Disclaimer – This is a work of fanfiction. The only compensation I receive from it is the reviews of the readers.
Acknowledgements – To my knowledge the contest at DLP is pretty much over. Vash withdrew and Bioplague claimed he was working on something, but all I've seen from him is a big bunch of nada. So, consider the 'Put Up or Shut Up' challenge to be over. I see no point in punishing you readers by not working with the talent of Alpha Fight Club and hopefully will get the first three chapters edited and reposted with many less errors. I'd like to thank Zanymuggle and FairyQilan for the beta work on this chapter.
Chapter 4 – Of Innuendo and Ice Cream
Saturday July 17, 1994
"Where have you been boy?" Vernon raises his voice from the living room. I'm in no mood for it, not after the day I've had. It's enough to draw the attention of Pig Junior from the telly and Aunt Horsey from her gossip rags. Ah, the ideal picturesque family; I'd like to kill them right now. I drop the shopping bags in my arms and glare at them.
The 'ballcap' on my head whispers into my mind, "I'd bear witness for you. It'd be justifiable…"
I mull over the offer as the oaf repeats his question with extra emphasis on each word. Fine, I'll answer him. "Godric's Hollow. That's where I was, Godric's Hollow – the same Godric's Hollow where I was born. You wouldn't happen to know what I found there, you bunch of miserable liars."
Vernon looked angry, but it was Petunia who looked ashen. Dudley just looked confused. He can eat an Oreo, but I wondered if he could spell it? Since they weren't about to speak up, I continued. "All these years of telling me and everyone else how I was dumped on your doorstep by my worthless penniless parents and today I found out that you made a tidy sum selling the land off to land developers." Pointing at the Tesco bags on the ground, I continued, "I found out you can never go home again, but you can shop there."
For twenty minutes, I just stood there and stared at where the cottage had been. Even the Hat had the good sense to not mock me, though I could sense it wanted to. It took another two hours, a few conversations with the rather helpful store manager, and a telephone call to Gringott's public line to unravel exactly what, or more precisely who, had happened to the parcel of land gifted to the Potter family by Henry II in 1170 for helping extricate the king from a problem involving a certain clergyman.
A little over a year after I had arrived on their doorstep, the land was sold to the Joy & Cornell Development Group by Petunia Dursley. The helpful and not so concerned with Muggle legalities Goblins were able to tell me that the Dursley's paid off the note on Number 4, established a trust fund for Dudley Dursley, and purchased a brand new 1982 Volvo Station Wagon and Aston Martin Volante – all in the same year.
"Get out!" Vernon bellowed. "I've had it with you!"
I just smiled at him, "Not a chance. If I was to 'get out', it would only be to go find a solicitor."
"And do what?" He sputtered. "We had every legal right to that money and you can't do a thing about it."
"Not quite true, Vernon. The fact you established a trust fund only for Dudders would work against you. The papers love these kinds of stories, greedy relatives stealing the orphaned boy's inheritance and what not. Oops, apparently Dudders didn't know about that – terribly sorry to ruin the surprise. I might not win, but with the stink I'd make, your names would be ruined."
Vernon regained his composure. He is a salesman and a slimy one at that. "I don't think so, boy. You don't have much of a reputation around here, after all…"
"Ah, but reputations and neighborhood gossip only go so far, don't they? Where's my police record? You've got nothing. What do I have, proof you sold off my family's land and didn't spend a bit of the money on me. After I'm done with you, you'll be worried about your reputation - that carefully crafted façade of being such well-to-do people. I'd make certain the management at Grunnings heard about it and all the neighbors too. How would you like it with all the people staring at you? Plus, what do you think my people will do to you?" I let the threat linger in the air for a moment much to the applause of the Hat in my mind.
"Boy …" Would this idiot ever learn?
"The man who found us back when I was eleven, he was thrown out of school in his third year. Remember the tail? Now think about what someone who finished all seven of their years could do."
I've never quite understood these idiots. It's not like I'm never going to graduate from that school. Hell, technically I've already graduated once. Do they honestly think I'll just forget all this?
"You wouldn't dare," he threatened.
"Believe what you want to believe. I'm done talking to you." I head upstairs to my bedroom.
Once inside, I dump the contents of my shopping spree on the sad looking and lumpy single bed.
'Rather heavy handed there, HJ?' The voice in my mind speaks. 'Felt good too, didn't it? I'm surprised you didn't go with physical violence. I'm actually rather disappointed.'
"You know inside the room with the silencing charms up, you can speak out loud? It wouldn't hurt anything."
"Quit being such a prissy little whiner, HJ! If you're going to take it out on someone, take it out on them. What happened to all those plans you were making on the trip home? Or are you all talk and no action?"
I suppose the Hat's a bad influence on me, but it did feel good. On the Knight Bus ride back, I had thought of all the pranks the late great James Potter had performed and the things I could do to them, but I'm not a prankster, at least not anymore. I'm not Fred and George, but I could teach them a thing or two. Plus if I started down that road, especially with the Dursleys, I might not stop. It is the same kind of shit that got Sirius in trouble back in school – not knowing where the line was.
As I sift through the new clothes and trainers on the bed, I look at the small satchel, which was the real prize. Near the back of the property, beyond the shopping center in the woods that still remained was a chestnut tree with his childhood tree fort in it. The whole thing had a Notice-Me-Not ward on it, so you had to be specifically looking for it. Not nearly as good as the Fidelius, but it takes a good deal of power to cast that behemoth. It required both Lily and I to cast it on the property and we collapsed for several hours afterward.
