AN: See disclaimer on Chapter 1.

AN2: I have been made aware that there would be no Fidelius on Grimmauld Place at the point in time where they went there, since Sirius's mother would have only recently died. I apologise for both that and the idea that Nagini was the snake Harry released. Apparently that was a hoax I fell for. For the purposes of this story, Sirius's mother died before he went to prison and it was used as a safe house during the war.

Chapter 2

The Hogwarts Express was filled with children on their way for the first day of school of the new semester. In the very last compartment, sat a dark-haired boy with green eyes. He was watching as the families hugged their children, or waved at the ones already on the train. It was getting kind of late, and Harry was wondering if the Weasleys were going to be late again, as he remembered.

Sure enough, it was only two minutes before departure that the stampede of redheads descended on the platform. Harry smiled at seeing them. The twins were grinning at something they had done and Ron looked scared. Percy looked officious and Ginny looked envious. They were still the same Weasleys.

Harry waited as the Weasleys dispersed and smirked when Ron got an extra hug from his mother. To him it seemed the boy needed the support. Harry remembered him being worried about what house he would end up in. He was probably also worried after the twins had convinced him there would be a test, involving grappling with a troll to prove he was brave. Ron was quite gullible at that age, he recalled.

He had spotted Hermione saying her farewells earlier as well. He looked forward to befriending her again. She was probably already smarter than him, even at this age. He knew he wasn't stupid, but she was quick and had a memory he still envied.

Just before the train started moving, there was a knock on the door. "Mind if I sit here?" Ron asked. "Everywhere else is full."

"Really?" Harry asked. "One would think that there's at least one spot in another compartment?" He sighed theatrically. "Fine, then. If you must." he said with a smirk. "Just, don't chase away any chicks okay? I intend to make friends with all the birds."

"Okay." Ron said dumbstruck. "Have at it." he said dubiously.

As he pulled his heavy trunk into the compartment, Harry got up and helped him lift his trunk onto the overhead compartment, with one hand. "There you go, mate." Harry said easily.

"How are you that strong?" Ron asked.

"I've been training, so that I could wrestle the troll." Harry said. "Can't expect to get into a good house, if I haven't earned it you know?"

"What?!" Ron asked with big eyes. "But, but…"

Harry chuckled. "Just kidding, mate. I used a bit of magic to help. There is no wrestling a troll."

Ron sighed and breathed out in relief. "Blimey, you almost had me there!" he smiled.

"Almost?" Harry scoffed. "I had you sweating bullets!" he exclaimed.

Ron sat down, but never really admitted that Harry was right. "Ron Wesley." he introduced himself.

"Nice to meet you Ron, I'm Harry Black." Harry said.

"Nice to meet you." Ron said, following Harry's example. Then he looked out the window and saw his mother and sister waving at him. He ducked his head, but Harry waved enthusiastically back at them.

"Are they your family?" Harry asked.

"Yeah." Ron said.

"Why aren't you waving at them?" Harry asked.

"It's embarrassing." Ron said.

"I'm waving at them and I'm not embarrassed." Harry said. "They seem to be frowning at me, though."

"Because you look daft, waving a people you don't know." Ron said.

"If my family was still alive, I'd love to wave at them." Harry said instantly. "Imagine your house burns down and they all died in their sleep. You'd be sorry you were ignoring them then, wouldn't you?" he asked.

Ron looked up with shock written on his face. Then he looked at his mum, who was smiling at him. He lifted his arm and half-heartedly waved back. His sister was looking down the train, which was now moving down the track, probably looking for her other brothers. She suddenly smiled and waved down the train. Harry could just imagine the twins, both sticking their full torsos out the window to wave at them with goofy grins on their faces.

It wasn't long before they were going at full speed and Harry had taken out a white-board marker and started writing on the window.

"What are you doing?" Ron asked with his head cocked to the side.

"I'm calculating our current speed." Harry said. "I always wondered how fast the train actually went, so I checked the length of the tracks and have a way of calculating the speed by how often we hear the train move from track to track."

"Why, though?" Ron asked. This boy seemed slightly weird. Probably aiming for Ravenclaw.

"Because I'm curious." Harry said. He was actually doing it for when…

"Have either of you seen a toad?" a voice asked from the door. "What are you doing?" Hermione asked spotting the lines of calculation.

"We're moving at 112km/h." Harry said, turning around in victory after underlining the answer. "Hi." he said.

"Is that permanent?" Hermione asked, looking at the black numbers on the window.

"Hardly." Harry said, pulling a finger through the calculation. "Just whiteboard marker."

"It's not on the list for school, is it?" Hermione asked in horror. Did she somehow miss the instruction? Was it on the back of the page that she had brought? Her mind went into panic mode as she looked at the marker in his hand, already forming the letter she'd write home to ask her parents to send her the missing items.

"No." Harry said. "These magicals are not smart enough to understand whiteboards. It's all chalk and dust with them. Seriously, even in potions class! One would think they'd be worried about the chalk affecting the potions!"

"Really?" Hermione asked. Then she shook herself, hearing Neville walking closer. "About that toad?" she asked again.

"No idea." Harry said. "Have you tried summoning it?" he asked.

"That's not covered in this year's curriculum." Hermione said. She had a list of spells she intended to learn beforehand and that was on it. She had convinced her parents to purchase another two years of spell books for her, when she saw them on the shelves, right next to each other at the book-store.

"We're on a train filled with older students..." Harry said. "Ask one of them to try?" he suggested.

"Don't you need to know what the item you're summoning looks like?" Hermione asked.

"All toads look the same." Harry shrugged. He pulled out his 'wand' and incanted the spell, but nothing happened. "It must be too far away." Harry shrugged. "Try the front of the train."

"We just came from there." Neville, who had joined them, said in disappointment.

"Okay, I tell you what." Harry said. "You two take a break and I'll go look for a bit." He walked to the door and indicated for them to sit. "Keep my seat warm?" he asked Neville, who sat down gratefully.

"Sure thing." he said. Then he seemed to remember his manners and got back up, holding his hand out. "Neville Longbottom."

"Harry Black." Harry said, taking the hand. "Longbottom, you say?" he asked.

Neville winced. "Yes." he said with a sad look. He knew what people thought of him.

"Our parents were friends. Sorry to hear what happened to them." Harry said honestly. "It's a damn shame."

"Language!" Hermione insisted.

Harry just smiled. He'd be pushing her envelope as often as he could with her. He planned on hearing her swear before the year was out. "Screw that!" he said. "I'm finally away from my minders! If I can get away with it, I'm cussing up a storm!"

Ron smirked, and Neville smiled at hearing that, but refused to respond. "You'll lose your house points, though." Hermione said.

"They'll have to catch me first." Harry smirked. Then he left down the train. He got to the middle of the car and performed a summoning charm again. He heard a soft bang against a door a couple of cars down, so he went to investigate. Against a window of one of the cars, sat Trevor, still being pulled to him by the spell. Poor thing looked like he was about to be squashed. Harry dropped the magic and opened the door.

"Hey! Who said you could come in?" the blond boy asked.

"Are you Draco Malfoy?" Harry asked.

"Yes." Draco said with a smile. "And who are you?"

"I'm Harry Black." Harry said. "Adopted heir to the Black family."

It took Draco a moment to connect the dots. "Are you Harry Potter?" he asked. His mother was a Black. He knew Sirius was released and that he was meant to be Harry's godfather.

"Shh!" Harry insisted, coming in and closing the door behind himself. "Don't let people find out! How am I ever going to get away with anything if everyone keeps looking at me?!"

"You're planning on causing trouble?" Draco asked.

"Only when I can get other people in trouble for it." Harry said with a smirk.

Draco looked at his forehead. "Why don't you have the scar?" he asked.

"Plastic surgeon." Harry said. It was a lie. Once he came back, it had faded and Poppy was able to take care of the last bit of scarring. "Muggle technology can do many things magic can't."

