hermione's earlier suggestion to go to the end of the hallway and take the rooms in a counterclockwise fashion.
At the end of the hallway was a door, and Harry pulled it open, to expose a semicircular patio with large gray flagstones on the floor. It was cozily nestled against the building and was lit with by the strange indigo glow of the miasma.
"Pretty," Justin declared, as if that were the end all and be all of declarations.
"I wonder what that is, though," Susan said, pointing to the swirling energies.
"I'm not sure, but considering this mansion doesn't exist in the material plane, I wouldn't recommend entering it to find out," Harry suggested.
"That sounds like good advice," Cedric said, getting agreeing nods from Susan, Justin, and Hermione. "Better advice than what got us here, anyway."
"You can always go home," Harry suggested with a grin.
"Thankfully, I could, now that we know the code word," the older Hufflepuff snarked back. "Which you didn't when we got here. That could have ended badly."
"But it didn't," Harry protested.
"Guys, let's not argue," Susan said, attempting to forestall an argument. "Cedric, Harry found the word. Harry, you didn't know the word when we first got here. You're both right."
The two boys sulked and pouted.
"Hey, a library!" Hermione shouted, effortlessly distracting them by opening the patio's second door, right next to the one that went to the hallway and obviously opening into the first room.
They crowded in after the Gryffindor; the library had tall shelves filled with books that lined its walls. Two more free-standing shelves stood in the middle of the room with a wide aisle between them. Throughout the library, there were several stacks of yet more books, obviously waiting to be sorted, catalogued, and added to the shelves. In the corners were small reading desks with cozy-looking scarlet-colored seats. The entire room was lit by the gentle light of everlasting oil lamps.
Hermione's hands made grabbing motions, obviously itching to get the poor books off the floor and onto their proper places on the shelves.
"Not bad for a private library," Cedric said. "Not as awesome as the Hogwarts Library, of course, but pretty neat for a private library."
Harry nodded silently, letting his gaze roam over the spines of the books. There were many subjects represented, including arcana, natural sciences, religion, astrology, and above all – planar travel.
He felt his fingers itch to start reading those books. He was sure he could find out how to build a Hammerspace from those books!
Suddenly, there was a startled yelp from Hermione as one of the piles of books seemingly came to life and swarmed. Immediately, they pushed one of the free-standing shelves over, making everyone duck and roll.
Hermione let out a note of distress at the sight of the books tumbling to the ground, completely ignoring the swarming books that seemed hellbent on doing damage. Cedric bellowed, grabbed his wand, and started trying to set fire to the rampaging volumes.
Susan jet let out one scream, grabbed an oil-lamp that was lighting the room, and seemed to be brandishing it in the direction of any swarming books that came too close to her for comfort.
Justin screamed like a little girl, dove underneath one of the reading desks, and buried his head in his arms.
Hermione let out another scream, this one more terrified than upset, as the swarm of books dove towards her.
Harry dove toward her, pulled her to the ground, and materialized his shield; as the books attempted to clobber the both of them into soup, they made strange noises while hammering the shield.
Drawing a breath, Harry reached for his Hestia-given boon and burnt the entire swarm; each and every one of the flying, rampaging books caught fire and burnt quickly.
Motes of fire slowly circled and fell to the floor as Harry stood up and pulled Hermione to her feet with his free hand.
"Where did that come from?" Hermione asked, motioning to the shield.
Harry grinned, and turned it back into a ring. "It's a gift from someone I greatly respect," he said.
"Well done, mate," Cedric said. "That was some quick fireworks."
"That was a gift as well," Harry said with a chuckle. "If it burns, I can set it alight."
"Nice one," Susan stated. "That swarm of clobbering books could have been dangerous if you didn't take it out that quickly."
Harry nodded, some of those books had been heavy and having them fly at you at speed was sure to cause damage.
"Is it over?" Justin asked, poking his head out from under the reading desk.
"What are you doing down there?" Cedric asked, his grin showing that he knew precisely what the younger Hufflepuff had been doing.
"Ehm…" Justin hemmed, blushing.
"Probably checking for traps," Harry said, feeling bad for his friend and coming to the rescue. "Good thinking, mate."
"My pleasure," Justin said, somehow able to be quick on the uptake. At the same time, he gave Harry a look that promised eternal gratitude for the save.