James had set this place up as a little hidey hole and filled it with some emergency supplies. Unfortunately, Sirius had already raided it; the broom, the spare wand, most of the books, and the stash of money were all gone. All that was left was some garbage, animal droppings, a couple of tattered blankets that must have helped the old dog through some tough nights, and a plain looking book with a worn cover hidden in a false bottom of a battered oak dresser.
Most of the old families have their secrets, and the Potters were no different. I held in my hand an Anybook. Down in the Potter Vault, there are several bookshelves. The Anybook is connected to one of those shelves. Books placed on that shelf are viewable from the pages of this one. The charms on this one needed to be reset and I'd have to get in to bookshelves in the vault to do it, but as long as I'm not trying to take anything out of the vault, the goblins shouldn't have any issues.
On her stand, my owl is sleeping peacefully; she's got a letter attached to her leg. I gently untie the ribbon, doing my best to not wake her up. It never works; she wakes up, raising a perturbed eye at me.
"Sorry girl," I say fishing a treat out of the small tin of food I keep on the nightstand as I sit down and open the letter. Inside is visitor's pass to the Puddlemere training facilities and a note from Ollie.
Good to hear from you mate! Drop by practice tomorrow and I'll show you what real Quidditch looks like! We can talk then. Bring your broom.
He seems to have forgotten who was abusing him in the hoops the last week of school. I believe the reserve keeper for Puddlemere needs a reminder. Still, I need him to back me up when I try my Animagus transformation, so I can't whip him too badly.
Walking down the stairs in the morning carrying my broom in its case, I'm greeted by the sight of my family waiting for me. "What now?"
Dudley wastes no time in grabbing me and put me in a hold, sending the Hat flying into the corner and my Firebolt to the ground. I debate the merits of wandlessly banishing him across the room. No, I'll wait and see where this is headed. Vernon produces a clear plastic sandwich bag full of substance that looks a bit like oregano. In his most sinister sounding voice, which given that I've been through, sounded rather cartoonish he says "We're having a bit of an intervention here, boy! We've decided to nip this in the bud so; we're just going to hold you here until the police can be summoned to search your room."
If I wasn't so angry at the moment, I'd find this rather humorous. "Did you stay up all night thinking this one up Vernon? Did you even stop to think about how quickly Dudley managed to acquire what's in your hands?"
"Shut your mouth! Just because some of Dudder's friends have some parental issues doesn't give you the right to toss out any accusations! Give me a moment to put this upstairs and then go ahead and ring the police, Pet!"
"Looks like you got me this time, Vernon. I bow to your superior planning. You've clearly outsmarted me. If only there was a way that I could get rid of it before the police get here. What will I ever do?"
I suffer through the next forty-five minutes of waiting for the police to come and search my room. Naturally, thanks to Dobby, they don't find anything. Needless to say the officers gave me a rather stern warning to stay off drugs and Vernon got a warning about phoning in reports without any proof. They were nice enough to leave several pamphlets for parents of children who use drugs. Hopefully they'll read them. It might help!
"I don't know what you did, but this isn't over!"
From my seat on the couch, I look at Vernon and drum my fingers on the coffee table. "That's where you're wrong, Vernon. This bullshit ends now. I'm going to stay here for as long as the protection Lily Potter gave to me lasts, and I won't be doing a damn thing around here any more. If you even so much as think about trying to hurt me, or trying this lame-assed crap again, I've got a surprise for you. Dobby! Come on out!"
The jittery elf peered from around the stairs. "But Mister Harry Potter said to not let the nasty Dursleys see him?"
"It's okay, Dobby," I said ignoring Petunia's gasp. "This is Dobby. He's the one that's been doing all the chores around here. He's my elf."
"Get rid of that damn thing this instant!" Vernon stood with his fists balled.
"Not happening. I wouldn't go any closer, Uncle. I watched this elf throw a grown man into a wall by snapping his fingers. Dobby broke my arm just to trying to help me. He doesn't react well in stressful situations."
Turning to the little psycho I said with as much anger as I could put in my voice, "Show them the knife trick!"
Dobby's eyes grew big as he waved his hands and the cleaver, the butcher's knife and four steak knives flew in from the kitchen and hovered in the middle of the room. The elf waved his hands guiding them in an intricate dance across the room. Truth be told, it scared the willies out of me when he did it out in the garage with two just two knives out of my Potion's kit. I pointed to Vernon's recliner and Dobby buried all six, right where Vernon had been sitting less than thirty seconds ago. I'll give him points for showmanship – the pattern looks like a smiley face.
"I'll put it like this. I only technically need Aunt Petunia alive for the protective magic to keep working, but I'm not a killer. I just want to be left alone. Dobby's my insurance policy. If I suddenly turn up arrested, dead, or badly injured, he's going to come after all three of you and there's nowhere you can hide from him. This goes for your little gang of thugs too, Dudders. Dobby can do all kinds of useful things too! He knows where brake lines are on cars, how to loosen lugnuts, the difference between baking powder and rat poison, all very useful things – wouldn't you say?"
Push me far enough and I'll push back. Without James Potter's memories and life experience, I wouldn't have known where Godric's Hollow was, or how to track down the details of the sale. I also probably would have snapped and followed through with the threat I just made. I'm just glad they couldn't touch the Potter vaults or anything else. Makes me wonder if they tried?
All in all, I am surprised by the depths of my own hatred for the pieces of shit in front of me. The whole promise of certain death is more of a spur of the moment thing, but damn if it hasn't got their attention, though. The three of them just stare at the knives embedded in the worn-down recliner.
