Chapter 12: First Steps
"I'm sure it will be a quick discussion Mr. Potter." The woman answered somewhat nervously.
"That could not wait until tomorrow?" The words had their effect and Harry saw her face loosing composure as her face disappeared from view and he knocked on the wooden door.
"Come in, Mr. Potter."
Harry pushed the oak door, the griffin shaped brass knocker clinking softly. The headmaster was seated behind his large desk, his ridiculously bright robes shinning in the candle light.
"You asked to see me, sir?"
"Please, take a seat Mr. Potter."
Harry took measured steps toward the chair indicated by the old man and carefully sat, his Occlumency shields still raised and ready to detect any intrusion. The elderly man and young boy studied each other for a while, neither moving nor saying anything for a while.
"Lemon Drop?" Dumbledore offered as he pushed his candy bowl forward.
"Yes please." Harry answered, probably shocking the man. However, he didn't make any move toward the bowl. Instead, he withdrew a small grey bag from his robes and opened it, revealing his stash of sherbet lemons and plugged one into his mouth. Albus's eyebrows rose at that, but he chuckled as he grabbed one of his own and sucked it merrily too.
"How are you finding Hogwarts Mr. Potter?"
The question was asked in all seriousness and Harry understood it wasn't such an innocuous question: Dumbledore was fishing, or at least trying to confirm one of his guess, which when one knows the man is usually causes for danger, especially when you have as much secrets as Harry Potter.
"I have to say" he replied after several instants "it is as beautiful as I expected it, and the feast was near decadent. Then again I have not been able to see much of the castle bar the Great Hall."
"You might be interested into knowing Hogwarts's reaction to your arrival."
"Hogwarts's reaction, sir?"
Harry tried to put a puzzled expression for a second, but remembered who he was talking to and just dropped it. If Dumbledore was really after him, and it looked like it, there was no point in trying. The best it could do would be to fool the man for barely a week, but the worst would lead to his inability to ever lie when things became a bit too sensitive.
"Mr. Potter, please sir."
Dumbledore didn't frown but seemed to realize something and that unnerved Harry big time.
"My apologizes, Mr. Potter. As I was saying, Hogwarts seemed troubled when you crossed its borders. Now, I am sure you have no explanation as to why, do you?"
Harry was trapped there. He could of course claim ignorance but it would only fuel the headmaster's belief in whatever the man believed; he could tell the truth but since he was new to this Hogwarts Heir thing it might be harder than to just go with the headmaster's belief. Or he could tell a half-truth…
"My Master taught me how to recognize and identify Wards. It was a sort of daily game, he put up wards and I had to know what they were for. It kind of got ingrained and I studied Hogwarts's wards. It might have been this disturbance you talked about."
"Really?" Harry could see the Headmaster was not convinced at all. "Which one did you identify?"
Inwardly Harry grinned maniacally. He had access to the entire wards and could peruse them at will. Unfortunately, he couldn't really afford to immerse himself in Hogwarts's consciousness since it would require more focus than he could spare with his Occlumency shields raised.
"There is an identifying Ward. It is additional, once one has been checked in, they can come back any time they want. I found it a bit dangerous since people can change a lot between their Hogwarts years and the years after. There is also a flexible Anti-Apparition Ward. I am not sure but I think it can be lifted in definite places. Same for the Anti-Portkey Ward."
Dumbledore face changed slightly but Harry knew the man very well and was able to see the man was troubled. If he were to make a guess, Harry would say his explanation was good enough to satisfy the headmaster yet going against the elder man's current belief of Harry.
"I see. I wasn't aware Janus had taught you such a thing, but I thank you for sharing it with me, Mr. Potter."
"How would you know what he taught me?"
"Janus sent me a letter describing what he taught you."
That was a blatant lie, and Harry knew it. For one he had never sent such a letter, never even contemplated it. Remus would never have dared to do such a thing and Nicholas agreed with Harry's refusal to share his 'life' with the headmaster. There wasn't anyone else that could effectively pretend to be Janus, be it in person or even in a letter.
"He did?" Harry asked, showing surprise (which wasn't difficult since he was surprised the headmaster dared to lie to his face)
"Don't be so surprised, Harry. He is an educator, it make sense that he would share your current progresses with me."
"I guess" Harry shrugged. "And, it is Mr. Potter, sir."
Dumbledore benignly nodded. "I wanted to speak to you about your familiar Mr. Potter"
"You are aware that a basilisk is classified as a five X creature?" Harry nodded. "You claimed your familiar was originally a basilisk, and I believe it was. However, I cannot allow you to possess such a dangerous animal in a school. Now, you also told the Ministry your 'pet' for lack of better word wasn't a basilisk anymore and the Minister supported you. I am sure there are reasons behind this, but I need to ask: how different is it from this creature?"
Harry pulled back his left sleeve, revealing the profoundly sleeping Ilana. A chirp drew both men's attention to Fawkes. The gold and scarlet phoenix was obviously recovering from a recent burning day but was already able of flight as was proven when he extended his wings and lift off, making small circles above the desk before settling on Harry's right forearm.