"Are you daft?" Draco asked with a look of incredulity.

"Oh, right." Harry said in fake recollection. "You're one of those backwards purebloods, right?"

"I am a pureblood! There's nothing backwards about it!" Draco said angrily.

Harry held up his hands in mock surrender. "Sorry, I didn't mean to insult you. I just meant about the whole magic beats science thing. Muggles do amazing things without magic! They've got trains that move many times faster than the relic we're currently in, and they can do things that we haven't even tried with magic."

"Like what?" Draco scoffed, looking to his two friends for support, who chuckled as if Harry was really an idiot.

"Lasers, super-sonic flight, intercontinental ballistic missiles, satellites, computers." Harry listed off. "Let's not forget their really fun weapons! Have you ever heard of a sniper rifle?"

"A what?" Draco asked.

"Imagine you're walking down the road with a friend and suddenly his head explodes with no warning whatsoever. The next moment you hear a BANG and you look up to where the sound came from, only for the person to have already left." Harry said.

"Muggles can't do that." Draco scoffed.

"See what I mean?" Harry said. "You don't even know. And you don't have any interest in finding out either, do you?"

"You're lying." Draco accused.

"Hey, I've got nothing to prove." Harry shrugged picking up the toad that was trying to get away again. "If you ever want to find out what muggles are really capable of, speak to Professor Burbage and ask her why you can't go visit Chernobyl anymore. Or about the moon landing. That should be an eye-opener." Then he turned to the door. Just before he left, he looked back. "Remember, I'm Harry Black. If you spoil my fun, you'll be the first person they blame, when I start having fun."

Draco's eyes narrowed. He didn't like the sound of that. It sounded like a threat. Nobody threatened a Malfoy.

Harry returned to the last car, but not before spotting the twins and activating a dung bomb that he saw lying on one of the seats as they looked at an impressively large spider their friend had brought. It looked like a normal tarantula, but Harry suspected they had enlarged it magically.

He didn't stay to watch the fun though and continued on his way. Once he was back, he handed the toad to Neville. "Found the little guy just in time. He was about to jump out a window." Harry said. "Whatever did you do to make him suicidal?"

"Really?" Neville asked. "He's never done that before."

"Do you have a terrarium for him?" Harry asked.

"What's that?" Neville asked.

"A glass or see through container with soil and living plants." Hermione said instantly. "It's actually a good idea. Trevor probably wants to feel at home and is trying to find a place to be more comfortable." She then turned to Harry. "Thanks for helping us find him." she said. "My name is Hermione Granger."

Harry took her hand and bowed, kissing the air above her knuckles. "Harry Black." he said. "It's always a pleasure to meet an intelligent and pretty young lady, such as yourself." he finished with a smile. Hermione was flabbergasted. She didn't believe him, though, thinking he was making fun of her. She huffed and stomped out of the compartment. "Was it something I said?" Harry asked.

"She's mental, that one." Ron said instantly.

"Did you do something?" Harry asked dangerously. "I told you, I don't want you here if you're going to be chasing away the birds."

"I didn't do anything!" Ron said honestly.

Harry narrowed his eyes at him and then turned to Neville. "Mind keeping my seat warm for a bit longer?" he asked.

"Sure." Neville said. He also didn't see anything either Ron or Harry had done wrong. "But she seemed really upset. Maybe you should leave her alone?" he suggested.

"And let her make up her mind that we're all idiots? I don't think so." Harry said, getting up and going after her.

He found her a couple of compartments down. She was sitting with a couple of other girls, which he recognised. They were all from his year, but they were a mix of girls that would be spread throughout the different houses after today. Susan Bones was there, along with the Patil twins. He knocked before opening the door. "Excuse me ladies, mind if I intrude?" Harry asked.

"What are you doing here?" Hermione asked. She still looked upset.

"I was worried that I had said something that upset you, so I came to check that you were okay." Harry said. "If it was something Ron said, tell me now. I'm prepared to drop him for you. You're obviously better conversation."

Hermione looked at him angrily, thinking he was mocking her again, but then she saw he was looking at her with real concern. It was new to her. "No." she finally said. "He didn't say anything." She wasn't going be the cause of a rift between friends.

"Care to tell me what I said that offended you then?" Harry asked. "I couldn't bear the shame if I made a girl upset."

"Why do you talk like that?" one of the Patil twins asked.

"I try to make a good impression, when I am around girls." Harry said honestly. "I was taught that if a man can entertain a lady then his life would be infinitely more enjoyable." He said as he bowed to them. "Harry Black, at your service." he smiled roguishly at them.

"Who told you that?" the other twin asked, thinking that whoever it was, must be a gentleman, or a scoundrel.

"My adoptive father." Harry said.

"You were adopted?" Hermione asked, with a flush of shame as she realised Harry was just trying to be nice. He didn't seem the type to be vindictive. To girls at least. He seemed more inclined to be a charmer, like in the books she had snuck from her mother's collection to read. They became a bit much for her, so she never ended up finishing them, but she seemed to be drawing a couple of comparisons with Harry, from the male love interests in the books.

"I was. My parents died in the war." Harry said.

"So did mine." Susan Bones spoke up. "My aunt adopted me."

"And you are?" Harry asked. "I'm sorry for not introducing myself properly, but I was trying to mend fences and I seem to have forgotten my manners in doing so."

"Susan Bones." She introduced herself getting up.

Harry greeted her by taking her hand gently and kissing the air above the knuckles. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Bones. May I call you Susan?" he asked.

Susan giggled, but lifted her chin and said, regally, "You may, Lord Black."

Harry smiled. He was going to like spending time with the ladies. They seemed to understand how to play the game. Harry then turned to the twins. One of them stood up and offered him her hand. "I'm Parvati Patil."

Harry performed the same greeting twice more, once for each of the twins. Then he turned to Hermione. "I apologise again, for whatever I said to cause offense. I will depart, to leave you lovely ladies with the opportunity to become acquainted."

The girls all giggled, including Hermione, who seemed to have calmed down and he smiled as he left the compartment.

"Nice work in there, Lord Black." one of the Weasley twins said.

"Truly inspired." the other said. "You'll have them eating out of the palm of your hands by the end of the feast if you keep that kind of attention up."

"Ah, the infamous Weasley twins." Harry said with a smirk. "I have been warned that you two have some meagre skill in the art of pranking."

"Meagre he says." the first one said, slightly offended.

"He doesn't know what he's saying, Fred." the other said, clearly identifying him as Fred. Harry sent a tracking charm to his left elbow unobtrusively. He'd now be able to identify them.

"Oh, I don't know." Harry said with a thoughtful look. "Padfoot told me that you were still using the Marauder's Map in its original setting. You haven't even discovered the other features yet." The twins went instantly quiet. Harry continued, "He and Moony have taught me everything they know, of course, so you'll understand if I can't see you as true pranksters, until you've met with their standards." He then turned around and walked back towards the last compartment.

"Wait!" one of them suddenly yelled and started running after him, only to trip on literally nothing. His twin then tripped on him and they somehow got entangled in each other's clothing, unable to right themselves before Harry smirked back at them and entered the last car, closing the door. Suddenly the twins found they could move and they scrambled to the last car.

Harry was already sitting down. He had taken his trunk down and had retrieved a lunchbox from it. The twins tried to open the door, but it seemed to be stuck. He heard them as they tried to open the door, but he ignored them. He'd told the others to ignore them too, and Ron was smiling as he looked at them anyway. Neville was more interested in what Harry was eating.

"What is that, Harry?" Neville asked.

Harry had opened the box and was happily surprised to find Remus had made him his favourite. Sushi. They had tried it once, while exploring the Muggle world, and had found that it was quite enjoyable. Remus had seen how much Harry enjoyed it and had signed up for a class on making sushi.

