Chapter 9

The Prize

The loud banging of metal on metal was the sound that woke Harry in the morning; he uselessly cursed the inanimate object and struggled to bury himself deeper in his blankets. Much to his dismay, he found out that sound can indeed travel through cotton and his fruitless attempt at hiding changed nothing.

With a sigh of resignation, Harry through the blankets off himself and reached over slapping the noisy alarm quiet. He took a moment to stretch before slipping onto the ground, and strolling over to the bathroom. The room was decorated with plush crimson carpets, various pieces of ancient solid oak furniture, and finally no portraits.

This meant no secret spy to run back to Dumbledore.

Harry wasn't naive; he knew the Headmaster would use every tool available to him to ensure the smooth running of his school. No ancient pact or protection ensured the privacy of a lord's bedchamber, and Harry knew that he would have to secure his room himself.

How he was going to do that was another matter.

For now he knew that must wait, as he began getting ready for his day at Hogwarts Harry found his mind drifting back to Gabrielle Delacour. He wasn't really surprised to see the daughter of one of France's most powerful and ambitious families at Hogwarts, rumors said that with Siblings in Dumstrang, Salem Witches Academy, Beauxbonts, and Red Dawn Academy the Delacour Patriarch was ensuring political alliances in every part of the globe.

The offspring of a Veela would be valuable wives and husbands; if they were even moderately intelligent then it would be a bonus. This thought reminded Harry how keenly important his position was, he was the last of the Potter line and his families future rested with him.

Shaking his mind to clear such thoughts, he finished getting ready and decided now was a good, a time as any to head to the Great Hall. With his wand securely fastened to a holster on his arm, Harry strolled downstairs and through the Ravenclaw common room which he decided to wait till later to study in detail.

Surprisingly Orion met him at the bottom of the staircase, he cast the handsome lord of the Black's a surprised eyebrow but said nothing.

It seems, he had found a friend.

He would have to consider seriously the implications of a friendship with Orion, but right now he just didn't want delve into that quagmire. So he decided for one day to accept the companionship of a person who was in every way that mattered his rival.

"Morning Orion, I see you've found time to prim yourself up this morning." Orion simply arched an eyebrow; he chose not to comment on the gel in Harry's hair or the fact that Harry had probably spent a good quantity of time making his own self presentable.

"We Blacks have a long legacy of satisfying the urges of witches all across the world, who am I to spit in the face of tradition?" Harry rolled his eyes at his friends brashness, each of them were powerful magical lords with huge amassed fortunes, and capable of altering the political landscape of the magical world with a simple vote.

Yet neither one of them had any idea about this mystery called… women.

"Yes Orion the Black's legacy with feminine trolls is legendary; now let's head for the Great Hall." Orion muttered a string of curses that Harry knew he would never use in polite company.

They strolled down the hall passage way to begin the trek toward the Great Hall, Harry's memory wasn't entirely positive because he had been groggy when he strolled into the common room but he was almost sure he knew where he was suppose to be going.

Ten minutes later he patted himself on the back, and took a seat down at the Ravenclaw table. Aside from a few haggard looking six and seventh years, they were the only ones at the table. Harry began to fill his plate with food as he awaited his morning post.

He wondered whatever happen to that snowy owl he had freed in Diagon Alley, it had never returned to the cottage and it was really to insignificant for him to spend time dwelling on. Only the promise of owl post sparked the memory for him, and much to his shock his question was about to be answered.

That same snowy while owl was flying through the Great Hall a roll of paper attached to her leg, when she landed in front of Harry and thrust her leg out at him. He couldn't help but be amused; he took the copy of the Daily Prophet from her, and began while skimming the articles.

Hedwig decided to extract her payment from the food on Harry's plate.

Boy-Who-Lived Leads Charge against Witches Rights

Writes Hannah Dolsdon

Recently returned Harry James Potter led the charge in last month's session of the Wizengamot's vote on abortion rights for witches in the Magical Great Britain. A sneaky and backhanded attack that completely blind sided the magical community.

