Harry James Potter is the only person to have ever survived the Avada Kedavra curse. Unfortunately, his twin brother, Michael Stephen Potter, mistakenly proclaimed as the 'Boy-Who-Lived'. As he grows up, Harry becomes withdrawn and distant from his family. However, when Harry and Michael receive their Hogwarts letters, Harry sees it as a chance to finally prove to himself and to everyone else who the true 'Boy-Who-Lived' is…
I would like to thank…
This website – For providing a forum where people like me can write stuff that people will actually get to see. Also thanks to those who have encouraged this spin-off the 'The Lone Traveller'
J.K. Rowling – They are her characters after all.
CHAPTER ELEVEN – Christmas at Home.
Well… thought Harry as he lounged around in the living room after having breakfast. It's five past nine, and Sirius & family are due here at about half past, so that gives me around about twenty-five minutes to kill. So what should I do? Let's see… Mum's in the kitchen, Michael's still eating breakfast, Merlin knows where Annie's got to and Dad's still out on his morning jog…
"Hey, Harry," said Annie as she entered the living room.
Correction: Annie's in here now, thought Harry as he watched his little sister collapse on the sofa.
"Oh, I forgot to ask, who won the competition this year?" Annie asked suddenly.
"I did," replied Harry after his mind had processed the unexpected question.
"You?" exclaimed Annie incredulously. "But you've never won! You're lying…"
"Michael!" called out Harry.
"Yeah?" Michael called back from the kitchen.
"Remind me, who won the competition this year?" shouted Harry.
There was a slight pause before Michael replied. "You did," he responded with a noticeable sigh in his voice.
"See?" said Harry triumphantly.
"But you never win!" repeated Annie. "Every year, it's either me or Michael that win."
"Well, he won this year," said Michael as he entered the living room, a piece of toast in his hand. "From behind, of course," he added.
"Same tactic that's served both of you perfectly well every other year," Harry immediately pointed out. "I just happened to get you first."
"Yeah, well you're not going to win next year," retorted Michael.
"That's the spirit, Prongslet!" said a voice from the hall.
Oh god, they're early… groaned Harry.
"The perfect attitude for a perfect Gryffindor," continued Sirius Black as he came into the living room, followed by his two sons, Dominic and Gregory. "And little Annie, my how you've grown since I last saw you."
"But you saw me when you were here last week," replied Annie.
"Ah, yes, so I did," Sirius grinned. "And young Harry," he continued, his attention focusing on his godson's twin. "How goes it in the House of the Serpent? Snivellus still the greasy git he's always been?" He stopped there when he saw the grin on Harry's face. "What are you grinning at?"
"Y'know, Sirius, I was thinking of maybe responding with some equally 'witty' retort," said Harry. "However, I have some winnings to collect." He looked at Michael and addressed him. "Two Galleons, as we agreed – first mention of Slytherin, he'd ask what it's like having 'Snivellus' as Head of House."
"But you said Dad and Padfoot would start reminiscing about 'Snivellus' and the pranks they pulled on him too," Michael protested, not quite willing to accept defeat just yet. "And they haven't…"
"Only because Dad's not here at the moment," Harry interrupted.
"Fine, but you only win half the bet," Michael offered as a compromise.
With that, he reached into his pocket, took out one Galleon and tossed the gold coin to his brother, who caught it and pocketed it. It was at that point that both Potter twins realised that, between them, they had just managed to do something that had never been done before.
They had rendered Sirius Orion Black completely and utterly speechless.
Dominic and Gregory, however, were simply confused.
"What're you two talking about?" asked Dominic.
"Doesn't matter, Dom'," said Michael. "Just Harry being a Slytherin…"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" exclaimed Harry. "Back off there, Oh Famous One! If I wanted to hear that kind of anti-Slytherin propaganda, I'd listen to a recording of Lee Jordan's Quidditch commentary!"
"Hey there, Padfoot," James's voice interrupted as he came in. "What's going on in here then?"
"Well, Prongs," Sirius began, his tone one of mock-indignation. "I have just found out that your wonderful sons here made a bet on whether the two of us would start reminiscing about Snivellus the second anyone mentioned the fact that Harry's a Slytherin."
"You mean like the time we charmed his robes pink and his hair orange?" replied James.
"Yeah," laughed Sirius. "That was brilliant…"
As Sirius said this, the grin on Harry's face re-appeared. Sighing heavily, Michael tossed the second Galleon over to Harry.
"… and the look on his face when he realised he was bald…" continued Sirius.
"Um… Dad," interrupted Dominic. "I think Harry just won his bet."
Luckily, both James and Sirius saw the humour in what had just happened and, after James made a new rule that no-one made any more bets at the expense of himself or any of the Marauders, the topic of conversation changed once Lily and Barbara, Sirius's wife, entered the living room. Sitting back slightly, Harry listened as the adults began talking about the usual adult things while Annie, Dominic and Gregory proceeded to interrogate Michael on what life was like at Hogwarts. Indeed, everything was going well until young Gregory mentioned something about the bet between Harry and Michael, which didn't please Lily at all.
"You two were gambling!?!" she almost yelled.
Immediately, Annie suggested to Dominic and Gregory that they go outside for a snowball fight, at which point they quickly made their exit, just as Sirius suggested to James and Barbara that they leave the scene before the 'Lily Rage' surfaced.
"It was only two Galleons," replied Michael feebly.
"I don't care!" yelled Lily. "You know I will not tolerate gambling in this house! Who made the bet?"
"Um…" said Michael. "Well, Harry was the one who said…"
"Hold on there, Wonder Twin!" interrupted Harry forcefully. "You were the one who made it a bet."
"But you're the one who accepted it," Michael countered. "And made it a cash bet, I might add."
"At which point, you accepted and shook hands on it…" replied Harry.
"Okay, okay, just forget it," interjected Lily, shaking her head slightly. "Just… behave – especially while we have guests. And no more betting." She paused, taking a deep breath to calm herself down. "Now, go outside and enjoy the snow."
With that, Lily left the living room, sighing slightly as she did so, leaving the two brothers on their own.
"What in Merlin's name was that?" snarled Harry once he was sure their mother was out of earshot.
"What? I was just…" began Michael.
"Blaming it on me!" interrupted Harry. "You know what she's like when it comes to gambling, and yet you try and make me take the blame! Every bloody time something like this happens, you do this! 'Oh, it was Harry's fault…', 'oh, it was Harry who started the whole thing'…"
"Hey!" yelled Michael indignantly. "Don't you start with me, brother, or…"
"Or what?" Harry responded coldly, cutting his brother off rather abruptly. "You ragged-scarred, ignorant, pathetic excuse for a twin brother! Are you seriously gonna deny that everything you do somehow ends up being blamed on me? You blast me ten years into the future with a faulty Time Turner and I get the blame! You fall out of a tree and say I dared you to climb it! I even got the blame for that prank you pulled on Peter involving that tripwire and the water pistol full of Coca Cola! Annie refused to speak to me for over a fortnight because of that, and you had the audacity to say I couldn't really blame her!"