"You stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours. I come and go as I please. I sleep here, and I'll take care of my own food. You can pretend I don't even exist. Go ahead and fix that, Dobby. You've made your point."
The elf waves his hand causing the knives to float back into the kitchen and the worn leather to stretch and join back together, just like nothing had ever happened.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got things to do today and they don't involve the lot of you. Dobby, get rid of the locks on my door and move the rest of my stuff up to my room."
To emphasize my point I summon the sorting hat and broom case wandlessly from where they had fallen as I walk out the door.
It would be far easier to Apparate, but technically, Harry has never done it, nor do I have a license for it. Thus, I'm waiting for another jarring ride to the Alley courtesy of the Knight Bus. Even with a different crew from the blokes at night, they still drive reckless and all over the place – must be a perk of the job. Maybe I can talk Ollie into getting me a Portkey to his place and I can pop over there in the mornings and use his Floo to get around.
'A rather judicious use of terror back there, HJ. I thought the old man was going to wet himself. Still, I would have had the elf injure either the man or the boy just to prove a point. Worthless shits like that only can handle so much blackmail, but they understand physical force.'
Not wanting to be seen talking to myself while I'm waiting for my ride, I think back, 'You're still thinking tenth century terms, wanker. Wake up and join the modern era! Vernon gets threats all the time where he works – sales quotas, production shortages and the like. I threatened his job. Death isn't in the front of peoples minds anymore. The knives were sufficient for that. Now, threatening his comfy lifestyle, that really hits home. He knows there's a chance they'd cut him loose over a black eye like this.'
The Hat grumbles that I lack the necessary spine to give my Uncle a richly deserved castration; I thank him for any imagery relating to Vernon and his testicles. Deciding to bring the conversation back to a more productive topic, I start thinking about how to determine the strength of the wards around Number Four. I don't want to spend a single minute longer than I have to there!
'If you could get into the fossil's office, I know he has instruments to monitor such things?'
'Already looking for a way back?'
'Go fuck a goat, you insipid little ball of sphincter puss! I was merely making a suggestion.'
'Damn! Where do you come up with these things? It's too risky anyway. I'd have to figure out how to use the equipment. Plus with all the paintings, Fawkes, and the rest, I just don't think it's worth the risk. Unless they've changed the laws in the past twenty years, ward diagnostic spells aren't covered by underage restrictions. I'll have to stop by Hopkirk's office and verify, but you have to love all the little loopholes in the laws for pureblood households.'
'Nice, HJ. Use the system for your own benefit. I still say you'd have made a decent Slytherin.'
'Shit! Malfoy'd be dead by now if I was.'
'You sound awfully certain of yourself. Let me provide an image of what a tiny little pathetic shit you were at age eleven.' Even I have to admit that eleven-year-old Harry Potter looked like a good strong wind would knock him over.
'You're forgetting a certain prophecy that we know about now. We both know he'd make a move, but my guess is it'd backfire spectacularly.'
'But you can bet Snape would have tried even harder to expel you?' The bus appears out of the ether and begins decelerating by the bench I'm sitting next to.
'He's just trying to weasel out of paying a life debt back to James. It's still probably driving him up the wall that the debt carried over. I wonder if on some level he suspects that I am sort of James and sort of Harry?'
'Perhaps. He's whined his fair share in Dumbledore's office about you.'
'Now that I know the whole story behind the werewolf incident, I'll find a way to make sure it comes out during the course of the year.'
'I'd be careful. You might have to explain how you came by that knowledge.'
'They'll be too busy trying to deny it, but if they do I'll say Remus told me in response to Snape spreading the news of his furry little problem.' I debated the merits of this. Causing more problems for Remus isn't necessarily a good thing. He's had a hard life. On the other hand, James caught him sleeping with Lily. Part of me just can't overlook that no matter how hard I try. Maybe, I'll blame Sirius instead.
I climb the steps and hand over my fare, absently listening to the conductor's usual speech. Grabbing the pole to support myself, I brace for the sudden acceleration.
Now that I am afflicted with the appreciation James had for all things fast, I find the bus isn't all that bothersome.
The Alley's all hustle and bustle. It's hard to reconcile both the sets of memories in my head. Harry's memories say it is business as usual, but the other set remembers the war and people nervously hustling through the Alley and making eye contact only when necessary. I find myself looking at the rooftops and remembering a battle fought across the skyline between the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry, and the Death Eaters. In the darkness of night, it had been impossible to tell what side anyone was on.
'You need to relax, Dipshit! You're giving me a headache.'
'You can speak out loud now if you want. I don't think anyone here would care if I have a talking hat on.'
Much to my annoyance, the Hat continues the mindspeak as we thread our way towards the bank.
Walking up the steps past a trio of Goblins at the entrance, the Hat suddenly speaks out loud. "… and that's the story of how Goblins and garden gnomes come from the same family tree. Essentially, they are the same creatures. Personally, I find the gnomes are more beneficial to society." Three heads whip around in unison towards me.
"What? Why the hell did you just say that out loud?" 'Are you trying to get me killed?'
"I thought you preferred it when I spoke out loud? If these vermin were important, they wouldn't be here at the front." Nice to see the Hat's disposition doesn't change when dealing with another race of creatures!
Trying to keep my eyes on the trio, which is hard since every blasted Goblin dresses the same except for managers, I slide into the shortest line. The one person in front of me finishes her business and I'm next. Is it my imagination or is he taking his time servicing me?