Sources report that several large cash payments to various Wizengamot members, and a healthy mix of threats were the cause of the complete sudden shift of opinion. Naturally the Ministry of Magic is denying that any such bribery scandal would have taken place, but my sources tell me differently.

Lady Devaro was forced to stand up to answer Mr. Potter's questions, an unusual move that caught the attention of several members of the Wizengamot. Despite answering each of Mr. Potter's questions with intelligence, and patience.

Lady Devaro was openly laughed at, and scorned by some of the senior members of the Wizengamot. Mr. Potter's questions reached a climax when Lady Devaro made a passing remark on the late Lady Lily Potter's well known support for witches right's everywhere.

Exploding in something that can only be described as a childish outburst, Mr. Potter condemned Lady Devaro for daring to speak his mother's name. In his chauvinistic arrogance, Tiberius Ogden admonished Lady Devaro in a vain attempt to calm the irate Potter.

With the vote already pre-determined, a sham of a vote was held, and when Lady Devaro went to make an honest protest. She was assaulted by white robed goons the Ministry would like us to call Auror's, the reporter hopes that maybe his time at Hogwarts will teach Mr. Potter some manners and give him a chance to grow up.

In doing so, he might one day continue his mother's legacy.

A proverbial slap in the face no matter how you looked at it, Harry contributed a lot of energy to keeping his expression neutral. He really didn't want to reveal that he had just been blindsided publicly by a newspaper, there were so much arrogance and disdain in the article.

He almost admired the gall of the person who wrote it, he knew that this was a blatant check to see where he stood. The Chang's were the principal owners of the Daily Prophet, and this article could only be used to test to see how Harry would respond.

He had no options of course, if he failed to respond then his family's assets, respect, and legacy would be considered open targets. He was just hoping that it didn't have to happen so soon, conceivably he was now going to have to take steps to actually destroy the lives of a number of people.

His stomach turned queasily, he would send a letter with instructions later.

"The Chang's rarely are so blatant, To Min Chang is usually far more subtle." Harry said nothing as he continued to scan the rest of the papers.

"Perhaps you would like some advice?" Harry replied with a scathing look.

"One day someone is going to have to explain to me why the more insane members of the witch's rights movement seem to always be at the microphone." Orion chuckled softly, and began buttering a piece of toast.

"The Devaro's were once a rising prominent family, but Tresdon Devaro refused to join Voldemort during the war and so most of their family was slaughtered, properties burned, so I imagine Lady Devaro sees this absurd witches rights cause as a stepping stone to more political power." Harry considered that information, and then had to consider why Orion was being so free with said information.

"Not a true believer?" Orion shrugged.

"Honestly I have no idea, but she acts like she is one and has gained some powerful connections because of it." Harry said nothing, if the Chang's and Lady Devaro had entered into some sort political alliance, he needed to know why.

"I'm sure all the fervor will die down soon enough, pass the butter please." Hedwig picked one last piece of bacon off his food, and then flew off.

"First years come see me to get your class schedules." Harry didn't even blink as the prefect walked by dropping his schedule off.

"Elemental testing first thing huh, how very nice." Harry skimmed over his class schedule, it seemed they had ritual magic, potions, and DADA with the Slytherins this morning, and dueling class the rest of the afternoon with every house.

More and more people were beginning to drift inside the Great Hall; chief among them was a very delicious looking Gabriele Delacour. Silvery blond hair pulled back in a French ponytail, her blue eyes seemed to catch the attention of everyone in the Great Hall.

Except Harry who stoically focused on his food.

"You are missing an exquisite view, my friend." Harry whose pride was still bruised from last night's little hormonal incident courtesy of some selectively fired Veela charms remained defiant.

"Beautiful women are a dime a dozen." It sounded hollow even to Harry, a girl like Gabrielle Delacour was the ones who sent those beautiful women crying home. She had the types of looks which could bring kingdoms down, and drive men to war.

"A dime for a dozen of her would be a damn fine deal." Harry didn't remark on the rather active Veela black market, lots of Veela didn't have the luxury of being protected by the Veela clans. Most of them were sold on the black market to the highest bidder, rumor has Lucius Malfoy completely controlled all that type of trade in southern England.