"Hello little Guy" Harry muttered as Fawkes yellow eyes met the sleepy yellowish eyes of Ilana.
"This is Fawkes, a phoenix. Did you cover phoenixes in your studies with Janus?"
"Briefly" Harry replied absently as he studied Fawkes who in turned studied Ilana. The basilisk hybrid on the other hand could barely keep herself awake. To a trained eye, like Harry and probably Dumbledore, her pupils were barely wide enough for her to see anything, considering the bad vision snakes usually have, it was saying something.
"They are excellent judges of characters." Dumbledore supplied, his twinkling eyes showing his good humor.
Harry hummed absently as Ilana finally awaken enough to wonder what was going on around. 'Food?... Big food?'
Harry had made the decision of not hiding his ability as a parselmouth to his close friends and Dumbledore. Of course, he'd try as much as possible to hide it from Neville who was certainly one too, but he was aware that hiding such ability would be difficult. Furthermore, proving he could control Ilana if need be was paramount to her staying at Hogwarts with him. Since he couldn't afford to leave and wouldn't allow himself to be separated from her, it was for the best. As such, he answered.
'No. It issss Fawkessss. You cannot eat him. He issss not food.'
'Not food?... Ssssleep…'
'Ssssure my presssiousss, ssssleep.'
Dumbledore still smiled benignly to Harry but there was something harder in his gaze. The twinkle was gone and his lips were tightened. "I see you speak Parseltongue."
"Yeah… It occurred at the same time we became bonded. I believe she can understand human speech but she is a baby. I mean, she is something like a month and a half. I am trying to teach her how to speak coherently in snake before moving onto English."
Dumbledore nodded. "It is very wise of you, Mr. Potter. Don't you fear people might take you for a Dark wizard?"
Harry shrugged. "It was Janus's idea. I usually go with his hunches since they normally end up right. Of course, had I been a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw, it would have been easier. Being a Gryffindor it is going to be tough. Ronald is already aware, I believe he will help me if need be. The hardest part will certainly be with Neville."
Dumbledore motioned for Harry to elaborate. "Well, he is the Boy-Who-Lived. I imagine it would be hard to have a roommate with the same highly uncommon ability as the guy who tried to murder him when he was a babe."
"What do you know of Lord Voldemort?" The question came out of no-where and surprised Harry. More than that, it put on edge, again. It was the second time a seemingly simple question happened to be very loaded. He couldn't say nothing, since at the current moment he probably knew more about him than anyone else. He couldn't either spill out what he knew, it would create more issue than staying silent.
"Not much of the guy, but a bit about the character." Harry popped another lemon drop in his mouth. "Voldemort meaning Flight from death or Steal of death in French, I assume he was scared of dying since the other one does not make much sense. Too bad for him, it was a baby unaware of his own existence that caused his death. That is what I call ironic."
"You went to the Purebloods and Lords' School of Etiquette, didn't you?"
"Yes, why?" Harry answered. He was aware that acknowledging such a thing might not be in his best interest, but it wasn't so much of question more like a statement, and Harry was curious.
"No." Harry countered, wanting something out of his confession. "This was an educated guess at best and a confirmation in the worst case scenario. Do you not think I am allowed to at least know why I am in your office with such random questions?" Dumbledore open his mouth to answer but Harry kept talking. "Do not give me this line about the basilisk. It is valid, but then you ask about my schooling, Janus, You-Know-Who…"
Harry knew he had scored a point when he said You-Know-Who. Suddenly he wondered if Dumbledore wasn't suspecting Janus of being Voldemort, however he recalled the man's attitude at the IWC and dismissed the idea.
"I have rarely had students as articulate as you Mr. Potter. They usually come from the Purebloods and Lords' School of Etiquette. The truth is, I'd like to know how you came to receive such an invitation."
"Because Janus is a Lord and I am his heir."
Dumbledore frowned and suddenly Harry got it. "Which means I will not give you any information to use against him if it was what you wanted."
"Despite your beliefs, I was only interested in knowing if your familiar could be allowed in the school. You seemed like a mature boy, Fawkes doesn't object and your basilisk cannot kill with its gaze." Fawkes flew back to his perch at his name and put his head under his wing, joining Harry's familiar in her activity. "Since you are a parselmouth, I will allow you to keep her, but you must understand if she bites another student, in addition to the potential legal actions, I will have to expel you." The tone was pleasant enough but above his half-moon spectacles, Harry could see Dumbledore was dead serious.
"So you understand what I'm telling you Mr. Potter?" At Harry's nod, Dumbledore seemed mollified. "The security of the students of Hogwarts is paramount to me. I understand as an eleven-years-old boy you can't be expected to do everything perfectly, but there can be no exception. Are we in agreement?"
He had expected as much. Frankly, the headmaster attitude toward him felt rather forced this night, like the man could barely restrain himself from strangling him, but Harry would take whatever he could.
"She will not bite anyone sir. However you must understand I cannot be held responsible for the actions other students could take against her. As such, my belongings and her terrarium will be heavily warded."
"Enough to deter people form trying a second time."
"This is quite vague Mr. Potter."
