Author's Notes (a quick comment here, yeah: that's it, that's the ticket)
When I last posted a chapter, I included a stand-alone story, which was intended as a silly little bit of humor. Even though it wasn't strictly HP, I thought it would provoke a laugh or two. Imagine my surprise when the reviews started coming in flaming me left and right. You'd have thought I just kicked your favorite pet. As one might imagine this put me off writing the next chapter for a bit. The good reviews that eventually followed helped out (Thank You to all that liked the last chapter and said so – I really do appreciate it), and I started doing detailed drafts of all the scenes for this chapter.
But as with all good intentions, my writing got bogged down with kids, Christmas, putting up decorations, and the death of a family friend. At long last it was the new year and I had to return to work. On my breaks and at lunch I would take time to write even if it was just a little bit. January 3, 2008 I was working at my desk when I got a call to come to an H/R office. Entering, I was told to sit while the H/R person closed the door (never a good sign in my opinion). My manager (a true grade-A jerk who'd been at that position for less than a year and who had admitted to my face that he had absolutely no idea what it was that I did) was also there. Together, they informed me that the 13 years I'd worked for the company were appreciated but I was still being laid off. Too bad, so sad, buh-bye. I shouldn't have been surprised as that company has been shrinking for the past 7 years (they had gone from 500 employees in 2001 to just under 150 in 2008). This was the 14th layoff and I don't think they are done yet.
As I was unexpectedly unemployed, I began focusing all my time finding a new job. Sorry, but writing was a hobby that paid zilch, nada, bumpkiss. I had a wife and two children to think of first. Therefore, no writing time devoted. Luck was on my side and a week later I was offered a new job as a software tester. Even better, I was earning 20 percent more than my last job with the aforementioned grade-A jerk.
So I started work and with any new job it involved a lot of training. Again, this delayed my writing. So here it is months later and this chapter is finally coming out. I realize it has taken quite some time and I can't guarantee anything quicker for the next chapter. However, the good news is that I have a beta, Alan (aka: Aealket) who is helping me and may even become a co-writer of this tale if I can bend his arm a little. Maybe get this out a little bit faster. If you want to review his work and send him notes of encouragement, take a look at his stories at:
http: / www. fanfiction. Net / s / 3978568 / 1 / Mr Lovegood Thinks
http: / www. fanfiction. Net / s / 4090131 / 1 / Mrs Lovegood Remembers
Anyway, on with the show!
Chapter 8: Christmas Holiday – Year 01
December 22nd, London, Harrod's
It was a cold December day but Harry was excited to the point he was immune from the cold. And he would have been cold. His sisters had put some snow down his collar when they'd all loaded into the family car for a jaunt on the M-way. The previous evening Harry had casually mentioned that while he had managed to secure some gifts for his brother and sisters, he didn't have anything for his parents. His mother didn't seem to mind but he managed to get in some subtle puppy-dog like glances her way and she relented saying she needed to go to London anyway. Of course James had wanted to stay home but his mum had put the kibosh on that saying he needed to improve his driving skills. Harry had wanted to stay home after hearing that, but his mother had strong-armed him into agreeing to go if only to learn how to drive himself one day. They didn't call it the M-way of Death for nothing, you know.
So early the next morning the family loaded up in the 1971 VW Bug (minus its running boards because it made the car look cooler without them on). James threw it into third and floored it, killing the engine in the process. He restarted and a few jerking movements later they were off and running.
Harry wasn't of a religious type but he did find himself praying alongside his siblings that their father would get them to their destination alive. Especially after cutting off the fourth semi-truck in as many minutes.
"Dad!" Harry yelped as the car lurched violently to the right to avoid oncoming traffic.
"Yeah, son?" James grinned at the implied challenge of getting to London without an accident. This time that is.
"How did you ever get a driver's license driving like this?"
"…Harry, are we going to die?" Shelia whimpered.
"No, Shelia, we're not. I'll make sure of it," Harry reassured his sister.
"License?" James wondered aloud. "You need a license to drive?"
"Yes!" Rose answered. "And lessons wouldn't hurt either!"
It took awhile, but eventually they were in London, near Hyde Park. And on their way to Harrod's. Once safely parked and the keys taken away from his father, Harry quietly told his mother he needed some time alone to buy some presents. Figuring he still needed something for her (or a far less probability: James), she told him where they would meet when he was done in an hour, no more. Understood, young man? He understood and got moving.
Harry was quickly engulfed in an elusive search for that oh-so-perfect gift for one of his parents. Two departments later he stopped dead in his tracks. Not because he'd seen something he was looking for, but because he encountered something he hadn't expected. Or, more specifically, someone. Several someones.
Ahead of him were four very prim and proper people. Well, they thought they were prim and proper. But really they were not that prim and proper at all. Two adults and two children, of which one of the kids was obviously a friend of the family as he didn't look anything like the others.
Harry watched the foursome break off, with the father handing his big son some cash before heading back off with the mother. The bigger (well, rounder anyway) boy, roughly Harry's age, then proceeded with the smaller boy to the market on the lower floor and nick some candy, stuffing a few pieces into his mouth. Harry followed discreetly, wanting to know what Dudley Dursley and his friend Piers were up to.
Harry thought back to a time a reality ago when he was younger and had to go with the Dursley's to the fancy store. It was Christmas. An enjoyable time of the year for most. Harry hadn't enjoyed Christmas as a child the first time around. Not because the Dursleys hadn't believed in the holiday – for they did; up to a point. They enjoyed the time off. They enjoyed watching the Christmas parades and shows. They enjoyed spending time with family.
They didn't consider Harry part of the family so left him out of virtually everything. The one time they had included him in something, they'd had no choice. He was to go with Dudley and hold anything he was told to and when Dud had all the toys he wanted, they were to find his parents and they'd see what to get him.
Harry had been relegated to playing the part of a pack mule. He was 7 years old.
But hey, at least he wasn't locked up with only spiders for company.
So off they went. Harry and Dudly would head for the toy department but Dudley would get sidetracked and next thing Harry knew, they were surrounded by mounds and mounds of candy. Boxed candy. Bagged candy. Individual candy. Square candy. Round candy. Small candy. Big candy.
"Candy," Dudley drooled.
Harry'd had a bad feeling about what was going to happen and sure enough, he'd been right.
"Here, Harry," Dudley shoved two bags filled with colorful chocolates into Harry's hands.
"I can't eat there – I can't even pay for these," Harry had mentioned.
Dudley cuffed him upside the head. "They're for me, dummy. Put them in your pocket and don't let anyone see."
"No duh. Now do it. Or else." Usually Dudley's "or else's" made Harry black and blue so he did as told. Harry was sure his uncle and aunt wouldn't like this and wouldn't pay for them later.
Over the course of the next 20 minutes, Harry stuffed his coat pockets, down his pants, and inside his voluminous shirt three large boxes of chocolate-covered nuts, five bags of assorted hard candies, two dozen individually wrapped marshmallow eggs (two of which melted in an embarrassing location and later chaffed), and four tins of Christmas biscuits. Dudley on the other hand picked up a small robot toy from a display stand and held it in his hands to show his parents what he wanted.
Dudley motioned for Harry to follow him. Dudley had what he wanted Harry figured. Shuffling behind him, Harry made his way out of the department. Or would have had a large hand not come down on his shoulder, impeding his progress to egress.
"Right. Where do you think yuir goin', you little ragamuffin?" the surly and burly security guard said to a nervous Harry.
"Um, that way. With my cousin."
"What did you do now, Harry?" Dudley automatically put in.
The security guard looked at the obvious differences between the two boys. One was dressed in fine clothes and was subsequently relegated to a fine boy status. The other, well, was in little more than rags and oversized clothes he'd probably nicked from someone else. The security guard was certain he'd nabbed the right perpetrator.
"He's nicked some candies with no intention of payin' for them, right?"
"Pay with what? I don't have any money."
"Harry, you didn't," Dudley quickly shifted any blame from himself.
"So this is yuir cousin?"
"Yes, but I'm afraid I didn't know he was doing anything. Not that I'm surprised. My father says he's always doing things like that."
"Oh he does, does he? And just where are your parents?" he asked Harry.
"They died when I was little."
"That's no excuse for stealing. You. Where are your parents?"
Dudley pointed in a general direction and the security guard "escorted" both of them off to find the responsible adults.
Roughly five minutes later, far too long in Harry's eyes with all the other people in the store in their nice clothes looking down on him and tutting and tsking at what Harry knew was his appearance, they found Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia.
"What's going on?" Vernon asked nervously.
The security guard grabbed Harry by the scruff of his collar. "It seems your nephew has been stealing candy and even putting a few items in your son's coat while he wasn't looking, sir."
"Oh he was, was he?"
Harry learned an important lesson that night. No matter how innocent you were, as long as you looked the part of a vagrant, society would treat you like one and no one would believe anything you said. Especially if your fat cousin with the bulging pants and the couple of goodies he'd nicked on his own that trickled out from the cuffs that were then kicked under a table looked better off than you. Dud did the crime but Harry paid the fine. Or more accurately, he paid the time in the closet for the next few days with no time out for eating. The chamber pot had really gotten rancid that time.
So it was no surprise now that Harry smiled and looked at his watch, deciding he had enough time. He then came up from behind the rounder boy (who had stuffed a chocolate-covered cherry into his mouth) and said, "Why, hello there, Duddykins. How are you today other than stuffing your mouth? No, no, don't turn around. Wouldn't want you or your friend Piers to make a scene with filching sweets now would we?"
"Who are you?" came a nervous voice.
"No one of consequence."
"What do you want?" said Piers.
"Your cash, tubby. Or I rat you out to the store detectives."
"Go ahead, they won't find anything. I haven't stolen anything."
"Then how do you explain all the candy in your pockets, or the crystal doo-dads in Piers' pockets?"
"How do you…" Piers started.
"I've been watching you. Now hand it over, fatty."
"My dad will hear…"
"Yeah, yeah, Vernon will most certainly hear of it and you know what, he won't do anything."
Piers said, "Laughs on you, then. We don't have any money."
Harry feigned surprise. "You don't? Oh well. Guess I'll have to get it out of you another way. Here, stand still."
Dudley was understandably nervous when the other boy pulled his coat up a bit on the backside. "What are you… ouch! Blankity blank-blank! That bloody well hurts you cad!"
"Atomic wedgies tend to do that, fatty. Next time have some cash. You too, ratty."
"You can't call me that."
"You're right. I apologize for calling you ratty. Let me shake your hand."
"Fine, but that's… ouch! Blankity blank-blank! That really does hurt!"
"Get lost, both of you. Run back to your mama." And with that, Harry slid away from the two boys, back around another isle and then into shadow to watch what they did.
Soon Dudley and Piers walked out of the men's room. They were still adjusting their belts after de-wedgie-ing themselves.
"I can't believe that kid fell for it," Piers laughed.
"I can. He didn't sound too smart to me. I'd at least have made him turn out his pockets if he said he didn't have any money. Stupid git."
"Just like you did to Brenda Schumaker last week, right Dudley?"
"Just like," Dudley agreed. "C'mon, let's go get a few more things before meeting mum and dad."
"You got any more room in your coat? Mine's about full," Piers patted a special pocket on the inside of his coat where a few of the store's items now resided.
"Nah. It's packed. Let's buy a couple things so we can get a bag and make it all look respectable."
As they walked past, Harry latched onto their shadows and walked in their "shoes". As he walked, a shadowy arm carefully removed the 30 pounds Dudley had in his front pocket and the 10 pounds (all in coins) from Piers' pocket. This process was helped along by a stopover of the boys at a perfume table where they commented (loudly to each other) on the smelly stuff they wouldn't be buying their mothers, no siree, even if it was expensive.
Harry took that as a challenge and while their eyes were turned to another stand, he managed to cast an illusion over his shadow hand to make it look a little more colorful and fatter than normal. Then, the hand coming out from "under" the coat made its way to a nearby bottle of perfume which it then slowly dragged back to the cover of the coat to be stored in the inside pocket that Dudley liked so much.
Luck was with Harry. The two boys hadn't seen anything. The same couldn't be said for the store clerk who noticed the "theft" (and how that boy managed to get his hand out of his sleeve so fast in order to get that bottle she'd never know). Still, she knew what to do in a situation like this. She'd been trained on it just last week.
As Piers and Dudley made to leave that department, a beefy hand clamped on Dudley's shoulder. "You going to pay for those things in your coat?" said the gruff voice.
"I have no idea what you mean," Dudley stammered.
"Uh-huh. Turn out your pockets. Especially all the ones in your coat."