"Oh now this is going to be interesting." The humorous tone in Orion's voice should have been a warning, the delectable Delacour was making a beeline straight for Harry.

Why couldn't he just eat his food in peace!?

A completely fake smile on his face, Harry stood to meet Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle Delacour I presume?" Harry was finding out that aristocratic disdain was indeed not an inherent Malfoy trade.

"All I require from you Potter is to pay attention, my father has degreed that House Delacour will be taking over all dragon egg, magical core, and other assorted items operations in France and a one time payment of a thousand galleons is offered as compensation." Harry considered her thoughtfully, if this trend continued the Ministry should be barging in demanding back taxes.

"Lady Delacour let me speak plainly, tell your father that if he does anything rash that House Delacour will pay a very steep price." Harry then spun on his heel, and began a determined trot back to his room. He needed to crack off an e-mail to Laura immediately.

"I will convey your message Lord Potter." Technically the titles were not supposed to be used, but then again Harry didn't expect someone to declare in the middle of the Great Hall that they were hijacking some of his family's most prominent trade.

With Orion's attempt at blackmail, coupled with the Changs insult, and now this blatant attempt at provocation by the Delacours, Harry knew that his response was going to have to be swift and merciless. His swift stride dissuade anyone from trying to draw him into conversation, apparently he still did posses enough power to cower the average Hogwarts student.

It didn't do much to salve his wounded pride.

His families position was far more exposed then he had originally realized, and he was beginning to suspect that it was more his history with Voldemort then his families legacy that had stayed the hands of the other families for so long.

Apparently that hesitation was being lost rapidly; he progressed swiftly into his room with a single minded mission. He had already determined a course of actions, his mind gauging the potential risks involved with them, and deciding which ones he would pursue.

Pulling out the laptop and feeling embarrassed at his horrible typing skills, he began typing out a letter to Laura.

Dear Lana,

My situation has just become far more vulnerable then I had originally believed, you have obviously read the article in the Daily Prophet. I'm afraid that is not the worse of it, Orion Black has demanded I turn over my control of the northern docks to him. Gabrielle Delacour has informed that her father intends to take over all of my families French operations too.

This is unacceptable.

I'm not in a position to yet wage any type of conflict; our families standing forces are seemly non-existent and while you've found me several agents that is hardly enough to wage a war against three of the most powerful families in Western Europe.

I will not be pushed around though; examples must be made with great swiftness and in relatively the same amount of time as the other. So I want you hereby conduct the following operations, I expect to see the initial results in the Daily Prophet within two days.

You are also to increase the amount of forces available to me, you know my conditions but I want you expend more resources if needed be. I will be sending you an e-mail soon with a series of financial investments which I hope will begin to restore my family's former position.

I trust you realize that anonymity is the foundation for all of the following operations, blood oaths are not a negotiable factor.


Harry Potter

Detailing the operations he wanted her to undertake took some time, and by the time he had properly encrypted the e-mail he was striding back toward the Great Hall. He could not be seen to be running through the hallways like a headless chicken, it would be most undignified.

Dignified or not, a few more minutes he would run regardless.

He finally strolled into the Great Hall, the tables had disappeared and waiting silently was a large group of students. Evenly divided among their houses, Harry strolled over to join Orion who hadn't failed to notice his return and was watching him with a peculiar wariness.

"Everything well I hope?' Harry only smiled in response; any further conversation was cut off by the arrival of Professor Dumbledore, who was followed by a shallow greasy haired sharp nose professor Snape. Dumbledore's eyes twinkled merrily as he regarded the group of students; Snape looked like he would be more interested in poisoning them.

"Welcome first years to Hogwarts, many of you know that witches and wizards all have natural elemental abilities and to determine those abilities will require us to provide you with a special potion." Harry watched with amusement as a dozens of people shifted uneasily.

Scions from so many prominent magical families being asked to take an untested potion, there paranoia level must be skyrocketing presently. Harry knew that the neutrality rules would protect him, but he did see the reason for such uneasiness.

Who knew what was slipped into that potion?