His supernaturally strong senses and reflexes allowed him to find the best cuts of fish and he quickly mastered the art. He was making good money on the side with those skills these days. He could just walk into any of the Sushi restaurants in the area and people paid him excessively for his skills. To them, it seemed like magic, how he could simply throw ingredients around and make perfect sushi every time.

How could they know that Remus had been training to perform Harry's telekinetic magic for years at that point? He was nowhere near as strong as Harry, but his focus helped him handle quite a few objects at once. Harry even struggled to keep up with the werewolf. Remus had never admitted it, but the sushi skills had actually helped him enhance the ability and extended his focus.

Harry snapped the chopsticks apart and poured some soy sauce into a small bowl. "Sushi." he said as he dipped and then put a salmon rose in his mouth. He shivered in delight and turned to Neville. "It's made with raw fish, but it's completely edible and DELICIOUS!" he exclaimed the last word.

"Raw fish?" Neville asked, still ignoring the twins, who were now trying to unlock the compartment. Little did they know that Harry was keeping the door closed with his power.

"Trust me, you have to try it." Harry said. He produced a fork and speared another salmon rose, dipped it in the soy sauce and passed the fork to Neville, who took it and shrugged, before sticking it in his mouth.

Neville chewed on the sushi for a short while, before his eyes opened wide and he looked at Harry's platter longingly. When he swallowed, his mouth was instantly watering again. "That stuff is brilliant!" he said.

"I know, right?" Harry asked.

"Can I try some?" Ron asked.

"Sure thing, Ron." Harry said. He was actually loathe to let him try it. If he liked it, Harry's lunch might not survive it. He speared a piece, dipped it and then added a bit of wasabi. "The green stuff is wasabi." Harry explained. "It's like a very strong kind of pepper, so you use a very small amount, otherwise it becomes inedible."

Ron nodded and put the piece of sushi in his mouth. To Harry's horror, Ron's eyes indicated that he loved it as well. "Care to trade?" he asked hopefully, producing the sandwiches his mother had sent along.

"Sorry, mate." Harry said. "I love my sushi too much. Chances are I won't have it again for the rest of the year."

"Unless you show us how to make sushi?" Neville tried. He had to have more of that food!

"My uncle made this." Harry said, before popping another piece in his mouth, adding some ginger on top. "He's considered a sushi prodigy. I could teach you some basic stuff, but you couldn't hope to reach this level, unless you trained really hard, or were very lucky and got really good ingredients."

"But, food is food right?" Ron said.

"You are not having any more sushi." Harry decided. "That was an insult to the art. You don't deserve it."

"But-" Ron started.

"If I added too much of one spice, or didn't prepare the rice the right way, or used the wrong kind of rice entirely, it wouldn't even come out as sushi." Harry said. "There's real skill involved. You are too uncultured to appreciate the sophistication that is involved with what makes sushi, sushi."

"Wrong kind of rice?" Ron asked, looking over at his brothers, who had produced a crow-bar from somewhere and were currently trying to open the door that way. "Isn't all rice the same?" he asked.

"Even I know that there are more kinds of rice." Neville said. "I don't know all the kinds, but I know of basmati, long-grain and brown rice. They are usually served with different dishes, too."

"Excellent answer, Neville." Harry said after he took a sip of the cola he had brought with. "Perhaps there is hope for you, yet." he finished, offering the can to Neville, who gratefully took it and took a sip.

"What is this?" Neville asked, looking at the can. "It's fizzy."

"It's a muggle drink." Harry said. "It's carbonated, which gives it the fizz. This one is called a cola."

"It's really good." Neville said giving the can back.

Harry offered it to Ron, who greedily started drinking the cool drink down. Then he started coughing. "It burns!" he complained.

"That's because you were downing it, you pillock." Harry said, taking the can back. "Were you planning on drinking the whole thing yourself?"

Ron had the decency to show shame. "Sorry." he said.

"Don't do that again." Harry warned.

"I said I was sorry." Ron mumbled. Then he turned to his brothers. "How are they not getting in? Seriously?"

Harry let go of the hold he had as he finished his lunch and packed everything away again. The twins, who were sweating as they put their backs into the leverage of the action, suddenly fell on the floor as the door shot open. "You could have tried to knock, you know?" Harry offered after he stowed the trunk with one hand again.

The twins got up and then looked at him with fire in their eyes. "We challenge you to a prank war!" they said together.

"Pass." Harry said and the door closed again.

The twins looked in shock and tried to open the door again. When it refused to move, they both started knocking, non-stop, smirking all the while. When the door opened again. George asked, "Why?"

"Afraid you'd lose?" Fred finished.

"Actually, Fred," Harry started, looking at said twin, "you need to prove to me that you're worthy first. I honestly don't want to expend that much effort unless I know that it will be worth it."

"I'm not Fred." Fred denied. Harry just smiled and lifted an eyebrow.

"What can an ickle firstie do anyway?" George asked in challenge.

Harry smiled at George. "Let's see, shall we?" He seemed to think about it, before he said, "If I wanted to accept a prank war with someone, they'd need to at least be able to tell when they are being pranked."

"What do you mean?" Fred asked.

"The dungbomb!" George exclaimed. "You set that off?" he asked incredulously.

"I don't know what you are talking about." Harry said innocently. "If I did, however, would I admit it?"

Fred smirked. "You've basically started the prank war already!" he exclaimed in victory.

"No." Harry said. "I told you, until you show me you are worthy, you don't get my full attention."

"But-" George said, about to bring up that he had already pranked them.

"I'm not being unreasonable." Harry said. "Show me you have a bit of class, and a good clean sense of humour, without hurting anyone, and we'll talk."

"Why?" Fred asked.

"We could just start pranking you anyway." George continued.

"Indiscriminate chaos is not the sign of a good prankster." Harry denied. "The more laughter and enjoyment that is spread from a successful prank is the true measure for a successful prank." he said wisely. "The Marauders were active during the last war. Their goal was to bring smiles and laughter in a dark time. If you can't live up to their standards, I'm not interested. They taught me their secrets for the sole purpose of continuing their tradition."

The twins looked at each other in contemplation. Then they nodded and turned to Harry. "Deal." they said and walked away.

Ron was gobsmacked. "How did you do that? Nobody can control the twins!"

"I simply used reason and logic." Harry said. The other two in the compartment looked at him like he had grown a second head. "I'm not explaining logic to wizards. It's a lost cause." he shrugged and took out a book.

"What's that?" Ron asked, looking at the book.

"Trigonometry." Harry said. "I'm doing a high-school diploma through the mail. I was thinking of going to college. I'm interested in the sciences. Maybe I'll become the world's first wizard astronaut?"

"Astro-?" Neville tried the word.

"Astronaut." Harry supplied. "Astronauts fly on rockets and go into space to work on space stations and to fix satellites."

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked. "What space?"

Harry rolled his eyes and just continued his reading.

By the time they arrived at Hogwarts, Hermione had stopped by again and hadn't left, since. She sat with Harry as he explained what he was studying and why. She had been shocked to hear that, unless she was at the top of the class, since she was a muggle-born, she'd likely never find a job in the wizarding world. She resolved to follow Harry's example and start doing her normal schooling through the mail as well. At least she had a friend that she could study with.

When they exited the train, Hagrid was there waiting for them. Harry was slightly ashamed that he hadn't made time to meet the big man this time. They took the boats to the school and Neville didn't fall in this time. He did lose hold of Trevor, though, who jumped in the water and swam ahead of them and jumped out on the other side. Poor guy must have been too dry. Harry had placed a tracking charm on the amphibian when he realised it was likely to try and escape again.

When they reached the other side, Harry conjured a squirt bottle and quickly filled it with water. It was a simple conjuration and would only last a short time, but Harry handed it to Neville as he handed him his toad. "Use this to keep him damp. It's probably why he kept on trying to escape. If you keep him wet, he'd be happier. I doubt the lake water is good for him, since it's really cold."