"You don't have the right to put a hand on me. Don't you know who I am?"
"You're just another young punk to me, kid. Now turn out your pockets."
"But I don't have anything!"
"He really doesn't," Piers tried to save his friend.
"Uh-huh. Turn out your pockets. Now."
Whimpering, Dudley nervously turned out his pockets on this coat. "See? Nothing there."
"Uh-huh. Now turn out the pocket on the inside of your coat, kid."
"How do you…"
"Give this old geezer some credit, why don't you. I've seen this trick more than one other time."
Hands shaking, Dudley turned out the pocket on the inside of his coat and put six things on the table, including a bottle of expensive perfume.
"Hey, how'd that get there? I didn't put it there!" Dudley exclaimed looking at the perfume.
"Uh-huh. They all say that. Now you going to buy these things or did you think you could just walk out with them?"
Dudley reaches for his money but quickly realizes it is gone. He panics again. "My money's gone. I've been robbed."
Fed up with the stories he was getting, the security guard said, "Right, then. You're coming with me to store lockup. We'll get the bobbies involved with this."
"But I didn't do anything!" Dudley cried out.
"Yeah, yeah," gruffed out the burly guard. "They all say that. Save it for the judge."
"Where's my mom and dad?"
"Yeah, where's his mum and dad?" Piers put in.
"Save it, you. You're coming with me as well. We'll just see what you've got in your pockets, eh?"
"Sorry, Dudley, I've got to go!" Piers' attempt to run off was cut short when the same meaty hand clamped down on his shoulder that held Dudley.
"Piers! Mum, dad! Help!"
Harry smiled at the trouble they got into, calmly bought a tie for his dad, knowing he wouldn't know what to do with it which was a good prank in itself, and then donated the money he mugged from Dudley into a charity kettle in front of the store. He wasn't the least concerned about the funds he'd acquired from his portly cousin: if memory served, Dudley tended to bully it out of the neighborhood kids with Piers along for the ride.
Harry hoped they enjoyed the ride he just set them on. He'd have to ask them sometime.
Harry gave his mind some mental workout and thought back to everyone who'd been atomic wedgie'd. He had one more person to give that gift to before the school year was out. Someone special.
December 23rd, Potter Manor
After the younger children were down for the night, Lily and James found their four older children in the study doing what came naturally to them: they were playing games, and in Harry's case, he was writing. Lily smiled at her little genius. He was definitely taking after her side of the family.
Sitting down beside him on the sofa, Lily asked, "What are you working on, sweetie?"
Concentration broken (but the train of thought not totally gone), Harry looked up and said a little absently, "Oh, it's a list of interesting things I've found at Hogwarts. I'm cross-referencing them with Hogwarts: A History to get an idea of how the castle actually works and when updates are made, as well as by whom or what."
"I'm sure the Headmasters have made improvements over the centuries," she suggested.
"I know they have, mum. I've found a couple references to the moving staircases. But sometimes the castle does things on its own. And I'd like to know if there's any pattern it's following or not."
His father sat down across from the two of them so he could keep a better eye on Leon, Shelia and Rose as they 'played' a game of chess. If the kids started randomly throwing moves in just for the heck of it (again), then the pieces would start refusing to play. And it was a pain to convince them to take up positions afterwards. The last time the kids did something like that, the pieces had started muttering something about a union.
"Tell us about your friends, Harry," his father suggested while watching Rose nudge a pawn to take out another pawn (who might have shouted something rude to her – he wasn't sure, but she was blushing for some reason).
"Yes, honey, tell us about your friends," his mother encouraged.
"Um, okay. Well first there's Hermione Granger. She's my best friend in school. She's smart, like you mum. And best of all, her parents torture people for a living."
"They don't," Lily gasped.
"You can get a job doing that?" James said.
"I'm kidding," Harry grinned. "They're dentists."
Lily gasped again. "They do torture people."
"She's kidding, dad. Mostly. Anyway I'm also friends with Pam Turner, Parvati and Padma Patil, Lavender Brown, Blaise Zabini, Susan Bones, Jamie Summers, Dora Tonks…"
"They're related?" Harry faked surprise. "Well, I guess that explains why she's so clumsy."
"I'm going to tell him you said that," James nudged his son.
"Yeah, yeah, bring it on," Harry nudged back.
"Do you have any friends who are boys?" Lily wondered.
"Sure. There's Edward… and, um… George?"
"Is that a question or a fact?" Lily wanted to know.
"Jeez, mum," Harry said in askew annoyance (meaning he didn't mean it if you know what I mean), "what is this? The Spanish Inquisition?"
"NOBODY EXPECTS the Spanish Inquisition!" boomed a voice.
"Dad, you okay?" Leon asked.
"Sorry, son, but I've always loved that line. It was on the first program your mum had me watch on her telly. Those muggles really knew how to entertain."
"You two are clowning around so much now," Lily pointed to both James and Harry. "You are getting closer all the time. Pretty soon, you won't need your mother."
"Mum, I'll always need you," Harry said seriously.
"He sure will," James agreed. "After all, he's going to need some advice from you in managing the harem he's building."
"Dad! I'm not building a harem!"
"Whatever you say, son. Whatever you say."
"Anyway you look at it, Harry, it sounds like you've made some friends at school," Lily commented.
"Now that you mention it, yeah, there are a lot of neat kids there that I'm friends with. I'm friendly with a lot of upper year kids as well."
"Now the big question, sweetie. I read it in your letters, but I wanted to hear it from you. What's your overall impression of Hogwarts?" Lily asked.
Harry's brother and sisters immediately turned their attention to Harry and their parents.
Harry squirmed uncomfortably from everyone's stare. What should he say? Should he tell them the truth? He wasn't all that familiar with his family yet. Should he tell his mum how much he hated Snape for always trying to single him out and that he had to put Snape back into his place repeatedly? Or should he...
"Harry... is something wrong?" his mother was concerned. He hadn't frowned this much even when he'd burned the scones yesterday
Harry snapped out of his thoughts.
"Sorry, I was just thinking."
"Yes well, you didn't answer my question." Lily pointed out.
"Well... I really don't like Professor Snape." Here Lily threw James a look. Harry caught the byplay between the two adults. "But ever since the cook-off competition he's been minding his tongue. Now he mostly ignores me," Harry avoided his parents' eyes.
"I'm friends with or have at least spoken to most all the first years; and there are only a few that I've met and try to have nothing to do with them."
"Hey, Harry," Leon interrupted as his bishop had his head crunched in. "Did you meet Neville Longbottom? You know, the Boy-Who-Lived?"
"Unfortunately yes," Harry admitted.
"Unfortunately? Why unfortunately?" Rose said.
"If you get a chance to meet him, don't bother. He's stuck-up, arrogant, and vindictive. He'd hurt you as soon as help you. And he'd only help you in order to hurt you."
"He doesn't sound very nice," Rose supplied.
"He's not. And he's surrounded by a bunch of sycophants, mostly led by Ron Weasley."
"Arthur's boy?" James asked, surprised.
"He's a grade-A jerk, dad."
"That's odd," James muttered. "I always thought Arthur raised his kids better than that."
"How do you know the Weasley's, dad?" Harry said.
"Oh, Arthur Weasley is head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department. I've known him for years. He's always very helpful and seems to dote on his children. Seems to love muggles and their inventions a bit too much, but other than that he's okay in my book," James smiled.
"You sure Neville's like that? I've read quite a bit about him. He sounds like a good guy."
"Spin doctors," Harry said simply.
"What're they?" Leon wanted to know.
"Later, Leon," Shelia pushed that sidetrack aside. "Harry, what's your real impression of Neville Longbottom?"
Harry snorted at the abrupt question. Trust Shelia to get to the point.
"The Boy-Who-Lived is an arrogant, self-centered, and regularly unpleasant person! He thinks very highly of himself in spite of being ignorant in class. He dislikes me because I won't bow and scrape before him. He has also mentioned some disagreement between his parents and ours." Harry gave his parents a glance before he continued. "All I can say for sure is that he is not as popular at Hogwarts as he expected he would be. Maybe he was popular at the start of the year, but most of the kids have started avoiding him and his clique of stupid followers whenever possible. Mr. Boy-Who-Lived has accused me of stealing the respect and glory he feels should be his just because he is breathing," Harry said angrily. Harry did not want to steal the fool's spotlight, but he was not going to stand by and watch the prat bully and abuse the others around him. Harry had never been good at being discreet; direct action tended to get better results but is also brought a share of the spotlight
His sisters were giving him odd looks while Leon was looking angry. Leon rarely lost his temper; he was always the cool headed one in the family.
"You telling me he dislikes mom and dad?" Leon asked angrily.
Before Leon could say anything his twin sisters spoke. "Are you sure Harry? I mean, is he really arrogant and self-centered? Are you sure?" Rose said giving his brother a look. She had always wanted to meet the famous Boy-Who-Lived. She always thought of him as a kind of prince.
Harry nodded with a dark look. "Keep your distance from him, Rose. He's not a pleasant chap at all."
"Bro... I haven't always trusted your judgment, but if what you say is true and you don't like him, then I don't like him either," Shelia said icily. She loved her brother Harry. He was everything to her, especially since he had started being kind to the family. That and he made her whatever she wanted for breakfast (if only he'd started doing that years before he left for Hogwarts though). Hearing that Neville Longbottom hated her family and her bother because of something her parents did made her angry. Her parents were great people. Everyone in Godric's Hollow respected her family, and she was proud to be Potter. But the thought of the Longbottoms teaching their child to detest her family annoyed her enough that she voiced the question.
"Mum, dad, why do the Longbottom's hate us?" Shelia asked.
Lily and James shared another glance.
"Well sweetie," Lily said looking uncomfortable but after that start, she and James just looked a bit lost, and silence followed.
Harry decided to break the ice.
"Look mum, I need to have some kind of a clue as to why Neville Longbottom hates us. He's hated me the moment we stepped into the castle. Somehow I managed to impress him at school, and now he thinks that by just saying he is a friend all that hate will go away. But if the Boy-Who-Lived becomes an enemy of our family, it wouldn't look good at the Ministry. Dad, if you tell me you think we're too young to understand, I'll accept your decision without an argument, however, I want to remind you that, Lily, Rose, and Leon will be attending Hogwarts in a few years while Neville is still there. I don't want them to go through this kind of stuff at Hogwarts. The Malfoy's are bad enough, but I hate having two high and mighty Pure-blood families as enemies to ours," Harry said calmly.
James and Lily stared at their son in awe. Since when did he become so mature? Did Hogwarts change him that much?
Shelia and Rose were staring at each other. It made sense. When they attended Hogwarts next year, they would need to be wary of any family threat. As much as they had always admired The Boy- Who- Lived at a young age, they loved family and family always goes first on the list.
Leon didn't say anything out loud. Whatever his brother said, Leon would listen and stand by him. His brother was speaking with the same assurance Leon and come to recognize in his parents.
Sylvia and Lily didn't know what to say. They didn't understand what was going on but it seemed to have stopped all of the fun that they had been enjoying just a moment ago.
"Give me a moment with your mother." Their father said getting up and followed Lily to the living room to talk.
Rose and Shelia got up ready to eaves drop, but Harry's voice stopped them.
"No. Whatever they're talking about, it has to be serious. If they think we are too young to hear about it we have to accept their decision. They're our parents; we need to trust their judgment," Harry said calmly. Inwardly he was desperate to know as well. Hadn't they been comrades in the Order of the Phoenix in the past? It was not jealousy, Harry's parents did not seek that kind of attention, and what could the Boy-Who-Lived parent's want from the Potters? What was going on?
After a short time a somber Lily and James Potter came back into the room.
"Ok, your mother and I have agreed to tell you," James said sternly. It was rare seeing their father look stern; it didn't look right on his usual cheerful face.
They all looked at their father apprehensively.
"Honey," Lily hesitated. "Before your sisters were born, Voldemort's power was on the rise. It was a different time back then. Nobody knew who to trust. We were no different than the Longbottoms in that regard. What set us apart from most people, though, was that we all belonged an organization that fought him and his Death Eaters."
"You worked for the ministry with dad?" Leon said.
"Yes… no… I'm not saying this right. Suffice to say the Longbottoms and the Potters fought on the same side against the Death Eaters. Then, a proph… something happened that required us and the Longbottoms to go into hiding. We both went into seclusion under separate Fidelius charms."
"What's that?" asked Rose.