Harry had a sneaking suspicion that Dumbledore knew exactly how certain people would be feeling, and was enjoying every minute of it.

He admitted, he was to.

"You know I do believe I can almost feel the tension visibly rising in the room." Orion's tone was light, but with a hint of amusement.

"Now why would people here be worried?" Orion and Harry shared an amused glance, as Snape and Dumbledore began handing out the crystal phials of an indigo colored potion.

When Snape reached them, Harry found himself on the receiving end of a dark set of menacing orbs currently residing in Professor Snape's head. If Harry was any other student he might have been intimidated, but he had dealt with worse.

His dreams had long been haunted by a pair of furious demonic crimson eyes, and compared to those Snape was as threatening as a puppy.

Harry downed the contents with one swift motion, and waited for further instructions from Professor Dumbledore; Orion had eyed the potion warily and grudgingly downed the contents.

"You will soon see color surrounding your hands; this is merely a temporary effect and will allow us to see what elemental abilities come naturally to you." Harry watched his hands curiously, in took a few moments before a faint grayish outline began circling his hand.

He knew that signaled his own natural element was air, but what concerned him was that he wasn't seeing anymore. Everyone else in the room was seeing at least two or three elements, but Harry was firmly staying with one.

He said nothing as he waited patiently for another color to appear, but he knew some how that another wasn't going to appear. He was rather unsure of how to feel about that, it meant that he had the least amount of natural elemental talent in the room.

"Well Potter I would have never expected someone of your stature to be so limited." Snape moved along while a few soft chuckles echoed throughout the room.

Harry said nothing, he knew that Snape was merely trying to bait him into loosing points and he also knew that this was going to becoming a recurring trend. While Snape seemed to loathe Harry's very existence was a mystery to him but he decided at the moment he really didn't care why.

"Excellent, now that you've all seen what powers you posses you will be receiving special notices soon on which Hogwarts teach will personally mentor you in developing your powers." Harry sincerely hoped that he didn't have Snape, he knew his patience was now inexhaustible, and he was afraid might try to stuff his wand somewhere distinctly unpleasant.

"Now all you can be off to your next classes." Harry watched as the color around his hands faded, and he quickly strolled out of the Great Hall. He really wasn't in the mood to endure any snide remarks, and judging by how everyone seemed to be trying to extort him lately, someone would demand he hand over his wand for a galleon.

His next glass was ritual magic with the Slytherins, he really didn't look forward to sharing a class with them but he figured this was something he would just have to learn how to accept. He then stopped as he found himself feeling very foolish.

How did he get to the ritual magic classroom?

He was one the later arrivals to the classroom, finally resorting to ask an older student for directions before setting of at something resembling a hasty stride. He ignored the whispers at his appearance; his single elemental ability was already probably generating overzealous reports to the various heads of families.

Scions eager to show their amateurish political skills would probably write a five page letter filled with speculation, conjecture, and very little fact. It was a small comfort to Harry, the truly important families would have trained their respective heirs better.

He settled for a seat firmly in the back of the class, it was partly to dissuade glances at him, and so he could just simply enjoy class. Orion was the last arrival, he found a seat beside Harry, but there wasn't anytime for there to say anything before Madam Zoroni appeared.

She was a small woman, barely five feet using a walking cane made of ash, her movements were slow and measured but when she looked up to stare at the class, Harry felt himself sit up and take notice. Her hair was pulled back into a stern grey bun, sagging facial features did little to dissuade some from perhaps mistakingly believing this woman was frail.

Her eyes told a different tale.

Cobalt blue, there was a keen intelligence and solid iron in this old globes and Harry found himself wondering just what type of power this woman commanded.

"I am Madam Zoroni, I've practiced my art for almost a century and thus I have earned certain things." Her voice was low, but Harry never strained to hear here.

"You will speak only when given proper leave to do so, I will not tolerate any house or petty family rivalries in my class room and I promise the first person who tests that condition will regret it." Harry watched as several people, including Orion tensed up.

He truly doubted they liked be told what to do by someone they saw simply as a schoolteacher.