"They will survive any attempt they could make on her and recover fully. I will consider any ill action toward her as an attempt against me, and I am not known for my half-measures."
"I see. Well, it will be all Mr. Potter."
"Thank you headmaster. Could you indicate me how to reach the Gryffindor Common Room and how to access it, please?"
Dumbledore waved his wand in an intricate pattern Harry could not place. A ball of blue light appeared at Harry eye level. "This will guide you and open the door for you. Goodnight Mr. Potter and welcome to Hogwarts."
Harry followed the ball of light, more interested in how it was made than where it led him, especially since he already knew both the way and the password. Deep in his thought, he slowly relaxed his Occlumency shields, and connected to Hogwarts's consciousness, letting his feet carry him along the familiar passages and totally disregarding Dumbledore's ball of light that ended up following him instead of the other way around.
He felt House-Elves as they carried their duty. When he remained focused on one especially, he 'saw' the little being stop in her/his work and cock his/her head like waiting for an order. Stairs connected according to his desire, but soon enough Harry understood the danger of connecting too deeply. He started to loose conscious of himself, and it was as Hogwarts that he noticed his body had reached the portrait of the Pink Lady. He mentally gave her a small jolt, waking her as he disconnected and found himself blinking in front of the portrait.
The Common Room was already shrouded in darkness and it took all of Harry's great familiarity to reach the staircase without tripping. Finally he reached the First Year's dormitory where everyone was asleep. Neville and Ron's snores created a cacophony that really felt like home. Silently Harry reached his bed and changed. With a few spells he set up Ilana's terrarium and put a couple of temporary wards before going to bed.
Harry woke up after a good-night sleep. The dormitory was still plunged into darkness, with a flick of his wand he discovered in was five o'clock. Knowing there was no going back to the land of dreams, Harry silently got up and gathered his belongings before going to the bathroom.
Fifteen minutes later, Harry reached the Common Room, no-one being the wiser since every Gryffindor was still soundly asleep. Slowly stretching his mind he connected to Hogwarts. Unwilling to let himself become disoriented again, he was seating on the couch, vacantly staring in the dying ember of the fireplace.
Quickly enough Harry found what he was looking for. He wondered if it was a stroke of luck, Hogwarts doing or something planned by the Founders. Remaining lightly connected to the castle, in order not to loose himself, he exited the tower and walked to his destination.
The fifth floor corridor he entered was clearly unused. For starter there wasn't a single portrait around. Had they been removed? Had one ever been hanged? Harry didn't care for he was specifically looking for a portrait-free environment. The secret passageway that wasn't even present on the Marauders Map was a very nice addition too, pending it ended somewhere of course.
The classroom was dusty and dirty. Thick spider webs hang for the corners darkened by the dust particles and heavy with the dead husks of their creators and preys. The furniture was broken and barely standing upright. Harry sneezed, a large cloud of dust swirled around him staining his immaculate robes. With rage he flicked his wand sending a large wave of wind around and backed away quickly.
Harry closed his eyes and briefly joined Hogwarts as he looked for a House-Elf. He found a pair of them reactivating fires in the Common Rooms and sent them a vague idea of where he was. They immediately appeared in front of him. Harry blinked with surprise.
"You is calling Harry Potter sir?"
"Hmmm… What are your names?"
"I is Dibi."
"I is Bozo."
"Bozo? Why are you named after a clown?"
The House-Elf hung his head in shame and rubbed his nose. Sparkles fell from it, a sure sign of magic being scrapped. Under the small glamour, Bozo's nose was pink.
"Alright then" Harry figured it might be best not to comment too much on a subject that did seem a bit sensitive to the little being. "I need you two to clean this classroom please. I will be trying to salvage the school furniture if it can be. It is not urgent per se, but I could appreciate if you could be spared soon enough."
"Right away Harry Potter, sir." Dibi said as he popped away.
"Bozo?" The little creature stopped itself from 'jumping away' "You do what you want, but you should not have to hide yourself behind a glamour of any sort."
The House-Elf nodded, his ears flapping around, before disappearing with a crash sound.
Harry reached the only decoration of the hallway. A tapestry of witch warding off a child from a manticore. Something in Harry's mind supplied him with partial information, some Navel/Novel Tonks or Twinks or something similar. "Sorry Mam'" Harry said, actually meaning it since he pressed her nose with his wand and knew he would probably do it a lot.
The tapestry rolled up on itself with a grinding sound. The passageway was dark, with a stale smell. Harry cast a Bubble-Head Charm on himself and lit his wand before entering. For several minutes, he walked totally disoriented by the numerous turns, goings up and down that clearly made no sense whatsoever. Finally, after what seemed hours but was in fact less than five minutes, Harry reached a wall. Touching it with his wand Harry was overjoyed to see it move, preventing him from turning around. He found himself behind the marble stairs of the Great Hall's entrance.
"Well, that's convenient" He muttered aloud in the silence of the huge hall.
There was a stone bust, certainly a headmaster of the Middle Ages considering the mostly erased name. "Sorry" Harry whispered as he Levitated the bust inside the passageway, leaving the stall empty.