Harry sighed and tried to explain. "Rose, a Fidelius will hide a location magically. It hides it so well that only a person called a Secret Keeper knows where that location is. And only the Secret Keeper can tell others how to find that location. And that knowledge cannot be taken from the Secret Keeper; it can only be shared willingly.
"Harry's right. It hid us in plain sight but required someone we knew and trusted to be the secret keeper. We chose Sirius. Oh, he tried to get out of it, even going so far as to suggest we use Peter Pettigrew…"
"That rat," James hissed.
"Yes, dear. Anyway, Sirius suggested that he was the obvious choice and people would naturally come after him. This way if we used another person as the Secret Keeper, no one would ever know what that was. Especially if we let it be known Sirius was our secret keeper as a bit of misdirection. That way he'd stake the heat while the other wizard stayed hidden in the background."
"So what happened?" said Harry. This was where the timeline diverged! It had to be!
"Pettigrew had been a friend of your father's since they first started school. He, Sirius and your father became animagi to keep Remus company on his… uh… monthly visits."
"What's an animagi?" Leon put in.
Harry again tried to explain to his younger brother. "Animagi is plural for an Animagus. Several people who are Animagus are known as animagi. An Animagus is a witch or wizard that can perform a wandless transfiguration into an animal. Each Animagus can change into only one type of animal, and generally they have to have some kind of affinity for that animal. One of the professors at Hogwarts is an Animagus, she can turn into a cat.
James was a little leery at how easy that answer came to Harry. There was just something not right about being able to answer that question the way Harry did. He needed to talk to Lily some more about this.
"Yes, Harry," Lily continued, "that's correct. As it turns out, you father's form is that of a stag. Sirius' form is that of a dog. Pettigrew's form is that of a rat. What is still unknown to this day is how our decisions and attitudes shape what form a wizard takes as an Animagus. My work with the ministry did uncover there is some correlation."
"Huh?" Leon looked to Harry for a translation from adult speak.
"Some one with noble character turns into a noble animal like a cat, dog or perhaps a hawk. Someone with no morals may turn into a rat. They change into what their magic envisions them to be."
Harry's mother continued, "And in this case, I was uneasy with a wizard who could turn into a rat. I had no personal problems with the man – he was cordial enough all the time, but I had a nagging feeling was just in the back of my head. And this was before I researched all about Animagi for the Department of Mysteries. I felt better trusting Uncle Sirius over Pettigrew."
"And considering Lily was pregnant at the time, it would have been unwise of me to countermand any of her decisions."
"Huh?" Leon again.
"Later," Harry supplied. "When you're older and ready to start dating."
"Bleh! Me date girls!? Bleh!"
"So we selected your Uncle Sirius to be our Secret Keeper." Lily smiled at the disgusted face still on her youngest son. "At that time we were good friends with the Longbottom's. Harry and Neville had played together several times that summer. They, like us, were to go under a Fidelius. However, they were having trouble deciding on a secret keeper. Since they had no one they really trusted, and we knew nothing bad about Pettigrew, we introduced him to the Longbottom's, and they ended up using Pettigrew as their Secret Keeper."
"I regret ever meeting that rat," James grimaced.
"Yes, dear. Pettigrew's morals were those of a rat and he joined the Death Eater ranks. Whether intentionally or unintentionally…"
Harry helped his struggling brother out. "We don't know if joined the Death Eaters willingly, or if he was forced into joining their ranks."
"Yes, thank you, sweetie. Pettigrew, for all the Gryffindor he was, became a Death Eater and within weeks of going into hiding, Voldemort attacked Longbottom manor. He crashed through the wards and stormed the house. Then, he killed an auror and then Neville's gram, Augusta. He then focused his energies on Neville and was defeated in turn. No one knows why."
James picked the story up, "We caught Pettigrew a couple days later and threw him in Azkaban. He's still there apparently going insane."
"Couldn't happen to a nicer rat."
James stared at his son; he recognized the anger and malice in Harry's eyes. He felt the same, but where could Harry's feelings have come from? This was the first time Harry had heard the sordid tale. Harry should not have that kind of reaction so quickly. Yet another puzzle surrounding his son.
"November 1st, 1981 was an emotional day for our family," Lily went on. "Your Uncle Sirius showed up and gave us the news about the attack and apparent defeat of Voldemort. We showed up at Longbottom manor and I tried to console Frank and Alice but they wouldn't have anything to do with us. They said it was our fault that Augusta was dead. They threw us out."
"We tried contacting them over the days, weeks, and months that followed but they weren't interested in talking with us," James admitted. "Finally a solicitor contacted us and gave us a cease and desist order. Then he told us to be thankful the Longbottom's weren't suing us for aiding and abetting in a wrongful death."
"We knew the friendship we'd had before was now gone. Over the years it really became apparent when the Longbottom's would publicly rebuke anything we did or said. These days we stay mostly out of their way."
"You shouldn't have to do that, dad," Shelia protested.
"Too right, dad. You have as much right to be anywhere they are as well," Rose put in.
"Both of you princesses are right," James agreed. "We shouldn't have to leave a building or a park just because they showed up. But we didn't like it when they began to involve you kids in their petty squabbles. If we had to leave in deference to them, then so be it. You kids mean more to us than they do.
"Any way you look at it, the Longbottom's refused to take any ownership of their decision to use Pettigrew. Their excuse was Pettigrew was never their friend, and that since we supposedly knew him best, we should have known he was a traitor. He had us fooled along with everyone else. I always knew he was a follower and not a leader, but had no idea he'd turn into a true rat.
"No matter who tried to explain this to them, the Longbottom's kept aiming their accusations towards us. In the long run, our relationship with them didn't matter. And since Neville became famous for surviving a killing curse, the Longbottom family became famous as well. Which led to the ministry sucking up to them to keep the good press coming."
"James, that's enough," Lily scolded.
Lily looked at her children's expressions. Shelia and Rose had murderous looks while Leon wasn't sure if should be angry or sad that it could have been their family that was attacked by Voldemort. James noted that his eldest son looked expressionless. He wasn't even sure anything registered with him until he saw his son's lips frown for a moment before his neutral expression went back into place.
The fact that his son could hide his emotions worried him. He wasn't sure why, but it did.
After the others had gone to bed, Harry sat in the living room thinking over what his parents had said.
So... that was the reason why Neville hated his family. They didn't want others to know that it was partly their fault that they were attacked when they were the ones who chose the Secret Keeper. Why was none of this mention in my universe? Did the Longbottom's have a secret keeper? Were they in Fidelus? But why were they attacked after Voldemort's downfall in my dimension? There are so many possibilities. It all goes back to that bastard Wormtail.
Once a traitor always a traitor...
Harry got up and went to the kitchen to get some tea to settle his seething disposition. He saw his mother at the kitchen table, pouring tea for herself. She looked up and instantly got another cup that she started to fill.
"Thinking hard honey?" His mother asked.
Harry looked at her and nodded while accepting the cup of tea she gave him. Harry was silent while putting his head on her shoulder while she had an arm around him.
"Tell me more about your friends, honey," Lily said softly breaking the silence.
Harry smiled and spoke. "Hermione's a muggleborn witch. She's very smart and reminds me of you. Ack!" Harry gasped when his mother poke him stiffly.
"You told me in your letter that she was pretty, smart, kind, and loving like me. Do you really think I'm all of those?" his mother questioned.
Harry snorted to her amusement. "Mum… Words can't describe you. You're everything," Harry said.
She smiled at her son's words and kissed the top of his head. "You always say the right thing, sweetie."
Harry was silent for a moment; his mind came to focus on yet another thing he could blame on Riddle for him losing. Shelia and Rose were 10 while he was 11. That meant his original mother was pregnant when she was killed.
James entered the room to find his wife getting ready for bed. "James? What is it? You've been acting tense for hours."
"It's… ah, it's probably nothing."
"Tell me," she prompted.
"It's… nothing really. Just a feeling."
"Tell me or you'll be eating cold cereal tomorrow instead of a warm breakfast I planned on making."
Bypassing the threat, James thought for a moment and then let her know what was on his mind. She always was smarter than him so maybe she could help put to rest some nagging feelings. "It's Harry, Lily."
"What about him?"
"He's not the same boy we had at the beginning of last summer. Surely you can see that."
"Oh, ha-ha. That wasn't funny the last time you used it."
Lily giggled slightly. "Just trying to get you to relax, James. Whatever you're thinking, I'm sure you're blowing it out of proportion like always. Harry's your son. This is the same boy you have always known. He loves you. He loves us all. You can tell it in the way he moves and what he does. How many other little boys do you know would go out of their way to learn to cook just so they could make their family happy?"
"That's just it, Lily. When did he learn all this? If it were a process of years, why didn't we see him practice at all? When did he become so proficient? It seems to have happened overnight. Like his sudden interest in books and learning."
"You're jealous," Lily nodded in understanding.
"What? No, I'm not. You're right. Harry is a good boy. But he's not the same Harry we knew. Where is that boy that did average in school? How did this boy suddenly go to Hogwarts and become the first apprentice there in over 90 years, as well as the youngest apprentice ever? He went from average to a superstar overnight. How?"
"Oh, James. You may not know it but that sometimes happens in the muggle world. Albert Einstein did horrible in school…"
"Theory of Relativity? No? Someone who knew a lot of math, James. Anyway, he did horrible in school and people thought him an idiot. He went on to become one of the greatest theorists the world ever knew."
"And you think Harry is like this Albert fellow?"
"Partially. Not the same genius category, but no slouch with knowledge at all. And definitely not one to skip responsibilities. You remember what Minerva said in her last letter?"
"Yeah. That was something. I would've loved to see him take down those Slytherins."
As his parents began to talk more about things they were going to do the next day, Harry took that opportunity to shadow out of there and back to his room after first stopping by Leon's room and rearranging all the furniture (heh, let him figure out how Harry did that without waking him, especially now that his bed was stuck on the wall with a 90-degree spell put on Leon up until he got up and moved away from his bed by a minimum distance of 1 meter).
His dad was suspicious. He needed to allay those concerns, and soon. He'd have to figure something out. But he also knew he'd have to come clean about who he was. Eventually.
December 24th, Longbottom Manor (evening)
"Evening, Mr. Longbottom," a gruff guard nodded as Neville passed the interior courtyard.
"Evening," Neville instinctively replied, the years of having manners pounded into his head coming to play. He would have said the man's name had he remembered it. Names were difficult for him to remember. They always had been. Not sure why. Neville didn't really care. And apparently neither did most of the others he spoke to regularly. Or at least they never admonished him when he got their names wrong. Well except that Weale, or Weasley or Weasle or something. One thing was certain; he had learned over the years was that if he simply did not say their names at all, there were a lot fewer conflicts.
Neville approached the side entrance to the house. The door opened for him automatically but he was sure he noticed a house-elf nearby. He wasn't concerned. Especially since another guard was stationed nearby to keep the door under surveillance.
Inside, the warmth of the fire in the kitchen helped remove the night's chill. He'd only been gone for about 20 minutes – just a quick walk around part of the property to clear his thoughts and get ready for bed. The clock on the wall ticked loudly. Or at least he found it loud as it echoed in the kitchen.
Tick, tick, tick.
He looked up. It was 9:32 (thereabouts – who knew how accurate those 300 year old clocks were anyway). The kitchen was clean. "Gusty?"
"Yes, Master Nevvie?" the older of the manor's house elves replied immediately.
"Have my parents sent any word yet? Or any other messages come in?"
"No, Master Nevvie. They's not sent any word back from party they's gone to."
"Oh." Neville's expression didn't change as he got the news. It wasn't as if he were expecting anything else. Every year since he could remember they were invited to attend a party on Christmas Eve. And they always promised to let him know when they were coming home, or if they saw St. Nick on the way, or something like that. Or to check up on him.
Neville's feet carried him to the next room which was packed with lots of presents under a large decorated pine tree. "You did a good job decorating the tree, Gusty," Neville acknowledged.
"Oh, Master Nevvie, Windy dids most of it herself. I's only surpervised after Mistress instructed us to do it."
"Yeah," Neville muttered, "better not let Neville help you – he might break something."
"Nothing, Gusty. You remember where my parents went tonight?"
Great. Fudge's place again. They wouldn't be back until late. Very late.
Tick, tick, tick.
"When did they say to surprise me with a fake Santa?"
"They didn't even tell you to try to keep me entertained with a fake Santa like last year?" Not that it hadn't been a fiasco then.
"No, Master Nevvie. Gusty's sorry."
Tick, tick, tick.
"Did they say when I could open my presents at least?"
"No, Master Nevvie."