"No, you just shut up, Michael!" yelled Harry. "I don't want to hear it okay, so just shut up!"
Before Michael could respond in any way, Harry turned around and walked up the stairs, leaving his twin brother standing in the hall as Lily came through from the kitchen to see what all the noise was about.
"Hey, hey, hey, don't point that magic stuff at me!" exclaimed David Appleby.
"It's just a book, David," Roger sighed for at least the ninth time.
"Yeah?" responded Roger's older brother. "What if it explodes or something?"
"Look, it's not going to explode, or turn you into a frog, or turn your hair purple, okay?" said Roger impatiently. "It's just a book about magic."
"Mum!" yelled Roger.
"Okay, okay, okay, I'm sorry…" stammered David. "Just… promise me you won't turn me into a toad or anything like that, alright?"
"Fine, I promise," replied Roger. "Now will you please just leave me alone? I'm trying to read!"
With that, David sat down and kept quiet, until he heard a noise coming from Roger's pocket.
"What's that?" he exclaimed.
"Relax," sighed Roger. "It's just one of my friends trying to make contact." Closing his book, Roger got up and left the living room. Halfway up the stairs, he paused and took the vibrating mirror out of his pocket and flipped it open.
"Hey, Roger, are you there?" asked the caller.
"Yeah, Blaze, I'm here," replied Roger. "What's up?"
"Just thought I'd try and see if I could have at least one semi-intelligent conversation this Christmas," said the image of Blaise.
"Things not going well at home?" concluded Roger.
"Now that's an understatement…" sighed Blaise. "Most of my family's here and they're driving me insane! They keep asking me about Hogwarts and about these 'mudbloods' they've heard are in Slytherin this year. Merlin knows what they're going to do when they find out about us being friends. The fact that Spence and I are friends is bad enough as far as they're concerned. Add in Harry Potter the Half-Blood and Roger Appleby the Muggle-born and things are bound to get ugly."
"Sorry to hear that, Blaze," said Roger. "The only trouble I've had here is my brother, David. He's convinced I'm going to turn him into something if he stays around me too long."
"Why does he think that?" asked Blaise.
"Well, he did pick on me quite a lot before any of us knew about magic, so that might explain it," replied Roger. "Still, at least Dad seems to've got over the shock…"
"Hey, Blaise, ya there?" interrupted a third voice. "Blaise?"
"Yeah, I'm here Spence," replied Blaise. "Rodge is too."
"Oh, hey there Rodge," said Spencer, the image in Roger's mirror splitting in two as he spoke. "How're things?"
"Apart from my brother acting like I'm a walking time-bomb, everything's fine," said Roger. "You?"
"Hellish," responded Spencer with a sigh. "It's even worse now because of Hal."
"Why? What did he do?" asked Blaise.
"Nothing – he just told me to tell anyone who kept going on about me being a Slytherin that if they didn't stop, he would make sure the Hufflepuff Quidditch team would suffer a humiliating defeat when we play them… so, like a total idiot, I did," answered Spencer. "It didn't really go down well – I've just had to de-gnome the garden as punishment, as well as having to apologise to Granddad for being rude."
"That doesn't sound that bad," noted Roger.
"Well, it wouldn't be if it hadn't set Granddad going again about Slytherins being the worst of the four houses," said Spencer. "The only difference now is that he's going on about Slytherins having no manners. Merlin, who would have thought there would be a time when I didn't look forward to dinner?"
"Well at least you don't have PFBs for relatives," said Blaise. "The worst thing about being home is that the Malfoys are coming around here tomorrow and I'll no doubt be expected to spend time with Draco."
"Oh Merlin…" mumbled Spencer. "That's bad."
"Yeah, and he'll be worse now," agreed Blaise. "I mean, I didn't even like him before we started Hogwarts."
"Well, at least it can't really get any worse," said Roger reassuringly.
"It will once my wonderful relatives find out who my friends are, which they probably will if Malfoy has anything to say about it," said Blaise.
"Well, if things get too bad, you know where my house is," said Spencer in response.
"What about your family?" asked Blaise. "You know how much they 'disapprove' of me."
"We'll deal with them if we have to," replied Spencer.
"What about my place?" interjected Roger. "I'm sure Mum and Dad wouldn't mind if you stayed here for a while, especially when I tell them why you'd rather be here than at home."
"Really?" said Blaise hopefully. "You sure?"
"Well, I'll ask, but if you need to get away and can't stay at Spence's, then I'm sure things'll be fine," replied Roger.
"Thanks, Rodge," said Blaise. Blaise's image paused slightly and glanced to one side. "Oh Merlin," he muttered.
"What is it?" asked Spencer.
"It's Dad," grimaced Blaise. "I'd better go."
"Hey, don't worry. Maybe your mother'll live up to her reputation," joked Spencer. "That way, you won't have to worry about your dad anymore."
"Go jump in a canal, Spence," replied Blaise with an equally joking voice before his image faded away.
"What was that supposed to mean?" asked a confused Roger.
"Oh, just something everyone says about Blaise's mother," replied Spencer. "It's said she's had seven husbands and all of 'em died under mysterious circumstances."
"Really?" exclaimed Roger.
"No, of course not really," said Spencer. "Blaise's dad is only her fourth husband."
"You mean… hold on… oh, never mind," spluttered Roger. "So… uh…" Suddenly, Roger remembered something. "You said Harry told you to say that he would beat Hufflepuff. Did you speak to him then?"
"Yeah, last night," said Spencer. "Oh, and he mentioned that parchment the other him left behind. Said it had a projection of 'Alec' and all his memories too."
"Really? Cool," said Roger. "Anything else?"
"Just that he the other him's childhood wasn't a particularly happy one," said Spencer. "He didn't really say anything else."
"Okay then," replied Roger. "Look, I'm gonna go ask Mum and Dad about Blaise while it's fresh in my head. I'll talk to you later, Spence."
"Don't be a stranger," was the last thing Spencer said before his image disappeared.
Roger flipped the mirror closed and re-pocketed it before going downstairs. He soon found both his parents sitting in the conservatory overlooking the back garden.
"Um… Mum? Dad? Can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked.
Mr Appleby, who had just started reading, lowered the newspaper slightly. "What's wrong? You haven't turned David into a frog, have you?" he asked jokingly.
"Um… no," replied Roger quietly. "Look, um, if one of my friends had, uh, problems at home…"
"Yes, go on," prompted Roger's father, who by now had a slightly concerned look on his face, as did Roger's mother.
"Well, if his family, uh… say, disapproved of his choice of friends once they found out…" continued Roger. "Would they be able to… stay here for a while? Just until we go back to Hogwarts…?"
"Why are you asking this, Roger?" asked Mrs Appleby, hoping there was no particular reason for her son's question.
"Well, you see… Blaise's family doesn't know one of his three best friends is a Muggle-born – at least not yet," said Roger. "And, uh, we don't think they'll be too happy when they find out, so…"
"So you're wondering if your friend would be able to stay here if anything bad happens," finished Mr Appleby.