"Ritual magic can be a very dangerous, and I've seen students that have been killed or worse because they thought to test the limits I imposed upon them in a fit of teenage rebellion." Harry was curious to what exactly could be worse then death, but something told him that perhaps he really didn't want to know.

"I am a mistress of the eighth circle, does anyone know what that means?" Harry's hand shot up, it was purely a reflex action and he cursed himself a second later.

Because those cobalt eyes had settled on him.

"It signals that you've mastered the ability to use the eighth ring in a summoning circle?" She eyed him carefully for a few seconds, before nodding slightly.

"Correct Mr. Potter, but only the arrogant would claim to ever truly master an art." Harry found himself nodding in agreement.

"There are many rituals that have been used by witches and wizards for hundreds of years, but most generally must create the rituals for themselves, a self-made ritual increases the potency and effects might by a very large margin." Harry didn't even bother to take notes, he had an enchanted quill in his bag that was copying down every single world she said.

The lesson went along fine, she spent most of the time lecturing about the very basics of ritual magic and the ethical standards that should be exercised. Harry failed to volunteer any more answers after, but his attention never wavered as he soaked up the information like a sponge.

When she dismissed class with a rather hefty research paper, Harry found himself wondering what his next class was going to be like. He really wasn't looking forward to a class with Snape, and judging by his current trend of luck, the potion master might try poison him.

He found that Orion had stepped in alongside him, he didn't even bother to acknowledge his presence.

"I hear Snape is a real conversationalist, much in the realm of Attila the Hun." Harry felt a small chuckle escape his lips, he cursed inwardly as he saw Orion's triumphant smile.

"Bastard." The both chuckled, as they descended down the steps leading into the dungeons.

"I love the decor." Orion's tone was so casual that Harry barely caught the sarcasm, the dungeon was utterly without any type of comfort to it. There were desks, a board, and the supplies, but it was a distinctly clinical atmosphere, much like a hospital.

Harry and Orion took a seat in the back of the class, and silence was chosen by mutual consent. Soon everyone else had begun to fill inside, but the chatter inside the room was less then usual. The clinical effects of the potion room was having a damper effect on some of spirits.

The room was evenly dived among house, and family lines. If they had wanted to Orion and Harry could have sailed to the front of Ravenclaw, but Harry really had no interest in doing such a thing, something told him that he and Snape were about to begin a very long road, but the journey didn't feel like a pleasant one to him.

A loud bang smashed the silence of the room as the potions master strolled in, his dark cloak billowing behind him as he turned his sharp gaze over the glass.

"I am Professor Severus Snape, my job is to instill upon you the skills need for potion making, I have little doubt that most of you blunder heads will fail to properly show the deference and respect for my art, there is no silly wand waving in here and if I see any, the consequences will be most... unpleasant." His eyes slowly descended upon Harry, his expression revealed nothing.

"Potter, tell me the purpose of the Magi Root, and where it can be found?" Harry's mind instantly went blank for a second, before he responded.

"The Magi Root is a magical energy inhibitor, it slows the natural flowing of energy throughout a magical beings body, I believe they are found only in great rarities in the Forbidden Forest." Snape said nothing, but he did turn his attention to the young lord of the Malfoy's.

"Draco, what is an elemental fire stone?" Malfoy's tone was laconic in his response.

"A stone that if ingested in powered form would give the user a temporal boast to their elemental ability." Snape nodded in agreement.

"Ten points to Slytherin." This set the tone for the rest of the class, Snape would at random ask Harry a series of ever increasingly difficult questions, and give Malfoy only ones of moderate difficulty. Harry was starting to wonder if he was in some sort of verbal duel, before Snape dismissed the class with a six page report and a glare.

Orion was look surprisingly thoughtful as they made their way toward the Great Hall, Harry was a bit curious about what was on his mind, but he decided to keep his inquiries to himself, less they be forced being put in the uncomfortable position and shift back to their respective social rolls.
Instead he took time to admire the various works of art, the suits of armor, and the general ambiance that Hogwarts projected through every slab of stone. There was so much history in these walls, and it had an awe inspiring quality all it's own.