"Harry is right." Hermione agreed. "Most amphibians like warm, damp places. Some of them don't generate body head themselves, you see."

"Hell, you're smart!" Harry complimented. "Seriously, how do you keep all these facts in that head of yours?"

"Says the boy who's planning on finishing high-school maths before he reaches twelve." Hermione scoffed.

Harry couldn't argue with that. "But only because I want to be a pilot or an astronaut." Harry qualified. Hermione just rolled her eyes and went to stand with the rest of the children. Harry turned to Neville, then. "We'll sort Trevor out with a terrarium at some point. I bet he'd love that."

"Thanks, Harry." Neville said, as he squirted another spray of water over the suddenly very calm toad. "He loves it!" he exclaimed. "Look how calm he is suddenly!"

"Told you." Harry said smugly as he walked with Neville to where the other kids were.

They were soon led into the school and everything that Harry remembered would happen, did. The first deviation was when the names were called. McGonagall was reading the names and shortly after Hannah Abbot was called, she read, "Black, Harry!"

Draco smirked and coughed, "Potter." under his breath. It wasn't missed. Harry turned angrily at Draco, who smirked at him, until he saw a smirk appear on Harry's face, for only a split second. He somehow felt that he should have kept his mouth shut. Unfortunately, he'd never learned tact.

"That will do mister Malfoy." McGonagall said, as she ignored the whispers. As Harry approached her, she whispered, "I'm sorry Harry. I tried to keep it quiet."

"It's my fault Aunty Min." Harry whispered back. "I told him that Sirius adopted me. I thought I could avoid making him my rival, by sharing something with him. I should have known he was too stupid to understand what I was doing."

She nodded at him. At least he was trying to keep the peace. Harry sat down and she placed the hat on his head. "Oh, it's you again."

"You remember me?" Harry asked in his head.

"No, but you remember me and I know what you remember, don't I?" the hat asked back. It contemplated for a bit. "Where do you want to be?" it finally asked.

"You're not going to try and convince me this time?" Harry asked.

"Fuck off, Potter." The hat spat. "You already know what you want to do. Just spit it out already so that we can get this farce over with."

Harry gave the hat the answer and then the hat said in a bored tone, "Gryffindor… boring choice if you ask me." Harry hoped that last part was in his head, but couldn't be sure. Minerva smiled at him, secretly happy he had chosen to be one of hers again.

Harry went to take a seat and watched as the rest of the sorting happened. When Draco's turn arrived, Harry smiled and worked his magic, clamping the hat's mouth shut and when Draco was seated, Harry made an illusion of the hat saying, "Hufflepuff!" He didn't want to deal with the boy, so he foisted him off on a house that might see him making some real friends. Perhaps Cedric could sort him out.

"No!" Draco yelled. "The hat said he'd put me in Slytherin!"

"Take your seat Mister Malfoy!" McGonagall insisted.

"No! I demand a resorting!" Draco said defiantly, making to grab the ancient hat from her hands.

Harry looked over at Crabbe and Goyle and smirked when he saw them angrily scowling at the boy. Maybe they were told they would fit in better in Hufflepuff and they had convinced it to put them in Slytherin.

"There's no such thing as a resorting, unless you want to come back and try again next year as a first year?" McGonagall asked with her patented strict face #3. It was the one that said: 'You really don't have a choice, now do as I say or there will be dire consequences.'

Draco fumed, before he stalked off and sat on the very edge of the Hufflepuff bench, like he was afraid of being infected by them. There were a few frowns at his obvious disdain for them. Harry didn't really care. If he alienated himself, that was his problem. Hufflepuff was known as hard workers, yes, but they were also some of the friendliest people you could find.

The feast was a fun memory for Harry and he enjoyed the food, though now that he knew about keeping a balanced diet, he tried to shy away from things that were really not all that good for you, like second helpings of his favourite tart.

They were escorted to the common room and Harry quickly ran up the stairs and to the dormitory and moved his bed in front of the window. He had plans for that window. He had rushed up to the room, so he could do it before anyone noticed and was successful in his mission, only barely, though.

The other boys all entered and started settling themselves, not really caring about the layout of the room. Harry got ready for bed and then closed the curtains around the bed, putting up silencing charms with a thought. He pulled out his mirror and called up Sirius. He was not surprised to notice the man had already started drinking.

"That's it! When I come home, we're putting you in a program." Harry said.

"You're just jealous." Sirius laughed. "That tiny body of yours can't tolerate alcohol yet."

"I'm all for it." Remus spoke up. He took the mirror from Sirius, ignoring his indignant squawk. "How was the sorting?" he asked.

"Malfoy decided to burn the olive branch." Harry said.

Sirius was suddenly back in the mirror. "What did you do in retaliation?" he asked with real excitement.

"He's now a Hufflepuff problem." Harry smirked. Sirius winced. "What?"

"Hufflepuff… has a stigma." Remus said as he appeared in the mirror again.

"Like they are all gay, or something?" Harry asked with a smirk.

"No. Though they really don't care about that, so much, as people fitting into their moulds correctly." Remus said.

"Brainwashing is what Lily always called it." Sirius spoke up. "I'd feel sorry for the boy, but I suspect it couldn't have happened to a nicer person." he smiled vindictively.

"Watch him at breakfast tomorrow." Remus suggested. "You'll see."

"You should have just made the hat say 'Gay', like I suggested." Sirius said. "Would have been a kinder fate. As I understand it Lucius hasn't spent much time with Narcissa, outside of public appearances. It's likely that Draco takes after his father, with how much he tries to emulate him, from your stories."

Harry thought about it and then shrugged. "I suddenly find myself with a whole lot of indifference for the idiot's suffering."

"What about the rest?" Remus asked. "Did you make some friends?"

"I was able to work on the people I wanted. The Patil twins and Bones thinks I'm trying to charm them." Harry chuckled. He knew they turned into beautiful girls, but he couldn't see them that way yet.

"Twins, you say?" Sirius said with a smirk.

"They're eleven, you horn dog." Harry said.

"But they won't always be eleven Harry." Sirius said seriously. "Lay the foundation now and one-day, you may end up having a harem I can brag about with your father when I die happy."

"Let's hope it from natural causes this time and not cirrhosis of the liver, or idiocy." Remus said.

"What of the liver?" Sirius asked.

"Too much drinking Sirius." Harry clarified. "You can die from habitual drinking."

"But… Magic." Sirius argued.

"You have to check with your healer on occasion for that." Remus stated.

"But I don't like healers." Sirius whined. "They always want me to drink potions."

"Probably to fix your liver." Remus returned. Sirius just grumbled at that.

"Anyway, I've got to get to bed. Dumbledore gave the warning about the third floor again, so I'll probably take care of that after Christmas, once I know Dumbledore has set his trap."

"Remember to let slip about the Cerberus and music at some point." Remus reminded him. "You don't want to have to save Hagrid again."

"Yeah." Harry said. "I'll sort that out when the opportunity arises. I'd like to spend some time with Hagrid. I feel bad I never took the time with him like I did with McGonagall."

"You know he can't be trusted to keep a secret, Harry. He'd have run to Dumbledore the moment he was back at the castle." Remus reminded him.

"Remember your primary mission, Harry." Sirius added.

"Keeping up the Marauder tradition?" Harry asked.

"No!" Sirius denied. "Paving the future for the biggest magical Harem that ever existed!" he enthused.

Harry chuckled. He knew that in a few years that would sound like quite a bit of fun, but for now he'd concentrate on making friends as far as he could. If people knew who he really was, nobody would believe the prophet, when Fudge finally decided Harry was a threat for one reason or another. Harry had little doubt that would still happen.

"How about I make my stance on that clear and make friends for now?" Harry offered.

"I can live with that." Sirius agreed easily.

"How's the sanctuary coming along?" Harry asked, out of interest.