Eventually, after having to argue about the terms and conditions that allow an underage Potter to visit the family vault, I was directed to the carts with a slip of paper written in Gobbledygook.
Mentally, I question the Hat as I enter the cart, 'What the hell are you doing? Any particular reason you want to get the Goblins angry?'
My answer comes, but not from the Hat. Apparently, there is a second faster speed to the carts and I get to hold on for my bloody life while the Hat howls in joy. The speed of our descent brings back the hazy memories of falling off my Nimbus last year after being on the bad end of a Dementor encounter.
'I've been waiting years to do that again!'
Two hours later, I'm out of the bank and away from the homicidal glares of the low-level Goblin underlings. I made a sizeable withdrawal from my trust account and I reestablished the association with the Anybook and the bookshelf in the Potter Family Vault. The longest time was spent sorting through what books I might to read until I could come back here during the Christmas holidays.
Eventually, I selected roughly half of the books that had been on James Potter's shelf, as well as a number of arcane tomes that Lily had been using prior to her death. It was a good mixture of dueling, wards, enchanting, charms, advanced Transfiguration, and a healthy sampling of rather obscure and questionable magic. Satisfied, I pricked my finger and let the blood flow over the gemstone embedded into the bookshelf and then touched and the cover of the book to the gemstone to complete the association ritual. Now, I would be the only one able to open the book.
I decided not to linger in the family vault. There were a few memories of what James and Lily had done down here among all the books that made me feel rather uneasy. He'd brought her down here days after his parent's funeral. It was their first time. In a sense, Voldemort had been right. He had taken James's life away from and all that was left were a collection of meaningless vaults. Whoever I am, it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I have a chance to get my life on track.
A hand on my shoulder interrupts my reverie. Shocked, I jump and curse myself for being so inattentive.
"Whoa. Easy there, Harry! I didn't mean to startle you!" Katie Bell says. She's got a mortified look on her face.
"No worries, I'm just not used to being grabbed." I sputter quickly. "What brings you to the Alley today?"
"I was doing some window shopping and picking up a few OWL study guides. My parents are already on me about making good marks."
"I'm sure you'll do fine, Katie."
She grabs my hand and starts leading me towards the ice cream shop. "Come on, I'll let you buy me an ice cream. So, what's your story? What brings the reclusive Harry Potter out into the Alley?"
"I'm just running a few errands and then going to watch the Amazing Ollie in practice." I can't really go on about handing out death threats and insulting Goblins, can I?
"Angie and I went last week. You'll be shocked at how organized everything is. It's a far cry from what I expected. I'm used to looking at Angie or 'Licia's scrawl on a piece of parchment for this new play they were thinking of over lunch. Puddlemere has these giant floating blackboards circling their practice facility with the plays on them! It's bloody brilliant! They've got coaches and trainers for each group of players."
James had played in the Spring Leagues, so I had a decent idea of what to expect. "You sound like you're intimidated." We take a seat. Apparently, I'm buying. She orders a banana split called 'Morganna's Delight'. I just order a triple scoop of French Vanilla with hot fudge.
"Well, after winning the cup last year. I kind of started thinking about my chances of going pro. Now, I'm not so sure."
"Katie, most people don't get invites to the Spring Leagues until after Hogwarts. Ollie's a freak of nature. You've got three full seasons to get your form up to speed. Once you've graduated, you can practice more without having to worry about studying. I think you've got a shot."
"That's easy for you to say, you could probably go pro right now."
"What can I say? Quidditch is in my blood. My Dad played in the Spring Leagues at the end of his fifth year. He was one of those freaks." He still is, sort of.
Further conversation is interrupted by our ice cream arriving. The Hat strikes while I'm swallowing my second bite. I damn near choke.
'Do me a favor and fuck her already.'
'Never too early to start carving a set of notches into your wand holster, HJ. You know, you could chat her up for awhile, grab a room at the Cauldron, and seal the deal. You could 'ring her Bell'. Who knows, you might even be her first.'
'Shut up already! She's a fifteen year old girl.'
"Harry, are you okay?" Katie looks worried.
"No, I'm fine." I say, pulling off my 'ballcap' and setting it on the table. I have no intentions of continuing that particular conversation.
It's the wrong move. The Hat takes this as its signal to openly participate. "Potter and I were just discussing whether you were trying to clumsily seduce him."
Katie lets out a shriek as the voice startles her, before staring at the Hat curiously. "Harry?"
"It's the Sorting Hat under a glamour. I'm doing research on it this summer."
"Know why I put Bell in Gryffindor, HJ? She was out playing in the woods and fell out of a tree and broke her ruddy ankle. She managed to get back on her own five miles through a rainstorm."
Katie looked confused for a second and then perturbed. "That's not me. I think you're talking about Alicia Spinnet."
"Shit, I always confuse you two. Didn't I try to put you into Hufflepuff?"
"Ravenclaw." Katie sounds rather annoyed now. Ah, the mood swings of teenagers. Even if I was trying to 'seal the deal', the Hat clearly isn't helping. I'm willing to bet it knows exactly what it's doing.
"Whatever. Either way Bell had the balls to argue with me, so I figured Gryffindor."
Katie had lightened her hair and gone from straight to curly hair to avoid looking like Alicia. The Hat probably pulled it out of my memories of her and made a few clever guesses.
"It's just trying to get you angry, Katie. It's really good at doing things like that. I got the cart ride of my life back in the Bank after it decided what a smashing idea it would be to insult Goblin heritage out loud."
"It's so rude!"
"Part of its charm. Trust me."