"Don't worry, Gusty. Since they didn't tell you to stop me, I guess now's as good a time as any to start opening gifts. Would you bring me that stack over there?"
"Sure thing, Master Nevvie."
Moments later, Neville Longbottom, defeater of Voldemort, and so on, sat in the Great Room and began opening presents from friends, admirers, associates, suck-ups, and fans.
Other than a cheery house-elf, he did so alone.
Gusty called out for Windy to show up and take down names of who sent what so they could send thank-yous later.
Rrrrrriiiiiippppp, a present's paper tears, echoing in the room. Neville stops tearing and looked around. He had everything he ever wanted, and more really. He knew that.
So why did he feel so uncomfortable this time?
Tick, tick, tick.
Neville wondered what the Weales or Weasleys or Weasles… what Ron was doing.
December 24th, Weasley Burrow (morning)
It was an unusual Weasley Christmas, even by their standards, Molly knew. Bill was home and they were all packing, getting ready to head to Romania and see her second oldest, Charlie.
They would be leaving in the early morning by portkey, but if she allowed her children to pack then, who knows what they'd forget. No, it was better they pack now. She saw one of her sons in the hallway.
"Get packed. Now. And get your brother packed. Now."
"Mum, we're working on it."
"You used that line on me before, mister. You aren't packed. Instead, you are goofing off. Probably looking for a way to prank your brother."
"Mum, you wound me."
"Not as bad as I can tan your hide, mister. Got that? Now here. Take this…"
"A letter? But mum, you don't need to give me a letter, though I am touched by the sincerity of the gesture."
"I didn't. It came by owl a few minutes ago. Now go get packed. We're leaving soon."
George quickly opened the letter, read the signature and then made for his room.
"What is it, twin of mine?"
"I've been thinking."
"I agree then. Ron does need to learn some better manners."
"Not that. I mean, not yet. Yes, I was thinking that, but I mean, not right now. We can get him later and blame it on Charlie. No, I was thinking what we're going to do about our reputations once we get back to school."
"Reputations? Well, I guess I can ask Katie and you can ask Angelina…"
"Not that reputation you twit. It's Potter. We just got a note from him."
"What did he say?" Fred asked, suddenly slightly more interested in the conversation than he had been.
"It says: 'Tag – You're It.' What does that mean?"
"George. Listen to me. Whatever you do, don't move. Don't move at all."
"What is it, Fred?"
"I'll tell you in a minute. Just don't move. Mother!"
"Are you packed yet? Do I need to do everything for you two boys?" came a muffled voice from the other side of their door.
"Mum! Come quick. George is in trouble."
"You two are always in trou… okay, which girl are you seeing?"
"Not that kind of trouble, mum! There's a bug on George!"
That stopped her from climbing any more steps. "You can always swat it off, you know."
"Not this one. It's huge! And it's on the back of his head, its snout buried inside his ear."
"Oh, my," she said as she stepped into their room. "You two never clean this room. It only gets cleaned when I manage to get the door open when you're in school. Then I have to do all the cleaning. Would it kill either of you to clean your room once in awhile?"
"Mum! The bug in George's ear?!"
"What bug?" George said, still not moving just in case.
"That bu… George, did you move?"
"Nope. Can't hear a bug either."
"That's because it was stuck in your ear, dear," his mum said as she looked at both of his ears. "Ah, here it is." She pulled a tiny mosquito from his ear and squished it between her fingers. "Okay, Fred, crisis is over. When you've calmed down, come downstairs and I'll give you a cup of cocoa to calm your nerves some more. Wouldn't want you to get the vapors before we leave on our trip," she giggled.
"Mum! I'm not crazy! I know what I saw."
"Yes, yes, a huge blood-sucking bug in your brother's ear. Yes, I have it right here. You want to see it before I throw it away? No? Okay, then calm down a little more and put on a sweater. It's cold out and I wouldn't want your heart to take any more of this weather in your condition."
"There, there, dear. Just calm down. I'll tell everyone you'll be a few minutes."
"We've been had."
"… that cheeky Potter. Always liked that lad."
"Too true, brother of mine. Too true. What are we going to do for retaliation?"
"He's a tricky customer, that one. But it would be good for morale to get him, o brother of mine."
"True, too true."
"Let's figure that out before we get back to Hogwarts."
Ginny sat in her room unconcerned with Fred's latest prank. She was at her desk writing in her journal. A smile was stenciled on her face.
Mrs. Neville Longbottom, she wrote in her book next to the newspaper picture she'd clipped from the Prophet of Neville boarding the Hogwarts Express back in September.
Mrs. Ginny Longbottom.
Mrs. Ginny Weasley-Longbottom.
Mr. Neville Weasley.
She wondered if he was open to changing his name when they got married.
She put little hearts next to the picture.
Ron packed his clothes like he always did – pick it up, sniff it once, if it didn't reek, then throw it into the bag. It was a slow process, well, slow for him with all the sniffing he had to do, and if he could have used magic, he theorized, it would have gone a lot faster. Neater too. He never really gave much thought that he didn't know any kind of magic for packing luggage. That was immaterial to his visions of using magic whenever he wanted.
His last shirt thrown into his bag, he couldn't help but wonder how his best mate, Neville Longbottom, was doing. It sure must be nice to have everything like he does. He probably even had someone to pack his bags for him instead of having to do everything on his own like Ron.
December 25th, Granger residence
Christmas morning at the Granger house was far less frantic than that of the Burrow, but no less affectionate. Hermione, wearing her customary nightgown, fuzzy robe and dog-shaped slippers came downstairs and into the family room. It was quiet as she looked at the tree, lit up like normal. The presents were under the tree arranged in their usual haphazard way.
"Happy Christmas," her mother said behind her, engulfing her in a large hug. Moments later her father echoed the same sentiments and gave her a bone-crushing (okay – bruising) hug as well.
"Happy Christmas mother, father," Hermione responded.
"Presents or breakfast?"
"Dad, you know we always open presents first."
"Well, I wasn't sure if Hogwarts changed you or anything…" he started with a smile.
"Dan, quit teasing your daughter. Presents are always first."
"I'll hand them out," Hermione volunteered and shortly piles of gifts were at the feet of each occupant of the house.
"I knew there was a good reason to teach you to read," her father winked.
"Just for that crack, honey, you get to open yours last," a stern wife arched her eyebrow.
"Kidding, honey, I'm kidding."
"Yeah, yeah, dad. Here. This is from me."
Rrriiiippppp. "Oh look. I just got a book on Ye Olde Medieval Dentistry Tortuous Devices. Thanks, honey."
"You prat," Emma Granger laughingly slapped his arm. "That's a book on fixing cars."
"I'll look for a medieval dentistry book when I get back to school, dad. I'm sure it'll have something to do with leeches," Hermione smiled.
"Oh, where did this mischievous streak come from?"
"I'm sure I don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"There it is again. Emma, did you just see that?"
"I sure did. Okay, honey, who are you and what did you do with our daughter?"
"Mum! I'm still me!"
"A new and improved version, maybe. Now give. Where'd that mischievous streak come from?"
Hermione blushed a bit and avoided their eyes. "Well… it kind of started with my best friend, Harry."
"The same boy in your letters?" her father asked.
"Yes. He's been helping me play a joke on this other boy who is just horrid and says a lot of mean things to everyone at school."
"Ah," Dan replied simply. "And how is your joke coming along?"
Hermione grinned. "Let's just say it's a work in progress."
"Is this the same Harry that gave you this present?" Emma said.
"Yes. He told me to open in Christmas morning."
"Well, don't keep us in suspense, dear. Open it up."
Hermione's present looked like a slim version of a hinged hardened eyeglasses case. It was about five inches long, three inches wide, and one inch deep which was actually half that when the latch was opened and the two side unfolded. The words: "Pocket Galaxy" were stenciled in Harry's handwriting on the outside of the wooden cover.
Opening it, Hermione noticed the "topside" was simply a mirror. The "bottom" had some buttons and a lever. The mirror had the words: Speak N Spell enchanted into it.
"What is it, dear?" Emma asked her daughter.
"I'm not sure," she answered honestly.
You could always ask, the words flickered on the mirror.
"You can hear me?" Hermione queried.
"What are you?" Hermione wanted to know.
I'm your Pocket Galaxy. My benefits include more than just picking out constellations. Controls below the mirror can either direct your viewing around the night sky or you can zoom into an area by a factor of 1000. Controls are also voice activated. Planets in this solar system should be visible but what do I know – Harry only enchanted me – it's not like he tested me out or anything, the slacker.
Press the blue center button for the immersion experience. That is when I darken the room and project all stars I can in the desired viewing area into the room. It certainly makes finding constellations easier. Feel free to zoom in to any planet you want. You want to see Mount Olympus? Zap the button. Be part of the big red dot on Jupiter? Then press it, press it, press it! With me, you never need a telescope again.
"Interactive instructions?" Emma's mouth hung open.
You got it in one, baby. You busy later?
"Cheeky little thing," Dan muttered.
And proud of it.
Hermione looked at the present for a few moments after the description ended. Her parents were looking over her shoulder. Harry had given her a study tool. Practical. She was moved. "Oh, my," she gaped.
"Ditto," her mum put in. "And I'm busy with my husband later, you cheeky little device."
December 25th, Potter Manor
Harry knew this Christmas was going to be a moment to remember. He knew his friends were going to love their Christmas presents. It had taken him a few weeks to get the star-tracking spell to work right whenever the Portable Galaxy was opened. He was just happy that with it Padma especially could study stars whenever she wanted instead of waiting for night as she had to currently. It had been a conversation they'd had last November that spurred on this gift when she'd mentioned she didn't like going to her favorite class because in the middle of the night she was always tired. And to think, it had been Uncle Nick who had explained how the spell in the Great Hall had worked that spurred this effort. Of course, if it became popular with the rest of the kids, he might have to consider licensing it and putting it into production. Merlin knows he'd need some funds to do the rest of what he wanted to do in school before he graduated.
Harry had spent an entire month making the spells for the Pocket Galaxy. He wanted it to be special, and not just some run-of-the mill slapped-together spell work. And since Padma loved Astronomy, Harry knew she'd would love it. He was pretty sure Hermione would love it too, mainly due to it making that coursework easier and leaving her ample time to get more work done. Besides, she'd always had a problem with telescopes in his last life because her night vision was terrible. How she managed to get full marks, Harry had no idea. The others, well, Harry wasn't sure if they were into it or not, but he suspected they'd like it nonetheless.
Harry was excited. He had gotten lots of presents for his family – some he even created himself. It was going to be the first Christmas with his family that he could remember. Sleep came for him (eventually) late at night. If he hadn't spent some of his power subduing a tornado in Australia he doubted he'd even have gotten any rest.
"Harry! Merry Christmas!" Harry woke up Christmas morning with his littlest sister sitting on his stomach. Harry smiled at Lily and Sylvia. Little Lily jumped up and down on his stomach again (Harry "uurfed") and then leaned down to kiss him on the cheek.
"Wake up, sleepyhead," Sylvia giggled. "It's Christmas!"
Harry smiled and hugged Lily and then grabbed Sylvia into a hug as well. He murmured, "Merry Christmas, munchkins," in between tickles while still waking up.
"Come on Harry, get up! Let's go down and open presents!" Shelia shouted while lifting Little Lily off of him who protested. Rose was dragging him out of bed with Sylvia in toe.
Once downstairs, they found Leon who had already separated the gifts into individual piles was anxiously staring at the stack of gifts with his name on them. His parents were waiting for all of them in their morning fuzzy robes. His mother had on fashionable pink fuzzy slippers. They all soon joined in opening presents with Leon.
Harry smiled. His mother had given him several potions books that were for 4th, 5th, and 6th years. He could tell she wanted him to be the scholar for the family; definitely not what James wanted. James wanted Harry to be a Professional Quidditch Player (or an Auror if need be) so chipped in with his sisters and got him new Quidditch gear. Leon got him a book on 'Legendary Seeker's in the League.'
As for the presents that Harry got for his family, Harry gave the twins dozens of small boxes of candies, cookies, pastries and sandwiches that should last them till summer which cheered the girls immensely. Adult Lily's lips thinned and she tired to confiscate the goodies, but the girls quickly took their loot upstairs and hid it, giggling all the while. Harry brought Leon a pet Owl (named Blockhead), for which he thanked Harry profusely. Sylvia was given a magical baby rabbit that could rotate through a multitude of different colors at will. Hagrid had found it in the forbidden forest after its parents were killed. Hagrid had offered it to him since it wasn't up to his level of "charming" viciousness like a certain three-headed killer dog he doted on. Harry had accepted it at the time knowing that Sylvia would adore a cute bunny as a Christmas present. True enough, she loved her present to bits and hugged him, squeezed him and called him George. Even his sisters and parents had to admit it was pretty cute, until it peed all over his father.