"Oh! We forgot to tell you!" Remus said excitedly. "We found the spell!"

"Really?!" Harry said with real excitement.

"Yeah!" Remus said. Then his brow furrowed. "Neither of us can cast it, though. It takes a lot of power."

"I'll have to do it then?" Harry asked.

"Likely." Remus said.

"That's still so unfair." Sirius whined again. "Why do you get to have twice your power and the rest of us are just normal?"

"Do you want to die at the hand of the dark lord after losing everything?" Harry asked.

Sirius grumbled again. Remus just rolled his eyes. This had been something that came up often. "Anyway," he continued, "we'll have to wait until you are home for the holiday and then we can start working the three locations."

"Three?" Harry asked.

"You don't think we'll be keeping the current one here, once we can have our own Fidelius do you?" Sirius scoffed. "We can even get a new place."

"Are you planning on paying for it?" Remus asked.

"Why?" Sirius asked, with a smile.

"Because it's the law?" Remus tried. Harry just chuckled and ended the connection after saying goodnight. Sirius was all for stealing a nice house, by simply placing it under Fidelius. If they couldn't find it, they couldn't very well claim to own it, now could they?

The next day, Harry paid close attention to the Hufflepuff table. Draco wasn't eating, at all. He also refused to make eye contact with anyone at his table. Harry wasn't certain, but it almost looked like Draco was afraid. He was hiding it well, by scowling at anyone that looked at him. They'd think he was simply still miffed at being in the wrong house.

Harry wondered about what Remus had meant. Brainwashing? Was it like some sort of Stockholm syndrome? Harry didn't wonder about it for long, though, since he remembered Draco willingly becoming a Death Eater. Rather a brainwashed nice guy than a brainwashed Death Eater. It was really just a matter of perspective. If he had been conditioned to believe his father's perspective, he could be conditioned to be something else. Something better.

After that, classes started and Harry was instantly bored, so he ended up putting an illusion up of himself doing what the teacher asked and focussing on his other magical studies. Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. If he couldn't become an astronaut, he'd make his own bloody rocket and do it that way! He knew his chances were small with how magic affected technology, anyway. He didn't feel right endangering other people, just so he could be the first wizard in space.

Potions class was fun, for him. Snape tried to single him out again and he acted like a first-year that didn't know anything. The happy smile on his face as he said he didn't know any of the answers was not helping Snape's mood. When Hermione blurted out that she knew that Harry knew the answers, Snape's eye started twitching. Harry couldn't be happier. He had set that up nicely. Hermione would not be happy with that though, if she knew.

After class she confronted him. "Why did you act like you didn't know?!" she demanded. "You could have gotten points for the house!"

"Snape never gives points to Gryffindor." Harry said easily. "He was looking for an excuse to deduct points."

Hermione looked at him in shock. "But, that's not fair!" she exclaimed. "You've studied ahead and everything!"

"Severus Snape is a man with no tolerance. He thinks I'm like my father and so he'll never give me a chance. Acting like the fool he hopes I am will hopefully keep me out of his crosshairs." Harry explained. "Honestly, I would have liked to learn from him. I understand he was good friends with my mum. I refuse to believe that he's all bad. Otherwise I'd be doubting her judgement. He could have told me about her. Sirius and Remus were never friends with her when she was younger, but Snape and my mum were best friends since they were little kids."

"I'm sorry, Harry." Hermione said. "Maybe if you tried to talk to him?" she tried to reason with him.

"I wish it was possible." Harry said sadly as he walked away. "He probably knows why my aunt hates me so much that she treated me worse than a pureblood treats a house elf."

"What's a house elf?" Hermione asked as they walked around a corner.

Snape had not liked being played. He had seen the glimmer of intelligence in Potter's eyes, Lily's eyes, even as the brat smiled, while he failed to enter his mind. Black must have taught him occlumency or more likely, hired tutors. That would also explain his arrogance. He was well prepared for the class and held back on purpose, to fly under the radar.

He had followed the brats to the door and heard the exchange. He was shocked at the frank assessment of his personality. He even felt a twinge of shame. He really didn't see anything but James in his son. Lily would hate him for not seeing any of her in him. Potter was sharp. Sharper than some of his own Slytherins, he begrudgingly admitted to himself. He obviously had some of Lily's spark in him. He'd have to keep an eye on the boy. He also felt a surge of irrational anger at Petunia for treating Lily's boy as Harry described, even though he could understand why. She was always jealous.

Flying class went off differently as well. Harry didn't encourage the broom too much, and without Draco there to antagonise him, since the Hufflepuffs had this class with the Ravenclaws, Harry had an easy class, only needing to help Neville control the broom that first time, when it lifted off when he didn't want it to. After that his confidence increased, as Harry helped him along. Before long they were flying laps and Harry didn't even need to help him by the end.

Hermione was pleasantly surprised when the broom had shot into her hand instantly, while Harry's merely lifted sedately, not realising Harry had helped it. He excelled at everything he did. It seemed she had more skill with the broom as he flew in the back of the class and she quickly went to the front, finally outshining him and gaining some points for the house.

Harry had played the games already. He loved Quiddich too much to cheat, so he allowed the others to outshine him. He didn't need the long training sessions come rain or shine this time around either. Instead, he'd spend the time in study and exercising in the Room of Requirement. He had a lot he wanted to achieve this time around. He could still fly and play in pick-up games. He was a fair chaser and beater, when they played for fun, when Sirius booked a pitch for them on occasion.

He did wonder how he'd fair without glasses though. He had insisted on corrective surgery and Sirius had begrudgingly allowed it, when it seemed there were no similar options in the magical world. Harry had pushed for it, because he wanted to leave the image of the scarred, bespectacled little boy in the past. He was informed that the malnourishment had been completely countered, but he still felt he should have been taller than Ron, who looked about the same from his perspective.

He had noticed more muscle mass this time around, though, so he wasn't really upset. He planned on staying fit, though, like no wizards seemed to. Fitness was healthy and healthy looked good. When he was ready, he intended to have his pick of any girl or all of them if the mood struck. He wouldn't be making friends with the boys that way, but he never had that many to begin with. He'd also be staying away from Ginny this time. He had heard the story about Molly using love potions on Arthur, just one too many times.

If his plans worked out this time around, Ginny would never need rescuing and he wouldn't become her personal saviour again. Maybe they could even be friends this time around.

Harry continued on his own studies, but had to actually do the work in Potions. He had noticed that Snape was paying far too much attention to him. He had been able to stop the malicious sabotaging that happened in the class and the Slytherin students found their own potions spiked with what they had intended for the Gryffindor students. The sabotage attempts soon stopped.

Snape had no idea how, but he suspected the Potter boy was the one that kept on deflecting his students' attempts to teach the Gryffindor students about the art of sabotage. He couldn't fault the boy, for returning fire in the same way they were attempting to attack their fellows and soon found that some of the nitwits had actual skill. Something he hadn't thought possible. The Longbottom boy, while slow, had a real talent for handling the ingredients, but couldn't stand the pressure of a single directed scowl, and inevitably miscalculated and messed up every single potion.

Harry, on the other hand, had opted to work alone, ostensibly to protect the other students from being punished by their association with him. Severus wondered how someone with such a strategic mind had ended up in the house of glorious idiots. Surely the hat had made a mistake or two in the past? Draco was a good example. Fortunately, Severus thought that it was quite Slytherin to hide in the Hufflepuff house. Nobody would suspect a thing from someone in that house.

Almost two months later, after a potions class was finished, Snape spoke up. "Potter! A word." Harry ignored the man. He wasn't going to allow people to even think he thought of himself as a Potter.

"Harry!" Hermione whispered harshly. "The professor is talking to you!"

"What?!" Harry asked. "No he wasn't. I'm not a Potter. I'm a Black."

"You know I meant you." Snape said through narrowed eyes.