"Oh, come now, Roger," interjected Mrs Appleby. "I'm sure there's nothing to worry about."
"Mum, trust me, I know how seriously some wizards take blood purity," said Roger. "If Blaise's parents are as racist as he says they are, then he could be in serious trouble."
"I don't understand. What do you mean 'blood purity'?" asked Mrs Appleby. "Why is it such a problem?"
"Um… well… it's a bit like racism," said Roger. "Some wizards hate Muggles the same way some people hate black people. There's no real reason for it, they just do. People like Malfoy or Garrett just hate Muggles or anyone connected to them in any way for no reason."
"So what has this got to do with your friend?" asked Mrs Appleby.
"Well… see, when Blaise's parents find out that one of his friends is a Muggle-born, they aren't going to be very happy about it," replied Roger, wondering what was so hard to understand.
"And you think that your friend's parents will throw him out of the house because he's friends with you," finished Mr Appleby, who obviously understood what his son was getting at.
"Maybe," said Roger.
"Well then, don't worry," said Mr Appleby. "If any of your friends need somewhere to stay, then they're welcome to stay here."
Roger gave a sigh of relief. "Thanks Dad…"
"But no magic, you hear?" Roger's father interrupted.
"Don't worry," replied Roger, shaking his head. "We're not allowed to use magic outside school anyway, at least, not 'til we're 17…"
"What?" growled a voice from behind Roger.
Uh oh, thought Roger as he whirled around and saw a very angry David. So much for not having to worry about David this Christmas…
Without another thought, he started backing away before turning and running through the back door the second he saw the look on David's face.
"Padma! Where are you?" an elderly voice called up the stairs. "You had better not be reading instead of spending time with your family…"
Padma put down her book and sighed. "Coming, Grandmother," she called back.
As she had half-expected, she wasn't enjoying her time at home much at all. Her grandmother had, as always, showered Parvati with praise, especially when Parvati told her that she was definitely taking Divination in third year. Padma, when asked the same question, had tried to make it sound as if she hadn't made up her mind, but even that hadn't gone down too well. 'You really should take more of an interest in our traditions, Padma,' was once again her grandmother's response.
Why can't she just appreciate me for who I am? Padma wondered with some resentment. Parvati hasn't exactly blown anyone away with her performance at Hogwarts, yet she's the one who always gets the praise. But why? What makes her so worthy of being so popular with everyone? What is it about her that makes people say I should be more like her…?
"What?" exclaimed Harry. "Why the hell would anyone want you to be like Parvati? What's so special about her?"
Padma couldn't help but smile at the memory of her first conversation with Harry Potter. At least someone prefers me over Parvati, she thought as she left her room and walked downstairs.
Suddenly, as she reached the bottom of the stairs, Padma felt her feet lose their grip on the floor. For a split second, she was airborne before landing on the floor in a very ungraceful fashion.
As Padma got up, she heard two nearby voices sniggering quietly. When are those two going to grow up? Padma wondered irritably as she heard her two cousins scurry away before she could see them. Getting to her feet, she turned and saw exactly what Sonjay & Raj had used to send her flying.
"Gambol & Japes' Slippery Slime," she muttered as she ran her hand through the stuff. "Wonderful…"
"Padma?" she heard her mother call out. "Was that you? What was all that noise?"
"Nothing, Mum," Padma responded. "Just my wonderful cousins trying to kill me…" she added under her breath.
Oh Merlin, why didn't I stay at Hogwarts? Harry wondered as he sat on his bunk, his head in his hands. It's only Sunday and I've already screwed things up. What in Merlin's name was I thinking, yelling at Michael like that? I mean, besides being yelled at afterwards, now everyone in the house's giving me the cold shoulder. And there's still two weeks left! Harry glanced at the clock on the bedroom wall. Half past eleven. Guess now's a good time to go for that walk.
With that, Harry grabbed his now two-week old Leather Jacket and put it on before quietly making his way down the stairs.
His plan was simple – he would go out for a VERY long walk and by the time he got back, Dumbledore would hopefully have come and gone.
He had considered staying and trying to get some information from Dumbledore, but had quickly realised that it would be better to avoid the Hogwarts headmaster for now as he knew that if Dumbledore tried using Legilimency, his defences would quickly crumble, something that Harry wasn't willing to take a chance with. He had also never trusted Albus Dumbledore for some reason, though he didn't quite know why. What Harry did know was that, for whatever reason, one of the last people he wanted to know what he was thinking was Albus Dumbledore, Supreme Mugwump of the Wizengamot and Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.
So Harry went for a walk through Godric's Hollow, up the snow covered hill and into Gryffindor Forest.
Just over three hours later, he emerged from the forest and walked back down into the village.
"Hey there, Alun," said Harry as he entered Llewellyn's, shivering slightly. "How's things?"
"Harry?" said Alun Llewellyn, the son of the shop's owner. "When did you get back?"
"Friday," replied Harry. "I was going to come and get some stuff yesterday but… well, I guess I didn't get 'round to it. So, how's everything been?"
"Oh, things've been fine," the nineteen-year-old grinned. "Dad still hasn't given Huw that football back yet, in case you're wondering."
"You're kidding!" exclaimed Harry. "How long's that been now?"
"Just over a year and a half," replied Alun. "It's still sitting around in Dad's study – I think he's adopted it as a sort of trophy or something."
"Sounds like I haven't missed much then," said Harry. "Anyway…"
"They're over there, as always," interrupted Alun. "Y'know, Spearmint Polo sales seriously dropped after you left."
"I'm sure they did," said Harry as he grabbed several packets of the mints in question.
"So how's Hogwarts been?" Alun asked as Harry approached the counter. "Annie told me you're a Slytherin these days. Any good?"
"Not too bad," Harry shrugged. "Just ignore the Pureblood fanatics and all the anti-Slytherins from the other houses and everything's fine."
"That's good to hear," nodded Alun. "That's one of the few things I didn't like about Hogwarts – the whole house rivalry thing. Gryffindor hates Slytherin, Slytherin hates Gryffindor, Everyone looks down on Hufflepuffs… that really got on my nerves, especially all the stereotypes like all Gryffindors are goody two-shoes, Ravenclaws are a bunch of smart-arses and Slytherins are all conniving, untrustworthy bigots. The one about Hufflepuffs being nothing special was probably the daftest though."
"Well you would say that, wouldn't you, Mister 'Hufflepuff's star Chaser'," Harry quipped as he put the Polos on the counter.
"True," admitted Alun. "So, are you paying with Pounds or Galleons?"
"Here," responded Harry, handing one of the Galleons he'd won from Michael the day before to Alun.
"And there's the change," replied Alun, handing back a small number of coins as Harry put the half-dozen packets of Spearmint Polos in his jacket pocket.
"Thanks," said Harry. Suddenly, something occurred to him. "Hey, Alun… since when is this place open on Sunday?"
"Since the beginning of November," answered Alun. "We're only open from one 'til four though."
"Better than nothing, I suppose," said Harry. "Anyway, I'd better go. Say 'hi' to your Dad for me."
"See you around, Harry," Alun replied as Harry left the shop.