As for Little Lily, Harry knew she loved Dragons. Harry made her a stuffed dragon and charmed it to be semi-active. It would nibble (sort of), chew on her fingers or ear with its stuffed cotton teeth (not breaking skin), it could float up to 1-meter in the air, and blow a few red sparks out of its mouth. Mum and his sisters immediately fell in love with the stuffed dragon. Harry patted himself on the back – it was a pretty cool gift for a child. Little Lily cried out in joy and kissed her brother multiple times, holding the small baby stuffed dragon like it was her best friend. Little Lily (and the dragon) stayed in Harry's lap for the rest of the present opening.
As for his parents, Harry bought his mum a few notebooks he put together on Charms that he found after sifting through the Room of Unused Paper Crap – some notes even from Riddle. He didn't note who the authors of the charms and other spells were, all he told her was that it was a work in progress. Harry let his dad puzzle over the tie for a few moments. Even getting his mom to actually tie it around his neck; before presenting his father with a wand holster. And not just any holster either. Harry had charmed it so that only James could see it, and that it was immune from summoning spells and had active countermeasures on it as well. If anyone who touched it held malice toward the holder, they received a powerful shock. His father was happy with the gift and as he'd never heard of a holster like this had asked where he got it. Harry just gave him a mysterious smile and said it was a secret. It aggravated his father big time because he knew the Aurors at the Ministry could really use holsters like this one.
After breakfast, Sirius, Amy and their kids came over. Remus, holding the youngest, took a comfortable spot on the couch. Harry's mum and dad started handing out presents for everyone, including the Black children. They in turn handed gifts to everyone in the Potter clan.
Harry was only halfway surprised when Jasmine approached and presented him a present. Harry noticed out of the corner of his eye that all the adults were watching them. Pervs.
Opening the present, Harry found a hand knitted sweater. It had a Gryffin on the front of it, and it had green eyes. Harry thanked her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek (which incited a few 'awws' from the adults and a Bleh from Leon and caused Jasmine to blush).
"Jasmine, I have a present for you; wait here," Harry said running upstairs.
As Harry walked briskly back to his room, his thoughts ran overtime with what to get the beautiful girl. He didn't really have a present for her; he'd been trying to think of something for her for the longest time. Okay, okay, for all of two days when he suddenly remembered that he needed to get something for her when a rouge memory of her giving him presents from when he was seven on up popped into his head. He couldn't fault his counterpart for not doing anything all those years – the poor little boy had been smitten by the pretty girl and her charm. Harry wasn't ensorcelled by that magic but he still wanted to get her something. He could and did fault his counterpart for not doing anything all those years. Harry felt he should get her something. She deserved it for putting up with his counterpart.
Back in his room inspiration struck. With a flick or his wrist, his wand was out; Harry conjured a large pillow and then transfigured it into a stuffed white Phoenix like his younger sister Lily's stuffed dragon. A few more hocus pocus movements with his wand had the Phoenix becoming lifelike. One quick murmured incantation later it was enchanted to float anywhere from 2-3 meters high at random intervals and to also act like a real Phoenix. Well, mostly. He added a little extra shadow magic to it for a certain amount of fun. The shadows would eventually fall away, but while it lasted, it was certainly going to make someone's life interesting.
Lastly, he imbued it to sing peaceful tunes, or barring anything it couldn't latch onto from the ether, then grab some of the Wizarding Wireless' receptions (like that sorting hat). All said and told it took Harry roughly five minutes to create this present.
Not having had any real experience wrapping presents from his previous life or even this life, Harry did a quick flick of his wand and the baby Phoenix lurched into a brown bag that was quickly twined up. Satisfied, Harry grabbed the present and headed back to the family room where people were sure to wonder where he'd gotten off to.
His family was smiling at him. Some (Rose, Shelia and Leon based on previous years experience) thought he really didn't have one and was trying to find something, but Harry was going to prove them wrong.
"Here you go Jasmine. I hope you like it," Harry smiled warmly.
"Thank you Harry," she said shyly.
Jasmine blushed and accepted it, quickly tearing into the brown wrapping which she noted looked very reminiscent of the local grocery store's bags.
Moments later she gasped in surprise when a small fluffy and fuzzy Phoenix half the size of Fawkes flew a couple feet in front of her and sang a peaceful tune. It caught everyone's attention, but mostly Sirius' when it decided to fly over his head and deposit some shadowy-looking poop on his noggin before going back to Jasmine and sing another song (which, oddly enough, was a muzak version of a Weird Sister diddy). Little Lily liked it too, but she much preferred her pet dragon. Strangely enough, the moment her pet dragon came in close contact with the phoenix, they flew towards each other and started fighting.
"Oops," Harry said as the two toys duked it out fluffy style.
Harry's father waved his wand and the Phoenix and Dragon separated, but they were giving each other some cute glares, like little puppies trying to mark their territories.
"Oh Harry, it's a great gift! I love it!" Jasmine said happily while giving him another hug and a quick peck on the cheek while holding onto her Phoenix who sang another song, this one previously performed by Led Zeppelin.
"I knew you would. I know you told me you wanted to see a real Phoenix, but this'll have to do," Harry said hugging the younger girl back.
She let go and immediately began to coo at her Phoenix who enjoyed her warm hug.
Lily and Amy who were giggling then extended their hands out to their husbands, palm up. Grumbling, the two men reached into some pockets and pulled out some cash for their bet-winning wives. By the looks of it, James didn't mind losing that bet, but Sirius was going to have words with his daughter and that bloody toy.
Later that Christmas night, after dinner was over and the kids were in bed, Harry left a secret Christmas gift for Remus who was sleeping over that night in his "nanny" digs. When Remus entered his guess room later that night he found a present for him on his bed with a note on top of it.
Take this potion; it will help you tame your werewolf form during the full moon. If you want, you can go have it analyzed before you drink it. The instructions on when you take the potion are written on the bottom of the parchment. I will be sending you two vials every full moon if you desire to take the potion. Attached is an ingredient list in case you wish to have these claims verified. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and all that.
Remus was shocked. Opening the present, he found two vials of some weird looking potion. Reading the instructions, it told him drink one vial before every transformation and that the potion was called 'Wolfsbane.'
Remus gave a disbelieving look. He dared not get his hopes up. But one thing was for certain. He would be talking to Sirius and James about this tomorrow. He had a suspicion about who it came from, but best not to burst that bubble just yet. That wasn't the Marauder way of getting someone to incriminate themselves.
December 26th, Diagon Alley (Done)
The next day the Potters, Blacks, and nanny Lupin went to Diagon Alley on a Boxing Day shopping trip. After discussing travel plans with the rest of the elders, James took his oldest son by the shoulder and said, "C'mon, Harry. Time to hit Gringotts and the family vault. Who knows what junk you can find?"
"Junk?" Harry replied with a raised eyebrow.
"You might call it heirlooms, but mostly it's junk. Still, we might find a book or two like you wanted."
"Excellent. Sounds like fun. Let's go," Harry said excitedly. He'd always wanted to go to his family vault, but couldn't in his old life as it was warded nine ways from Sunday and used some voce activation password that only his parents knew and hadn't gotten around to passing down to him before their untimely death. The Goblins didn't know it (or at least said they didn't) but did offer to reset the spells on the vault so he could enter. Unfortunately that took the better part of 4 years and Harry would have been 21 before he could enter the Heirloom Vault.
When they entered Gringrotts, his father asked a nearby Goblin if they could kindly bring them to the Potter vault. "Hey, Barfbreath, you up to taking us to our vault?"
"Sure, James, you ugly human. Hey, anyone ever tell you that you're looking particularly trollish today?"
"Just you, Stinky." They grinned at one another, and then shook hands. "Barfbreath, this is my son, Harry."
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, young Mr. Potter."
"Um, thank you. Should I insult you like my dad did?"
Barfbreath replied, "Only if you want me to insult you back."
"I can live with that," Harry immediately responded seriously.
The goblin looked at James and said, "I like your son, James. Real smart. You sure he's yours?"
"Shut it, you," James muttered with a slight grin.
After a fun, fast, and slightly dangerous cart ride that both dad and son enjoyed, they were finally at vault #3. Out of the cart, Harry's father put his hand on the vault gate and spoke out loud: "The Heirs of Gryffindor have returned. Wauka, wauka, wauka."
Slowly the vault door opened.
What was inside blinded him. Harry was amazed. The Potter Vault, #214, was pretty large and had mounds of gold, silver and other currencies and precious jewels littering the floor. Or at least it did when he last visited it when he turned 17 a year ago. But this family heirloom vault was huge! It was like the size of the Great Hall of Hogwarts! There were mounds of sparkly rocks everywhere. At the end of the Vault there were magical items and weapons placed neatly on shelves which were placed next to a huge shelf of books and scrolls.
Harry snapped out of his thoughts when his father spoke. "Remember those words son, only a Potter could hear what I said as a password here, and only a Potter by blood can enter this vault. Your mother cannot enter here. You, Leon, and your sisters can. Anyone else that enters this vault without the Potter blood will suffer a most painful death."
"What kind of painful death?"
"Rumor has it they'll have to listen to 'It's A Small World' over and over until their brains melt. Or it might have something to do with jell-o wrestling. I'm not really sure and the scrolls were a bit vague on it."
"You yanking my chain dad?"
"When isn't he?" Barfbreath inserted. "He knows all the protection will do is stun the intruder."
"That's good news I guess," Harry said.
"Absolutely, young Mr. Potter. Then we get the take care of the intruder and feed him to one of the dragons to satiate their blood lust."
"You yanking my chain?"
"Would I do that?"
"In a heartbeat," Harry pointed out.
"He's really smart, James. You could not have been with Lily when he was conceived."
"Shut it, you."
"Dragons, huh? I guess that serves them right for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And for trying to steal our junk."
"That's exactly what ugly here said when I told him that two decades ago after his first year at Hogwarts," Barfbreath admitted.
"Like father, like son," James crowed.
"Adopted son, right?"
"Shut it, you."
James allowed his son to enter first and was relieved to see him go in without being stunned. It was still hard to believe his son had changed so much since just last summer. He had thought about using some mind magicks to enter his son's thoughts, but was unsure if that would be enough. This test, the Gryffindor family vault, was the ultimate test. He knew it looked beyond more than just thoughts and blood – it relied on something even more stringent: character. Not to say there weren't some bad Potter eggs over the last millennium, and those it noted were not allowed to enter. Sometimes a century might go by before a Potter again entered the vault.
James was thankful that this was really his son, Harry. And glad that his son had a good character about him. True, the boy was a little odd at times, but he guessed he was going to have to get used to that seeing as he was a genius and all that. Maybe he should get him tested or… nah, let him stay at Hogwarts. No sense pushing him out in the real world just yet.
"Why don't you go ahead and explore the Vault for a few minutes, then we'll go back to the lobby, I need to go talk to Barfbreath for a minute. Oh, and, don't take any gold out of this vault! You're not of age!"
Harry nodded and waved to his father in acknowledgement. He wasn't planning on taking anything anyway. After all, there were other ways to supplement his income if need be. If the Dudley from the other day was the same as "his" Dudders, then tubby had a stash of cash.
Harry explored the vault, seeing a few things that caught his interest. Some books he was interested in checking out from the Potter Library (so to speak). An interesting shield that he'd love to do a history run on, and then something else caught his eye. It was next to a couple crystal decanters filled with a swirling mist that looked as if they were some memories. What he saw he knew he wanted.
Located just down the way from a couple suits of armor and a ratty piece of cloth similar to a dementor cloak, Harry saw several small baby hand sized orbs that looked exactly like the Magical Suppressor Nicholas Flamel found for him years ago. Harry walked straight towards the Suppressor Orb and picked it up.
The moment he touched it, his own suppressor let out a musical chime while the orb in his hand unexpectedly began glowing red before returning to its clear view moments later. That was unusual, Harry thought, it usually glowed blue, but instead it glowed red. Harry tried to recall Uncle Nick's lesson on Magical Suppressors. It was only a couple years ago that Harry and Uncle Nick spoke about it, so he should remember it… shouldn't he? Ah, there was that memory.
Magical Suppressors, by Nicholas Flamel. You listening, Harry? Put that magazine down. I saw that, mister. What? Yes, you can bold your words by certain inflections in your voice. Magical Suppressors. See? Now stop that. We're getting off topic.