Harry put down and Enlarged his Miniatured trunk. Opening it, he rummaged in several compartment before finding what he wanted. It was a pair of small Vanishing cabinets in the form of writing cases. He had found them in a small shop of Knockturn Alley, a life-time ago.
He used a Sticking Charm on one to glue it to the stone pedestal. He put a password ('Harry Potter was the Boy-Who-Lived') just to make sure someone was not going to run away with the half of 85 galleons. Finally he grabbed a parchment and applied a Tearing-Proof Charm as well as a Sticking Charm. This time to glue it to the top of the Vanishing Case.
Harry grabbed a second piece of parchment and, taking a deep breath, performed a Protean Charm. He had practiced it several times with less than perfect results. Of course, Harry was advanced enough in Transfiguration to do it correctly, but his goal was to master silent casting for all forms of magic and he had to admit Transfiguration was the hardest of them all.
Satisfied with the result, Harry kept the master parchment with himself, and intricately flicked and waved his wand, canceling all traces of his magic. Obviously it was not very needed in a place like Hogwarts, but he was used to it by then and would rather avoid being tied to this smuggling operation he was trying to set-up, especially considering the apparent dislike Dumbledore showed to him.
Taking the passageway back to the fifth floor corridor, Harry was amazed to see how quickly the House-Elves had been working. Deciding to do his part, he proceeded to repair as much desks and chairs he could. After an hour, he had to admit defeat. Only six desks and nine chairs had been of good enough quality to be restored. He had still managed to get two other chairs from various parts that weren't termites' full. Thankfully, the teacher's desk and armchair were untouched, baring the layer of dust now gone under the care of Dibi, probably due to some Preservation Charms.
Carefully, Harry carved small runes around the frame of the door. It was quick work, even though it had to be carefully checked. In barely fifteen minutes, a golden net seemed to spring out of the door along the walls before vanishing like it was never there.
"I think we are good guys."
"Sir we is needing waxing the floor." Bozo whined.
"It is not necessary, Bozo. If you want to, you can, but it must not take precedence over your duties, and it is not an order, okay?"
"Yes Harry Potter sir."
Harry let it go. He knew he could try to tell them to call him 'Harry', but baring a direct order, he knew no House-Elf would listen to him. Checking the time, he made his way back to the Gryffindor Common Room and reached his dormitory at the seventh stroke of seven o'clock. It was like entering a war-zone.
The four boys were awake, Seamus tending to Neville whose face looked murderous and Dean talking to Ron who didn't look like he was ready to let go of his sparkling wand.
"Hello guys. What seems to be the matter?" Harry asked, figuring there was no harm in asking. Rookie error really.
"You!" Neville screeched, his face become flushed with anger.
"Me?" Harry was surprised. He had not spoken more than five words to Neville since they were six. "I am not sure I am following."
"You brought that… that… thing in here!" Neville indicated Ilana's terrarium.
Said Ilana was asleep, curled under a log, her head on the top of the rings formed by her body. Harry spared her a glance to see if anything was wrong but she appeared fine and he could feel the temporary wards still going strong, nullifying the possibility of something or someone going in or out of them.
"Yes, she is my familiar."
"It's a snake."
"Thank you for this information Captain Obvious. Now what is the problem?"
"I don't want it there."
Harry stayed still for a second, gathering his idea, and rolling his tongue in his mouth. Ultimately, he preferred to leave the trashing for later while remaining firm. "I am afraid what you want is irrelevant. She is my familiar. Where I go, she goes. The headmaster is aware and allowed it. So suck it up! You have seven years to go with her around."
"Is it dangerous?" Dean asked with a sort of morbid fascination.
"As dangerous as a Doberman puppy Dean. She has instinct but I am training her. Anyway, I will put definitive Wards around her terrarium to prevent people from arming her and forbidding her from leaving. You lived through the night though, I do not see why the Boy Wonder here gets so worked up."
"I-Want-It-Out!" Neville growled.
Harry laughed. A demonstration was in order. "Be my guest. Get rid of her, but do not come crying if you get hurt."
He certainly wouldn't have said such a thing to a Fourth Year or above, but Neville, even if he knew how to hold and take care of a wand was still a First Year on his first day. At most he'd be able to do a basic jinx. Since his ward prevented objects and magic of low level, Harry was fairly tranquil.
"What do you mean 'get hurt'?" Seamus asked as Neville pushed him away in his anger.
"She cannot hurt you. It would not be very fair if the opposite was not true too, would it?"
A scream answered him, as Neville had tried to punch the terrarium and was now contemplating his red fist.
"Ah, yes… Any applied force will be repelled with the same amount of telekinetic power and at the same angle. So do not try to shoot it with a bludger, you would end up with a concussion if you are not fast enough to duck."
"Get-It-Out!" Neville said, as he rounded up on Harry.
Unfortunately for him, Harry had pushed his growth head of schedule and started his puberty. He was thus taller than him since he was roughly Ron's size. Furthermore he had to draw the line there too. He didn't want to be known as the impossible kid, but there were a few things he would not compromise about. Ilana was one of them.