"Relax Bell, I won't try and talk HJ out of slipping you the sausage…"
"Oh please! You drag him over here and have him buy you a phallic symbol covered in chilled bovine lactate! The only thing missing was you didn't offer him your cherry."
Katie's eyes bulge. "For fucks sake, Hat, shut up! No, Katie. It was the Hat making the suggestion. That's why I took it off. Blasted thing is crude as can be and has over a thousand years worth of insults just waiting to be used."
There's an awkward moment of silence while Katie stares at her dessert in horror. She'll probably never have a banana split again. Right about now, I'd give my left nut to be able to legally cast a silencing charm or a wandless one. Fortunately, Florean's tables are charmed to keep the conversation from carrying to the next tables.
"If it's so foul, I'm surprised they let it on children's heads."
"I watched it lay into Dumbledore right before we left. It called him a 'has-been cashing in on past glories' or something like that."
"What's wrong with it? Did Slytherin curse it before he left the school?"
"No. I was not cursed. If I was cursed, I'd put Muggleborns in the same rooms as the Pureblood fanatics and laugh when they eventually came to blows. No, Bell, the highlight of my year is singing a song and staring into the minds of idiotic eleven-year-olds and seeing what fascinating tales they have to offer. Then, I get shuttered up in the Headmaster's office and listen to Dumbledore snore for the rest of the year. At least when Nigellus was Headmaster, he'd bring a bitch up there to diddle sometimes – gave a whole new meaning to the job of being Head Girl!"
I slap my forehead with my hand, humiliated. I'd like to think that it can't get much worse, but I actually expect it could! I had thought when Hat had stopped being a flaming shit to me, that I could keep it under control in public. Not even close! I'll be lucky if Katie ever speaks to me again. I scarf my ice cream like Ron when he's missed a meal, so fast I'll probably get a headache. I toss probably three times the money needed to pay for the treats, grab the damn thing and shove it on my head. I need to get out of here before things get any worse!
"Katie, listen … I've got to run …Ollie's expecting me. I need to get this damn Hat out of here before it insults anyone else. I'll send you an owl sometime." The threat of Voldemort's return couldn't have driven me away from that table faster.
I put the Hat on probation focusing on my rapidly developing, or is that redeveloping Occlumency skills and block it. Since it doesn't want to hold a civilized conversation, I give it the silent treatment for awhile. Another ride on the Knight Bus and they let me off at the Puddlemere practice facility. I pass through the gates and the security guards check my visitors pass. They send an intern, who I think is a 'Puff in Ginny's year running off to fetch Ollie, while I endure the usual glances at my forehead.
After a few minutes, I get bored enough to let my barriers down. Ollie might be in the rings right now.
'What's your problem, HJ?'
'You were at the same conversation as I was. First you insult the crap out of her and then you try to make it look like it was my idea to get horizontal! I swear, you pull that kind of shit again and I'll put you on Dobby's head and let you see what's in there!'
'Oh quit being such a little bitch. I bet the next time she talks to you she'll bring it up and laugh about it. I broke the ice for you. Furthermore, the next time she's going after herself, it'll be a green-eyed monster she's imagining! You humans are all innuendo and doubletalk. I heard a few stray thoughts running through your head and tried and help you out. Helga's youngest sister was Bell's age when forty-year-old Godric started plowing her fields on a regular basis. He used to throw me on his head and brag about the good old days. You end up putting the beater bat to Bell there and you'll thank me, or are you really going through with the whole, 'I'm going to be a hermit for the next few years' act until you decide they're old enough for you. I've been alive a thousand years, so all of you are pretty much freshly squeezed sperm to me.'
Ollie's timely arrival saves me from having to give my opinion of the Hat's help. "Harry! Glad you could make it. Come on. I'm on a thirty minute break. I'll give you the three-Knut tour."
Wood's proud of this place. He shows it off like his own home. I'm impressed as well. Puddlemere trains in style – swimming pools, cafeteria, weight rooms, racquetball courts, and a lot of the stuff I see in those weightlifting and boxing magazines that Vernon's trying to get Dudley more interested in. Hell, I wish I could live here!
Along the way I meet a few of the players and some of the staff. I resist the urge to ask any of them for their autographs, but surprisingly a couple of them actually wanted to take a picture with me! It just goes to show you that fame is indeed a strange creature.
Eventually, Ollie leads me out onto the pitch and I get to watch him go through a session of practice drills. To be honest, I don't necessarily pay as much attention to the keeper drills. I split my attention between the seekers and the chasers. It reminds me that I need to get a pair of Omnioculars. The Hat seems to be having a good time. At least, it isn't making any more cracks about Katie Bell, so I'd have to call that a plus.
During the next intermission, Ollie comes over to me and offered me a chance to go flying while the other Quidditch players take a break. I mount my trusty Firebolt and take to the skies. I love flying. There's simply no other way to say it. I even keep the Hat on and let the crazy artifact enjoy the ride as I push the Firebolt to its limits. Though it's tempting to go through some of my seeker drills, it seems kind of foolish in front of a bunch of professionals. I settle for seriously hauling twig around the pitch and really opening up on the Firebolt.
I come in for a landing when the bell rings signaling that the players need to return to the pitch. "Nice flying there, Harry! You looked real good out there. What did you think, Carlson?" Oliver says addressing the first-string keeper.
Andrew Carlson, known around the league as 'The Spider', shakes his head. "It almost looked like you knew what you were doing out there. Pretty good for a kid."
Needless to say I'm a bit resentful about that remark, but I'm not the one who says something. "Shit, Carlson, I'll game-check you on Potter!"