"With all due respect, Professor Snape," Harry started. "I prefer not to be called by my deceased parents' name. Did you know that 'Harry Potter' supposedly slew dragons and trained under Merlin for many years? I'd rather not be associated with those fairy tales. That guy sounds like some kind of righteous idiot."

Snape's eye twitched. He'd heard of the books and rumours. "Indeed." was all he said.

When Harry had his book bag on his shoulder, and the rest of the class had left, with Hermione waiting outside, Harry waited in front of the professor's desk. "You wanted to speak to me, sir?" he asked the man who was just standing there watching him.

Snape was considering how to speak to the boy. Finally, he cleared his throat. "You seem to not be as inept as some of your classmates. I'd appreciate it if you stopped making mistakes on purpose, to lower your grade. I'm not a fool." he warned.

"I'm sorry, sir. What are you referring to?" Harry asked innocently.

"I saw you prepare all your ingredients perfectly, lining them up for the potion in the correct order. I even noted you arranging them in intervals, with spacing to indicate the needed time and at angles to indicate if stirring was necessary." Snape said. He had been impressed. The boy must have been reading some advanced books and learned some tricks to help him with his potions. "Why then, did you decide to add completely unnecessary ingredients?"

Harry sighed. He had done that on purpose, of course, but he did it so that he could remember when the ingredient he added would simply make the potion fail, rather than explode or start creating noxious fumes. "They weren't unnecessary, sir." Harry denied.

"Don't lie me!" Snape snarled. "You are ruining your potions on purpose!"

"That's true." Harry agreed.

"Then why did you deny that the ingredients were unnecessary?" Stane asked.

"Because they were necessary, sir." Harry said. "To cause as little side-effects as possible. I'd rather not blow up the cauldron or make the students around me sick, when I added something that would react badly or violently."

Snape hadn't considered that, but now that he thought back, he realised the ingredients he had used would do just that. It needed knowledge and forethought. He must have a working knowledge of a much higher grade of potions. "You're not just holding back are you? You're trying to fail on purpose!" he accused.

"That's correct, sir." Harry said.

"What?! Why?" Snape asked. If the boy was so talented, he could become a Potions Master in just a few short years!

"Because if I fail in enough exams, I can be expelled from the class." Harry said easily. "I've already finished my potions education till NEWT level and would rather study something else. If I'm expelled, I'll have some free time. Potions is mandatory, though, so I had little choice."

"Why are you admitting to this?" Snape asked, suspiciously. "Surely you don't think I'll help you to slack off."

"Because if I lie to you, you'll use it as an excuse to make my life miserable." Harry said. "You are in a position of power over me and I don't want to antagonise you." he said. Then he shrugged, "If I fail on purpose, though, you literally don't have the power to allow me to continue. My failing grades will force your hand."

"You're manipulating the system?" Snape asked. Then he scowled. "How very Slytherin of you."

"Thank you, sir." Harry said with an easy smile. "I believe that's the first time you've ever complimented a Gryffindor."

Snape's smirk vanished. "It's not." he admitted then. "Your mother was also quite intelligent. I had no problem admitting as much then, just as I have no problem admitting it now."

Harry was shocked. He had not known the man had listened. He'd hoped, but he couldn't be sure. His shocked expression changed to a grateful smile. "Thank you, sir." he said. "Will that be all?"

"No." Snape said. "You have detention with me, after your last class, for your blatant disregard for the rules of my class. Now, you may leave." he dismissed the boy.

"But, the Halloween feast?" Harry asked.

"We'll be done before the feast starts." Snape assured him, walking back to his office. He had preparations to make.

After the last class of the day, Harry went back to the dungeon, to do whatever punishment Snape had thought out for him. He was surprised to see a couple of potions brewing in cauldrons and a desk set up with notes and writing utensils.

"Ah, there you are." Snape said with a smirk. "You will identify the potions and correct their processes. Then you will write a report on the purposes of the potions, and how they would be used normally. You should be able to finish before the feast, if you are as proficient as you claim."

Harry sighed and rolled his eyes. He should have known. "How will this gain me the freedom I'm going for?" Harry asked. "If I fail your test on purpose, that will only support my plan."

"Because if you pass the test, I will give you what you want." Snape said. He doubted the boy's claim, even though he showed some true skill.

Harry knew Snape doubted him. If he failed here, he'd be doomed to sit in this class for all his years at school, most likely. He didn't doubt Snape would start faking his grades, just to spite him at this point. "How will you explain it?" he asked.

"I'll say you are taking supplemental classes." Snape said easily. "Too dangerous to be around the other students."

Harry thought about it for a moment. It didn't really mesh with his plans for the future, though, so he countered, "I hired a tutor, thinking I'm too good to be kept behind by the rest of the class."

"That would sound rather arrogant, don't you think?" Snape asked. He'd easily do it, but he needed to know the reasoning.

"If you tell people that, they'd think that you were just sticking to your usual attitude." Harry said. "I'd tell people that I'm a year or two ahead, due to studying the subject beforehand and didn't want to lose the advantage. It is in keeping with my plans for the future."

"What are your plans?" Snape asked.

"Sorry, that's need-to-know information." Harry said. Then he walked forward and held out a hand. "Do we have a deal?" he asked.

Snape looked at the offered hand of the eleven-year old boy. He definitely didn't act like a child. He planned on getting at whatever secrets the boy held, one way or another. He took the hand and shook it. "Deal." he said.

Over the next two hours, Severus Snape's temper rose and rose. The Potter brat was actually doing what he said he could! It was unbelievable! He had cast a couple of revealing spells at the boy, secretly of course, and all of them came back negative. He wasn't under Polyjuice. He hadn't transfigured his features. He wasn't a metamorphmagus. He even picked up as an eleven-year old boy! That should be impossible!

"That should be it." Harry said, putting away his fountain pen. Why would he use a quill, when there was something better, after all? He also took notes on legal pad, but had to hand in his homework on parchment. He cheated with that too, of course, but none of his teachers had spotted the trick yet.

"How did you do that?" Snape asked suspiciously.

"Like I said." Harry said. "I studied." Then he got up and placed his book bag back on his shoulder. He really needed to get to the great hall before Quirrel released the troll and came running. Fortunately Harry had outshone Hermione in charms today and rubbed it in Ron's face playfully. Ron had not liked it, but at least he felt better having lost to the boy-who-lived. There was no shame in that, after all.

"I'm not done with you." Snape said darkly.

"According to our deal, you are." Harry said easily and walked to the door. "If you want to discuss this further, you'll need to arrange it for another time. I don't want to miss my first Halloween feast." He opened the door and turned back to Snape. "If you need to, please don't discuss this in front of Quirrel. He's been sneaking around the third floor at night and I don't trust him."

Snape lost some colour. "How do you know that?!" he demanded.

"Trade secret I'm afraid." Harry said. "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to figure out how to obliviate you."

"Are you threatening to memory charm me?" Snape asked dangerously.

"Of course not!" Harry scoffed. "I literally just told you that I don't know how, and as long as I don't give you information, I don't have to figure it out." Then Harry looked seriously at the Professor, "Listen, Professor Snape. If there's ever something I need help with, I've got people to support me. I want you to focus on your own house.

"There are some troubling rumours about the older boys taking advantage of their magic on the girls. A certain broom closet outside the Slytherin dormitory tends to be occupied after lights out, but the girls in question never seem to know that they had been up after curfew." Harry said, seriously, with a look that didn't belong on a child's face. "I'm telling you this as a curtesy. If this behaviour is not resolved, permanent action will be taken."

Snape's face lost all the colour it had left at that. He had not heard the rumour, but considering what the boy was telling him, he probably hadn't heard it in a rumour either. He knew this was serious, though. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about." Snape said.

Harry caught the look. Snape would take care of it. "That's good." he said. "I'm sure you'd know if something was going on."