Opening the first pack, Harry put three Polos in his mouth. As the exquisite spearmint flavour filled the inside of his mouth, Harry glanced as his watch. Ten to three, Harry thought to himself as his house came into view. Old Carpet Beard should be gone by now…
Closing the front door quietly behind him, Harry listened carefully, just to make sure the Hogwarts headmaster wasn't there before he let anyone know he was back. Unfortunately…
"Ah, yes, Minerva did mention that little incident to me only yesterday…"
Oh bugger, he's still here? thought Harry, trying not to curse out loud. Slowly, he backed away towards the door again, hoping to stay out of the way just a little longer. Maybe I should go and see Kenny. He'll probably want to hear all about Hogwarts, seeing as he's going next year. Then again, if he's anything like Annie's been…
"Ah, it seems that young Harry has returned from his walk," Harry suddenly heard Dumbledore proclaim.
What…? How…? How did he know I was…? Harry's thoughts exploded. Damnit, Damnit, Damnit!
Trying to look as if he'd just come in, which in truth, he had, Harry took of his jacket and entered the living room.
"Hi," he said nonchalantly.
"Harry!" exclaimed Lily. "Where have you been?"
"Just went for a walk," replied Harry. "Why, did I miss something?" He then pretended to notice Dumbledore. "Ah, Professor Dumbledore, nice to see you. How's things?"
"Very well, my boy," replied Dumbledore, choosing to ignore the slight hint of sarcasm in Harry's voice. He had been expecting the boy to be slightly hostile, just as he had been in their previous encounters, and though it hurt him to see that Harry obviously didn't trust him, Dumbledore accepted that the boy probably had some kind of reason for it. "I would offer you a Lemon Drop, but I see you already have your own sweets…"
"Polos!" exploded Annie as she entered the living room. "Can I have one? Please? Please, please, please, please, please…!"
Oh god… thought Harry. "Annie," he sighed as he held the already open packet out of her reach. "You have had access to Llewellyn's entire stock of Spearmint Polos for the last four months while I, on the other hand, haven't had a single Polo since August."
"Can I have one then?" Michael interjected, grabbing the pack out of Harry's hand as he entered the room.
"You don't even like them!" Harry exclaimed as he snatched the packet back.
The adults watched the scene with mild amusement, especially when Harry went on to mention that by the time the Summer Holidays came around, he'd have missed out on the 'Cream Eggs'. At this point, Dumbledore decided to join the discussion.
"Begging my pardon, but what are 'Cream Eggs'?"
"Cadbury's Cream Eggs…" said Harry. "…are perhaps mankind's greatest accomplishment!"
"Oh, come on!" snorted Michael. "Chocolate Frogs are way better!"
Harry's subsequent response was, Dumbledore thought, very much unlike the kind one would normally expect from an eleven-year-old.
"Michael," said Harry, seemingly at random. "Where would I find a Bezoar stone?"
"Huh?" was Michael's only response.
"What would I get if I added Powdered Root of Asphodel to an infusion of Wormwood?" Harry asked, trying not to smirk at his brother's reaction.
"Uh… I, uh…" responded Michael as he wondered why Harry was asking him these seemingly random things.
"What are the petals of a Frinassic Plant and Sunflower seeds essential ingredients of?" Harry finished.
Michael shook his head slightly. "Dunno," he finally admitted.
"So, nearly four months after you were asked those questions in our first Potions lesson and you still can't answer any of them," smirked Harry. "And you expect us to take your word seriously?"
"Harry!" exclaimed Lily suddenly. "Both of you, behave!"
"No, no, no, it is quite alright, Lily," Dumbledore chuckled. "Though perhaps Harry may be able to answer some more questions, if he wouldn't mind…"
"What kind of questions?" asked Harry suspiciously.
"Just a number of academic questions, my boy," replied Dumbledore. "I have heard that you are quite the star pupil. Perhaps, Lily and James, you would like to contribute…"
"Now hold on!" interrupted Harry. "This's supposed to be the Christmas Holidays, the key word being 'holidays'…"
"Aw, is little Harry scared?" taunted Michael as he sat down. "Chicken!"
"Yeah – Scaredy-chicken, scaredy-chicken!" Annie began singing.
"Why don't you two go and hang out with Dominic and Gregory?" asked Harry with a slight sneer. "I hear Greg's just learned the four times table – maybe he'll teach the two of you if you ask nicely."
As Lily opened her mouth to intervene, she stopped as she saw Dumbledore shaking his head slightly. "Say something!" she hissed to her husband, who had thus far said nothing since Harry had come back in – James saw what Dumbledore was doing and was keeping quiet.
Dumbledore sat back and watched as the three children exchanged barbs and insults, Michael and Annie's being the kind one would expect from an eleven and nine year old, while Harry's were more… subtle. That was perhaps the best way to describe it. Michael was blunt and to the point, while Harry's insults were more… interesting. Rather than simply throwing an insult at his opponents, Harry seemed to be able to string together a long insult, replete with unfavourable comparisons, background information on said opponents and plenty of sarcasm
Just like Tom…
Eventually, the argument died down. Hold on, Harry thought suddenly. Why hasn't Mum stopped us? Normally, she would've stopped us arguing by the second insult at least… ah crap! His eyes flicked briefly in Dumbledore's direction. He was watching me, seeing how I responded to Michael and Annie! But why? What's he up to?
"Well, that was entertaining," grinned James, earning a disapproving look from Lily.
"Indeed it was," agreed Dumbledore. "Now, perhaps we can begin with some questions…"
"What?" protested Harry. "Hold on…"
"Where did Snow Trestlers originally come from?" began Dumbledore.
"Greenland," replied Harry automatically. "Why…?"
"What spell would I use if I wanted to disarm someone?" added James, understanding Dumbledore's intentions.
"Expelliarmus," said Harry. "What's this all about…?"
"Who invented the Clearmind Concoction?" asked Dumbledore.
"John Wizzlebee," replied Harry, slower this time, having finally realised exactly what Dumbledore was doing. Alright then, you senile old git, let's see how you deal with a little bit of impatience on my part…
"Who was the leader of the 1810 Goblin Reb…" Dumbledore began.
"LOOK, WILL YOU ALL JUST SHUT UP!!!" Harry suddenly exploded.
For a few seconds, there was silence and, as Harry expected, the expression on Dumbledore's face was one of mild surprise. However, before anyone could say anything else, Harry stormed out of the room, trying to resist the temptation of laughing out loud at the looks on everyone's faces.
Suddenly, Harry felt as if something had just slammed into the back of his head. Looking around, he saw Dumbledore's eyes fixed on him. As the two made eye contact, Harry realised that the headmaster was trying to use Legilimency. For a split-second, Harry felt as if some unseen force were trying to batter its way into his head. Concentrating as hard as he could, Harry tried to reinforce his Occlumency barriers, but they were no good – within seconds, Harry felt them crumble away to nothing. However, before Dumbledore could get into his mind, Harry broke eye-contact and ran up the stairs as fast as he could, leaving a very confused family and a yet again surprised Dumbledore.