I hear one of the other players that's close enough to hear Oliver's comment say, "Oh no, the rookie's calling out the vet. It looks like we got ourselves a little action, boys and girls!"
"Like I'd game-check you, Wood. You don't make half what I do and I know it!"
"I'll make up the difference, Andy," offers one of the starting chasers named Marcia Riggs. "We all keep hearing about your new contract. Let's see if you're worth the money."
Carlson looks irate. He's been backed into a corner and he knows it. "Very well, the little punk gets five shots. I'll game-check you if he can get one by me."
Now, call me crazy, but he is standing here insulting me when I hadn't even said one word to him. "And what happens if I get more than one by you?"
My pronouncement gathers a few impressive chuckles from the small group gathered around us.
"No way that can happen, kid!" At least, he didn't call me boy. I might've had to kill him.
"I tell you what, I get two by you and you wear a headband for the rest of the day that says 'Harry's bitch'? How about that?"
I suppose it's wrong for me to participate in such trash talking, but considering the day I've had, I could stand to let loose a bit of pent-up aggression. Andrew Carlson just happens to be a bit of a godsend. Not even waiting for his answer, I hop on my broom and fly over to the Quaffle rack.
Ollie flies over to me as I fly up to the center line. I move over and hand him the Sorting Hat. "Hold my hat. What's this all about, Ollie? I know enough to know a setup when I see it."
He looks at me with a wolfish grin on his face and says, "I went a little crazy with my signing bonus and need a little extra help with the rent. I figured this would cover the cost of whatever help you want from me. The thing with the headband is brilliant! Please, Harry, I'm begging you! Score two goals on that pompous, arrogant, son of a bitch!"
Unable to resist the grin on my face, I say "Why, Mr. Oliver Wood, I do believe the Weasley twins have been a rather poor influence on you. Do you have any advice for me?"
"Carlson's coming back from a torn rotator cuff on his left shoulder. He told the trainer it's still a little tender this morning. Now, go win me some money!"
Accelerating to maximum velocity, I dive down and to my left. I'm going to go back side on hand and try and range him by throwing a long crossing shot. Even if I don't make it, he's going to have to move fast. Plus, there's no way he would expect this move from a thirteen-almost-fourteen year-old on a fast broom.
Sure enough, as I cross to the backside, Carlson commits to the closest ring, where he expects my shot. I give a mighty heave and throw the long ball towards the far side of ring three. He's burned and he knows it, but the man's a professional and he makes a valiant try. Carlson almost stopped my shot, but almost stopping my shot is the difference between not being beaten by a 'kid' and Oliver getting a rather nice bonus!
The cheers of the laughter clearly make my day. I circle around in one of the laughing chasers on the ground tosses me in the second Quaffle. Now for the icing on the cake, I head straight at him, dip right and pump fake before sending a shot at ring one. He stops me at the doorstep, damn! It's a matter of pride to him now. I push him hard, but he stops Quaffle number three front-side low on ring three, as I try testing his healing arm.
Quaffle four, I actually beat him high side on ring two, but the Quaffle rebounded off the ring for a missed goal. I'm down to one. This calls for something special. I wonder if I can pull it off.
Oliver's partner in crime, Marcia, tosses me the last Quaffle and cheers me on. I circle back to the center line and get ready to start my attack run. They call this trick Culligan's Corkscrew. It's a barrel roll with an underhanded spin release. Where I release it depends on where I want it to go. Most of the time, the Quaffle comes out at an odd angle, and it's a low percentage shot, but it's damn near impossible to defend against. It adds the force from the maneuver to the speed of the throw. I close my eyes and take a calming breath and begin the barrel roll at top speed. It's a shot that chaser takes when he knows there's no bludger coming at him.
After three rolls, I release where I think ring one should be and peel off executing a dodge, instinctively. Beaters usually send a bludger towards a corkscrew out of principle.
Four hours later, I tumble out of the Floo, clutching my autographed picture of Andrew Carlson wearing his new headband. Ollie's still laughing as he pulls a beer out of a chill box that has three six packs of beverage, a head of browning lettuce, and nothing else. I let that slide.
"So let me get this straight, you can execute a textbook corkscrew, but you can't come out of the Floo?" I neglect to correct him that the Quaffle went through ring three, when I was aiming for ring one. It's what the group of Gryffindor's I sort of played with used to call 'Frank's Law' – if you can't be good, hope you're lucky! Picking myself off the floor, I'm hope there's something in my old memories that will help me with this nonsense, but JP never had the slightest problem with Floo travel.
I make a crude gesture and sit down on his couch clearing off the magazines and pizza boxes. "Good god, man, you're a pig!"
"Yeah, I need to straighten up. Tomorrow's our short day and Marcia and I are going out to dinner to celebrate my financial windfall!"
Casting my eyes about the place, I offer, "Two words Ollie, her place. Don't even think about bringing her back here!"
"Potter's right. This place is a shithouse. HJ, summon your elf and save me the pain of watching a supposedly grown man wallow like a pig in his own filth."
"Merlin's balls, Harry! What the hell is that?"
I take off the glamour and let him see the Hat. It takes a few minutes to properly convey the Hat's 'sunny disposition', but with it helping by providing some comments along the way Ollie gets the hint pretty quickly.
I go ahead and summon Dobby, mainly because I'm pretty sure Ollie did plan on trying to bring Ms. Riggs back here and the elf looks like I just gave him an early birthday present – another place he can clean.