As Harry left, something fell from out of his robes and lay on the floor. Snape walked closer and inspected the item. It was an invisibility cloak. He looked up sharply, but Harry was already gone. He realised he had left it for him on purpose. "Cocky brat." he muttered. He was certain the boy was up to something, but at least it seemed he had some common sense and good intentions. "Should have been in Slytherin." he said to himself.

Harry arrived in the Great Hall with plenty of time to spare. Some of the other children were still showing up and the feast hadn't started yet. Harry went to sit with Ron and asked, "Where's Hermione?"

"How would I know?" Ron said. "I'm not her keeper." Harry didn't like the sound of that. Ron wasn't making eye-contact either.

"What did you do?" Harry asked, dangerously.

"Nothing!" Ron defended himself.

"She tried to help Ron with his levitation charm after you left for detention." Neville said. "He called her a nightmare and she ran off."

"You son of a bitch!" Harry exclaimed. "After I told you expressly not to drive any girls away, you went and did it behind my back!?"

"Mister Black!" McGonagall exclaimed from nearby. She had just been walking past, on her way to the staff table. "That will be twenty points for your language!"

"Bugger the points!" Harry said irrevocably. He'd sworn in front of McGonagall before and she knew his secret as well, but didn't want him to set a bad example. "He insulted my friend and now she's not here!"

"Detention, Black!" McGonagall insisted.

"Whatever." Harry said, getting up. Before he left, he turned to Ron and pointed in his face, "You and I aren't talking." Then he ran off to find his friend. He just made it outside the hall and to a quiet location when he opened his map and looked for her. She was in the bloody bathroom again! He really hoped this wasn't a precursor to other events conspiring to happen the same way again.

He made his way to the bathroom and knocked on the door. "Hermione? Are you in there?" Harry asked. He knew she was, but he couldn't very well tell her that. There was no answer. "Hermione?" he tried again. There was still no answer, so he opened the door and walked in.

He walked to the only occupied stall and bent down to confirm she was in there. He was surprised to see her laying on the bathroom floor. She had tear-tracks on her face and she seemed to have been bawling her eyes out until she fell asleep on the floor. Harry shook his head and opened the door with his magic and lifted the girl up in his arms, with a little magic helping. She must have been planning on staying there for a while, since she didn't want to face Ron by going through the common room. Maybe Ron wasn't worth the effort, this time around?

She stirred, and Harry had to hit her with a stunner, to ensure she didn't ask any difficult questions, like how they were invisible. Then he started to the common room. He wasn't surprised to come face-to-knee with the troll, as he walked to the staircase. He didn't have time for this, though, and simply strangled the creature with his power, until it passed out. He knew stunners would do very little, but all living creatures needed blood in their brains to stay conscious. He didn't even slow down as he went.

The creature was down for the count in under five seconds. Harry kept the pressure on the arteries of the creature for a good ten more seconds, ensuring it would not wake up any time soon. In fact, it might not ever wake up. A full minute of this would kill the creature, as would it a human being, but prolonged oxygen deprivation could lead to brain-death or a coma. Harry had learned to take full advantage of his special trick and had learned all he could about disabling his opponents quickly, if unconventionally.

Harry proceeded up the stairs and entered the common room, where he lay Hermione on a sofa. He then took out a book and opened it to where he had been reading recently. He waited for her body heat to settle into the couch first and then he sent an enervate to her.

She woke slowly, as was his intent, but he was focussed on his book again. "Harry?" she asked.

"Oh, are you finally awake, sleepy-head?" Harry asked with a lopsided smile.

Hermione looked around herself, trying to make sense of where she was, before her memories rushed back. "How am I here?" she asked.

"When you didn't show up at the feast, I went to look for you." Harry said. "One of the girls mentioned that they saw you going into the bathroom earlier today in a… fragile state." he said gently.

"And you went in?" she asked, suddenly completely awake. "You're not allowed!"

"Did you want to stay asleep on the bathroom floor?" Harry asked.

"I cleaned the floor first." she defended herself. Even so, she didn't really want to admit that she hadn't meant to fall asleep. Then she cocked her head to the side, "How did I get here?" she asked.

"I carried you." Harry said easily, as he turned back to his book and turned the page.

"All the way from the bathroom?" she asked. "But that's several floors!"

Harry smiled. "It only took a couple of minutes." He said.

"But, how?" Hermione persisted.

"Can you keep a secret?" Harry asked.

Hermione wasn't ready for the question. She had never been offered people's secrets. After a moment, though, she replied, "Of course, Harry."

Harry stood up and lifted the end of the large leather sofa she was on. With one hand. "I'm stronger than the average person."

"How are you doing that?!" she exclaimed.

"I can teach you, if you want, but you have to keep it a secret." Harry said. "This is a result of a certain form of magic I practice."

"But, school only just started." Hermione objected.

"I started practicing this when I was four." Harry said easily.

"But that's not allowed! Where did you even get a wand?" she asked. Then she noticed he wasn't carrying a wand. "It's wandless magic?" she asked. "How did you learn that? Why did you learn that?"

"I was still living with my Aunt. I needed to take care of myself since they scarcely ever fed me." Harry said. "The thing is, wandless magic can't be tracked, so if you learned this, you could potentially show your parents what you're learning, as long as they kept it secret."

"How long does it take?" she asked. She was suddenly committed to whatever was necessary. If this was Harry's secret to success, she definitely wanted to learn it.

"You'll keep this secret, right?" Harry asked. "Practice it in private and never let people see it?"

"Yes, Harry." she confirmed again. She understood why she was being sworn to secrecy. It would be a great advantage if she could learn this. "I'll never abuse the knowledge, either." she swore.

"Good." Harry said. "When I taught Sirius this, he started using it all the time. Now he does it when we're out in the Muggle world, since he can't be caught."

"That's against the law!" Hermione objected.

"Technically, no." Harry countered, closing the book. He had started reading the same sentence over and over, anyway. "So long as it's never spotted, and not malicious, it's considered within the law."

She made to speak, but Harry interrupted her. She'd keep on asking questions otherwise. "Are you ever going to tell me why you were in the bathroom to begin with?" he asked. Her mouth shut instantly, with an audible click. She looked down and Harry could see she was thinking about what the pillock had said. "I told Ron to bugger off. I can't be friends with people that can't keep their insecurities in check. He shouldn't insult you because he's ashamed that you learn faster than him."

Hermione scowled. "Perhaps if he paid more attention in class!" she fumed, her mind temporarily off the subject they were discussing. "The teacher clearly said-" she started.

"To be fair, he probably didn't like receiving a lecture from someone that is the same age as him." Harry interrupted, giving her a look. "You can be a little bossy at times."

"But, I was only trying to help!" she defended herself.

"Hermione, you are too bossy. Your way of doing things is wrong. You should stop that." Harry said looking down his nose at her.

She didn't respond at first. Her mouth hung open as she contemplated what he had said. Then, "How dare you!"

"Are you angry because I'm correcting you, or because I was speaking down at you?" Harry asked.

"Both!" she insisted. Harry smiled kindly at her and gave her a look. She suddenly lost her anger in realisation and considered it. "Do I really sound like that?" she finally asked.

"Only sometimes." Harry said. "You especially like to do it when you are quoting teachers or books."

"Really?" she asked. She didn't like the way Harry had spoken to her. If that was really what she looked and sounded like, she could understand Ron's reaction.

"Don't worry about it." Harry finally said. "Just be aware of it and realise when you are doing it from now on. In the meanwhile, I say you should wait for Ron to apologise. I warned him not to scare any pretty girls away and look what he went and did."

Hermione blushed and looked away. Harry always said such nice things, even if she knew she wasn't pretty and he did it with all the girls. It was nice to hear, though. "Thanks, Harry." she finally said.

"No problem." Harry smiled and stood up. "I bet there's still some food on the table, if you're hungry, unless Ron ate it all."

"The Feast!" Hermione exclaimed in realisation. "You're missing it for me!"