Ron, Seamus and Dean were waiting for the end of the confrontation, staring. Something like an alpha male stuff. Sorry Nev' I ain't backing down on this one.
"Sorry Boy Wonder. I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request." Harry said neutrally. "It means no." he finished when Neville's face showed his incomprehension.
"But… but… but…"
Harry quickly understood Neville was working himself into a Dudley Dursley worthy tantrum. He cocked his head and waited. He could be physically assaulted, that would be suicide on Neville's part. He could be cursed, that would also be suicide on Neville's part. He could be told on to the teachers, and that too would be suicide on Neville's part, so he expected the only thing that wouldn't be a suicide for the boy: big fat tears with a whiny voice and a tale of how he was the wizarding savior and should be treated as such. At the fifteenth 'but' in a row, he got bored though. "But, but, but, but, but… What?"
"You can't do that!"
"Neville," Harry said gently. "I can do that. I understand you do not like it, and maybe feel uncomfortable, but she cannot get out. You are safe. The only thing you can do is ignore her."
"I'll tell my dad!"
Harry palm faced. "Am I really hearing you cry like a baby because you did not get your way around in a room shared by five persons?"
Ron burst out of laughing. "He does sound a bit like my sister!"
"Yeah, my neighbor is a bit like that too. But she's seven." Seamus piped.
Neville flushed and run out to the bathroom.
"Well, that could have gone better" Harry sighted. "Hey Ronald, I think we might be able to follow an upper year to the Great Hall if you get ready quickly."
Ron immediately grabbed his sponge bag and run after Neville, grabbing said boy's towel Harry threw at him on the way.
Barely ten minutes later, a Sixth Year had confirmed he was indeed going to the Great Hall and ended up with four First Year boys following him dutifully. Seamus being the only one of them to actually try to remember the way, then again it wasn't that strange since Dean was trying to convert both the Sixth Year and Ron to forget about Quidditch and follow the football league, particularly West Ham matches. Harry briefly entertained the idea of claiming he was more of a Tottenham fan but dismissed it when he remembered he had never seen a single football match, and wisely kept out of it.
They soon reached the Hall. After thanking the Sixth Year, they went their separate way and found a seat. As Harry helped himself with poached eggs and sausages, the owl mail begun. Truthfully, he was a bit surprised to get three owls, at once, on the first day.
The first one, an un-descriptive tawny owl, was expected since Harry had subscribed to Wizarding World Wide, better known as 3W, the only wizarding newspaper of quality not controlled by the Ministry. The second was Hedwig. Bought several years prior by Harry when she had ended up in Owl Emporium, she was now the Potter family's owl since he could hardly have two pets with the special circumstances required with Ilana. The third was a deep black Eagle owl named Hermes, Janus's new owl.
Like Harry had expected, Hedwig was bringing a letter from his mother inquiring about his trip and Sorting, ending with a reassurance nothing would change even if he were a Slytherin. Harry sent Hedwig to rest in the owlery since he did not have the time to write a correct reply.
The letter from Remus on the other hand was important to Harry.
I hope this letter finds you well. It is the first time I use Hermes for any flight outside of the capital, I am crossing my fingers…
Thinks are a bit ethic at the office. Janus dumps more and more work on my poor shoulders, but I manage. He was quite happy to receive his grade 2 W.O.M.B.A.T. Outstanding diploma yesterday. He already took an appointment to pass the grade 3 on the 31st of October. I do agree with you it is a bit early and sudden, but Janus received his summon from the Beast Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.
Since he will have to be present at the Ministry on the afternoon of the 31st, he won't have to go a second time. As you know, I have received my Law Degree Janus pressurized me into studying and I have to agree he might need the Wizards' Ordinary Magic and Basic Aptitude Test to avoid being too heavily fined. Then again, with Rockwood as part of the division one never knows. Luckily he might consider parting with several of his experiences' results to appease those morons.
Reginal Johnson, the guard at the Headquarter, whines each time I see him about an augmentation. I know you are fond of him, so I let him. However, something seems troubling and I might have to bring it up to Janus: a high number of guards are asking for one. At first I believed it was a coalition, but most of them never saw each other and do not know they are not the only one to make the same demand. How do you think I should go about presenting this problem to Janus?
Your mother contacted Janus about your family's house wards. She would like to have them modified so that Rose can watch the television offered to her for her birthday by her muggle friends. Evidently, Janus knows your opinion on such a subject and refused to consider it, but your father might do something irrational. I suggest you tell him in person why it is a very bad idea to allow television waves within the property.
I have received an appointment for you at Ollivander's. The open dates are all in June so you'll be able to decide for yourself.
Give me some news when you can and tell me in which House you have been Sorted.
Harry frowned and absently accepted his schedule from Professor McGonagall before letting his feet bring him and Ron back to the Common Room where they grabbed their bag.
The first lessons were boring as expected, but Harry endured them as planned. He settled himself in the back, refusing to have any partner. He explained to Ron he already knew some of the materials and couldn't be expected to always follow because of this. That didn't really please the red-haired boy, but he acknowledged it would be best for him to be closer to the front of the classroom, if only because he would be too tempted to doze off if not.