"Nice of the General Manager to give you an all-access pass to the facilities. Not too many get one of those. You know he's going to try and groom you for the Spring Leagues in your fifth year. After watching that corkscrew, he'd sign you right now if he could."
Puddlemere's GM, Roger Benchly, had come over to me while Carlson was being fitted with his custom headgear. We had a pleasant chat during the next thirty minutes of practice. What he didn't know is that this was not the first time we had 'chatted'. Puddlemere had offered to sponsor James in his sixth year. Falmouth went one year lower and James took them up on their offer. During the horrible sixth year, Roger had heard that James was giving up Quidditch to instead become a Professional Dueler. He invited JP to Diagon Alley, where JP got a free lunch and Roger tried in vain to convince him not to let such talent go to waste. The man had a deep love for this game and reeked of professionalism. Time had apparently not changed him much.
By the next time Ollie landed and was toweling the sweat off his brow, I had agreed in principal to let Puddlemere sponsor me for the Spring Leagues in my fifth year. In exchange, for the rest of the summer and the next one, I can make use of the training facilities including the cafeteria. Roger wants me to try and get up around ten or eleven stone before they sponsor me. During the next break he enticed me into flying against their third string seeker. Neither of us caught the Snitch, but I more than held my own. I even managed a very nice disruption that allowed the Snitch to get away from her. Ollie was right; I could probably take her job as is. Diggory probably could as well.
After that nice bit of flying, Roger excitedly talked about petitioning the league for an early exemption for this year. He didn't think it was likely, but I could see that he was already adding merchandising revenues to his bottom line. Damn. I probably need to get an agent before too long.
Bringing me back to the present, Ollie asks, "So, what help are you looking for Harry? Or do you want to be called HJ?"
"Harry's still fine. I need you to cast a spell in case I botch this."
"What are you going to botch, Apparition? I'm not so great at that."
"No. I'm an Animagus, or at least I think I am. I haven't tried to transform yet, but I need you to be able to perform the recovery spell if I get stuck in the middle. I can show you the motions. It's not too difficult."
"When did you learn? Damn! You have to show me. I've heard it can really help your game! What are you?"
I'm not sure how he managed to fit all that into one breath. "Ollie, this is serious business. I'll tell you the whole story if you give me a vow of silence."
Wood's eyes narrow when I say that. "People don't toss around words like oaths and vows like they're candy. Harry, are you sure you know what you're asking?"
"Damn straight, I do. When you hear it, you'll know why."
Ollie mulls it over and he agrees. The vow takes about ten minutes. I'm powerful enough to do this without a third person binding us. That alone impresses him. I really need to get this off my chest and he's the only one far enough removed from Hogwarts and those with prying eyes. I make him cast a privacy charm and then I make him remove it and show him a better one to use.
"My run in with the Dementors broke something loose in my mind. I found all these memories up there. The memories belong to James Potter. The night the Potter's were killed, there was so much arcane magic saturating that house that something weird happened, like how I picked up Voldemort's – shit, Ollie! It's just a name! Anyway, like how I picked up the ability to talk to snakes. The Hat's been helping me sort through all of memories and make sense of it all. Hell, I'm not sure if I'm Harry remembering James or part of James stuck inside of Harry – it's how I suddenly became crazy good at chasing."
Ollie scratches the tufts of hair growing on his chin. His next comment stuns me. "Damn, Harry! I wish you would have told me this earlier. I'd have gone double or nothing on Carlson."
Clearly, it is not the reaction I expected. "You mean you're not freaked out about this?"
"Freaked out? No, I'm a little jealous. Besides, the Twins gave me the whole story on the sly about you down in the chamber killing the Basilisk. The thing with Black last year has so many holes in it there must be more to it. Not to mention, everyone's pretty sure you offed Quirrell. Besides, Harry, I grew up in this world. I have a cousin that likes to be transfigured into a tree for fun and have everyone call him Mr. Woody, so I'm pretty flexible."
"Is his first name Malcolm?"
"James Potter and his friends were the ones that first did it to him."
"No, shit! Now, that's a small world. So let me get this straight: James was an Animagus, so you think you're one."
"Okay, show me the motions to this spell."
It takes about ten minutes to the point where I'm comfortable with Ollie's proficiency with the spell. Dobby's cleared enough room for me to have a go at it. I suppose I could backtrack and go through the whole process of becoming one again, with the potions the meditations, the partial transfigurations and everything, but neither James nor Harry have ever been accused of being the most patient individuals. The worst that could happen is a trip to St. Mungo's. When you've 'died' once, that doesn't seem like such a frightening prospect.
I take a few calming breaths and try to center myself and tell myself the Animagus transformation is just like riding a broom. The animal shape is in the back of my mind. I just need to reach out and set it free. I feel a sharp pain in my head – the antlers must be sprouting. Prongs Junior reporting for duty! Gasping for breath, I stop and can't go any further. It's painful and it's hard. Maybe the whole potion and meditation thing isn't such a bad idea?
"Do you want me to do the spell, Harry? You look like you're stuck!" I open my eyes and look at the mirror Dobby brought out. My visions all blurry and I've grown a long snout sprouting fur running down my neck. The antlers are small, black, and curved slightly inward. I'm not a whitetail like James was. I'm something different, maybe some kind of gazelle?
I shake my head no at Ollie and try to reverse my partial on my own. It takes twice the time and the pain is barely tolerable, but I get back to myself. I got pretty far on my first try with most of the head and my arms starting to transform.
We break for dinner. Not surprisingly, it's pizza. Ollie explains that it's for the high carbs and the fat he needs during his training tomorrow. I recognize it for what it really is; a guy who's too lazy to cook.