Magical Suppressors were created to keep apowerful witch or wizard's magical prowess both hidden as well as contained lest it consume them before their bodies were mature enough to control it. Who created them originally is still unknown, but the Mages of PaleMo'on began using them wholesale on their members after a decree from Queen Freya was issued to slaughter all powerful witches and wizards the world over who could be a threat against the Magicians of Atlantis (see Magicians of Atlantis in Atlantis: A History of the Tragic Kingdom).
The Mages used all the Suppressors they could locate or create to hide their members. Made to hide all of a wizard's power not even the Witch Queen Freya's army of Aura readers were able to discover a wizard or witches power if they held a suppressor. However, rumor had it that not all suppressors worked as expected. Some hid powers while others hid only part of a holder's powers. Those that hid power did so at a phenomenal cost: the magic lengthened lives to the point where the holders outlived their loved ones.
There are three types of Magical Suppressors:
-The White Suppressor Orb- Known as the Ordinary Magic Suppressor. It was made to hide a wizard or witch's magical power to make others think they are naught but a non-magical muggle. They were primarily made for those witches and wizards who decided to leave the Wizarding World and live amongst Muggles.
-The Blue Suppressor Orb- Known as a Standard Magical Suppressor. The Standard Magical Suppressor hides a person's true magical signature and makes others think they are an average-power level wizard or witch.
-The Red Suppressor Orb- Known as the Reserve Magical Suppressor. The Reserve Suppressor not only hides a person's magical power and makes others think they are an average wizard and witch, but it uses that person's reserves to hold in check, hide, and control power that could otherwise consume an average wizard. The power continues to build up in a wizard and to offset its burnout effect, the magic begins to subtly change the wizard into a vessel that can use the magic vs. the wizard changing the magic for personal use as is the case of most witches and wizards. These individuals are dangerous not only to themselves, but until they learn control, they are dangerous to others around them as accidental magic can occur late into their teens until control has begun to be initiated. It is unclear who is controlling whom, though. Is the magic controlling the wizard or the wizard controlling the magic?
Harry, it is unknown how long this suppressor needs to stay in a body for control to exert itself. It is also unknown how much magic this suppressor can actually suppress as none of these suppressors were ever found by Pernelle, myself, nor any of our associates over the centuries. We think it can hold back seven times a wizard's magical strength before it starts to strain. From what rumors we found on the other orbs, and the few we found, no matter which suppressor you have, if you are strong enough you need to release the excess somehow. The stronger you are, the more you need to release it on the blue or white orbs. The red orb would probably allow you to go long periods of time before you need to burp it out. And no, I never found a red orb. Best I can tell is that only a few were created and those that had it took it to ground with them. Perhaps it was given to a child who forgot about it and it never left their body before they died. I'm not sure what would happen to the orb when they died. It might fall out of their hand, or maybe it's still there in their tomb or grave.
Just do Pernelle and me a favor, okay? Use the blue orb and stay under the Order's as well as Voldy's notice. Neither one has to know how powerful you really are. Then when they corner you, which one of the megalomaniacs eventually will, take them out. No, not to dinner you little stinker. Yes, I know you were joking. But I'm serious about this. Don't sacrifice yourself. You mean too much to us.
Harry looked at the orb in his hand. This is it! This is what Nicholas and I have been looking for! All this time... it was inside my Family vault! But… how did it get there? Did a Potter come across it? Or did Gryffindor? Harry looked again at the bottles of memories near the orb. Could these tell me why…?
Harry put both bottles of memories in his backpack. He'd need a pensieve to view them he knew, and since they weren't readily available to just about everybody, he'd have to see if he could use the headmaster's when he got back to school. Maybe use the excuse he found them in the school. Nah, he'd have to be a little more creative than that. The Room of Requirement! That's it! He'd get the room to conjure one up and view these memories there. Harry patted himself on the back for some quick thinking.
Harry quickly scanned the bookshelf and found a couple interesting tomes that he also stashed in his bag. Then he went back to the orb sitting so innocently. He could feel his magic bubbling in excitement of something new. Something that would help him remain incognito. The magic wanted it. He wanted it.
Harry looked over his shoulder to make sure his father wasn't watching. He had to do this quick or his father would notice he wasn't the Harry his dad thought he was. And that was something he didn't want yet. Not yet.
Closing his eyes, Harry focused, and whispered, "I Harry James Potter, release the Blue Suppressor Orb. C'mon, out, out, out!"
A pale blue sphere of light rose out of Harry's left hand. Sweating, Harry willed it to hurry up, but it still took over five seconds to show and totally remove itself from his appendage. Once free from him, Harry's magic suddenly increased what seemed seven doubles and an invisible magical spike wave shot out in all directions from him. Ultimately it went 60 kilometers out before petering away to nothingness, but it was still felt even by muggles who thought it was more of a déjà vu sensation.
Knowing he had now less time than before, Harry immediately took the Red Suppressor and murmured, "I Harry James Potter now hold the Red Suppressor Orb... Possess!"
Immediately the Red Suppressor Orb vanished by his hand and into his Magical core leaving only the Blue Suppressor Orb in his hands.
"Harry! Harry! Where are you?!" his father shouted inside the vault which echoed all around.
Quickly Harry placed the Blue Suppressor on the pedestal where the Red one had been. Turning around, he grabbed his satchel and ran to the door of the vault, pretending like he didn't know what was going on.
"Dad! Did you feel that? What was that weird feeling?" Harry shouted in fake panic.
He immediately saw his dad who looked worried like him. Harry felt guilty hiding his power from his dad, but he knew he couldn't reveal who he was in this dimension; things would just get ugly. It wasn't time to announce who he really was. Yet.
"Yes Harry, I felt it! Did you touch anything you shouldn't have!" his father blurted out in panic.
Harry played it off by acting like he didn't know what was going on. "No! I was just looking at few artifacts and books! I promise, dad!" Harry said giving his father the look that said he wasn't lying.
His father nodded and took hold of his hand and led him out of the vault and told the Goblin, "Barfbreath, any idea where that huge power spike came from?" James asked.
Barfbreath shook his head, his eyes looking a little nervous over what he'd magically sensed. James understood that look and only training kept him from sharing the concern he felt. Whatever it was, or who it was, James knew it was something more powerful than either Voldemort or Dumbledore.
"No, I do not know, but I do think, we should return to the lobby," Barfbreath said nervously while looking around to make sure whatever made that monstrous power spike wasn't near them.
Once topside, they immediately departed to go find Lily and the rest of the family. On the way though, they saw Aurors and hit wizards swarming through Diagon Alley questioning every person they came across. James walked toward one of his fellow Aurors and tapped him on the shoulder.
Harry recognized the Auror immediately; it was Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Hey King, are you all here because of that power spike?" James asked.
Kingsley turned around and nodded to one of his commanding officers. "Yes. The ministry gauges overloaded and blew up. Madam Bones and Director Dent thought it best we investigate at once in case it's related to a former Death Eater. We still don't know where it came from, however when I find out, you'll be the first to know, James," Kingsley said to James.
"Understood. Later Kingsley and Merry Christmas."
Kingsley nodded and spoke. "Merry Christmas to you too, Captain. If you're searching for Sirius and your family, they are at the Leaky Cauldron. Your wife was hysteric thinking that maybe it was supporters of You-Know-Who, experimenting with necro magic to bring him back."
James nodded grimly. If it had something to do with Voldemort, things could turn out bad.
When they entered the Leaky Cauldron, Lily immediately ran and hugged them both and whispered to James. "James! What was that huge magical spike? Did it have something to do with Voldemort?" Lily whispered.
James gave a grim look while Remus, Sirius, and Amy approached them.
"No, the Aurors are not sure yet, but they're hoping it didn't involve him. C'mon, everyone, we're leaving. I don't want to stay remaining here in case there's trouble."
Sirius, Remus, Amy, and Lily nodded. They gathered the rest of the family who looked confused and worried because all the adults in the Leaky Cauldron looked worried and fearful when they felt that blast of magic.
Harry felt bad for all the fuss he'd put everyone through. It's not like he'd gone through suppressor replacement before – honestly, he didn't know what to expect. But whatever it was, he hadn't thought the spike would happen.
December 31st, Potter Manor, Night
Harry stood in a forest clearing. Large pines and aspens stood guard around the square-like clearing approximately 10 meters away. He looked around. How the hell had he gotten here? he wondered. "Where the heck am I?" he asked mainly of himself (a good thing since he didn't see anyone else there).
His voice shocked him.
It wasn't squeaky or high-pitched. It sounded more normal to him than it had in months.
It sounded like his old voice.
He looked down. His old body was there once again. The last time he'd seen that was at Safire's. But that had been a memory construct, hadn't it?
He felt for his wand. Not there.
He felt for his magical core. It was there. He wasn't powerless.
"C'mon already!" Harry shouted to the sky. "Let's get the show on the road already! Last thing I knew I was sleeping so show yourself already! I want to go back to bed!"
"My, my, we certainly are cranky today aren't we?" a voice said behind him.
Harry spun and saw a teenager like himself with brown hair, a scar across his chin, and a thin build.
"Who are you?" Harry demanded, keeping an eye on this stranger.
The other boy leaned down and picked up a wildflower from the forest floor. It felt like summer, but Harry knew it was winter. Confusion.
"I bid you welcome, Mr. Potter. It is good to finally be meeting you. How is life treating you these days? Enjoying your stay with your family?"
Doink. It all came crashing down in Harry's mind. "You! You're the one who brought me here from my home dimension!"
"Did you figure that out yourself or did you have some help?"
"Bite me," Harry said.
The other boy laughed at the sarcasm. "At least you have some backbone."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You'll find out in due time."
"Why did you bring me here?"
Raising his hands to the air, a look of delight on his face, the boy responded, "Why not?"
"Why? Because I had a life you took away!"
"Really? And what kind of life did you have anyway? Let's review. One: your Ginny is dead. Two: most of the friends you could count on are dead. Three: your godfather is dead. Four: your friends Ron and Hermione aren't as good of friends as you thought. Five: you were set to graduate and head into a world you weren't prepared for nor if what your journal was any indicator of, were you looking forward to."
"You read my journal?" Harry didn't like that.
"Hello, I moved you between dimensions. What's reading a locked journal to that? But hey, on the positive side you were loaded with the Potter fortune, the Black fortune, war reparations from Death Eater collaborators and the ministry. So… how many friends do you think that gold could have bought you?"
Again, the other boy chuckled at this.
"So how long am I to remain here?" Harry snarled.
Hands folded over arms, he replied, "That's up to you, Harry."
"What kind of cryptic mumbo-jumbo is that supposed to mean? You related to the old man of Hogwarts?"
"You'll find out," the other boy winked.
"Who are you really?"
"You'll eventually find that out as well. In the meantime, go ahead and just call me Bubba. By the way, you should probably go back to bed. You'll need your rest. You've got a big day coming up from what I can see."
Harry moved forward to grab the guy but he dissipated into blackness and the scene changed as Harry woke up back in his bedroom, back in his younger body. He looked around with a start. It was a dream, just a crappy dream. But knowing how his luck has gone in the past, Harry knew it wasn't just any dream. It was more than that. He knew it. A warning. A foreshadow of things to come. I bet Hermione would know what it was. Or could at least research it a bit to find out. That is, if she knew about my dimension-thingy.
He did know one thing. The next time he met Bubba he was putting him in a headlock before they started talking if only to squeeze some actual answers out of the jerk first.
Harry looked at his clock – 3:42. He still had time to get in a little more sleep before getting up and making one last breakfast for his family.
January 2nd, Potter Manor, evening
Following a tasty dinner supplied by both Remus and Harry, the two families talked and played in the Potter home. They'd been at it for about 30 minutes when the fireplace in the family room took on a green tint and a familiar face appeared.
"Hello, James. Lily," Albus Dumbledore greeted. "Happy Christmas to you and your family."
"Dude!" James shot back with a smile. Lily slapped his arm and glared an evil eye his way. He gulped. "Sorry about that. Happy Christmas to you as well. What can we do for you?"
"I was wondering if you wouldn't mind a visit from your old headmaster?"
"Certainly," Lily supplied. "Come on through."
Moments later a slightly sooty Albus Dumbledore was in the Potter home.
"Hello, Albus," Remus said gently so as to not wake the baby in his arms.
"Good evening Remus, Amy, Sirius," Dumbledore said in his cheerful voice.
Harry greeted his Headmaster. "Good evening Headmaster. Have a good Christmas?"