"If these walls could talk." Harry nodded to Orion.

"Most likely they would have some very interesting stories about prominent figures in today's magical society." Small grins slipped across their faces, and for a brief second they didn't look like their respective positions as magical lords but kids sharing a joke.

By the time they had strolled into the Great Hall, there respective masks had been appropriately restored. Orion wore the dismissive aristocratic face well, Harry settled for simple stoicism in his features. He didn't grow up with the various primming required to master certain facial expressions.

A blessing in disguise perhaps.

The chatter throughout the Great Hall was surprisingly quiet considering how many people were visibly around, Harry and Orion took a seat at the far end of the table, and were so joined by a platinum blond hair girl with silvery eyes, and a dazed look on her face, her dreamy eyes soon came to rest on Harry, who was intrigued by the entire encounter.

"Your Harry Potter, Lord of the Potters, Chosen of the Blackhawk, and the Boy-Who-Live aren't you?" Harry blinked, he idly wondered if this was another sort of political game, but he didn't recall the Lovegood's being anything but a small wizarding family.

"Yes, and your Luna Lovegood." Luna smiled brilliantly, and nodded.

"So your not as arrogant as your social position would suggest, I'm glad to know that Mr. Roper the Narggle was wrong." Harry blinked on confusion, who was Mr. Roper, and what in the seven Hades was a Narggle?

"Thanks I guess." Luna nodded happily, she turned her curious gaze on Orion.

"You have a lot of lofty titles to don't you?" Harry about spit out the pumpkin juice he was drinking, he did his best to cover his laughing with a cough as Orion struggled to formulate an answer.

"Yes the House of Black has many great honors, I thank you for showing proper deference." The sarcastic tone of Orion's remark might have been seen as a warning to anyone else, Luna seemed oddly unaffected.

"Your welcome Orion." She then turned her gaze back to Harry, as he tried to eat before dueling class started.

"Fate has placed our strings on a parallel path Harry, I hope we don't crash." As eerily as she had come, Luna drifted off toward the Great Hall exit with a smile.

"Well that was strange." Harry remained silent, something about Luna struck him as odd. She was just by all accounts completely rude, and disrespectful to two of the most prominent wizarding families in Western Europe. Entire families had been killed for less.

"Unusual girl." Harry cast an appraising eye at Orion, but settled for simply nodding.

"I do think it's about time for dueling class." Harry noted to that all the older students had departed, and the various houses were on dividing up amongst themselves. Harry quickly finished off a piece of lamb, then stood up and strolled over to the Ravenclaw, accompanied by Orion of course.

He barely had, time cast a friendly smile to Gabrielle Delacour before the gnomish charm Professor Flitwick came happily bounding in. He cast a friendly smile to all the students, before lightly tapping his wand to his throat, in apparent attempt to amplify his voice.

"Welcome students to Magical Dueling 101, I'm Professor Flitwick and I will have the honor of teaching this class as you make your way through Hogwart's." Harry idly wondered if this class was going to be a complete waste of time, before chiding himself for not looking past the surface.

Just why would Dumbledore put tiny, exceedingly gentle Professor Flitwick in charge of a dueling class with a bunch of upstart scions who had been trained for battle since inception. Harry didn't know, but question left him regarding the tiny professor with suspicious eyes.

"Today you will begin training for the annual Hogwarts dueling championship, and of course it's very special prize this year." Harry furrowed his brow.

"What special prize?" Asked Ron Weasely, Flitwick didn't seem to mind his outburst at all.

"Why, the Sorcerer's Stone of course."

A/N Nope I'm not gone, and the Jaded Series has not vanished into the endless waste of incomplete stories. I'm sorry to say a very personal tragedy drew me away from my writing for a long time, but now I'm back. I'm also proud to say that the first year of Jaded Series is done sitting in my hard drive as we speak, I will maintain a regular posting from now on on each Sunday. Also for those who might be uncomfortable because I delve into such topics as abortion, religion, or anything. I promise I'm going to be getting into a lot more so you might just want to slowly back away from my story, from the rest of you I'm sorry it took so long but I'm back and ready to write.