"Um… Michael, Annie, could you leave the room for a minute?" James asked.
Rather than argue, the two children immediately got up and left the room. James then turned his attention to his old headmaster. "What's wrong?"
"I just tried using Legilimency on Harry," sighed Dumbledore. "Unfortunately, I ran into some resistance…"
"You used Legilimency on my son!?!" Lily interrupted forcefully.
"Lily…" began James, hoping to head off the coming argument before it started.
"No, James, it's quite alright. Lily has every right to be outraged," said Dumbledore. "But I think you may be interested in knowing that young Harry is most likely attempting to learn Occlumency."
"What?" exclaimed James. "Are you sure?"
"As I said, I ran into some resistance when I tried to enter your son's mind," elaborated Dumbledore. "However, it was quite weak resistance, which suggests that young Harry has only started learning it within the last few months."
"But why?" Lily asked out loud. "Why would he want to become an Occlumens?"
"I believe it is because he does not trust us," replied Dumbledore. "In my experiences with him, he has been especially cautious in my presence. Also, as you just saw, he was hesitant in displaying his knowledge, even if he did relent to some extent. You also saw his ability to surprise even me – that outburst was a calculated one."
"What are you saying, Albus?" asked Lily slowly, silently dreading the answer.
"I'm saying that your son is perfectly capable of manipulating others," replied Dumbledore. "He is also quite unpredictable, most likely by intention."
"Where are you going with this?" asked James, a hint of anxiety present in his voice.
The Hogwarts headmaster sighed heavily. "Every time I see Harry, I am reminded of a young Tom Riddle. They are very similar."
"You mean…?" began Lily.
"Yes," nodded Dumbledore. "It seems that our interpretation of the Prophecy may indeed be coming to pass, though I am still hoping that young Harry will prove us wrong…"
His breathing ragged and heavy, Harry lay on his bunk, completely exhausted by his attempts at Occlumency. Oblivious to what was being said downstairs, Harry closed his eyes and dozed off.
He was awoken about an hour later by something moving in his pocket. Rubbing his eyes, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out the mirror as he lay back and opened it.
"Hey, Hal," said the image of Spencer. "How're things going?" He stopped and looked at Harry. "What's wrong?"
"Dumbledore's been," muttered Harry.
"What, already?" exclaimed Spencer. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," mumbled Harry. "I just have to get better at Occlumency, that's all."
"He tried Legilimalising you?" asked Spencer.
"Legilimising," corrected Harry. "And yeah, he tried it as I left the room. Can't tell if he got anything from my mind though."
"So what else did he do?" asked Spencer.
"Well, he watched me bicker with Michael and Annie, then he and Dad started asking me a load of trivia questions," continued Harry.
"Why'd he do that?" was Spencer's slightly confused response.
"Not sure, but I think Dumbledore was analysing me," replied Harry. "Y'know, trying to figure out my personality based on how I acted."
"Yeah, I figured that, but why'd he do it though?" said Spencer. "Why's he so interested in you?"
"Well, I'm in Slytherin now – everyone probably wants to keep an eye on me to make sure I don't go 'evil' or something," concluded Harry.
"Yeah, but it's the same with me too, and I haven't had a visit from Dumbledore," pointed out Spencer.
"You don't have a brother who's supposedly the saviour of the wizarding world," Harry countered.
"Good point," admitted Spencer.
"Anyway, how're the others?" asked Harry, changing the subject.
"Who?" said Spencer. "The Guys?"
"No, Spence, I meant the family of dancing Mongooses that moved in next door to you last week," said Harry sarcastically. "Of course I mean The Guys – have you spoken to any of them at all?"
"Yeah, we've spoken," Spencer answered quickly, noting the irritated tone in his friend's voice. "Blaise's keeping contact with us to a minimum though, just in case anyone sees or overhears him or something. Unfortunately, he told me yesterday that the Malfoys were coming 'round today, so me and Rodge've made plans just in case Malfoy decided to inform Blaise's family about me, you and Rodge not being Pureblood Fanatics."
"Plans? What plans?" said Harry. "Why wasn't I told about this?"
"We reckoned you had enough on your mind right now," replied Spencer. "Besides, would your family have let a Zabini stay with them for Christmas?"
"Probably not," admitted Harry. "But what about you? Surely your family's the same. You even told me that your parents didn't like you being friends with Blaise not too long ago."
"Yeah, that's why Rodge asked his parents," said Spencer.
"And they're okay with this?" asked Harry.
"Yup," nodded Spencer. "Now we'll just have to hope Blaise's family doesn't make too big a deal about him being friends with a Half-Blood, a 'Mudblood' and a Blood-Traitor when they find out."
The next day, Harry opened his mirror to find all three of his friend's staring back at him.
"Hey, Hal," Spencer greeted. "How're things today?"
"Pretty good," grinned Harry. "Remus arrived about an hour ago, and Peter half an hour before that so the house's pretty full at the moment. You?"
"Same as it's been since I got back," replied Spencer.
"We're both fine too," added Roger.
"Both?" said Harry. "You mean…?"
"Yep – I'm here in Gruesome with Rodge," confirmed Blaise.
"It's Grooseham!" corrected Roger. "Oh, why do I bother…?"
"So what happened?" Harry asked, ignoring Roger's outburst.
"Exactly what I thought would happen," replied Blaise. "The Malfoys came around and Draco decided to 'mention' who my friends were. Needless to say, no-one was pleased, especially when they heard about you, Hal."
"Me?" said Harry. "What about Rodge? Surely he got a reaction."
"Oh, yes, he got a reaction too," replied Blaise. "I was yelled at, threatened with disownment, then grounded for the rest of the holidays."
"That was when Blaise called me," interjected Spencer. "I managed to help him sneak out and, sure enough, found that my parents wanted nothing to do with him, so we called Rodge, got on the Knight Bus and we all met in Grooseham. It's quite a nice place actually."
"So everything's fine now?" asked Harry.
"For now they are, but there is one problem," Blaise nodded.
"Which is?" said Harry.
"Technically, I'm a runaway," elaborated Blaise.
"Ah," responded Harry. "So if your parents report you missing and someone comes looking for you…"
"There'll be nothing Blaze can do about it, legally," finished Spencer.
"That's if they come," pointed out Roger. "Besides, do you really think any Pureblood Fanatics would ever think to look here? Come to think of it, would they even want to?"
"Probably not," agreed Blaise. "Not that I'm complaining, of course."
"So you'll be staying with Rodge for the time being," said Harry.
"Yeah," said Blaise. "By the way, Spence told us about Dumbledore 'analysing' you. You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," replied Harry. "But being Legilimised does take a lot out of you if you try to fight back."
"I can imagine it would against someone like Dumbledore," nodded Blaise. "Still, it won't be long before we're all back at Hogwarts."
"Yeah," agreed Spencer. "Then we can really make the PFBs suffer!"
"Only if they make the first move though," added Roger quickly. "Just so we aren't seen as the aggressors," he added.