Cedric snickered, but kept quiet. Susan frowned at Cedric for bullying poor Justin, and gave Harry a smile for the save. Hermione, on the other hand, completely ignored the byplay and was attempting to the right the fallen shelf and get those poor books off the ground and back where they belonged.
"Oh, Hermione?" Susan said, drawing the other witch's attention. When Hermione looked over, she continued, "books never hurt anybody?"
Hermione blushed at her own words being repeated at her. "Obviously, it's the exception that proves the rule," she said, somewhat uneasily, obviously uncomfortable and not really sure what to do or say.
Susan didn't have a mean bone in her body, and reassured the Gryffindor witch. "Don't worry, lucky we had Harry so they really didn't have a chance to hurt anybody."
Hermione smiled a bit tremulously. "Yeah," she agreed.
"Hey, look," Harry said, pulled a random book off a shelf. It had the same pseudo-3d image of a wizard at the front as the Joy of Extradimensional Spaces, and on its spine was, embossed in gold, the letter 'R'. The book itself was empty. "Think this means anything?" he asked, "It's the same cover as 'The Joy of Extradimensional Spaces' and only has a single letter on the spine."
They all shrugged. Harry thought for a few moments more, but then failed to come up with anything so he replaced the book on the shelf.
"Shall we go an explore the next room over?" Harry suggested.
Hermione made another whiny-squeaky sort of noise at the sight of the devastation in the library.
"Let's put poor Hermione out of her misery first, and clean up," Susan suggested on a tone that told Harry he really should have known better. Feeling oddly chastised, the demigod nodded.
With the five of them, it didn't take nearly as long one would think to right a shelf and stack the books back on it, and soon they exited into the hallway and entered the next room over.
They emerged into some kind of workout or training room; it contained a batter wooden mannequin, a weapons rack holding everything from staves to daggers, and the entire thing was lit by the strange ebb-and-flow indigo of the mists outside a floor-to-ceiling window.
The floor was stained, scorched, and battered; obviously it had seen a lot of action, both magical and mundane. One wall held diagrams of attack and parry positions that Harry recognized from Athena's training in HEMA – the Historic European Martial Arts.
At the far end, near the window, a broom was sweeping the floor.
"Whoa," the children breathed at the sight of the obviously enchanted piece of homemaking kit doing its job.
They milled about for a few moments, studying the weapons on the rack – staves, quarterstaffs, daggers in a bandolier – the poster, the battered mannequin. Hermione gently poked the broom.
It took a swipe at her, then went back to its job, causing her to giggle. "Guess it doesn't want to be disturbed," she announced.
Harry nodded. "Let's see what the next room is," he said. With a nod, five children trooped out, leaving the enchanted broom to its duties.
The next room along the hallway was straight across from the foyer where they had entered. As they passed it, Harry looked very loudly at the double doors, then gave everyone a pointed look – very loudly not-asking if anyone wanted to leave.
Nobody took him up on his non-offer, and instead pushed the door to the room open; for some reason the door was ajar rather than shut firmly.
It soon became obvious why, as a fluffy black cat was curled up on a chair; as they tropped inside, the cat sat up, gave a rather plaintive meow, and approached them hesitantly.
"Oh, you're precious!" Hermione said, almost immediately dropping to her haunches and holding her hand out to see if the cat would approach.
It did, and the Gryffindor spent a good few minutes cooing over the feline. Not that Harry or the others were any better, and the little black cat found itself the center of attention of a bunch of Hogwarts students, all wanting to pet it.
When the cat made clear it had been properly worshipped, they got up and finally took a good and long look at the room they found themselves in.
It appeared to be a study of some kind, the entire back wall was a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. Yet more books were resting on several large scarlet armchairs and small wooden tables. The free walls had several artistic and clearly magical paintings on them.
"Nice," Cedric said, obviously more interested in paintings than yet more books. He'd obviously had his fill after being attacked by a swarm of books in the library. He was staring at a painting of a landscape scene, where a large green dragon was emerging from a grove of pine trees. "I think that's a Welsh Green," he identified.
"I like this one," Susan said, pointing to the second painting, that one of a pegasus in full flight. Harry shivered, suddenly remembering the glare that Orage, Selena's favortie pegasus, had leveled at him.
"I think this one's my favorite," Justin said, while looking at the third portrait, showing a unicorn in a wooden glade; whoever the artist was had managed to impose a sense of calm and tranquility in his work, and Harry felt his shoulders relax slightly.