"It's what friends do." Harry said easily as he walked ahead of her to open the door for her.

They walked quickly toward the Great Hall and soon came upon the figure of the still passed out troll. "What's that!?" Hermione exclaimed.

"It looks like a mountain troll. It looks like the picture of one I saw once, anyway." Harry said slowly walking up to the creature.

"Harry, stay back!" Hermione whispered angrily. "It could be dangerous!"

"We're in a school." Harry said. "It must be tame or something."

"Mister… Black." a voice said from down the passage. It was Snape. "Why am I not surprised to find you here with the troll?"

"Professor Snape." Harry said respectfully. "Is it supposed to be here?" he asked with curiosity.

"No." Snape said, narrowing his eyes. "It's not." He looked up and spotted Hermione. "And what is Miss Granger doing here?"

"I went to fetch her." Harry said, before Hermione could lie to cover for him, like last time. "She had an argument with a friend and I convinced her that, even though she couldn't turn him into a newt or something, at least she could still kick him in the balls if he continues being an idiot." Harry frowned then, "That really was horrible to find out. Why can't we turn people into animals for displeasing us? What's the point of magic if you can't use it on people that piss us off?"

Snape didn't indicate in the slightest that he found what Harry said funny. "That will be twenty points for your language. And another twenty for lying to me."

"Okay." Harry said with a smile. Then he turned to Hermione. "Come on Hermione, Ron's balls aren't going to kick themselves!" he encouraged.

"Harry!" Hermione objected, even though a small smile played on her face for a moment.

"That's another twenty points..." Snape called after them. When they were gone, he continued in a whisper, "to Gryffindor." He couldn't very well punish them for the public service they were planning on performing. Try as he might, with the boy's wit and cunning, he couldn't see only James in the boy anymore. He even avoided the subject of what happened to the Troll, while insinuating that he knew nothing about what happened. Something he didn't believe for a moment.

Harry and Hermione soon met with people who were being led from the Great Hall, under the protection of the Prefects. He sighed when he was informed that they had to go back to the common room. He ignored them and continued to the Great Hall, dragging a protesting Hermione behind him.

"Why didn't you tell them about the Troll?" she asked.

"They wouldn't have believed me or insisted that we follow anyway, and then they would see it for themselves." Harry said. "This way we don't need to climb all those stairs again."

"Why do you always speak like you know how people will react?" Hermione asked. "You don't know for sure that people wouldn't listen to you. I'd believe you if you told me something."

"But you're my friend. You're supposed to. A good prefect will follow orders and the rules, just for the sake of following them." Harry said. "And if you were a prefect, I'm sure you would too."

Hermione couldn't refute that. Prefects were supposed to follow the rules after all. "Fine." She finally relented as they entered the Great Hall. At least he had a good reason and wasn't just making stuff up for the fun of it. "Why did you speak like that in front of Professor Snape?" she then asked.

"I'm trying to see if I can make him smile." Harry said with a shrug as he sat down, having reached his usual spot and dishing up. The hall was empty and Hermione looked around uncomfortably. "I don't think I'll ever get more than a smirk if I get hurt or something, but at least it makes him think I'm more interested in being funny than taking out trolls."

"Do you know what happened to the troll?" Hermione asked.

"Sure." Harry said, taking a bite of some kind of confectionary. "I choked him till he passed out."

"Right." Hermione smiled and shook her head, thinking he was joking, not considering what he had shown her earlier. Then she sat down next to him. At least with the hall empty, she didn't need to watch Ron as he tried to shovel half a plate into his mouth, all at once. He really was a glutton. "Next you'll be telling me that you can fly and shoot laser beams from your eyes." she said with a smile.

"Not yet." Harry said as he smiled at her. "It's on the list, though. I loved the movie. I've almost figured out flight. One of these days, I'll start wearing glasses so you don't recognize me when I'm in my Superman costume."

She giggled when she saw his smile. Harry was always good for a smile. She was glad she had him as a friend.

The next morning, when Ron joined them at the table, like nothing had happened, they both got up and relocated. He looked after them frowning, not understanding what they were doing. When he tried to join them again and they left, again, he finally figured it out. He actually got angry and decided that he'd avoid them, too. But that was exactly what they wanted, so it worked out for them.

The next day, Harry showed up for potions class, since he'd not heard from Snape yet. He suspected if he just stopped showing up, Snape might take offense. He went through class as he normally did, spoiling the potion precisely as intended and then packed up at the end of class.

"Mister Black." Snape said. "A moment of your time, before you leave."

"Of course, sir." Harry said and then he waited for the rest of the class to leave.

When they were all gone, Snape sealed the room and walked back to his desk. He retrieved a small parcel and handed it to Harry. "I'm afraid I cannot allow you to roam free during potions class. Instead I'm going to have you study separately from the rest. You will sit in the back of class, while you study up for your supplementary classes."

"I don't understand, sir." Harry said.

"I don't intend to break my word, but I can't be seen giving you special attention." Snape said. "I will need to know what you are studying, though, since I cannot allow you to study the dark arts or read romance novels. This is a school. You will need to study."

Harry weighed his options and realised the man was at least giving him what he wanted. "Fine." he said. "I'm studying Runes and Arithmancy in my spare time."

"Why?" Snape asked, intrigued. Those subjects were only meant to be available after second year.

"I want to build a spacecraft and be the first wizard to land on the moon." Harry said with a shrug.

"Are you trying to be funny?" Snape scoffed.

"Please tell me that you know that muggles have already done that?" Harry begged. "If you don't, I might lose all respect I have for you."

Snape had known that, but he didn't think it could be possible for wizards. "Do you have a plan for your supposed magical spacecraft?" he asked, trying to ignore the blatant insult to normal wizards.

"I was thinking of making something that looks like a UFO." Harry said. "That way, if people see it, they couldn't report it, since everyone knows UFO's are fake. That should protect the statute of secrecy. I've not figured out everything yet, either, but I am studying advanced mathematics and will likely need to consider and address a whole host of technical issues." he said. Then he asked, "Did you know that without the ozone layer to protect a craft, it could fry the person inside alive if it isn't specifically protected? The sun's radiation is completely unfiltered in space."

That, Snape hadn't known. It sounded like the boy was actually planning for this. "And what will this achieve?" he asked.

Harry looked at him like he was crazy, "It's space, who wouldn't want to experience zero gravity, or see the entire planet out a window? Or leave their mark on the moon?"

"You intend to vandalize the Moon?" Snape asked, still not understanding.

"I'm not going to leave graffiti or something." Harry scoffed. "I was thinking of leaving a flag or finding the one the Americans left there. Who knows, moon-rocks may even have magical properties that we'd never know without going to see for ourselves."

Snape had underestimated the boy, it seemed. He wasn't planning on slacking. He wanted to achieve what was before unachievable. "Very well." Snape said. "I can't tell you not to dream, even if it is a stupid and unrealistic dream. But the work you put in will likely help you later in life anyway, so I can allow it."

"Well, to be frank, sir, I don't need your permission to strive to achieve my goals." Harry said. "I do appreciate your support, though, and thank you for the thought."

Snape could tell the boy wasn't being sarcastic, so he nodded. "Hide the package and open it in private." he instructed. Then he unsealed the door and left to his office.

Harry opened the package in bed that night and was unsurprised to find his cloak and a note.

The problem has been resolved. I appreciate the information. Should you come by more such information, let me know at once.


As he turned the note over, he realised it was a picture of a red-headed girl, smiling at the camera, with a dark-headed youth, likely Snape himself, standing there next to her. It wasn't a moving picture, so it must have been taken by a muggle, or by muggle means, before their Hogwarts years. It seemed he was slowly winning the professor over.

Harry remembered seeing Snape die in a previous life and only realising after his death that the man was truly a hero. That was the only reason that he was trying so hard to show him some respect and was trying to win him over.