"Sounds like a plan," said Harry. "Anyhow, I'd better go downstairs and spend some time with the guests. Talk to you lot later."
With that, Harry closed the mirror and put it back in his pocket. Ignoring the pictures on the staircase wall, the contents of which were all commenting on how lovely it was to have everyone around for Christmas, Harry went downstairs.
"Hiya, Harry," said Samantha Pettigrew as Harry reached the bottom of the stairs. "You seen Annie anywhere?"
"No," responded Harry, glancing at the eight-year-old as she walked past him. "Where is everyone, by the way?"
"Mum and Dad are in the kitchen with Uncle James and Aunt Lily and the others," replied Samantha as she disappeared up the stairs.
Which means Remus'll probably be in the living room, thought Harry. Sure enough, when Harry went into the living room, he saw his godfather sitting in one of the armchairs, staring at a ring in his hand.
"You're thinking about Helen again, aren't you?" said Harry, distracting the werewolf from his thoughts.
"It's been three years, Harry," replied Remus, his voice little more than a hoarse whisper. "I miss her so much…"
"We all miss her," said Harry, sitting down beside his godfather.
Remus's only response was a heavy sigh. He then put his wife's wedding ring back into his pocket and turned to his godson. "Well, Harry, how has first year been so far?" he asked, changing the subject, no doubt trying to distract himself from thoughts of his late wife.
"Better than I expected," replied Harry honestly.
"I'm not surprised," said Remus. "The youngest Seeker in over a century and undefeated in all of your games so far…"
"I've only played one game, Remus," Harry pointed out. "Ravenclaw won't exactly be pushovers either."
"Lei Chang's daughter is the new Seeker for Ravenclaw, isn't she?" asked Remus.
"Yeah, Cho," answered Harry. "They beat Hufflepuff 180 points to 40 when Cho got the Snitch in just over five minutes. Apparently, Ravenclaw're now the favourites to win the Quidditch Cup this year."
"Oh? What about Slytherin?" said Remus. "I thought they were always the favourites to win, even when I was at school."
"That was before Harry Potter became Slytherin's Seeker," was Harry's response. "I mean, having a first year as a Seeker doesn't exactly give a team an aura of invincibility."
"But you did win your first game," said Remus. "While your broom was being jinxed as well, so I'm told."
"Yeah, I know," mumbled Harry. "Everyone was distracted though. The only reason I won is because I spotted it just after the jinxing stopped."
"But you did win though," insisted Remus.
"Yeah, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm any good," protested Harry.
"And yet, you won," Remus persisted.
"Yeah, I guess," sighed Harry, realising that it was pointless to try and argue.
"So how has everything else been?" asked Remus.
"Pretty good actually," said Harry. "Me and The Guys've been busy returning the favour and making the PFBs lives as miserable as possible, people're still calling me a show-off and a few're still calling me 'Troll-Killer' as well."
"So you've been busy," concluded Remus. "I, uh… I'm sorry I didn't come when you were attacked…" he added after a long pause.
"It was full moon, Remus, don't worry about it," interrupted Harry. "Besides, I wasn't in there long, though it felt like it at the time. Still, at least I'm even with those…"
"Ahem," Remus interrupted before Harry could finish. "Perhaps you should tell me who's who before you go any further."
"Okay… uh… well, the PFBs are basically all the Pureblood Fanatics, people like Malfoy, Garrett, Crabbe & Goyle, Parkinson, Bulstrode, their sort," explained Harry. "And The Guys are basically myself, Roger Appleby, Spencer Westwood and Blaise Zabini, or to put it another way, everyone in First Year Dorm B that isn't a PFB."
"Sounds like an interesting group," commented Remus.
"Yeah, well we've definitely made our mark on the school," Harry smirked, thinking of the scar on the wall of the Slytherin common room.
Remus, seeing the smirk on Harry's face, decided not to ask Harry to elaborate. Instead, the conversation continued with Harry telling Remus (almost) everything that had happened since September. Indeed, for the first time since coming back, Harry was glad that he'd come home for Christmas, if only to see Remus. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that Remus had just been speaking to Annie.
"So, what's this I hear about you having a girlfriend?" Remus asked, grinning slightly.
"Oh god, not you too…" muttered Harry. "Let me guess – Annie's been trying to convince everyone that I have a girlfriend, right?"
"Well, she did mention that she saw you talking to a girl at King's Cross when she was asked, but it was Sirius who brought it up," replied Remus, noting the annoyed look on his godson's face.
"Sirius?" exclaimed Harry. "Oh no, don't tell me he's convinced too!"
"So I'm guessing it isn't true then," said Remus.
"No, it isn't true!" Harry almost shouted.
"What isn't true?" a voice asked from the doorway.
Looking up, Harry saw both Samantha and Annie entering the living room.
"Annie…" said Harry, glaring at his sister as he got up. "Come here a second…"
Seeing the expression on her brother's face, Annie quickly turned and fled to the safety of the kitchen while Harry stopped at the living room door and sighed.
ZABINI HEIR MISSING
By: Rita Skeeter
Blaise Maurizio Zabini, 11, is missing, it was announced yesterday. Though details are sketchy, there are rumours that young Zabini has been kidnapped by persons unknown, while some believe that the boy has simply run away from home. Neither story has been confirmed or denied by the Zabini family, but whatever the case, the Daily Prophet's thoughts are with the Zabini family and we all hope for the safe return of young Blaise.
"Kidnapped by persons unknown?" Blaise repeated, his voice one of sheer disbelief after hearing the article being read loud out by Spencer via mirror.
"Well, what did you expect?" asked Spencer. "I mean, the Prophet always does this whenever someone disappears. Remember that one guy that was reported as kidnapped last year before it turned out he'd just gone for a hike or something?"
"Yeah, I remember that," replied Blaise. "It was a cousin of Cornelius Fudge or something, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, that's the one," confirmed Spencer. "Anyway, the good news is that both you and Hal have now been mentioned in the Prophet, which just leaves me and Rodge, and you're still 'missing'."
"And the bad news?" asked Blaise.
"The bad news is that they've sent Aurors 'round," replied Spencer. "Hal's apparently had to deal with them too."
"Oh…" said Blaise. "Are you two okay?"
"I'm fine," said Spencer. "Apparently, Hal's not too happy with his dad though."
"Why?" asked Blaise.
"Well, his dad joined in with the questioning because he's an Auror, same as my dad," Spencer began.
"And…?" prompted Blaise.
"And, his dad's best friend was apparently in the same situation as you at one point, which is why Hal kept calling his dad a hypocrite for expecting him to tell them where you were when I called him earlier," explained Spencer.
"Oh… so… is there anything else I should know?" asked Blaise.
"Well, when he wasn't calling his dad a 'bloody hypocrite', Hal did say, and I quote, 'I don't fucking care if I'm the only one there, next year I'm bloody well staying at Hogwarts'," said Spencer.
"Well, I know he won't be alone next year," said Blaise. "What about you?"
"Oh, don't worry, I'll be there for Christmas next year," said Spencer. "What about Rodge though?"