Transfiguration, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, even Astrology everything remained the same. The same speeches, the same lessons, the same homework. Same with History oh Magic, but Harry wasn't crazy enough to believe it could have changed due to his actions. The ghost had probably never even heard of Janus, let alone Janus Corporation.
After a week, Harry was well established in every teacher's mind as the lonely kid at the back of the class, never looking like he was paying attention. Each and every one of them had called him on it, but since he knew the basis by heart, he was able to answer perfectly and was soon left alone. Even Quirrell didn't bother him.
The situation with Neville was still very tense but he had let it go, for the time being. Dean and Seamus did not care for Ilana so much. Ron on the other hand was still fascinated by her and always trying to feed her even when she was so gorged she couldn't wake up with a mouse walking on her.
A week into the new term, led Harry, Ron and all the Gryffindors first years to their first double Potion class with Slytherin. For once, Harry was quite excited. Since Snape was not a professor, this hot 'new' teacher (and Head of Slytherin) was a different entity, meaning for once he couldn't predict what the class was going to be like. Truth be told, she was a blend of Slughorn and Snape: nicer like Horace, but hard and strict like Severus.
Once everyone was seated, she swept into the classroom, not a single hint of smile or warmth on her face and faced the class.
"Welcome class. I am Professor Atkinson. You may call me Professor, Madam' or Mrs. Any other colloquial appellation with result in points loss and detention. I do not tolerated lateness, be it for the class or your assigned essays. You may keep samples of your potions only if I deem them acceptable. Each one of you must have your books and cauldrons at every class, no sharing allowed. Any question?"
One could have heard a pin drop. Even Harry surprised himself at trying not to breathe too loudly.
"Good. Open your book to the first chapter. Who read it?"
Every Slytherin raised his or her hand, Harry and Hermione were the only Gryffindor to do so.
"You!" Mrs. Atkinson barked, pointing at Ron who suddenly looked like he was shrinking. "Why haven't you?"
"I… I didn't know we had to." The boy managed to stammer.
"Really? You believe yourself good enough to show up unprepared in Potions?"
Ron was at loss for an answer and remained gaping like a fish. The professor narrowed her eyes and sneered. "Those who read it, go and fill your cauldrons with water, as for the others… Fifteen inches on the merit of preparation when dealing with potions due for next week and you have a zero for today. Now, get out!"
Harry grabbed Ron's robes and slowly shook his head. "Stay" he whispered.
"You!" the teacher suddenly pointed Harry. "Do you have something to share with the class?"
"I just wondered why Ronald here pretended not to have read the chapter when he did it with me yesterday."
"Did he now?"
"Maybe he did not understand everything and preferred to fake ignorance than boasting an understanding" Harry's gaze swept on the Slytherins, lingering on Crabbe and Goyle "of something he hardly comprehended."
"You claim he read the chapter with you?"
"Yes Madam'" Harry lied with a straight face despite Ron's agonizing expression.
"Very well. He stays. Any error and you have both the essay and detention."
"Thank you for the opportunity, Mrs. Atkinson."
The teacher nodded sharply and turned around, before starting to write her syllabus for the class on the black-board.
"Are you mad?" Ron hissed. "She's going to kill us."
"Do as I do, acknowledge what I say and we will be fine."
"What if I mess up?"
Harry's eyes promised pain. "Do not even consider it! Do or do not. There is no try!"
"Move it Yoda, I need water" Hermione Granger snapped in their back.
Ron was a bit scared after this exchange but dutifully wrote what was written, took notes and carefully followed Harry's moves. In the end, his potion was certainly not perfect but it was passable enough.
"This potion is not good enough to keep any sample. You are however free of the assignment and detention. Potter!"
"Yes Professor Atkinson?"
"You may keep the samples of your Boil-Cure Potion. You should have been a Hufflepuff." The professor commented, her sneering voice convening her low opinion of the badger House and creating a wave of laughter from the Slytherins.
"Unfortunately, I certainly would have lacked the nerve to contradict my friend in front of you." Harry returned stoically.
The teacher turned back sharply, her speculating gaze sizing Harry as the entire class quieted down.
"Did you really read the chapter with your housemate?" She asked and Harry felt she was truly curious.
Feeling rash he decided to try his luck. In any case, a detention and an essay would not be too high of a price to know how to tread around this unknown teacher. "Not a single word."
"Yet you believed yourself good enough to fool me?"
Harry indicated the three vials of extra potion she had allowed him to keep in a wave of his hand but remained silent.
"You could have been a Slytherin" she commented, breaking the tension. Her eyes remained locked with Harry's obviously waiting for an answer.
Harry knew here and then his answer would dictate the next years of his life. He could refuse Slytherin as the House of Dark Arts, put himself down on a Slytherin quality or highlight his Gryffindor's tendencies. All of these answers would be bad, very bad.
The silence stretched. Finally Mrs. Atkinson turned around, clearly disappointed, that's when Harry talked.
"Cunning and ambition are good for nothing if one does not have the courage to put things in practice."
"Courage mustn't be mistaken for rashness" came the easy reply.