It takes two more tries and even more pain, with the last time Ollie using the spell to help me back out of it, but on the fourth attempt I manage to break through and am now prancing around in Wood's living room. The different but same theme has continued. I'm not a large stag like James was. I'm sleeker and more compact. The antlers are single black curves that form an almost heart shape. My field of vision is enormous! It's at least two hundred and seventy degrees. I wish I had brought a zoology book so I could identify myself. I'll swing by the library in the morning.
I do a couple of more transformations and give Ollie the name of the best sourcebook James used to help him on his way towards becoming an Animagus. I leave telling him I'll see him at Puddlemere tomorrow. I'll be stuck riding the Knight Bus for some time to come. It turns out Portkeys have become heavily restricted in the last decade and there's no Floo I know of with in twenty miles of my house. Well, there's one, but I know she's Dumbledore's watchdog and I'm not going there. That's the reason I go to the park each morning and summon the Knight Bus. I want to make sure it doesn't pass anywhere by my house of Arabella Figg's. Still, I've got the coin so it's no big deal.
Vernon and Petunia don't even acknowledge me when I walk in. I simply head upstairs and go to my room. The Hat and Ollie were getting along so well, I left it over at his house tonight.
Pronghorn – that's what I am. The second fastest mammal in the world and I have more staying power than a cheetah with a top speed around sixty miles per hour! How's that for 'built for speed'! I was wrong about the range of vision too - three hundred and twenty degrees! I damn near have eyes in the back of my head.
I suppose being a wolf, lion, or whatnot might be good, but this ranks rather high on the coolness meter.
The next day after sending Hedwig with a note apologizing to Katie for yesterday, I bug Ollie after their morning practice to help me find a deserted field somewhere where I can open up the throttle on my form. He ends up taking me to his parents' house since they're vacationing for the next couple of weeks. I get to run around his old practice pitch in the backyard.
Prongs can't touch the Pronghorn. I can't really jump for shit, but I can move! The grace is still there. It is part of what made James a great chaser, but the speed is addictive.
The tiny leaps that I am capable of are used for direction changes as I try to really get a feel for the maneuverability of my new form. The eyesight is fantastic. I ask Ollie to signal some plays from last year and run out probably a half a kilometer and can see him easily!
Ollie paces me from above on his broom. I can't hold top speed for that long, but around thirty mph is a 'cruising speed' that I feel like I could do all day! He pulls up alongside and casts a sticking charm on the Hat and slaps him on my back so it can enjoy the rush.
Whatever else I may be, I am speed and endurance personified and I know it's a hell of a rush!
The only thing that's disappointing is the horns. They're actually not antlers, but real horns that have a hollow hairy substance growing out of them. Only the sheath gets shed and not the entire thing. They're about eight inches long and mostly meant for defensive work, if I can't run away from something. It's not exactly intimidating like JP's massive rack, but I won't complain with this kind of acceleration.
One exhausting hour later, I have Ollie remove the Hat and finally change back. I'm covered in sweat, but it was some serious fun!
So that's pretty much how my next few weeks go. I hang out at Ollie's in the morning and after that he and I go train at Puddlemere and occasionally I get a chance to really break loose as 'Horny'. Damn Hat and his stupid nicknames! First HJ and now this!
In the evenings, I study from my Anybook and get into name calling matches with Hat. I breeze through my summer assignments. It's too bad James didn't save his schoolwork.
I've already begun the diagnostic charms to map out the wards on this hellhole I have to call home. From what I have seen, the wards charge rapidly for the first eight hours of the day slowly for the next two and almost not at all past that. So, as long as I spend eight hours here the wards get their charge. My Runes are good, but my Arithmancy is a joke. After checking my calculations and coming up with three different answers, I went with my most conservative guess. The wards should be as strong as they can be by August fifteenth. I'll give it until the seventeenth, but if I don't see any further change in their strength, then I'm crashing on Ollie's couch or at the Burrow until school starts. I've had all I can stomach of the Dursleys.
Tonight, I'm a bit on the wary side. After Quidditch, we're heading over to Katie's house where I will be suitably 'surprised' by a birthday party. The Hat's convinced Ollie that Katie and I have something going on. After they both make some cradle robbing remarks, the prat goes behind my back and gets with her to set up this party. The fact that she agreed to it worries me. Lacking the time to come up with a suitable bit of revenge, Dobby's been told to short sheet his bed and put plastic wrap over the toilet.
Last year's team, Ron, Ginny and a few others are going to be there. Hermione won't. She's still on vacation with her parents. Tomorrow, everyone's going to see Ollie make his first start in the rings against Chudley of all teams! He used up almost half his personal allotment for tickets for the year, but it means a good deal to him.
I'm still a bit embarrassed to see Katie; we've exchanged a couple of owls. Mostly, I'm actually more nervous to see Ron. Six weeks ago, he was my best mate. Will I still be able to relate to him, or is going to be weird? Crap! Now, I have to bury this line of thought somewhere in my mind or the Hat will end up trying to come up with another bizarre name for me next time I put it on. Still no luck with the wandless silencing charms.
I did say my life is weird, didn't I?
Author's notes – Well, there you go. We're up to Harry Potter's birthday. Next chapter should take us to the Quidditch World Cup and perhaps the start of school. As to the great question of who is HJ, we may never know. He's certainly not going to go advertising his condition and he's going to be very careful who he tells.
Full discussion in my threads on DLP and Fanficauthors (both dot net). Hope to see you there.