"Hello there Mr. Potter, yes I had a good Christmas so far and thank you for the socks you gave me. I would like to ask how you knew what I always wanted for Christmas?" Dumbledore said.
Harry made a small laugh. "Oh, I don't know Headmaster, one of the portraits hinted to me on what I should get you for Christmas," Harry lied smoothly.
"Oh, I see," Dumbledore said with his eyes twinkling madly at the gift of socks Harry Potter gave him for Christmas. "You know, that was quite an interesting tale you wrote for Muggle Studies."
"You read it?"
"Of course. Professor Bark praised it quite a bit. I'm not sure Professor Snape would agree. He would probably throw it in some flames if he could."
"Then it's probably best I didn't show it to Professor Snape then," Harry admitted.
"Albus, would you like something to eat? We have plenty of food; you should try some of Harry's cooking – it's to die for," Lily commented while James offered the Headmaster a chair.
"Why thank you, I would love to try out some of the delicious cooking that your son made," Dumbledore commented while sitting down.
The children were in awe of seeing the ancient powerful Headmaster who tried some of Harry's chocolate Tiramisu. Harry, however, wondered why the Headmaster was there. Thankfully, Mrs. Black asked the question for him.
"So Albus, what brings you here to Godric's Hollow?" Amy said.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Ah Mrs. Black, you know me so well. You should have been in Hogwarts instead of Salem."
Taking a sip tea, Dumbledore spoke. "Maybe we should discuss this while the children are upstairs?" Dumbledore asked.
The adults nodded.
Amy spoke kindly to the kids. "Okay you lot of ruffians, go upstairs and play. Keep the noise down or it's extra chores for you. Especially you, missy, got it?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jasmine nodded.
"Right. Keep it down. The adults need to talk. Off you go."
The kids shrugged and left, who needed to hear the adults speak anyway? It was always about boring stuff – not fun stuff like Leon had planned.
Harry on the other hand wasn't in the same boat as the rest of the kids; he wanted to know what was going on, but Lily was yanking his pants for him to pick her up and bring her upstairs.
Harry smiled at his adorable little sister and was about to pick her up, but Dumbledore interrupted. "Ah, Harry, you can stay if you don't mind. I wish to speak with you as well."
Harry gave a puzzled look and nodded much to the protest of Little Lily who gave her oldest brother an adorable pout which made the adults laugh.
"Aww, come on Lily, we'll play a game with you upstairs okay?" Rose said to her little sister who nodded happily and clung onto her sister as she picked her up and went upstairs.
After the rest of the kids trooped out of the room, Harry sat back down at the table waiting to see what Dumbledore wanted to say.
"I'm sure you felt that enormous magic spike that was in Diagon Alley?" Dumbledore said to the people in the room.
The adults nodded. Harry was noncommittal.
"At the moment, the only thing the Aurors have been a le to determine is that it originated in Diagon Alley, possibly around Gringotts."
"Madame Bones is going to question you about this some more tomorrow, James. We know you and your son were in your family vault when the spike happened. I was wondering if one of you two noticed anything that was down by the vaults." Dumbledore looked at James who shook his head slightly.
"Not really, I was talking with Barfbreath when I felt that spike while Harry was inside the vault," James said giving a hard thought like he was trying to remember every detail that was happening.
"Harry, did you notice anything when you were down in the vault with your father?" Lily raised an eye to her son.
Harry's first thoughts were on what the heck should he say. Before he could think of anything, he felt Dumbledore try a stealthy probe of his mind. Harry smirked inwardly and gave him the old man a few false stranded thoughts as if he was caught prepared. The thoughts radiated the enjoyment he had making breakfast this morning.
"No mum, I was busy looking around the vault until I felt that strange magical wave as well. I was going to research that spike further when I got back to Hogwarts," Harry lied smoothly.
Harry was pretty sure everyone bought his story, including Dumbledore, who for some reason was going to ask the House elves to try their hands at Sugar Waffle Toast Oat-O's Flambé tomorrow.
Lily smiled at her son reassuringly. "You sound so much like me when I was back in Hogwarts," she said patting her son on the head.
Harry smiled warmly in return. For some reason he loved people saying he acted just like his mum. Thank God she hadn't gotten together with Snape when they were younger.
"Yeah, every time there's a strange occurrence, Lily is the first to investigate, and she goes to the Library first thing," James joked.
Everyone laughed except for Lily who lightly slapped her husband on the arm in mock irritation.
Harry smirked. That sounded exactly like Hermione in his old dimension.
Dumbledore chuckled at the married couple. Yes, James and Lily were great people.
"So, do you think it has anything do with the break in at Gringrotts a few months ago?" James inquired.
Dumbledore smiled. "As sharp as always, no wonder you are an Auror Captain."
Harry's father nodded in the compliment.
"Oh Albus, don't say things like that, his head is already big enough as it is," Lily commented.
James immediately sent Lily an playful hurt look in which she cooed at him and then kissed him.
The occupants in the kitchen chuckled.
"We do not know if it was or not, however... we are taking that into consideration."
"The next few minutes were comprised of some more small talk about things at Hogwarts and at the Ministry. The Remus blurted out a question catching Harry unprepared.
"So Albus, how's Harry doing at School?"
This of course got Harry's parents' attention as well as Amy and Sirius.
"Actually, Remus, that is the other reason for my visit. I was wondering if Harry is getting enough out of school. It is not every year that the Sorting Hat picks out an apprentice. And usually, the person has to request a sorting from me in private to see if they have the potential to maximize their education. A few have the right mindset, but most don't."
"And you think Harry has the right mindset? Right. Sorry about that. He's already an apprentice," said James.
"More than just an apprentice, James. He's an apprentice in every subject. And he's still a first year."
"Hello, I'm right here you know."
"My apologies, Harry. I meant no disrespect. But the point I am leaning towards is to see if you are interested in a different apprenticeship than what Hogwarts has to offer. There are others willing to take on a young apprentice like yourself."
Away from Hogwarts? Harry thought. Absolutely not. He turned back into Albus' offers of apprenticeships after a quick rundown of what would happen if he left – i.e., Quir-Riddle would gain the stone, come back to life, and more than likely wipe out a generation of kids in his wake. Ruddy bastard. While he was thinking, Dumbledore had continued speaking and was listing the people Harry might be able to approach for an apprenticeship.
"…and as a possibility, remote as it is, I could see about contacting Nicholas Flamel for an alchemy apprenticeship."
Harry had heard the names before. The three names before Uncle Nick's had been friends of Albus and definitely supporters of his little vigilante group. Harry took that to essentially mean that Albus wasn't so much interested in his education as it was a chance to have a potentially powerful wizard come under his OotP jurisdiction and guidance.
Or another way of looking at it was a way for Harry to keep from studying the dark arts on his own time. He had to give the old geezer credit for trying to sway him like this. The extra education was a sweet deal. If only it didn't come with tags attached. He wasn't sure what kind of association he had with the Flamel's, but wasn't about to contact Uncle Nick and tip his hand just yet.
"Let me think about it, headmaster," Harry offered.
Albus smiled benignly and patted Harry's knee in a grandfatherly way.
"So how else is Harry doing in school?" Lily remarked.
Dumbledore gave a bright twinkle-eyed smile and spoke, "Harry is a great role model for all years. I personally think he has the potential to be a powerful wizard in the future. From what Minerva and Filius tell me, Harry is best suited to be a 3rd or 4th year. And I suspect only that range because he is holding back. The hat is rarely wrong."
Lily and the adults gasped, they knew Harry was smart, but that smart?
Lily was the first to recover. "Minerva told me Harry was top of his class and best suited to a higher grade, but she never told me Harry was that smart!"
Dumbledore chuckled much to the annoyance of Harry. "Yes, even Severus admits that Harry has potential to be a great Potions Master in the future."
Sirius jaw dropped, he immediately blurted out. "No way! Harry is not going to be anything like Snape!"
Remus and James nodded in agreement while Lily and Amyrolled theireyes. It was common knowledge the Marauders didn't like Lily's old friend at all.
Harry only chuckled. A Potions Master? That would be the same day when he'd claim to everyone that he was Voldemort's son.
Dumbledore chuckled again and spoke. "Yes, about that, Harry I was wondering if you would be willing to take a Wizardry IQ test?"
Inwardly, Harry froze for a moment. He'd read up on them during his sixth year. If he took the test, his family would know how smart he actually was. So would anyone else since it was a public record.
But was that a bad thing? If he were in a regular year, he might be advanced from first to third or something like that. But in his case, he was an apprentice to the school in all subjects. They already knew he was smart. This would only confirm what they thought.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Potter?" Dumbledore answered.
"My apologies, Headmaster. I simply wanted to know why you want to test me now and not at the beginning of the term when the hat made its proclamation."
"Truthfully, Harry, I saw no reason to question the hat. And I personally still don't see a reason to question it if you must know. The reviews I've been getting from your teachers and the rest of the staff are nothing short of stellar on your part, save the reviews from Professor Quirrell who anticipates your death almost as much as Sybill. But this is a question that some on the Board of Governors are asking. They simply want to know you are familiar with the subject matter that you are tutoring other students in. To them it is a mater of responsibility and accountability."
"Another way for them to stick their noses in, eh?" Harry attempted levity.
"Too true, Mr. Potter. Do you still want to take the test? It is entirely optional but I feel I must inform you that the results will be made part of a public record even though it is highly unlikely it will ever be seen by anyone."
"Sure, I don't have a problem with it. It's not like anyone outside the Ministry even knows where those records are stored. And what with the way Fudge is running the ministry these days, I'm pretty sure those records will never see the light of day again."
"James, Lily? Are you in agreement with this? I do need your permission to perform the spell," Albus said.
"I'm sure Harry will live through it," James said seriously. "If I recall, that spell is similar to a liquid imperio that suppresses the wizard's spell casting until they have to claw their way out of an abyss using whatever magic is at their disposal, correct? Sirius, didn't they try that on you during our 6th year?"
"They tried. I didn't last more than two minutes in the hole before they cancelled the test and told me to stay with my class. I couldn't get to the next year until I took the tests."
"Very funny, dad," Harry said with a smirk. "But it just so happens I know how this test is run. Oh, and you almost had me until you mentioned Sirius. Then your left eyebrow twinges up slightly and I can tell you are trying to pull one over on me. Better luck next time."
"He's got you there, mate," Sirius told his friend.
"Coughloser!" Harry coughed into his hand while grinning at Sirius.
"Oooohh, burn," Remus chimed in.
Harry prepared himself for the test. Unlike muggle tests that required much studying and writing, and generally using things that most wizards lack – namely logic, a Magical IQ test was performed by a spell. Said spell reads a person's mind and soul which usually indicates how brilliant, powerful, and well-intended (or not) that person is. The only good thing about the IQ test, Harry considered, was that it would only work if he agreed to it. If not, the user wouldn't be able to read anything. This is why the Headmaster had to ask permission from him and his parents.
"Have at it then, Headmaster," Harry stood with his arms to his side.
Albus rose himself and, after making sure it was still okay with his parents, ran the quick incantation. A light appeared on the end of his wand and he used it to touch Harry's forehead.
The wand-light shut off and Albus pocketed the wand. "There, all done."
"When can we expect the results?" James asked.
"I'm sure an owl… never mind, here it is now. Lily, may I?" he motioned to the still-closed window.
"Of course," she agreed.
He opened the window and accepted the letter tied to the owl. Then sent the owl back on its way, closing the window again.
"Ah, here we go. My, this is impressive, Mr. Potter."
"What is, Albus?" Remus said.
"It appears the hat was more right than any of us thought. Apparently Harry here can graduate from Hogwarts any time he wants. He has O levels in all NEWTS for every course he is taking."
"How is that poss…" Lily started, and stopped. She looked at her son. "Harry, have you been reading ahead?"
"Just a little," he replied sheepishly.
"How far ahead?" she wanted to know.
"Um… I got bored over the summer so I went through the library and picked up all the books on advanced subjects I could find. I read those."
"What about the basic books?" Sirius asked.
"Boring. I could do those in my sleep."
"Be that as it may, Mr. Potter," Albus continued, "you are in a unique position. You can leave anytime you wish. Do you desire to gain additional knowledge? I am sure I can get some of the finest people in their professions to apprentice you if you are interested."
"Actually, Headmaster, I'm happy where I am now. I help out when I can. I get to study anything I want. And I'm still learning things at school."
"Like what?" James put in. "You're certainly not learning how to prank… I mean socialize with the other kids there," he said.
"Ah, James," Albus interrupted. "Actually he is. All the students there know who he is and from what I've heard about a third of the population come to him from time to time for homework help."