"The difference between rashness and courage can only be seen in the outcome." Harry returned as sweat appeared in the back of his neck. He was not going to win a contest of quotes with the Head of Slytherin and he knew it. They both knew it.
"Yet nothing good comes from too much boldness."
"The winner is often the one who knows when to bow."
"Indeed Mr. Potter, indeed." She smiled softly like in reminiscence of something for a time long past. "However, History is written by the winners"
"So I noticed."
The contest was over. Nobody, not even Harry knew who had won, but one thing was for sure: he had not lost, and that was enough for him.
"Blimey mate! You nearly gave me a hear-attack in there" Ron commented as they finally left the dungeons. "Thanks for the essay and all, back then."
"That is what friends are for." Harry smiled. "I heard the big guy Hagrid is great. My parents talked about him. Fancy going to see him?"
"Sure. After lunch though, 'cause I'm famished."
Harry laughed. Ron was always hungry. No matter the world, timeline or whatever, some things never changed. He could hardly wait to introduce him to Hagrid's cakes.
The visit to Hagrid's hut went well enough. Harry showed Ron a trick born of years of experiences with the Half-Giant's cooking: put the rock cakes in the tea and wait a long time before taking a tentative bite.
Ron and Hagrid hit pretty well too, even better than 'before', maybe because Ron had loads of questions about handling snakes. Hagrid for his part wanted to see Ilana. Harry promised he would bring her next time he'd come. A promise he fully intended to keep but turned into a lie since he came to Hagrid's a few days later.
"Hello Hagrid" Harry happily said from his broom.
"Hu… 'Ullo Harry. How are yeh?"
"I am good, thanks."
"Whot are yeh doin' on a broom? Yer not allowed one!"
"Calm down Hagrid. We are having broom lessons. Look at what I am riding. It is barely holding it together as it is."
Hagrid beetle-dark eyes scanned the broomstick, noting the dirty handle and bent twigs. "I s'pose. But then, whot are yeh doin' here?"
"Hermione, a First Year Gryffindor, fell from her broom. Mrs. Hootch has her checked by Madam Pomfrey."
"I might have offended Theodore Nott with a comment on his parents' relationships. Since he started cursing left and right I figured I would be better off far away." Harry commented off-handedly, before doing a counter-clock roll, a spell passing harmlessly where he had stood an instant before, and crashing against a tree's trunk.
Theodore Nott had mounted his own broom, not caring about Professor Hootch's interdiction either, and was hard on Harry's tail.
"Sorry, got to go Hagrid. See you later." Harry called as he flew away, escaping each and every one of the Slytherin's well aimed curses. He was having the time of his life.
At first, Harry had been a bit unsure about his provocation of the younger boy. However, when Hermione fell from her broom, creating the same conditions as in his 'first life', Harry took a shot. He knew all the luck in the world was useless if one didn't push it too.
The quick computation he had made had been clear: no Quidditch in Second and Fourth Year, and that was with the supposition nothing happened in Third Year to lead to Dementors on the Grounds. It left Harry with three years of potential Quidditch if he was taken in Fifth Year. It wasn't enough he felt, so he did provoke the kid. Malfoy had wisely kept out even though his raised eyebrow and scowl had clearly expressed his opinion. Harry had thrown him a bone by claiming Draco was of a much better stock than Nott.
He hadn't been able to see the result since a Body-Bind had immediately headed his way.
Laughing madly, Harry led Theodore on a wild chase around the ground. After a dozen minutes he rejoined the group, most of them still safely down but actively staring at them. He stayed hovering as his red-faced opponent finally caught him amidst the jeering comments of the Gryffindors.
"You're an idiot Nott. He's a much better flyer than you are." Malfoy drawled. "Stop trying to get him. Make him come to you."
Theodore didn't need to be told it twice. Like a snake, he sprang and rounded on Ron. He pushed the surprised boy, grabbing the wand whose handle was sticking out of his pocket, and flew away as fast as he could.
"My wand!" The surprised and pained cry from Ron, angered Harry.
"Thanks Malfoy. I will get you for that!" Harry snarled as flew away in hot pursuit, eliciting a spike of worry inside of Draco's grey eyes.
Even with the tables turned around Theodore couldn't hope to out fly Harry, but he tried anyway. Soon enough, Harry was neck-to-neck with him. Despite Nott's best efforts, he couldn't out-fly or out maneuver him. Then again, Harry had come in early to select the best broom, which didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but made the difference there.
"Give it back Mr. Nott." Harry said with calm despite his anger. He understood he was responsible for the current situation and decided to keep his temper in check since the worst Nott could have done would have been to make him fall from three feet while he could maim or even kill the boy.
"You want it Potty? Come and take it."
The even reply unnerved Nott just enough to push him into doing an uncontrolled side-step with his broom. Just enough so that Harry's hand did not close on Ron's wand but only grazed its handle. Theodore knew there and then he was outsmarted. He launched the wand in a wide arc, and hit it with a carefully aimed Flippendo.
The wand's momentum increased as it started to spin. Harry narrowed his eyes as he bent lowly on his broom and took off. He tried as much as he could to push the broom even knowing how out-of-date and battered it was. For several moments, everybody forgot to breath.