"Well, if he has another shouting match with his brother like he did earlier, then he might well be joining us next Christmas," replied Blaise.
"What do you mean?" asked Spencer.
"He and his older brother, David, had a full blown row last night," Blaise began to explain. "Apparently, it had something to do with the fact that Rodge hadn't told anyone that he wasn't allowed to do magic, at which point, Rodge starting saying stuff like 'can you blame me' and about how he was fed up of David 'being such a git all the time'."
"Rodge said that?" exclaimed Spencer.
"Yeah," nodded Blaise. "I think the best line was 'just because I can't do magic here doesn't mean I'm gonna let you treat me like a fucking doormat'."
"Wait, wait, wait…" interrupted Spencer. "This is our Rodge we're talking about, right?"
"The very same," confirmed Blaise. "Believe me, it was a real shock to see Rodge yelling at someone the way he was."
"Looks like Garrett was right then about Rodge developing a backbone after all," Spencer grinned. "By the way, where is he right now?"
"Oh, he went out for a walk about ten minutes ago," replied Blaise.
God it's freezing out here, thought Roger as he sat on one of the swings in the middle of the empty playpark.
The eleven-year-old had been sitting on the swing for nearly fifteen minutes now, trying not to think about how much things had changed since that fateful day not long after the start of the summer holidays when he had received his letter from Hogwarts.
At first, he and the rest of his family had thought the whole thing was some kind of elaborate joke until two days later when a rather strange looking man had appeared on their doorstep claiming to be from Hogwarts.
After introducing himself as 'Randolph Wreyland, Professor of Muggle Studies', he had then proceeded to prove the existence of magic by turning their television into a scaled-down version of Nelson's Column.
This of course caused his mother to faint and his then fifteen-year-old sister to scream hysterically but eventually, order was restored by the elderly professor. After an explanation from the professor about the wizarding world, Roger was then told of a place called Diagon Alley and that he was to go there in two days time.
While the professor's visit had been overwhelming, everything somehow made sense to Roger – all those strange things that had happened over the years must have been magic. It must have been magic that had caused Mrs Oliver's hair to suddenly fall out in the middle of class, just after she had yelled at him for being late, and it must have been magic that had miraculously repaired that library book that David had stepped on.
Unfortunately, it also dawned upon David that was Roger who had been responsible for the strange things that had happened to him, but fortunately, the fear of Roger accidentally turning him into something unpleasant had saved Roger from any 'retribution' from his older brother.
Two days after the visit from Professor Wreyland, Roger and his family had found their way to the Leaky Cauldron where they had joined a tour of Diagon Alley alongside other Muggle-borns and their families. Roger had been slightly relieved to see that he wasn't the only one new to the idea of the existence of magic, but only slightly. The fact that there was an entire world out there that he had no idea existed continued to awe and, to an extent, scare him for the rest of the summer until the first of September, when he finally entered the world of witchcraft and wizardry as a Hogwarts student.
The journey from London to Hogwarts had been a less than encouraging start for Roger – he had only just got aboard the train when it started to move off and by then everybody seemed to have met up and started getting to know each other. As a result, Roger said very little to anyone on the journey while everyone else talked about such mysterious things as 'Quidditch', 'OWLs', 'Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw' and 'the Prophet'. Of course, Roger would soon know what all of those things were, but at the time, it was like he was on a completely different planet.
Eventually, the Hogwarts Express had arrived at its destination and, after the traditional first year boat trip across the lake, the first years had been sorted into one of the four houses by what appeared to be a tattered old hat. The fact that the tattered old hat suddenly started singing had startled Roger greatly, just as it had the other Muggle-born wizards and witches in the line, but Roger quickly realised that in this world of magic, such things were no doubt perfectly normal.
At this point, Roger's feelings of surprise immediately turned to dread when he realised that the sorting was to be done alphabetically. To his relief, however, he discovered that he would not be going first and watched as Hannah Abbott stepped forward and became a member of Hufflepuff.
Five minutes later, Roger was sitting at the Slytherin table, trying not to think about the rather tepid response his sorting had received from his new house-mates. What had he done to deserve such a nonchalant response compared to Hannah, who had received an avalanche of applause from the Hufflepuffs?
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, all became clear to him once the sorting had ended – just as the feast began, he had been asked to pass over a jug of Pumpkin Juice by a bespectacled boy with very messy dark hair. At that point, the young wizard started to talking to him, shortly followed by the two who were sitting beside the boy with the glasses. Before long, the four of them had been talking merrily away about just about everything, and although there were many things to take in, Roger couldn't help but notice something about the bespectacled boy, whose name was Harry – there was a look of what looked like relief on his face, as if he had just escaped a terrible fate. Of course, Roger soon learned the reason for that too when Spencer mentioned Harry's twin brother. However, Harry's response raised more questions – what did he mean by 'hit by a piece of wood' and why did he sound so... cold?
It was then that Roger realised that there was more to Harry Potter than met the eye. Even after Harry had explained what had happened, Roger knew that there was much more to Harry than the scar on his forehead. However, the next morning, Roger realised something else when he heard Harry mutter something as the timetables were handed out...
Harry looked at the goblet of Pumpkin Juice and frowned slightly. "Why in Merlin's name do I keep drinking this stuff? I don't even like it that much!" he muttered as he put the goblet down and looked at his timetable.
Although he hadn't brought it up with Harry or the others, Roger soon realised the deeper meaning behind those words – Harry didn't like Pumpkin Juice and yet, he had gone out of his way to make Roger pass a jug of it to him at the Sorting Feast in order to start up a conversation. In that one gesture, Harry had shown that he was willing to be a friend to Roger, something that Roger wouldn't soon forget.
Three and a half months had passed since that day and many things had happened – The Guys had come into being, Harry had become the one of the youngest ever Seekers in the history of Hogwarts, a Troll had gone on a rampage on Halloween and a feud had broken out between The Guys and the PFBs.
Even now, Roger couldn't help but be taken aback at how much they hated him, just because he wasn't 'pure-blooded' – why was it such a big deal to these people? Why did it matter to them whether his parents were magical or not?
"Um… well… it's a bit like racism. Some wizards hate Muggles the same way some people hate black people. There's no real reason for it, they just do. People like Malfoy or Garrett just hate Muggles or anyone connected to them in any way for no reason."
Roger frowned slightly at the explanation that he had given his parents a few days earlier – the fact that people thought like that simply didn't make sense to Roger. Fortunately however, there were also those who opposed the PFBs mindset vehemently. It was only when he thought about it that Roger realised how much he actually owed his friends for both standing up for him and for being such good friends, especially when he remembered what he had been told by 'Alec' about the other reality's version of Roger Appleby.
I wonder what he's up to right now? Roger thought idly. Of course, he soon realised that there was no way of knowing that. He could only hope that 'Alec' would continue to make a difference to people, the same way he had for Roger.
Bloody hell, it's cold! he thought, the temperature once again bringing him back to reality. Maybe it's about time I went in…
Scanning the books on the shelves, Harry stopped when he finally reached the one he had been looking for. He reached out to grab it, only to make contact with another hand that was reaching for the same book. The moment they touched, both hands withdrew immediately.