"And I've made friends, dad. More so than here," Harry said trying to make sure his father didn't yank him away from Hogwarts before he had a chance to get rid of Quir-Riddle.
Ah, that's it, James thought. He wants his friends. His girlfriends. Just like his old man.
That same friends comment struck a similar chord with the rest of the adults there. Harry wanted companionship more than he needed an education at Hogwarts. They all knew Godric's Hollow was a quiet place, but hadn't thought it was so bad for the boy.
"Anyway, if you don't mind, Headmaster, I'd rather not take on any other apprenticeships until I've finished at Hogwarts. I want to stay where there are people my own age. Does that make sense?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, that does make sense. I understand Mr. Potter."
January 5, London train station
The Potter clan again made their way through the barrier of the train station. The Hogwarts Express steamed white waiting for the students to board. Harry looked for any of his friends but didn't see them. Not surprising as they were early – it was an hour before the train departed. Harry didn't want to miss any of them getting on the train. He'd never had this experience before so didn't want to miss it now.
"Do you see any of your friends, honey?" his mum asked, looking around.
"Not yet, mum. I'm sure we'll see them. This is a good spot to see anyone coming through the barrier."
"I can't wait to meet them," she said, obviously interested in meeting the girls that Harry talked about.
"Psst, hey, Shelia."
Shelia looked to her sister and understood at once what she was thinking. "Supply run?"
Supply run," Rose confirmed, checking her wallet. Her parents had given their kids allowances earlier and as always it was a mixture of wizarding and muggle funds. Rose and Shelia had added to it with jobs around the house for Uncle Sirius (not that their dad would ever know).
"You two going somewhere?" Leon asked his siblings.
"Supply run," Shelia supplied.
"Count me in," he said immediately, checking to make sure he still had his wad of emergency pounds, pence, and galleons.
"Distract mum and dad," Rose instructed.
"No problem. Mom, Lily says she needs to go potty!"
"Oh, uh, James, keep an eye on the kids. I'll be right back," adult Lily said to her spouse.
After she had gone off in search of a water closet, Leon said, "Hey, Sylvia, I heard that there is a clown down at the end of the platform making balloon animals." Leon silently thanked his mum yet again for taking everyone to the carnival last year. Sylvia had really enjoyed the performer who made creatures out of balloons. As is, he was still working on ways to enchant them to growl before popping.
"Yay! Balloon animals!" As his little sister started to run off towards the end of the platform, Leon tapped his dad on the shoulder and pointed to where she had run off.
"Aaack! Sylvia, come back!" he yelled, in hot pursuit.
"Harry," Shelia said quickly. "We'll be back. Don't get on the train before then."
Harry grinned at the classic divide and conquer tactic they had used. "No problem. See you soon."
"I saw a candy stand when we came through the portal," Rose bounced off for some sustenance.
Moments later Harry was alone on the semi-busy platform. He looked around and remembered this feeling from years past. But it was a temporary sensation as his family would soon be back and he'd have a little more time before his friends started to show up. Looking around he noticed other kids talking to friends or parents, hugging them and then boarding the train. The platform wasn't packed by any means but there were plenty of people.
Including, as Harry saw, a young blond girl who seemed to be looking for something or someone. Probably lost her folks, Harry mused. He was probably overreacting, but better safe than sorry as Uncle Nick always used to say before trying one of Harry's Thai dishes.
Walking the 30 meters, Harry tapped the girl on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, miss, but are you lost?"
"Oh, I don't think so," she replied lightly. That voice. Harry knew it.
She turned around.
It was Luna Lovegood.
It's not the same Luna! Harry quickly chastised himself. Close, but not the same! Behave!
"Uh, er," Harry stammered for an opening line. "You here, uh, with your parents?"
"They're down the way entertaining some kids with balloon animals. It's a hobby of my mother's that I thought would come in handy today. You're looking well, Harry."
"Thanks, Luna. Wait… you know me?" Harry frantically thought back on the alternate-Harry's life. He couldn't think of him meeting Luna before his fourth year.
"Of course, silly. It's not every day you become friends with the Boy-Who-Lived," she smiled at him, clearly entertained.
"You remember me? Me?" Harry choked out.
Luna laughed a gentle sound very unlike other girls he knew at Hogwarts – like Pansy (who guffawed most of the time). "Yes, Harry, I certainly know and remember you. I remember lost of things. Two and two is four. London is the capital of England. Fourth year, threstals and the Department of Mysteries with a certain dark lord trying to get a hold of a certain prophecy."
"How? When? Glurk," Harry managed to get out while desperately looking for the right words to convey how he was actually thinking.
"Here, Harry, this ought to help," she said, shoving a rolled paper into his hands.
"Honestly, Harry, how do you ever manage conversations with a mouthful of shumtites? You'd best spit them out before they tie up your tongue as an offering to your throat."
Harry knew he needed to do something, so he spat out the shuntites (whatever they were) behind him (nearly striking a 6th year Ravenclaw who had come through the barrier and who also told him to knock it off thank you very much). Mouth refreshed, he again looked at his former (future as well?) friend. "Luna, I can't believe you're here. I mean, how did you…?"
"Probably like you. Read the paper, it'll help. But I don't have much time. I need to give you a warning."
"You still having visions?"
"Yep. You still shadowing all over the world?"
"Yep. So what's the warning? Chew your food?"
"Always good advice and it certainly would have helped the late wizard Renfro Tobiason, but since he'd misplaced his teeth at the time possibly not. Still, that's not what I had in mind."
"Don't drink a lot of water before Herbology as there aren't any nearby water closets and the plants don't like yellow rain?"
"Remember that one do you?"
"It was the last thing you said to me," Harry said seriously.
Luna's face softened as she cupped his cheeks. "Oh Harry, I'm sorry I had to leave. But it's great to see you again. Last time I saw you, you didn't look so good. Are you married yet?"
Harry's face contorted in pain. "No. Before I found you, Ginny had been killed."
Luna's expression turned to one of concern. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. But she's here isn't she? They all are from what I can see."
"It's another Ginny, Luna. Not the same."
"Time to move on?" she cocked her head to the side as if appraising her friend from a different angle.
"Time to move on. I can't wallow in the past. But believe me, I am happy to see you are here. You don't know how much I've longed to talk to someone about what I can do and not just hide everything."
Luna smiled at the statement and the old Luna was nearly back. "You mean like becoming an all-around apprentice at Hogwarts?"
Harry cocked an off-kilter grin as he ran a hand through his hair, trying to put it behind him like he normally did when he didn't know what else to do with his hands. "You know about that?"
"My father does own a newspaper, Harry. Of course we heard about it. Congratulations by the way."
"Thanks. Um, by the way, I'm sorry you died before like… that."
Luna's eyes lit up and she hugged him. "You do realize it wasn't your fault that McNair and Ferguson got the jump on Tracey and me, right?"
Another look of pain shot across his features as he suddenly remembered something he didn't want to. "You're wrong. It's my fault they were there, Luna. They were always after me. Anyone else they managed to get was just collateral damage. Those bloody psychos just didn't care who they hurt as long as it involved me somehow."
"I think they would have been there regardless, Harry. They were specifically looking for the first years we were protecting. They wanted to cause maximum damage. How is Tracey by the way?"
"Her burns were healed but she still has nightmares the last I heard. I hope they diminish over time. She certainly knows those two won't hurt her again. I made sure they didn't live to see sundown. I'm so sorry, Luna. You should have had a chance to live a long life and not die in my arms like that."
"Harry, life happens. And so does death. I understand that more than most. As is, my father followed my mother before I died and now that I'm here I have my family again."
She looked down at her feet and then back to his smiling face. "Harry, as much fun as all this reminiscing is, I still wanted to give you a true warning."
"Watch alarm?" Harry said, pointing to her arm and the new jewelry adorning it.
Looking down, she replied, "Actually it's a probability sensor. A probability shift may occur soon. That's why I needed to warn you."
Harry became instantly serious. "What is it? Death eaters?"
She waved a hand. "Not that. Harry, listen. You cannot get rid of Voldemort here. It is not your destiny. It is Neville Longbottom's."
"But he's not up to it," Harry pointed out.
"Not yet he's not."
"If that means I need to help him reach his potential, you've got to be kidding me. Besides, there's no way I'm going to leave Riddle poking around to even remotely hurt my family. He needs some serious killing."
"I understand what family means, Harry, I really do. And what you do here is totally up to you. You're a powerful wizard, but to get rid of Voldemort, you need Neville's help. And, ultimately, it's Neville's responsibility to resolve."
"That blows, Luna."
She shrugged her shoulders sheepishly. "Yes. It does. But it's also the way things have to be."
"Fine. I get it. Assist, but don't interfere."
"I've had to play by those guidelines quite a few times. It's not easy, especially with those darn Gnarnings swimming through probabilities."
"I'm sure it's not easy with those Gnarish-ey thingies you said."
"True," Luna admitted, "but going to be better now that I've reconnected with my best friend."
"Who's that? Ginny?"
She giggled. "No, silly, it's you. You were always one to see me more than just loony."
An easy smile spread across his face. This was the Luna he knew. "It was easy to do, Luna. You were never loony. You just saw the world in a slightly different way. In fact, you're actually a little more focused now than before."
"It comes from having a family again. And speaking of them, here they come. Yours too if I'm not mistaken."
Sure enough, A swarm of Potters were all coming his way, Shelia, Rose and Leon with a few bags of "supplies" from one direction; the Lily's, both Junior and Senior hand in hand, from another; and Sylvia with James and a balloon creature that could only be a snorkack from far end of the platform.
Luna took his hand in hers. "Thank you, Harry."
"For what, Luna?"
"For being you. Don't be a stranger."
"Expect an owl with a letter soon."
"I'll look forward to it."
Harry smiled as they hugged again briefly and then Luna walked towards a couple that could only be her parents. Not sure of what just happened, a confused Lily and James stared at the diminutive blond for a few seconds before walking up to a waiting Harry.
"Friend of yours, Harry?" his mother inquired.
"Absolutely. A best friend. It was good to see her again."
"That's my boy."
"Dad, I'm not starting a harem. I told you."
"Just you wait until puberty, son. You'll say something different then."
"Uh-huh," he agreed in a disbelieving tone.
End of Chapter 8
Next: Chapter 9 (obviously) ;)
Omake by Spirit HellFire
Some half-hearted omakes:
The Great Hall went silent as the Potions Master was bombarded with a brown spray of geyser proportion. It stopped within seconds but the damage had been done. He sat there with a wild look of confusion mixed with righteous anger...then changing in shocked awe. Snape's tongue slowly licked his lips...then his hands then his sleeve.
"My God... I taste delicious!"
His then proceeded to lick the soft drink from his long hair, a soft moan escaping his lips.
'Oh Merlin' Harry thought in horror as Snape took off his shirt and began sucking on it 'What have I done?!'
Orgasmic-like moans filled the hall.
Albus cleared his throat and addressed the audience. "After careful consideration and testing, while Professor Snape's biscuits are full of exotic spices, they also contain some toxic levels of mercury and lead. Harry Potter is declared the winner."
"WHAT!?" Snape screamed. "You wouldn't know good cooking if it hit you in the face!" With that his grabbed one of his cookies.
"No! Severus don't eat-!"
Snape ate it whole, and let out a contented sigh as the judges looked on, a greenish nauseating look on their faces.
"M...just how mother used to make them"
By the time the letter finished (and exploded in a shower of confetti), Harry was hiding under the table.
'Well at least it's over...'
Then, the confetti flow up and reformed in to the howler.
"HARWY? HARWY!! I WOVE U BIG BROWTHER! BWEAK OUT AND COME HOME! WOVE, LILY"
This time, it exploded for good.
Harry pull his cloak over his face.
"Hmm... The Wizard King Seth... nah... the Demon Witch Queen Aghaim... no, definitely not... The White Rose Queen Lily? Interesting, and she's hot, but no... hmm? The Demon King Sauron? Very interesting... he looks pretty cool in that black armor... but no... Hmm, the No Life King? That's an odd name..."
"The No Life King is considered to be the kings of vampires as well as being partly responsible for the birth of every vampire. He is said to possess within his body all the souls and bodies of those him or his children have killed regardless of the species. Is known for having a fetish for dungeons. His most known physical quality he has been known to keep through the ages is his long, greased midnight-black hair. In his possession is a cloak that is said to flow in the wind, no matter where the king may be. Witnesses of this include humans, mermen, veelas, mineworkers, brothel employees among many others."
Harry felt a slight chill go up his spine.