"Hey, another weird book," Hermione identified, completely ignoring the paintings and going for the books. She hefted a book identical to the one harry had found earlier, only this one held the letter I on its spine, rather than the letter R.
Harry grinned and stepped up to her. "I wonder what it means, though," he said, looking at the books, resting on one of the armchairs.
"We have an R and an I," Hermione said. "I think we need to find the full set for it to make sense."
"Or, at least, more than two," Harry agreed, looking up at the bookcase. He let his eyes trail over the volumes.
Hermione joined him.
"Hey, those are all unaccredited," Harry stated.
"Hand-written, too," Hermione added, having pulled a book from the shelf. "They look like journals, but this one's written in a language I don't know."
Harry glanced over her shoulder. "It looks a lot like Leonardo Da Vinci's stuff, it's probably written in mirror image or something."
Hermione nodded thoughtfully, but closed the book and replaced it. "Let's try the last one," she suggested, pulling the last book on the right. "Well, that one's in French," she said. "And my French enables me to identify French, but not understand it."
Harry glanced over her shoulder once again. "It's speaking about how this mansion was built, and how the owner feared people getting trapped in here, so they've hidden books in the various rooms that spell out the codeword."
"We have I and R," Hermione said, ignoring the fact that he knew French. "Both are letters in 'liberty', so I guess the rest are hidden somewhere else in the house."
"Now we know what those books are for," Harry confirmed. "So now we don't have to wonder anymore."
"Are you kidding?" Hermione asked. "I'm a completionist, so I want to find the rest of the set!"
Harry snorted. Cedric snorted. Susan snorted. Justin snorted. "Let's go find the rest of Hermione's books," Susan suggested.
The entire group nodded and trooped after Susan. Harry, being the last one out, turned back. Something felt off about this room, but he couldn't put his finger onto what it was.
Shrugging, he left the room; the little black cat followed them. They passed a set of stairs leading up. The cat took another look at them, then took off down the hall and entered the next room over.
"Shall we explore this floor first, or shall we go upstairs?" Hermione asked, pointing up the staircase.
The four Hufflepuffs shared a look, followed by shrugs. "Let's do the ground floor first," Harry suggested.
More nods, agreement, so they passed the staircase and entered the next room. This one, too, had its door open, and heavenly aromas of cooking food exited from it. As the quintet entered, they found a large iron stove taking up one wall, while the rest of the kitchen was filled with large tables and racks lined with pots, pans, and other cooking utensils.
Harry's heart warmed when he saw that everything was sparkling clean. In the corner of the room, the fluffy black cat they had seen earlier was jostling with a second cat; several ceramic bowls held various foodstuffs and the cats batted mischievously at each other to get to the juicer morsels.
The entire group froze when two small beings moved, drawing attention to themselves as they flew through the room on flapping wings before making a feather-touch landing on the table closest to them.
They looked like tiny winged people, and appeared earnest and helpful as they bowed readily to their uninvited guests. "How can we be of help to our honored guests?" the first one asked.
The second one picked up immediately, "Cooking? Cleaning? Mending your clothes, perhaps?"
"Thank you for the offer, but we're just exploring," Harry said with a smile. "Who are you?"
"I am Cumin," the first being said.
"I am Coriander," the second one added.
Hermione, ever the curious witch, leaned close to them. "What are you?" she asked. Harry was about to berate her for the rudeness, but the tiny beings took no offense.
"We are homunculi," Cumin replied. "Are you sure you have no tasks for us?"
"Some bread and soup, perhaps?" Coriander insisted, flying up and starting to ladle soup into bowls.
"I could eat, I suppose," Harry spoke softly, causing the others to nod. Cumin, seeing Coriander have all the fun, flew up and started slicing bread.
Before they knew it, they were seated at the large table, with bowls of steaming soup and freshly baked bread that smelled delicious.
"Can you tell us anything else?" Harry asked as they ate. "And this is wonderful food, thank you."
The others, remembering their manners, made it a point to thank the homunculi as well.
"There is not much to tell," Cumin replied.
"Our duties are limited to the kitchen and dining room," Coriander added.
"How about yourselves?" Cedric asked, sopping up the remainder of his soup with his bread.
"I was created by the master," Coriander said. "Cumin was created by the mistress."
Cumin nodded. "We were to take care of the kitchen and the dining area. We've been alone for a long time now."