Harry turned to see that the owner of the other hand was a dark-haired female, who was looking very embarrassed. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"Uh… no, it's alright," said Harry, equally embarrassed for some reason. "Uh… were you wanting this one?" he continued pointing out the book still on the shelf.
"No, it's… I, uh… It's okay," she stammered. "You had it first…"
"No, seriously, it's alright," said Harry. "If you're needing it, take it... I can manage without it."
"Really, it's fine," Harry nodded.
Hesitantly, the girl reached out and grabbed the book. "Are you sure?" she continued once it was in her hands.
"I'm sure," said Harry.
The girl still looked unsure, but took the book anyway.
"Thank you," she mumbled, before turning away and walking towards Madam Pince's desk.
"You're welcome," Harry called out as she walked away…
"Harryyyyyy!" squealed a much younger voice. "Wake up, it's Christmas!"
Harry woke with a start, his hand shooting out towards his glasses on the bedside table. Once he had them on, he realised who the voice belonged to. "What time is it?" he asked groggily.
"Morning," was the simply reply. Of course, it was unsurprising really, considering that at six years old, little Emily Lupin hadn't yet learned to tell the time. "C'mon, Harry, we're gonna miss the presents!"
Harry couldn't help but smile at his 'god-cousin's' enthusiasm. Annie had been the same on Christmas morning at that age, and if he was honest, he and Michael probably had been too. "Well then, Emmylou," he replied, swinging himself out of his bunk. "We'd better get downstairs then, before the presents get all lonely."
As he picked Emily up – it won't be much longer before she's too big for me to do this, Harry thought with some sadness – he noticed the clock on the wall. Half-Eleven? he thought incredulously. Since when do I sleep this late? And why didn't anyone wake me up? A glance at Michael's bunk told Harry that his brother was already up, so either Michael couldn't be bothered waking him, or he'd deliberately let him sleep in. Between the argument they'd had a few days before, and now everything between him and Dad, Harry concluded that Michael probably didn't want to make things worse by waking his brother early, or risking Harry hitting his head on the bottom of the top bunk, as often happened when Michael had tried waking Harry. Knowing Michael the way Harry did, that option made the most sense.
Making sure he had a firm grip on Emily, who had promptly snuggled up to Harry as she usually did when he carried her, Harry realised that he was still in his pyjamas and barefoot. After a few seconds, Harry decided to go down anyway – he could always come back up and get changed once Emmylou was downstairs and he'd had something to eat.
Suddenly, as he (and Emily) walked through the bedroom door, Harry was forced to stop as his forehead exploded in pain. Suppressing a hiss, lest he concern Emily, Harry waited for the stinging pain to go, which it did after only a few seconds, disappearing as suddenly as it had come. Fortunately, Emily didn't seem to have noticed his sudden stop, so once the pain had gone, Harry continued towards the stairs, silently hoping that nothing else went wrong today.
Because he was heading towards the stairs, Harry didn't notice the bathroom door opening up the hallway behind him. And because of that, he didn't notice his brother emerging from the door, rubbing his forehead…
God, I hate this chapter.
Seriously – it's one thing to get writer's block in the middle of writing a chapter, but to get it several times over such a long period is something else. If it weren't for the fact that I've already got over six-and-a-half years worth of this story planned out, then this story would probably be long dead in my mind as well as on the web.
Unfortunately, the length of time it took to write this, plus all the long periods of writer's block mean that this chapter is a complete mess. Add to that all the different directions I was trying to go at different times, and you can see why I'm not happy with this one. In fact, I'm seriously tempted to just skip over the rest of the Christmas holidays and try to get this story rolling again. That being said, it may be a little while before I get the next chapter out, what with my life being very different now compared to when I started this story.
Still, at least I managed to get some of the things I wanted to achieve into this chapter, and as you can probably tell from the last section, there's still more to all this than meets the eye.
Now, since the last chapter, the final book in the Harry Potter series has been released. Thus, there will be a few things in both this story and The Lone Traveller that don't quite match what was revealed in the Deathly Hallows. First of all, I would like to say that I have not read the Deathly Hallows, nor can I honestly say I really want to. Thus, while I have taken a few steps to ensure that DH and my stories don't completely invalidate one another (mainly in regards to the 'Harrycrux' issue), I would like to state quite clearly that there will be no 'Deathly Hallows' or 'Elder Wands' in either of my stories (nor a confirmed 'Harrycrux').
Just in case it isn't clear in this chapter – Nicholas and Emily are the children of Remus and his late wife, Helen. Samantha is the daughter of Peter Pettigrew and his wife, Sarah.
Goofball44306 – I'm afraid I already have my own plans for the fifth mirror, and they don't involve Padma.
Slaphanson – Interesting thought about Dumbledore and the prophecy, but as I've said before, there's a reason that Dumbledore's certain that Michael's the Chosen One.
Kin Pandun – My own personal interpretation of Dumbledore is that of a man who is so brilliant that it's difficult for him to consider that his way might not be the right way, partly because of his age (I'm sure a over a hundred years as 'the greatest wizard of our age' would do that to a person, no matter how humble they are). So, no, Dumbledore isn't a manipulative bastard in this story (or TLT).
Sideline – I'm glad you approve of the way I'm handling Hal's character. Power-wise, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the way they develop. I'm also glad you mentioned his insecurity – we can see in this chapter the contradiction in his character, in that consciously, he doesn't want everyone to know how powerful or intelligent he is, but subconsciously, he doesn't want people to think that he's nothing special (hence his automatically answering Dumbledore's trivia questions the way he did, rather than pretending to be ignorant).
Nyeshet – A very well though out review there. Unfortunately, the 'yell of horror' comes from Voldemort as he realises that the Avada Kedavra has rebounded and his body is torn to shreds. Also, you are sort of right about Dumbledore, but for the wrong reasons – he is aware that there's more to Harry than he's seeing and is concerned by it, but he still believes that Michael is the Boy-Who-Lived.
Hpfan550 – An excellent point, but as you can probably see, there's more Michael's scar than meets the eye (Harry didn't actually see the piece of wood hit his brother)
Laura Granger – Thanks for the correction. Guess it's true what they say about Wikipedia…
Pyromaniac Bunny – I'm flattered to think I've inspired someone to write their own take on this. By all means, write away, and feel free to use the name 'Michael' if you wish (His full name's Michael Stephen Potter, after both of Lily's grandfathers).
WesternGirl17 – Thanks for the info, especially on the Ravenclaw entrance. Fortunately, I've come up with a possible explanation for the discrepancy (plus, the fact that the Slytherin entrance should be a blank wall rather than a painting).
Vilkath – I think the stone scene will be intriguing to say the least.
Lambtastic – 'Alec' is an alternate version of Harry, whose exploits are chronicled in 'Harry Potter: The Lone Traveller' (which is where this story originally came from).
Lolchen – The memory-vision in the last chapter was initiated by Alec. That being said, I'm beginning to think that the whole parchment thing was a mistake, at least in terms of what it can do.