Ron was worried about his wand. The Gryffindors were crossing their fingers, hoping Slytherins would get showed up. Theodore was worrying, because Potter's success would mean his downfall. Draco Malfoy was smirking since who ever won he was good. Slytherins in general were waiting with battered breath to know who to look out for: Nott who was trying to show himself in a good light, or Potter whose current record was spotless (as far as Slytherins were concerned).
Screams rose as Harry's path brought him into a sure collision against the castle's old wall. Harry himself knew it would be difficult, much more than when racing for Neville's rememberall, but this was Ron's wand, and he was pissed.
He swiveled downward, and snatched the wand as it nearly crashed against the stones, but his momentum was so important, he couldn't fly in the opposite direction as had been his first plan. He turned downward until he faced the ground. His legs bent as they connected against Hogwarts' foundation and as he felt he might break something, his broom picked enough speed to stop him from getting any injury as he pushed, and creating enough pace, began to fly parallel to the castle.
Increasing his speed, he performed a perfect Wronski Feint pulling out of the dive so closely from the ground he raised a cloud of dust that blinded the class. As the First Years blinked they finally saw a sweaty Harry Potter with a tight face. The boy dismantled and presented his wand back to his friend as Theodore Nott came back dejected and forgotten by his classmates.
Harry sighed and let the broom fall to the ground. Wiping his face he turned around and joined the scowling Transfiguration teacher, hoping he might not have over-done it. As it turned out, he had certainly pushed it a bit but Professor McGonagall still led him straight to the Charms classroom. Hiding his maniacal grin, he pulled a surprised expression as Oliver Wood and himself followed the Deputy Headmistress to a classroom where Peeves was being his usual annoying self. A glance from both the professor and Harry, the poltergeist dropped his stick of chalk and flew threw the blackboard.
The rest became general knowledge in a few hours as Hogwarts gossip grapevine worked its way to every student of the school. Wood had been insistent to keep his new inclusion into the Quidditch team a secret, but Harry didn't care so much about it. Firstly because he had to get an explanation out of Draco who claimed he was helping Harry since he understood the Gryffindor wanted to fly but out flew his opponent with too much ease. Secondly, he didn't care about the Slytherins' plans, he had six years experience playing Hogwarts Quidditch, something that certainly would never get into consideration if they planned anything against him. Thirdly, he was pretty sure he could deal with any curse or hex sent his way. And finally, but most importantly, Ron exclaimed loudly about him being the youngest seeker in Hogwarts for a century. In the middle of the Great Hall. At dinner time.
Over the following weeks, Harry managed to get into a routine. He went to classes and studied, pretending it was first year material when he had exchanged the covers for post-NEWTs text books. Every afternoon, he went to the bathroom, used his time-turner and giving it three turns, used the spare time to go to the fifth floor where he kept on putting Wards in and on the classroom.
He could have easily done it in a couple hours but then the Headmaster would have felt it. As such, he took his time. The Shielding Ward protected him against Dumbledore and the Marauders' Map. The Silencing one spoke for itself, as well as the Repelling Ward. He was currently on the process of setting up a Containing Ward. He of course, always kept an eye on the parchment that glowed blue when someone wrote in it.
Slowly, but surely, he was increasing his smuggling customers' base. Nobody really knew it was him, even though many suspected him. On the other hand, he didn't know who he was selling his products to. He had decided on this to keep himself neutral. If something felt too dangerous he just refused to provide it. It had not occurred yet, but he was pretty sure he could end up with demands on cursed items or tightly controlled ingredients. While he could obtain them without too much difficulty, Harry was loath to have such an impact. After all, what would he do if he was asked about Dark Arts book? He could keep his head into the sand and sell them, or judge who asked for them, and that would be another step toward controlling people. It would be so tempting to use his smuggling knowledge to blackmail people and that would ultimately force him to walk a road he didn't want if it wasn't absolutely necessary. That and it would hurt business more than a simple refusal.
After six hours of practicing advanced magic and dealing with customers, he went to the same bathroom, used his time-turner for three turns again and it was like he had never left. His Invisibility cloak was invaluable for that.
The extra six hours each day as well as Quidditch training allowed him to have six good hours of sleep each night, instead of the previous four, giving him the ability to go to bed late yet rise early without feeling bored out of his mind.
Harry was quite satisfied with things. The only down side came from Hermione. While the girl was as bossy as Harry, she was also a bit snippy and, quite frankly, unbearable when it came to anything not related to studying and abiding to the rules. Needless to say, she couldn't stand Ron, and was having second doubts with Harry, especially since he rarely followed the rules (when he could go away with it), and always had a reason as well as an explanation not to conform to her view of things. It saddened Harry. He hoped it would change, but time flew by and soon enough it was the end of October and still there was no change in their relationship.
Halloween changed and clarified a lot of things for Harry and those around of him. Unfortunately, while it could be considered good by outside viewers, it made Harry very uneasy especially since he knew how he would have to let some of them down.
The curse of the 'Greater Good' some might have called it. To Harry, it was Fate's revenge, and as the saying goes: Revenge is a Bitch.