Coriander picked up. "We take care of the cats and the faerie dragons."
"Faerie dragons?" the kids asked, in tones ranging from worry to outright excitement.
"They are in the arboretum," Cumin explained. "Harmless, but mischievous. They enjoy play and will likely try and entice you to stay in the arboretum to play."
"You may want to try and stay out of their way," Coriander finished.
The five shared a look. "How about special books?" Hermione asked. "With single letters on their spines?"
"We are to stay away from them and not touch them," Cumin explained. "Master and mistress were very clear."
"Well, now we know they're scattered all over," Harry deduced. Something pinged at the edge of his consciousness when it came to the homunculi, but he wasn't sure what it was. Yet. The flair for magic looked familiar, however, and it would probably bother him until he figured out from where.
Thanking the homunculi once more, the quintet got ready to continue exploring. Behind the kitchen was a pantry filled withy sacks of flour, bags of vegetables, preserved meats, and various other staples. All the goods one needed to sustain a household.
Harry narrowed his eyes; this meant that this house kept things fresh, considering that the homunculi reported being alone for a long time.
They entered the dining room through a door in the kitchen. Large windows took up the entirety of the back wall, looking out on three large beds filled with plants. A crystal chandelier hangs above a heavy dining room table made from dark mahogany; six matching chairs stood around the table while a seventh one stood by itself in a corner.
The walls themselves were covered with tapestries that Harry thought would appeal to Dionysus; the scenes were ones of cultivating grapes and the process of making wine.
Suddenly, the chair closest to the door leading to the kitchen shifted and attacked the first person through the door. Unfortunately for him, that happened to be Cedric, who let out a bellow at suddenly being attacked by a chair of all things.
Harry, possessing a demigod's divine reflexes and the training of various combat-oriented deities, pulled Godslayer from its ring form and attacked.
Plasma! Harry thought silently.
Plasma! Godslayer agreed cheerfully, igniting immediately.
The divine weapon sliced through the chair grappling Cedric, causing it to let out a strange sort of whimper before falling to the floor in two pieces, obviously dead.
"Thanks," Cedric told Harry sincerely.
"No problem," the demigod replied cheerfully. "I wonder what possessed that chair to attack you, though," he added, poking at the chair's pieces with Godslayer.
Susan giggled. "Yes, Cedric, what did you to to get the furniture angry at you?"
Cedric gave her a foul look, which caused Justin and Hermione to laugh.
Harry put his sword away. "I think it was some kind of mimic or something," he said. "So I doubt it was anything Cedric did."
"Gee, thanks," Cedric muttered.
"No problem," Harry replied, just as cheerfully as he had moments earlier. "I'm glad everyone's ok, though."
"So far, we've had a swarm of books knock over a bookcase, and a chair that wrestles people," Susan said with a shrug.
"You seem chipper," Harry said with a grin. "After earlier, I would have expected different."
"That was just me panicking over not being able to go home," Susan said with a laugh. "We can go home any time. And besides that, are you kidding me? We get to go on an adventure with Harry Potter. Every kid who read your books growing up has dreamed of the opportunity!"
Harry shuffled uncomfortably.
"I wonder if there are any princesses to rescue," Cedric said, obviously seeing Harry's discomfort and determined to get back at him for the crack earlier.
"I told you, Mel's only a princess by technicality," Harry protested.
"And it was a cave, not a castle," Susan, Justin, and Hermione replied in concert.
"We know, you told us," Susan added, causing him to sulk again.
"Come on, let's explore the next room," she added, grabbing his arm. "There's supposed to be an arboretum around here!"
"With dragons," Cedric warned.
"Mischievous ones," Justin added. "Whatever that means for a dragon."
"And we were told to avoid them," Hermione said, hoping to add to the conversation.
"Maybe we should skip the arboretum, then?" Cedric suggested.
"Professor Sprout would never forgive us," Susan declared. "Come on, I want to see the arboretum!"
"Fiiine," Harry said, drawing the sound out like a typical sulky teenager. It caused grins and chuckles from the others and they went in search of an arboretum. With dragons. What could possible go wrong?
AN: extra nerd points to those readers who figured out the crossover without googling. ;)
My apologies for the delay in this chapter… I recently fell down the rabbit hole of 'Horizon Zero Dawn', and my slight OCD tendencies made me finish it before I could focus on anything else.